Tuesday, March 06, 2012


Like all writers, I suppose, I have stashed away in various files little bits and pieces of writing, ideas, the beginnings of stories, character sketches and odds and ends of rubbish.

Today, I stumbled across a file titled, 'The Baroque House'. It was based on a complicated dream I had that I found so interesting that I wrote down the next morning all I could remember. This one, I recall, was very fantastical, with elaborate sets and props.

Just to amuse you...

Five were trapped in the house. All were unwanted, in all the world. One was an unpleasantly spoiled blonde and well-rounded prince of fifteen whose father had been usurped and whose political usefulness had come to an end. Another was a king’s mistress who had grown too many fine lines in her once-pretty face. Another was an ancient professor whose theories of mathematics had been proven worthless by the Sorbonne’s youngest and brightest lights. Another, a failed general whose battles had all been famous victories. The last was a sharp-tongued widow of an indebted man, who alone among her acquaintance thought herself too young to be passed over.

Five more lived, or at least dwelled in the house and watched the first five carefully, but were rarely seen themselves, except for the old housekeeper whose only task was to wind and wind and wind the many ticking clocks of the endless house. They watched and kept quiet. No one must break out of the daily pattern, even with a glance or a thought. No part of the spell must break or the plan would be ruined.

Each day, the routine was the same. The boy prince would find himself in a beautiful room all hung with gold, playing his viola da gamba. He did not recall how he had come there. Indeed, he hardly remembered who he was or anything at all, except how to play, and all he wanted in all the world was to continue playing. One of the other five, dressed as a palace footman, would come into the room in another moment and tell his highness that it was time for the bath. The watchful footman would then begin to draw the water and pour it into the bath. The prince thought vaguely that he was not usually commanded by footmen. But it was too late to think about it. The bath was drawn and the day had started again, exactly the same as all the others.

The retired mistress and the widow shared a room with an ornately painted ceiling and two huge beds. In came the housekeeper without a knock or a word, pointing to the gowns that were laid out on the chairs.

The professor woke the same way every day: slumped over a loose pile of books, still unread, spread over every inch of a huge desk in a library draped heavily with dusty red velvet.

Even the portraits and busts and wax figures looked up to watch in hope when the first escape attempt was truly started. Few of the rooms had windows, and what windows there were glowed only faintly with greyish light through barred-over glass, set high up close to the ceilings.

One of the recurring motifs of my dreams is a fantastic house, full of magical things, that can usually only be reached by magic. I was describing this once to my Uncle Mike and he surprised me by saying that he also had this magical, wonderful house in his dreams.

The Baroque House was certainly of this kind, but very sinister, where the wonderful house is normally benign.

Anyone else?



Anonymous said...

I too have recurring dreams of a large, sometimes lavish, mysterious house. It is rather labyrinthine, with many interlocking rooms. However, there is never anyone else in it except me, and there is always the sense that there is some sinister stranger lurking outside in the shadows, wanting to find a way in. I go from room to room, locking all the windows.

I have read that a house in our dreams can be a metaphor for ourselves.


Steve T. said...

Have you ever read the Gormenghast series by Mervyn Peake?

a Christopher said...

It was always a secret room in my Grandmother's house, or else in the house across the street from hers (which latter I've never been into). The secret room was quite an ordinary room, but full of nifty toys and such. I remember thinking, on later recurrences of this dream "oh, hooray! I've got into the secret room, again!".