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“I have harnessed the shadows that stride from world to world to sow death and madness…”
-H.P. Lovecraft, From Beyond
From Le Marche Morte .
|by V. L. Craven|
“I have harnessed the shadows that stride from world to world to sow death and madness…”
-H.P. Lovecraft, From Beyond
From Le Marche Morte .
|by V. L. Craven|
by technology (see this post for a longer explanation).
So have this photo instead. I hope it makes up for my reading slackness.
I’m not saying you should be offended by my not posting a reading review this week, I just enjoy this quote. And Stephen Fry.
|by V. L. Craven|
The Society of Others by William Nicholson
-01- I don’t want anything. I have the animal needs, but as soon as the needs are met they go away, and everything’s the way it was before. That stuff is necessary. We’re not talking desire.
And I don’t even want money. What’s the point? You see something you want to buy, you get excited about having it, you buy it, the excitement fades. Everything’s the way it was before. I’ve seen through that game. They make you want things so they get your money. Then they take your money and then they’ve got it, and what do they do? They use it to buy things someone else has made them want. For a few moments they think they’re happy, and then it all fades and everything’s the way it was before. How stupid can you get? It’s like fish. Fish swim all day finding food to give them energy to swim about all day. It makes me laugh. These people who hurry about all day making money to sell each other things. Anyone with eyes could tell them their lives are meaningless and they weren’t getting any happier.
-02- [My father] says, ‘There’s a big wide world out there. You’re not going anywhere so long as you stay shut up in your room.’
I say, ‘There’s nowhere to go.’
He hates that. My negative attitude. I could tell him he’s not going anywhere either. But why pop his balloon.
I like my room. I said before I don’t want anything, but this isn’t entirely true. I want my own room. I don’t much care what’s in it so long as it has a door I can shut and lock so people don’t come asking me to do things. I expect maybe I’ll spend the rest of my life in my room and at the end I’ll just die here and no one will find me and that’s just fine with me.
The big wide world: First of all, it’s not so big and wide. Really the world is only as big as your experiences of it, which is not big at all. And what sort of world is it? I would characterise it as remote, uninterested, unpredictable, dangerous and unjust. When I was small I thought the world was like my parents, only bigger. I thought it watched me and clapped when I danced. This is not so. The world is not watching and will never stop. My father doesn’t get thig, he’s still dancing. It makes me quite sad to see him.
Cat says my world lacks depth and is merely bitterness. I dispute this. I feel no bitterness. I see things as they are. Nature is selfish. All creatures kill to survive. Love is a mechanism to propagate the species. Beauty is a trick that fades. Friendship is an arrangement for mutual advantage. Goodness is not rewarded and evil is not punished. Religion is superstition. Death is annihilation. And as for God, if he exists at all he stopped caring for humankind centuries ago. Wouldn’t you?
So why leave my room?
-03- For as long as I can remember I’ve been at some kind of school. I don’t believe I learned anything at all. It was like half-listening to the safety announcement, the kind they give you on planes before take off. The voice that says this is really important and to please listen carefully, but you still don’t listen because it’s not going to happen and if it does you’re dead anyway.
-04- Anyway my father points out to me all the great opportunities there are out there for me, but neglects to name them. I fill in the gaps. I could join a corporation and sell things I don’t want to have myself to people who don’t need them. I could be a teacher and tell things I don’t want to know to people who don’t want to hear. I could be a solider and kill people. That would be all right if it weren’t dangerous.
-05- …things that are out of reach are desirable precisely because there’s no chance you’ll get what you want. Getting what you want is to be avoided at all costs. Ask for the moon.
-06- My mother’s upset because I don’t come down for meals anymore. It’s not the food I mind, it’s her face watching me as if it hurts her just to see me eat. Or not eat, I’m not much of an eater. I prefer to sort it out for myself, without all the fuss and conversation. So long as there’s bread and cheese or a bowl of cereal I’m okay.
-07- Actually, I’m a disappointment to everyone who cares about me… They used to want me to have hobbies and ambitions and a great objective in life. Now they just want me to get a job.
My mother says, ‘All I want is for you to be happy. I can’t believe you’re happy living like this.’
What I want to say to her, and to my father and grandfather and Sheile is: Why must I be happy for you? It’s like a weight they’ve tied to my back, this requirement that I be happy. It’s not for me, it’s for them. They want to stop feeling they’ve failed me.
-08- My inertia is nothing to do with drugs. It springs from the true source, the mother lode, a clear-eyed awareness of the nature of existence. Life is hard and then you die. That’s just about it. That’s how it is. That won’t change. This is the closest I get to satisfaction.
-09- He gazes at me and taps his teeth with one fingernail. He is running through the options open to him. You can always tell when people are processing like this, it’s almost as if a little symbol appears on their face, an hour-glass or a spinning disc, like on a computer screen.
-10- ‘Television is the baby-sitting for the people. You who watch television, you are the baby.’ … so it’s not high culture, but you can’t be burning rocket fuel all week. Sometimes you need to coast. … He starts to tell me about this novel he’s writing.
I should have guessed. People who hate TV always turn out to be writing a novel. They don’t like the competition. They don’t like the way everyone watches TV and no one reads novels. So why don’t they go and write for television? Because they’re not smart enough. You can work on a novel for years and all that time you can tell yourself every day you’re a genius, but go work in television or movies and pretty soon someone wants to see what you’re doing and then of course you’re fucked because it’s actually crap. People who write novels never show them to anybody. They’re like aging women who’ve stopped looking in mirrors. That way you’re always young, always beautiful.
-11- This is without a doubt the way to go. If you want to eat countryside and passes a carefree attitude to personal injury, motorbike travel is for you. …Fortunately I’m not called upon to stop because the only way I’ve found how to brake is completely which would not be good at this speed. I can hear Eckhard whimpering behind me, due I imagine to an exaggerated attachment to life, which I do not share… So long as we keep moving at this speed which I guess to be roughly a thousand miles an hour why should we fall off?
-12- …and the people unloop from the pews like a golden hose being dragged behind us.
-13- It must be question one on her list. She’s not bright enough to move past at until it’s been answered. I meet people like this all the time. They’re expecting a certain kind of answer from you and if you say something else they simply don’t hear you. Your words have no place ready to receive them in their brain, so it’s like you haven’t spoken.
-14- All at once, the studio light go out. I’m trapped in a darkened studio with a wannabe television star. This is not a situation for which I’m equipped.
-15- All this is quite exhilarating. For the first time in my life I am the beneficiary of a totally unfair system. You don’t read much about the young Hitler or the young Stalin dreaming of going into a clothes shop and picking out all the gear they want and not even looking at the prices, but it is definitely a motivator for the wannabe dictator. Actually, those guys went several steps further and invented their own uniforms and had them made for them by top tailors. Seize power, look cool. Fun with nation states.
-16- The key she gives me has a lump of metal attached to it the size of Hong Kong. I love that. It’s supposed to stop you leaving town with the key in your pocket but to me it’s the material signifier of the hotel status. If you can hardly life the key you’re in the right economic bracket.
-17- It must be one of the things that happens to people when they get old and wise. They can’t stop themselves spraying their wisdom about the place. All you can do is keep nodding and not get too close.
-18- Cello’s gentle concession does not satisfy me. I want opposition or surrender.
‘So you’re agreeing with me?’
‘Not agreeing, no, I’m listening.’
‘I thought this was supposed to be an argument.’
‘Not at all. Arguments are for winning and losing. What use is that?’
I’m a little taken aback by this question. I had rather supposed that winning was the point of more or less everything.
‘If you win an argument, that proves you’re right.’
‘Not at all. It only proves you’re better at arguing.’
‘So that’s good.’
‘How is it good? It seems to me that it gets you no further than you were before. We might as well stand in the rain and piss at each other.’
-19- ‘If we’re talking about me, the answer has to be that nothing’s a big deal.’
‘I think back to my room, with the blind down and the mute television flickering away and the door locked. ‘Nothing.’
‘You are telling me that nothing is important to you?’
‘Well, I don’t want to get hurt and so on. But if we’re talking religion and philosophy and all that meaning-of-life shit—Sorry.’ I didn’t want to give offence.
‘No, please. You choose our words for a reason. That meaning-of-life shit. It makes you angry.’
‘Not angry. I just can’t see it.’
‘You would say you live a happy life?’
‘No, I wouldn’t say that.’
‘You would like to lead a happy life?’
‘Sure. Who wouldn’t?’
‘So what stands in your way?’
‘The real world.’
‘The real world makes you unhappy?’
‘It doesn’t exactly make me unhappy. It just doesn’t make me happy. I’m kind of neutral.’
‘So. What is the happiest moment of your life so far?’
[Tells story about riding a bike with his father] As I’m talking I find what I really liked about it and it seems almost too simple… ‘But it’s not like it gives my life meaning or anything.’
‘No, I understand that. This meaning-of-life shit. It’s going to have to be very big shit indeed to do it for you, I think.’
‘Well, life’s a big thing. I mean, like, existence and everything. You can’t make that meaningful with one bike ride.’
‘I can,’ he says, ‘It’s you who can’t.’
-20- It’s funny about people’s faces.If you look at them long enough they stop being beautiful or ugly and become just themselves.
-21- Oh, I have nothing to teach you. It’s more a matter of throwing a little light on knowledge you already possess, don’t you think? All of us have more rooms in our house than we inhabit.’
|by V. L. Craven|
Get them right here .
“To make sure that my blasphemy is thoroughly expressed, I hereby state my opinion that the notion of a god is a basic superstition, that there is no evidence for the existence of any god(s), that devils, demons, angels and saints are myths, that there is no life after death, heaven nor hell, that the Pope is a dangerous, bigoted, medieval dinosaur, and that the Holy Ghost is a comic-book character worthy of laughter and derision. I accuse the Christian god of murder by allowing the Holocaust to take place – not to mention the “ethnic cleansing” presently being performed by Christians in our world – and I condemn and vilify this mythical deity for encouraging racial prejudice and commanding the degradation of women.”
|by V. L. Craven|
American versus British News Themes
Hats Off to the Zebras
(As Portishead) Covers Zippity Do-Dah
Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra
I’m Prejudiced Against 20 Year Olds
Louis C.K. Saved His Dumb Dog’s Life
Louis C.K. Quotes
001. I’d happily trade your life for knowledge of my powers.
What It Is Live
Entire show in 8 parts here .
Dylan Moran Quotes:
001. I hate you so much it gives me energy!
“The Good Book”
“If I Didn’t Have You”
“Only a ginger can call another ginger ginger.”
“The Song for Phil Daoust”
|by V. L. Craven|
Series 1, Episode 1: Cooking the Books
Series 1, Episode 2: Manny’s First Day
One of my fav bits from entire series No wigwams!
Funniest Scenes from Series 2 and Series 3
Quotes from episodes not available on You Tube:
Bernard: You know what you are? You’re a beard with an idiot hanging off it. –Series 1, Episode 5: The Big Lock-Out
Bernard: Don’t make me laugh… bitterly. –Series 2, Episode 1: The Entertainer
Moo-Pa: So, Bernard, the shops still called “Black Books”, is it?
Bernard: Yeah. I was going to call it “World of Tights”, but you know how stupid people are, you have to spell everything out.
Fran: Look Bernard, look at my new phone! Look, look, look, look, look! Its got web access, its got a camera, it can do everything…
Bernard: Daaggh! Can it stop boring conversations?
Fran: No, none of them can do that.
Bernard: Mine can.
[Bernard picks up his phone receiver and speaks into it]
Bernard: Shut up about your phone.
The Catherine Tate Show
Ginger Safe House
Eels part 2
Who Reads the Papers
Yes, Minister Quotes
(from here )
Sir Humphrey: The argument that we must do everything a Minister demands because he has been ‘democratically chosen’ does not stand up to close inspection. MPs are not chosen by ‘the people’ – they are chosen by their local constituency parties: thirty-five men in grubby raincoats or thirty-five women in silly hats. The further ‘selection’ process is equally a nonsense: there are only 630 MPs and a party with just over 300 MPs forms a government and of these 300, 100 are too old and too silly to be ministers and 100 too young and too callow. Therefore there are about 100 MPs to fill 100 government posts. Effectively no choice at all.
Sir Humphrey: How to discredit an unwelcome report:
Stage One: Refuse to publish in the public interest saying
1. There are security considerations.
2. The findings could be misinterpreted.
3. You are waiting for the results of a wider and more detailed report which is still in preparation. (If there isn’t one, commission it; this gives you even more time).
Stage Two: Discredit the evidence you are not publishing, saying
1. It leaves important questions unanswered.
2. Much of the evidence is inconclusive.
3. The figures are open to other interpretations.
4. Certain findings are contradictory.
5. Some of the main conclusions have been questioned. (If they haven’t, question them yourself; then they have).
Stage Three: Undermine the recommendations. Suggested phrases:
1. ‘Not really a basis for long term decisions’.
2. ‘Not sufficient information on which to base a valid assessment’.
3. ‘No reason for any fundamental rethink of existing policy’.
4. ‘Broadly speaking, it endorses current practice’.
Stage Four: Discredit the person who produced the report. Explain (off the record) that
1. He is harbouring a grudge against the Department.
2. He is a publicity seeker.
3. He is trying to get a Knighthood/Chair/Vice Chancellorship.
4. He used to be a consultant to a multinational.
5. He wants to be a consultant to a multinational.
|by V. L. Craven|
The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
My whole life has been a meaningless search. I say it without bitterness or self-reproach. I know it is the same for all.
Miscellaneous Existentialist Quotes
-001- [Sartre's] basic premise is that writing is a form of action for which responsibility must be taken but that this responsibility carries over into the content and not just the form of what is communicated.
-002- Given the postulated atheism of Sartre’s view, it seemed to follow that individuals were left to create their own values because there was no moral order in the universe by which they could guide their actions, indeed, that this freedom was itself the ultimate value to which one could appeal (as he put it, ‘in choosing anything at all, I first of all choose freedom.’)
-003- Sartre introduced yet another ethical principle when he asserted that in every moral choice we form an image of the kind of person we want to be and, indeed, or what any moral person should be: ‘For in effect, there is not one of our acts that, in creating the man we wish to be, does not at the same time create an image of man such as we judge he ought to be.’
-004- Albert Camus views this as the source of our anguish: we long for meaning conveyed by a Universe that cares but discover only an empty sky.
-005- Camus counsels that our only hope is to acknowledge that there is no ultimate hope. Like the Ancient Stoics, we must limit our expectations in view of our morality.
-006- The mantra of Sartrean humanism, echoed by Camus and de Beauvoir, is that you can always make something out of what you’ve been made into. So the almost proverbial existentialist ‘pessimism’ harbours a deep, if limited, hope.
-007- But what is the philosophy of this generation? Not God is dead, that point was passed long ago. Perhaps it should be stated Death is God. This generation thinks– and this is its thought of thoughts – that nothing faithful, vulnerable, fragile can be durable or have any true power. Death waits for these things as a cement floor waits for a dropping light bulb. The brittle shell of glass loses its tiny vacuum with a burst, and that is that.
-008- We saw Sartre give brief mention to theistic existentialists in his lecture and then proceed to discuss existentialism in terms that seem to exclude or at least discount belief in God. But not all humanism is atheistic—in fact, in a manner analogous to that of Heidegger, theists argue that atheism degrades the true worth of the human being by reducing him or her to a mere product of nature without intrinsic value or ultimate hope. Again, much turns on the kind of freedom or autonomy that the would-be existentialist accords the individual. Atheists claim that such freedom is absolute. Whatever [perfections?] have ascribed to God, they insist, have been gained at their own expense and theology as simply anthropology upside-down, Nietzsche’s thesis about the death of God leads him to advocate a heroic atheim by which one forges ahead like Sisyphus despite the presumed indifference of the Universe.
-009- We saw that, for Camus, we were challenged to make the most of an absurd situation. Sartre would agree with Roquentin that our existence is just a brute fact, that we are superfluous (de trop). And both would subscribe to the Sisyphean concluding line of Sartre’s play No Exit, ‘Well, let’s get on with it.’ Just because there is not ultimate hope does not mean that we are bereft of all hope whatsoever. The wisdom of Sisyphus is not to make the rock stay put but to get the thing off his toe! We are advised to pursue limited but attainable goals—like the Ancient Stoics.
-010- It is humanist dimension of existentialism that comes to grips with the fact of our sheer being there. And it is their respective responses to the questions: ‘Why do we exist?’, ‘Why is there anything at all rather than nothing?’, that distinguish the theists from the atheists among them. Unlike philosophers such as Bertrand Russell who deny that the question is even meaningful, the existentialists, both theistic and atheist, take it quite seriously.
-011- Not that Sartre was a finger-wagging moralizer. Rather, he insisted that each of us acknowledges what we are doing with our lives right now. Like Kierkegaard’s sea caption hesitating to come about while in the meantime the ship continues in its present direction, we are challenged to own up to our self-defining choices; to make them our own and consequently become selves by acknowledging what we are. This is a form of Nietzsche’s prescription to ‘become what you are.’ It’s a matter of living the truth about ourselves, about our condition as human beings. The inauthentic person, in Sartre’s view, is living a lie.
-012- I see it all perfectly, there are two possible situations—one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it—you will regret both. –Kierkegaard
-013- Everything is gratuitous, this garden, this city and myself. When you suddenly realise it, it makes you feel sick and everything begins to drift…that’s nausea. –Sartre
-014- You are free and that is why you are lost. –Kafka
-015- Life must be lived forwards, however, it can only be understood backward. –Soren Kierkegaard
-016- As Dawkins admits: This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous—indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose. –Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin’s God
-017- William Provine, biologist and historian of science at Cornell: Modern science directly implies that there are no inherent moral or ethical laws, no absolute guiding principles for human society… We must conclude that when we die, we die, and that is the end of us… Finally, free will as it is traditionally conceived—the freedom to make uncoerced and unpredictable choices among alternative courses of action—simply does not exist… There is no way that the evolutionary process as currently conceived can produce a being that is truly free to make moral choices.
-018- What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. – Mark Twain
-019- I’ve always seen life differently from others, and the result has been that I’ve always isolated myself. – Flaubert
-020- The alienated are those who finds the truth, thus, becoming more alienated. – No attribution
-021- To fall in love is easy, even to remain in it is not difficult; our human loneliness is cause enough. But it is a hard quest worth making to find a comrade through whose steady presence one becomes steadily the person one desires to be. – Anna Louise Strong
|by V. L. Craven|
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
001. What you must be, girls, is impenetrable.
002. What I feel towards them is blankness. What I feel is that I must not feel.
003. Is that how we lived, then? But we lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual.
004. My name isn’t Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it’s forbidden. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, your name is like your telephone number, useful only to others; but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter.
005. But I won’t give it away, this eagerness of mine. It’s a bargaining session, things are about to be exchanged. She who does not hesitate is lost. I’m not giving anything away: selling only.
006. What I need is perspective. The illusion of depth, created by a frame, the arrangement of shapes on a flat surface. Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-up, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, crisscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be.
007. how easy it is to invent a humanity, for anyone at all.
008. No mother is ever, completely, a child’s idea of what a mother should be, and I suppose it works the other way around as well. But despite everything, we didn’t do badly by one another, we did as well as most.
I wish she were here, so I could tell her I finally know this.
009. It’s like Janine, though, to take it upon herself, to decide the baby’s flaws were due to her alone. But people will be anything rather than admit that their lives have no meaning.
010. There’s a certain consolation to be taken from routine.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky
001. Not everything the protagonist does is a lesson in wisdom, and advice offered my darker characters may be untrustworthy or dangerously doubled edged.
002. [Harry:] ‘If you want to win this argument with Dad, look in chapter two of the first book of the Feynman Lectures on Physics. There’s a quote there about hos philosophers say a great deal about what science absolutely requires, and it is all wrong, because the only rule in science is that the final arbiter is observation–that you just have to look at the world and report what you see.
003. Magic was a disgraceful thing that only stupid people believed in; if his father went to far as to test the hypothesis, or even watch it being tested, that would feel like associating himself with that…
. Harry opened his eyes and stumbled to a halt, feeling vaguely dirtied by having made a deliberate effort to believe something.
. Okay, so either (a) I just teleported somewhere else entirely (b) they can fold space like no one’s business or (c) they are simply ignoring the rules.
. [Regarding Quidditch] It’s like someone took a real game and grafted on this pointless extra position just so that you could be the Most Important Player without needing to really get involved or learn the rest of it.
. ‘If you try to be nice to them, it just means that you end up spending the most pushy ones. Decide who you want to spend time with and tell everyone else to go away. People will judge you by who they see you with.
. ‘I’m so completely going to be in Ravenclaw, thank you very much. I only want power so I can get books.’
. Harry glanced away uncomfortably, then, with an effort, forced himself to look back at Draco. ‘Why are you telling me that? It seems sort of…private.’
Draco gave Harry a serious look. ‘One of my tutors once said that people form close friendships by knowing private things about each other, and the reason most people don’t make close friends is because they’re too embarrassed to share anything really important about themselves. Draco turned his palms out invitingly. ‘Your turn?’
. The same could be said of Draco’s clever use of reciprocating pressure for an unsolicited gift, a technique which Harry had read about in his social psychology books (one experiment had shown that an unconditional gift of $5 was twice as effective as a conditional offer of $50 in getting people to fill out surveys.) Draco had made an unsolicited gift of a confidence, and now invited Harry to offer a confidence in return…and the thing was, Harry did feel pressured.
. A pause to reflect could go a long way in defusing the power of a lot of compliance techniques, once you learned to recognize them for what they were.
. ‘Not that I wish my Dad was a flawless instrument of death like Lucius, I only mean taking me seriously.’
. All right, if this guy just took advantage of a natural accident to sell me twenty-four cans of green soda pop, I’m going to applaud his creative entrepreneurial spirit and then kill him.
.He was feeling a deep-seated desire to run away screaming at the top of his lungs until he dropped from lack of oxygen, and the only thing stopping him was that he had once read that outright panic was the sign of a *truly* important scientific problem.
. ‘Hey, Draco, you know what I bet is even better for becoming friends that exchanging secrets? Committing murder.’
‘I have a tutor who says that,’ Draco allowed. He reached inside his robes and scratched himself with an easy, natural motion. ‘Who’ve you got in mind?’
. ‘Are you kidding me? That’s even worse that Muggle journalism, which I would have thought was physically impossible.’
. When the conversation can’t go forward and can’t go back, zig it sideways.
. ‘Are you nuts?’
‘Quite the opposite, I’m so sane it burns like ice.’
. Charming, happy, generous with his favours to his friends, Draco wasn’t a psychopath. That was the sad and awful part, knowing human psychology well enough to *know* that Draco *wasn’t* a monster. There had been ten thousand societies over the history of the world where this conversation could have happened. No, the world would have been a very different place indeed, if it took an *evil mutant* to say what Draco had said. It was very simple, very human, it was the default if nothing else intervened. To Draco, his enemies weren’t people.
. So the world is broken and flawed and insane, and cruel and bloody and dark. This is news? You always knew that, anyway…
–’Well, like Father says, there may be four houses, but in the end everyone belongs to either Slytherin or Hufflepuff. And frankly, you’re not on the Hufflepuff end. If you decide to side with the Malfoys under the table…our power and your reputation…you could get away with things even *I* can’t do. What to *try* it for a while? See what it’s like?’
– [Harry] ‘I don’t want to rule the universe. I just think it could be more sensibly organised.’
– [Hermione] Aside from helping people with their homework, or anything else they needed, she really didn’t know how to meet people. She didn’t *feel* like she was a shy person. She thought of herself as a take-charge sort of girl. And yet, somehow, if there wasn’t some request along the lines of ‘I can’t remember how to do long division’ then it was just too *awkward* to go up to someone and say…what? She’d never been able to figure out what. And there didn’t seem to be a standard information sheet, which was ridiculous. The whole business of meeting people had never seemed sensible to her. Why did *she* have to take all of the responsibility herself when there were two people involved? Why didn’t adults ever help? She wished some other girl would just walk up to *her* and say, ‘Hermione, the teacher told me to be friends with you.’
–’Not unless you can name the six quarks of tell me where to find a first-year girl named Hermione Granger.’
‘Up, down, strange, charm, truth, beauty, and why are you looking for a first-year girl named Hermione Granger?’
It was hard to tell from this distance, but she thought she saw the boy grin widely under his scarf. ‘Ah, so *you’re* a first-year girl named Hermione Grange,’ said that young, muffled voice. ‘On the train to Hogwarts, no less.’ The boy started to walk toward her and her cabin, and his trunk slithered along after him. ‘Technically, all I needed to do was *look* for you, but it seems likely that I’m meant to talk to you or invite you to join my party or get a key magical item from you or find out that Hogwarts was built over the ruins of an ancient temple or something.
–That’s called *consequentialism*, by the way, it means that whether an act is right or wrong isn’t determined by whether it *looks* bad, or mean, or anything like that, the only question is how it will turn out in the end–what are the consequences.
–Smart kids in Ravenclaw, evil kids in Slytherin, wannabe heroes in Gryffindor, and everyone who does the actual work in Hugglepuff.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
-001- In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together. Early every morning they would come out from the house where they lived and walk arm in arm down the street to work.
… Every morning the two friends walked silently together until they reached the main street of the town. Then when they came to a certain fruit and candy store they paused for a moment on the sidewalk outside. … In the late afternoon the friends would meet again. Singer came back to the fruit store and waited until Antonapoulos was ready to go home.
… For, excepting drinking and a certain solitary secret pleasure, Antonapoulos loved to eat more than anything else in the world.
…They shared the upstairs of a small house near the business section of the town. There were two rooms. … Sometimes in the evening the mutes would play chess. Singer had always greatly enjoyed this game, and years before he had tried to teach it to Antonapoulos. At first his friend could not be interested in the reasons for moving the various pieces about on the board. Then Singer began to keep a bottle of something good under the table to be taken out after each lesson.
… After the first moves Singer worked out the game by himself while his friend looked on drowsily. If Singer made brilliant attacks on his own men so that in the end the black king was killed, Antonapoulos was always very proud and pleased. … The two mutes had no other friends, and except when they worked they were alone together. Each day was very much like any other day, because they were alone so much that nothing ever disturbed them. Once a week they would go to the library for Singer to withdraw a mystery book and on Friday night they attended a movie. Then on payday they always went to the ten-cent photograph shop above the Army and Navy store so that Antonapoulos could have his picture taken. These were the only places where they made customary visits. There were many parts in the town that they had never seen.
…..But the two mutes were not lonely at all. At home they were content to eat and drink, and Singer would talk with his hands eagerly to his friend about all that was in his mind. So the years passed in this quiet way until Singer reached the age of thirty-two and had been in the town with Antonapoulos for ten years.
…Then one day the Greek became ill… Singer nursed his friend so carefully that after a week Antonapoulos was able to return to work. But from that time on there was a different in their way of life. Trouble came to the two friends.
… Antonapoulos was not ill any more, but a change had come in him. He was irritable and no longer content to spend the evenings quietly in their home. When he would wish to go out Singer followed along close behind him. …
-002- [Singer] ate meals at a restaurant only two blocks away. … The first day he glanced over the menu quickly and wrote a short note and handed it to the proprietor.
Each morning for breakfast I want an egg, toast, and coffee– $0.15
For lunch I want soup (any kind), a meat sandwich, and milk– $0.25
Please bring me at dinner three vegetables (any kind but cabbage), fish or meat, and a glass of beer– $0.35
…Each evening the mute walked alone for hours in the street. Sometimes the nights were cold with the sharp, wet winds of March and it would be raining heavily. But to him this did not matter. His gait was agitated and he always kept his hands stuffed tight into the pockets of his trousers. Then as the weeks passed the days grew warm and languorous. His agitation gave was gradually to exhaustion and there was a look about him of deep calm. In his face there came to be brooding peace that is seen most often in the faces of the very sorrowful or the very wise. But still he wandered through the streets of the town, always silent and alone.
-003- …Blount was not a freak, although when you first saw him he gave you that impression. It was like something was deformed about him—but when you looked at him closely each part of him was normal and as it ought to be. Therefore if this difference was not in the body it was probably in the mind. He was like a man who had served a term in prison or had been to Harvard College or had lived for a long time with foreigners in South America. He was like a person who had been somewhere that other people are not likely to go or had done something that others are not apt to do.
-004- [Regarding Singer] The fellow was downright uncanny. People felt themselves watching him even before they knew that there was anything different about him. His eyes made a person think that he heard things nobody else had ever heard, that he knew things no one had ever guessed before. He did not seem quiet human.
-005- Singer looked as though he could not be surprised at anything.
-006- One by one they would come to Singer’s room to spend the evening with him. The mute was always thoughtful and composed. His many-tinted eyes were grave as a sorcerer’s. Mick Kelly and Jake Blount and Doctor Copeland would come and talk in the silent room—for they felt that the mute would always understand whatever they wanted to say to him.
Hell with the Lid Taken Off: Book One: River of Mud by Lee Adam Herold
001. Under low clouds, sky and city seemed to be made both of the same material, grey and hard. Somehow, afternoon sunlight managed to filter through the thick mass of clouds and smog. It was neither bright not warming, but it helped to differentiate day from night, at least, The buildings—made of wood, brick, granite—thrust their peaks toward the murky canopy overhead, the city taking on the aspect of a cold dark fortress. Those were not mere clouds perched above, but a perpetual dome of smoke and smog generated by the city’s industry. It was there always, making every day grey and ashen. There were days when the noon hour was indistinguishable from midnight. This dubious peculiarity had earned Pittsburg the nickname ‘The Smoky City’ and had inspired some snob from Boston to dub it ‘Hell with the lid taken off’.
002. He cut a dangerous, powerful figure, if indeed a monk then a warrior-monk. If Brother Koval was representative of the brothers of this Order, I imagined their ministry must exist to simply frighten the Devil into submission.
003. Brother Koval stood militarily like a statue at the door and did not appear inclined, if even capable, of sitting at all. Ever.
004. Finally we reached a chamber which Brother Koval himself unsealed. It was black within but felt cold and cavernous, the smell of fresh-turned earth rolling over me as it seemed to exhale with eager relief at being opened.
005. Echoes seemed to chase themselves like whispers across the spaces of the room. It seemed to me as though the air itself flickered, vaguely over-laying the scene with staccato strokes like an impressionist painting.
006. The monk sounded mad, but there was truth audible in his tale, whether it was literal truth or merely the false truth of one who believes what they say so completely that their delusion has become their reality.
007 Brother Ragar sighed. ‘The Clan of Phorcys,’ he began deliberately, ‘is a society as old as any in existence. They take their name from their worship of an ancient sea god. The Greek poet Hesiod holds Phorcys to be the father of the Gorgons, Medusa being the most famous of those… the snake-haired woman whose gaze turned men to stone. But the Clan does not subscribe to the view of their deity as the character from quaint tales of mythology. They will make references to this incarnation, but the Phorcys they worship is of a far darker, and more primordial origin. They worship the ancient demon Phorcys, created by Lucifer himself out of the ether as one of many minions to serve him after his fall from God’s service. The demon was given dominion over the waters, and some Men, in all their foolishness and ignorance, fell to their knees at the very diea of him. The mythos of the Clan holds that Phorcys, also known by any number of other blasphemous names, is an alien god from deepest outer space, having come to earth hundreds of millions of years ago to now lie sleeping deep beneath the sea.
008 I blinked my eyes, hard, and shook my head, overcome by the strangest momentary sensation that the space at the landing was filled with water, like a giant aquarium tank but without the glass barrier of the tank itself. Something waited up there. Some nothing. The same nothing that had been there all along.
009 Pardon me for being flippant. Matters of mortality used to weigh much more heavily on me, but I find myself tending rather toward the detached these days in that regard.
010 They talk of evil as though it’s some abomination, while laying their heads on its lap and feasting on crumbs from its table. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through all this, it’s that there is no Good versus Evil. There is only Foolishness versus Expediency.
011 An evil thought skittered through my brain just then, like spindly-clawed shadow, scurrying like vermin from the light. I pursued it, pulled it back out to examine it.
012 Each door, you see, each gateway to the Underworld is referred to as a Locus of Confluence…a point where the Netherworld and the physical realm actually meet, interact, flow together.
013 …for what are rules really but arbitrary assignments of situational preference, benefiting the one who is in position to lay them out…
014 For what seemed an hour we wound up and down the curving paths beneath the gnarled boughs of great old trees, and in the faintly moonlit darkness around us I could make out the vague glowing shapes of tall crypts and myriad headstones. The taller grave markers rose up like the timeless monuments they were, proud and haughty. Many of the smaller stones were weather-worn, and learned or had fallen over completely. Avenues of grass ran between the stones, roads straight and true, beneath which lay this macabre neighbourhood’s wormy denizens. Neighbourhood? The cemetery was a small city unto itself. It was far from quiet and still though, this city where the dead slept. Deer, startled by our approach, would bound through piles of dead leaves collected around headstones. Golden eyes would wink out of the darkness, conjured by the shrouded moon: raccoons or dogs or perhaps even wolves. Owls hooted from the trees, and from time to time in the distance the anguished shriek of some poor prey meeting its end in merciless jaws would reach us before being strangled out. It was surprising that in the midst of Pittsburg, this city of advance human industry, these acres of wooded lands could still turn feral, a self-contained Wild, after night fell.
015 Surely she had come to devour me. I wondered abruptly, though, why she had bothered to re-light my candle before eating me.
016 Remember all who pass me by
As thou art now, so once was I
As I am now, so wilt thou be
Prepare thyself to follow me.
017 …and I pried my eyes open to peer into the darkness beyond the ephemeral torch light. There was movement there, distant, and the sound of water lapping. A boat approached from somewhere out in the middle of the Abaat. It came slowly, preceded by delicate, curling fingers of mist but with a full grey fog bank in tow.
018…and I could not define with any certainty what sort of being he might have been. He seemed part spirit, part patchwork monster. The fog around and behind the boat slithered up over the sides from the water beneath, tendrils of it, and these streamers appeared to coalesce at the being’s feet and take the shape of its robes, which solidified into a coarse dark grey fabric as they climbed higher on his form. Mist emerged like smoke from the front opening of the robes, from the holes and frayed patches worn through it, from the ends of the sleeves and from the raised cowl.
019 The boatman’s head too was made of the fog, swirling up out of the robe’s neck to fill the large hood. A long sharp nose protruded from the cowl like a beak, and mismatched eyes balanced in the hood’s shadow on either side of the nose, one iris dark, the other light, unblinking orbs set in black sockets. There were teeth visible beneath the nose, but no lips, no cheeks, no bottom jaw.
020 ‘Readle-eak!’ sounds the cry of a bird. A grackle. Smaller than a crow, feathers black with an iridescent sheen, especially about the head…shimmering combinations of green, blue, purple, depending on how the light strikes. The cry repeats. Others answer. Grackles everywhere. Crows are a Murder. Ravens an Unkindness. Grackles are a Plague. A Plague of Grackles.
021 They are the shimmering of the Northern Lights in the Underbelly, Plagues of them circling open spaces in the nether sky. Purple, green, and blue dance in the air, undulating in patterns formed by their micro-formations. They are moving in synchronous whorls, poison brew in a cauldron stirred by a witch’s ladle.
022 They are a black wind. Black. Endless black, until the colours bleed out and the black with the colours split, sprout, separate to take the shape of feathers, and the wind they make and the visitants are delivered into the sphere of their inhabitance. Out of the darkness they are brought forth.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
01. One of the things Ford Prefect found hard to understand about human beings was their habit of continually stating and re-stating the very, very obvious, as in: “It’s a nice day”, “You’re very tall” or “So this is it; we are going to die”. At first, Ford formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. ‘If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips’ he thought ‘their mouths probably seize up’. After a while he abandoned this theory in favour of a new one. ‘If they don’t keep exercising their lips’ he thought ‘their brains start working’. In fact, this second theory is more literally true of the Belcerebon People of Kakrafoon Kappa. The Belcerebons used to cause great resentment amongst neighbouring races by being one of the most enlightened, accomplished and above all quite civilizations in the galaxy. As a punishment for this behaviour, which was held to be offensively self-righteous and provocative, a galactic tribunal inflicted on them that most cruel of all social diseases: telepathy. Now, in order to prevent themselves from broadcasting every slightest thought that crosses their minds to anyone within a five-mile radius, they have to talk loudly and continuously about the weather, their little aches and pains, thee match this afternoon and what a noisy place Kakrafoon has suddenly become.
A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham
01. We become the stories we tell about ourselves.
“A House to Let” by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell and Adelaide Anne Procter
001. “Good gracious, goodness gracious, Doctor Towers!” says I, quite startled at the man, for he was so christened himself: “don’t talk as if you were alluding to people’s names; but say what you mean.” “I mean, my dear ma’am, that we want a little change of air and scene.” “Bless the man!” said I; “does he mean we or me!” “I mean you, ma’am.” “Then Lard forgive you, Doctor Towers,” I said; “why don’t you get into a habit of expressing yourself in a straightforward manner, like a loyal subject of our gracious Queen Victoria, and a member of the Church of England?”
Towers laughed, as he generally does when he has fidgetted me into any of my impatient ways–one of my states, as I call them
002. Trottle, who just then came in with the coal-scuttle, looking, in his nice black suit, like an amiable man putting on coals from motives of benevolence.
003. I never travel by railway: not that I have anything to say against railways, except that they came in when I was too old to take to them; and that they made ducks and drakes of a few turnpike-bonds I had
004. my sight is uncommonly good for my time of life; and I wear glasses as little as I can, for fear of spoiling it.
005. “Sophonisba!” Which I am obliged to confess is my name. A pretty one and proper one enough when it was given to me: but, a good many years out of date now, and always sounding particularly high-flown and comical from his lips.
006. “How do you do? I hope you are pretty well.” “Thank you. And you?” said Jarber. [PN: He didn't answer the question, which was the done thing. 'How are you?' was often met with, 'How are you?' It was merely a way of acknowledging the other person.]
007. Jarber had brought from under his cloak, a roll of paper, with which he had triumphantly pointed over the way, like the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father appearing to the late Mr. Kemble, and which he had laid on the table.
008. He rather enjoyed the change of residence; having a kind of curiosity about London, which he had never yet been able to gratify in his brief visits to the metropolis. At the same time he had an odd, shrewd, contempt for the inhabitants; whom he had always pictured to himself as fine, lazy people; caring nothing but for fashion and aristocracy, and lounging away their days in Bond Street, and such places; ruining good English, and ready in their turn to despise him as a provincial.
How I Became Stupid by Martin Page
-01- He had already realised that intelligence was just the word people used for stupid remarks that were well presented and prettily pronounced and that intelligence itself was so corrupt, there was often more to be gained from being dumb than from being a sworn intellectual. Intelligence makes you unhappy, lonely, and poor, whereas disguising it offers the possibility of immortality in newsprint and the admiration of those who believe what they read.
-02- Drunkenness seemed a good way to suppress any tendency his intellect might have to reflect on life.
-03- He had every intention of becoming on alcoholic. It keeps you busy. Alcohol occupies every thought and provides a goal in times of despair: getting better. Then he would go to Alcoholics Anonymous, would tell his story, would be supported and understood by creatures like himself applauding his courage and his will to break free. He would be an alcoholic—in other words, someone with an illness recognised by society. Alcoholics are pitied, they are cared for, they are thought of in medical terms, humanely. But no one thinks of pitying intelligent people: ‘He watches human behaviour, that must make him unhappy.’; ‘My niece is very intelligent, but she’s a really nice girl. She’s hoping to grow out of it.’; ‘For awhile there, I was afraid you might become intelligent.’ Those are the sort of well-meaning and compassionate words he should have been entitled to if there were any justice in the world. But no, intelligence is a double curse: it makes you suffer and no one thinks of it as an illness.
-04- ‘I think too much, I can’t help overanalysing myself and the world around me, trying to [??] understand how this whole crazy circus works…It makes me incredibly sad to know that we’re not free and that even each conscious thought or act is made at the cost of a wound that will never heal.
‘Kid, what you’re saying is that you’re depressed…’
‘That’s my natural state. I’ve been suffering from depression for twenty-five years.’
-05- As he had never really felt that he was living, he was not afraid of death. He was even happy that, in death, he would find the sole proof that he had been alive.
-06- The reason he would do anything rather than end up in that hospital was that he ran the risk of meeting his uncle Joseph and aunt Miranda there. Antoine was kind-natured, but he could not stand them; in fact, no one could stand them. It was not that they were dangerous, only that they never stopped complaining, moaning and making a fuss about the least little thing. A group of delightful Buddhists had been reduced to joining the ranks of a paramilitary force as a result of spending too much time with them. Every time they travelled abroad they created a diplomatic incident. As a result they were forbidden to visit several countries: Israel, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Japan and the United States. The IRA, the ETA and Hezbollah had published bulletins stating that they would execute the couple if they set foot in their territories again. The authorities in the relevant countries said and did nothing that implied any opposition to this stance. Perhaps one day the army would have the courage to use the destructive potential of this couple and would deploy it when atomic bombs were discovered to be ineffectual.
-07- My life’s a disaster. But that’s not the worst of it. The real problem is that I’m so aware of it…
-08- [About the game Splitting the World in Two] This consisted of finding the true great divisions in our worlds, those that really matter, because the world always, invariably, can be split in two…
-09- Men simplify the world with words and thoughts, and that’s how they create their certainties; and having certainty is the most potent pleasure in this world, far more potent than money, sex and power all combined. Renouncing true intelligence is the price we have to pay for having these certainties and it’s an expenditure that never gets noticed by the back of our minds. In this instance, I actually prefer those who don’t huddle behind the cloak of reason, and come out and admit the illusory nature of their beliefs. Like a believer admitting that his faith is just his own belief and not pre-emption on the truths of the world.
-10- At the same time—because he lied to be as objective about himself as he was about others—he saw that in trying to understand everything he had learned not to live and not to love.
-11- I knew plenty of people who are really dumb, ignorant, stuffed full of prejudices and ideas, complete morons, and they’re happy!
-12- After a few self-interested visits to the apartments of a number of neighbours who he deemed to have excellent immune defences against intelligence, he made notes on what constituted a perfect décor for his new life. A neighbouring couple—comprised of a teacher named Alain and a journalist named Isabelle—struck him as being an edifying example of a life entirely devoted to a renunciation of intelligence. He had been watching them for a long time and, deep down, he admired them: they were so wholly involved in life, and had so absolutely [missing words?] every last nuance of a dazzling stupidity, a pure idiocy, full of innocence, happy and replete, a lack of awareness that was pleasant for both them and for those around them, not in the least bit nasty or dangerous. With a kindly sincerity that was quite charmingly ridiculous. Alain and Isabelle advised him on how to fill his studio. He picked up an old television, which he installed in the middle of the room as the sovereign symbol of his resolution. He taped up posters of The Lion King, sports cars and pneumatic young women; photographs of actors and actresses with their penetrating, I’m-a-genius expressions, and of immortal intellectual personalities such as Alain Minc [?] and Alain Finkielkraut.
-13- On a particularly fruitful day of despair Antoine had once told himself that to believe in the truths that force us to bow our heads is to form alliances with the reality they derive from: whoever wants to find proof of his unhappiness will find it, because in human affairs you always find what you’re looking for.
-14- Antoine had lived in a rainy autumn for twenty-five years.
-15- ‘And another thing, if you ask me, the big divide in this world (well, apart from the whole second-class thing), the big divide in the world is between the people who used to go to parties and the people who didn’t. And this split in the human race, which goes back to junior-high days, goes right through life in different guises.
|by V. L. Craven|
-01- The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in high regard those who think alike rather than those who think differently.
-02- A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.
-03- Insanity in individuals is something rare—but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
-04- Which is it, is man one of God’s blunders or is God one of man’s?
-05- Let us beware of saying that death is the opposite of life. The living being is only a species of the dead, and a very rare species at that.
-06- I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.
-07- In heaven all the interesting people are missing.
-08- Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.
-09- In the end one only experiences oneself.
-10- There is not sufficient love and goodness in the world to permit us to give some of it away to imaginary beings.
-11- Faith is not wanting to know what is true.
-12- Do not allow yourselves to be deceived: Great Minds are Skeptical.
-13- God is dead; but considering the state Man is in, there will, perhaps, be caves for ages yet, in which his shadow will be shown.
-14- So long as the priest, that professional negator, slanderer and poisoner of life, is regarded as a superior type of human being, there cannot be any answer to the question: What is Truth?
-15- Fanatics are picturesque, mankind would rather see gestures than listen to reason.
-16- Hope in reality is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs the torments of man.
-17- The Christian resolve to find the world evil and ugly, has made the world evil and ugly.
-18- Mystical explanations are considered deep. The truth is that they are not even superficial.
-19- Books for all the world are always foul-smelling books; the smell of small people clings to them.
-20- He shall be greatest who can be the loneliness, the most hidden, the most deviating, the human beyond good and evil.
-21- …we whose task is wakefulness itself.
-22- [Preface to Antichrist] One must be skilled at living on mountains—seeing the watched ephemeral babble of politics and national self-seeking beneath oneself.
-23- Be careful, lest in casting out your demon you exorcise the best thing in you.
Beyond Good and Evil
-001- We whose task is wakefulness itself
-002- Preface to Antichrist: One must be skilled at living on mountains—seeing the wretched ephemeral babble of politics and national self-seeking beneath oneself.
-003- …the things of the highest value must have another, peculiar origin—the cannot be derived from this transitory, destructive, deceptive, paltry world, from this turmoil of delusion and lust.
-004- p205 “According to nature” you want to _live_? O you noble Stoics, what deceptive words these are!
-005- …as soon as any philosophy begins to believe in itself. It always creates the world in its own image.
-006- Physiologists should think before putting down the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength–life itself is _will to power_, self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent _results_.
|by V. L. Craven|
“When you buy a book, you establish a property right in it, just as you do in clothes or furniture when you buy and pay for them. But the act of purchase is actually only the prelude to possession in the case of a book. Full ownership of a book only comes when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it–which comes to the same thing–is by writing in it.”
|by V. L. Craven|
An artist is only an artist thanks to his exquisite sense of beauty — a sense which provides him with intoxicating delights, but at the same time implying and including a sense, equally exquisite, of all deformity and disproportion.
–Charles Baudelaire. Notes Nouvelles sur Edgar Poe iii. 1857.
Edgar A. Poe: An Appreciation [from The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe The Raven Edition]
-01- “No man,” Poe himself wrote, “has recorded, no man has dared to record, the wonders of his inner life.”
-02- William Winter’s poem, read at the dedication exercises of the Actors’ Monument to Poe, May 4, 1885, in New York: He was the voice of beauty and of woe, Passion and mystery and the dread unknown; Pure as the mountains of perpetual snow, Cold as the icy winds that round them moan, Dark as the eaves wherein earth’s thunders groan, Wild as the tempests of the upper sky, Sweet as the faint, far-off celestial tone of angel whispers, fluttering from on high, And tender as love’s tear when youth and beauty die.
Edgar Allan Poe by James Russell Lowell [from The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe The Raven Edition]
-01- Remarkable experiences are usually confined to the inner life of imaginative men,
-02- An early poem is only remarkable when it displays an effort of reason.
-03- Great wits are allied to madness only inasmuch as they are possessed and carried away by their demon,
-04- To the eye of genius, the veil of the spiritual world is ever rent asunder that it may perceive the ministers of good and evil who throng continually around it. No man of mere talent ever flung his inkstand at the devil.
-05- When we say that Mr. Poe had genius, we do not mean to say that he has produced evidence of the highest. But to say that he possesses it at all is to say that he needs only zeal, industry, and a reverence for the trust reposed in him, to achieve the proudest triumphs and the greenest laurels.
-06- Mr. Poe has two of the prime qualities of genius, a faculty of vigorous yet minute analysis, and a wonderful fecundity of imagination. The first of these faculties is as needful to the artist in words, as a knowledge of anatomy is to the artist in colors or in stone. This enables him to conceive truly, to maintain a proper relation of parts, and to draw a correct outline, while the second groups, fills up and colors. Both of these Mr. Poe has displayed with singular distinctness in his prose works, the last predominating in his earlier tales, and the first in his
-07- But, in estimating the amount of power displayed in his works, we must be governed by his own design, and placing them by the side of his own ideal, find how much is wanting.
-08- He combines in a very remarkable manner two faculties which are seldom found united; a power of influencing the mind of the reader by the impalpable shadows of mystery, and a minuteness of detail which does not leave a pin or a button unnoticed.
-09- His mind at once reaches forward to the effect to be produced. Having resolved to bring about certain emotions in the reader, he makes all subordinate parts tend strictly to the common centre.
-10- Mr. Poe has no sympathy with Mysticism. The Mystic dwells in the mystery, is enveloped with it; it colors all his thoughts; it affects his optic nerve especially, and the commonest things get a rainbow edging from it. Mr. Poe, on the other hand, is a spectator _ab extra_. He analyzes, he dissects, he watches “with an eye serene, The very pulse of the machine,” for such it practically is to him, with wheels and cogs and piston-rods, all working to produce a certain end.
The Death of Edgar A. Poe by Willis [from The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe The Raven Edition]
-01- “His conversation was at times almost supramortal in its eloquence. His voice was modulated with astonishing skill, and his large and variably expressive eyes looked repose or shot fiery tumult into theirs who listened, while his own face glowed, or was changeless in pallor, as his imagination quickened his blood or drew it back frozen to his heart.
-02- “He was at all times a dreamer-dwelling in ideal realms-in heaven or hell-peopled with the creatures and the accidents of his brain. He walked-the streets, in madness or melancholy, with lips moving in indistinct curses, or with eyes upturned in passionate prayer (never for himself, for he felt, or professed to feel, that he was already damned, but) for their happiness who at the moment were objects of his idolatry; or with his glances introverted to a heart gnawed with anguish, and with a face shrouded in gloom, he would brave the wildest storms, and all night, with drenched garments and arms beating the winds and rains, would speak as if the spirits that at such times only could be evoked by him from the Aidenn, close by whose portals his disturbed soul sought to forget the ills to which his constitution subjected him—close by the Aidenn where were those he loved-the Aidenn which he might never see, but in fitful glimpses, as its gates opened to receive the less fiery and more happy natures whose destiny to sin did not involve the doom of death.
-03- “He seemed, except when some fitful pursuit subjugated his will and engrossed his faculties, always to bear the memory of some controlling sorrow. The remarkable poem of ‘The Raven’ was probably much more nearly than has been supposed, even by those who were very intimate with him, a reflection and an echo of his own history. _He_ was that bird’s “‘Unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore– Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore Of ‘Never-never more.’ “Every genuine author in a greater or less degree leaves in his works, whatever their design, traces of his personal character: elements of his immortal being, in which the individual survives the person. While we read the pages of the ‘Fall of the House of Usher,’ or of ‘Mesmeric Revelations,’ we see in the solemn and stately gloom which invests one, and in the subtle metaphysical analysis of both, indications of the idiosyncrasies of what was most remarkable and peculiar in the author’s intellectual nature.
-04- his harsh experience had deprived him of all faith in man or woman. He had made up his mind upon the numberless complexities of the social world, and the whole system with him was an imposture. This conviction gave a direction to his shrewd and naturally unamiable character. Still, though he regarded society as composed altogether of villains, the sharpness of his intellect was not of that kind which enabled him to cope with villany, while it continually caused him by overshots to fail of the success of honesty. He was in many respects like Francis Vivian in Bulwer’s novel of ‘The Caxtons.’ Passion, in him, comprehended–many of the worst emotions which militate against human happiness. You could not contradict him, but you raised quick choler; you could not speak of wealth, but his cheek paled with gnawing envy. The astonishing natural advantages of this poor boy–his beauty, his readiness, the daring spirit that breathed around him like a fiery atmosphere–had raised his constitutional self-confidence into an arrogance that turned his very claims to admiration into prejudices against him. Irascible, envious–bad enough, but not the worst, for these salient angles were all varnished over with a cold, repellant cynicism, his passions vented themselves in sneers. There seemed to him no moral susceptibility; and, what was more remarkable in a proud nature, little or nothing of the true point of honor. He had, to a morbid excess, that, desire to rise which is vulgarly called ambition, but no wish for the esteem or the love of his species; only the hard wish to succeed-not shine, not serve–succeed, that he might have the right to despise a world which galled his self-conceit.
-05- With his pale, beautiful, and intellectual face, as a reminder of what genius was in him, it was impossible, of course, not to treat him always with deferential courtesy, and, to our occasional request that he would not probe too deep in a criticism, or that he would erase a passage colored too highly with his resentments against society and mankind, he readily and courteously assented-far more yielding than most men, we thought, on points so excusably sensitive.
-06- we had seen but one presentment of the man-a quiet, patient, industrious, and most gentlemanly person, commanding the utmost respect and good feeling by his unvarying deportment and ability.
-07- The arrogance, vanity, and depravity of heart, of which Mr. Poe was generally accused, seem to us referable altogether to this reversed phase of his character. Under that degree of intoxication which only acted upon him by demonizing his sense of truth and right, he doubtless said and did much that was wholly irreconcilable with his better nature;
-08- “My general aim is to start a Magazine, to be called ‘The Stylus,’
-09- these descriptions of him, when morally insane, seeming to us like portraits, painted in sickness, of a man we have only known in health.
-10- Mr. Poe wrote with fastidious difficulty, and in a style too much above the popular level to be well paid.
-11- what does not a devotion like this-pure, disinterested and holy as the watch of an invisible spirit-say for him who inspired it?
-01- There are surely other worlds than this–other thoughts than the thoughts of the multitude–other speculations than the speculations of the sophist.
-02- Nor can I better define that peculiarity of spirit which seemed to place him so essentially apart from all other human beings, than by calling it a habit of intense and continual thought, pervading even his most trivial actions–intruding upon his moments of dalliance–and interweaving itself with his very flashes of merriment–like adders which writhe from out the eyes of the grinning masks in the cornices around the temples of Persepolis.
-03- I could not help, however, repeatedly observing, through the mingled tone of levity and solemnity with which he rapidly descanted upon matters of little importance, a certain air of trepidation–a degree of nervous unction in action and in speech–an unquiet excitability of manner which appeared to me at all times unaccountable,
-04- Frequently, too, pausing in the middle of a sentence whose commencement he had apparently forgotten, he seemed to be listening in the deepest attention, as if either in momentary expectation of a visiter, or to sounds which must have had existence in his imagination alone.
-05- They appeared to me white–whiter than the sheet upon which I trace these words–and thin even to grotesqueness; thin with the intensity of their expression of firmness–of immoveable resolution–of stern contempt of human torture.
PLOT: Several men traverse the Atlantic in a hot air balloon. The bulk of the story revolves around diary entries by the men involved, which is similar to the structure of Hans Pfaal.
-01- (*1) Note.–Mr. Ainsworth has not attempted to account for this phenomenon, [that the ocean appears concave from a high altitude] which, however, is quite susceptible of explanation. A line dropped from an elevation of 25,000 feet, perpendicularly to the surface of the earth (or sea), would form the perpendicular of a right-angled triangle, of which the base would extend from the right angle to the horizon, and the hypothenuse from the horizon to the balloon. But the 25,000 feet of altitude is little or nothing, in comparison with the extent of the prospect. In other words, the base and hypothenuse of the supposed triangle would be so long when compared with the perpendicular, that the two former may be regarded as nearly parallel. In this manner the horizon of the æronaut would appear to be on a level with the car. But, as the point immediately beneath him seems, and is, at a great distance below him, it seems, of course, also, at a great distance below the horizon. Hence the impression of concavity; and this impression must remain, until the elevation shall bear so great a proportion to the extent of prospect, that the apparent parallelism of the base and hypothenuse disappears–when the earth’s real convexity must become apparent.
—Dicebant mihi sodales, si sepulchrum amicae visitarem, curas meas aliquantulum forelevatas.–Ebn Zaiat. —
-01- MISERY is manifold. The wretchedness of earth is multiform.
-02- But as, in ethics, evil is a consequence of good, so, in fact, out of joy is sorrow born. Either the memory of past bliss is the anguish of to-day, or the agonies which are, have their origin in the ecstasies which might have been.
-03- My baptismal name is Egaeus; that of my family I will not mention. Yet there are no towers in the land more time-honored than my gloomy, gray, hereditary halls. Our line has been called a race of visionaries; and in many striking particulars–in the character of the family mansion–in the frescos of the chief saloon–in the tapestries of the dormitories–in the chiselling of some buttresses in the armory–but more especially in the gallery of antique paintings–in the fashion of the library chamber–and, lastly, in the very peculiar nature of the library’s contents–there is more than sufficient evidence to warrant the belief.
-04- Convinced myself, I seek not to convince.
-05- In that chamber was I born. Thus awaking from the long night of what seemed, but was not, nonentity, at once into the very regions of fairy land–into a palace of imagination–into the wild dominions of monastic thought and erudition–it is not singular that I gazed around me with a startled and ardent eye–that I loitered away my boyhood in books, and dissipated my youth in reverie; but it is singular that as years rolled away, and the noon of manhood found me still in the mansion of my fathers–it is wonderful what stagnation there fell upon the springs of my life–wonderful how total an inversion took place in the character of my commonest thought. The realities of the world affected me as visions, and as visions only, while the wild ideas of the land of dreams became, in turn, not the material of my every-day existence, but in very deed that existence utterly and solely in itself.
-06- Berenice and I were cousins, and we grew up together in my paternal halls.
-07- …to repeat, monotonously, some common word, until the sound, by dint of frequent repetition, ceased to convey any idea whatever to the mind;
-08- mine, the studies of the cloister–I living within my own heart, and addicted body and soul to the most intense and painful meditation
-09- In the strange anomaly of my existence, feeling with me, had never been of the heart, and my passions always were of the mind.
‘The Black Cat’
-01- There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute [dog] , which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasional to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man.
-02- Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart—one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not?
-03- I was especially fond of animals, and was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them. This peculiarity of character grew with my growth, and in my manhood, I derived from it one of my principal sources of pleasure. To those who have cherished an affection for a faithful and sagacious dog, I need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man.
-04- Pluto–this was the cat’s name–was my favorite pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me through the streets.
-05- Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not?
-06- I had been looking steadily at the top of this hogshead for some minutes, and what now caused me surprise was the fact that I had not sooner perceived the object thereupon.
-07- Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates–the darkest and most evil of thoughts. The moodiness of my usual temper increased to hatred of all things and of all mankind; while, from the sudden, frequent, and ungovernable outbursts of a fury to which I now blindly abandoned myself,
‘The Business Man’
-01- If there is any thing on earth I hate, it is a genius. Your geniuses are all arrant asses—the greater the genius the greater the ass—and to this rule there is no exception whatever. Especially, you cannot make a man of business out of a genius,
-02- The Assault-and-Battery business, into which I was now forced to adventure for a livelihood, was somewhat ill-adapted to the delicate nature of my constitution; but I went to work in it with a good heart,
-03- These, however, are not individuals, but corporations; and corporations, it is very well known, have neither bodies to be kicked nor souls to be damned.
‘The Cask of Amontillado’
-01- THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitively settled–but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved, precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish, but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong. It must be understood, that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.
-02- The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre.”
-03- Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm. Putting on a mask of black silk, and drawing a roquelaire closely about my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.
-04- I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giving one to Fortunato, bowed him through several suites of rooms to the archway that led into the vaults. I passed down a long and winding staircase, requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the foot of the descent, and stood together on the damp ground of the catacombs of the Montresors.
-05- observe the white web-work which gleams from these cavern walls.” He turned towards me, and looked into my eyes with two filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of intoxication. “Nitre?” he asked, at length. “Nitre,” I replied.
-06- “These vaults,” he said, “are extensive.” “The Montresors,” I replied, “were a great and numerous family.”
-07- “I forget your arms.” “A huge human foot d’or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel.” “And the motto?” “Nemo me impune lacessit.”
-08- We had passed through walls of piled bones, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs.
-09- “The nitre!” I said: “see, it increases. It hangs like moss upon the vaults. We are below the river’s bed. The drops of moisture trickle among the bones.
-10- We passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame. At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less spacious. Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. Three sides of this interior crypt were still ornamented in this manner. From the fourth the bones had been thrown down, and lay promiscuously upon the earth, forming at one point a mound of some size. Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, we perceived a still interior recess, in depth about four feet, in width three, in height six or seven. It seemed to have been constructed for no especial use in itself, but formed merely the interval between two of the colossal supports of the roof of the catacombs, and was backed by one of their circumscribing walls of solid granite.
-11- “Pass your hand,” I said, “over the wall; you cannot help feeling the nitre. Indeed it is very damp.
-12- I had scarcely laid the first tier of my masonry when I discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had in a great measure worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man. There was then a long and obstinate silence. I laid the second tier, and the third, and the fourth; and then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labors and sat down upon the bones. When at last the clanking subsided, I resumed the trowel, and finished without interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh tier. The wall was now nearly upon a level with my breast.
-13- It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close. I had completed the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth tier. I had finished a portion of the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight;
‘The Colloquy of Monos and Una’
-01- Yes, it was of Death I spoke. And here how singularly sounds that word which of old was wont to bring terror to all hearts—throwing a mildew upon all pleasures!
-02- Una. Ah, Death, the spectre which sate at all feasts! How often, Monos, did we lose ourselves in speculations upon its nature!
-03- How mysteriously did it act as a check to human bliss—saying unto it “thus far, and no farther!” That earnest mutual love, my own Monos, which burned within our bosoms how vainly did we flatter ourselves, feeling happy in its first up-springing, that our happiness would strengthen with its strength! Alas! as it grew, so grew in our hearts the dread of that evil hour which was hurrying to separate us forever! Thus, in time, it became painful to love. Hate would have been mercy then.
-04- Monos. Speak not here of these griefs, dear Una—mine, mine, forever now!
-05- Prematurely induced by intemperance of knowledge the old age of the world drew on. This the mass of mankind saw not, or, living lustily although unhappily, affected not to see. But, for myself, the Earth’s records had taught me to look for widest ruin as the price of highest civilization.
-06- Words are vague things. My condition did not deprive me of sentience. It appeared to me not greatly dissimilar to the extreme quiescence of him, who, having slumbered long and profoundly, lying motionless and fully prostrate in a midsummer noon, begins to steal slowly back into consciousness, through the mere sufficiency of his sleep, and without being awakened by external disturbances.
‘The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion’
-01- But the truth of a vitally important fact soon makes its way into the understanding of even the most stolid.
-02- Even the grossly ignorant aroused their sluggish capacities to such considerations.
-03- The learned now gave their intellect—their soul—to no such points as the allaying of fear, or to the sustenance of loved theory. They sought—they panted for right views. They groaned for perfected knowledge.
-04- the wise were now freely permitted to rule the reason and the fancy of the crowd.
-05- As if by some sudden convulsive exertion, reason had at once hurled superstition from her throne.
-06- The feeblest intellect had derived vigor from excessive interest.
-07- It had been long known that the air which encircled us was a compound of oxygen and nitrogen gases, in the proportion of twenty-one measures of oxygen, and seventy-nine of nitrogen in every one hundred of the atmosphere.
-08- The red blood bounded tumultuously through its strict channels.
‘Descent Into the Maelstrom’
-01- I looked dizzily, and beheld a wide expanse of ocean, whose waters wore so inky a hue as to bring at once to my mind the Nubian geographer’s account of the Mare Tenebrarum. A panorama more deplorably desolate no human imagination can conceive. To the right and left, as far as the eye could reach, there lay outstretched, like ramparts of the world, lines of horridly black and beetling cliff, whose character of gloom was but the more forcibly illustrated by the surf which reared high up against its white and ghastly crest, howling and shrieking forever.
-02- “It may appear strange, but now, when we were in the very jaws of the gulf, I felt more composed than when we were only approaching it. Having made up my mind to hope no more, I got rid of a great deal of that terror which unmanned me at first. I suppose it was despair that strung my nerves.
-03- “Looking about me upon the wide waste of liquid ebony on which we were thus borne, I perceived that our boat was not the only object in the embrace of the whirl.
-04- I have already described the unnatural curiosity which had taken the place of my original terrors.
-05- It appeared to grow upon me as I drew nearer and nearer to my dreadful doom. I now began to watch, with a strange interest, the numerous things that floated in our company. I must have been delirious–for I even sought amusement in speculating upon the relative velocities of their several descents toward the foam below. ‘This fir tree,’ I found myself at one time saying, ‘will certainly be the next thing that takes the awful plunge and disappears,’–and then I was disappointed to find that the wreck of a Dutch merchant ship overtook it and went down before.
‘The Domain of Arnheim’
-01-… even now, in the present darkness and madness of all thought on the great question of the social condition, it is not impossible that man, the individual, under certain unusual and highly fortuitous conditions, may be happy.
‘The Duc de L’Omelette’
-01- “Who am I?—ah, true! I am Baal-Zebub, Prince of the Fly. I took thee, just now, from a rose-wood coffin inlaid with ivory. Thou wast curiously scented, and labelled as per invoice. Belial sent thee,—my Inspector of Cemeteries.
-02- The apartment was superb. Even De L’Omelette pronounced it bien comme il faut. It was not its length nor its breadth,—but its height—ah, that was appalling!—There was no ceiling—certainly none—but a dense whirling mass of fiery-colored clouds. His Grace’s brain reeled as he glanced upward. From above, hung a chain of an unknown blood-red metal—its upper end lost, like the city of Boston, parmi les nues. From its nether extremity swung a large cresset. The Duc knew it to be a ruby; but from it there poured a light so intense, so still, so terrible…
-03- The Duc De L’Omelette is terror-stricken; for, through the lurid vista which a single uncurtained window is affording, lo! gleams the most ghastly of all fires!
Sub conservatione formae specificae salva anima. Raymond Lully.
-01- Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence–whether much that is glorious–whether all that is profound–does not spring from disease of thought–from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect. They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.
-02- She whom I loved in youth, and of whom I now pen calmly and distinctly these remembrances, was the sole daughter of the only sister of my mother long departed. Eleonora was the name of my cousin. We had always dwelled together, beneath a tropical sun, in the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass. No unguided footstep ever came upon that vale; for it lay away up among a range of giant hills that hung beetling around about it, shutting out the sunlight from its sweetest recesses. No path was trodden in its vicinity; and, to reach our happy home, there was need of putting back, with force, the foliage of many thousands of forest trees, and of crushing to death the glories of many millions of fragrant flowers. Thus it was that we lived all alone, knowing nothing of the world without the valley–I, and my cousin, and her mother.
-03- From the dim regions beyond the mountains at the upper end of our encircled domain, there crept out a narrow and deep river, brighter than all save the eyes of Eleonora; and, winding stealthily about in mazy courses, it passed away, at length, through a shadowy gorge, among hills still dimmer than those whence it had issued. We called it the “River of Silence”; for there seemed to be a hushing influence in its flow. No murmur arose from its bed, and so gently it wandered along, that the pearly pebbles upon which we loved to gaze, far down within its bosom, stirred not at all, but lay in a motionless content, each in its own old station, shining on gloriously forever. The margin of the river, and of the many dazzling rivulets that glided through devious ways into its channel, as well as the spaces that extended from the margins away down into the depths of the streams until they reached the bed of pebbles at the bottom,–these spots, not less than the whole surface of the valley, from the river to the mountains that girdled it in, were carpeted all by a soft green grass, thick, short, perfectly even, and vanilla-perfumed, but so besprinkled throughout with the yellow buttercup, the white daisy, the purple violet, and the ruby-red asphodel, that its exceeding beauty spoke to our hearts in loud tones, of the love and of the glory of God.
-04- Hand in hand about this valley, for fifteen years, roamed I with Eleonora before Love entered within our hearts. It was one evening at the close of the third lustrum of her life, and of the fourth of my own, that we sat, locked in each other’s embrace, beneath the serpent-like trees, and looked down within the water of the River of Silence at our images therein. We spoke no words during the rest of that sweet day, and our words even upon the morrow were tremulous and few.
‘The Fall of the House of Usher’
[ Son coeur est un luth suspendu; Sitot qu'on le touche il resonne... _De Beranger_. 'His/her heart is a poised lute; as soon as it is touched, it resounds.']
-01- DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.
-02- I know not how it was–but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me–upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain–upon the bleak walls–upon the vacant eye-like windows–upon a few rank sedges–and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees–with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium–the bitter lapse into everyday life–the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart–an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it–I paused to think–what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It was a mystery all insoluble; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered. I was forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion, that while, beyond doubt, there are combinations of very simple natural objects which have the power of thus affecting us, still the analysis of this power lies among considerations beyond our depth. It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression; and, acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down–but with a shudder even more thrilling than before–upon the remodelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.
-03- I had so worked upon my imagination as really to believe that about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity–an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn–a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued.
-04- I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, & irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all.
-05- Although, as boys, we had been even intimate associates, yet I really knew little of my friend. His reserve had been always excessive and habitual.
-06- And thus, as a closer and still closer intimacy admitted me more unreservedly into the recesses of his spirit, the more bitterly did I perceive the futility of all attempt at cheering a mind from which darkness, as if an inherent positive quality, poured forth upon all objects of the moral and physical universe, in one unceasing radiation of gloom.
-07- Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity. The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet all this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation. No portion of the masonry had fallen; and there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual stones. In this there was much that reminded me of the specious totality of old wood-work which has rotted for long years in some neglected vault, with no disturbance from the breath of the external air. Beyond this indication of extensive decay, however, the fabric gave little token of instability. Perhaps the eye of a scrutinizing observer might have discovered a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.
-08- An irrepressible tremor gradually pervaded my frame; and, at length, there sat upon my very heart an incubus of utterly causeless alarm.
-09- I entered the Gothic archway of the hall. A valet, of stealthy step, thence conducted me, in silence, through many dark and intricate passages in my progress to the studio of his master. Much that I encountered on the way contributed, I know not how, to heighten the vague sentiments of which I have already spoken. While the objects around me–while the carvings of the ceilings, the sombre tapestries of the walls, the ebon blackness of the floors, and the phantasmagoric armorial trophies which rattled as I strode, were but matters to which, or to such as which, I had been accustomed from my infancy
-10- The room in which I found myself was very large and lofty. The windows were long, narrow, and pointed, and at so vast a distance from the black oaken floor as to be altogether inaccessible from within. Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made their way through the trellissed panes, and served to render sufficiently distinct the more prominent objects around; the eye, however, struggled in vain to reach the remoter angles of the chamber, or the recesses of the vaulted and fretted ceiling. Dark draperies hung upon the walls. The general furniture was profuse, comfortless, antique, and tattered. Many books and musical instruments lay scattered about, but failed to give any vitality to the scene. I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all.
-11- an influence which some peculiarities in the mere form and substance of his family mansion, had, by dint of long sufferance, he said, obtained over his spirit–an effect which the physique of the gray walls and turrets, and of the dim tarn into which they all looked down, had, at length, brought about upon the morale of his existence.
-12- But evil things, in robes of sorrow, Assailed the monarch’s high estate; (Ah, let us mourn, for never morrow Shall dawn upon him, desolate!) And, round about his home, the glory That blushed and bloomed Is but a dim-remembered story Of the old time entombed. VI. And travellers now within that valley, Through the red-litten windows, see Vast forms that move fantastically To a discordant melody; While, like a rapid ghastly river, Through the pale door, A hideous throng rush out forever, And laugh–but smile no more.
-13- Our books–the books which, for years, had formed no small portion of the mental existence of the invalid–were, as might be supposed, in strict keeping with this character of phantasm. We pored together over such works as the Ververt et Chartreuse of Gresset; the Belphegor of Machiavelli; the Heaven and Hell of Swedenborg; the Subterranean Voyage of Nicholas Klimm by Holberg; the Chiromancy of Robert Flud, of Jean D’Indagine, and of De la Chambre; the Journey into the Blue Distance of Tieck; and the City of the Sun of Campanella. One favorite volume was a small octavo edition of the Directorium Inquisitorium, by the Dominican Eymeric de Gironne; and there were passages in Pomponius Mela, about the old African Satyrs and OEgipans, over which Usher would sit dreaming for hours. His chief delight, however, was found in the perusal of an exceedingly rare and curious book in quarto Gothic–the manual of a forgotten church–the Vigiliae Mortuorum secundum Chorum Ecclesiae Maguntinae.
-14- A striking similitude between the brother and sister now first arrested my attention; and Usher, divining, perhaps, my thoughts, murmured out some few words from which I learned that the deceased and himself had been twins, and that sympathies of a scarcely intelligible nature had always existed between them.
-15- Sleep came not near my couch–while the hours waned and waned away. I struggled to reason off the nervousness which had dominion over me. I endeavored to believe that much, if not all of what I felt, was due to the bewildering influence of the gloomy furniture of the room–of the dark and tattered draperies, which, tortured into motion by the breath of a rising tempest, swayed fitfully to and fro upon the walls, and rustled uneasily about the decorations of the bed. But my efforts were fruitless. An irrepressible tremor gradually pervaded my frame; and, at length, there sat upon my very heart an incubus of utterly causeless alarm.
-16- The impetuous fury of the entering gust nearly lifted us from our feet. It was, indeed, a tempestuous yet sternly beautiful night, and one wildly singular in its terror and its beauty. A whirlwind had apparently collected its force in our vicinity; for there were frequent and violent alterations in the direction of the wind; and the exceeding density of the clouds (which hung so low as to press upon the turrets of the house) did not prevent our perceiving the life-like velocity with which they flew careering from all points against each other, without passing away into the distance. I say that even their exceeding density did not prevent our perceiving this–yet we had no glimpse of the moon or stars–nor was there any flashing forth of the lightning. But the under surfaces of the huge masses of agitated vapor, as well as all terrestrial objects immediately around us, were glowing in the unnatural light of a faintly luminous and distinctly visible gaseous exhalation which hung about and enshrouded the mansion.
-17- From that chamber, and from that mansion, I fled aghast. The storm was still abroad in all its wrath as I found myself crossing the old causeway. Suddenly there shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so unusual could have issued; for the vast house and its shadows were alone behind me. The radiance was that of the full, setting, and blood-red moon, which now shone vividly through that once barely-discernible fissure, of which I have before spoken as extending from the roof of the building, in a zigzag direction, to the base. While I gazed, this fissure rapidly widened–there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind–the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight–my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder–there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters–and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the “House of Usher.”
[Notes] : A visitor to a decrepit house is summoned to cheer the male, whose sister (his twin) is quite ill, probably with consumption. She dies and they put her in a coffin in a tomb. She wasn’t really dead, though, and was walled up alive. She clawed her way out of the coffin and shoved her way through the iron door only to collapse into her brother’s arms and die. The image of her standing before them in her death shroud was particularly evocation. I do not see how incest was hinted at.
‘The Gold Bug’
-01- This soon ripened into friendship–for there was much in the recluse to excite interest and esteem. I found him well educated, with unusual powers of mind, but infected with misanthropy, and subject to perverse moods of alternate enthusiasm and melancholy. He had with him many books, but rarely employed them.
-02- “And will you promise me, upon your honor, that when this freak of yours is over,
-03- In this manner we journeyed for about two hours, and the sun was just setting when we entered a region infinitely more dreary than any yet seen. It was a species of table land, near the summit of an almost inaccessible hill, densely wooded from base to pinnacle, and interspersed with huge crags that appeared to lie loosely upon the soil, and in many cases were prevented from precipitating themselves into the valleys below, merely by the support of the trees against which they reclined. Deep ravines, in various directions, gave an air of still sterner solemnity to the scene.
-04- Upon the whole, I was sadly vexed and puzzled, but, at length, I concluded to make a virtue of necessity–to dig with a good will, and thus the sooner to convince the visionary, by ocular demonstration, of the fallacy of the opinions he entertained.
-05- I say the singularity of this coincidence absolutely stupified me for a time. This is the usual effect of such coincidences. The mind struggles to establish a connexion–a sequence of cause and effect–and, being unable to do so, suffers a species of temporary paralysis.
-06- You are well aware that chemical preparations exist, and have existed time out of mind, by means of which it is possible to write upon either paper or vellum, so that the characters shall become visible only when subjected to the action of fire. Zaffre, digested in aqua regia, and diluted with four times its weight of water, is sometimes employed; a green tint results. The regulus of cobalt, dissolved in spirit of nitre, gives a red. These colors disappear at longer or shorter intervals after the material written upon cools, but again become apparent upon the re-application of heat.
-07- Circumstances, and a certain bias of mind, have led me to take interest in such riddles,
-08- “You observe there are no divisions between the words. Had there been divisions, the task would have been comparatively easy. In such case I should have commenced with a collation and analysis of the shorter words, and, had a word of a single letter occurred, as is most likely, (a or I, for example,) I should have considered the solution as assured. But, there being no division, my first step was to ascertain the predominant letters, as well as the least frequent. Counting all, I constructed a table,…”Now, in English, the letter which most frequently occurs is e. Afterwards, succession runs thus: _a o i d h n r s t u y c f g l m w b k p q x z_. _E_ predominates so remarkably that an individual sentence of any length is rarely seen, in which it is not the prevailing character.
-01- many monarchs would have found it difficult to get through their days (days are rather longer at court than elsewhere) without both a jester to laugh with, and a dwarf to laugh at.
-02- “Drink, I say!” shouted the monster, “or by the fiends-’
‘The Imp of the Perverse’
-01- We glow, we are consumed with eagerness to commence the work, with the anticipation of whose glorious result our whole souls are on fire. It must, it shall be undertaken to-day, and yet we put it off until to-morrow, and why? There is no answer, except that we feel perverse, using the word with no comprehension of the principle. To-morrow arrives, and with it a more impatient anxiety to do our duty, but with this very increase of anxiety arrives, also, a nameless, a positively fearful, because unfathomable, craving for delay. This craving gathers strength as the moments fly. The last hour for action is at hand.
‘The Island of the Fay’
-01- The other or eastern end of the isle was whelmed in the blackest shade. A sombre, yet beautiful and peaceful gloom here pervaded all things. The trees were dark in color, and mournful in form and attitude, wreathing themselves into sad, solemn, and spectral shapes that conveyed ideas of mortal sorrow and untimely death. The grass wore the deep tint of the cypress, and the heads of its blades hung droopingly, and hither and thither among it were many small unsightly hillocks, low and narrow, and not very long, that had the aspect of graves, but were not; although over and all about them the rue and the rosemary clambered. The shade of the trees fell heavily upon the water, and seemed to bury itself therein, impregnating the depths of the element with darkness. I fancied that each shadow, as the sun descended lower and lower, separated itself sullenly from the trunk that gave it birth, and thus became absorbed by the stream; while other shadows issued momently from the trees, taking the place of their predecessors thus entombed.
‘The Landscape Garden’
-01- it is not impossible that Man, the individual, under certain unusual and highly fortuitous conditions, may be happy.
-02- It is, indeed evident, that with less of the instinctive philosophy which, now and then, stands so well in the stead of experience, Mr. Ellison would have found himself precipitated, by the very extraordinary successes of his life, into the common vortex of Unhappiness which yawns for those of preeminent endowments.
-03- The ideas of my friend may be summed up in a few words. He admitted but four unvarying laws, or rather elementary principles, of Bliss. That which he considered chief, was (strange to say!) the simple and purely physical one of free exercise in the open air. “The health,” he said, “attainable by other means than this is scarcely worth the name.”
-04- His second principle was the love of woman. His third was the contempt of ambition. His fourth was an object of unceasing pursuit; and he held that, other things being equal, the extent of happiness was proportioned to the spirituality of this object.
-05- His intellect was of that order to which the attainment of knowledge is less a labor than a necessity and an intuition.
-06- the most advantageous, if not the sole legitimate field for the exercise of the poetic sentiment, was to be found in the creation of novel moods of purely physical loveliness.
‘Loss of Breath’
-01- THE MOST notorious ill-fortune must in the end yield to the untiring courage of philosophy—as the most stubborn city to the ceaseless vigilance of an enemy. Shalmanezer, as we have it in holy writings, lay three years before Samaria; yet it fell. Sardanapalus—see Diodorus—maintained himself seven in Nineveh; but to no purpose. Troy expired at the close of the second lustrum; and Azoth, as Aristaeus declares upon his honour as a gentleman, opened at last her gates to Psammetichus, after having barred them for the fifth part of a century….
-02- I was preparing to launch forth a new and more decided epithet of opprobrium, which should not fail, if ejaculated, to convince her of her insignificance,
-03- A thousand vague and lachrymatory fancies took possession of my soul,
-04- it is a trait in the perversity of human nature to reject the obvious and the ready, for the far-distant and equivocal.
-05- I was here, accordingly, thrown out at the sign of the “Crow” (by which tavern the coach happened to be passing), without meeting with any farther accident than the breaking of both my arms, under the left hind wheel of the vehicle. I must besides do the driver the justice to state that he did not forget to throw after me the largest of my trunks, which, unfortunately falling on my head, fractured my skull in a manner at once interesting and extraordinary.
-06- All, however, was attributed to the effects of a new galvanic battery, wherewith the apothecary, who is really a man of information, performed several curious experiments, in which, from my personal share in their fulfillment, I could not help feeling deeply interested.
-07- It was a course of mortification to me, nevertheless, that although I made several attempts at conversation, my powers of speech were so entirely in abeyance, that I could not even open my mouth; much less, then, make reply to some ingenious but fanciful theories of which, under other circumstances, my minute acquaintance with the Hippocratian pathology would have afforded me a ready confutation.
‘The Man That Was Used Up: A Tale of the Late Bugaboo & Kickapoo Campaign’
001 In especial, the slightest appearance of mystery—of any point I cannot exactly comprehend—puts me at once into a pitiable state of agitation.
‘The Masque of the Red Death’
-01- THE “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal–the redness and the horror of blood.
-02- Here the case was very different; as might have been expected from the duke’s love of the bizarre. The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect. To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose color varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example, in blue–and vividly blue were its windows. The second chamber was purple in its ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. The third was green throughout, and so were the casements. The fourth was furnished and lighted with orange–the fifth with white–the sixth with violet. The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue. But in this chamber only, the color of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet–a deep blood color. Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers. But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite to each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire that protected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly illumined the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances. But in the western or black chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all. It was in this apartment, also, that there stood against the western wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to hearken to the sound; and thus the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions; and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; and, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation.
-03- To and fro in the seven chambers there stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams. And these–the dreams–writhed in and about, taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps. And, anon, there strikes the ebony clock which stands in the hall of the velvet. And then, for a moment, all is still, and all is silent save the voice of the clock. The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand. But the echoes of the chime die away–they have endured but an instant–and a light, half-subdued laughter floats after them as they depart. And now again the music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more merrily than ever, taking hue from the many-tinted windows through which stream the rays from the tripods.
-04- But these other apartments were densely crowded, and in them beat feverishly the heart of life. And the revel went whirlingly on, until at length there commenced the sounding of midnight upon the clock. And then the music ceased, as I have told; and the evolutions of the waltzers were quieted; and there was an uneasy cessation of all things as before. But now there were twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of the clock; and thus it happened, perhaps, that more of thought crept, with more of time, into the meditations of the thoughtful among those who revelled. And thus, too, it happened, perhaps, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single individual before. And the rumor of this new presence having spread itself whisperingly around, there arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or murmur, expressive of disapprobation and surprise–then, finally, of terror, of horror, and of disgust.
-05- In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, it may well be supposed that no ordinary appearance could have excited such sensation. In truth the masquerade license of the night was nearly unlimited; but the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod, and gone beyond the bounds of even the prince’s indefinite decorum. There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made. The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood–and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror. When the eyes of Prince Prospero fell upon this spectral image (which with a slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its role, stalked to and fro among the waltzers)
-06- the vast assembly, as if with one impulse, shrank from the centres of the rooms to the walls, he made his way uninterruptedly, but with the same solemn and measured step which had distinguished him from the first, through the blue chamber to the purple–through the purple to the green–through the green to the orange–through this again to the white–and even thence to the violet, ere a decided movement had been made to arrest him. It was then, however, that the Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and the shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through the six chambers, while none followed him on account of a deadly terror that had seized upon all. He bore aloft a drawn dagger, and had approached, in rapid impetuosity, to within three or four feet of the retreating figure, when the latter, having attained the extremity of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly and confronted his pursuer. There was a sharp cry–and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which, instantly afterwards, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero. Then, summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revellers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and, seizing the mummer, whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave-cerements and corpse-like mask which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form.
-07- And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.
‘Mellonta Tauta to the Editors of the Lady’s Book’
001. Get ready your spectacles and make up your mind to be annoyed. I mean to write at you every day during this odious voyage.
002 we live in an age so enlightened that no such a thing as an individual is supposed to exist. It is the mass for which the true Humanity cares.
003 ‘Thus must we say that, not once or twice, or a few times, but with almost infinite repetitions, the same opinions come round in a circle among men.’
004 We lay to a few minutes to ask the cutter some questions, and learned, among other glorious news, that civil war is raging in Africa, while the plague is doing its good work beautifully both in Yurope and Ayesher. Is it not truly remarkable that, before the magnificent light shed upon philosophy by Humanity, the world was accustomed to regard War and Pestilence as calamities? Do you know that prayers were actually offered up in the ancient temples to the end that these evils (!) might not be visited upon mankind? Is it not really difficult to comprehend upon what principle of interest our forefathers acted? Were they so blind as not to perceive that the destruction of a myriad of individuals is only so much positive advantage to the mass!
005 he was scarcely hearkened to at all by his contemporaries, who looked upon him as merely an ingenious sort of madman
006 because the philosophers (?) of the day declared the thing impossible. Really now it does seem to me quite unaccountable how any thing so obviously feasible could have escaped the sagacity of the ancient savans. But in all ages the great obstacles to advancement in Art have been opposed by the so-called men of science
007 I am almost devoured by ennui.
008 He has been occupied all the day in the attempt to convince me that the ancient Amriccans governed themselves!—did ever anybody hear of such an absurdity?—that they existed in a sort of every-man-for-himself confederacy, after the fashion of the “prairie dogs” that we read of in fable. He says that they started with the queerest idea conceivable, viz: that all men are born free and equal—this in the very teeth of the laws of gradation so visibly impressed upon all things both in the moral and physical universe. Every man “voted,” as they called it—that is to say meddled with public affairs—until at length, it was discovered that what is everybody’s business is nobody’s, and that the “Republic” (so the absurd thing was called) was without a government at all.
009 the first circumstance which disturbed, very particularly, the self-complacency of the philosophers who constructed this “Republic,” was the startling discovery that universal suffrage gave opportunity for fraudulent schemes, by means of which any desired number of votes might at any time be polled, without the possibility of prevention or even detection, by any party which should be merely villainous enough not to be ashamed of the fraud.
010 A little reflection upon this discovery sufficed to render evident the consequences, which were that rascality must predominate—in a word, that a republican government could never be any thing but a rascally one.
011 While the philosophers, however, were busied in blushing at their stupidity in not having foreseen these inevitable evils, and intent upon the invention of new theories, the matter was put to an abrupt issue by a fellow of the name of Mob, who took every thing into his own hands and set up a despotism, in comparison with which those of the fabulous Zeros and Hellofagabaluses were respectable and delectable. This Mob (a foreigner, by-the-by), is said to have been the most odious of all men that ever encumbered the earth. He was a giant in stature—insolent, rapacious, filthy, had the gall of a bullock with the heart of a hyena and the brains of a peacock. He died, at length, by dint of his own energies, which exhausted him. Nevertheless, he had his uses, as every thing has, however vile, and taught mankind a lesson which to this day it is in no danger of forgetting—never to run directly contrary to the natural analogies.
012 As for Republicanism, no analogy could be found for it upon the face of the earth—unless we except the case of the “prairie dogs,” an exception which seems to demonstrate, if anything, that democracy is a very admirable form of government—for dogs.
013 It is related of them that they were acute in many respects, but were oddly afflicted with monomania for building what, in the ancient Amriccan, was denominated “churches”—a kind of pagoda instituted for the worship of two idols that went by the names of Wealth and Fashion. In the end, it is said, the island became, nine tenths of it, church. The women, too, it appears, were oddly deformed by a natural protuberance of the region just below the small of the back—although, most unaccountably, this deformity was looked upon altogether in the light of a beauty. One or two pictures of these singular women have in fact, been miraculously preserved. They look very odd, very—like something between a turkey-cock and a dromedary.
-01- those who doubt, are your mere doubters by profession–an unprofitable and disreputable tribe.
-02- To be happy at any one point we must have suffered at the same. Never to suffer would have been never to have been blessed.
-01- With a feeling of deep yet most singular affection I regarded my friend Morella. Thrown by accident into her society many years ago, my soul from our first meeting, burned with fires it had never before known; but the fires were not of Eros, and bitter and tormenting to my spirit was the gradual conviction that I could in no manner define their unusual meaning or regulate their vague intensity. Yet me met; and fate bound us together at the altar, and I never spoke of passion nor thought of love. She, however, shunned society, and, attaching herself to me alone rendered me happy. It is a happiness to wonder; it is a happiness to dream.
-02- Morella’s erudition was profound. As I hope to live, her talents were of no common order—her powers of mind were gigantic. I felt this, and, in many matters, became her pupil. … These, for what reason I could not imagine, were her favourite and constant study—and that in process of time they became my own, should be attributed to the simple but effectual influence of habit and example…
-03- Persuaded of this, I abandoned myself implicitly to the guidance of my wife, and entered with an unflinching heart into the intricacies of her studies.
‘MS. Found in a Bottle’
01. Of my country and of my family I have little to say. Ill usage and length of years have driven me from the one, and estranged me from the other.
02. I feel as I have never felt before, although I have been all my life a dealer in antiquities, and have imbibed the shadows of fallen columns at Balbec, and Tadmore and Persepolis, until my very soul has become a ruin.
03. …about a league on either side of us, may be seen, indistinctly and at intervals, stupendous ramparts of ice, towering away into the desolate sky and looking like the walls of the universe.
04. Upon the whole, no person could be less liable than myself to be led away from the severe precincts of truth by the ignes fatui of superstition.
[NOTE.] –The “MS. Found in a Bottle,” was originally published in 1831, and it was not until many years afterwards that I became acquainted with the maps of Mercator, in which the ocean is represented as rushing, by four mouths, into the (northern) Polar Gulf, to be absorbed into the bowels of the earth; the Pole itself being represented by a black rock, towering to a prodigious height.
‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’
-01- The mental features discoursed of as the analytical, are, in themselves, but little susceptible of analysis. We appreciate them only in their effects. We know of them, among other things, that they are always to their possessor, when inordinately possessed, a source of the liveliest enjoyment. As the strong man exults in his physical ability, delighting in such exercises as call his muscles into action, so glories the analyst in that moral activity which disentangles.
-02- He is fond of enigmas, of conundrums, of hieroglyphics; exhibiting in his solutions of each a degree of acumen which appears to the ordinary apprehension præternatural. His results, brought about by the very soul and essence of method, have, in truth, the whole air of intuition.
-03- Yet to calculate is not in itself to analyse. A chess-player, for example, does the one without effort at the other. It follows that the game of chess, in its effects upon mental character, is greatly misunderstood. I am not now writing a treatise, but simply prefacing a somewhat peculiar narrative by observations very much at random; I will, therefore, take occasion to assert that the higher powers of the reflective intellect are more decidedly and more usefully tasked by the unostentatious game of draughts than by a the elaborate frivolity of chess.
-04- In this latter, where the pieces have different and bizarre motions, with various and variable values, what is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual error) for what is profound. The attention is here called powerfully into play. If it flag for an instant, an oversight is committed resulting in injury or defeat.
-05- The possible moves being not only manifold but involute, the chances of such oversights are multiplied; and in nine cases out of ten it is the more concentrative rather than the more acute player who conquers. In draughts, on the contrary, where the moves are unique and have but little variation, the probabilities of inadvertence are diminished, and the mere attention being left comparatively unemployed, what advantages are obtained by either party are obtained by superior acumen.
-06- Whist has long been noted for its influence upon what is termed the calculating power; and men of the highest order of intellect have been known to take an apparently unaccountable delight in it, while eschewing chess as frivolous. Beyond doubt there is nothing of a similar nature so greatly tasking the faculty of analysis. The best chess-player in Christendom may be little more than the best player of chess; but proficiency in whist implies capacity for success in all those more important undertakings where mind struggles with mind.
-07- To observe attentively is to remember distinctly;
-08- He makes, in silence, a host of observations and inferences.
-09- The analytical power should not be confounded with ample ingenuity; for while the analyst is necessarily ingenious, the ingenious man is often remarkably incapable of analysis.
-10- I was astonished, too, at the vast extent of his reading; and, above all, I felt my soul enkindled within me by the wild fervor, and the vivid freshness of his imagination. Seeking in Paris the objects I then sought, I felt that the society of such a man would be to me a treasure beyond price; and this feeling I frankly confided to him. It was at length arranged that we should live together during my stay in the city; and as my worldly circumstances were somewhat less embarrassed than his own, I was permitted to be at the expense of renting, and furnishing in a style which suited the rather fantastic gloom of our common temper, a time-eaten and grotesque mansion, long deserted through superstitions into which we did not inquire, and tottering to its fall in a retired and desolate portion of the Faubourg St. Germain.
-11- Had the routine of our life at this place been known to the world, we should have been regarded as madmen–although, perhaps, as madmen of a harmless nature. Our seclusion was perfect. We admitted no visitors. Indeed the locality of our retirement had been carefully kept a secret from my own former associates; and it had been many years since Dupin had ceased to know or be known in Paris. We existed within ourselves alone.
-12- It was a freak of fancy in my friend (for what else shall I call it?) to be enamored of the Night for her own sake; and into this bizarrerie, as into all his others, I quietly fell; giving myself up to his wild whims with a perfect abandon. The sable divinity would not herself dwell with us always; but we could counterfeit her presence. At the first dawn of the morning we closed all the messy shutters of our old building; lighting a couple of tapers which, strongly perfumed, threw out only the ghastliest and feeblest of rays. By the aid of these we then busied our souls in dreams–reading, writing, or conversing, until warned by the clock of the advent of the true Darkness. Then we sallied forth into the streets arm in arm, continuing the topics of the day, or roaming far and wide until a late hour, seeking, amid the wild lights and shadows of the populous city, that infinity of mental excitement which quiet observation can afford.
-13- We were strolling one night down a long dirty street in the vicinity of the Palais Royal. Being both, apparently, occupied with thought, neither of us had spoken a syllable for fifteen minutes at least. All at once Dupin broke forth with these words: “He is a very little fellow, that’s true, and would do better for the Théâtre des Variétés.” “There can be no doubt of that,” I replied unwittingly, and not at first observing (so much had I been absorbed in reflection) the extraordinary manner in which the speaker had chimed in with my meditations. In an instant afterward I recollected myself, and my astonishment was profound.
-14- “Dupin,” said I, gravely, “this is beyond my comprehension. I do not hesitate to say that I am amazed, and can scarcely credit my senses. How was it possible you should know I was thinking of —–?” Here I paused, to ascertain beyond a doubt whether he really knew of whom I thought. –”of Chantilly,” said he, “why do you pause? You were remarking to yourself that his diminutive figure unfitted him for tragedy.”
-15- There are few persons who have not, at some period of their lives, amused themselves in retracing the steps by which particular conclusions of their own minds have been attained. The occupation is often full of interest and he who attempts it for the first time is astonished by the apparently illimitable distance and incoherence between the starting-point and the goal.
-16- Had but little difficulty in getting it open, on account of its being a double or folding gate, and bolted neither at bottom not top.
-17- Truth is not always in a well. In fact, as regards the more important knowledge, I do believe that she is invariably superficial. The depth lies in the valleys where we seek her, and not upon the mountain-tops where she is found.
-18- To look at a star by glances–to view it in a side-long way, by turning toward it the exterior portions of the retina (more susceptible of feeble impressions of light than the interior), is to behold the star distinctly–is to have the best appreciation of its lustre–a lustre which grows dim just in proportion as we turn our vision fully upon it. A greater number of rays actually fall upon the eye in the latter case, but, in the former, there is the more refined capacity for comprehension. By undue profundity we perplex and enfeeble thought; and it is possible to make even Venus herself vanish from the firmanent by a scrutiny too sustained, too concentrated, or too direct.
-19- Coincidences ten times as remarkable as this (the delivery of the money, and murder committed within three days upon the party receiving it), happen to all of us every hour of our lives, without attracting even momentary notice. Coincidences, in general, are great stumbling-blocks in the way of that class of thinkers who have been educated to know nothing of the theory of probabilities–that theory to which the most glorious objects of human research are indebted for the most glorious of illustration.
‘The Mystery of Marie Roget’
-01- There are ideal series of events which run parallel with the real ones. They rarely coincide. Men and circumstances generally modify the ideal train of events, so that it seems imperfect, and its consequences are equally imperfect. Thus with the Reformation; instead of Protestantism came Lutheranism. –Novalis. Moral Ansichten.
-02- THERE are few persons, even among the calmest thinkers, who have not occasionally been startled into a vague yet thrilling half-credence in the supernatural, by coincidences of so seemingly marvellous a character that, as mere coincidences, the intellect has been unable to receive them.
-03- Upon the winding up of the tragedy involved in the deaths of Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter, the Chevalier dismissed the affair at once from his attention, and relapsed into his old habits of moody reverie. Prone, at all times, to abstraction, I readily fell in with his humor; and, continuing to occupy our chambers in the Faubourg Saint Germain, we gave the Future to the winds, and slumbered tranquilly in the Present, weaving the dull world around us into dreams.
-04- I would here observe that very much of what is rejected as evidence by a court, is the best of evidence to the intellect.
-05- The history of human knowledge has so uninterruptedly shown that to collateral, or incidental, or accidental events we are indebted for the most numerous and most valuable discoveries, that it has at length become necessary, in any prospective view of improvement, to make not only large, but the largest allowances for inventions that shall arise by chance, and quite out of the range of ordinary expectation.
-06- It is no longer philosophical to base, upon what has been, a vision of what is to be.
-07- An individual has committed the murder. He is alone with the ghost of the departed. He is appalled by what lies motionless before him. The fury of his passion is over, and there is abundant room in his heart for the natural awe of the deed.
-08- Thus the jurisprudence of every nation will show that, when law becomes a science and a system, it ceases to be justice.
Narrative of A. Gordon Pym
-01- I used frequently to go home with him, and remain all day, and sometimes all night. We occupied the same bed, and he would be sure to keep me awake until almost light, telling me stories of the natives of the Island of Tinian, and other places he had visited in his travels.
-02- he had drunk far more than I suspected, and that his conduct in bed had been the result of a highly-concentrated state of intoxication–a state which, like madness, frequently enables the victim to imitate the outward demeanour of one in perfect possession of his senses.
-03- It is probable, indeed, that our intimate communion had resulted in a partial interchange of character.
-04- To pass this man with a casual glance, one might imagine him to be convulsed with laughter, but a second look would induce a shuddering acknowledgment, that if such an expression were indicative of merriment, the merriment must be that of a demon.
-05- the infinitely more terrible distresses and dangers from which we had so lately and so providentially been delivered caused us to regard what we now endured as but little more than an ordinary evil
’Never Bet the Devil Your Head’
-001- “CON tal que las costumbres de un autor,” says Don Thomas de las Torres, in the preface to his “Amatory Poems” “sean puras y castas, importo muy poco que no sean igualmente severas sus obras”—meaning, in plain English, that, provided the morals of an author are pure personally, it signifies nothing what are the morals of his books.
-002- Every fiction should have a moral; and, what is more to the purpose, the critics have discovered that every fiction has.
-003- In short, it has been shown that no man can sit down to write without a very profound design. Thus to authors in general much trouble is spared. A novelist, for example, need have no care of his moral. It is there—that is to say, it is somewhere—and the moral and the critics can take care of themselves. When the proper time arrives, all that the gentleman intended, and all that he did not intend, will be brought to light, in the “Dial,” or the “Down-Easter,” together with all that he ought to have intended, and the rest that he clearly meant to intend:—so that it will all come very straight in the end.
-004- Defuncti injuria ne afficiantur was a law of the twelve tables, and De mortuis nil nisi bonum is an excellent injunction—even if the dead in question be nothing but dead small beer.
-005- I am always displeased by circumstances for which I cannot account. Mysteries force a man to think, and so injure his health.
-006- upon the figure of a little lame old gentleman of venerable aspect. Nothing could be more reverend than his whole appearance; for he not only had on a full suit of black, but his shirt was perfectly clean and the collar turned very neatly down over a white cravat, while his hair was parted in front like a girl’s. His hands were clasped pensively together over his stomach,
-007- I looked sternly at my friend while I thus addressed him; for, to say the truth, I felt particularly puzzled, and when a man is particularly puzzled he must knit his brows and look savage, or else he is pretty sure to look like a fool.
-008- I do not attempt to defend my remark on the score of profundity; I did not think it profound myself; but I have noticed that the effect of our speeches is not always proportionate with their importance in our own eyes;
-009- I hurried up to him and found that he had received what might be termed a serious injury. The truth is, he had been deprived of his head,
‘The Oblong Box’
001. among other names, I was rejoiced to see that of Mr. Cornelius Wyatt, a young artist, for whom I entertained feelings of warm friendship.
002. He had been with me a fellow-student at C— University, where we were very much together. He had the ordinary temperament of genius, and was a compound of misanthropy, sensibility, and enthusiasm.
003 I was, just at that epoch, in one of those moody frames of mind which make a man abnormally inquisitive about trifles
004. I had nothing to do but to return home and digest my impatience at leisure.
005. If not positively ugly, she was not, I think, very far from it
006 One day he came upon deck, and, taking his arm as had been my wont, I sauntered with him backward and forward.
007 as I spoke the words, I smiled knowingly, winked, and touched him gently with my forefinger in the ribs.
008 I had been nervous—drank too much strong green tea, and slept ill at night—in fact, for two nights I could not be properly said to sleep at all.
009 Mr. Wyatt, no doubt, according to custom, was merely giving the rein to one of his hobbies—indulging in one of his fits of artistic enthusiasm.
010 I forbear to depict my sensations upon the gallows; although here, undoubtedly, I could speak to the point, and it is a topic upon which nothing has been well said. In fact, to write upon such a theme it is necessary to have been hanged. Every author should confine himself to matters of experience. Thus Mark Antony composed a treatise upon getting drunk.
‘Old English Poetry’
001. IT should not be doubted that at least one-third of the affection with which we regard the elder poets of Great Britain should be-attributed to what is, in itself, a thing apart from poetry-we mean to the simple love of the antique-and if demanded his opinion of their productions, would mention vaguely, yet with perfect sincerity, a sense of dreamy, wild, indefinite, and he would perhaps say, indefinable delight; on being required to point out the source of this so shadowy pleasure, he would be apt to speak of the quaint in phraseology and in general handling. This quaintness is, in fact, a very powerful adjunct to ideality, but in the case in question it arises independently of the author’s will, and is altogether apart from his intention. Words and their rhythm have varied. Verses which affect us to-day with a vivid delight, and which delight, in many instances, may be traced to the one source, quaintness, must have worn in the days of their construction, a very commonplace air.
002. They used little art in composition. Their writings sprang immediately from the soul-and partook intensely of that soul’s nature.
003. We copy a portion of Marvell’s “Maiden lamenting for her Fawn,” which we prefer-not only as a specimen of the elder poets, but in itself as a beautiful poem, abounding in pathos, exquisitely delicate imagination and truthfulness-to anything of its species:
‘The Oval Portrait’
-01- THE chateau into which my valet had ventured to make forcible entrance, rather than permit me, in my desperately wounded condition, to pass a night in the open air, was one of those piles of commingled gloom and grandeur which have so long frowned among the Appennines, not less in fact than in the fancy of Mrs. Radcliffe.
-02- To all appearance it had been temporarily and very lately abandoned. We established ourselves in one of the smallest and least sumptuously furnished apartments. It lay in a remote turret of the building. Its decorations were rich, yet tattered and antique.
-03- The portrait, I have already said, was that of a young girl. It was a mere head and shoulders, done in what is technically termed a vignette manner; much in the style of the favorite heads of Sully. The arms, the bosom, and even the ends of the radiant hair melted imperceptibly into the vague yet deep shadow which formed the back-ground of the whole. The frame was oval, richly gilded and filigreed in Moresque.
‘Philosophy of Furniture’ (essay)
-01- In the internal decoration, if not in the external architecture of their residences, the English are supreme. … The Italians have but little sentiment beyond marbles and colours. In France, meliora probant, deteriora sequuntur—the people are too much a race of gadabouts to maintain those household proprieties of which, indeed, they have a delicate appreciation, or at least the elements of a proper sense. The Chinese and most of the eastern races have a warm but inappropriate fancy. The Scotch are poor decorists. The Dutch have, perhaps, an indeterminate idea that a curtain is not a cabbage. In Spain they are all curtains—a nation of hangmen. The Russians do not furnish. The Yankees alone are preposterous.
-02- How this happens, it is not difficult to see. We have no aristocracy of blood, and having therefore as a natural, and indeed as an inevitable thing, fashioned for ourselves an aristocracy of dollars, the display of wealth has here to take the place and perform the office of the heraldic display in monarchical countries. By a transition readily understood, and which might have been as readily foreseen, we have been brought to merge in simple show our notions of taste itself.
-03- wealth is not, in England, the loftiest object of ambition as constituting a nobility; and secondly, that there, the true nobility of blood, confining itself within the strict limits of legitimate taste, rather avoids than affects that mere costliness in which a parvenu rivalry may at any time be successfully attempted.
-04- In short, the cost of an article of furniture has at length come to be, with us, nearly the sole test of its merit in a decorative point of view—and this test, once established, has led the way to many analogous errors, readily traceable to the one primitive folly.
-05- Very often the eye is offended by their inartistic arrangement. Straight lines are too prevalent—too uninterruptedly continued—or clumsily interrupted at right angles. If curved lines occur, they are repeated into unpleasant uniformity.
-06- By undue precision, the appearance of many a fine apartment is utterly spoiled.
-07- Curtains are rarely well disposed, or well chosen in respect to other decorations. With formal furniture, curtains are out of place; and an extensive volume of drapery of any kind is, under any circumstance, irreconcilable with good taste—the proper quantum, as well as the proper adjustment, depending upon the character of the general effect.
-08- Carpets are better understood of late than of ancient days, but we still very frequently err in their patterns and colours. The soul of the apartment is the carpet. From it are deduced not only the hues but the forms of all objects incumbent. A judge at common law may be an ordinary man; a good judge of a carpet must be a genius. Yet we have heard discoursing of carpets, with the air “d’un mouton qui reve,” fellows who should not and who could not be entrusted with the management of their own moustaches. … As regards texture, the Saxony is alone admissible. Brussels is the preterpluperfect tense of fashion, and Turkey is taste in its dying agonies. … The abomination of flowers, or representations of well-known objects of any kind, should not be endured within the limits of Christendom.
-09- Indeed, whether on carpets, or curtains, or tapestry, or ottoman coverings, all upholstery of this nature should be rigidly Arabesque.
-10- As for those antique floor-cloth & still occasionally seen in the dwellings of the rabble—cloths of huge, sprawling, and radiating devises, stripe-interspersed, and glorious with all hues, among which no ground is intelligible—these are but the wicked invention of a race of time-servers and money-lovers—children of Baal and worshippers of Mammon—Benthams, who, to spare thought and economize fancy, first cruelly invented the [??] and then established joint-stock companies to twirl it by steam.
-11- A mild, or what artists term a cool light, with its consequent warm shadows, will do wonders for even an ill-furnished apartment. Never was a more lovely thought than that of the astral lamp. We mean, of course, the astral lamp proper—the lamp of Argand, with its original plain ground-glass shade, and its tempered and uniform moonlight rays. The cut-glass shade is a weak invention of the enemy. … It is not too much to say, that the deliberate employer of a cut-glass shade, is either radically deficient in taste, or blindly subservient to the caprices of fashion.
-12- The rage for glitter-because its idea has become as we before observed, confounded with that of magnificence in the abstract—has led us, also, to the exaggerated employment of mirrors. We line our dwellings with great British plates, and then imagine we have done a fine thing. Now the slightest thought will be sufficient to convince any one who has an eye at all, of the ill effect of numerous looking-glasses, and especially of large ones. Regarded apart from its reflection, the mirror presents a continuous, flat, colourless, unrelieved surface,—a thing always and obviously unpleasant.
-13- It is an evil growing out of our republican institutions, that here a man of large purse has usually a very little soul which he keeps in it.
-14- The corruption of taste is a portion or a pendant of the dollar-manufacture. As we grow rich, our ideas grow rusty.
-15- Even now, there is present to our mind’s eye a small and not, ostentatious chamber with whose decorations no fault can be found. The proprietor lies asleep on a sofa—the weather is cool—the time is near midnight: we will make a sketch of the room during his slumber. It is oblong—some thirty feet in length and twenty-five in breadth—a shape affording the best(ordinary) opportunities for the adjustment of furniture. It has but one door—by no means a wide one—which is at one end of the parallelogram, and but two windows, which are at the other. These latter are large, reaching down to the floor—have deep recesses—and open on an Italian veranda. Their panes are of a crimson-tinted glass, set in rose-wood framings, more massive than usual. They are curtained within the recess, by a thick silver tissue adapted to the shape of the window, and hanging loosely in small volumes. Without the recess are curtains of an exceedingly rich crimson silk, fringed with a deep network of gold, and lined with silver tissue, which is the material of the exterior blind. There are no cornices; but the folds of the whole fabric (which are sharp rather than massive, and have an airy appearance), issue from beneath a broad entablature of rich giltwork, which encircles the room at the junction of the ceiling and walls. The drapery is thrown open also, or closed, by means of a thick rope of gold loosely enveloping it, and resolving itself readily into a knot; no pins or other such devices are apparent. The colours of the curtains and their fringe—the tints of crimson and gold—appear everywhere in profusion, and determine the character of the room. The carpet—of Saxony material—is quite half an inch thick, and is of the same crimson ground, relieved simply by the appearance of a gold cord (like that festooning the curtains) slightly relieved above the surface of the ground, and thrown upon it in such a manner as to form a succession of short irregular curves—one occasionally overlaying the other. The walls are prepared with a glossy paper of a silver gray tint, spotted with small Arabesque devices of a fainter hue of the prevalent crimson. Many paintings relieve the expanse of paper. These are chiefly landscapes of an imaginative cast—such as the fairy grottoes of Stanfield, or the lake of the Dismal Swamp of Chapman. There are, nevertheless, three or four female heads, of an ethereal beauty-portraits in the manner of Sully. The tone of each picture is warm, but dark. There are no “brilliant effects.” Repose speaks in all. Not one is of small size. Diminutive paintings give that spotty look to a room, which is the blemish of so many a fine work of Art overtouched. The frames are broad but not deep, and richly carved, without being dulled or filagreed. They have the whole lustre of burnished gold. They lie flat on the walls, and do not hang off with cords. The designs themselves are often seen to better advantage in this latter position, but the general appearance of the chamber is injured. But one mirror—and this not a very large one—is visible. In shape it is nearly circular—and it is hung so that a reflection of the person can be obtained from it in none of the ordinary sitting-places of the room. Two large low sofas of rosewood and crimson silk, gold-flowered, form the only seats, with the exception of two light conversation chairs, also of rose-wood. There is a pianoforte (rose-wood, also), without cover, and thrown open. An octagonal table, formed altogether of the richest gold-threaded marble, is placed near one of the sofas. This is also without cover—the drapery of the curtains has been thought sufficient.. Four large and gorgeous Sevres vases, in which bloom a profusion of sweet and vivid flowers, occupy the slightly rounded angles of the room. A tall candelabrum, bearing a small antique lamp with highly perfumed oil, is standing near the head of my sleeping friend. Some light and graceful hanging shelves, with golden edges and crimson silk cords with gold tassels, sustain two or three hundred magnificently bound books. Beyond these things, there is no furniture, if we except an Argand lamp, with a plain crimson-tinted ground glass shade, which depends from He lofty vaulted ceiling by a single slender gold chain, and throws a tranquil but magical radiance over all.
‘The Purloined Letter’
-01- with my friend C. Auguste Dupin, in his little back library,
-02- “That is another of your odd notions,” said the Prefect, who had a fashion of calling every thing “odd” that was beyond his comprehension, and thus lived amid an absolute legion of “oddities.”
-03- “Not altogether a fool,” said G., “but then he’s a poet, which I take to be only one remove from a fool.”
-04- “It is merely,” I said, “an identification of the reasoner’s intellect with that of his opponent.” “It is,” said Dupin; “and, upon inquiring, of the boy by what means he effected the thorough identification in which his success consisted, I received answer as follows: ‘When I wish to find out how wise, or how stupid, or how good, or how wicked is any one, or what are his thoughts at the moment, I fashion the expression of my face, as accurately as possible, in accordance with the expression of his, and then wait to see what thoughts or sentiments arise in my mind or heart, as if to match or correspond with the expression.’ This response of the schoolboy lies at the bottom of all the spurious profundity which has been attributed to Rochefoucault, to La Bougive, to Machiavelli, and to Campanella.” “And the identification,” I said, “of the reasoner’s intellect with that of his opponent, depends, if I understand you aright, upon the accuracy with which the opponent’s intellect is admeasured.” “For its practical value it depends upon this,” replied Dupin; “and the Prefect and his cohort fail so frequently, first, by default of this identification, and, secondly, by ill-admeasurement, or rather through non-admeasurement, of the intellect with which they are engaged. They consider only their own ideas of ingenuity; and, in searching for anything hidden, advert only to the modes in which they would have hidden it. They are right in this much–that their own ingenuity is a faithful representative of that of the mass; but when the cunning of the individual felon is diverse in character from their own, the felon foils them, of course. This always happens when it is above their own, and very usually when it is below.
-05- It is not more true in the former, that a large body is with more difficulty set in motion than a smaller one, and that its subsequent momentum is commensurate with this difficulty, than it is, in the latter, that intellects of the vaster capacity, while more forcible, more constant, and more eventful in their movements than those of inferior grade, are yet the less readily moved, and more embarrassed and full of hesitation in the first few steps of their progress.
-06- “There is a game of puzzles,” he resumed, “which is played upon a map. One party playing requires another to find a given word–the name of town, river, state or empire–any word, in short, upon the motley and perplexed surface of the chart. A novice in the game generally seeks to embarrass his opponents by giving them the most minutely lettered names; but the adept selects such words as stretch, in large characters, from one end of the chart to the other. These, like the over-largely lettered signs and placards of the street, escape observation by dint of being excessively obvious;
-07- like a great many pleasant things, is more pleasant than true,
-01- My host was of a less excitable temperament, and, although greatly depressed in spirits, exerted himself to sustain my own. His richly philosophical intellect was not at any time affected by unrealities. To the substances of terror he was sufficiently alive, but of its shadows he had no apprehension.
-02- His endeavors to arouse me from the condition of abnormal gloom into which I had fallen, were frustrated, in great measure, by certain volumes which I had found in his library. These were of a character to force into germination whatever seeds of hereditary superstition lay latent in my bosom. I had been reading these books without his knowledge, and thus he was often at a loss to account for the forcible impressions which had been made upon my fancy.
-03- A favorite topic with me was the popular belief in omens—a belief which, at this one epoch of my life, I was almost seriously disposed to defend. On this subject we had long and animated discussions—he maintaining the utter groundlessness of faith in such matters,—I contending that a popular sentiment arising with absolute spontaneity- that is to say, without apparent traces of suggestion—had in itself the unmistakable elements of truth, and was entitled to as much respect as that intuition which is the idiosyncrasy of the individual man of genius.
-04- an incident so entirely inexplicable, and which had in it so much of the portentous character, that I might well have been excused for regarding it as an omen.
‘The Tell-Tale Heart’
-01- It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture–a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees–very gradually–I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.
‘The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaal’
-01- It was not, however, that to life itself I had any, positive disgust, but that I was harassed beyond endurance by the adventitious miseries attending my situation.
-02- I reflected that man is the veriest slave of custom, and that many points in the routine of his existence are deemed essentially important, which are only so at all by his having rendered them habitual.
-03- Some of the over-wise even made themselves ridiculous by decrying the whole business; as nothing better than a hoax. But hoax, with these sort of people, is, I believe, a general term for all matters above their comprehension.
‘Von Kempelen and His Discovery’
-01- Very little dependence is to be placed upon it, in my humble opinion; and if I were not well aware, from experience, how very easily men of science are mystified, on points out of their usual range of inquiry, I should be profoundly astonished at finding so eminent a chemist as Professor Draper, discussing Mr. Kissam’s (or is it Mr. Quizzem’s?) pretensions to the discovery, in so serious a tone.
-01- Men usually grow base by degrees. From me, in an instant, all virtue dropped bodily as a mantle. From comparatively trivial wickedness I passed, with the stride of a giant, into more than the enormities of an Elah-Gabalus. What chance–what one event brought this evil thing to pass, bear with me while I relate.
-02- But the house!–how quaint an old building was this!–to me how veritably a palace of enchantment! There was really no end to its windings–to its incomprehensible subdivisions. It was difficult, at any given time, to say with certainty upon which of its two stories one happened to be. From each room to every other there were sure to be found three or four steps either in ascent or descent. Then the lateral branches were innumerable–inconceivable–and so returning in upon themselves, that our most exact ideas in regard to the whole mansion were not very far different from those with which we pondered upon infinity. During the five years of my residence here, I was never able to ascertain with precision, in what remote locality lay the little sleeping apartment assigned to myself and some eighteen or twenty other scholars.
-03- If there is on earth a supreme and unqualified despotism, it is the despotism of a master mind in boyhood over the less energetic spirits of its companions.
-04- I secretly felt that I feared him, and could not help thinking the equality which he maintained so easily with myself, a proof of his true superiority; since not to be overcome cost me a perpetual struggle.
|by V. L. Craven|
By paying so much attention to the devil and by treating witchcraft as the most heinous of crimes, the theologians and the inquisitors actually spread the beliefs and fostered the practices which they were trying so hard to repress. By the beginning of the eighteenth century witchcraft had ceased to be a serious social problem. It dies out, among other reasons, because almost nobody now bothered to repress it. For the less it was persecuted, the less it was propagandized. — The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley
|by V. L. Craven|
Professor Oesterreich, in his richly documented study of the subject has pointed out that, while belief in diabolic possession sharply declined during the nineteenth century, belief in possession by departed spirits became, during the same period, much more common. Thus, neurotics who, at an earlier epoch, would have attributed their malady to devils, were inclined, after the rise of the Fox Sisters, to lay the blame on the discarnate souls of evil men or women. With the recent advances in technology, the notion of possession has taken a new form. Neurotie patients often complain that they are being influenced, against their will, by some kind of radio messages transmitted by their enemies. The Malicious Animal Magnetism which haunted poor Mrs Eddy’s imagination for do many years has now been transformed into Malicious Electronics. — The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley
|by V. L. Craven|
In order to justify their behaviour, they turn their theories into dogmas, their by-laws into First Principles, their political bosses into Gods and all those who disagree with them into incarnate devils. This idolatrous transformation of the relative into the Absolute and the all too human into the Divine, makes it possible for them to indulge their ugliest passions with a clear conscience and in the certainty that they are working for the Highest Good. And when the current beliefs come, in their turn, to look silly, a new set will be invented, so that the immemorial madness may continue to wear its customary mask of legality, idealism and true religion. — The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley
|by V. L. Craven|
I enjoy blogging but I also enjoy working in my favourite notebook, which is a 600 page, grid-lined Miquelrius notebook. I keep quotes, writing ideas and miscellaneous information there. I try to work in it every day.
A hundred years ago it would be called a commonplace book or a silva rerum (a forest of things) and loads of people had them.
Today I came across a quote by Joan Didion about the importance of keeping a notebook:
“We are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public consumption, a structural conceit for binding together a series of graceful pensees; we are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker.”
I really like the phrase, ‘bits of the mind’s string’.
I take my notebook everywhere, subscribing to Oscar Wilde’s statement: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”
I’m much more involved with my inner world than my outer world so my notebook is filled with thoughts on fiction I’m writing (plot ideas, dialogue, characters) or quotes that mean something to me. Writing down scraps of information I like helps me draw connections I might not have seen otherwise.
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