Sunday, October 28, 2012

Anticipating the Commemoration of This Friday

A longish excerpt (I can never seem to trim them at all... ), from a rather sad thread from a novel by one of the most sympathetic writers Her Britannic Majesty Victoria might have read in the first printing.

By many devious ways, reeking with offence of many kinds, they come to the little tunnel of a court, and to the gas-lamp (lighted now), and to the iron gate.

"He was put there," says Jo, holding to the bars and looking in.

"Where? Oh, what a scene of horror!"

"There!" says Jo, pointing. "Over yinder. Among them piles of bones, and close to that there kitchin winder! They put him wery nigh the top. They was obliged to stamp upon it to git it in. I could unkiver it for you with my broom if the gate was open. That's why they locks it, I s'pose," giving it a shake. "It's always locked. Look at the rat!" cries Jo, excited. "Hi! Look! There he goes! Ho! Into the ground!"

The servant shrinks into a corner, into a corner of that hideous archway, with its deadly stains contaminating her dress; and putting out her two hands and passionately telling him to keep away from her, for he is loathsome to her, so remains for some moments. Jo stands staring and is still staring when she recovers herself.

"Is this place of abomination consecrated ground?"

"I don't know nothink of consequential ground," says Jo, still staring.

"Is it blessed?"

"Which?" says Jo, in the last degree amazed.

"Is it blessed?"

"I'm blest if I know," says Jo, staring more than ever; "but I shouldn't think it warn't. Blest?" repeats Jo, something troubled in his mind. "It an't done it much good if it is. Blest? I should think it was t'othered myself. But I don't know nothink!"

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Thus Jo. This isn't quite the first time we've seen this little land behind the iron gate, nor is it the last we will see of it; but it's probably the best showing the sorry spot has. We may gather from some details that this particular "berryin' ground" is rather overused, in a pauperish way, for its size. It is, in way, a geographic distillation of all the sadness that grows about the venerable institution not at all far off, where the learned gentlemen discuss every side of "equity" that will do no one any good untill there's nothing left to be equitable about.

For locus focus
a reader


Enbrethiliel said...


This reminds me of the mother-in-law of a cousin of a friend of my mother. (I know how that opening sounds, but this is a true story.) This woman had Alzheimers and wandered off on her own several months ago. Her family put up a frantic search but had no leads until a few weeks ago, when they learned that the body of an unidentified woman matching her description was recently interred in a public cemetery. The last I heard of it, they were paying to have the body exhumed, to find out if it is their relative. And this is all dreamily Dickensian to me, except for the first I heard of it, which was an e-mail from my mother asking me where the family could have Gregorian Masses offered for the mother-in-law.

I'm guessing that the most famous graveyards in Dickens are those in Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol, but those two seem so ethereal next to the reality of this pauper's cemetery.

Belfry Bat said...

Oh dear! Just mentioning GE may make my leisure-reading list longer (and that much closer to feeling more pressing than proving theorems!). Counting only Dickens I've already got OMF waiting... but I'm glad I got through this one, at any rate. It had been a Christmas present some years ago, and so 'twas about time.

But, goodness! that's quite the drama your mother's cousin's extended family are having. And they're Trid'ly? There must be some reactionary-yet-orthodox monasteries in the Philipines by now, surely? Outside, I'm sure you know as well as I do. Still, with Alzheimer's as common as it is (and other sorrows) these sorts of thing must be going on all the time! One shudders to think.

Prayers, of course.

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