Walford's Oak

Jill Phillips, Author Carol Publishing Corporation $18.95 (218p) ISBN 978-0-8065-1159-7
A bloody apparition of a man standing over the corpse of the woman he has killed leads English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge to an eerie tale of lust and murder that actually occurred in the Somerset village of Stowey in 1789, eight years before Coleridge's arrival there. With this framing device, Phillips ( The Rain Maiden ) opens a steamy, spellbinding saga of erotic passion and witchcraft. At its center is Cybele Reynolds, a lush beauty of mysterious origins, whose varying fortunes take her from mistress in London drawing rooms to prostitute in Bristol taverns. In an attempt to change her life, she marries a rustic laborer in Stowey, who is faithful to her even when she has a tempestuous, ill-fated affair with her young stepson, Jack Walford. Their mutual fixation leads to a murder for which Jack is hanged. (It was his specter, sighted on a dark country road, that brought the story to Coleridge's attention.) Out of this highly charged material, Phillips weaves drama resonant with both pagan and Christian imagery, swirling about Cybele, who haunts Coleridge's dreams as ``a beautiful woman with pale hair and a dress the color of mist'' weeping near the hanging tree. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/05/1990
Release date: 06/01/1990
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