the Violet
The Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy
20 December 2009

A website for the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy has recently appeared, whose aim is to "provide a forum where writers and scholars from various disciplines can discuss folk narratives, fairy tales and fantasy". Sussex, as the site's main page states, is an area "rich in examples of all three kinds of narrative, ranging from folk narratives of various kinds, through literary fairy tales written in, as well as about, Sussex... to major works of fantasy and myth by Sussex residents". David Lindsay is cited as one of several such one-time residents, along with George MacDonald, Mervyn Peake and Neil Gaiman. (George MacDonald was, for a while, minister in the Trinity Congregational Church in Arundel; Mervyn Peake lived for a while in Warningcamp, and is buried in Burpham, both near Arundel; Neil Gaiman grew up in East Grinstead and opens his celebrated Sandman comic at nearby Wych Cross.)

David Lindsay is most often tagged as a Scottish fantasist (A Voyage to Arcturus being included in the 2005 list of "100 Best Scottish Books", for instance), and it is certainly illuminating to regard his works as springing from the same imaginative roots as James Hogg (The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner) and (again) George MacDonald. But there is nothing to say that a writer, once claimed, can only be studied from a single angle, and in my opinion there's as much to be learned from regarding Lindsay and his works in the light of where he lived as from his lineage. (In this I may be biased; like Lindsay, I'm half Scottish by descent, and live in Sussex).

In Lindsay's works, Sussex features in The Haunted Woman (which is set in Brighton, Hove, Worthing, and at the fictitious Runhill Court, which Lindsay situates near Steyning), while in The Witch Lindsay comes close to infusing the Sussex landscape with as much pregnant supernaturalism as he did with Arcturus's Tormance. The Violet Apple, meanwhile, is set mostly just south of Brasted, in nearby Kent. Lindsay, of course, lived in Ferring (near Worthing), and in Hove at the end of his life, but was obviously familiar with the larger area, being married in Godstone in Surrey (only a few miles from Brasted), while his friend L H Myers, who would often take him for rides through the countryside, lived for a while in East Grinstead.

Map of Sussex showing a few David Lindsay-related towns
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