Post by Craig Herbertson on Jun 23, 2011 7:24:28 GMT
From Nosferatu's collection comes R.H. Benson The Necromancers published first in 1909. Couldn't find a thread anywhere but that says more about my computer skills than the vault as does the grotesquely large picture (sorry Dem)
Looking at the pious face of Benson it becomes understandable that he might have a downer on spiritualism. He writes a good solid well paced book that beats Wheatley hands down for consistency of philosophical approach but might lose slightly on the fun, entertainment and malarkey. One key to understanding this work is to replace the word 'magic' with the word 'sex' .
The plot from the blurb: 'young man falls madly in love, and when the object of his passion dies he resorts to necromancy...' Well, thank goodness for that.
I'll pick out a few minor faults first. The young man is often referred to as a boy which becomes patronising (or worse) as he's smoking and drinking and consorting with demons. Benson is possibly as clever as James on an intellectual level but as a writer he can be slightly wooden with his words and clumsy in plot movement. Of course its an early modern novel so we can forgive that. Benson is a bit of a snob - perhaps realistically for his times - the necromantic object of the boy's lust is clearly beneath the boy's status and you get the hint that Benson's sort of pleased that her little tacky soul was withdrawn from the game early. The 'boys' romance with her feels almost completely implausible and sudden. The boy himself would get punched if you ever met him as he is about annoying as Mr Toad or Keats and Byron drunk.
The plus points - its Wheatley with a brain. The observation of middle english society is faithfully drawn - a key element in any of that devil worshiping romance. The work is drawn from study and experience - he is masterly at painting the picture of old church dearies, passionate young women (passion all withheld of course) and annoying young men who smoke cigars and seem to have nothing proper to do. He also has the priest's quality of understanding human nature and motivation, of describing church things, of describing death and paradoxically romance. He is in a short a clever priest who could write well.
On a broadly historical note the novel has the annoying way of presenting necromancy as a spiritual mistake with Christianity as a solution and the only solution. At the time this book would have been recommended reading to anyone christian with a bit of adventure in his soul which depending on your viewpoint would help to save his soul or stifle any excitement in his life.
RH Benson's the Necromancers is a horrible novel, and not in the good sense. One of the most obnoxious exercises in snobbery and instruction that it has been my misfortune to read through. The book starts reasonably well but increasingly abandons all but the flimsiest attempt to masquerade as anything but the crusading pamphlet it actually is. Perhaps as the irreligious type I am I'm biased, but I don't think so. Many, if not most, of my favouriote authors were fundamentally religious in the broadest sense (Machen, Blackwood, TF Powys, JC Powys) and I have enjoyed other horror novels with an obvious Christian theme e.g. HB Gregory's Dark Sanctuary. But to my mind RHB's the Necromancers is one to be avoided at all costs, and there are very few books that I would be moved to say that about.