Who Named the Pooka?

edmund-wilson
Edmund Wilson

I have always had difficulty understanding the great books written by my grandmother’s cousin Edmund “Bunny” Wilson, but I have come to appreciate the great contribution this great man of letters has made to the field of literary criticism.

In Axel’s Castle, for example, I learned all kinds of things about William Butler Yeats, T.S. Eliot and Marcel Proust which I never could have found out on my own.

In Patriotic Gore (great book, stupid name) he tells us all about Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose books I have great difficulty reading. I tried Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but just couldn’t get through it.

Cousin Bunny has read all of H.B. Stowe’s books, and tells us all about them, but he has also read all the letters of her husband, Calvin Stowe, and tells us all about them, too.

Turns out Calvin Stowe was visited by lots of spirits from the other side. In fact, once Harriet came home early from a trip and sat down in the living room and he didn’t even know she was there because there were so many other worldly spirits about.

One of the spirits that visited Calvin Stowe most often he named Harvey, after a classmate to whom the spirit bore a resemblance.

In Patriotic Gore, Cousin Edmund wonders out loud whether this spirit that haunted Calvin Stowe might have been the inspiration for the eponymous pooka (animal spirit) in the Pulitzer-Prize-winning play of that name by Mary Chase, which was later made into a movie starring Jimmy Stewart.

I can’t give an answer to this question. It all depends on whether Mary Chase, a Colorado journalist, ever read the autobiography of Harriet Beecher Stowe.

It’s certainly possible.

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