Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mere coincidence . . . or eerie coincidence?

{Photo by rocketlass.}

You might want to dim your lights for this one. Maybe open the window a crack to let in the October chill. Pull the blanket a bit closer, warm your brandy, put another log on the fire, that sort of thing. Are you sure you threw the deadbolt?

Monday, as I was reading James Boswell's Life of Johnson, I encountered this bit of doggerel from, as Boswell terms him, "the very ingenious Mr. Didben":
A Matrimonial Thought

In the blithe days of honey-moon,
With Kate's allurements smitten,
I lov'd her late, I lov'd her soon,
And call'd her dearest kitten.

But now my kitten's grown a cat,
And cross like other wives,
O! by my soul, my honest Mat,
I fear she has nine lives.
My first thought on reading that (other than to think how glad I was not to be Mr. Didben's poor wife) was that it sounded like the kernel of a story that John Collier might cook up in conjunction with Robert Arthur. A harridan of a wife who drives her husband to murder . . . but then he finds he has to murder her again and again and again--seems like just their kind of story.

Two days later, I received in the mail an old copy of Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night (1961), which I'd ordered following James Hynes's enthusiastic recommendation at his blog. Though I'd known that Robert Arthur had served as editor for the great anthologies aimed at children that were published under Hitchcock's name in the 1960s (and that I read multiple times when I was kid in the '80s), it hadn't occurred to me that he'd probably played the same role in the creation of the adult Hitchcock anthologies of the period as well. But on opening this volume, I encountered the following note, which I think one wouldn't be faulted for assuming understates the case:
The editor gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of Robert Arthur in the preparation of this volume.
If Arthur didn't get quite the credit he most likely ought to have for his editorial work on Stories for Late at Night, it was made up for by the placement of his own story "Death Is a Dream" at the opening of the collection.

Which brings us back around to our starting point, the wife with nine lives: "Death Is a Dream" is about a man whose wife returns from the grave . . . so he kills her . . . but then has to kill her yet again! "I fear she has nine lives," indeed.

What was that? You say you heard something? A sound at the window? Oh, I'm sure it was nothing. Nothing at all. . . . After all, who on earth would be out there on this blustery October night?

1 comment:

  1. I have one of those collections!--Alfred Hitchcock's _Monster Museum_. I picked it literally out of the garbage outside a doctor's office, and came home to rediscover Stephen Vincent Benet's wonderful "The King of the Cats." My kids love the book, too, although I'm not allowed to say "Then _I'm_ the king of the cats!" too close to bedtime.