My soul was covered in a veil of perpetual sadness in the moment in which I read my mother’s letter. Yet I will not, as Job did, date the hour of the commencement of my misfortunes since the time of my birth.
A man of frightful figure looked at us with a choleric eye. The priest looked directly at him for a moment without moving so much as a muscle, simulating the best feigned indifference I ever saw. He did not forbid me to look at that man—perhaps he thought we would be less suspicious.
“The blind man ran. The lame man ran. The man with no legs ran. And then, as he penetrated further down the street, the legless, the blind and the halt came swarming around him, together with the one-armed, the one-eyed, and the lepers with their sores….”
“Society was held together by brute force, intrigue, cord and axe, and woman’s flattery. But a push seemed needed to overthrow it. Yet it was quite secure, nevertheless, as there was none to give that push.”
“It has always seemed impossible to me to write the mysteries of a land that has none, and, invented, nobody believes them. I was wrong. It is because I did not know Lisbon, or not able to calculate the power of a man’s imagination.”
Mysteries of the People, Mysteries of the World: Eugene Sue’s Anti- Medievalism and the Revolutions of 1848
When Napoleon the Third came to power, shipments of Mysteres du Peuple were seized and booksellers were prevented from selling them. Many French politicians and writers were forced into exile as a result of the coup; one such exile was Eugene Sue.
Eugene Sue’s “Mysteries of the People” (1848): “The Branding Needle” and the First French Commune | Stephen Basdeo
To reign! the ambition of great souls! To reign like the Emperors of Rome! I wish to emulate them in all their sovereign omnipotence!
“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.
His style reminds us of Cooper’s most approved nautical fictions, rather than of the coarse and vulgar “yarns” so tediously spun by Captain Marryat. He introduces us to scenes and adventures of stirring and painful interest.
Eugene Sue’s “Mysteries of the People” (1848): “The Poniard’s Hilt” and the Arrival of Feudalism in France | Stephen Basdeo
By Stephen Basdeo, a writer and historian based in Leeds, United Kingdom. This article follows on from previous posts on Eugene Sue’s epic socialist novel Mysteries of the People. In 1848 Karl […]
In 1851 G.W.M. Reynolds launched a new series of ‘memoirs’ novels that told the story of poor women struggling to make their way in a heartless and alienating capitalist world.
This is a short story by Susannah Reynolds, printed in Reynolds’s Monthly Magazine, December 1838. The story has been transcribed by Jessica Elizabeth Thomas.
I rose cautiously from the bed…One look, and the blood chilled in my veins, and I could feel the hair rising upon my head!
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.
“Traitor!” cried M. Delville, when he had managed to put himself in possession of the contents of the letter; “I could tear your very flesh from your body; but I prefer the adoption of other measures, which I shall put into immediate effect, and thus avenge my injured honour;” and having delivered himself of this eloquent oration, M. Delville reeled, fell back into his chair, and relieved his sorrows by the powerful medicine recommendable in such cases—Moëtt’s best Champagne.
“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.
Professor Rohan McWilliam gives his own account of how he was introduced to the life and work of George W M Reynolds