Hildred Castaigne (Hildred de Calvados Castaigne) is the primary character of The Repairer of Reputations, both protagonist and narrator, albeit unreliably. He begins his story by telling us about the world of alternate 1920s, which is either a possible future as viewed in 1895, when the story was first published, or the product of an unstable mind still living in 1895. Potentially, it contains elements of both.
As presented, Hildred appears to be quite arrogant, proud, and easy to provoke. We learn quite early on, after he has accounted for the details of recent events on a national/global scale, the fact that he has had an accident, a fall from a horse, which led to him being diagnosed as mentally ill, a state from which he has supposedly recovered, though he denies he was ever ill at all. In fact this denial is just one small facet of the madness that envelops him and this story. Another is that, during the period of his recovery, Hildred had read The King In Yellow. He sees that his perceptions do not marry up with those of other people that he encounters, which leads the reader to doubt the accuracy of the world he describes.
We learn that before his accident Hildred was "fond of fishing... You used to be fond of everything, athletics, yachting, shooting, riding..." but now he'd rather study.
At the end of the story he is dragged away by the police. An editor's note at the end of the story tells us: "Mr. Castaigne died yesterday in the Asylum for Criminal Insane."
Friends and family
Hildred is on close terms with a Mr. Wilde, who similarly shares an interest in the King In Yellow and all its trappings. Together they conspire to bring about Hildred's crowning as King, as outlined in Wilde's esoteric document The Imperial Dynasty of America, but in order to do so he must remove his cousin Louis from the equation (which includes an attempt to get rid of Constance Hawberk). Hildred also seems keen to revenge himself on Doctor Archer, who treated him after his accident, and against whom he holds a deep grudge.
The Imperial Dynasty of America mentions "Castaigne, Louis de Calvados, born December 19, 1877..." - shortly followed by "Hildred de Calvados, only son of Hildred Castaigne and Edythe Landes Castaigne, first in succession..."
Hildred and the Imperial Dynasty
At one point, Hildred is described as a 'son of Hastur'. The context likely indicates a connection with a place rather than a person or being called Hastur (although Hastur is also the name of a falconer in another story in the collection).
Hildred on Hildred
"Ever since that fall from my horse, four years before, I had been troubled at times with pains in the back of my head and neck, but now for months they had been absent, and the doctor sent me away that day saying there was nothing more to be cured in me... The fall from my horse had fortunately left no evil results; on the contrary, it had changed my whole character for the better. From a lazy young man about town, I had become active, energetic, temperate, and, above all -- oh, above all else -- ambitious. There was only one thing which troubled me: I laughed at my own uneasiness, and yet it troubled me... During my convalescence I had bought and read for the first time The King in Yellow."
Hildred on the play
"I remember after finishing the first act that it occurred to me that I had better stop. I started up and flung the book into the fireplace; the volume struck the barred grate and fell open on the hearth in the fire-light. If I had not caught a glimpse of the opening words in the second act I should never have finished it, but as I stooped to pick it up my eyes became riveted to the open page, and with a cry of terror, or perhaps it was of joy so poignant that I suffered in every nerve, I snatched the thing from the hearth and crept shaking to my bedroom, where I read it and reread it, and wept and laughed and trembled with a horror which at times assails me yet. This is the thing that troubles me, for I cannot forget Carcosa, where black stars hang in the heavens, where the shadows of men's thoughts lengthen in the afternoon, when the twin suns sink into the Lake of Hali, and my mind will bear forever the memory of the Pallid Mask. I pray God will curse the writer, as the writer has cursed the world with this beautiful, stupendous creation, terrible in its simplicity, irresistible in its truth -- a world which now trembles before the King in Yellow."
"I remembered Camilla's agonized scream and the awful words echoing through the dim streets of Carcosa. They were the last lines of the first act, and I dared not think of what followed -- dared not, even in the spring sunshine, there in my own room, surrounded with familiar objects, reassured by the bustle from the street and the voices of the servants in the hall-way outside. For those poisoned words had dropped slowly into my heart, as death-sweat drops upon a bed-sheet and is absorbed. Trembling, I put the diadem from my head and wiped my forehead, but I thought of Hastur and of my own rightful ambition..."
- In The Unmasking, Hildred Castaigne is named as having completed (or intended to complete) the previously unfinished play.
- Hildred Castaigne is also the name of the patient in Dreams Of The Yellow King (who may or may not be the same madman).
- It is possible the narrator of the poem My Reputation Repaired is a son of Hildred Castaigne.
Outside The Mythos
- Brian Lumley slips the name Castaigne in as a feigned mishearing of the antagonist's name, Carstairs, in his novella Lord of the Worms. This may entirely be an in-joke or may imply that Titus Crow is aware of Castaigne.