Some years ago, I wrote about Dobson’s foolish theory that the person from Porlock who fatally interrupted the composition of Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge was, in fact, some kind of pod person from a parallel Porlock beyond the stars. I noted at the time that Dobson had never seen fit to devote a pamphlet to this twaddle, leaving us in some doubt as to the nature of this pod person, and in utter ignorance about the Porlock from whence it came.
Most people who have studied the matter conclude that the person in Dobson’s theory was a flesh-eating space zombie hatched from a pod, the pod itself brought to the vicinity of the Exmoor cottage in which Coleridge was staying by a primitive interplanetary cargo ship, intentionally or otherwise. But if this were so, and one such pod person came bashing upon the cottage door, how did the poet survive such an encounter? Survive it he did, of course, going on to live a long(ish) and fantastically talkative life thereafter.
Other questions surround the matter of Porlock, whether – in the theory – the pod-packed cargo ship crash-landed in the Somerset village of that name, or whether there is, somewhere in the mighty universe, a planet Porlock where are bred pod persons.
The latest writer to turn his attention to this fascinating business is Pebblehead, whose brand new bestselling paperback is entitled Person From Porlock! Note the missing Pod prefix. Pebblehead’s book is a first-person narrative, as if recounted by the “person on business from Porlock” himself, beginning a week before he strides o’er the loam to the cottage where Coleridge is ensconced, and ending, years and years later, as he faces death in a Victorian Porlock workhouse, his business, and his wits, having failed. In a tremendously exciting passage, Pebblehead has the raving and babbling person from Porlock imagining, on his deathbed, an encounter with his pod-doppelgänger who, it transpires, has been skulking about in his wake, like the familiar in the story by J Sheridan Le Fanu, ever since the fateful day in 1797 when he rapped upon Coleridge’s cottage door.
Several readers have pointed out the efforts Pebblehead takes to emphasise that this part of his narrative is, in his own words, “the hysterical drivel of a brainsick maniac”, and taken this to be a barb aimed at Dobson. Could it be that the paperbackist is limbering up for his long-rumoured unauthorised biography of the out of print pamphleteer, a work in progress which, it is said, will topple Dobson from his plinth in the pantheon of pamphleteers? No word comes from Pebblehead’s “chalet o’ prose”, only the sound of the indefatigable hammering of his fat fingers upon his battered and bloody keyboard.
Person From Porlock! by Pebblehead is published by Hefty Airport Bookstall Paperbacks Ltd, and is available from all good airport bookstalls.
Talking of Dobson, I read with interest (in the ‘Essay Concerning A Bird Perched on a Promontory’ in the Pippy book) that he once “worked his way through the canon of traditional nursery rhymes and baked each pie mentioned therein.” I wondered if there are there any more details of this project in the Hooting Yard annals?
Brit : That will be the subject of a future postage.