A Forest Pt. 4: A Passage in Time


Berkeley Square Actor

Only a few months ago I was able to satisfy myself, while pondering the single theme of a remarkable film entitled Berkeley Square – the new occupant of an old castle manages, by bringing back to life in his hallucinations those who occupied it in former times, not only to mingle with them but also, as he takes part in their activities, to solve the problem of his present behaviour, a most difficult sentimental problem – that the myth of spirits and of their possible intercessions is still very much alive.
André Breton: Nonnational Boundaries of Surrealism (1937) in Free Rein

In 1941 Breton made an object poem by the title Portrait of Actor A.B. in his memorable Role, the Year of Our Lord 1713. It bears a premise quite reminiscent of Berkeley Square.

The author’s initial project was to elucidate a particular graphological problem in so far as it affected him. Having noticed that his own signature, when reduced to initials, resembled the number 1713, he was led intuitively to see in this number nothing other than a date in European history and was curious enough to consider what outstanding events occurred during that year (it is entirely possible, in fact, that one at least of these events was of such a nature as to engender in him an unconscious fixation upon a past moment in time , and more specifically a personal identification with that moment).
André Breton: The Object Poem (1942) in Surrealism and Painting

AB 1713

The historical events in 1713 that Breton alludes to are:

The little glass valise at the bottom represents  a means for time travelling.

Curiously enough, weird fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft was also very impressed by  Berkeley Square. He went to see the film four times and  drew  inspiration from it for his novella The Shadow out of Time. In one of his letters he wrote:

It is the most weirdly perfect embodiment of my own moods and pseudo-memories that I have ever seen–for all my life I have felt as if I might wake up out of this dream of an idiotic Victorian age and insane jazz age into the sane reality of 1760 or 1770 or 1780 . . . the age of the white steeples and fanlighted doorways of the ancient hill, and of the long-s’d books of the old dark attic trunk-room at 454 Angell Street. God Save the King!

Berkeley Square

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