I’ve been plundering the themes and flavours of Chambers’ work recently but today for the first time I came across this little gem.
The Carcosa mansion, built in 1896 to 1897 was intended as the residence of the British High Commissioner in Malaya. It’s now a luxury hotel though given the antecedents of the name I suspect that the much vaunted Hotel California would be a safer place to visit.
The name was taken straight out of Chambers’ work as Sir Frank Swettenham, the aforementioned High Commissioner, explained:
To the Editor of “British Malaya”
[British Malaya, May 1936]
In the April magazine your correspondent in Malaya asks me, in courteous terms, to tell him why I gave the name “Carcosa” to the house that was designed and built for me at Kuala Lumpur by the late Mr. C.E. Spooner, assisted by Mr. A.B. Hubback – as he was in those days – and I have no objection to answer the question even though the simple truth may spoil a number of excellent stories. When this house was finished and occupied I read a book which interested me. It was called “The King in Yellow” and at the beginning of this book there were some verses with a note explaining that they came from Cassilda’s song in “The King in Yellow”, Act 1, Scene 2. Here are two verses: -
“Strange is the night where black stars rise, And twin moons circle in the skies, But the stranger still is Lost Carcosa.”
“Song of my soul, my voice is dead; Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed Shall dry and die in Lost Carcosa.”
I did not call the Resident General’s dwelling “Government House,” or “King’s House,” because neither seemed an appropriate name in Protected States. I did not give it a Malay name, because it was to be the residence of a British Officer; so I took a book name as has often been done before.
As to the word Carcosa, I imagine it was the Castle of the King in Yellow, but the book explains nothing about either the place or its occupant. That apparently can be found in the play, to which there are only occasional allusions. Probably it is a word created by the author’s fancy, though it looks like a combination of the Italian words cara and casa and would mean “desirable dwelling,” as indeed I found it.
The only curious fact is that this name was prophetic for, as I understand, the house has lost its name and is thus, “Lost Carcosa.” The occupant, I am told, is now styled “F.S,” instead of “R.G.”
19 April 1936.
Oh and the logo of the hotel is a yellow sign. Clearly a coincidence.
Next question – how long can I resist the urge to send one or more of my groups of player characters to Malaya…