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4:07pm on Monday, 23rd November, 2009:

Out With the Fairies


This afternoon, I had cause to look at Arthur Conan Doyle's masterpiece of gullability, The Coming of the Fairies, and was staggered to find that I have a personal connection with it. In chapter VII on pages 168/169, there's a bit that begins:

Miss Eva Longbottom, L.R.A.M., A.R.C. M., of Bristol, a charming vocalist, who has been blind from birth, told us in an interview: "I have seen many fairies with my mind's eyes (that is, clairvoyantly). They are of various kinds, the ones I see.

She goes on in this vein for several paragraphs.

Eva Hannah Longbottom was my paternal grandfather's cousin. He didn't have much to do with her, as his own father was a bit of a rake, and her family was regarded as quite stuck up (the pronunciation of her surname was changed to "LongBOtham" when the family moved south). However, she did write a book, "Silver Bells of Memory", which I may get around to blogging further about some day.

Reading through this from cover to cover, which I did for genealogical reasons, was one of the most boring things I have ever done. Eva may have been a celebrated musician, but she was not the most exciting author in the world, and the number of times she stresses that she isn't bitter about being blind and continually professes gratitude to God leads me to conclude that she was trying to persuade herself as much as anyone else. I'd guess that secretly, she held her deity entirely responsible for her condition and the moment she blagged her way into Heaven he was going to get both barrels over it. Given her Pollyanna worldview, it doesn't surprise me in the least that she wrote something bonkers about fairies that Conan Doyle picked up and used as evidence of their existence.

So, I've shaken hands with my grandad, who had shaken hands with his cousin; if she shook hands with Conan Doyle, that means I can reach the author of Sherlock Holmes in three.

Sorry if you're waiting for the closing quotation mark from the book quote — it's not coming...

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).