Saturday, 24 April 2010

A Martyr To Excessive Sensibility - The Doctor Won't See You Now.

Wow. Winter's gone. The sun is shining and we're heading for the hottest weekend of the year. It's amazing how life looks so much more cheerful when the warmth of a lovely spring day permeates the fuzziness of winter.
All that snow, now just a distant memory. The freezing, finger numbing temperatures consigned to the dim distant days of BC. That is Before Clegg!

Actually, I haven't the foggiest idea whether or not Nick Clegg is going to win the election (well I have but that would be telling). But, since I didn't watch the televised debates as the paint was drying on the wall in the back room and that seemed slightly more riveting to me, I'm dependent on what the papers are saying, and, apparently, Nick Clegg has taken to smoking huge cigars, drinking copious amounts of whisky and telling us that we will fight them on the beaches.

But I digress. Summer is icumen in and life is good. Unless, like Sarah Fletcher, you are a "martyr to excessive sensibility."

The other day myself and Emily (my trusty sat nav) had a brief discussion about where would be a good place to visit.

As I had an appointment in Oxon, the democratic consensus was that Dorchester might be a nice location. So, the appointment over, I cranked Emily up and she told me to drive to the highlighted area.

Twenty minutes later I had turned right along Dorchester High Street and, I have to say, it is one of the most delightful and prettiest places imaginable.

Parking up, I walked along the High Street and paused to admire the George Hotel which has an old coach sitting outside it.

It also sports a brass sign informing the passerby that it is a "Boarding Establishment." How quaint.

Now the George Inn is one of the locations haunted by the aforementioned Sarah Fletcher. Who she? I hear you ask. Haven't you been paying attention - she was a martyr to excessive sensibility. What that? I hear you ask. In a nutshell, she committed suicide.

She is in fact buried in Dorchester Abbey, a lovely little place that I'd urge everyone to visit.

Her tombstone is in the aisle immediately to the right as you enter the Abbey and its inscription is actually quite famous.

“Reader,” it implores, “If thou has a Heart famed for Tenderness and Pity, Contemplate this Spot. In which are deposited the Remains of a Young Lady, whose artless Beauty, Innocence of Mind and gentle Manner once obtain'd her the Love and Esteem of all who knew her.”

The inscription continues with the tantalising remark, “But when Nerves were too delicately spun to bear the rude Shakes and Jostlings which we meet in this transitory World, Nature gave way. She sunk and died a Martyr to Excessive Sensibility.”

Having given a little biographical detail that Sarah Fletcher was the “Wife of Captain Fletcher,” and that she “departed this Life at the village of Clifton on the 7 of June 1799 in the 29 year of her age,” the inscription ends with the wish “May her Soul meet that Peace in Heaven which this Earth denied her.”

Sarah's husband, Captain Fletcher, was a naval officer who was also a cad and a bounder. He was constantly unfaithful to his wife to the extent that one day he proposed to a wealthy heiress and would have married her had not Sarah found out and raced to the church just in the nick of time to stop the wedding and denounce her spouse as a would-be bigamist.

The furious Captain Fletcher set off for the West Indies and the heartbroken Sarah headed back to their house, Courtiers, in the nearby village of Clifton Hampden and there she hanged herself from a bed post.

As a suicide she would not have been allowed burial in consecrated ground. But the jury at the inquest into her death took pity on her and returned a verdict of lunacy.

Thus Sarah was buried at Dorchester Abbey and the inscription on her tomb was composed to suggest she died of her nerves rather than by her own hand.

Having shed a silent tear for Sarah I got back into the car and headed over to Clifton Hampden to pay a visit to her house.

Once there, I couldn't find anywhere to park. So I opted for the car park of the local doctor's surgery and then headed over to Courtiers. As I left the car park I noticed a sign nailed on to a tree.

Do you remember Swine Flu?

This time last year it was going to wipe us off the face of the earth and the Swine Flu Hotline was set up as the government stockpiled vast quantities of Tammy Wynette (I think that's what it was called) to stand by us in our final sneezing agonies.

I must confess I'd forgotten all about it. But nailed on to the tree of the doctor's car park was the stark order - Think You Have Flu? Please Go Home.

Anyway, I found my way to Sarah's old house and, since it was private property, was only able to photograph it from the other side of the road.

But, at least I had acquainted myself with her sad tale and got the desired photographs. So it was back to the car park where another tree bore the stark warning - Think You Have Excessive Sensibility? Please Go Home and Hang Yourself.

Ok, I made that last bit up. But, once back in the car, I started sneezing. Only one thing for it. I'm going home.

Till the next time. Good Hauntings.