Thursday, August 1, 2013

"The Backstairs of the Mind" (1922), by Rosamond Langbridge

Patrick Deasey described himself as a "philosopher, psychologist, and humorist."  It was partly because Patrick delighted in long words, and partly to excuse himself for being full of the sour cream of an inhuman curiosity....

In Rosamond Langbridge's "The Backstairs of the Mind," Patrick Deasey is--like many a character in the John Rhode and Miles Burton novels of Cecil John Charles Street--a retired policeman who--"with a pension and an heiress with three hundred pounds"--invests in a public house.  But he remains filled with that "sour cream of inhuman curiosity" and thus in his new avocation devotes himself to worming the most private and personal of confidences out of his patrons.  Not for purposes of blackmail, mind you, but just to know.

Eventually he finds that one of his confidants has a very dark secret indeed....

"The Backstairs of the Mind" originally appeared in the Manchester Guardian and was reprinted in The Best British Short Stories of 1922, along with tales by Stacey Aumonier, J. D. Beresford, A. E. Coppard, Walter de la Mare, John Galsworthy, Roland Pertwee, May Sinclair, G. B. Stern, Hugh Walpole and others. The volume was edited by Edward J. O'Brien and John Cournos (the latter man should be known to Dorothy L. Sayers fans).

Though she also was a poet and playwright, Rosamond Langbridge (1880-1964) was best known as a writer of novels set in her native Ireland.  Additionally, she was the wife of the English writer J. S. Fletcher (1863-1935), with whom she had a son.

Surely one of the world's most prolific authors, Fletcher published over 200 books, including nearly 100 crime novels and short story collections (his last novel, Todmanhawe Grange, reviewed here, was published posthumously after being completed by Edward Powys Mathers, 1892-1939, the English crime fiction critic and cryptic crossword creator known as "Torquemada").

Living with a man who wrote so many murder stories day in and day out must have worn off on Langbridge eventually!  However, "The Backstairs of the Mind" offers a different spin on the crime tale.  It's online-in fact the entire book in which it appeared is online--so you can read it and see what you think.


  1. Thanks for the commentary and the link - shall definitely have a look. Thanks Curt.

  2. That's a really creepy story, but what the hell is going on in it? Why are the feet grey? Deeply confused...