Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


I wonder if you’re familiar with a book titled, Inferences From Haunted Houses and Haunted Men, (1901) by the Honorable John Harris.  It’s everything you would want it to be and a little bit more.  Walking, naturally, is one of the ways that men demonstrate their hauntedness.

Harris writes, “One of (Charles) Kingsley's neighbours at Eversley was the late Sir W. (William) Cope. The elder son of this gentleman, when Secretary of Legation at Stockholm, came to a tragic end. He suddenly, when out walking with a friend, although his health had been apparently perfect, began to shout and wave his umbrella. He was put under the care of attendants, as he was considered to be temporarily insane. He jumped out of a window and was killed. Voices insulting or threatening him, and with such scoundrels speech would be of something dreadful, would provoke or frighten the unhappy man.”

Well of course you to have sympathy for the haunted man here,  but I imagine that if I were to walk down the street and suddenly began to shout and wave an umbrella (not the least likely thing in the world) I wouldn’t immediately be put under the care of two assistants.  I suspect that wouldn’t make things any better at all.

Harris also writes, “About two years later a distinguished priest, well known in London, also suddenly waved an umbrella and behaved as if he were angry. But he showed hardly any sign of insanity, and on applying to the proper court for release from supervision, was declared sane by a jury. Strength of mind and religious feeling doubtless saved him from the fate of Mr. Cope. A brave man can resist such an attack under favourable  circumstances.”

Well I like to think I’m brave enough, and strong enough of mind, and that I show hardly any sign of insanity, but I’m not sure that would be enough to save me. “Religious feeling” I'm pretty sure has nothing much to do with it.

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