Walter de la Mare

Extollager

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Would anyone care to discuss the work and life of Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_De_La_Mare



He wrote poems, short stories, books for children, and novels that should appeal to readers who like a more subtle kind of eeriness than the raw-head-and-bloody-bones kind of horror -- I should think that admirers of Robert Aickman, for example, would find him worth reading. Incidentally some early stories were collected by Arkham House.

Here are a few of his books:

 

Extollager

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THE LISTENERS, by Walter de la Mare

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.
 

dask

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I've seen his name bouncing around quite a bit since joining the Chrons. I keep an eye open everytime I go book hunting but like Madison Jones his books are the most elusive of prey in the thrift shop jungle.

I like his poem. I'll check my poetry collections, see what I got.
 

Extollager

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It's been theorized that de la Mare's Three Mulla-Mulgars (aka The Three Royal Monkeys) influenced The Hobbit, I believe. I haven't read the de la Mare yet, so I won't hazard an opinion on that.

http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/tolkienbehind.htm

(I don't think Carter's Look Behind book on Tolkien is very good, but the reviewer's incredulity about the influence of Haggard's She isn't deserved.)


C. S. Lewis approved the comment of someone who said de la Mare's The Return recreated the "atmosphere of flu" -- by which I suppose he meant a feeling of unreality -- ?

http://books.google.com/books?id=H_ctGNb75zAC&pg=PT668&lpg=PT668&dq="de+la+mare"+return+"c.s.+lewis"+atmosphere+flu&source=bl&ots=siQ0cxaX5c&sig=hn05VNNNniZmcn_Eo-HmFmRJ2dQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=fk8EUYOQI62-2AWm24DYAQ&sqi=2&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA

And Lovecraft admired "Seaton's Aunt," which I have suggested for discussion.
 
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Fried Egg

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I haven't read any of his work yet but I've had my eye on this for a while:

 

GOLLUM

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I have Walter del la Mere's Memoirs of a Midget which I understand (from others) is possibly his best (longer) work?

I have none of his short stories or poems.

Time to earmark a reading in 2013...
 

j d worthington

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Certainly the collection Ding Dong Bell, from which the story "Strangers and Pilgrims" is drawn, is one of the most exquisite collections of weird tales of a more subtle, elusive sort. (The title "Strangers and Pilgrims" for a collection is also quite apt, as this could be said to be one of the major themes of his work; at least all of it that I've read.)

Mind you, I've not read much de la Mare in a couple of decades, but he has always impressed me as one of the best at capturing that feeling of an unseen world hovering just beyond common perception. Some may find him frustrating because of his deliberate ambiguities; but when handled well (which he does with unusual felicity) this contributes in no small measure to that careful building of the presence of the unreal.

I don't know as I'd class his Memoirs as his best, though I do think it ranks fairly highly. In any event, it is not itself a weird tale in the fundamental sense of that term, but more along the line of the strange with a fair degree of the conte cruel. And, of course, his novel The Return has long been cited as an influence on HPL's "The Tomb", though this is a case of parallelism rather than influence, given that the latter didn't read de la Mare until nearly a decade after he wrote that piece of altered identities.

I would also highly recommend much of his poetry, both weird and otherwise, as sterling examples of the more traditional branch of twentieth-century verse....
 

Randy M.

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Last year for another forum I submitted some ideas on readings for October. Coincidentally, one of the items was the Folio Society collection pictured above:

GHOST STORIES
by Walter de la Mare (The Folio Society, 1956)

Walter de la Mare was a significant figure in early 20th century British literary circles, primarily as a poet (Of interest, “The Listeners”) [I linked to the poem, but since it's already quoted in this thread, I won't do that here.]. I believe his poetry is no longer as highly regarded, but his short stories have shown continuing life, perhaps because many of them are ghost stories. This book, published by the London Folio Society in the year of de la Mare's death, holds seven of those ghost stories, including one of his better known tales, "Out of the Deep" (well-known perhaps because it is included in Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural). The other stories are, "The House," "Revenant," "The Green Room," "Bad Company," "The Quincunx," and "An Anniversary."

These stories range from the serious to the somewhat less serious, de la Mare letting his sense of humor loose early in "The Quincunx." And most of them are influenced more by Henry James than by M. R. James, the telling sometimes oblique (even elusive) rather than direct, though the story becomes clearer as it progresses and the ways in which de la Mare weaves his ghosts with the concerns of his characters become more apparent.

I hesitate to recommend such an old and hard to find book, but the stories are still available in the set, Walter de la Mare: Short Stories 1895-1926 and Walter de la Mare: Short Stories 1927-1956, used copies of which may still be available or copies of which may be found through inter-library loan programs. One thing that makes this volume interesting in and of itself, though, is the progression of the stories from internal, personal, subjective hauntings that evoke nostalgia and regret and melancholy (“Out of the Deep” and “The House”), to more external hauntings that still somehow engage the characters’ sense of right and wrong, and what is owed the dead (“Revenant,” “The Green Room,” “Bad Company” and “The Quincunx”), to a final story of a husband haunted and how it stems from his marriage and weaves into the relationship between him and his wife (“An Anniversary”).

The only story that did not work for me was “Revenant” which starts and builds well, but the appearance of a familiar deceased literary figure complaining about the use of his work by a literary critic feels forced and maybe too much a mouth-piece for de la Mare. Also, “Bad Company” seems conventional compared to the others, but more directly addresses issues of redemption and atonement that are only indirectly addressed in “The House” and “The Green Room.” Perhaps the strongest story in the collection, “An Anniversary,” employs the (Henry) Jamesian approach: While all of the stories ask, “What do the dead want from us? What do we owe the dead?” “An Anniversary” is the most complex, showing a marriage breaking down and the cause of it.

I would recommend these for reading at any time of year, though I found them good end-of-year, Christmas reading. De la Mare's approach was a bit more challenging than, say, King's in Bag of Bones [another of my suggestions], but the sense of melancholy and, in several of the stories, nostalgia, were appropriate for a season during which, if we get any spare time at all, we tend to assess our previous twelve months and from there our past and our probable future.


Randy M.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I read a book of his ghost stories several years ago, which impressed me enough that I went looking for more, and immediately found Memoirs of a Midget instead. In terms of consistency, I think it is better than The Return, which has some wonderful passages, but seems to bog down at points.

But they are so different, I wouldn't know how to compare them and say which was the better over all. Memoirs remains more vivid in my memory, so that might be an indication of something -- if only that I hadn't read anything like it*, whereas I've read enough ghost stories, it takes more for any one of them to stand out among so many that are excellent.
________


*Since then, I've read The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.


.
 
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GOLLUM

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,,Since then, I've read The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.
I know this is the de la Mare thread but could you provide us with a brief impression of what you thought of this book? I pass it regularly in the bookshops here and on occasion have been moved enough to pick it up and take a peek inside but remain undecided.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I know this is the de la Mare thread but could you provide us with a brief impression of what you thought of this book?

I enjoyed it. It brought the characters vividly to life. Reading up on the protagonist later, I discovered that it bent quite a few of the facts, but the parts I would have found hardest to believe were true -- so I gained an appreciation of a remarkable person whose life has been very much eclipsed by that of her husband.
 

GOLLUM

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I enjoyed it. It brought the characters vividly to life. Reading up on the protagonist later, I discovered that it bent quite a few of the facts, but the parts I would have found hardest to believe were true -- so I gained an appreciation of a remarkable person whose life has been very much eclipsed by that of her husband.
Sounds intriguing. I had forgotten it was based on a real life person...I might take a closer look at it the next time I'm passing by the bookshops.
 

Extollager

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Just reviving this thread, and suggesting that, if one of the Chrons officers would be so kind as to shift it to the Literary Fiction area, that would be appreciated.
 

BAYLOR

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Im not at all familiar with his work.
 
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