Thursday, September 8, 2022

Something About Monarchs

Crown dependency.

I had some thoughts earlier this year during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II

One was that several of Bellairs's fans likely never knew another British monarch, assuming these readers were born after her February 1952 accession to the throne.  And then came the realization that Johnny Dixon's initial adventures occurred during the reign of the previous sovereign, George VI. It wouldn't be until The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull (1984), which begins on "a cold February night in the year 1952", that the books took place during the second Elizabethan era. By the time Johnny, Fergie, and the professor arrive in England during the events of The Chessmen of Doom (1989) and The Secret of the Underground Room (1990), it's the "mid-1950's" (or "early nineteen fifties"), we're a few years into Elizabeth’s reign. 

For comparrison, Lewis Barnavelt first arrives in New Zebedee in 1948 (The House with a Clock in its Walls), and Anthony Mnoday rides his bicycle to Rolling Stone in August of 1954 (The Dark Secret of Weatherend).  Not that any of this matters, of course.  If anything, I was amazed at how long ago these Bellairsian stories were set and how quickly time passes.

Today I'm reminded of, among other things, The Stuffed Owl (1930), the celebrated anthology of bad verse edited by D. B. Wyndham Lewis and Charles Lee. Bellairs wrote a 1965 critical essay ("An Anatomy of Abuses: Why Bad Poetry is Bad") discussing The Stuffed Owl in which he cited these lines credited to a Babu poet on the death of Queen Victoria:

Dust to dust
Ashes to ashes
Into the tomb
The Great Queen dashes.

And history marches on.

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