“He unites the exactness of the [medieval] chronicles, the majestic grandeur of history, and the all-compelling interest of romance.”
Revolution is humanity’s surgeon, it cuts out the tumour, it cuts off the gangrened limb—What! would you have pity for the virus? For the gangrened limb!
“when our happy credulity in all things is woefully abated, and our faith in the supernatural fled, we still retain our taste for the adventurous deeds and wild lives of brigands.”
His rage knew no bounds. He muttered threats of deadly vengeance; and on the following morning, he commanded the prisoners to be brought into his presence. Then commenced a terrible massacre, the horrors of which no human pen nor tongue can narrate.
Thomas Hood (1799–1845) was born in London and, his father being a bookseller, grew up around books. He went on to become a poet, novelist, and satirist. Most famous for his poetry, William Michael Rossetti in 1903 declared him “the finest English poet” between the generations of Shelley and Tennyson.” Although by their nature pandemics are very serious affairs, this particular short story takes a somewhat lighter approach to portraying a pandemic.
A Victorian-era tale of woe and adversity for a brother and sister abandoned by their parents.
Presented here is an abridged version of Mary Shelley’s post-apocalyptic pandemic novel “The Last Man” (1826). The plague makes its way across the world killing all in its path and eventually arrives in England. Many of the motifs we find in modern-day apocalypse movies can be found in Shelley’s novel: lawlessness and rioting, the rise of religious madmen, the hoarding of food, and scenes of desolate towns and cities. The extract presented here is a highly abridged one which provides an overview of how Shelley imagined the end of the world as ushered in by a pandemic.
The notary sank upon a chair, gazed wildly at that brother whom he had never wished to encounter more, and in whose presence he so singularly and unexpectedly found himself: Alfred de Moirot crossed his arms on his breast, and returned the timid glance of the notary with one of scorn, indignation, and reproach. The Baroness and de Montville exchanged looks of mingled satisfaction and anxiety.
While the inhabitants of the chateau were thus thrown into a strange state of doubt, anxiety, and alarm, the approaching steps of horses and the wheels of a heavy vehicle indicated the arrival of some visitor. A loud knocking speedily commenced at the front door, and in a few minutes the gallery, with which the room the room where the evening meal had been spread, communicated, re-echoed to the steps of’ several individuals.
“The days were passed in amusements of all kinds—the evenings in dancing, fétes champétres, or with music and cards. There were barges upon the canals, beautifully fitted up for the use of the visitors who were fond of water-excursions; hounds and huntsmen for the chase; and shooting apparatus for the sportsman. The ponds were filled with an abundance of fine fish; and many sought a recreation in, to me, the cruel art of angling. Thus was time whiled away on the wings of pleasure; and ennui was banished from those halls of delight.
The anxiety and interest which were depicted on the countenances of Eugenie and Clemence, as the count made this declaration, were most pungent in the breasts of both; and as they knew that the young nobleman was particularly cautious in the statements he usually advanced, they naturally fancied he had some just reasons to authorize the expression of his opinion with regard to the Abbé.
The individual who occupied the second place in the Calais mail was a man who had probably seen fifty summers. His cheeks were florid, his hair still dark, his teeth well preserved, and his large black eye seemed capable of piercing to the very soul, and of scanning the secret thoughts of the most wary and the most skilful in concealing their intentions beneath a mask of hypocrisy.
But a loud and long laugh, and then a cry of rage echoed from the adjacent apartment; and they were followed by the din of a chisel and a hammer upon the marble; and then succeeded a crash, which shook the house to its foundation. Stephano, the Marquis, and his followers, ran into the studio; and as they entered, they stumbled over the shapeless pieces of broken marble which Manuel had scattered upon the floor. The statue had disappeared; but the remnants were before them!
Great God! how galling were these reproaches. I would not have encountered them for worlds, had I dared eject the author of them from my dwelling: but his hair was whitened with age and with affliction; and I could not have harshly used him. Indeed, there was a moment, amongst the many that were dissipated during this scene, when I was ready to fall at his feet, and confess how deeply I had wronged him, and supplicate his pardon: pride alone checked me. At length he departed, and he left his curse behind him…
At the period when our tale commences, George Hamel had more than fulfilled the great promises his infantine years seemed to afford of future greatness. His attention had been entirely devoted to the study of medicine; and at the age of five and twenty he was considered to be the most eminent physician in Nuremberg. His cousins were two of the most beautiful creatures that ever illumined this earthly sphere. Angiolina, the elder, was tall and stately—with dark blue eyes, light flaxen hair, and a clear complexion in which the white and red seemed to be struggling to decide which should obtain the conquest. Her bust was large and voluptuous—and her waist so thin, it appeared as if two hands could span it. She was a girl of a quick and fiery disposition, of strong passions, and endowed with even a masculine intellect.
It was in the year 1785—on a fine evening, in the month of May —that three young students, in the uniform of the Military College of Paris, were occupied in the pleasant discussion of a repast in the restaurant at St. Cloud which overlooks the park, and which every visitor of the present day to that sacred shrine of gastronomy knows by the name of Legriel’s. The first of the three individuals, whom we have thus abruptly alluded to, was about sixteen years of age, with a peculiar expression of countenance, which inspired respect rather than any softer feeling, and a blue eye that was in itself a soul. His companions were his juniors—probably by about a few months; and they were two fine, tall, handsome young men, with commanding though graceful figures, and eagle glances which bespoke all the military enthusiasm that filled their bosoms.
Suddenly the middle classes “saw themselves” in fiction, so to speak. The next major novelist, Samuel Richardson, also wanted to give readers a “realistic” novel. In 1740, he published Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded. This novel, set in readers’ own times (the 1700s for 1700s readers) was written as though it was a series of letters written by the title character, Pamela, a servant girl in the household of Lord B——, to her poorer family in the country. This format, used by many novelists since, including Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, became known as the epistolary novel. Now, Pamela was a pure and virtuous girl, but her depraved master, Lord B, is infatuated with her. He offers her many fine things, which she refuses, because she is virtuous. He spies on her undressing through the keyhole of her room, and even attempts to rape her, but she resists him. Then at the end of the novel, Lord B is so impressed with her virtue that he marries her, to which she eventually consents, for she has in fact fallen in love with him. Richardson’s message was clear: if a woman holds on to her virtue (if she doesn’t have sex before marriage) then she will be rewarded, either in this life or the next.
On the same night that Mary Shelley conceived the idea for Frankenstein, her friend, Dr John Polidori, conjured another frightening creature – the vampire. Yet his malevolent vampire was no match for some Italian bandits, it seems.
G. W. M. Reynolds, the “vicious republican” of the Victorian era, attributed the cause of all crime to the the existence of the royal family and the political establishment.
Pierce Egan’s “Robin Hood” was an early Victorian bestseller. In the first edition, Egan also appended a collection of Robin Hood ballads alongside his novel, for which he provided the illustrations.
The year is 2073, England is a republic, but an incurable disease is sweeping the earth, decimating its population.
In the archvies of the Bodleian Library, Oxford there is a hitherto neglected Robin Hood novel by Robert Southey entitled ‘Harold, or the Castle of Morford’ (1791). This post is a short introduction to this text.
When “Upperworld” and “Underworld” Meet: Social Class and Crime in “The Mysteries of London (1844-46)
Rich people commit greater crimes than their poorer counterparts, but they are at their most dangerous when members of the “upperworld” and “underworld” work together.
“I had four blak arrows under my belt, Four for the greefs that I have felt, Four for the number of ill menne, That have opressid me now and then.”