Morison, Elizabeth; Lamont, Frances. An Adventure.
[ pseud: Charlotte Ann Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain].
London: Macmillan, 1911.
Fourth printing, distributed within three moths of the first, to give you some idea of how popular this was). 8vo. Publisher’s blue cloth titled and decorated in gilt to spine and front board. Some edgewear to extremities, light bumping to spine ends, a small tear to the spine hinge, of a few millimetres in length, some discolouration of the spine. A very good, strong copy. Internally clean.
Buckle up, kids. This one is fabulously weird. One the one hand I’ve finally got one of these to put in a catalogue, on the other I’m really not sure I can do it justice.
Known hereafter as the Moberly-Jourdain Incident, this book describes possibly the most famous “Lost Time” incident of the field.
Paris: 1901, two studious, responsible, if deeply eccentric, English lady schoolteachers undertook a walking tour of Versailles on a hot August day. Long story short, they became lost and disoriented, they both commented on the flat, stifling nature of the air and the weird appearance of the grounds of the Petit Trianon (a small chateau and gardens on the grounds of Versailles), they saw small isolated farmhouses, an antique plough, gardeners in tricorne hats and a number of distinguished personages in 18th century dress, some of whom filled them with fear and foreboding. One of the ladies also saw a woman whom she later identified as Marie Antoinette. They wandered through the grounds, occasionally asking directions from some of these anachronistic personages until suddenly they found themselves back in the company of a group of other tourists, and the 20th century tour continued as normal. They carried on about their day and made no mention of the strangeness until a few weeks later when they realised they had both had strikingly similar experiences. It’s a deliriously beautiful thing, two women both experiencing high strangeness and in a very British way keeping it to themselves until the other asks over tea and crumpets “By the way dear, last week, did we time travel to pre-revolutionary Paris, or was it just me?”
Numerous theories have been put forward, the account has been post mortem-ed to hell and back, a map found in 1903 showed a bridge on the grounds that the ladies described crossing but that had definitely not been there in 1901. Uncharitable people suggested in a bout of peak homophobic misogyny that the experience was a hysterical lesbian folie a deux. The two ladies weren’t identified until 1931, and by that point any and all theories put forward had devolved to the standard of youtube research. My favourite real world theory (putting aside the fact that they did actually slip through time with their magic Baedeker guide...which is my actual favourite, obviously) is that they accidentally stumbled into one of outlaw avant-garde poet Robert de Montesquiou’s fabulous costume garden parties, and the people they encountered were just being hella gay in the sunshine, and threw our heroines for a bit of a loop. Either way, it’s all grown and given birth and morphed into a legendary experience mentioned, straight faced, alongside that story about the man disappearing crossing the field that people keep saying is true, and that bookshop that only appears when you really need it to, where its vulpine proprietor gives you a book that changes your life and leads you into the most amazing adventures and when you return to thank him or find another all you find is a blank, brick wall in an alleyway. That one actually is true, but the chap in question definitely isn’t an ABA member, his cataloguing is a bit off colour, and I promised I’d keep quiet because he’s holding a copy of the expanded Hypnerotomachia for me, the one with the geographical locations to the dreamgates, and I need that, because frankly the only way I’m going to be lucky in love is in a dreamworld. Scarce and utterly irresistible.