Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What makes a classic book a CLASSIC? by Arlo Bates 1897


What makes a classic book a CLASSIC? by Arlo Bates 1897

For a list of all of my digital books on disk (many of which are classics) click here

The real nature of a classic is perhaps to the general mind even more vague than that of literature. As long as the term is confined to Greek and Roman authors, it is of course simple enough; but the moment the word is given its general and legitimate application the ordinary reader is apt to become somewhat uncertain of its precise meaning. It is not strange, human nature being what it is, that the natural instinct of most men is to take refuge in the idea that a classic is of so little moment that it really does not matter much what it is.

While I was writing these talks, a friend said to me: "I know what I would do if I were to speak about literature. I would tell my audience squarely that all this talk about the superiority of the classics is either superstition or mere affectation. I would give them the straight tip that nobody nowadays really enjoys Homer and Chaucer and Spenser and all those old duffers, and that nobody need expect to." I disregarded the slang, and endeavored to treat this remark with absolute sincerity. It brought up vividly the question which has occurred to most of us how far the often expressed admiration of the classics is genuine. It is impossible not to see that there is a great deal of talk which is purely conventional. We know well enough that the ordinary reader does not take Chaucer or Spenser from the shelf from year's end to year's end. It is idle to deny that the latest novel has a thousand times better chance of being read than any classic, and since there is always a latest novel the classics are under a perpetual disadvantage. How far, then, was my friend right? We live in an age when we dare to question anything; when doubt examines everything. We claim to test things on their merits; and if the reverence with which old authors have been regarded is a mere tradition and a fetish, it is as well that its falsity be known.

Is it true that the majority of readers find the works of the great writers of the past dull and unattractive? I must confess that it is true. It is one of those facts of which we seldom speak in polite society, as we seldom speak of the fact that so large a portion of mankind yield to the temptations of life. It is more of an affront, indeed, to intimate that a man is unfamiliar with Shakespeare than to accuse him of having foully done to death his grandmother. Whatever be the facts, we have tacitly agreed to assume that every intelligent man is of course acquainted with certain books. We all recognize that we live in a society in which familiarity with these works is put forward as an essential condition of intellectual, and indeed almost of social and moral, respectability. One would hesitate to ask to dinner a man who confessed to a complete ignorance of "The Canterbury Tales;" and if one's sister married a person so hardened as to own to being unacquainted with "Hamlet," one would take a good deal of pains to prevent the disgraceful fact from becoming public. We have come to accept a knowledge of the classics as a measure of cultivation; and yet at the same time, by an absurd contradiction, we allow that knowledge to be assumed, and we accept for the real the sham while we are assured of its falsity. In other words, we tacitly agree that cultivation shall be tested by a certain criterion, and then allow men unrebuked to offer in its stead the flimsiest pretext. We piously pretend that we all read the masterpieces of literature while as a rule we do not; and the plain fact is that few of us dare rebuke our neighbors lest we bring to light our own shortcomings.

Such a state of things is sufficiently curious to be worth examination; and there would also seem to be some advisability of amendment. If it is not to be supposed that we can alter public sentiment, we may at least free ourselves from the thralldom of superstition. If this admiration of the classics which men profess with their lips, yet so commonly deny by their acts, is a relic of old-time prejudice, if it be but a mouldy inheritance from days when learning was invested with a sort of supernatural dignity, it is surely time that it was cast aside. We should at least know whether in this matter it is rational to hold by common theory or by common practice.

In the first place it is necessary to supply that definition of a classic which is so generally wanting. In their heart of hearts, concealed like a secret crime, many persons hide an obstinate conviction that a classic is any book which everybody should have read, yet which nobody wishes to read. The idea is not unallied to the notion that goodness is whatever we do not wish to do; and one is as sensible as the other. It has already been said that the object of the study of literature is to enjoy and to experience literature; to live in it and to thrill with its emotions. It follows that the popular idea just mentioned is neither more nor less sensible than the theory that it is better to have lived than to live, to have loved than to love. Whatever else may be said, it is manifest that this popular definition of a classic as a book not to read but to have read is an absurd contradiction of terms.

Equally common is the error that a classic is a book which is merely old. One constantly hears the word applied to any work, copies of which have come down to us from a former generation, with a tendency to assume that merit is in direct proportion to antiquity. To disabuse the mind from this error nothing is needed but to examine intelligently the catalogue of any great library. Therein are to be found lists of numerous authors whose productions have accidentally escaped submergence in the stream of time, and are now preserved as simple and innocuous diet for book-worms insectivorous or human. These writings are not classics, although there is a tribe of busy idlers who devote their best energies to keeping before the public works which have not sufficient vitality to live of themselves,-editors who perform, in a word, the functions of hospital nurses to literary senilities which should be left in decent quiet to die from simple inanition. Mere age no more makes a classic of a poor book than it makes a saint of a sinner.

A classic is more than a book which has been preserved. It must have been approved. It is a work which has received the suffrages of generations. Out of the innumerable books, of the making of which there was no end even so long ago as the days of Solomon, some few have been by the general voice of the world chosen as worthy of preservation. There are certain writings which, amid all the multitudinous distractions of practical life, amid all the changes of custom, belief, and taste, have continuously pleased and moved mankind,-and to these we give the name Classics.

A book has two sorts of interest; that which is temporary, and that which is permanent. The former depends upon its relation to the time in which it is produced. In these days of magazines there is a good deal of talk about articles which are what is called timely. This means that they fall in with some popular interest of the moment. When a war breaks out in the Soudan, an account of recent explorations or travels in that region is timely, because it appeals to readers who just then are eager to increase their information concerning the scene of the disturbance. When there is general discussion of any ethical or emotional topic, the novel or the poem making that topic its theme finds instant response. Often a book of no literary merit whatever speeds forward to notoriety because it is attached, like a barnacle on the side of a ship, to some leading issue of the day. At a time when there is wide discussion of social reforms, for instance, a man might write a rubbishy romance picturing an unhuman and impossible socialism, and find the fiction spring into notoriety from its connection with the theme of popular talk and thought. Books which are really notable, too, may owe their immediate celebrity to connection with some vital topic of the day. Their hold upon later attention will depend upon their lasting merit.


The permanent interest and value of a book are precisely those qualities which have been specified as making it literature. As time goes on all temporary importance fails. Nothing becomes more quickly obsolete than the thing which is merely timely. It may retain interest as a curious historic document. It will always have some value as showing what was read by large numbers at a given period; but nobody will cherish the merely timely book as literature, although in its prime it may have had the widest vogue, and may have conferred upon its author a delicious immortality lasting sometimes half his lifetime. Permanent interest gives a book permanent value, and this depends upon appeal to the permanent characteristics and emotions of humanity.

While the temporary excitement over a book continues, no matter how evanescent the qualities upon which this excitement depends, the reader finds it difficult to realize that the work is not genuine and vital. It is not easy to distinguish the permanent from the momentary interest. With the passage of time extraneous attractions fade, and the work is left to depend upon its essential value. The classics are writings which, when all factitious interests that might have been lent to them by circumstances are stripped away, are found still to be of worth and importance. They are the wheat left in the threshing-floor of time, when has been blown away the chaff of sensational scribblings, noisily notorious productions, and temporary works of what sort soever. It is of course not impossible that a work may have both kinds of merit; and it is by no means safe to conclude that a book is not of enduring worth simply because it has appealed to instant interests and won immediate popularity. "Don Quixote," on the one hand, and "Pilgrim's Progress," on the other, may serve as examples of works which were timely in the best sense, and which yet are permanent literature. The important point is that in the classics we have works which, whether they did or did not receive instant recognition, have by age been stripped of the accidental, and are found worthy in virtue of the essential that remains. They are books which have been proved by time, and have endured the test.

The decision what is and what is not literature may be said to rest with the general voice of the intellectual world. Vague as the phrase may sound, it really represents the shaping power of the thought of the race. It is true that here as in all other matters of belief the general voice is likely to be a confirmation and a repetition of the voice of the few; but whether at the outset indorsed by the few or not, a book cannot be said to be fairly entitled to the name "classic" until it has received this general sanction. Although this sanction, moreover, be as intangible as the wind in a sail, yet like the wind it is decisive and effective.

The leaders of thought, moreover, have not only praised these books and had their judgment indorsed by the general voice, but they have by them formed their own minds. They are unanimous in their testimony to the value of the classics in the development of the perceptions, intellectual and emotional. So universally true is this that to repeat it seems the reiteration of a truism. The fact of which we have already spoken, the fact that those who in theory profess to respect the classics, do yet in practice neglect them utterly, makes it necessary to examine the grounds upon which this truism rests. If the classics are the books which the general voice of the best intelligence of the race has declared to be permanently valuable, if the highest minds have universally claimed to have been nourished and developed by them, why is it that we so often neglect and practically ignore them?

In the first place there are the obstacles of language. There are the so to say technical difficulties of literary diction and form which have been somewhat considered in the preceding talks. There are the greater difficulties of dealing with conceptions which belong to a different mental world. To a savage, the intellectual and emotional experiences of a civilized man would be incomprehensible, no matter in how clear speech they were expressed. To the unimaginative man the life of the world of imagination is pretty nearly as unintelligible as to the bushman of Australian wilds would be the subtly refined distinctions of that now extinct monster, the London æsthete. The men who wrote the classics wrote earnestly and with profound conviction that which they profoundly felt; it is needful to attain to their elevation in point of view before what they have written can be comprehended. This is a feat by no means easy for the ordinary reader. To one accustomed only to facile and commonplace thoughts and emotions it is by no means a light undertaking to rise to the level of the masters. Readers to whom the rhymes of the "poet's corner" in the newspapers, for instance, are thrillingly sweet, are hardly to be expected to be equal to the emotional stress of Shelley's "Prometheus Unbound;" it is not to be supposed that those who find "Over the Hills to the Poor-House" soul-satisfying will respond readily to the poignant pathos of the parting of Hector and Andromache. The admirers of "Curfew must not ring to-night" and the jig-saw school of verse in general are mentally incapable of taking the attitude of genuinely imaginative work. The greatest author can do but so much for his reader. He may suggest, but each mind must for itself be the creator. The classics are those works in which the geniuses of the world have most effectively suggested genuine and vital emotions; but every reader must feel those emotions for himself. Not even the music of the spheres could touch the ear of a deaf man, and for the blind the beauty of Grecian Helen would be no more than ugliness. As Mrs. Browning puts it:-

What angel but would seem
To sensual eyes, ghost-dim?

The sluggish mind is incapable of comprehending, the torpid imagination incapable of realizing; and the struggle to attain to comprehension and to feeling is too great an exertion for the mentally indolent.

It is no less true, that to the mind unused to high emotions the vivid life of imaginative literature is disconcerting. The ordinary reader is as abashed in the presence of these deep and vibrant feelings which he does not understand, and cannot share, as would be an English washerwoman to whom a duchess paid a ceremonious afternoon call. The feeling of inadequacy, of being confronted with an occasion to the requirements of which one is utterly unequal, is baffling and unpleasant to the last degree. In this difficulty of comprehending, and in this inability to feel equal to the demands of the best literature, lies the most obvious explanation of the common neglect of the classics.

It is also true that genuine literature demands for its proper appreciation a mood which is fundamentally grave. Even beneath the humorous runs this vein of serious feeling. It is not possible to read Cervantes or Montaigne or Charles Lamb sympathetically without having behind laughter or smiles a certain inner solemnity. Hidden under the coarse and roaring fun of Rabelais lurk profound observations upon life, which no earnest man can think of lightly. The jests and "excellent fooling" of Shakespeare's clowns and drolls serve to emphasize the deep thought or sentiment which is the real import of the poet's work. Genuine feeling must always be serious, because it takes hold upon the realities of human existence.

It is not that one reading the classics must be sad. Indeed, there is nowhere else fun so keen, humor so exquisite, or sprightliness so enchanting. It is only that human existence is a solemn thing if viewed with a realization of its actualities and its possibilities; and that the great aim of real literature is the presentation of life in its essentials. It is not possible to be vividly conscious of the mystery in the midst of which we live and not be touched with something of awe. From this solemnity the feeble soul shrinks as a silly child shrinks from the dark. The most profound feeling of which many persons are capable is the instinctive desire not to feel deeply. To such readers real literature means nothing, or it means too much. It fails to move them, or it wearies them by forcing them to feel.

Yet another reason for the neglect of the classics is the irresistible attractiveness which belongs always to novelty, which makes a reader choose whatever is new rather than anything which has been robbed of this quality by time. Every mind which is at all responsive is sensitive to this fascination of that which has just been written. What is new borrows importance from the infinite possibilities of the unknown. The secret of life, the great key to all the baffling mysteries of human existence, is still just beyond the bound of human endeavor, and there is always a tingling sense that whatever is fresh may have touched the longed-for solution to the riddle of existence. This zeal for the new makes the old to be left neglected; and while we are eagerly welcoming novelties which in the end too often prove to be of little or no value, the classics, of tried and approved worth, stand in forlorn dust-gathering on the higher shelves of the library.

A. Conan Doyle is reported as saying in a speech before a literary society:-

It might be no bad thing for a man now and again to make a literary retreat, as pious men make a spiritual one; to forswear absolutely for a month in the year all ephemeral literature, and to bring an untarnished mind to the reading of the classics.-London Academy, December 5, 1896.

The suggestion is so good that if it does not seem practical, it is so much the worse for the age.

Books, magazines and comics you won't believe are online for free


Books you won't believe are online for free...but you may have to hurry before they are taken down. I did not post any of these books, these are simply books I found in my online travels.

For a list of all of my digital books on disk click here

See also Audiobooks you Won't Believe are Online for Free and Libertarian audiobooks you won't believe are online for free

New Age Bible Versions by G. A. Riplinger

The Cult of the Presidency by Gene Healy

Oxford Annotated Bible Revised Standard Version -(R.S.V.) 1952

Labyrinth13: True Tales of the Occult, Crime & Conspiracy by Curt Rowlett

Best Detective Stories Of The Year 16th Annual Collection by Brett Halliday 1961

Fangoria 47 August 1985

Fangoria 45 (June 1985)

Fangoria 48 October 1985

Fate Magazine 278 May 1973

Fate Magazine 275 (Feb 1973)

Fate Magazine 281 Aug 1973

Fate Magazine 280 July 1973

Fate Magazine 276 Mar 1973



Fate Magazine 279 June 1973

Fate Magazine 274 (Jan 1973)

Fate Magazine 277 Apr 1973

Fortean Times December 2015

Fortean Times March 2016

Fortean Times Christmas 2015

Fortean Times November 2015

ForteanTimes February 2016

Kingdom Of The Cults By Dr. Walter Martin

The Fundamentals of Liberty by Robert LeFevre

The Black Book of Communism

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

Forgotten Truth~ The Common Vision of the Worlds Religions by Huston Smith

Superman - The Doomsday Wars



Spawn/Batman Comic

Creepshow Graphic Novella by Stephen King and George Romero

Vampirella (Warren Publishing) Issue 065 1977

Large Collection of Vampirella Comics

Zane Grey Comics

Weird Tales, Jul 1938

Weird Tales, Jul 1937

Weird Tales volume 28 number 03 1836

Heavy Metal Comics Magazine Collection

The New Testament In The Original Greek Byzantine Textform byb Robinson & Pierpont

Rule By Secrecy by Jim Marrs

Texe Marrs Book Collection

Visit A Tribute to my Beloved Dog Teddy

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Trial and Death of Gilles de Rais by Margaret Alice Murray 1921


The Trial and Death of Gilles de Rais by Margaret Alice Murray 1921

See also Over 100 Books on Vampires & Werewolves on DVDrom

For a list of all of my books on disks click here

[Gilles de Rais was a knight and lord from Brittany, a leader in the French army, and a companion-in-arms of Joan of Arc. He is best known for his reputation and later conviction as a confessed serial killer of children. Gilles de Rais is believed to be the inspiration for the 1697 fairy tale "Bluebeard" by Charles Perrault, and was even considered a vampire].

Like Joan of Arc, Gilles de Rais was tried and executed as a witch; and in the same way, much that is mysterious in this trial can also be explained by the Dianic Cult.

On the mother's side he descended from Tiphaine de Champtocé, and on the father's from Tiphaine de Husson; this latter was the niece of Bertrand du Guesclin, and called after du Guesclin's wife, who was a fairy woman. The name Tiphaine appears to come from the same root as Fein, Finn, and Fian, all of which meant 'fairy' in Great Britain, and probably in Brittany as well. There is therefore a strong suggestion of a strain of fairy blood, and with that blood there may also have descended to Gilles many of the beliefs and customs of the dwarf race.

The bond between Gilles and Joan was a very close one. She obtained permission from the King to choose whom she would for her escort; her choice at once fell on Gilles, for she would naturally prefer those of her own faith. He held already a high command in the relieving force, and added the protection of Joan as a special part of his duties. Later on, even after he had reached the high position of Marshal of France, he still continued those duties, remaining with her all day when she was wounded at the assault on Paris. It is an interesting point also that Charles VII granted permission to both these great leaders to bear the royal arms on their escutcheons. It seems incredible that a soldier of Gilles's character and standing should have made no move to rescue Joan by ransom or by force, when she was captured. She was not only a comrade, she was especially under his protection, and it is natural for us to think that his honour was involved. But if he regarded her as the destined victim, chosen and set apart for death, as required by the religion to which both he and she belonged, he could do nothing but remain inactive and let her fate be consummated. If this is so, then the 'Mystery of Orleans', of which he was the author, would be a religious play of the same class as the mystery-plays of the Christians.

The extraordinary prodigality and extravagance of Gilles may have been due, as is usually suggested, to profligacy or to madness, but it may equally well have been that he took seriously the belief that as the Incarnate God—or at any rate as a candidate for that honour—he must give to all who asked. He rode a black horse, as also did Joan and the 'Devils' of later centuries; and on two separate occasions he attempted to enter into a compact with the 'Devil'. He could not decide to which religion he would belong, the old or the new, and his life was one long struggle. The old religion demanded human sacrifices and he gave them, the new religion regarded murder as mortal sin and he tried to offer expiation; openly he had Christian masses and prayers celebrated with the utmost pomp, secretly he followed the ancient cult; when he was about to remove the bodies of the human victims from the castle of Champtocé, he swore his accomplices to secrecy by the binding oaths of both religions; on the other hand members of the old faith, whom he consulted when in trouble, warned him that as long as he professed Christianity and practised its rites they could do nothing for him.


An infringement of the rights of the Church brought him under the ecclesiastical law, and the Church was not slow to take advantage of the position. Had he chosen to resist, his exalted position would have protected him, but he preferred to yield, and like Joan he stood his trial on the charge of heresy. The trial did not take long; he was arrested on September 14, and executed on October 26. With him were arrested eight others, of whom two were executed with him. Seeing that thirteen was always the number of witches in a Coven, it is surely more than an accidental coincidence that nine men and women, including Gilles, were arrested, two saved themselves by flight, and two more who had played a large part in the celebration of the rites of the old religion were already dead. Thus even as early as the middle of the fifteenth century the Coven of thirteen was in existence.

Gilles was charged with heresy before a Court composed of ecclesiastics only, and like Joan he was willing to be tried for his faith. He announced that he had always been a Christian, which may be taken to mean that there was some doubt as to whether he was not a heathen. He suddenly gave way to a curious outburst against the authority of the Court, saying that he would rather be hanged by the neck with a lace than submit to them as judges. This can only be understood by comparing his reference to 'hanging with a lace' with the method by which Playfair in 1597, John Stewart in 1618, and John Reid in 1697, met their deaths.

The sudden change of front in this haughty noble may be accounted for by the excommunication which was decreed against him, but this explains neither his passionate haste to confess all, and more than all, of which he was accused, nor his earnest and eager desire to die. How much of his confession was true cannot be determined now, but it is very evident that he was resolved to make his own death certain. His action in this may be compared with that of Major Weir in 1670, who also was executed on his own voluntary confession of witchcraft and crime. Gilles's last words, though couched in Christian phraseology, show that he had not realized the enormity of the crimes which he confessed: 'We have sinned, all three of us', he said to his two companions, 'but as soon as our souls have left our bodies we shall all see God in His glory in Paradise.' He was hanged on a gibbet above a pyre, but when the fire burned through the rope the body was snatched from the flames by several ladies of his family, who prepared it for burial with their own hands, and it was then interred in the Carmelite church close by. His two associates were also hanged, their bodies being burned and the ashes scattered.

On the spot where Gilles was executed his daughter erected a monument, to which came all nursing mothers to pray for an abundance of milk. Here again is a strong suggestion that he was regarded as the Incarnate God of fertility. Another suggestive fact is the length of time—nine years—which elapsed between the death of Joan and the death of Gilles. This is a usual interval when the Incarnate God is given a time-limit.

It required twenty-five years before an action of rehabilitation could be taken for Joan. In the case of Gilles, two years after the execution the King granted letters of rehabilitation for that 'the said Gilles, unduly and without cause, was condemned and put to death'.

An intensive study of this period might reveal the witch organization at the royal Court and possibly even the Grand-master to whom Joan owed allegiance, the 'God' who sent her. Giac, the King's favourite, was executed as a witch, and Joan's beau duc, the Duke d'Alençon, was also of the fraternity.

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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Deconstructed by John S Smyth 1887


Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Deconstructed by John S Smyth 1887

See also 200 Books on Fantasy and Science Fiction on DVDrom and Supernatural Horror in Fiction Literature - 350 Books on DVDrom

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Among my intimate friends I have the name of being a "theorist," and have several times been recommended to read "Frankenstein," as a book illustrating how a fine theory may prove utterly impracticable. It is done; and I remain a theorist. For the sake of others, whom an unthinking world may condemn for going below the surface of things and studying causes and effects, and even concluding that the great egotistical Nineteenth Century has not reached the apex of human accomplish, ment, I desire to puncture the theory that "Frankenstein" is theoretical, and show how genius may err and talent may fall short of being genius through want of will, self-assertion, egotism; for it is a fact that almost every historic genius is an egotist.

A theory is a statement of the laws that govern the being of anything; the philosophic plan of a thing; a telling how and why a thing is as it is, and how and why it would be otherwise under other circumstances; and the truth or falsity of a theory depends, first, upon the theorist's ability to think correctly, and, second, upon the truth or falsity of the alleged facts he uses, and from which he reasons. A false theory is false because the theorist has not reasoned correctly, or because the alleged facts he uses are not facts, but untruths. Unless all this is true, modern science is no more reliable than ancient philosophy. The one reasoned from suppostitions and what were then accepted facts; the other reasons from what are now accepted facts, and sometimes from suppostitions. Our great scientific and mechanical discoveries were all discovered through theorising, or theory accident, and the laws that govern them cannot be stated otherwise than theoretically. It is the height of folly, and shows a want of intelligence, to condemn a theory we cannot refute.

If my theory of theories is correct, "Frankenstein" is not theoretical; for, though the method by which the "fiend" was constructed is indicated, the method by which life was transmitted to, or created in, him is not indicated. The means employed are supposed to have been chemical, but even that is not certain. The wonder of this book is that one man should create another full-grown man; but if "Frankenstein" merely followed up the experiments of Mr. Darwin, mentioned in the introduction, he transmitted to the structure of the fiend, which he had not created, but constructed, life already created; therefore he was not the creator of the fiend, as he and the fiend, the navigator, and Miss Wollstonecraft, all seem to have thought. But if he did create the life of the fiend, no theory whatever of how he did it is given and the work is not theoretical; and the theory that the book proves theories to be unreliable is a false theory, in consequence of the theorist's inability to reason, as well as the indefiniteness and uncertainty of the supposed facts and suppositions used in the process.


It would be too tedious to disprove the theory advanced in "Frankenstein," that one min can construct the physique of another man. Such a disproof would require the writing of a treatise on physiology; and as for this particular fiend, the description of him is too indefinite to refute any theory based upon him. He is said to have been deformed, but, except that he was ugly, the nature of his deformity is unknown to us. We must either conclude that all our ideas of physiology are incorrect, or that, from the immense strength of arm, leg, body, and the wonderfully quick and powerful intelligence, the fiend was remarkably well proportioned; or, better still, that Miss Wollstonecraft wrote an enormous and unreasonable lie, and some people, by using that lie in attempting to disprove the reliability of theories, indulge in the vanity-bred pastime of talking of something they do not understand. Here are a few suggestions for the amusement of physiologists and others, when reasoned to their logical conclusions. The fiend was constructed of material taken from graves and charnal houses, in the summer time, in the vicinity of a dense population; but no suspicion of what "Frankenstein" was about seems to have been aroused. Either this material just did not decay, or some preservative was used that absolutely destroyed the odors as well as preserved the material without damage to the very fine but all necessary tissues thereof. He was made about eight feet in height, because some portion of the human frame are so minute that Herr Frankenstein would experience too much difficulty in constructing them of the normal size. We should all think so. He was made to be beautiful, but turned out to be deformed and contorted. How? The deformity could scarcely have been of the bones. Was it muscular? Again and again his muscles are said to have been more supple than those ot ordinary men, and much more powerful, and he performed some remarkable muscular feats. Did Miss Wollstonecraft believe that muscular strength all depended upon the size and suppleness of the muscles without regard to their adjustment, or the nerves? His nerves were evidently all right, or he could not have performed some of the feats he did; and how could his muscles be at the same time nicely adjusted and deformed or contorted? Granting that there is any theory about "Frankenstein," it is flimsier than Locke's famous "Moon Hoax," and infinitely inferior to Edgar A. Poe's stories, or those of Jules Verne. "Frankenstein" must have "cleaned up" his premises before he finished his work, or his friend Henry would have discovered the nature of his pursuits, but he fails to mention the fact, and in mentioning the speed and anxiety with which he concluded his task gives the impression that he had neglected to do so. In one place the fiend says that when he first "awoke," he felt dazed; and the impression the author attempts to convey is that he had the intelligence, but not the knowledge, of a full-grown man; but he promptly appropriated "Frankenstein's" cloak, and put it on so well that "Frankenstein's" journal, containing an account of the "creation," and presumably a receipt for making life, did not fall out of the pocket. Now neither this cloak nor journal is mentioned until the latter is delivered to "Frankenstein" at Mer de glace; nevertheless, he is represented as suffering an agony of anxiety lest his secret should become known, and as hoping that the fiend had met his death somewhere; all this for months after the fiend had disappeared; but never once does he mention his fears lest the fiend should die in the vicinity of someone and the journal be discovered.

This is one of the remarkable faults in the construction of the story. Another one is the failure of all those stupendously intelligent people who were concerned with the execution of Justine Moritze for the murder of William Frankenstein. In the latter part of the book, the giant is said to have a "vast hand," and we should expect a man eight feet in height to have a vast hand. Justine is represented as being rather delicate, and it is said that on William's throat was the impress of a finger. Anyone who knows what a pressure of the windpipe is required to produce strangulation, even of a frightened child, will conclude the impress of the giant's vast finger was marked enough to relieve the delicate finger of Justine Moritze of all suspicion. The importance attaching to this blunder is that it seemed to me that, but for the execution of Justine, Frankenstein would have relented to the pitiful appeals of the victim of his genius at the Mer de glace interview, and the entire current of the story would have been changed, much to its improvement, for there is nothing after that scene, nothing in that filthy succession of cheap horrors, that is worthy of perusal. The absurdity of the giant's wanderings without being discovered; of his repeated passage of the North and Irish seas; of his variable intelligence and passions; of Frankenstein's attempt to chase down and kill such a monster of strength and endurance, are as severely trying upon our fancy as other parts are upon our intelligence. But neither of these was so provoking to me as the attempt to impose on my sympathies. Throughout the book there is a constant attempt to show that the Frankenstein family were remarkably amiable, and that Victor is a paragon of benevolence; but the evidence is all verbal. The circumstantial all indicates him to be one of the most selfish and too-late-thinking characters in English literature. Without argument, I will leave the reader of the story to conclude if this be true or not, merely inquiring if Frankenstein is the woman's ideal man, and to note that if he is, it accounts for the fact that selfish, dyspeptic men get such splendid wives.

All this fault-finding seems like "picking flaws," but the criticism is just, and there is a moral to this essay. It is that genius must be self-assertive and heedless of the most eminent criticism, suspicious of friendship, and as self-reliant as Pope was when he introduced the fairies into the "Rape of the Lock." My moral will show how foolish was the poet's anger at, and suspicion of, Addison; for it will show how lamentably mistaken an indubitable genius may be when he takes the role of an unimpassioned and reasoning critic.

The points in Miss Wollstonecraft's account of the origin of Frankenstein are these: Byron, Shelley, and herself were confined by bad weather to a Switzerland inn. Byron and Shelley often speculated upon the principle and mystery and nature of life. In these discussions was the idea of "Frankenstein." A volume of German ghost stories fell into their hands, from which they read aloud for amusement, and they challenged one another to write a "ghost story." Byron and Shelley began their stories, but never finished them, for the weather cleared, and the poets went sight-seeing. For many days Miss Wollstonecraft could think of no story, but when she had quite given up the thought of writing, the creation scene of "Frankenstein" came to her, and she set about writing the story, intending it to be a tale, not a long account. Had she persisted in the plan of making it a short tale, those scenes that delineate the creation of the fiend, the evolution of his intelligence, and his pitiful account of his sufferings, than which there is nothing more pathetic, natural, and yet literarily artistic, in the language, all testify what an excellent thing it would have been. But Shelley advised her to make a long story of it, and she yielded her genius to his, and did so, with the clumsy and unreasonable consequences I have shown. There was no occasion for a long story, but she determined to write one, and began the process of "filling in" with the navigator's tedious and useless letters. The account of Frankenstein's early life is unnecessarily long; his love affairs without interest, and insipid; the description of scenery, except where preparatory to a revulsion of feeling, pretty, but inappropos; and that vile succession of needless murders is destructive of the fine sympathies aroused by worthy parts of the story.

Such is one of the most popular novels of the century, one that has retained its popularity amidst all the luxuriant fiction of the past eighty years; and such is the power of a few great ideas and noble descriptions to redeem a volume of tedious folly. John S. Smyth.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Astrology and the Great Pyramid, Article in Knowledge 1882


Astrology and the Great Pyramid, Article in Knowledge 1882

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I COULD descant at great length on the value which the Great Pyramid must have had for astronomical observation. I could show how much more exactly than by the use of any gnomon, the sun’s annual course around the celestial sphere could be determined by observations made from the Great Gallery, by noting the shadow of the edges of the upper opening of the Gallery on the sides, the floor, and the upper surfaces of the ramps. The moon’s monthly path and its changes could have been dealt with in the same effective way. The geocentric paths, and thence the true paths, of the planets could be determined very accurately by combining the use of tubes or ring-carrying rods with the direction lines determined from the Gallery’s sides, floor, &c. The place of every visible star along the Zodiac (astrologically the most important part of the stellar heavens) could be most accurately determined. Had the Pyramid been left in that incomplete, but astronomically most perfect, form, the edifice might have remained for thousands of years the most important astronomical structure in the world. Nay, to this very day it would have retained its pro-eminence, provided, of course, that its advantages over other buildings had been duly supplemented by modern instrumental and optical improvements.

Unfortunately, the Great Pyramid was erected solely for selfish purposes. It was to be the tomb of Cheops, and whatever qualities it had for astronomical observation were to be devoted to his service only. The incalculable aid to the progress of astronomy which might have been obtained from this magnificent structure entered in no sort into its king-builder’s plan. Centuries would have been required to reap even a tithe of the knowledge which might have been derived from Pyramid observations, and such observations were limited to a few years—twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty at the outside.


Now, while I am fully conscious that the astrological theory of the Great Pyramid is open to most obvious, and at the first sight most overwhelming objections, I venture to say not only that these are completely met by what is certainly known about the Pyramid; but that the astrological theory (combined, of course, with the tomb theory), is demonstrably the true explanation of all that had been mysterious in the Great Pyramid.

Take the chief points which have perplexed students of the Pyramids generally, and of the Great Pyramid in particular.

1. Granting the most inordinate affection for large sepulchral abodes, how can we account for the amazing amount of labour, money, and time bestowed on the Great Pyramid?

The astrological theory at once supplies the answer. If the builder believed what we know was actually believed by all the Oriental nations, respecting planetary and stellar influences, it was worth his while to expend that and more on the Pyramid, to read the stars for his benefit, and to “rule” stars and planets to his advantage.

2. If the Pyramids were but vast tombs, why should they be astronomically oriented with extreme care,--to assume for a moment that this is the only astronomical relation established certainly respecting them?

Astrology answers this difficulty most satisfactorily. For astrological study of the heavens, the Pyramid (in its incomplete or tnmcated condition) could not be too accurately oriented.

3. Granted that the Great Pyramid was for a time used as an astronomical observatory, and that its upper square platform was used for cardinal directions in the way shown in the figure, what connection is there between these direction lines (the only ones which would naturally arise from the square form) and astrological relations?

These lines remain to this very day in use among astrologers. The accompanying figure, taken from Raphael’s Astrology (Raphael being doubtless some Smith, or Blodgett, or Higginbotham), represents the ordinary hora scope, and its relations (now unmeaning) to a horizontal, carefully-oriented square plane surface, such as the top of the Pyramid was, with just such direction-lines as would naturally be used on such a platform:—



Why did each king want a tomb of his own? Why should not a larger mausoleum, one in which all the expense and labour given to all the Pyramids might have been combined, have been preferred?

Astrology at once supplies a reason. Dead kings of one family might sleep with advantage in a single tomb; but each man’s horoscope must be kept by itself. Even to this day, the astrological charlatan would not discuss one man's horoscope on the plan drawn out and used for another man’s. Everything, according to ancient astrological superstition, would have become confused and indistinct The ruling of the planets would have been imperfect and unsatisfactory, if King Cheops’ horoscope platform had been used for Chephren, or Chephren’s for Mycerinus. The religious solemnities which accompanied astrological observations in the days when the chief astrologers were high priests, would have been rendered nugatory if those performed under suitable conditions for one person were followed by others performed under different conditions for another person.

5. How is it that the Pyramid of Chephren (Cheops’ brother), though about as large, is quite inferior to the Pyramid of Cheops, the Pyramid of Mycerinus (Cheops’ son) much smaller, and that of Asychis (Cheops’ grandson) very much smaller, while to the younger sons and daughters of Cheops very small Pyramids, within the same enclosure as the Great Pyramid, are assigned?

The astrological answer is obvious. Cheops not only had full faith in astrology—as, indeed, all men had in his day—but his faith was so lively that he put it in practice in a very energetic way for the benefit of himself and dynasty. Chephren probably had similar faith. For the two brothers, separate Pyramids, nearly equal in size, were made, either at the command of Cheops alone, or with such sanction from Chephren as his (probable) separate authority required and justified. At the same time, and because his fortunes were obviously associated in the closest manner with those of his father and uncle, Cheops (or Cheops and Chephren) would have a Pyramid made for Mycerinus, but on a smaller scale. Probably, the astrology of those days assigned the proper proportion in which the horoscope-platform for a son should be less than that for a father. It is noteworthy, at any rate, that the linear dimensions of the Pyramid of Asychis are less than those of the Pyramid of Mycerinus, in just the same degree that these are less than the linear dimensions of the Pyramid of Cheops.

6. It is certain that if Mycerinus had built his own Pyramid, he would have erected one larger, not smaller, than his father’s, while Asychis would have made his Pyramid larger yet; whereas, as a mere matter of fact, the Pyramid of Asychis is utterly insignificant in size compared with the Pyramid of Cheops. The sides of the bases of the four Pyramids were roughly as follows:— The
Pyramid of Cheops, 760 feet; that of Chephren, 720 feet; that of Mycerinus, 330 feet; that of Mycerinus, 160 feet. The Pyramid of Cheops exceeds that of Asychis much more than 150 times in volume. It is not in accordance with what we know of human nature to suppose that Asychis would have been content with so insignificant a version of his grandfather’s Pyramid. Rather than that, he would have had no Pyramid at all, but invented some new sepulchral arrangement. Yet it adds enormously to the difficulties of the Pyramid problem to suppose that Cheops and Chephren arranged for the erection of all the Pyramids, or, at any rate, that the smaller Pyramids were raised to the horoscope-platform level during their lifetime.


Here, however, the astrological theory, instead of encountering, as all other theories do, a new and serious difficulty, finds fresh support; for this arrangement is precisely what we should expect to find if the Great Pyramid was erected to its observing platform for astrological observation and the religious Observances associated with them. It is certain that with the ideas Cheops must have had (on that theory) of the importance of astronomical observations to determine, and partly govern, his future, he would not have left his sons without their pyramidal horoscopes. Even if we suppose he entertained such jealousy of his brother Chephren, as Oriental (and some Occidental) princes have been known to entertain of their near kinsfolk and probable successors, that would be but an additional reason for having his brother’s horoscope-Pyramid erected on such a scale as the astrologers and priests considered suitable in the case of such near kinship. For by means of the observations made by the astrological priesthood from Chephren’s horoscope-platform, Cheops could learn, according to the astrological doctrines in which he believed, the future fortunes of his brother, and even be able to rule the planets in his own defence, where their configurations seemed favourable to Chephren and threatening to himself.

7. But it may be urged that, beyond the general statement that the Pyramids were intended as the tombs of their respective builders, we learn too little from ancient writers to form any satisfactory idea of their object.

It so happens, however, that the only precise statement handed down to us respecting the use of the Pyramids— not merely of the Great Pyramid, but of all the Pyramids— accords with the astrological theory in every detail, and with no other theory in any degree. For we learn from Proclus that the Pyramids of Egypt (which, according to Diodorus, had existed 3,600 years before his history was written, about 8 B.C.) terminated above in a platform, from which the priests made their celestial observations.

Observe how much is implied in this short statement:—

First, all the Pyramids had a use independent of their final purpose as tombs, a use, therefore, during the lifetime of their future tenants, and presumably—one may say certainly—relating to the interests of those persons.

Secondly, this use was precisely such as we have been led to infer with all but absolute certainty, already, from the study of the Great Pyramid.

Thirdly, the astronomical observations were made by priests, and were therefore religious in character—a description which could only apply to astronomical observations made for astrological purposes. In all probability, the priests who made these observations professed a religion differing little from pure Sabaism, or the worship of the heavenly host. But it must be remembered that astrology was the natural offspring of Sabaism. Wherever we find an astronomical priesthood, there we find faith in astrology. But to say truth, Where among ancient Oriental nations was such faith wanting? The Jews had less of it than other Oriental nations, but they were not free from it. As they had all their religious Observances regulated by the heavenly bodies, so they recognised the influence of the “stars in their courses." If they believed the heavenly bodies to be for “seasons” (of religious worship), and for “days and years,” they believed them also to be for "signs." This also was the view of the ancient Chaldeans. “It is evident,” says the late Mr. George Smith, “from the opening of the inscriptions on the first tablet of the Chaldean astrology and astronomy, that the functions of the stars were, according to the Babylonians, to act not only as regulators of the seasons and the year, but also to be used as signs, as in Genesis i. 14; for in those ages it was generally believed that the heavenly bodies gave, by their appearance and positions, signs of events which were coming on the earth.”

In fine, while there is no other theory of the Pyramids generally, and of the Great Pyramid in particular, which has either positive or negative evidence in its form, the astrological theory is supported by all the known positive evidence; and strong though such support is, it derives yet greater strength from the utter failure of all other admissible theories to sustain the weight against them. There are difficulties in the astrological theory, no doubt, but they are difficulties arising from our inability to understand how men ever had such fulness of faith in astrology as to devote enormous sums and many years of labour to the pursuit of astrological researches, even for their own interests. Yet we know in other ways that astrology really was accepted in those days with the fulness of faith thus implied. While, however, the only serious difficulty in the astrological theory thus disappears when closely examined, the difficulties in the way of all other theories are so great, that, to all intents and purposes, they are not so much difficulties as impossibilities.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Famous Ghosts of Washington DC, 1898


Famous Ghosts of Washington DC 1898

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(Philadelphia Press, Oct. 2, 1898)
The Capitol at Washington is probably the most thoroughly haunted building in the world.

Not less than fifteen well-authenticated ghosts infest it, and some of them are of a more than ordinarily alarming character.

What particularly inspires this last remark is the fact that the Demon Cat is said to have made its appearance again, after many years of absence. This is a truly horrific apparition, and no viewless specter such as the invisible grimalkin that even now trips people up on the stairs of the old mansion which President Madison and his wife, Dolly, occupied, at the corner of Eighteenth Street and New York Avenue, after the White House was burned by the British. That, indeed, is altogether another story; but the feline spook of the Capitol possesses attributes much more remarkable, inasmuch as it has the appearance of an ordinary pussy when first seen, and presently swells up to the size of an elephant before the eyes of the terrified observer.

The Demon Cat, in whose regard testimony of the utmost seeming authenticity was put on record thirty-five years ago, has been missing since 1862. One of the watchmen on duty in the building shot at it then, and it disappeared. Since then, until now, nothing more has been heard of it, though one or two of the older policemen of the Capitol force still speak of the spectral animal in awed whispers.

Their work, when performed in the night, requires more than ordinary nerve, inasmuch as the interior of the great structure is literally alive with echoes and other suggestions of the supernatural. In the daytime, when the place is full of people and the noises of busy life, the professional guides make a point of showing persons how a whisper uttered when standing on a certain marble block is distinctly audible at another point quite a distance away, though unheard in the space between.

A good many phenomena of this kind are observable in various parts of the Capitol, and the extent to which they become augmented in strangeness during the silence of the night may well be conceived. The silence of any ordinary house is oppressive sometimes to the least superstitious individual. There are unaccountable noises, and a weird and eerie sort of feeling comes over him, distracting him perhaps from the perusal of his book. He finds himself indulging in a vague sense of alarm, though he cannot imagine any cause for it.

Such suggestions of the supernatural are magnified a thousand fold in the Capitol, when the watchman pursues his lonely beat through the great corridors whose immense spaces impress him with a sense of solitariness, while the shadows thrown by his lantern gather into strange and menacing forms.

One of the most curious and alarming of the audible phenomena observable in the Capitol, so all the watchmen say, is a ghostly footstep that seems to follow anybody who crosses Statuary Hall at night. It was in this hall, then the chamber of the House of Representatives, that John Quincy Adams died—at a spot indicated now by a brass tablet set in a stone slab, where stood his desk. Whether or not it is his ghost that pursues is a question open to dispute, though it is to be hoped that the venerable ex-President rests more quietly in his grave. At all events, the performance is unpleasant, and even gruesome for him who walks across that historic floor, while the white marble statues of dead statesmen placed around the walls seem to point at him with outstretched arms derisively. Like the man in Coleridge's famous lines he

"—walks in fear and dread,
Because he knows a frightful fiend doth close behind him tread."
At all events he is uncertain lest such may be the case. And, of course, the duties of the watchman oblige him, when so assigned, to patrol the basement of the building, where all sorts of hobgoblins lie in wait.

One of the Capitol policemen was almost frightened out of his wits one night when a pair of flaming eyes looked out at him from the vaults under the chamber of the House of Representatives where the wood is stored for the fires. It was subsequently ascertained that the eyes in question were those of a fox, which, being chevied through the town, had sought refuge in the cellar of the edifice occupied by the national Legislature. The animal was killed for the reason which obliges a white man to slay any innocent beast that comes under his power.


But, speaking of the steps which follow a person at night across the floor of Statuary Hall, a bold watchman attempted not long ago to investigate them on scientific principles. He suspected a trick, and so bought a pair of rubber shoes, with the aid of which he proceeded to examine into the question. In the stillness of the night he made a business of patrolling that portion of the principal Government edifice, and, sure enough, the footsteps followed along behind him. He cornered them; it was surely some trickster! There was no possibility for the joker to get away. But, a moment later, the steps were heard in another part of the hall; they had evaded him successfully. Similar experiments were tried on other nights, but they all ended in the same way.

Four years ago there died in Washington an old gentleman who had been employed for thirty-five years in the Library of Congress. The quarters of that great book collection, while housed in the Capitol, were distressingly restricted, and much of the cataloguing was done by the veteran mentioned in a sort of vault in the sub-cellar. This vault was crammed with musty tomes from floor to ceiling, and practically no air was admitted. It was a wonder that he lived so long, but, when he came to die, he did it rather suddenly. Anyhow, he became paralyzed and unable to speak, though up to the time of his actual demise he was able to indicate his wants by gestures. Among other things, he showed plainly by signs that he wished to be conveyed to the old library.

This wish of his was not obeyed, for reasons which seemed sufficient to his family, and, finally, he relinquished it by giving up the ghost. It was afterward learned that he had hidden, almost undoubtedly, $6000 worth of registered United States bonds among the books in his sub-cellar den—presumably, concealed between the leaves of some of the moth-eaten volumes of which he was the appointed guardian. Certainly, there could be no better or less-suspected hiding-place, but this was just where the trouble came in for the heirs, in whose interest the books were vainly searched and shaken, when the transfer of the library from the old to its new quarters was accomplished. The heirs cannot secure a renewal of the bonds by the Government without furnishing proof of the loss of the originals, which is lacking, and, meanwhile, it is said that the ghost of the old gentleman haunts the vault in the sub-basement which he used to inhabit, looking vainly for the missing securities.

The old gentleman referred to had some curious traits, though he was by no means a miser—such as the keeping of every burnt match that he came across. He would put them away in the drawer of his private desk, together with expired street-car transfers—the latter done up in neat bundles, with India-rubber bands.

Quite an intimate friend he had, named Twine, who lost his grip on the perch, so to speak, about six years back. Mr. Twine dwelt during the working hours of the day in a sort of cage of iron, like that of Dreyfus, in the basement of the Capitol. As a matter of fact, Dreyfus does not occupy a cage at all; the notion that he does so arises from a misunderstanding of the French word "case," which signifies a hut.

However, Twine's cage was a real one of iron wire, and inside of it he made a business of stamping the books of the library with a mixture made of alcohol and lampblack. If the observation of casual employees about the Capitol is to be trusted, Mr. Twine's ghost is still engaged at intervals in the business of stamping books at the old stand, though his industry must be very unprofitable since the Government's literary collection has been moved out of the Capitol.

Ghosts are supposed to appertain most appropriately to the lower regions, inasmuch as the ancients who described them first consigned the blessed as well as the damned to a nether world. Consequently, it is not surprising to find that phantoms of the Capitol are mostly relegated to the basement.

Exceptions are made in the case of Vice-President Wilson, who, as will be remembered, died in his room at the Senate end of the building, and also with respect to John Quincy Adams, whose nocturnal perambulations are so annoying to the watchmen. Mr. Wilson is only an occasional visitor on the premises, it is understood, finding his way thither, probably, when nothing else of importance is "up," so to speak, in the spiritual realm which now claims him for its own. It is related that on one occasion he nearly frightened to death a watchman who was guarding the coffin of a Tennessee Senator who was lying in state in the Senate Chamber. The startle was doubtless uncontemplated, inasmuch as the Senator was too well bred a man to take anybody unpleasantly by surprise.

There was a watchman, employed quite a while ago as a member of the Capitol police, who was discharged finally for drunkenness. No faith, therefore, is to be placed in his sworn statement, which was actually made, to the effect that on a certain occasion he passed through the old Hall of Representatives—now Statuary Hall—and saw in session the Congress of 1848, with John Quincy Adams and many other men whose names have long ago passed into history. It was, if the word of the witness is to be believed, a phantom legislative crew, resembling in kind if not in character the goblins which Rip Van Winkle encountered on his trip to the summits of the storied Catskills.

But—to come down to things that are well authenticated and sure, comparatively speaking—the basement of the Capitol, as has been said, is the part of the building chiefly haunted. Beneath the hall of the House of Representatives strolls by night a melancholy specter, with erect figure, a great mustache, and his hands clasped behind him. Who he is nobody has ever surmised; he might be, judging from his aspect, a foreigner in the diplomatic service, but that is merely guess. Watchmen at night have approached him in the belief that he was an intruder, but he has faded from sight instantly, like a picture on a magic-lantern slide.

At precisely 12.30 of the clock every night, so it is said, the door of the room occupied by the Committee on Military and Militia of the Senate opens silently, and there steps forth the figure of General Logan, recognizable by his long black hair, military carriage, and the hat he was accustomed to wear in life.

Logan was the chairman of this committee, and, if report be credited, he is still supervising its duties.