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I saw the Flit!


We went to Bateman’s today, home of Rudyard Kipling and the setting for my favorite Kipling book, Puck of Pook’s Hill (a collection of short stories about Sussex, and I loved it long before I lived here).

We’ve been to Bateman’s many times, you may remember, but this time there promised to be an exhibition of Arthur Rackham‘s illustrations for Puck of Pook’s Hill. Rackham is one of my all time favorite illustrators, this one one of my all time favorite books — perfect, yes?

Meh. They only had three original paintings and a few framed prints. The room was small and dark and the pictures were framed under shiny glass. Hard to see and underwhelming. They didn’t even have any Rackham books or cards in the gift shop.

I did get to see the original of this picture, though. It’s called the Dymchurch Flit, Dymchurch being a coastal town and “the flit” was the fairies leaving England forever. Chapter 22 of the book.

The story goes that the fairies got sick of our shit in the 1530s, during the nastiness of the Reformation. They turned up on Romney Marsh with their bags packed — Romney Marsh being a stick-out bit of coastline that is the furthest southeast you can go on the island without getting your feet wet. There they begged the Widow Whitgift to let her sons sail them away in a boat, and she did.

They came back after three days, but one son was blind and the other mute, so they never told anyone what they saw. You can read the chapter here, with some footnotes and explanation here.

Not my favorite Rackham painting and not viewed under the best conditions, but it’s always a thrill to see the original of a work that you know well from reproduction.


Comment from Durnedyankee
Time: September 26, 2017, 8:18 pm

You said the secret word!
“Romney Marsh”
(so this is your fault)

And if the fairies left England….how do you explain the Sissinghurst thingie?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 26, 2017, 8:58 pm

Oh! Have you seen the full version of that, Yankee? Disney didn’t re-release it for years and year and — I swear to you — the day before I moved to the UK, my copy of the commemorative DVD came in the mail. It’s awesome.

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: September 26, 2017, 9:09 pm

Fairies are bastards. They were always pulling that crap. The Tinkerbellization is a total lie.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 26, 2017, 9:19 pm

Oh, yeah. Fairies in the wild are nasty, vindictive bastards.

The story, by the way, refers to them as “Pharisees.” I suspect the country people did that.

Comment from Durnedyankee
Time: September 26, 2017, 10:32 pm

That’s why Hoggle was spraying them with pesticide in Labyrinth.

Is the full version different than what we watched on the “Wonderful world of black and white” back in the olden days?

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: September 27, 2017, 12:11 am

Once I got a msg taken by a student worker in our office that said: “Ur fiend flit is untied.” LOL

Comment from The Autarch
Time: September 27, 2017, 12:38 am

This websight is the original work of art.

Fairies are like lampreys, have no use for an ethno-state. Do not fall for their teary fairy-tales of fleeing, hiding, disenfranchisement and oppression.

Comment from Mrs. Peel
Time: September 27, 2017, 1:22 am

I was so thrilled when I unexpectedly came across the Titian to which Manet’s Olympia pays homage. No one else understood why. Sigh.

Comment from RimrockR
Time: September 27, 2017, 3:57 am

Lordy Ms. Stoat, you caused 50 year old synapses to fire when I saw that illustration and I realized Rackham illustrated one of my favorite childhood books Aesop’s Fables! Thanks for helping me recover that memory.

Comment from peacelovewoodstock
Time: September 27, 2017, 12:09 pm

So where did all the fairies go?

[N.B. answers mentioning “San Francisco”, “Fire Island”, “Provincetown”, etc. are homophobic, bigoted, and triggering, so keep your condescending microaggressive attempts at humor to yourself.]

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 27, 2017, 1:55 pm

I imagine for most people, offshore was gone. Like, gone gone. I don’t suppose they thought it through any more.

These are people who used to get into pitched battles with “those bastards in the next village over.” Xenophobic doesn’t adequately describe it.

Comment from Durnedyankee
Time: September 27, 2017, 3:09 pm

That would be a fair question legend wise. Unlikely the French in Calais noted a sudden influx of fairies that corresponded with the flight of the English pack around the time of the departure. Though it would be quite entertaining/interesting if they DID.

If “Larkrise to Candleford” was remotely accurate so is Stoaty’s observation about the attitude towards people in the village; over the hill, beyond the hedge or across the valley, from the one you live in.

“Friendly” competitions like hurling (Wikipedia says it was called bando in England) in the olden days with matches between various localities in Ireland are described sometimes to be more like a war between villages where a game broke out (Hockey!).

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: September 27, 2017, 4:38 pm

“Flit,” I think, used to be a slang term for “homosexual.” (It was also a popular brand of insecticide (“Quick, Henry, the Flit!”). I wonder if one inspired the other.

As for magic-oriented fairies, when I developed my fantasy fiction series some years ago, I never considered making them part of it. We’ve had too many stories about fairies, I guess. (And don’t get me started on dragons –)

One of these days I need to sit down and watch the “Scarecrow” episodes on YouTube. Patrick McGoohan is remembered for Secret Agent and his Columbo appearances, but this should be on everyone’s pop-culture radar. What a grand opening sequence! Anybody who loved Zorro would like this one. His mask makes a good deal more sense than Zorro’s, or Batman’s: it actually conceals all of his face!

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