Machen's narrator, in the story's penultimate paragraph, says Koffka "insists that the 'sadness' which we attribute to a particular landscape is really and efficiently in the landscape and not merely in ourselves; and consequently that the landscape can affect us and produce results in us... Poe, who knew many secrets, knew this," etc. I was reminded of "The Fall of the House of Usher." In its long first paragraph, we read, "beyond doubt, there are combinations of very simple natural objects which have the power of...affecting us," although it's beyond us to analyze this power. It isn't that people project onto things some notions that they bring to the act of perception, but that the objects may project into us some influence that, combining with our memories and imaginations, produce emotional and imaginative effects. Machen's narrator believes that his old friend Roberts received from the unpleasant-looking pool an "effect" that worked upon his memory of an entanglement, many years ago when Roberts was a naïve young man, with Helen* Watts, a member of the family with whom Roberts had found London lodgings. Roberts was caught, by the younger sister, Justine, behaving with Helen in a way that got him in trouble with Helen's father when Justine told him. I suppose Roberts was kissing and cuddling with Helen and that he had been led on to this by Helen herself ("there were extenuating circumstances in his offence, and excuses for his wrongdoing").** What Roberts suffered at the time was intense embarrassment, and, likely enough, a sense that he knew better all along, etc. Many years later, then, after Roberts saw the unpleasant pool, its configuration of objects, of light and shadow, etc., evoked in him false memories -- i.e., real memories entangled with imagination -- and a terrible sense of guilt over wicked acts that had, in fact, never occurred, but seemed to Roberts really to have happened. Machen's narrator also associates this experience with de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. In that book, a favorite of Machen's, there are reflections on dreams, distorted memories,*** etc. For example, under the influence of the drug, the "Eater" has dreadful impressions of crowding faces, which are derived from the daily encounter with London's multitudes, but distorted by the agency of the drug. The pool acts on Roberts somewhat as opium acted upon the Eater. And consider the Eater's suffering abysmal guilt: "I fled from the wrath of Brama through all the forests of Asia: Vishnu hated me: Seeva laid wait for me. I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris: I had done a deed, they said, which the ibis and the crocodile trembled at." By the way, while I don't agree with everything Julia Shaw says in her recent book The Memory Illusion (indeed, I've read only parts of it), there are things in it pertinent for Machen's story of memory here.**** As Machen's story suggests, "recovered memories" are likely to be false. Machen's story, I suppose, is not a story of the "supernatural" but of the preternatural -- and it can be, for us, a cautionary tale about the use of memories and "memories" in legal contexts. Machen's narrator acts basically as an "attorney" who gathers evidence to defend his client from the prosecution -- only in the story, it's Roberts's "memory," his response to the pool, and his conscience that together become the prosecution! (c) 2019 Dale Nelson (I'm putting this under copyright because I might revise it for publication elsewhere.) *It's possible that that the name "Helen" was still associated in Machen's imagination with an attractive, dangerous woman -- cf. "The Great God Pan," written many years earlier. **I'm reminded of the similar predicament of Johnny Eames, in Trollope's The Small House at Allington. Eames gets entangled with Amelia Roper, who lives in the same lodgings. ***"I have indeed seen the same thing asserted twice in modern books, and accompanied by a remark which I am convinced is true; viz., that the dread book of account which the Scriptures speak of is in fact the mind itself of each individual. Of this at least I feel assured, that there is no such thing as FORGETTING possible to the mind; a thousand accidents may and will interpose a veil between our present consciousness and the secret inscriptions on the mind; accidents of the same sort will also rend away this veil; but alike, whether veiled or unveiled, the inscription remains for ever, just as the stars seem to withdraw before the common light of day, whereas in fact we all know that it is the light which is drawn over them as a veil, and that they are waiting to be revealed when the obscuring daylight shall have withdrawn." ****Shaw is worth reading indeed given our culture's fascination over the past several decades with so-called "recovered memories." If one remembers the "satanic ritual abuse" panic, or the fat book of "recovered memories" of UFO experiences by John Mack called Abduction, etc. -- not to specify some more recent high-profile news stories -- one will find her book intriguing.
Source: http://www.eldritchdark.com/forum/read. ... #msg-11980
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