The Little People are out to get me
William Allingham is not the most familiar of names. The only reason I have ever encountered it is that he wrote a poem called The Fairies which would have been quoted by my late mother-in-law; a poem that had a dark side to it, a poem which appeared here last evening. The likelihood of encountering William Allingham again was very slim.
Drinking a mug of tea, a copy of an old journal lay on the floor, unopened since its arrival in the house last June. A student friend spent three months here last summer and one Sunday afternoon last June had bought a selection of books off a stall at a school fête. It had been an eclectic armful; it was hard to know how some had arrived on a table at a school in a small town in the Irish Midlands. Heading off at the beginning of September, having read the books, he left most of them here. The old journal on the floor was one them.
Drinking tea and picking it up, it was Volume One, Number One of a journal called ‘The British Diarist’, published in May 2003. How it came to reach our little town is a mystery; it is a specialist literary publication about British people whose diaries were published. At the back, there is a list of diaries for sale; first on the list is ‘William Allingham: The Diaries’. The notes say,
‘Allingham (1824-1889), a somewhat fey Victorian poet, is now best known for this diary which covers the period 1824-1883. His style is down-to-earth and very informative: he knew many of the giants of the period’.
Was William Allingham the diarist the writer of The Fairies? Google confirmed it to be so. Less than 24 hours after mention of his name; he reappears. A strange coincidence?
Of course were one superstitious, one would conclude that the coincidence was not a coincidence, but a response to a dismissal of the fairies. They are said not to like being dismissed – was it in Peter Pan that one was said to die every time someone said they didn’t believe? I remember clapping my hands as a child for fear that Tinkerbell might be in danger.
Not being given to believing in such tales: the appearance of Allingham’s name is not a coincidence, nor is it the work of fairies, it is simply that I spotted it amongst a long list of other names because last night I had mentioned it.
And if it is the little folk? Well, I read that they fear priests’ houses and that they fear water, so here you are Tinkerbell – a good bucketful. See how well the wings work after that.
Hmm, happens to the best of us Ian, Arthur Conan Doyle and WB Yeats included.
In the 1971 version of Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory, Gene Wilder playing Wonka recites a liitle of the Allingham poem, I can remember being fasinated by the lines – in a thrilling way, at the time.
Did you ever see ‘Fairy Tale: A True Story’, Conan Doyle features in it. There was also the Julian Barnes novel, ‘Arthur and George’, in which Conan Doyle went to seances in the hope of finding something. It was part of the terrible sadness after the Great War.
I did see the film. I also began ‘Arthur and George but I found it difficult to get to grips with.
I read ‘Arthur and George’ on a summer holiday – it wasn’t the easiest of holiday reading.
I do’t think I must finish a novel if I find it hard going. I will give it a try a couple of times then accept that it’s not for me. I often read and re-read novels, often my choice is dependant on mood. I have just re-read Big Fish and High Fidelity, however now that spring has arrived here I may feel able to tackle something a little heavier.