Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ray Bradbury Saturday! A Medicine For Melancholy (or: The Sovereign Remedy Revealed)



Ray Bradbury reminds me of Saturdays. Saturdays are carefree, filled with fun, excitement and magic. That's how I feel about Ray Bradbury's work. Plus he grew up in central Illinois, which is my old stomping grounds so right away I can identify with the backdrop for much of his work.

I've decided to take every Saturday to examine either a short story or a book of his and give it some of my thoughts. It's kind of my homage to my favorite author who's career has spanned 5 decades.

(1959) A MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY (OR: THE SOVEREIGN REMEDY REVEALED )




The story is set in London, England in 1762. Dr. Gimp is fussing over a sick young lady, Camillia Wilkes, who is suffering from a mysterious ailment. She's been wasting away for weeks, and none of the remedies the doctor has prescribed seems to be working.

She's weak and frustrated by all the poking and prodding, and after she's been seen by six physicians, she's given up.

Then her brother Jamie comes up with an idea. He suggests that the family move Camillia's bed outside the house, in hopes that the many people who pass by might have an idea how to treat her ailment.

The first person to pass by was a doctor, who only states that she looks sick. Mr. Wilkes, who is tired of doctors, quickly ushers him away.

The second person, a gypsy, offers several potion ideas to the family. But she walks away as they are writing down the remedies and they didn't quite get every thing written down.

The third person, a girl of about seventeen years of age, seems to know her ailment and how to take care of it runs off seemingly distraught. Camillia is convinced that the girl knows the cure but her family loses sight of her.

Suddenly, there's a crowd all around Camillia's bed. Everyone is throwing out ideas on how to cure her, but it's such an unruly crowd and her family is afraid she'll be crushed. Jamie decides that they will have everyone queue up, and they will be charged a small fee to give their ideas on her ailment.

After the crowd died down, a dustman appears (sort of a garbageman). He says the family that since it's Saint Bosco's Eve, and a full moon, Camillia should sleep outside. If she does, she will be cured the next day.

They decide that it's the last choice, and try it. While Camillia is trying to sleep, she hears lute music and a handsome man appears from the shadows. He tells her that he was sent by a friend to make her well, and he tells her what her symptoms are and she's surprised how accurate his description is. She asks what is wrong with her and he says "The name of the ailment is Camillia Wilkes."

She asks his name and he says "Bosco." She asks if that's the same as St. Bosco, and he says that she'll think him a saint the next morning. Then she sees his face and recognizes him as the dustman.

She asks what the cure is, and he replies "...the cure is this."

The next day her family finds her healthy, happy and energetic. And they dance and rejoice in her new found health.


Bradbury leaves the cure a mystery, it's all up to your imagination. I'm not sure if this is the correct St. Bosco, because from my research I show he lived in the mid to late 1800's (a hundred years after this story was to take place). So it might be a made up saint.

Overall it's a nice short story that has an almost an understated magic, Hans Christian Andersen feel to it.