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Possession A Peep-Show in Paradise   By: (1865-1959)

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Possession

Uniform with this Volume

Angels & Ministers: Three Plays of Victorian Shade & Character by Laurence Housman

Possession

A Peep Show in Paradise

by Laurence Housman

Jonathan Cape

Eleven Gower Street, London

First published in a limited edition of 500 numbered copies only for sale Oct. 1921. Popular Edition, Jan. 1922

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Introduction

THIS play originally intended to form part of Angels and Ministers was separated on an after thought as a concession to those who do not like to have their politics and their religion mixed. And, as the Victorian age was eminently successful in keeping the two apart, it is 'in keeping,' in another sense, with the Victorianism of the religion here portrayed that it should make its appearance under a separate cover.

As some of my critics seem anxious to trace the inspiration of these Victorian plays to an outside source, and are divided, as regards the historical section, between the Abraham Lincoln of Mr. John Drinkwater and the Queen Victoria of Mr. Lytton Strachey, may I assure them that my historical method of treating Kings and Queens 'intimately' was derived from my own play Pains and Penalties , published in 1911, and that my anthropomorphic theology is based upon the first book I ever wrote, Gods and their Makers , published in 1897. I do not think that Possession owes anything either to Cranford or the writings of Mrs. Humphry Ward.

Dramatis Personæ

JULIA ROBINSON } LAURA JAMES } Sisters MARTHA ROBINSON } SUSAN ROBINSON Their Mother THOMAS ROBINSON Their Father WILLIAM JAMES Husband to Laura James HANNAH The family servant

Possession

SCENE. The Everlasting Habitations

It is evening (or so it seems), and to the comfortably furnished Victorian drawing room a middle aged maid servant in cap and apron brings a lamp, and proceeds to draw blinds and close curtains. To do this she passes the fire place, where before a pleasantly bright hearth sits, comfortably sedate, an elderly lady whose countenance and attitude suggest the very acme of genteel repose. She is a handsome woman, very conscious of herself, but carrying the burden of her importance with an ease which, in her own mind, leaves nothing to be desired. The once striking outline of her features has been rounded by good feeding to a softness which is merely physical; and her voice, when she speaks, has a calculated gentleness very caressing to her own ear, and a little irritating to others who are not of an inferior class. Menials like it, however. The room, though over upholstered, and not furnished with any more individual taste than that which gave its generic stamp to the great Victorian period, is the happy possessor of some good things. Upon the mantel shelf, backed by a large mirror, stands old china in alternation with alabaster jars, under domed shades, and tall vases encompassed by pendant ringlets of glass lustre. Rose wood, walnut, and mahogany make a well wooded interior; and in the dates thus indicated there is a touch of Georgian. But, over and above these mellowing features of a respectable ancestry, the annunciating Angel of the Great Exhibition of 1851 has spread a brooding wing. And while the older articles are treasured on account of family association, the younger and newer stand erected in places of honour by reason of an intrinsic beauty never previously attained to. Through this chamber the dashing crinoline has wheeled the too vast orb of its fate, and left fifty years after (if we may measure the times of Heaven by the ticks of an earthly chronometer) a mark which nothing is likely to erase. Upon the small table, where Hannah the servant deposits the lamp, lies a piece of crochet work. The fair hands that have been employed on it are folded on a lap of corded silk representing the fashions of the nineties, and the grey haired beauty (that once was) sits contemplative, wearing a cap of creamish lace, tastefully arranged, not unaware that in the entering lamp light, and under the fire's soft glow of approval, she presents to her domestic's eye an improving picture of gentility... Continue reading book >>




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