Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What Light Through Yonder Window

We once mentioned that John’s ability to casually toss out book titles may have caused more than a few people to spin their wheels searching for books that don’t exist. We dare say On the Restoration of Charmed Circles may still yet be published, though we won’t hold our breath waiting for it (or the film adaptation – let us not be silly). But John’s done the same with other passages in his work, too – describing something that may not exist in this world, yet may have one or more real-life antecedents.

That said, Professor Childermass and Fergie are exploring the Windrow estate of upstate New York, trying to find the final resting place of Ensign Edmund French, a United State Naval veteran. Coming into Zebulon Windrow’s massive personal library, the two adventurers remember the guidebook to the estate spoke of an impressive stained glass window. But what can you do when it’s pitch black outside?
A faint glow of moonlight suddenly spread over the window, and it revealed the picture of a young man in an old-fashioned naval uniform with a double row of buttons and fringed epaulets. He had a cocked hat under his arm, and he looked very stiff and pompous. Around the picture was a wide oval border, and in the border was an inscription: Ensign French is the Unfortunate Traveler [The Revenge of the Wizard’s Ghost; 76-7].

While such a window with that inscription certainly doesn’t exist that we know of, we were once asked about its inspiration:
...the description of the naval officer window always stood out [to me] if Mr. Bellairs had a model in mind that he was simply describing. Maybe not, but I cannot figure out why it seems so familiar...!
We tend to think this is something John made up to fit the needs of the story - but what say you? Utter fiction, or did John come across something that he convincingly reworked into his writing? Does such a figure holding a “cocked hat under his arm” appear somewhere in a library or church in New England, Old England, or somewhere in between? Keep an eye open and see what creative stained glass you come across. If you can, capture a photo and either send it our way or post it to our forum.

Happy hunting and good luck!

No comments: