Advertisements

Category Archives: Literature

Flaxman Low: The First Psychic Detective

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle investigates the Victorian world of a neglected ‘psychic detective’

The popularity of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, published in The Strand magazine from 1891 until the 1920s, led to many imitators. As well as such creations as Ernest Bramah’s Max Carrados, the blind detective, and the psychological detective, Dr John Dollar (created by Doyle’s own brother-in-law, Raffles creator E. W. Hornung), a mini sub-genre of fictional detective also emerged: the psychic detective or paranormal investigator. Flaxman Low was not the first and by no means the most successful of these, but he is one of the most satisfying and enjoyable.

Although numerous scholars of the ghost story and psychic detective tale have traced the fictional paranormal investigator back to Dr Martin Hesselius, the creation of the Irish author Sheridan Le Fanu (whose 1869 story ‘Green Tea’ remains popular), it was not until the turn of the century, and in the first few years of the twentieth century, that the fictional psychic detective really took off. This was partly, as I explore in my academic study Bewilderments of Vision, a result of Read the rest of this entry

Advertisements

A Short Analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘To My Mother’

A charming sonnet by Poe about mothers

Edgar Allan Poe’s mother died in 1811, when Poe was only two years old. His father had walked out the year before, so Poe became an orphan with his mother’s death. He was taken in by John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia, and would live with them until he had reached adulthood, although the Allans never formally adopted him. His middle name (really a second surname) was derived from his ‘adopted’ parents. He was probably named Edgar, by the way, after Edgar in King Lear: his (biological) parents were both actors, who were starring in a production of Shakespeare’s play when their son was born. Poe wrote ‘To My Mother’ in 18

To My Mother

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of ‘Mother,’
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you –
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you
In setting my Virginia’s spirit free. Read the rest of this entry

10 of the Very Best Poems about Grief and Mourning

The finest poems about grief

Grief is a part of life, and we will all know what it is to mourn at some point in our lives. Here are ten of the finest poems about the experience of grieving and mourning, taken from over 600 years of poetry…

Anonymous, ‘Why have ye no routhe on my child? This poem is a lament for a lost child: ‘rode’ is the ‘rood’ or Cross, and ‘routhe’ is ‘ruth’ or compassion – which is why someone who lacks compassion is described as ‘ruthless’. Click on the link above to read the poem, which is the sixth on our list of the best medieval poems. It’s the oldest poem on this list, dating back at least six centuries to the late fourteenth century, though it may be even older.

John Donne, ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’. As this poem’s title suggests, it’s a poem of farewell, written by Donne for his wife Anne in 1611-12 before he left England to go on a mission to Europe. Utilising metaphors of compass points and alchemical processes to describe the relationship between the husband and wife, ‘A Valediction’ is one of the finest examples of Metaphysical poetry. Read the rest of this entry