‘Madam, will you walk, will you talk with me?’

Those who have read other MRJ reviews of mine may remember my focussing on the Squire’s “I don’t want to talk and walk as well” in a A VIEW FROM A HILL. And here it is magnified into smelly, toad-like directions. 

The tune of the above quoted song is whistled, yes, whistled, by the Lord Chief Justice in an Old Bailey murder trial of George Martin, a trial under this Judge Jeffreys which should, by rights, have been conducted in Exeter. The story of a respected high-born gentleman called George Martin who once asked a very uncomely, naive, common girl  to dance alongside that tune, and later supposedly murdered her with a knife he later lost, her body in a pond, and her revenant coming out at him from an inn’s cupboard. And his being dogged by her revenant even in prison and thereafter.

So much told to us by court transcripts, filtered by shorthand to longhand, and things that utterly haunt us…including a boy witness’s reference to a “wallowing sound.”

I have questions, though —

Why was the description of Martin’s Close as a precinct within a pasture germane to this story as told by the gestalt of the transcripts of the trial?

Was John Hill’s habit of spelling out words connected with  Martin’s name arguably being Martyn and with the request of the accused to have a copy of the indictment?

Does this spelling theme in the story  relate to the transcription from shorthand to longhand? And why is North Tawton not mentioned until the very end?

“She had a great face and hanging chops and a very bad colour like a puddock.”


All my reviews of M.R. James:

One thought on “MARTIN’S CLOSE by M.R. James

  1. Arguably, the murdered girl was what we would say today as having ‘special needs’. Her teasing by Martin must be seen in this light, and the pitiful shape-shifting revenant that was probably born as something else to haunt us guiltily in our own modern world….

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