Russell Square, London, 27 January 1897
NOW THAT I have read the letter from my good friend, Dr Sir Oberon Worsley, F.S.A., F.B.A., M.A., D.Phil., and have had time to contemplate its dreadful contents, I find myself at my wits’ end. Although I struggle adequately to comprehend the events he describes, the correspondence has led me to the point of a nervous terror.
I dare not leave my house, although I perceive there is no safety for me within it either. I despair of how to warn others. Yet I fear that in the account I am now writing may lie the very evil which besets me. Nevertheless, since my hours are now doubtless numbered, I feel no alternative except to commit the abominable matter to paper in the hope that some salvation may yet be found.
Last Wednesday, the 20th, I received by the evening mail a letter from my good friend Worsley, who recently retired as Bodley’s Librarian. He had held the post at Oxford with distinction for many years, and in that time did much for the scholars of that great city. He and I had known each other since we were undergraduates at Magdalen in the ’50s, and, as I have always maintained my literary interests, we have kept up a regular and cordial correspondence.
The letter arrived as I was dressing for dinner. For the last several years, it has been my habit to dine at home rather than in my Club during the bitter evenings of January, when the chill air does me no good. So I took Worsley’s letter with me to the table, where, for reasons which will become apparent, I was keenly anticipating reading it with the roast goose Stephens had earlier procured, along with a bottle of the ’65 Haut-Brion that we agreed would suit the dish admirably.
However, the news Worsley recounted in his letter rendered me quite incapable of dining, and an hour later I waved the plate away, untouched, fearing for my reason.
The extraordinary and ghastly tale he recounted was this.