Our Lady of Hate: The Short Stories of Catherine Lord



Edited by Johnny Mains

My previous reviews of Johnny Mains: HERE

My review of the first Noose and Gibbet book in 2010: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/22/back-from-the-dead/

My other reviews of older or classic books: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/reviews-of-older-books/

When I read this book, I may add my thoughts upon it in the comment stream below…

32 thoughts on “Our Lady of Hate: The Short Stories of Catherine Lord


    “…and after coughing and settling herself comfortably in her chair nurse began her tale.”

    An inferentially chilling tale of a fever, a tale the retired nurse tells the children who had been former charges, a tale whereby at its end the nurse’s “kindest husband” Joe died of a fever after five years of marriage. Yet, it is a happy ending, where the Panglossian ‘all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds’ pans out. The tale tells of how she became employed as a nurse by their late mother. A tale, too, of much money gold in a bag entrusted to her by her father, a burglar in a sack, an unloaded blunderbuss and a cupboard lockdown, creating Christmas Eve frights for the nurse when she was a young “ripe plum.” And an axiom in this 1892 fiction work for us this day of all days in 2020 — “you might tell a lie so often that you believed it yourself at last.”


    “I hardly think I believe it myself. Anyway, were it a coincidence or chance, the results were singular.”

    While dreamcatching or ghostwatching the books I happen to choose for reading, I live with the above ‘thoughts of belief’ every day of the week. Any ‘doubtful drains’ or ‘defective pipes’ in this story notwithstanding — a story that is a nifty period piece on séances and their seemingly matching results of investigation into the truth of what the apparition appears to make apparent. Involving the eponymously named signature wildly drawn around the house and involving, too, a switched pair of drawing-room floorboards and what might lie below them, plus a languid carpenter, and an old woman caretaker who would have let in a burglar in a bag as readily as she would have let in the rightful owner of the house thus let into.


    Having reread it, I am afraid I still hold the same opinion of this story as I did originally HERE where it is under the by-line of Lucy Hardy, and it is not helped in this new book by its still uncorrected aberrant textual dashery or mis-hyphenation.


    “Tumble down, tumble up, no bones broke.”

    Yet this story echoes that earlier ‘terrible Christmas Eve’ with a war against France mentioned at it end, causing the ultimate haunting unresolution! A worthy ghost story, though, of its age, as a woman living in an eccentrically architectured large old house with turrets and some pointless cut-off rooms, is left to have a new baby on her own as the husband goes elsewhere to help an older male relative recover from gout! Well, on her own, other than a nurse, the three existing children of the marriage, and the importation of the husband’s forbidding half-sister. A series of downbeat tumbledown events, one sadly tragic, and, “as though to escape from — nothing!”, there was earlier an attempt to move between bedrooms “as a sanctuary from supernatural annoyances”, and brushes with the “utterly absurd” as well as “disagreeable dreams” bordering on no doubt co-vivid “nightmare experiences.”
    Later the tragically sad removal to the “Silent Land”, to that “garden above” with its “big gooseberry”! Any ‘rumours of immorality’, notwithstanding. But was the woman effectively a “medium” as with the Styles phenomenon? Unresolution, indeed, if not revolution.

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    From the above theme of ‘fEVEr’ on THAT Christmas Eve to Caroline’s “brain fever” with THAT Delightful Stranger here! This tale is a compelling and instructive one portraying the social mœurs in the 1890s of a seaside town of gentry as gradually infiltrated by hoi polloi as well as soap-boilers. Including a swindler called Ingatestone who, inter alios, pilfers an (Ingersoll?) watch with the index number Q99 from a household, as a trusted guest there, when going to its loo upstairs.
    Involving a rector who feared he was acting as a spy and eavesdropper. And I was also taken by Flora’s tangled hair upon her forehead instead of a neatly brushed fringe.

    “…he had known a young man restored to sight after years of total blindness, who was at first so embarrassed by the recovery of his lost sense that he was obliged to shut his eyes to find his way about the house.”


    “; a bird born and reared in a cage does not pine for the liberty it has never enjoyed.”

    One day this will be such with all our lockdown babies? A “noble prisoner.” Meanwhile, this is another instructive tale, in a comfortably couched prose, whereby the caged bird, ‘our poor Aunt Agatha’, as the young narrator who herself eventually gets married calls her in our hearing. Another potential ne’erdowell from the previous story is the man Aunt Agatha meets after her “mattresse femme” (sic) of a mother dies and hence releases the caged bird into “the giddy world” including such a world’s pervasive danger or “influenza fiend”, but here, indeed, that sin-carrying man whom the freed prisoner meets and marries is eventually redeemed in the eyes of the overworld, a message for us all when we might once have fixed someone as a defalcating fiend and now we admire their beneficial contribution to us all. And so with whatever else in the world we hope to see as having had a vaccination of ill regard is now made well.


    An ingenious story that ought to be better known. One about the artist narrator’s guardian uncle, the latter being in commercial business who rather frowned on his nephew’s ambition as an artist or painter, until his uncle is potentially changed (or corrected?) by a “serious illness, which left his lungs in a somewhat weakened condition”, and he accompanies his nephew to Italy where Florence flourished, spurred on by competing with one of his whist cronies to make money from art. A convenient arrangement for both uncle and nephew, even though each doubted the other. A story of counterfeits and bargains made with a cheating charlatan, and the CORRECTION (Correggio) of an original Correggio! Two counterfeits somehow multiplied like two negatives multiplied always making a positive. The respective framed acreage of canvas sizes and the imposition of red sealing wax, too.

  8. Remarkably, earlier this morning I happened to start my long-awaited review of ‘Bitter Distillations: An Anthology of Poisonous Tales’ here.
    And then came the Mains story-ordering of….


    “, to retain its virus for centuries and that some constitutions were peculiarly sensitive to the influence…”

    A Victorian story of a man’s crossed love and of a poisoned ring to abrade a future bride’s finger. Narrated by an objective narrator to the accompaniment of memories from his travels in Africa, we watch him watch the crossed lover manoeuvring with “satanic” looks at a ball alongside the “lingering venom of the past”…and the beautiful multi-suitored woman who suffered as a consequence — a series of events efficiently panglossed over, as it were, to maintain the possible best of the repercussions in the best of all possible worlds….


    “…one of the ancient lepers’ windows (made to allow victims of that fearful disease to behold from without the church sacred rites they might not mingle with the congregation to share in),”

    …the window they wanted to restore in the Fell-Thorpe church, a church where there was also an old legend of a ghost of a young lady in what was called its Nuns’ Gallery. Another young lady today dabbled in painting pictures while living with her staid and withdrawn guardian uncle, who was vicar there. The window restoration appeal was helped by a money collection inside the church, one that turns out to be stolen. But who did it? Some machinations by the real young lady vis à vis the ghost legend reaches towards another Panglossian sorting out of a scoundrel, one of the young male ‘village loafers’ who eventually makes good as a result of some lenience towards him. A reasonably engaging story in itself, but even more engaging when one considers its apparent importance within the Gestalt of this whole book so far.

  10. From last night’s Auld Lang Syne to this story’s later ‘Le roi est mort — vive le roi’ and its initial title …


    “…when the heirs heir?”

    It’s the end of an era, to begin another? At 11 pm gmt last night. Sad, but..

    All serendipitously symbolised or panglossed by this eventually revealed story’s contextual and, for me, prophetic tale of explicit Loyalty of a ‘Till Death Us Shall Do Part’ young love and the husband and wife’s combined hopeful childbirth’s heirdom, blighted indeed by the beloved wife’s death — and, later, an ironically and utterly pathetic grave’s ‘Dead Monument To Once Ancient Hope’ in delayed construction while the man makes his second marriage within the church nearby.
    The story ends with a quote about short memories from Sir Thomas Browne’s ‘The Garden of Cyprus’, and I wondered if a quote from his URNE BURIAL would also be suitable? (All these quotes from it would be suitable monuments to this story: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1283534-hydriotaphia)

    Last night’s perhaps relevant blog that I wrote yesterday before I read this story today… https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/12/31/so-we-are-leaving-the-tense-tensies-tonight/
    Today’s tomorrow destroys our once firm thoughts from its yesterday already?


    …as is each of our life experiences: strangely peculiar to ourselves as lonesome onesomes. This is of a singular man who is befriended on holiday abroad and later invited to stay at this new friend’s country house….
    This is genuinely a horror story ahead of its time with chilling and even subtle premonitory ‘steampunk’ touches. Too much to quote or to itemise. It just needs to be read.
    Relatively short already, it could do with shortening more by ending it with – “I took a step forward.” If that had happened, then I would have been forced to consider this work as one of the truly great, frequently anthologisible horror stories from the days of yore. No exaggeration.


    “(the church of the meanest Russian village is often richly decorated)”

    The ultimate Panglossian fable, with an amoral moral as well as a pragmatic one. A Russian moujik, lazy and vodka-addicted, hen-pecked by his wife, comes into a large inheritance that he gives away to the church on the way home with it. The results are serendipitously magical rather than honestly religious, and I loved it, despite the intervening iconostasis in some erratically moujikal slapdashery of the presented version of its text.

  13. From the vodka-ridden above to the gin-sodden here?


    “She’s at Dr. Blank’s still.”

    Abroad in Africa with other “typical black sheep” that populate this book at least by innuendo, the narrator hears the story of a man’s life, a man more upstanding among these other “social failures” who harbour themselves out of the way of civilisation. But why is this apparently upstanding, professional man here? His story strives to answer this question. His dipsomaniac wife hospitalised back home leads to guilt’s doubts and decisions and dilemmas and other “whispers from the devil”, an eventually pragmatic rite of passage so imbued within this book so far and empirically leading here to at least a hint of some new oblique wisdom.

    Our lady of hate?

    “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”
    Hunter S. Thompson

  14. If you keep a monkey, then you need to pay for its ‘odic force’, I say! 


    …even a Eurasian who plays a prank that chilled the narrator’s sensitive soul! A racial trope of the time, I guess and forgive.
    Yes, but chilling indeed, this story, whereby some ‘wild’ youths — one or two lazy rogues fitting for this book’s redemption, given their otherwise clear skin — are left to amuse themselves in the house when their Reverend tutor cat leaves these captive student mice alone to play, as it were. The narrator student is tempted by the prank to test the legend of what one sees on a certain night of the year in the church opposite…. But it was only a prank, after all, gruesome though it was, and I should more blame the narrator for his superstitious over-sensitivity than the one who made the prank? Whose is the optimum redemption of fallibility to support? Whatever the case, I loved the incidental mention of a “fertile drinker”!

  15. LOST AND FOUND (1899)

    “How little any of us know of the secrets, perchance the sorrows, which our neighbours carry in their hearts!”

    On the face of it an instructive fable, with good Christian ending, of the sixty year old widow next door, whose spoilt and beloved son became a scoundrel, exiled abroad, who returns in the guise of a thief who happens to mug her for her purse.
    But was this the son returned, as she said she recognised him to be and he, a complete stranger, who plays along the grain of her historic belief, set out here for all to read, plays along for his own ends? Maybe, the author herself wilfully failed to read between the lines of the characters she had so instinctively and craftily created? The inscrutable neighbour living next to – or even within – the authorial heart tself?


    A simple, touching tale of a man and his loyal donkey Jenny, collecting weed near the rocks of the sea. And the rescue that Jenny managed to bring about when the man slipped and broke his leg below the high tide mark! I noted the Panglossian way that the donkey’s own natural instincts for her own self-preservation arguably became a perceived selfless act of fortitude on her part.
    [At least mildly surprised by the apparent need for this book to have an explanatory footnote for “avvered” (averred?)]


    “But death, as is often the case, seems to avoid those who apparently seek him;”

    Death as male?
    A rather laboured story of wartime spying for a Rajah, injustice, betrayal, love between a man and woman with 23 years equally between them, injustice eventually becoming justice, preceding an assuagement of guilt by a death that sought him alongside an unlikely posthumous forgiveness from the woman who loved him, a love that somehow developed, in different ways, from her childhood onwards. I could not reconcile such a plot’s audit trail, although the prose is stylish.

  18. “I will not say that women have no character; rather, they have a new one every day.”
    Heinrich Heine


    “But there was a sombre tradition connected with this chapel among the superstitious Breton peasantry around for it was averred that if any desired to wish ill to a neighbor he or she had only to offer a votive taper at this ruined shrine, popularly known as that of ‘Notre Dame de la Heine’…”

    …later in this story referred to as ‘Notre Dame de la Haine.’
    And so Jeanette did, in a fit of her endemic jealous nature, having witnessed her boyfriend walking along the beach with another girl, doing this as a curse upon both of those whom she had thus witnessed. But we shall soon see her character change to one of guiltiness, later remorse. Backstories also told to us and her removal to the city did not diminish such remorse, until things pan out differently in hindsight, with the erstwhile votive offering (and such a counterintuitive character change) effectively leading to a happy ending! An outcome so endearingly typical of this Panglossian book!


    “But love gives power to the weakest;”

    As a result of this story, I managed to instruct myself with details of its historic backdrop: The Battle of Preston (1715). An engaging story, too, of the courage of a Scottish wife of one of the Scottish fighters and her children, and the preservation of a family heirloom against all the good sense of finding money to help their survival leads, by audit trail, to another telling all-is-best-in the-best-of-all-possible-world endings.

    As an aside, another populist audit trail from last night’s momentous events in my own real-time, as this morning re-invoked by my reading about the Battle of Preston, is as follows —
    Farage—> Brexit —> Trump —> Johnson/ ‘Get Brexit Done!’ —> Covid mismanagement —> whatever happens next (hopefully Panglossian!)??
    Brainstorming. Literature is a great vehicle for such. And thanks so far to this book’s editor for discovering the otherwise lost literature of Catherine Lord…


    “For an epidemic was raging in the place, and one that brought special terror to the populace. […] honouring we coloured folk with peculiar attentions.”

    A story in itself as a remarkable historical document in the annals of literature as a timelily discovered mirror for our plague-ridden times, and for the story’s own times, too. A synergy that makes curses work, all religions and superstitions and magicks as one gestalt, races, too, even if the curse does not pan out in the expected way. The story’s ending seems to transgress the rest of the book, by seeming to contravene its own established Panglossian soul heretofore. Counterintuitively as well as constructively so in an unintentionally but instinctively aberrant way?
    Involves premature burial, too.


    Occident, Orient, Occident.

    For me, a rather laboured and confusing story involving a wily would-be Sherlock Holmes who tries, alongside his college friend, to solve the above clue to the whereabouts of a ‘treasure’ in a large rambling house. Involving the obtaining of a marital dowry to satisfy the future bride’s father and a poem by Keats. Fulfilling fully, eventually, this book’s Panglossian romantic promise for good and all! 

    This book is a valuable discovery of its own treasure, remarkable and timely. Factored into our literary heritage, too. The scattering of minor typos is not sufficient to spoil that achievement in any way.

    I will now read the non-fiction in this book for the first time: the Introduction by the editor and publisher: ‘The Well-Known Writer, Lucy Hardy’, plus ‘Country Houses’ by Catherine Lord. This will no doubt give me further food for thought. But the fiction is all and everything as ever. Discrete and openly interpretable within its chronology, and what you as a reader bring to it. We must all, one day, collusively triangulate our own coordinates of the fiction we read. 


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