Legend has it that Ragnar composed his “Death Song” as he lay in the pit of snakes waiting to die, the sentence upon him having been passed by the Anglo-Saxon Northumbrian King Aelle. Stephen Basdeo examines the publication of this ancient song.
“I venture to predict the following improvements: Improvements which time may verify when the hand that now writes them, has long mouldered in the clammy soil.”
Humans have always expressed a ‘fear of the end’ in literary and artistic terms. The first apocalypse stories in Western culture came to us from the Bible, with Noah’s Flood giving us the archetypal ‘last man’ or ‘small group of survivors’ motif that has persisted in many retellings of the end times.
Google News is a news aggregator, developed in 2006, which collates the daily feeds of over 20,000 news publishers’ content. Compared to that huge number, Reynolds’s News and Miscellany admittedly looks like “small fry”. But Google’s rules for inclusion in Google News are quite strict.
The Reform League organised several rallies. At one of the Reform League’s major rallies, held in Trafalgar Square and attended by old-school militant radicals, the speakers began calling on working men to organise a general strike. Another ‘monster meeting’ held in May 1867 was so large that, despite being banned by the government, the police did not dare to intervene. The prospect of violence and armed conflict was rearing its head and it was all beginning to feel like 1848 again.
The scene is one of confusion as dead bodies lay in the street. In this picture, however, God looks on from above—does he feel sympathy for the plague victims, has he caused it, or is he simply indifferent?
The social anarchy resulting from plague are obviously a mainstay of pop culture depictions; times of crisis often bring out the worst in humanity. Yet they can also bring out the best in humanity as well, and it is one human, at his best and most heroic, whom Antoine-Jean Gros decided to represent on canvas in 1804. The man was Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French.
Nicolas Poussin (1594–1655) was born in Normandy, France and received a basic education before running away to Paris at the age of eighteen to become an artist. Having spent some time in Paris under the tutelage of several French and Flemish artists where he honed his craft. Poussin specialised in painting religious scenes as well as depictions of the classical era.
Plague, or Yersinia pestis, has “plagued” humankind throughout history. Since at least the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 500s—and likely for much longer before that—it has claimed millions of lives. This section presents the voices of people throughout history who have recorded their experiences of the plague and who have also represented it in popular culture.
A poem originally written by Susannah Frances Reynolds and published in the Teetotaler. Transcribed by Stephen Basdeo and Jessica Elizabeth Thomas
I concluded this was a case of genuine malignant cholera, and in consequence felt somewhat alarmed and anxious for the safety of the family. I examined the house, and found the walls dark-looking and damp. The whole place had an air of discomfort; the woman had been washing for two days previous, and had been drying her clothes in the house; damp stockings were hung around the bed place, and undried clothes on lines. I examined the close or yard, and found one wretched dirty old petty or closet for the whole pile of houses, and near to it some small houses where animals were kept, with much filth about them, and human excrement in the channel of the yard and near to the closet.
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.
This poem was originally written in 1850 and published in the Home Circle, a magazine edited by Pierce Egan the Younger (1814-80): Ye by whom once the clear blue sky / And zephyrs of returning spring / Were hailed with joy, but now no more / Responses from the spirit bring.
A poem written by Susannah Frances Reynolds in 1841 and transcribed by Jessica Elizabeth Thomas: Oft does th’ unconscious vessel fly / To distant coasts were billows high / In dread confusion roar; / And of the danger unaware.
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.
Whilst he was dying in May 1885, Paris was but the first mourner for all France; and the magnificent funeral pageant which conducted the pauper’s coffin, antithetically enshrining the remains considered worthy of the highest possible reverence and honours from the Champs Elysées to the Panthéon, was the more memorable from all that was foremost in French art and letters having marched in the train, and laid a leaf or flower in the tomb of the protégé Chateaubriand, the brother-in-arms of Dumas, the inspirer of Mars, Dorval, Lemaitre, Rachel, and Bernhardt, and, above all, the Nemesis of the Third Empire.
It was these interesting characters that represented the new cosmopolitan elite of 18th-century London. In the characters of Mister Spectator’s club was a microcosm of the people who mattered in society: the aristocracy and the middle classes.
A poem written by Victor Hugo and translated by G.W.M. Reynolds that celebrates the Greek freedom fighter Konstantinos Kanaris.
Written by Victor Hugo and published in Les Chants des Crepuscules in 1835; Translated by George W.M. Reynolds and published in Songs of Twilight in 1836: Say, Lord! for Thou alone canst tell / Where lurks the good invisible / Amid the depths of discord’s sea— / That seem, alas! so dark to me!
Distinguished G W M Reynolds specialist, Prof. Louis James, talks about Reynolds’s only known play.
Written by Victor Hugo and published in Les Chants des Crepuscules in 1835 and Translated by George W.M. Reynolds and published in Songs of Twilight in 1836: Now, vot’ries of the Muses, turn your eyes, / Unto the East, and say what there appears! / “Alas!” the voice of Poesy replies, / Mystic’s that light between the hemispheres!”