Maria Absalom

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Doubtfully claimed to be a portrait of Miss Absalom, aetatis suae 17. Her eyes are perhaps a little far apart but her hair is hardly red, though this may be due to a deterioration in the pigments. Her dress is notably eccentric. A critic has unkindly likened her features to those of "a self-satisfied schoolgirl" but compare with the portrait of Miss Absalom's father.

Daughter of Gregory Absalom. It is a curious fact that though in his lifetime Miss Absalom's father once had the reputation of being among the greatest of English magicians, after his death his fame declined, while that of his only child steadily grew. This is the more curious as she seems never to have set up as a magician herself.

It is, though, certainly true that Miss Absalom's house became a locus of all that is mysterious, and Jonathan Strange was one of many scholars who have argued that in permitting its slow ruination she followed a deliberate policy, aware as she was of the belief that ruined places were somehow the domain of the Raven King. Miss Absalom lived in the house full 149 years, having been born there. It was presumably because Strange credited her with some deeper knowledge of magic that in 1809 he summoned her to appear to him in a dream, no doubt hoping to glean more about the pursuit so rapidly becoming a passion with him by conversing with a woman about whom its shades still clung. (This was the incident which led to his connexion with John Segundus, who accidentally interrupted the interview by stumbling into the same dream.)

Mr Segundus later reported that when he entered Strange's dream and briefly saw Miss Absalom she wore a gown of some rich blue stuff, of antique appearance, and about which sparkled the last of those splendid diamonds given to her father by the King of Denmark. She was red-haired and had slanting eyes set rather far apart*. She did not speak to him, but smiled. Nevertheless his unexpected arrival broke the spell of summoning and she vanished as he awoke.[23]
Editor's note:*To have widely-spaced eyes is often a feature of those suspected of having fairy blood; see Jack Starhouse. Note also that when the gentleman with the thistle-down hair is in his death throes and reverting to an appearance more fairy-like than human, "his eyes grew further apart"[68]. It is a great pity that our authoress did not give us as much information on the subject of Miss Absalom's mother as she does on that excellent lady's father.