Animals in Famous English Poetry

English with a Smile

By Sasha Crowe

There are lots and lots of famous English poets that have used animals for inspiration. There are also lots and lots of animals that have served as inspiration, from the chicken to the lion, and more. Here, we will take a look at only three of the many famous English poets that often used animals and animal imagery in their poems. We will give you a short biography of each, as well as examples of just a few of their animal poems. Feel free to follow the links to the works. Explore these poets on your own to learn even more.

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling was an English poet who had a deep respect for animals. He is probably most famous for writing The Jungle Book, a story of Mowgli, a young boy who grows up in the jungle and learns from the animals. Who doesn’t…

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10 Great Quotations from Writers about Books

Interesting Literature

The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame. – Oscar Wilde

Why can’t people just sit and read books and be nice to each other? – David Baldacci

Books are a uniquely portable magic. – Stephen King

Books are the mirrors of the soul. – Virginia Woolf

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes. – Erasmus

Books old

A person who publishes a book wilfully appears before the populace with his pants down. – Edna St. Vincent Millay

A book must be an ice axe to break the frozen sea within us. – Franz Kafka

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. – Ray Bradbury

Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the…

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Five Fascinating Facts about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Interesting Literature

In honour of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday (he was born on 22 May 1859 – fans of The Smiths may be interested to learn that this was exactly 100 years to the day before Morrissey’s birth), we’re here with five of our favourite fascinating facts about the man who gave us Sherlock Holmes.

1. Conan Doyle took to a bit of sleuthing of his own in an attempt to solve the Jack the Ripper case. In 1894, six years after the notorious Whitechapel murders by the unidentified criminal identified as ‘Jack the Ripper’, Doyle was asked by an American journalist how Sherlock Holmes would have gone about tracking down the Ripper. Doyle replied that Holmes would have started by examining the letter the Ripper had supposedly sent to the police. Whilst acknowledging that the letter could have been a hoax, Doyle nevertheless worked on the basis that it was…

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И заједничко ћутање пуно је узбудљивог разговора

Ciao everyone! What’s up? This is my Serbian essay. My friends seemed to like it, so I decided to post it here. You can read it both in Serbian and English (I didn’t want to publish only the English version, because it doesn’t sound the same when translated. It somehow loses the true value. I did my best and hope, among others, that foreign visitors will receive the real message (if there is one anyway :D) and realize the means of this essay). Share your impressions in the comments. 🙂 By the way, the topic of the essay is: “Shared silence is also full of exciting talk”.

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„Речи су врло често сувишне и превише опасне. Њима се грли, милује, вређа, удара. Ћутање, пак, ретко коме може наудити. Оно говори кад речи не могу. То је наш једини одговор у поједином тренутку. Покрет руку, мимика, осмех, загонетан поглед…

У животу постоје веома посебне особе са којима пролазимо кроз воду и ватру. Заједнички доживљаји нанизани као пера на концу пријатељства која красе сваки тренутак проведен крај ње.“

Многи кажу да је љубав нешто најлепше на свету. Чини да се осећамо узбуђено, и у исто време, преплашено. Једноставно нас чини бољим људима. Чудна је та љубав – свако је схвата другачије, на неки свој начин. Вероватно зато нема ниједне потпуно одговарајуће, праве дефиниције тог тајанственог појма који је стар колико и само човечанство. Уосталом, коме треба дефиниција…

Сваког дана једва чекам да видим тај предиван, искрен осмех, те тајанствене окице боје дивљег кестена, то прелепо бело лице и лепршаву бујну косу како пролазе поред мене, остављајући веома јак утисак и мирис шумских јагодица. Од накита носи једино очи. Њен стидљив осмех упућен мени довољан је. Ах, тако се лепо смеје, дан ми улепша! Једно њено „ћао“ скрива хиљаду емоција… Одаје је, жели нешто да ми каже. Можда она не мисли тако, али све је већ речено. Ни ја не могу све да држим у себи… Тог тренутка све наше бриге нестају, гледајући једно друго и благо се осмехујући. Тај неописиви моменат траје свега неколико секунди, а за мене, то је читава вечност. Та слика вредна је хиљаду речи. Ту слику треба проживети, искусити. Упустити се у неповратну дубину њеног нежног погледа и тамо остати заувек. Мислио сам да је пролећна трава зелена, а онда сам видео њене очи. Живот је леп!

 – Упс! Извините… – налетех на једног професора.

Док сам се прибрао и окренуо, није је више било. Однела ју је река људи, ужурбано пролазећи кроз тесан ходник. Штета, било је лепо док је трајало.

На следећем часу био сам неуобичајено одсутан, другачији. Сви су навикли да гледају марљивог Луку, увек расположеног за шалу. Руку на срце, и даље сам такав. Само ми је требало мало времена… да се вратим у реалност, да бар на тренутак побегнем од њених бисерних очију и јарко-црвених усана које се лагано осмехују. Надам се да ћу се повратити пре следећег сусрета. Ех, шта један наизглед обичан тренутак може да учини човеку!

 – Лука, је л’ све у реду, нешто си замишљен данас? – упита ме професорка.

 – Да, да, све је океј. Хвала.

Малопређашна ситуација на ходнику оставила је толико јак утисак на мене да читав дан ништа нисам могао да радим. Само сам седео и лутао својим разбацаним мислима… Било је девојака до сада, али ова је специјална.

.   .   .

Ма колико год се трудили, не можемо се ваљано испричати. Није све у речима. Зато је ту тај осмех који чини да на тренутак заборавимо на све и уживамо у животу. То све говори. Али ипак, делује тако нестварно…

„Питао сам професора шта је то љубав, рекао је да није учио тај предмет. Питао сам возача шта је то љубав, рекао је да не зна за тај пут. Питао сам лудака шта је то љубав, рекао је да је то разлог због којег је постао луд.“

 _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _

 _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _

“Words are often redundant and too dangerous. They are hugs, caresses, insults, strikes. Silence, however, can rarely hurt anyone. It speaks when words can’t. That is our only answer in a particular moment. A single hand movement, facial expression, smile, mysterious glance…

There are very special people in life with whom we last through thick and thin. Shared experiences are strung like feathers along the string of friendship that adorn every moment spent by her side.”

Many people say love is the most beautiful thing in the world. When you look in her eyes and she’s looking back in yours… everything… feels… not quite normal. Because you feel stronger and weaker at the same time. You feel excited and at the same time, terrified. The truth is… you don’t know what you feel except you know what kind of man you want to be. It’s as if you’ve reached the unreachable and you’re not ready for it.

Every day I can’t wait to see that that wonderful, sincere smile, those mysterious eyes the colour of a chestnut, that beautiful white face and swaying luscious hair passing by me, leaving such a strong impression and the smell of forest strawberries. The only jewelry she wears are her eyes. Her shy smile addressed to me is enough. Oh, she has such a nice smile, my day embellished! One her “hi” hides a thousand emotions. It reveals her, she wants to tell me something. She might not think so, but it’s all been said. Neither can I keep everything to myself. At that moment, all our worries disappear, looking at each other and smiling mildly. That indescribable moment lasts only a few seconds, but feels like eternity. That picture is worth a thousand words! That picture should be lived, experienced. Engage in the irreversible depth of her gentle eyes and remain there eternally. I thought vernal grass was green until I saw her eyes. Life is beautiful!

 – Oops! I’m sorry… – I bumped into a professor.

When I pulled myself together and turned around, she was gone. A river of people took her downstream, hurriedly passing through the narrow corridor. Too bad, it was nice while it lasted.

At the next class, I was clearly away, different. Everyone is used to the industrious Luka, always in the joking mood. To be honest, I’m still like that. I just needed a little time… to get back to reality, to escape from her pearly eyes and bright-red lips slightly smiling. At least for a moment. I hope I’ll succeed before our next encounter. Oh, what a seemingly ordinary moment can do to a man!

 – Luka, is everything alright? You seem a bit conceived today… – a professor asked me.

 – Yes, yes, everything’s just fine. Thank you for the concern. – I replied.

The situation in the hallway earlier that day has left such a strong impression on me that I wasn’t able to do anything the whole day. I was just sitting and wandering through my scattered thoughts… There have been girls so far, but this one is special.

.   .   .

“A little voice of yours makes me feel alive,
A little hug of yours makes me feel happy,
A little care of yours makes me feel perfect,
A little love of yours makes me feel complete,
& a little ignorance of yours kills me inside.
I find my reason for living in those moments.
No matter how much it might hurt,
It will be totally worth it”

.   .   .

We cannot have a proper talk, no matter how hard we try. It’s not all in the words. Therefore is that smile that makes you forget about everything for a moment or two and enjoy life. That says it all. But still, it seems so unreal…

“I asked a professor what love is, he told me he hadn’t studied that subject. I asked a taxi driver what love is, he said he hadn’t heard of that street. I asked a madman what love is, he said that was the reason he became insane.”

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Bye! 😀

Luka R.

The Hero Inside

 

Here I am, standing at the city center, beside the so-called “Horse monument”. Admiring the beautiful night sky portrait, full of tiny little stars desperately calling for help. But why help? Because they stand alone in the universe, probably without any population on them. Cut out, in the middle of nowhere and 5 million light years away from my curious eyes stands a star named Hope, smiling and talking to her friends, Desire, Will, Power and Love

[http://goo.gl/P7sJWk]

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Everything is so relative!

A friend texts me. He’s gonna be late for our appointment. “Great. Just more waiting”, I thought. Having in mind that only a couple of us showed up on time, I felt kinda incomplete. We all did. You know that feeling when you’ve got something in mind and you want everything to be just as you planned, but not all things depend on you… [Well, stop overthinking. You can’t control everything, just let it be.] I looked at all those people around me, every single one of them with a smile on their face. Happiness is there, you just have to look for it. Start the pursuit in yourself. It’s most likely you won’t have to search any further. Fortune is in the little things. 🙂

[http://goo.gl/A303zr]

When you find it and see that everything is much better than you thought, you suddenly realize that it’s only you and the starry night. Darkness. [http://goo.gl/GZOIKo] You’ve gone to far to go back to reality now. Luka, your dreamer side has won, again. The time stopped, you are levitating in space, enjoying these incredible moments in life that make what you’ve been through totally worth it. But you still remember that everything can change in slip of a second. Nevertheless, you’re making a summation of your life, everything that happened in it so far, deciding who you wanna be. Everything seems quite normal, because you feel stronger and weaker at the same time. You feel excited and at the same time terrified. The truth is you don’t know what you feel, except you know what kind of man you wanna be. It’s as if you’ve reached the unreachable and you’re not ready for it. [http://goo.gl/uyyGI]

Sweet dreams are made of tears.

This is the time when a man changes into a man he is gonna be the rest of his life. Just be careful who you change into.

[http://goo.gl/k8ZcF]

There is nothing you miss in life, not even a chance to correct some awful mistakes you regret for. Trust me, those mistakes take us down the road and makes us who we are. And if anyone is destined for greatness, it’s you. You owe the world your gifts, you just have to figure out how to use them. [Be careful, they’re like a poison. They can take us over. Before you know it, it can turn you into something ugly.] Wherever they take you, be ready for a battle, cuz it won’t be easy. There is no easy way out.

You know, when you were younger, your parents thought: “This kid’s gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid’s gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew.” And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great to your parents just watchin’ you, every day was like a privilege to them. Then the time came for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started lookin’ for something to blame, like a big shadow. [I know things have been difficult lately, and I’m sorry about that.]

[http://goo.gl/6Kehk]

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and no matter how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently. If you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out there and get what you’re worth! But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! You’re not just any person picked from the streets, you are one of a kind. Show the world what you’ve got! Don’t whine “why me”. Say “try me”. Until you start believing in yourself, you ain’t gonna have a life. Strong focus on what you want.

[http://goo.gl/TBSPm]

Do you know what is the greatest gift anyone can receive in his lifetime? The greatest gift we can receive is to have the chance, just once in our lives, to make a difference. Do you understand how many times you made a difference? Enough for a hundred lifetimes. But not everyone is meant to make a difference.

[http://goo.gl/1QGKK]

Whatever life holds in store for you, never forget these words: “With great power comes great responsibility.” [Just because you can do something, doesn’t give you the right to.] This is your gift, your curse.

Every champion was once a contender that refused to give up. 

Courageous, self-sacrificing people. Setting examples for all of us. Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names. And years later, they’ll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them how to hold on a second longer. I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams…

[http://goo.gl/ehguC]

Do you know what life is?  What it REALLY is?  It is the inevitability of hard times, which we survive only because of the moments of joy in between. This very moment is that joy. A beautiful moment a couple of days ago was that joy. Now comes the inevitable.  And we will deal with it, and get to the other side, where more moments of joy are waiting for us…

[http://goo.gl/b1dE5]

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Who am I? You sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody said it was a happy little tale… if somebody told you I was just your average ordinary guy, not a care in the world… somebody lied.

_______________________________________________________

Wake up now, Luka. That was enough. 😀

“Luka, why are you so silent all the time? That’s completely unlike you.”, a friend asked me. “Well, I don’t know. I was wandering deep in my thoughts”, I replied. [When I’m silent, I have a thunder hidden inside. http://goo.gl/KTM4XG When words mean nothing I go la la la xD] “Look, there they are!”, he noticed. “Yeah, they’re finally here”, I confirmed his statement. “I feel like a whole year has passed.” “Whoah, bro, it was only 10 minutes. Chill out a lil’!”, he told me. “Wow, that was pretty fast…”, I thought. “Let the evening begin.” [I’ve got a feeling, that tonight’s gonna be a good night :D]

[http://goo.gl/dDZM8M]

                                                                                                                        Written by:

Luka Radičević

”The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray was Oscar Wilde‘s only novel (he’s mostly famous for his plays, poetry, and short stories), but what a novel it is! In the century or so since its initial publication in 1890, the fate of poor Dorian Gray has taken hold of the popular imagination. Dorian’s story plays upon the timeless theme of selling one’s soul in exchange for earthly pleasures (see other classics like Goethe’s Faust or the musical Damn Yankees), and the inevitable disaster that results. Wilde’s version of this narrative is particularly notable for its embrace of the hedonistic lifestyle of the Decadents, a late nineteenth century artistic movement that prized beauty and aesthetic experience over everything else. Dorian Gray and its protagonist have become synonymous with the pursuit of pleasure, regardless of its moral consequences.

The novel raised quite a blizzard of scandal in its day, and had critics denouncing Wilde for what they perceived to be his own innate immorality – and as a result, he responded with the famous “Preface” to the novel (published in its second edition) that explained his artistic beliefs. (Check out more discussion of the Preface in “What’s Up with the Epigraph?”) Altogether, The Picture of Dorian Gray reveals Wilde’s philosophy more than any of his other works; reading it is an essential key to understanding his artistic mission as a whole.

Why should I care?

Botox, liposuction, lip plumping injections, silicone, hair plugs… If you think about it, we go to extraordinarily bizarre measures just to hang on to fading youth and beauty. Our society is so obsessed with youth that there’s a multi-multi-million dollar industry simply devoted to making us look younger (or weirder, as the case may be). And why? Because we live in a culture where youth is idolized and age is the enemy of the people – the goal these days seems to be not just to stop aging, but to get younger.

We’re not the first culture to embrace this cult of youth, though. As we see in The Picture of Dorian Gray, our predecessors in the nineteenth century also longed for undying youth and beauty. In fact, the quest for the Fountain of Youth is one of the oldest stories there is; apparently, humanity in general has had a hard time getting over the fact that we all grow old and die. For this reason, Oscar Wilde‘s 1890 novel never ceases to be relevant – until we finally discover the secret of real eternal youth, we’ll always be interested in Dorian’s quest for it.

Read this beautiful novel here

Summary

How It All Goes Down

The Picture of Dorian Gray is the story of one beautiful, innocent young man’s seduction, moral corruption, and eventual downfall. We meet our three central characters at the beginning of the book, when painter Basil Hallward and his close friend, Lord Henry Wotton, are discussing the subject of Basil’s newest painting, a gorgeous young thing named Dorian Gray. Basil and Henry discuss just how perfectly perfect Dorian is – he’s totally innocent and completely good, as well as being the most beautiful guy ever to walk the earth. Lord Henry wants to meet this mysterious boy, but Basil doesn’t want him to; for some reason, he’s afraid of what will happen to Dorian if Lord Henry digs his claws into him.

However, Lord Henry gets his wish – Dorian shows up that very afternoon, and, over the course of the day, Henry manages to totally change Dorian’s perspective on the world. From that point on, Dorian’s previously innocent point of view is dramatically different – he begins to see life as Lord Henry does, as a succession of pleasures in which questions of good and evil are irrelevant.

Basil finishes his portrait of Dorian, and gives it to the young man, who keeps it in his home, where he can admire his own beauty. Lord Henry continues to exert his influence over Dorian, to Basil’s dismay. Dorian grows more and more distant from Basil, his former best friend, and develops his own interests.

One of these interests is Sybil Vane, a young, exceptionally beautiful, exceptionally talented – and exceptionally poor – actress. Though she’s stuck performing in a terrible, third-rate theatre, she’s a truly remarkable artist, and her talent and beauty win over Dorian. He falls dramatically in love with her, and she with him. For a moment, it seems like everything will turn out wonderfully. However, this is just the beginning of Dorian’s story. Once he and Sybil are engaged, her talent suddenly disappears – she’s so overcome with her passionate love for Dorian that none of her roles on stage seem important to her anymore. This destroys Dorian’s love for her, and he brutally dumps her. Back home, he notices a something different in his portrait – it looks somehow crueler. In the meanwhile, the distraught Sybil commits suicide, just as Dorian decides to return to her and take back his terrible words.

Sybil’s suicide changes everything. At first, Dorian feels horrible – but he rather quickly changes his tune. On Lord Henry’s suggestion, Dorian reads a mysterious “yellow book,” a decadent French novel that makes him reevaluate his whole belief system. The protagonist of the book lives his life in pursuit of sensual pleasures, which intrigues Dorian. From this moment on, Dorian is a changed man.

Dorian starts to live as hedonistically as his wicked mentor, Lord Henry, does. The only thing that documents this turn for the worst is the portrait, which alarmingly begins to exhibit the inward corruption of Dorian’s soul; the beautiful image changes, revealing new scars and physical flaws with each of Dorian’s dastardly actions. As years pass, the man in the picture grows more and more hideous, as Dorian himself stays unnaturally young and beautiful. Rumors start to spread about the various people whose lives Dorian has ruined, and his formerly good reputation is destroyed.

On Dorian’s 38th birthday, he encounters Basil, who desperately asks his former friend if all the horrifying rumors about him are true. Dorian finally snaps and shows Basil the portrait, in which the horrible truth about his wicked nature is revealed. Basil recoils, and begs Dorian to pray for forgiveness. In response, Dorian murders Basil, stabbing him brutally. He blackmails another of his former friends into disposing of the body.

Dorian retreats to an opium den after dealing with all of the evidence, where he encounters an enemy he didn’t know he had – Sybil Vane’s brother, James. Through a rather complicated turn of events, James (who’s on a mission to punish Dorian for his mistreatment of Sybil) ends up dead. Dorian isn’t directly responsible, but it’s yet another death to add to Dorian’s tally of life-wrecking disasters.

Dorian is relieved that his enemy is out of the way, but this event sparks a kind of mid-life crisis: he begins to wonder if his vile but enjoyable lifestyle is worth it. He actually does a good(ish) deed, by deciding not to corrupt a young girl he’s got the hots for, which makes him question his past actions even more. Seeking some kind of reassurance, Dorian talks to Lord Henry, who’s not any help at all, unsurprisingly. Dorian even practically admits to murdering Basil, but Henry laughs it off and doesn’t believe him.

That night, Dorian returns home in a pensive mood. Catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he hates his own beauty and breaks the mirror. Again, he vows to be good, but we find out that his various crimes don’t really haunt him, because he doesn’t consider them his fault. Instead, he selfishly wants to be good so that the painting will become beautiful again. Heartened by this thought, he goes up to see if his recent good deed has improved the painting – in fact, it only looks worse. Frustrated, Dorian decides to destroy the picture, the visible evidence of his dreadful crimes, and the closest thing to a conscience he has. Dorian slashes at the painting with the same knife that killed Basil, trying to destroy the work as he did the artist.

A tremendous crash and a terrible cry alert the servants that something very, very bad has happened – it’s even audible outside the house. Finally, they go upstairs to check it out, and are horrified by what they find: a portrait of their master, as beautiful as ever, hangs on the wall, and a mysterious, grotesquely hideous dead man is lying on the floor with a knife in his heart. Upon close examination, the rings on the dead man’s hand identify him as Dorian Gray.

Analysis

Literary Devices in The Picture of Dorian Gray

Symbolism, Imagery & Allegory

Sometimes, there’s more to Lit than meets the eye.

The portrait is the main symbol at work here. It’s a kind of living allegory, a visible interpretation of Dorian’s soul. Basically, the picture represents Dorian’s inner self, which becomes uglier with each passing hour and with every crime he commits. It is the image of Dorian’s true nature and, as his soul becomes increasingly corrupt, its evil shows up on the surface of the canvas. It seems that Dorian is not completely free of the picture’s influence: as it becomes uglier and uglier, Dorian pretty much loses it. It becomes a kind of conscience, and it reminds Dorian constantly of the evil at the heart of his nature. (Check out our “Character Analysis” of Dorian Gray for more about the man and the portrait.)

The Yellow Book

This is a thinly veiled reference to J.K. Huysmans’ À Rebours (“Against Nature”), an incredibly important novel of the Decadent period. In both the original text and Wilde’s summary of it, its incredibly wealthy protagonist devotes his life to seeking as many aesthetic sensations as he can, regardless of what society says. He is a representation of what Dorian could become – a robotic being with no true emotions and no true relationships – looking for only the next new sensation. Upon reading it, Dorian sees aspects of his own life reflected back at him in this character’s life. However, Wilde made some notable changes (like the explicit mention of the protagonist’s lost beauty, which just makes Dorian even more scared that he’ll lose his looks) to make it more fitting to his novel.

Most importantly, the yellow book represents the “poisonous” influence Lord Henry has on Dorian; Henry gives the book to Dorian as a kind of experiment, and it works horrifyingly well. Its hedonistic, decadent message makes it a kind of guide book for Dorian, who lives his whole life in pursuit of its ideals. Ultimately, as we’re reminded, it’s Lord Henry’s fault for poisoning Dorian with the book, which comes to stand in for all of Henry’s extravagant, selfish, dangerously seductive philosophical ideas.

Sex, drugs and…opera?

These pastimes are symbols of the decadent, hedonistic lifestyle Lord Henry lures Dorian into; they’re all different ways of living through sensory exploration. Opium, scandalous love affairs, and theatrical spectacle are Dorian’s distractions from his conscience, and he indulges in all of them as a kind of escape. Lord Henry’s philosophy, that we should all give in to what tempts us, is played out in Dorian’s indulgence in all of these luxuriant, sensual pleasures.

Setting

Where It All Goes Down

London, England in the late nineteenth century

Let’s talk about time first. This novel takes place in the height of the Decadent artistic movement of the late nineteenth century, making Dorian a contemporary of his author, Oscar Wilde. Although this trend (which celebrated aesthetic pleasure and sensual experience) began in France, Wilde was the major proponent of it in England. The influence of French Decadent writers can be seen throughout the novel, from the Gautier poem recorded in Chapter 14 to the extravagant, foppishly luxuriant style of Dorian’s clothing and furniture. Although Wilde never gives a specific date for Dorian Gray, his inclusion of the yellow book – a loosely-veiled version of À Rebours by J.K. Huysmans – means that Dorian must be living some time after its publication in 1884.

Interestingly, the Decadent movement took place in the broader setting of the Victorian era, which is mainly known for its prudish, priggish social mores and über-judgmental standards. The contrast between dull middle-class society and the sins of the wealthy and corrupt upper classes makes Wilde’s book all the more daring.

OK, on to location: Dorian moves freely between two major parts of London, the wealthy West End and the decrepit East End. In the West End, mostly in the super-ritzy Mayfair district, Dorian establishes his home, frequents various gentlemen’s clubs, theatres, and symphony halls. In the East End, near the dock, the disguised Dorian steals into grotesque saloons-turned-opium-dens for an occasional high, and disgustedly rubs elbows with the various underworld characters whose lives he’s destroyed.

The two settings represent Dorian’s two sides. In the West End, he is the gallant gentleman, fashionable trendsetter, cultured aristocrat, and scandalous local celebrity. There he enjoys the highest art forms civilization has to offer – opera, theatre, painting, French cuisine – to fulfill his refined appetite. In the East End, however, he becomes a creepy, skulking, unambiguously evil specter (the “devil’s bargain”) – just as desperate as the next guy for an opium hit and generally trying to find ways to forget his criminal life in the city. Wilde vividly creates a doubled setting for a doubled life.

Narrator

Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?

Third Person (Omniscient)

Although we see the story mainly through the lens of Dorian’s opinions, we also dip into the minds of other characters here and there, from Lord Henry to Mrs. Vane. We’re able to see everyone’s thoughts and perspectives, but that doesn’t mean we have an objective, or even necessarily fair narrator – in fact, this narrator is way harsh sometimes (see “Tone” for more on this). However, the narration is really thorough and complete, if nothing else.

Genre

Horror or Gothic Fiction, Literary Fiction

This short novel is an interesting combination of elements – Wilde wrote it in a sort of high literary mode (that is to say, with ornate, self-consciously artistic language and heightened sense of style), but it also has elements of the classic horror story, like the suspenseful build to the final twist. In other words, it’s a kind of horror story that’s ascended to the level of literary horror story – other examples are Henry James’sThe Turn of the Screw, or basically any short story by Edgar Allen Poe.

In terms of the “literary” part, you might consider Wilde’s concern with showing Dorian’s thoughts in depth, as well as his exploration of Basil and Lord Henry. While it shows some levels of psychological detail, the novel is also highly symbolic and allegorical; Wilde was no stranger to metaphor. On the “horror” side, we’ve got the grotesque descriptions of the portrait, the terrible murder and consequent, um, disappearance of Basil Hallward, and the general ick-factor of the opium den – and, of course, the dramatic ending, shrieks and all.

Tone

Take a story’s temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?

Alternately Admiring and Judgmental

Hmm…well, this sounds complicated, but we’ll stick to it. We get the distinct feeling that the narrator here is torn between fascination and disgust – Lord Henry and Dorian’s depraved philosophy is both appealing and revolting at the same time. This narrator is certainlyinterested in the beliefs espoused by the decadent characters here – the descriptions of Lord Henry’s brilliant wit and rhetorical skill (see Chapter 3) express a complete admiration and fascination with this character. The descriptions of Dorian’s incredible physical beauty are likewise invested with the same kind of near-obsessive, swooning admiration.

However, because this was a book intended for publication and sale, the narrator has to come down pretty harshly on these immoral characters – the tone grows increasingly judgmental and critical towards the end of the novel. We start to see that Lord Henry is a truly warped and flawed being, and that Dorian himself grows less and less compelling as he gets more paranoid (after all, as we overheard on an episode of America’s Next Top Model, desperation is not sexy). The tone of the narration is also extremely judgmental throughout with regards to characters who aren’t worthy of praise – ones that are either too stupid or too uncultured to merit Wilde’s interest, or are just women (for example, Mrs. Vane and Lord Henry’s wife, Victoria).

Writing Style

Ornate, bejeweled (bedazzled!), punctured with moments of humor

Wilde really unleashes the rabid hounds of ornamentation on this piece of work. His prose is almost visibly sparkling with gems and gilded bric-a-brac; reading Dorian Gray is like watching an all-out, massively expensive period film. Just take a look at this, the second sentence:

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flamelike as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid, jade-faced painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. (1.2)

What the what? That is a lot of detail. This accumulation of sensory input forces us to slowly go through Wilde’s writing phrase by phrase, savoring the surplus of gorgeousness he piles up in his text. Interestingly, though, the Wilde writing Dorian Gray is the same mastermind behind acerbically hilarious plays like The Importance of Being Earnest, and he doesn’t want us to forget that – so he occasionally punctuates these long passages of florid description with a biting comment or two, usually in his witty dialogue. Our favorite is the sassy comment about the scandalous Madame de Ferrol, whose “hair turned quite gold from grief” (15.9) when her third husband died.

What’s Up With the Title?

You know how some titles are little mysteries in themselves, how they can make you wonder, “Man, what was that darn author thinking?” Well, rest easy, because this is not one of those titles.

“The Picture of Dorian Gray” refers quite straightforwardly to two portraits: first of all, the very literal picture of Dorian painted by Basil Hallward, and secondly, the literary “picture” Wilde creates in the novel. Both of these works of art show us what the so-called “real” world can’t see – the truth of Dorian’s soul. The painting itself is at the center of the whole novel; while Dorian’s physical beauty remains untouched, the Dorian captured in the painting changes horribly to reflect the corruption of his soul. Just as this picture shows viewers (well, there’s really only one viewer – Dorian himself) the true nature of its subject, so too does Wilde’s novel reveal Dorian’s increasingly evil inner self to us, the readers.

What’s Up With the Epigraph?

Epigraphs are like little appetizers to the great entrée of a story. They illuminate important aspects of the story, and they get us headed in the right direction.

Here we’d like to discuss the very famous “Preface” to The Picture of Dorian Gray. (Read the Preface here.) The Preface is a little confusing at first glance – we open a novel expecting to find something along the lines of “Once upon a time…” and instead, we’re met with the sweeping claim that “The artist is the creator of beautiful things.” This seems totally, totally random, but it actually is very appropriate, both to this novel in particular, and to Wilde’s body of work in general.

Critics at the time weren’t always the biggest fans of Wilde’s work – especially Dorian Gray, which was derided for its so-called “sham moral” at the time – so it’s understandable that he had a bone or two to pick with his detractors. One of the common complaints about Wilde’s novel was that it didn’t take a strong moral stance, and that it demonstrated the author’s own immorality (Wilde was a famously scandalous celebrity). Frustrated with these goody-two-shoes critics, Wilde responded that they had committed “the unpardonable crime of trying to confuse the artist with his subject matter.” This page-long preface, which appeared in the new and revised 1891 version of Dorian Gray (the first was published in 1890), succinctly sums up Wilde’s point of view about art: in a nutshell, the artist is not concerned with morals and ethics when creating his art, but simply attempts to make something beautiful. Readers see what they want to see in the novel, so they only have themselves to blame if they find it scandalous.

What’s Up With the Ending?

The novel ends, as it begins, with the painting. Dorian is finally forced to come to terms with his actions, and reaches a moment of crisis – is it too late for him to become good again and reclaim his innocence? After a fitful night of soul searching, the answer he reaches is no – it’s too late to turn back from the path he’s chosen. Furthermore, the image in the portrait reflects a new hypocritical side of his nature; even thinking about changing his ways was a denial of his true soul (which is rotten to the core).

Finally, Dorian attempts to destroy the portrait, the image of his disgustingly corrupted soul, which haunts him like a conscience. He slashes at it with a knife (appropriately the very same knife with which he murdered his ex-friend, Basil Hallward), hoping to do away with the evidence of his crimes. But the plan backfires dramatically – stabbing the portrait, Dorian inadvertently kills himself. The grotesque deformities of the picture come into being in Dorian’s own body, while painted Dorian is restored to its original image of spotless beauty. In the end, Dorian gets everything that was coming to him; his choices brought about his own doom.

Questions like “Why?” and “How?” aren’t really ours to apply to this ending – the magical element of this story is just one of those things that we’re asked to believe. What really matters about it is not its fairy-tale-gone-wrong turn of events, but rather the message that it conveys. The idea here is that nobody can get away with everything; even though Dorian thought that he could dodge earthly punishment and go about his evil business by destroying the portrait (the proof of how vile and corrupt he really was), his death actually comes as a kind of divine retribution for all of his crimes.

Notably, the painting is restored to its original pristine state by this act – this goes back to the statement Wilde makes about art in the “Preface.” The artwork is totally removed from questions of good or evil – once Dorian’s corrupt life-force is lifted from it, the painting reverts to its natural state of beauty, without a moral stance.

Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Dorian is (literally) a model of youth and beauty (Chapters 1-2)

Dorian’s nature is unspoiled and his exquisite outer beauty mirrors the pure inner beauty of his soul. He’s as innocent as the day he was born…until a certain young Lord enters the picture.

Conflict

Trouble in paradise – art conflicts with life in Dorian’s relationship with Sibyl Vane (Chapters 3-10)

To cut a long story short, Dorian idealistically falls in love with Sibyl, and, upon realizing the fact that she doesn’t live up to his expectations, he dumps her. She kills herself, and instead of mourning her and learning a lesson, Dorian reads the yellow book, listens to Lord Henry, and gets over the whole thing.

Complication

“Poisoned by a book” (Chapters 10-11)

We’re not exactly sure what Dorian’s up to over the next decade or so. He’s deeply influenced by the yellow book, and consequently changes his mode of living. Though things look peachy keen on the surface, rumors start to emerge about Dorian’s secret, evil deeds. We don’t know any details, but it seems like our hero has gone completely over to the dark side.

Climax

Dorian is now all evil, all the time (Chapters 12-15)

All bets are off – Dorian seems to have lost all vestiges of his former self. He doesn’t even have any feelings left for Basil, formerly his best friend; in fact, even after he kills Basil in a fit of passion, he pretty much feels like B. brought it upon himself. Like Lord Henry, Dorian seems mostly to be filled with a vague sense of pity and contempt for everyone else. To top it all off, he blackmails another ex-friend, Alan Campbell, into covering for his crime.

Suspense

Fear and self-loathing in London, then the countryside (Chapter 16-17)

Dorian is understandably shaken by Basil’s murder, but not for reasons we’d expect; rather, he’s terrified that he’ll get caught. To make matters worse, he discovers that James Vane (brother of Sibyl) is back in town and on the murderous prowl for him. Dorian is wracked with fear of death, first in London, then when James follows him to his country home at Selby.

Denouement

Life lessons from Oscar Wilde – if you’re stalking someone during a hunt, don’t hide out in the line of fire (Chapter 18)

It seems as though everything has worked out for old Dorian Gray – James Vane is accidentally killed at Selby, which means that there’s nobody out looking for him. He feels a profound sense of relief, and wonders if he should change his ways after all.

Conclusion

The inevitable happens (Chapter 20)

After thinking that he should turn over a new life, Dorian basically says, “Screw it!” and decides to keep on going the way he’s been going. He loves being evil, and realizes that even the thought of becoming good makes him a hypocrite, a new sin to add to his catalogue. However, morality triumphs, and Dorian finally gets his comeuppance – by trying to destroy his portrait (read: his soul), he kills himself.

Booker’s Seven Basic Plot Analysis: Tragedy

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type :

Anticipation Stage

Innocent Dorian meets Lord Henry (Chapters 1-2)

Dorian Gray is totally young, pure, and beautiful, and his only concerns at this stage seem to be related to staying young, pure, and beautiful. However, this idyll can’t last long with Lord Henry Wotton in the works – he seizes upon the young man, and immediately launches into a life-changing lecture about the merits of giving into desire.

Dream Stage

Everything’s coming up roses – for a brief while (Chapters 3-7)

It appears for a while that Lord Henry is wrong – Dorian is just loving life, and loving Sibyl Vane. Everything looks peachy, and Dorian seems to have found his own kind of happiness. He’s still intrigued by Henry (they hang out just about every day), but his inner innocence resists the corrupting influence of his friend. Dorian’s pure love for Sibyl Vane looks like it might be the antidote to the poisonous theories of Lord Henry…however, Sibyl’s last performance and her suicide put an abrupt end to this stage.

Frustration Stage

Let’s try things Lord Henry’s way – life never seems good enough, but Dorian keeps searching for new ways to make it exciting (Chapters 8-12)

After Sibyl’s death, Dorian is profoundly changed – he goes over to Lord Henry’s side and basically becomes a somewhat more evil version of Lord Henry himself. This begins with the yellow book – it “poisons” Dorian’s mind, and changes him completely. Dorian gets sketchier and sketchier, as his portrait grows more and more grotesque.

Nightmare Stage

Basil gets into trouble with Dorian; Dorian gets into trouble with James Vane (Chapters12-18)

Oh dear. Poor Basil forces Dorian to confront his own evil deeds, and Dorian really doesn’t like it. Things just get worse from here on out – Dorian’s sucked into a kind of vortex of evil deeds by a combination of factors (Basil’s murder, the appearance of James Vane, his own increasing paranoia).

Death Wish or Destruction Stage

Dorian thinks he can change – but ultimately, he can’t (Chapters 19-20)

Once Dorian’s troubles all subside (James is dead, and nobody knows he killed Basil), he reevaluates his life. His decision to become good again is basically a desire to eliminate the grotesquely ugly Dorian he sees in the portrait. Consequently, his modified wish to keep living as he did and just destroy the portrait is similarly a matter of destroying that other self. However, Dorian doesn’t realize that he and the painted Dorian are one and the same – so what begins as an impulse to destroy the evidence of his sins ends as a kind of unintentional suicide.

Three Act Plot Analysis

For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved.

Act I

After dumping Sibyl and dealing (quickly) with her death, Dorian reads the yellow book for the first time, and is profoundly changed…for the worse.

Act II

Dorian kills Basil in a fit of moral-crisis-driven rage, and blackmails Alan Campbell into destroying the evidence.

Act III

Dorian’s close call with James Vane makes him reevaluate his life – should he in fact be trying to reform himself? He briefly thinks he can be good again, but, alas, he can’t. In an attempt to get rid of the evidence of his sins, he slashes the portrait, and dies.

Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

When Oscar Wilde went to court for holding an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, the prosecutor tried to quote Dorian Gray as evidence against Wilde.

Oscar Wilde’s famous last words: “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.” (Source)

Oscar Wilde also wrote fairy tales for children, some with conservative messages. (Source)

Oscar Wilde is buried in the same Paris cemetery as Jim Morrison and Gertrude Stein. (Source)

Steaminess Rating

Exactly how steamy is this story?

PG-13

So nobody actually has sex overtly in Dorian Gray, but the sexual implications are scandalous (or at least were scandalous to Wilde’s Victorian audience). We hear about well-bred young ladies who run away with penniless soldiers (i.e., Dorian’s mother, Margaret Devereaux), and player “gentlemen” who get girls pregnant and leave them (the Vanes’ father). Then there’s Dorian himself, who seems to be responsible for the moral corruption of about 95% of the female population of England. Also there are definite homosexual tensions lying beneath the surface here – Dorian seems to be a pretty much omnisexual creature. Sex isn’t out in the open here, but it is pretty much everywhere you look in the background.

Allusions

When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

Literary, Mythological, and Philosophical References

 Historical References

 Art and Music References

Source: http://www.shmoop.com/ (here you can find some questions about the book, quizzes, quotes, essay writing tasks etc.)

Here is something we did at our English literature class:

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Bye, bye!

Luka R.

                 

My one-year-old essay

While I was putting away some of my old books, I found this essay. After reading it, I’ve concluded that I haven’t changed much for one year period… Anyway, I like Luka’s way of thinking 😀

Humanity cannot exist without wars

There are seven billion people on this planet, divided into four different races and living in around two hundred countries. Of course, fights and disagreements are foregone. But the problem is that those fights very often develop in something bigger, wars.

I believe everything can be solved peacefully. I mean, war is never good for humans. Firstly, lots of innocent lives are lost. Secondly…, whatever the case, they don’t bring good neither to one nor other side. I’m just wondering why do people war? What is driving them to marching in the streets and singing, probably not knowing they will die in approximately 20 minutes?

Humans warred even two thousand years ago. The results of those wars were the same. Practically, nothing has changed since then. But on the other hand, everything has changed completely. For example, war techniques differ very much, and so are weapons which are being used. Technology is a lot better than before, but I don’t think it should only be used in making new deadly weapons. There are bigger things happening here than wars. People are dying of famine every day, while others don’t have a place to live or even what to wear.

I’ve got a suggestion: why don’t people, instead of warring to see who will win a certain territory (in most cases), compete in something else, like sport and/or knowledge? It’s not a bad idea. For example, when it comes to war between some two countries, a big competition should be organized to see who wins. Participators should be the countries’ best sportsmen and smartest people. They could compete in variety interesting games. This way, no one would get hurt or wounded, if nothing else.

I’m not sure how possible is all of this, but it is worth of trying, at least. I think mankind doesn’t need wars. War is never a right solution. But maybe I am wrong. Perhaps humanity cannot exist without war after all. Who knows.

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Bye for now,

Luka R.

The Case of Lady Sannox by Arthur Conan Doyle

The relations between Douglas Stone and the notorious Lady Sannox were very well known both among the fashionable circles of which she was a brilliant member, and the scientific bodies which numbered him among their most illustrious confreres. There was naturally, therefore, a very widespread interest when it was announced one morning that the lady had absolutely and for ever taken the veil, and that the world would see her no more. When, at the very tail of this rumour, there came the assurance that the celebrated operating surgeon, the man of steel nerves, had been found in the morning by his valet, seated on one side of his bed, smiling pleasantly upon the universe, with both legs jammed into one side of his breeches and his great brain about as valuable as a cap full of porridge, the matter was strong enough to give quite a little thrill of interest to folk who had never hoped that their jaded nerves were capable of such a sensation.

Douglas Stone in his prime was one of the most remarkable men in England. Indeed, he could hardly be said to have ever reached his prime, for he was but nine-and-thirty at the time of this little incident. Those who knew him best were aware that famous as he was as a surgeon, he might have succeeded with even greater rapidity in any of a dozen lines of life. He could have cut his way to fame as a soldier, struggled to it as an explorer, bullied for it in the courts, or built it out of stone and iron as an engineer. He was born to be great, for he could plan what another man dare not do, and he could do what another man dare not plan. In surgery none could follow him. His nerve, his judgement, his intuition, were things apart. Again and again his knife cut away death, but grazed the very springs of life in doing it, until his assistants were as white as the patient. His energy, his audacity, his full-blooded self-confidence – does not the memory of them still linger to the south of Marylebone Road and the north of Oxford Street?

His vices were as magnificent as his virtues, and infinitely more picturesque. Large as was his income, and it was the third largest of all professional men in London, it was far beneath the luxury of his living. Deep in his complex nature lay a rich vein of sensualism, at the sport of which he placed all the prizes of his life. The eye, the ear, the touch, the palate, all were his masters. The bouquet of old vintages, the scent of rare exotics, the curves and tints of the daintiest potteries of Europe, it was to these that the quick-running stream of gold was transformed. And then there came his sudden mad passion for Lady Sannox, when a single interview with two challenging glances and a whispered word set him ablaze. She was the loveliest woman in London and the only one to him. He was one of the handsomest men in London, but not the only one to her. She had a liking for new experiences, and was gracious to most men who wooed her. It may have been cause or it may have been effect that Lord Sannox looked fifty, though he was but six-and-thirty.

He was a quiet, silent, neutral-tinted man, this lord, with thin lips and heavy eyelids, much given to gardening, and full of home-like habits. He had at one time been fond of acting, had even rented a theatre in London, and on its boards had first seen Miss Marion Dawson, to whom he had offered his hand, his title, and the third of a county. Since his marriage his early hobby had become distasteful to him. Even in private theatricals it was no longer possible to persuade him to exercise the talent which he had often showed that he possessed. He was happier with a spud and a watering-can among his orchids and chrysanthemums.

It was quite an interesting problem whether he was absolutely devoid of sense, or miserably wanting in spirit. Did he know his lady’s ways and condone them, or was he a mere blind, doting fool? It was a point to be discussed over the teacups in snug little drawing-rooms, or with the aid of a cigar in the bow windows of clubs. Bitter and plain were the comments among men upon his conduct. There was but one who had a good word to say for him, and he was the most silent member in the smoking-room. He had seen him break in a horse at the University, and it seemed to have left an impression upon his mind.

But when Douglas Stone became the favourite all doubts as to Lord Sannox’s knowledge or ignorance were set for ever at rest. There was no subterfuge about Stone. In his high-handed, impetuous fashion, he set all caution and discretion at defiance. The scandal became notorious. A learned body intimated that his name had been struck from the list of its vice-presidents. Two friends implored him to consider his professional credit. He cursed them all three, and spent forty guineas on a bangle to take with him to the lady. He was at her house every evening, and she drove in his carriage in the afternoons. There was not an attempt on either side to conceal their relations; but there came at last a little incident to interrupt them.

It was a dismal winter’s night, very cold and gusty, with the wind whooping in the chimneys and blustering against the window-panes. A thin spatter of rain tinkled on the glass with each fresh sough of the gale, drowning for the instant the dull gurgle and drip from the eaves. Douglas Stone had finished his dinner, and sat by his fire in the study, a glass of rich port upon the malachite table at his elbow. As he raised it to his lips, he held it up against the lamplight, and watched with the eye of a connoisseur the tiny scales of beeswing which floated in its rich ruby depths. The fire, as it spurted up, threw fitful lights upon his bald, clear-cut face, with its widely-opened grey eyes, its thick and yet firm lips, and the deep, square jaw, which had something Roman in its strength and its animalism. He smiled from time to time as he nestled back in his luxurious chair. Indeed, he had a right to feel well pleased, for, against the advice of six colleagues, he had performed an operation that day of which only two cases were on record, and the result had been brilliant beyond all expectation. No other man in London would have had the daring to plan, or the skill to execute, such a heroic measure.

But he had promised Lady Sannox to see her that evening and it was already half-past eight. His hand was outstretched to the bell to order the carriage when he heard the dull thud of the knocker. An instant later there was the shuffling of feet in the hall, and the sharp closing of a door.

“A patient to see you, sir, in the consulting room,” said the butler.

“About himself?”

“No, sir; I think he wants you to go out.”

“It is too late,” cried Douglas Stone peevishly. “I won’t go.”

“This is his card, sir.”

The butler presented it upon the gold salver which had been given to his master by the wife of a Prime Minister.

“‘Hamil Ali, Smyrna.’ Hum! The fellow is a Turk, I suppose.”

“Yes, sir. He seems as if he came from abroad, sir. And he’s in a terrible way.”

“Tut, tut! I have an engagement. I must go somewhere else. But I’ll see him. Show him in here, Pim.”

A few moments later the butler swung open the door and ushered in a small and decrepit man, who walked with a bent back and with the forward push of the face and blink of the eyes which goes with extreme short sight. His face was swarthy, and his hair and beard of the deepest black. In one hand he held a turban of white muslin striped with red, in the other a small chamois-leather bag.

“Good evening,” said Douglas Stone, when the butler had closed the door. “You speak English, I presume?”

“Yes, sir. I am from Asia Minor, but I speak English when I speak slow.”

“You wanted me to go out, I understand?”

“Yes, sir. I wanted very much that you should see my wife.”

“I could come in the morning, but I have an engagement which prevents me from seeing your wife tonight.”

The Turk’s answer was a singular one. He pulled the string which closed the mouth of the chamois-leather bag, and poured a flood of gold on to the table.

“There are one hundred pounds there,” said he, “and I promise you that it will not take you an hour. I have a cab ready at the door.”

Douglas Stone glanced at his watch. An hour would not make it too late to visit Lady Sannox. He had been there later. And the fee was an extraordinarily high one. He had been pressed by his creditors lately, and he could not afford to let such a chance pass. He would go.

“What is the case?” he asked.

“Oh, it is so sad a one! So sad a one! You have not, perhaps heard of the daggers of the Almohades?”

“Never.”

“Ah, they are Eastern daggers of a great age and of a singular shape, with the hilt like what you call a stirrup. I am a curiosity dealer, you understand, and that is why I have come to England from Smyrna, but next week I go back once more. Many things I brought with me, and I have a few things left, but among them, to my sorrow, is one of these daggers.”

“You will remember that I have an appointment, sir,” said the surgeon, with some irritation; “pray confine yourself to the necessary details.”

“You will see that it is necessary. Today my wife fell down in a faint in the room in which I keep my wares, and she cut her lower lip upon this cursed dagger of Almohades.”

“I see,” said Douglas Stone, rising. “And you wish me to dress the wound?”

“No, no, it is worse than that.”

“What then?”

“These daggers are poisoned.”

“Poisoned!”

“Yes, and there is no man, East or West, who can tell now what is the poison or what the cure. But all that is known I know, for my father was in this trade before me, and we have had much to do with these poisoned weapons.”

“What are the symptoms?”

“Deep sleep, and death in thirty hours.”

“And you say there is no cure. Why then should you pay me this considerable fee?”

“No drug can cure, but the knife may.”

“And how?”

“The poison is slow of absorption. It remains for hours in the wound.”

“Washing, then, might cleanse it?”

“No more than in a snake bite. It is too subtle and too deadly.”

“Excision of the wound, then?”

“That is it. If it be on the finger, take the finger off. So said my father always. But think of where this wound is, and that it is my wife. It is dreadful!”

But familiarity with such grim matters may take the finer edge from a man’s sympathy. To Douglas Stone this was already an interesting case, and he brushed aside as irrelevant the feeble objections of the husband.

“It appears to be that or nothing,” said he brusquely. “It is better to loose a lip than a life.”

“Ah, yes, I know that you are right. Well, well, it is kismet, and it must be faced. I have the cab, and you will come with me and do this thing.”

Douglas Stone took his case of bistouries from a drawer, and placed it with a roll of bandage and a compress of lint in his pocket. He must waste no more time if he were to see Lady Sannox.

“I am ready,” said he, pulling on his overcoat. “Will you take a glass of wine before you go out into this cold air?”

His visitor shrank away, with a protesting hand upraised.

“You forget that I am a Mussulman, and a true follower of the Prophet,” said he. “But tell me what is the bottle of green glass which you have placed in your pocket?”

“It is chloroform.”

“Ah, that also is forbidden to us. It is a spirit, and we make no use of such things.”

“What! You would allow your wife to go through an operation without an anaesthetic?”

“Ah! she will feel nothing, poor soul. The deep sleep has already come on, which is the first working of the poison. And then I have given her of our Smyrna opium. Come, sir, for already an hour has passed.”

As they stepped out into the darkness, a sheet of rain was driven in upon their faces, and the hall lamp, which dangled from the arm of a marble Caryatid, went out with a fluff. Pim, the butler, pushed the heavy door to, straining hard with his shoulder against the wind, while the two men groped their way towards the yellow glare which showed where the cab was waiting. An instant later they were rattling upon their journey.

“Is it far?” asked Douglas Stone.

“Oh, no. We have a very little quiet place off the Euston Road.”

The surgeon pressed the spring of his repeater and listened to the little tings which told him the hour. It was a quarter past nine. He calculated the distances, and the short time which it would take him to perform so trivial an operation. He ought to reach Lady Sannox by ten o’clock. Through the fogged windows he saw the blurred gas lamps dancing past, with occasionally the broader glare of a shop front. The rain was pelting and rattling upon the leathern top of the carriage, and the wheels swashed as they rolled through puddle and mud. Opposite to him the white headgear of his companion gleamed faintly through the obscurity. The surgeon felt in his pockets and arranged his needles, his ligatures and his safety-pins, that no time might be wasted when they arrived. He chafed with impatience and drummed his foot upon the floor.

But the cab slowed down at last and pulled up. In an instant Douglas Stone was out, and the Smyrna merchant’s toe was at his very heel.

“You can wait,” said he to the driver.

It was a mean-looking house in a narrow and sordid street. The surgeon, who knew his London well, cast a swift glance into the shadows, but there was nothing distinctive – no shop, no movement, nothing but a double line of dull, flat-faced houses, a double stretch of wet flagstones which gleamed in the lamplight, and a double rush of water in the gutters which swirled and gurgled towards the sewer gratings. The door which faced them was blotched and discoloured, and a faint light in the fan pane above, it served to show the dust and the grime which covered it. Above in one of the bedroom windows, there was a dull yellow glimmer. The merchant knocked loudly, and, as he turned his dark face towards the light, Douglas Stone could see that it was contracted with anxiety. A bolt was drawn, and an elderly woman with a taper stood in the doorway, shielding the thin flame with her gnarled hand.

“Is all well?” gasped the merchant.

“She is as you left her, sir.”

“She has not spoken?”

“No, she is in a deep sleep.”

The merchant closed the door, and Douglas Stone walked down the narrow passage, glancing about him in some surprise as he did so. There was no oil-cloth, no mat, no hat-rack. Deep grey dust and heavy festoons of cobwebs met his eyes everywhere. Following the old woman up the winding stair, his firm footfall echoed harshly through the silent house. There was no carpet.

The bedroom was on the second landing. Douglas Stone followed the old nurse into it, with the merchant at his heels. Here, at least, there was furniture and to spare. The floor was littered and the corners piled with Turkish cabinets, inlaid tables, coats of chain mail, strange pipes, and grotesque weapons. A single small lamp stood upon a bracket on the wall. Douglas Stone took it down, and picking his way among the lumber, walked over to a couch in the corner, on which lay a woman dressed in the Turkish fashion, with yashmak and veil. The lower part of the face was exposed, and the surgeon saw a jagged cut which zigzagged along the border of the under lip.

“You will forgive the yashmak,” said the Turk. “You know our views about women in the East.”

But the surgeon was not thinking about the yashmak. This was no longer a woman to him. It was a case. He stooped and examined the wound carefully.

“There are no signs of irritation,” said he. “We might delay the operation until local symptoms develop.”

The husband wrung his hands in uncontrollable agitation.

“Oh! sir, sir,” he cried. “Do not trifle. You do not know. It is deadly. I know, and I give you my assurance that an operation is absolutely necessary. Only the knife can save her.”

“And yet I am inclined to wait,” said Douglas Stone.

“That is enough,” the Turk cried, angrily. “Every minute is of importance, and I cannot stand here and see my wife allowed to sink. It only remains for me to give you my thanks for having come, and to call in some other surgeon before it is too late.”

Douglas Stone hesitated. To refund that hundred pounds was no pleasant matter. But of course if he left the case he must return the money. And if the Turk were right and the woman died, his position before a coroner might be an embarrassing one.

“You have had personal experience of this poison?” he asked.

“I have.”

“And you assure me that an operation is needful.”

“I swear it by all that I hold sacred.”

“The disfigurement will be frightful.”

“I can understand that the mouth will not be a pretty one to kiss.”

Douglas Stone turned fiercely upon the man. The speech was a brutal one. But the Turk has his own fashion of talk and of thought, and there was no time for wrangling. Douglas Stone drew a bistoury from his case, opened it and felt the keen straight edge with his forefinger. Then he held the lamp closer to the bed. Two dark eyes were gazing up at him through the slit in the yashmak. They were all iris, and the pupil was hardly to be seen.

“You have given her a very heavy dose of opium.”

“Yes, she has had a good dose.”

He glanced again at the dark eyes which looked straight at his own. They were dull and lustreless, but, even as he gazed, a little shifting sparkle came into them, and the lips quivered.

“She is not absolutely unconscious,” said he.

“Would it not be well to use the knife while it will be painless?”

The same thought had crossed the surgeon’s mind. He grasped the wounded lip with his forceps, and with two swift cuts he took out a broad V-shaped piece. The woman sprang up on the couch with a dreadful gurgling scream. Her covering was torn from her face. It was a face that he knew. In spite of that protruding upper lip and that slobber of blood, it was a face that he knew. She kept on putting her hand up to the gap and screaming. Douglas Stone sat down at the foot of the couch with his knife and his forceps. The room was whirling round, and he had felt something go like a ripping seam behind his ear. A bystander would have said that his face was the more ghastly of the two. As in a dream, or as if he had been looking at something at the play, he was conscious that the Turk’s hair and beard lay upon the table, and that Lord Sannox was leaning against the wall with his hand to his side, laughing silently. The screams had died away now, and the dreadful head had dropped back again upon the pillow, but Douglas Stone still sat motionless, and Lord Sannox still chuckled quietly to himself.

“It was really very necessary for Marion, this operation,” said he, “not physically, but morally, you know, morally.”

Douglas Stone stooped for yards and began to play with the fringe of the coverlet. His knife tinkled down upon the ground, but he still held the forceps and something more.

“I had long intended to make a little example,” said Lord Sannox, suavely. “Your note of Wednesday miscarried, and I have it here in my pocket-book. I took some pains in carrying out my idea. The wound, by the way, was from nothing more dangerous than my signet ring.”

He glanced keenly at his silent companion, and cocked the small revolver which he held in his coat pocket. But Douglas Stone was still picking at the coverlet.

“You see you have kept your appointment after all,” said Lord Sannox.

And at that Douglas Stone began to laugh. He laughed long and loudly. But Lord Sannox did not laugh now. Something like fear sharpened and hardened his features. He walked from the room, and he walked on tiptoe. The old woman was waiting outside.

“Attend to your mistress when she awakes,” said Lord Sannox.

Then he went down to the street. The cab was at the door, and the driver raised his hand to his hat.

“John,” said Lord Sannox, “you will take the doctor home first. He will want leading downstairs, I think. Tell his butler that he has been taken ill at a case.”

“Very good, sir.”

“Then you can take Lady Sannox home.”

“And how about yourself, sir?”

“Oh, my address for the next few months will be Hotel di Roma, Venice. Just see that the letters are sent on. And tell Stevens to exhibit all the purple chrysanthemums next Monday, and to wire me the result.”

THE END

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That’s all for now, see you

Luka R.

The story was taken from: East of the Web

The Short Story of the Day

A Little of Chickamauga

by Ambrose Bierce

The history of that awful struggle is well known–I have not the intention to record it here, but only to relate some part of what I saw of it; my purpose not instruction, but entertainment.

I was an officer of the staff of a Federal brigade. Chickamauga was not my first battle by many, for although hardly more than a boy in years, I had served at the front from the beginning of the trouble, and had seen enough of war to give me a fair understanding of it. We knew well enough that there was to be a fight: the fact that we did not want one would have told us that, for Bragg always retired when we wanted to fight and fought when we most desired peace. We had maneuvered him out of Chattanooga, but had not maneuvered our entire army into it, and he fell back so sullenly that those of us who followed, keeping him actually in sight, were a good deal more concerned about effecting a junction with the rest of our army than to push the pursuit. By the time that Rosecrans had got his three scattered corps together we were a long way from Chattanooga, with our line of communication with it so exposed that Bragg turned to seize it. Chickamauga was a fight for possession of a road.

Back along this road raced Crittenden’s corps, with those of Thomas and McCook, which had not before traversed it. The whole army was moving by its left.

There was sharp fighting all along and all day, for the forest was so dense that the hostile lines came almost into contact before fighting was possible. One instance was particularly horrible. After some hours of close engagement my brigade, with foul pieces and exhausted cartridge boxes, was relieved and withdrawn to the road to protect several batteries of artillery–probably two dozen pieces–which commanded an open field in the rear of our line. Before our weary and virtually disarmed men had actually reached the guns the line in front gave way, fell back behind the guns and went on, the Lord knows whither. A moment later the field was gray with Confederates in pursuit. Then the guns opened fire with grape and canister and for perhaps five minutes–it seemed an hour–nothing could be heard but the infernal din of their discharge and nothing seen through the smoke but a great ascension of dust from the smitten soil. When all was over, and the dust cloud had lifted, the spectacle was too dreadful to describe. The Confederates were still there–all of them, it seemed–some almost under the muzzles of the guns. But not a man of all these brave fellows was on his feet, and so thickly were all covered with dust that they looked as if they had been reclothed in yellow.

“We bury our dead,” said a gunner, grimly, though doubtless all were afterward dug out, for some were partly alive.

To a “day of danger” succeeded a “night of waking.” The enemy, everywhere held back from the road, continued to stretch his line northward in the hope to overlap us and put himself between us and Chattanooga. We neither saw nor heard his movement, but any man with half a head would have known that he was making it, and we met by a parallel movement to our left. By morning we had edged along a good way and thrown up rude intrenchments at a little distance from the road, on the threatened side. The day was not very far advanced when we were attacked furiously all along the line, beginning at the left. When repulsed, the enemy came again and again–his persistence was dispiriting. He seemed to be using against us the law of probabilities: for so many efforts one would eventually succeed.

One did, and it was my luck to see it win. I had been sent by my chief, General Hazen, to order up some artillery ammunition and rode away to the right and rear in search of it. Finding an ordnance train I obtained from the officer in charge a few wagons loaded with what I wanted, but he seemed in doubt as to our occupancy of the region across which I proposed to guide them. Although assured that I had just traversed it, and that it lay immediately behind Wood’s division, he insisted on riding to the top of the ridge behind which his train lay and overlooking the ground. We did so, when to my astonishment I saw the entire country in front swarming with Confederates; the very earth seemed to be moving toward us! They came on in thousands, and so rapidly that we had barely time to turn tail and gallop down the hill and away, leaving them in possession of the train, many of the wagons being upset by frantic efforts to put them about. By what miracle that officer had sensed the situation I did not learn, for we parted company then and there and I never again saw him.

By a misunderstanding Wood’s division had been withdrawn from our line of battle just as the enemy was making an assault. Through the gap of a half a mile the Confederates charged without opposition, cutting our army clean in two. The right divisions were broken up and with General Rosecrans in their midst fled how they could across the country, eventually bringing up in Chattanooga, whence Rosecrans telegraphed to Washington the destruction of the rest of his army. The rest of his army was standing its ground.

A good deal of nonsense used to be talked about the heroism of General Garfield, who, caught in the rout of the right, nevertheless went back and joined the undefeated left under General Thomas. There was no great heroism in it; that is what every man should have done, including the commander of the army. We could hear Thomas’s guns going–those of us who had ears for them–and all that was needful was to make a sufficiently wide detour and then move toward the sound. I did so myself, and have never felt that it ought to make me President. Moreover, on my way I met General Negley, and my duties as topographical engineer having given me some knowledge of the lay of the land offered to pilot him back to glory. I am sorry to say my good offices were rejected a little uncivilly, which I charitably attributed to the general’s obvious absence of mind. His mind, I think, was in Nashville, behind a breastwork.

Unable to find my brigade, I reported to General Thomas, who directed me to remain with him. He had assumed command of all the forces still intact and was pretty closely beset. The battle was fierce and continuous, the enemy extending his lines farther and farther around our right, toward our line of retreat. We could not meet the extension otherwise than by “refusing” our right flank and letting him inclose us; which but for gallant Gordon Granger he would inevitably have done.

This was the way of it. Looking across the fields in our rear (rather longingly) I had the happy distinction of a discoverer. What I saw was the shimmer of sunlight on metal: lines of troops were coming in behind us! The distance was too great, the atmosphere too hazy to distinguish the color of their uniform, even with a glass. Reporting my momentous “find” I was directed by the general to go and see who they were. Galloping toward them until near enough to see that they were of our kidney I hastened back with the glad tidings and was sent again, to guide them to the general’s position.

It was General Granger with two strong brigades of the reserve, moving soldier-like toward the sound of heavy firing. Meeting him and his staff I directed him to Thomas, and unable to think of anything better to do decided to go visiting. I knew I had a brother in that gang–an officer of an Ohio battery. I soon found him near the head of a column, and as we moved forward we had a comfortable chat amongst such of the enemy’s bullets as had inconsiderately been fired too high. The incident was a trifle marred by one of them unhorsing another officer of the battery, whom we propped against a tree and left. A few moments later Granger’s force was put in on the right and the fighting was terrific!

By accident I now found Hazen’s brigade–or what remained of it–which had made a half-mile march to add itself to the unrouted at the memorable Snodgrass Hill. Hazen’s first remark to me was an inquiry about that artillery ammunition that he had sent me for.

It was needed badly enough, as were other kinds: for the last hour or two of that interminable day Granger’s were the only men that had enough ammunition to make a five minutes’ fight. Had the Confederates made one more general attack we should have had to meet them with the bayonet alone. I don’t know why they did not; probably they were short of ammunition. I know, though, that while the sun was taking its own time to set we lived through the agony of at least one death each, waiting for them to come on.

At last it grew too dark to fight. Then away to our left and rear some of Bragg’s people set up “the rebel yell.” It was taken up successively and passed round to our front, along our right and in behind us again, until it seemed almost to have got to the point whence it started. It was the ugliest sound that any mortal ever heard–even a mortal exhausted and unnerved by two days of hard fighting, without sleep, without rest, without food and without hope. There was, however, a space somewhere at the back of us across which that horrible yell did not prolong itself; and through that we finally retired in profound silence and dejection, unmolested.

To those of us who have survived the attacks of both Bragg and Time, and who keep in memory the dear dead comrades whom we left upon that fateful field, the place means much. May it mean something less to the younger men whose tents are now pitched where, with bended heads and clasped hands, God’s great angels stood invisible among the heroes in blue and the heroes in gray, sleeping their last sleep in the woods of Chickamauga.


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Luka R.

Source: American Literature