Tessie Wendell, one of London’s notorious gossips in 1926, refers to Paul Watson, the main character of The Secret of Kolney Hatch, as the “Adonis of London.” For those not well-versed in Greek Mythology, when Adonis was born, Aphrodite saw him and loved him so much that she decided, “he should be hers” (Hamilton, 117).
According to Edith Hamilton’s, Mythology, Aphrodite brought Adonis to Persephone and asked her to care for him, but Persephone loved Adonis just as much as Aphrodite and refused to share him. Because both women wanted him so much, Zeus had to intervene, and so Adonis spent some time with each Goddess. After Adonis’ fatal run-in with a wild boar, Aphrodite whispers her final words to him, and “Echo cried in answer, Oh, woe, woe for Adonis. And all the Loves wept for him and all the Muses too” (Hamilton 118).
The women of London love Paul Watson, and Tessie’s description of him as the Adonis of London is accurate. He is exceedingly handsome, with a robust physique. He is intelligent and educated. His desirable looks, combined with his ability to make women feel special, make the ladies of London swoon. Richard Baker, Paul’s best friend, confirms this in Chapter Three of The Secret of Kolney Hatch. He says, “Haven’t met a woman in London that doesn’t desire you,” and then, talking about his wife, says, “Even Claire talks about you a little too much.”
Though Paul is desired by many women, he does not commit to any of them. One might think he was more similar to Narcissus than Adonis because of this. But how is Paul different from the Greek hunter, Narcissus? Much like Adonis, Narcissus was loved and desired by all of the women, “but he would have none of them” (Hamilton 113). Narcissus would ignore even the most beautiful women. Though Paul Watson was not with any of the women who loved him, it was not because of his pride or ego, but because of his feelings for Claire Baker. Paul craves a true love deep down, even though it appears to London’s inhabitants that he is a two-timer with no morals.
The truth is, Paul Watson is only vaguely aware of his power over women. He realizes on some level that he is handsome, but because of his tragic experiences (the death of both of his parents), he does not care about such trivial things as his appearance. The reader can see this in the way he dresses. Tessie Wendell describes him as “dreadfully upholstered,” and in Chapter Two, as Paul is dressing for the day, the reader learns, “Richard had insisted numerous times that Paul purchase new clothes, but Paul was satisfied with his apparel” (Milan 11).
Kolney Hatch Lunatic Asylum is, in many ways, representative of Paul Watson’s psyche. And while he is there, he is forced to bear all, down to his very core. The reader sees this Adonis’s normal aloof nature begin to disintegrate; his darkest feelings emerge. He is tested almost every day and is forced to deal with those feelings buried deep in his subconscious. His hair and beard grow. He is no longer concerned with everyday life. This experience consumes him. He turns to alcohol for comfort. These are Paul Watson’s darkest days. And how does he emerge from this experience?
His return to society is a challenge. To Paul’s friends he is still that Adonis, the handsome man who makes women feel special. But Paul returns as a different man. And the reader will learn just how different he is in the sequel.
Hamilton, Edith, and Steele Savage. Mythology. Boston: Little, Brown, 1942. Print.
Milan, Stefani. The Secret of Kolney Hatch. CreateSpace, 2015. Print.