The Key to Grief by Robert W. Chambers

The Key to Grief (1897) by Robert William Chambers is an absolutely beautiful short story. You can read it in full here. The story itself is sad but the way it is written, especially the descriptions of the elements and of nature and animals, is just so pleasing and delightful to read.

The moving finger writes, and, having writ,
Moves on; nor all your piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.
-Fitzgerald. (This quote, followed by another from Kipling, opens the story)


The Key to Grief was originally included in Chambers’ collection of short stories The Mystery of Choice. He is perhaps most famous for his story The King in Yellow (1895), particularly since the airing of season one of True Detective which borrowed various themes from Chambers’ writing.

Robert William Chambers was born in Brooklyn on May 26, 1865, to William P. Chambers (1827 – 1911), a famous lawyer, and Caroline Chambers (née Boughton), a direct descendant of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island.  It was a family of wealth and social standing and the children were expected to excel.  Robert’s brother was Walter Boughton Chambers, the world famous architect… Chambers was educated at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute… In The King in Yellow, Chambers used the published version of a horrific play to hold the short stories together.  In The Mystery of Choice the stories revolve around the relationship between a young American living in Breton and Lys Terrec, a local French girl. Miskatonic University

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