‘Loud blows Heimdall, the horn is aloft,
In fear quake all who on Hel-roads are’
Völuspá, Poetic Edda, Henry Adams Bellows’ translation
It’s not widely known that the real reason the figure on the bridge in Edvard Munch’s
‘The Scream’ is howling in anguish is that he has just realised he’s lost his Annual Season Ticket. ‘The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born,’ said Munch, and no more was this more in evidence than the day he lost his Gold Card at South Kensington Underground Station.
A recently discovered diary of Munch’s reveals in harrowing detail his experience following the loss of his Annual Season Ticket.
Thursday 24 April 1893
A catastrophe has befallen me. Travelling homewards this evening I entered South Kensington Tube Station, and having shown my Annual Season Ticket to the Ticket Inspector at the entrance, I descended to the Stygian gloom of the gas-lit platforms, where, distracted by a late-staying pigeon that looked hungry, and feeding it with a few crumbs of the crusts that remained from my luncheon sandwich, I foolishly, so foolishly, failed to ensure that my Season Ticket was safely transferred from my hand to the protection of my wallet.
On arrival at Waterloo Station, I brought out my wallet from the pocket of my overcoat, whereupon I discovered, to my anguish and pain, that the precious Season Ticket was no longer contained within it. I searched my wallet, my pocket, my portmanteau, my person, like a man in the grip of a fever. But no trace of the Season Ticket could I find.
The dragon claws of despair dug their bloody nails in my shoulders. I was a man possessed. I clutched my head in my hands, I howled with anguish.
‘Edvard! Edvard! What have you done?’ I heard the voice of my mother. ‘You foolish one, you have brought disaster upon yourself!’
Indeed, it was true.
Through the glass wall of the station that looks out on Waterloo Road, I saw the Sky turn blood red. I fell to my knees with the horror. A kindly Ticket Inspector helped me to my feet. I explained my loss.
‘What would you like me to do about it, Sir?’ asked the Ticket Inspector, as though perplexed by my situation.
‘I would like you to please let me through the ticket barriers,’ I replied.
‘And will you then purchase another Season Ticket?’ the Ticket Inspector asked.
‘Sir, I shall,’ I replied.
I made my way to the Ticket Office on the main concourse, a broken man.
At the Ticket Office window, I explained my situation. The Ticket Office Clerk frowned.
‘I cannot issue you with a replacement ticket. You have more than six months remaining on your Season Ticket. You must be interviewed by one of our Revenue Inspectors.’
My heart, already dropped to my boots, fell, it seemed to me, through the mantle of the earth and into the icy caverns of hell.
‘You must purchase a Weekly Ticket. You can reclaim the expense once your Season Ticket has been reissued,’ said the Clerk.
I put my hand in my pocket and inspected my wallet, mentally. I mentally counted the coins tied in the corner of my handkerchief. I did not have sufficient monies to purchase a Weekly Ticket.
‘I’ll just buy a single to Croydon,’ I said.
I returned home and considered putting my head in my landlady’s gas oven.