For those of us whose knowledge of the world is gleaned almost exclusively from the out of print pamphlets of Dobson, it comes as a crushing blow to learn that he was absolutely wrong, wrong, wrong in the matter of the mythical island o’ werewolves. You will recall that in his pamphlet The Mythical Island Where Werewolves Think They Come From (out of print), Dobson claims there is, within the brain of every werewolf, some sort of false memory nugget which throbs with the sights and sounds and smells of a wholly imaginary island. This, he says, is thought by all werewolves to be their homeland, to which they are driven to return, with an impulse as savage and unassuageable as their hunger for blood and guts. Hence the danger of docks and harbours, where werewolves roam, trying to stow away aboard ships and clippers and ocean liners.
You will also recall that in the 1956 film Bigger Than Life, James Mason, as cortisone-addled schoolteacher Ed Avery, declaims, as only James Mason could, the line “God was wrong!” Shocking that may have been to a 1950s audience, but how much more shocking is it, today, to utter the words, or even to entertain the thought, “Dobson was wrong!”? Yet, unbelievably, that indeed appears to be the case, according to a new study by jumped-up young Dobsonist Ted Cack. In five hundred pages of densely argued and pretty prose, the wet behind the ears little squirt pulls apart the pamphleteer’s pronouncements upon werewolves, demonstrating them to be complete drivel.
“Ah!” you may cry, “But what about all those footnotes?” It is true that The Mythical Island… is one of Dobson’s most heavily annotated works, bulging with an apparatus of footnotes and references and scholarly appendices. So bulky did all this stuff make the first edition of the pamphlet that, when running off the first few copies in the shed, Marigold Chew broke her Gestetner machine and had to call out a person from Porlock to repair it. That is why the additional material was published as a separate pamphlet thereafter, the pair of pamphlets bunged together into a cardboard box, to which was stuck with glue a mezzotint of a werewolf done by the noted mezzotintist Rex Tint. It is perhaps the most sought-after Dobson rarity coveted by collectors, which makes Ted Cack’s revelations all the more dispiriting.
What on earth can have made Dobson deceive his readers so? It is not a question Ted Cack tries to answer, but then he is young and callow and has not yet gained a proper apprehension of Man’s fallen state. The fruit of the tree of knowledge is not a fruit Ted Cack has bitten, yet. His time will come, as it does to us all, as it certainly did to Dobson.
Because the pimpled youngster does not address Dobson’s motives for churning out this screed of twaddle, we are forced to draw our own conclusions. For what it is worth, and despite the evidence piled up against him, I think it is legitimate to ask if Dobson actually believed the absurdities he wrote of werewolves. It would not be the first time he was subject to delusions, hallucinations, and general brainpan dislodgement. The critic Bernard Levin wrote of Beatleperson John Lennon that “there is nothing wrong with [him] that could not be cured by standing him upside down and shaking him gently until whatever is inside his head falls out.” The same was true of Dobson, if not more so. In fact, Marigold Chew designed, but never got round to building, a sort of hoist, of deal and wicker and gutta percha, into which the pamphleteer could be pinned, upended, and shaken about. Had such treatment been applied, perhaps on Thursday mornings, before breakfast, Dobson might never have cast so ineradicable a blot upon his reputation as The Mythical Island Where Werewolves Think They Come From.
So did he think it was true? Did he just wilfully misread all those quotations and references with which the pamphlet is packed? The problem here is that he seems to have invented most of his sources, from ancient texts in Latin and Greek and Ugric, to scripts from films and radio plays, and a paragraph about werewolves apparently copied down from the back of a carton of breakfast cereal. Tellingly, Dobson does not say what the cereal was, and in any case, the pamphlet was written at a time when we know he only ever ate bloaters for breakfast. Oh, it is a puzzle to be sure!
A clue may be found by close reading of his earlier werewolf pamphlet, The Hidden Wealth Of Werewolves (out of print), the one where he bangs on about werewolves living in caves wherein are kept toads in hanging cages, the toads having jewels embedded in their heads. It all sounds a bit unlikely, doesn’t it? Did he invent that, too? Ted Cack ignores this pamphlet completely, but then perhaps he has never heard of it. To gain a familiarity with the entire corpus of Dobson’s work takes years and years, as I know to my cost. And I have decades yet to live, God willing, before I am as ancient and craggy and stooped and wizened as Aloysius Nestingbird, the greatest Dobsonist of all, who is well into his second century and has collected several free bus passes from the government. He sells the spare ones on a website called Nestingbird-Bay, and spends the proceeds on gruel, which is all he is able to digest after long years of debauch.
The point about the first werewolf pamphlet is that Dobson always denied having written it. He claimed it was a forgery, wrought by sinister and shadowy associates of international woman of mystery Primrose Dent. If this is indeed the case, it would be a fool who would dare to investigate further. Let us not forget that the last person to probe the doings of La Belle Dent, a television reporter even more pimply and callow than Ted Cack, was pinned, upended, and shaken about in a hoist umpteen times more terrifying than Marigold Chew’s unrealised design. I am not joking. That is why I am going to stop writing about the whole confounded business, and go for a walk down by the docks, where I may or may not be set upon by marauding werewolves. And if I am, it will be a fate far less horrifying than Primrose Dent’s hoist.