Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Malc Beats The Dog On Caldy Hill

In a letter to Carol Brown in 1926, Lowry tells her about a dream he has had:

I would meet you on the moor, and you would be looking sweeter than ever: you would rate me sardonically-playfully for ill treating the dog, and the dog would look at me so adoringly that you couldn't help but believe that here was the true master. Collected Letters of Malcolm Lowry Volume 1

Lowry's description of the moor which becomes the setting for "a pretty little romance" corresponds with Caldy Hill which was only a few hundred yards from both Carol's house Hilthorpe and Lowry's Inglewood home. You can see the topography of the tale on the map below. (Click on the image to enlarge)

It must be noted that the map is from 1936 and already shows signs of the vast changes taking place in the landscape of Caldy. The area around Hilthorpe and Inglewood would have been more open in the 1920's as can be seen from the photograph below which is circa 1914.

The above photograph gives some indication of the moor-like quality of the area which was dominated by sandstone outcrops, heather and gorse.

Today, Caldy is very different in appearance to the 1920's. However, you can take a walk onto Caldy Hill which is now protected by the National Trust and capture some of the "ripping scenery" that Lowry refers to discovering those "secluded spots" where the young Lowry wooed Carol Brown in his dreams.

The stunning views from the hill towards the Dee Estaury and further on to Wales and the mountains of Snowdonia certainly provide the backdrop for the "ethereal upper circle" from which to watch Lowry's "pretty little romance". The romance created by Lowry takes on undertones of Cathy and Heathcliff on the moor in Bronte's Wuthering Heights and surely this was in Lowry's mind alongside his references to Shakespeare and Chaucer who themselves were proponents of using English scenery to dramatic effect.

Later on in the dream, Lowry tells Carol that he goes for a walk to the nearby village of Greasby, singing all the way, singing when he returns for lunch, singing on his way to Hilthorpe to play tennis, and continues singing while trying to play the piano.

I couldn't help think of what songs he might have sang and ones featuring dogs kept coming to my mind from that period. Lowry might have sang Ma Rainey's "Those Dogs Of Mine" (Famous Cornfield Blues)from 1923 or Bessie Smith's Yellow Dog Blues 1925

Though later on in Cambridge University, Lowry may have been reminded of his dream of being cruel to the dog when his listening to his hero Joe Venuti who the cut track "Beating The Dog" in 1927.

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