WHH Short Fiction: “My House Shall Be Called the House of Prayer”

Essay: “My House Shall Be Called the House of Prayer”, William Hope Hodgson, 1911.

William Hope Hodgson seems to have been either an atheist or had a peculiar spirituality all his own. His relationship with his father, an Anglican minister, was tumultuous, and he tried to run away from home at age 13.

This is one of only two Hodgson stories that deal with a conventional Christianity.

Father Johnson is a rather unconventional Catholic priest in Ireland. He sometimes forgets to ask grace before a meal starts. He has a running gag with his housekeeper, a bet as to how she’s washing the kitchen knives. He allows women to knit in his church.

The narrator of the story is an admirer of Johnson, but his friend James Pelple isn’t given what he’s heard. The narrator offers to take Pelple to see Johnson and judge for himself.

The story begins with an odd couple of sentences: “Father Johnson’s Irish village is not Irish. For some unknown reason it is polyglot.” However, nothing is really made of that distinction in the story. Perhaps Hodgson, whose father was posted to Ireland for a while, just wanted to set his story there and yet excuse himself from getting all the cultural details right.

Johnson is clever in the way he helps his parishioners. The story is subtitled “An incident in the life of Father Johnson, Roman Catholic Priest”, and the incident involves helping Tom Cardallon, a man who impoverished himself in caring for his now dead wife, and who now has been evicted from his home.

Cardallon’s goods are auctioned off inside the church to prevent debt collectors from seizing the proceeds. The money goes to the widower, and the priest secretly compensates the bidders (who aren’t all that much better off than Cardallon) for their purchases, and the goods are returned to the widower. Tom’s dignity is thus maintained.

There is a particularly sad moment as the old man, prior to selling it off, describes one of his wife’s old skirts.

The story ends with Pelple also being a fan of Johnson’s at the end.

I speculate as to the relationship between Johnson and Samuel Hodgson, William Hope’s father. Is Johnson what Hodgson’s wished his father was like? Or is it a description of Hodgson’s father albeit of a different denomination? Some writers on Hodgson and his father speculate Samuel Hodgson was not well-liked and eccentric, and that’s why he was frequently moved by the Church of England. However, Avalon Brantley, in “The House of Silence: An Exposition” (Infra-Noir, Summer 2018), seems to think Samuel Hodgson was well liked though what she based that on I don’t know. Johnson is certainly eccentric

The title, incidentally, probably comes from Matthew 21:13 where Christ, quoting the prophet Isaiah, says

And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Christ says it before overturning the moneychangers’ tables. Father Cardallon is, after, conducting a sale in the church but he’s doing it to protect a parishioner from the moneychangers. This is, incidentally, another, albeit rather tame, example of Hodgson’s interest in intricate schemes.


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More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

Walking the Night Land: “The Dark Island”

The series on William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land and its literary descendants continues.

Essay: Carnacki: Heaven and Hell, William Meikle, 2011.

Cover by Wayne Miller

John C. Wright”s “The Last of All Suns” and Avalon Brantley’s The House of Silence merged elements of Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland and The Night Land, William Meikle’s “The Dark Island” did it and threw in Hodgson’s Carnacki too. (Carnacki gets a brief mention in “The Last of All Suns” too.)

I was a ways into “The Dark Island” before I realized that this is the back story referenced in Meikle’s Pentacle, but, at the time I read that story, I had read little Hodgson and none of his novels. Since that story is also part of Carnacki’s Sigils and Totems series, this story stands as a nexus with several works.

In this story, Carnacki’s help is sought by one James Doig whose friend, Sir John, seems under threat of a curse. Said curse was placed on the male heirs of his line after an ancestor, Richard de Bourcy, tangled with a necromancer on an island in the loch by Sir John’s castle. Michael Scott decreed that no male member of the family would live past his 50th birthday, and, by that measure, Sir John has two weeks to live.

The whole business of the curse seems a bit of nonsense to Sir John. But Doig comes across it cataloging his friend’s extensive library of occult and historical works. Sir John, to prove the whole curse thing is nonsense, takes Doig to the island. There something comes out of the burial mound on the island, frightens Sir John who flees, falling and hitting his head. Continue reading

Walking the Night Land: The House of Silence

My series on William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land and its literary children continues.

Essay: The House of Silence, Avalon Brantley, 2017.House of Silence

I was completely unaware of this novel until I read a piece about it by Douglas A. Anderson at Wormwoodiana.

If I’ve convinced you that Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland and The Night Land are worth reading, go do so and then read this novel. (And, yes, Zagava is the only place you can get it.) I will certainly be spoiling Brantley’s tapestry in my following disentanglements.

It is a beautiful and moving novel full of the emotions of grief and ungrasped love, of erotic menace, and the beauty of Ireland. Continue reading