The Rosewood Door by Oliver Onions


About two brothers, Humphrey and Barty (the latter missing in service, presumed dead), and a woman called Agatha. The door central to this novella is explicitly curved, or “rounded” with The Tempest’s sleep in Shakespeare, and is catalytic to the emergence of a ghostly brown man with a sword of historical ages as from Carthage to the English Civil War, born again from  Barty’s “Abyssinias of time” endured during the Great War towards today’s gestalt as brown fleshy apparition   – “She would know him by his marvellous eyes. She would know by other things that seemed to add themselves, one after another, as if out of the shadows into the glad incredible day.” But also “A demon-lover, and she the woman who wailed?” A white man browned by the sun or by the indelible stain of a multi-racial gestalt?  — “…but whether south, north, east or west does not particularly matter and need not be told.” A man presumed dead now returned as if from a risen “richly red” coffin as a slightly curved wooden door, snatching his brother’s bride as his own, his now Saint Agatha, ignited by an elbow as well as a rosewood door …. “She raised herself on her elbow, looking at the door. She slid from the bed and advanced towards it with the sword still in her hand.” And at the end the sword is turned against her by a mass hysterical apparition’s hand  or by her own hand.

Full of wonderful passages  in a shadowy trauma of history’s meaning as literature. The literature of the ghost story, as wielded uniquely by this mad-leaning author, almost out of his own body as well as his mind. Lily garden, pinewood needles or fabric of “Malmaison pink.” Agatha, ever “constant” guest (“The golden velvet. Gold for gladness and the rising of the sun. Also gold for the golden voice in which she sang.”) and a whole house (“the handrail that curled like a shell”), a house as Malmaison that lost itself to a single door having become a deathly filter’s baffle within it. “…that sealed and perfect circle.” And she changed one room for another, a different coffin to keep him “clenched.”  Because the church called what he was as heathen or even evil?


My other reviews of Oliver Onions linked from here:

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