Yesterday, we visited a castle. The term "castle" actually refers to the building's earliest incarnation. It's last was a Jesuit monastery, but the architecture reflects the centuries in which it was a manor house. Like any respectable manor house, it comes with a story of the macabre. Allegedly, two nobles fell in love with the same woman. At a ball, their rivalry escalated into a duel. Before they went out to draw pistols, they boarded her up in a wall. In the duel, one died from his wounds and the other drowned in the river. No one knew that the woman had been boarded up, so she died there in the wall. According to the guide books and the plagiarized piece on every website about the castle, workers discovered the skeleton during renovations in the 1880s, and estimated that the bones had been there 130 years. According to the woman working the ticket counter, the Jesuits discovered the bones there during renovations in the 1920s.
After that, I went on a little rumination about the holes gaping throughout that story. That little rumination, however, disappeared somewhere between the writing and the posting. Disappearing paragraphs are a frequent occurrence and one, I believe, connected to the mouse pad. I hate mousepads. I bought a regular mouse and attached it to my computer to avoid the mousepad, but the location of the mousepad, just on the edge of my palm, means that the mousepad continues to interfere. My palm will barely brush the pad and -- bink! -- a chunk of the paper will disappear. I can bring it back in Word, but Blogger isn't so kind. --- Oh, what! Blogger does have an "undo" feature. Well, I'm dense. I'm also lazy, otherwise I would have taken the time to disable the mousepad. I also am inattentive, otherwise I would notice when a whole paragraph goes missing so that I could use the "undo" feature.
Clearly, one of my hobbies is complaining about silly things that I could fix easily if I were more focused on problem solving than on bitching. That will be the subtitle of my memoir.
Anyway, the rumination now seems a tad bit silly, too. The story of the duel is clearly bullshit. After all, wouldn't someone somewhere have noticed the girl was missing? Wouldn't someone have heard her kicking and screaming, if she didn't go into the wall dead already? Wouldn't someone have noticed the smell of her decaying body, like in "A Rose for Emily"? Why put her in the wall when there were acres and acres of land on which to hide an inconvenient corpse? All very unlikely.
Also, what about the skeleton? When was it found? By who, really? What did they do with the remains? Why don't the interpreters know, since the story is in all of the guidebooks?
Perhaps most importantly, what is the documentation for all of this? Do the Jesuits have some record? Does the museum or the Office of Public Works, which owns the site, have records? When did the story originate? After all, if the incidents that it described are untrue, the story itself has a history? What are the different versions of the story? How far back can you find a record of the story? Can it only be traced, say, to the site becoming a tourist attraction? Do they not publicize the story because it is less a tourist attraction and more of a feature of the park where children play and might dampen the use of the site for receptions (because not everyone is as macabre as some of us)? What function does the story serve in the local lore?
One of the other odd features of the site is that it has not literature on the site itself. Most people were there to use the playground or the tea room. The house itself contained a new exhibit of toys and clothing (very cool). The pamphlets available at the front only dealt with the exhibit or with the other Heritage Sites of Ireland, but nothing was available to give a brief overview of the house's history and lore. You had to book a tour for a group, too, although there may be more tours available during the tourist season.
I'm sorely tempted to contact the Office of Public Works, just to see if they have any information about the story. I'm also sorely tempted to take a few moments -- or hours -- out of my next visit to the National Library to see what they have in the historic Dublin newspapers. I just might do the first, since all that would require would be an e-mail.
This is the reason that I wish I were a novelist. I would say popular historian, but I'm interested in obscure stories that would not really be very popular. A novelist could make this story interesting. I keep thinking that I should try again in my spare time -- of which I actually do have some right now. I have a file of ideas, simply because I want to write something down. When I was a kid, I used to keep a notebook with me and, when I wasn't reading a book, I was writing my own in the notebook. That's one of the things that I love about my younger self. I also told myself stories before I went to sleep at night. I suppose I still tap into that when I drift into narrative parts of my history writing. The most fun that I had writing my first book -- my dissertation, really -- was the chapter that was almost wholly narrative. I think I finished that chapter in a weekend. I wonder if I could just do that again, only out of my head, rather than out of all of the books and notes stacked around me?
Alas, this is just a distraction. I'm actually quite ready to write chapter 1 -- chapter 2 is done and ready for revision -- part of chapter 4 is done, too, but will require significant reworking before it is actually a chapter. My introduction is outlined. In fact, part of chapter 1 is done, too, from the paper that I gave, I just have to axe some of the overt historiography (trade press, you know) and move it to the notes. Then, I have to incorporate the grandmother (the paper was on the mother) and move forward with the slave mistresses. I know what I want to say, since I worked it out in the other, frustrating paper and in the big picture revelation. Now, it's time to invoke the goddess Nike and just do it.