Robert Findhelm

From The Library at Hurtfew
Jump to: navigation, search
Robert Findhelm was the last possessor of The Book of Magic, a work written by the hand of John Uskglass himself.

A Yorkshireman, a respectable farmer and something of a theoretical magician in a minor way, Findhelm appears to have inherited the book: indeed according to the researches of John Childermass it had passed down in the Findhelm family for generations [30]. (How it came into their possession originally is not known but Gilbert Norrell appeared to attach some significance to the fact that Findhelm's family had for a considerable length of time owned a farm which had formerly been one of the granges of Easby Abbey. The abbey was one of Uskglass's foundations.)

Although Findhelm considered himself first and foremost the Guardian of the Book and cherished it above all his other possessions, Childermass discovered from two of his former servants that he was in fact quite unable to read it. This detail, when told to Mr Norrell, again appeared to strike him as significant. Although far from an admirer of John Uskglass, Mr Norrell was scholar enough to know that the erstwhile magician-king had developed his own scheme of writing, the King's Letters, with its own alphabet, and that he had taught it only to a few favoured pupils. That Findhelm could not read his own prized book suggested to him the tantalising possibility it was written in this rare script. (To Mr Lascelles on the other hand it suggested merely that Findhelm was a farmer, and ignorant: a certain froideur occurs between himself and Childermass when he voices this thought.)

Childermass further discovered that in 1754 Findhelm had sent the King's book in the care of a trusted servant to a person living in the village of Bretton in Derbyshire. (Findhelm sent it with the laudable aim of discovering what was in it, as the Unknown Person at Bretton was the last man alive able to read the King's Letters.) Unluckily the servant to whom Findhelm confided the precious charge, a man named Clegg, proved unworthy of it. Unknown to his master Clegg was a sot and a gamester, and barely two days into his journey he destroyed the priceless volume in the course of a contest with an inebriated blacksmith. He performed this disgraceful act by drunkenly eating, page by page, the very book his master had entrusted to his care. Fearing to return, he then fled to London where he sired Vinculus, on whose infant body the entire text of the lost work was mysteriously inscribed.

Findhelm later quite properly brought a charge of book-murder against Clegg, who was hanged at York.