August 15, 2009

A Room with a View

Posted in Bildungsroman, Classics of World Literature at 12:05 am by j128

A Room with a View

A Room with a View

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster was first published in 1908, and is about a young woman, Lucy Honeychurch, in the repressed culture of Edwardian England and her journey of self-discovery, thus it may also be considered as a Bildungsroman. It is E.M. Forster’s most romantic and optimistic work.

Major themes that are developed and explored in the novel include repression, growing up, and true love, while touching upon many issues concerning society and politics in early 20th century Edwardian culture. Symbolism is also equipped in illustrating binary opposites, “rooms” and “views” are often mentioned. Characters and places associated as “rooms” are conservative and uncreative: characters such as Mrs. Honeychurch are often pictured in a room; whereas characters such as the Emersons are portrayed as having a “view”, being “outside”, that represents their open and forward-thinking, modern character types. Such symbolic representation is also expressed in the contrasts between “Medieval” and “Renaissance” characters. (Click here for an explanation of major themes in A Room with a View from Wikipedia.)


Part One

The first part is set in Florence, Italy, and describes the protagonist Lucy Honeychurch’s confused feelings over a young Englishman staying at the same hotel. She is touring Italy with her older cousin and chaperon, Charlotte Bartlett, and the novel opens with their complaints about the hotel; their primary concern being that a “room with a view” had been promised to each of them, their rooms look over a courtyard instead, upon which a Mr. Emerson offers to swap rooms as he and his son George look over the Arno. Before Lucy has a chance to speak, her chaperon cousin refuses the offer as, in her prim fashion, looks down at the Emersons due to their unconventional behaviour and thinking that it would place her under an “unseemly obligation” towards them. Later, however, after the persuasion of another hotel guest, an Anglican clergyman named Mr. Beebe, she accepts the offer.

The next day Lucy embarks on a tour of Florence with another hotel guest, Miss Eleanor Lavish, a novelist who shows Lucy the back streets, takes her guidebook, and subsequently loses her in Santa Croce, whereupon Lucy meets the Emersons again, whom she likes despite them being deemed as socially unacceptable by other guests. Lucy continues to run into them in Florence. One afternoon when she witnesses a murder, George Emerson happens to be nearby and he catches her just as she faints; on their way back to the hotel they have an intimate conversation. Afterward, Lucy decides to avoid George as she is confused by her feelings and partly to keep Charlotte, her cousin, happy. However, when a party made up of Beebe, Eager, the Emersons, Miss Lavish, Miss Charlotte Bartlett and Lucy  drive to Fiesole, she accidentally meets George on a hillside, and George, overcome by her beauty, kisses her. They’re interrupted by Miss Bartlett who is outraged, and Lucy promises her that she will not tell her mother of the “insult” as Miss Bartlett would be blamed. The two women leave for Rome the next day, before Lucy has a chance to say goodbye to George.

Part Two

In Rome Lucy spends time with Cecil Vyse, whom she knew in England, and he proposes to her twice, upon each occasion she rejects him. She returns to her family home, Windy Corner, in Surrey, England, where Cecil proposes once again and this time she accepts. Cecil, as described by Lucy’s mother, Mrs. Honeychurch:

“…He’s good; he’s clever, he’s rich, he’s well connected –  Oh, you needn’t kick the piano! He’s well connected – I’ll say it again if you like: he’s well connected.” She paused, as if rehearsing her eulogy, but her face remained dissatisfied. She added: “And he has beautiful manners.”

Yet the irony here is that, in the words of George Emerson, “he is the sort who are all right so long as they keep to things – books, pictures – but kill when they come to people.”

An ironic, catalyst twist occurs when Lucy’s brother Freddy befriends George Emerson and invites him to play tennis one Sunday at Windy Corner. Lucy, initially mortified at having to face both George and Cecil, also visiting Windy Corner the same Sunday, braves her fears and resolves to be gracious. Her reserve is shaken though by a passage Cecil reads from a light romance, in which a scene is described that suspiciously reminiscent of when George kissed Lucy in Florence.

” ‘Leonora,’ ” he read, ” ‘sat pensive and alone. Before her lay the rich champaign of Tuscany, dotted over with many a smiling village. The season was spring.’ “
Miss Lavish knew, somehow, and had printed the past in draggled prose, for Cecil to read and for George to hear.

” ‘A golden haze,’ ” he read. He read: ” ‘Afar off the towers of Florence, while the bank on which she sat was carpeted with violets. All unobserved, Antonio stole up behind her–‘ ”
Lest Cecil should see her face she turned to George, and she saw his face.
He read: ” ‘There came from his lips no wordy protestation such as formal lovers use. No eloquence was his, nor did he suffer from the lack of it. He simply enfolded her in his manly arms.’ “

George finds Lucy alone in the garden and, for the second time, kisses her again. She realizes that the light romance was written by Miss Lavish, the novelist acquaintance from Florence, and that Charlotte must have told her about the kiss. Furious with her cousin for betraying her secret, (“Why did you tell Miss Lavish, when you wouldn’t even let me tell mother?”) she forces Charlotte to watch as she tells George to leave and never return again. George argues with her, saying that Cecil will only ever see her as “an object for the shelf” and will never love her enough to grant her independence, whereas George loves her for who she is:

“He is the sort who are all right so long as they keep to things – books, pictures – but kill when they come to people. That’s why I’ll speak out through all this muddle even now. It’s shocking enough to lose you in any case, but generally a man must deny himself joy, and I would have held it back if your Cecil had been a different person. I would have never let myself go. But I saw him first in the National Gallery, when he winced because my father mispronounced the names of the great painters. Then he brings us here, and we find it is to play some silly trick on a kind neighbour. That is the man all over – playing tricks on people, on the most sacred form of life that he can find. Next, I meet you together, and find him protecting and teaching you and your mother to be shocked, when it was for you to settle whether you were shocked or no. Cecil all over again. He daren’t let a woman decide. He’s the type who’s kept Europe back for a thousand years. Every moment of his life he’s forming you, telling you what’s charming or amusing or ladylike, telling you what a man thinks womanly; and you, you of all women, listen to his voice instead of your own. So it was at the Rectory, when I met you both again; so it had been the whole of this afternoon. Therefore – not “therefore I kissed you,” because the book made me do that, and I wish to goodness I had more self-control. I’m not ashamed. I don’t apologize. But it has frightened you, and you may not have noticed that I love you. Or would you have told me to go, and dealt with a tremendous thing so lightly? But therefore – therefore I settled to fight him.”

Lucy is moved, but remains firm. George leaves. The scales fall from Lucy’s eyes when later that evening Cecil refuses a game of tennis, confessing himself as the chap “who is no good for anything but books”, and she breaks her engagement with him. She decides to travel to Greece with acquaintances from Florence, but shortly before her departure she encounters the elder Mr. Emerson, who is not aware that she has broken her engagement with Cecil. As she cannot lie, Mr. Emerson forces Lucy to admit out loud that she’s loved George all along. The novel ends in Florence, where Lucy and George have eloped to without her mother’s consent and although she has perhaps “alienated Windy Corner, perhaps for ever”, it ends on the note of lifelong love for both her and George.


A Room with a View – Wikipedia

Read A Room with a View on Project Gutenberg

May 22, 2008

The Black Tulip

Posted in Classics of World Literature at 4:43 am by j128

Penguin Classics edition

The Black Tulip (Penguin Classics)

The Black Tulip is an historical romance novel by Alexandre Dumas with collaborating ghost writer Auguste Marquet, and was published in 1865. It is set within the beautiful landscapes and sceneries of seventeenth-century Holland in the midst of a tulipomania (also known as just the “tulip mania”), and is set against the terrible assassination of Cornelius de Witt and his brother Johan de Witt, which remains to this day one of the most devestating episodes in Dutch history. The actual story begins about one and a half years after this incident.

The beginning of the story is similar to that of The Count of Monte Cristo. Our protagonist, Cornelius van Baerle, the godson of Cornelius de Witt, unwittingly causes the envy of a rival, thus becoming embroiled in political intrigues, and is imprisoned. However, unlike Edmond Dantes, he is rescued partly by three actions: an accident, a determined young woman, and a royal personage; and in this story he doesn’t have his revenge. But, one could say that the style and manner in which Rosa begins learning how to read and write is similar to that of how Edmond Dantes’ received his education from the abbé.


Cornelius de Witt has been accused of murder – specifically, the alleged attempted assassination of William of Orange; in which he had hired the barber Tyckelaer to do the dirty work, but now Cornelius is in prison, and is awaiting exile.

However, the people of the city of Hague do not believe that exile is good enough and so a mob forms, which heads to the prison in which Cornelius is held.

Cornelius’s brother, the former Grand Pensionary (which is like a political leader of a state) Johan de Witt, comes to see him and is to join him in exile. Cornelius is extremely physically weak, having been so brutally tortured that his fingers, hands, and wrists are shattered.

Meanwhile, outside the prison the mob continues to grow more violent with cries of “Death to the traitors!” and they are only prevented access by the guards. Inside his cell, Cornelius consoles his brother that they will have a resurrection of their popularity, as he placed a package in his godson, Cornelius van Baerle’s trust, which contains the letters addressed to Monsieur de Louvois. However, this only distresses Johan as the godson is lost: he will either be strong or weak – if strong, he will boast of his godfather and Johan and should shout forth the secret of the two brothers’ existence; and if he is weak, he’ll be afraid to associate with them, hence he will let the secret be forced out of him. Thus, Cornelius van Baerle is lost.

The two brothers then quickly set a quick means of action, by Cornelius painfully writing an order to his godson to burn the package without looking into its contents no matter what, as “secrets of the kind that it contains kill those who know them.” They give the note to their servant, Craeke, who delivers it to the mentioned godson.

Not five minutes pass when Craeke sounds his old boatswain’s whistle, which is the signal for the brothers to escape.

While the brothers escape, a deputation of citizens continue to go to the town hall, to hopefully receive a written order for the guards to step aside for the mob kill the treacherous brothers.

A young man of about twenty-three years has been following the details of the events from the start. He and an officer observe the mob demanding a written order, a sort of battle that they win. He has apparently instigated the entire flurry of events.

Those who hold the order race back to the rest of the mob, which is incredulously received by the guards. Having no choice now, they stand aside, and the mob rushes forward.

Inside the prison, the de Witts encounter the lovely Rosa, daughter of the jailer Gryphus, and she directs them to go out through the postern, which opens to an empty street, and tells them to proceed to the town gate. The brothers are grateful and Cornelius gives, in exchange, his Bible to the young woman, despite her great disappointment that she cannot read or write.

Once the brothers are out of the prison, Rosa goes to her father, telling him that the mob would surely kill them, and so they hide in the secret dungeon – a dungeon that is reserved for dangerous fugitives.

The mob breaks down the gate and flood the entire prison, only finding to their despair that the brothers have escaped – but not for long: they catch up with the brothers’ carriage when it arrives at the town gates, only to discover that the town gates have been shut, and the guard doesn’t carry the key – it was taken away from him earlier that morning. Despite the jailer’s daughter’s best intentions, the two brothers are pulled out of their carriage and are severely beaten; Cornelius dies quickly and is disembowled. Johann, in his pain, laments for his brother, and he is blinded with a pike from a member of the militia, struck on the head with the butt of a musket, and has his brains blown out. The bodies of Cornelius and Johann are bruised and butchered, and in finality small remains of their bodies sold for a set price.

During these gruesome events William of Orange (for he is the young man in his early twenties) gallops along the Leyden road after assuring himself that his two enemies are dead, Craeke is delivering the note to the godson, who lives in Dordrecht, described as a beautiful, smiling town under a hill dotted with windmills.

A happy man lives in a house, whose name is Doctor Cornelius van Baerle, Cornelius de Witt’s godson. He has lived in this house since childhood and it was the birthplace of his father and his grandfather. His father had amassed a fortune of some three to four thousand florins, which is only small change as Dr. van Baerle has an income of ten thousand florins a year due to his properties in the province.

Before the Doctor’s father died, his parting words were of wisdom to his son: that above all, his son is not to partake in politics as Cornelius’s godfather has done for he will only undoubtedly come to a bad end. His godfather did try to introduce him into politics but Cornelius showed little interest, and eventually discovered his own happiness in life: researching plants and insects, collecting and classifying all the flora on the island, eventually absorbing himself in the most elegant and costly folly of his country and time: he falls in love with tulips.

He and his tulips become famed, and he begins spending his income on his tulips, thus discovering five different varieties that he names after his mother, father, and his godfather, among others. However, the young man has unwittingly made an enemy for himself in the form of his next-door neighbour Isaac Boxtel, who has also been cultivating tulips which are unfortunately not as favoured as Cornelius’s. He feels the wealthy Doctor has usurped him and throughout the story grows extremely envious – eventually to the point that he’ll stop at nothing.

Boxtel begins spying on his rival and his movements, with a few attempts to ruin the beds in which the tulips grow, only to be foiled every time.

Around the time of Boxtel’s latest foiled attempt at ruining the flowerbeds, the Haarlem Tulip Society offers a prize for the discovery “of a great black tulip without a spot of colour.” The prize for the black tulip is a hundred thousand florins. Many gasp at this announcement, not only at the large prize, but that to produce a tulip that is black is believed to be biologically impossible.

It was because of Boxtel’s continuation of spying, that he witnesses a meeting between the two Corneliuses, in which the elder hands the younger a package of obvious importance. He takes this to his advantage.

Now with the background explained, Craeke arrives at the younger Cornelius’s house, with the message from the godfather.

Cornelius is in his drying room, where he is delighting in three offset bulbs, and he determins he will discover the great black tulip, deciding its name will be Tulipa nigra Barlænsis, after himself. A servant appears and announces that Craeke is here. Craeke barges into the drying room, in which this action compells Cornelius to protect the bulbs, only to send two of them rolling. Craeke gives the letter to the godson and flees the room.

Cornelius inspects his bulbs to make sure no harm has come to them, only a second later does a servant appear again, and tells him to run away: the house is full of guards of the States and they mean to arrest him. His nanny also appears and insists on him fleeing, to jump out the window: never mind his tulips!

Cornelius wraps the bulbs in the paper that has his godfather’s order and conceals them in his shirt. The guards and a magistrate arrive, who accuses him of obtaining “seditious papers.” Cornelius, in his ignorance, is clueless about the contents of the papers that his godfather gave to him, and the magistrate, upon scanning through the letters, arrests the tulip lover.

Cornelius is taken to the Hague, the same prison in which his godfather and his godfather’s brother had been. The jailer Gryphus places him in the “family” cell, where Cornelius learns of the horrible ends of Cornelius and Johan de Witt.

Unbeknownst to him at the time, the lovely Rosa has fallen in love with him at first sight, and her love for him deepens especially when he sets her father’s arm despite Gryphus having been harsh the previous day.

Cornelius is tried sometime after his imprisonment and is to be executed at midday. Rosa cries for him and he writes a will, for the tulip bulbs to be hers, and he gives her instructions on how to care for them. He goes to his apparent death with dignity, feeling no sadness for his existence but for the tulip that he has created but which he’ll never set eyes upon. His death is excused, however, by a young man, and he is sent – as a dangerous enemy of the States – to the prison Loevestein.

He finds there is an excellent view from the cell that he is in and to his joy, Rosa is transferred to the prison with her father. Then begins a series of nights in which Rosa comes to meet the prisoner at nine o’clock and they talk for an hour. The two offsets of the tulips begin to bloom, thanks to Cornelius’s continued instructions. He also teaches Rosa how to read and write, using his godfather’s Bible for their exercise book.

A man in his fifties arrives at the prison, who calls himself Mijnheer (a title) Jacob. He gets into Gryphus’s good books and is almost Rosa’s (to her distate) lover. He is also interested in tulips and when an occurance happens in which the jailer destroyed the first bulb, he flew into a rage. He spies on Rosa and she and Cornelius suspect him, remaining wary. At long last, the black tulip emerges and it is beautiful: it being the daughter of Cornelius and Rosa’s love.

Quickly, a messanger is sent to deliver a letter to the Haarlem Tulip Society that the black tulip has been discovered. But whilst Rosa sends off the message with the lad, Jacob breaks into her room using a forged key, and steals the tulip. She discovers this tragedy and mournfully tells Cornelius, his reaction being of loss, tragedy, and depression. As she tries to soothe him, they are caught by Gryphus, who overhears her calling Cornelius hers. He sends her away and acts harshly towards the depressed prisoner.

Meanwhile, Jacob, who is revealed as none other than Boxtel, thus ringing true to the reader’s suspicions, flees. He takes a carriage to the Tulip Society, bearing with him the stolen black tulip. Rosa doesn’t give up easily and she takes off after him by horse and arrives in Haarlem, precisely four hours after Jacob/Boxtel. She goes to the Society and persists that the black tulip is hers and it has been stolen from her.

The Prince, William of Orange, hears her out with the president of the Society, and after a battle of odds with Rosa and Boxtel, the jailer’s daughter gets the upper hand.

Boxtel is led to believe that he is still the “owner” of the tulip and the Prince gives Rosa five hundred florins for her to dress up in the costume of a Frisian bride.

During those events in Haarlem, Cornelius continues to despair in his cell and even more so when he doesn’t see Rosa. Gryphus tries to attack him, only for Cornelius to defend himself and is restrained by guards, who ran up to the jailer’s aid upon hearing his cries for help. Despite his pleas that it was only for self-defense, Cornelius is taken away to Haarlem to His Highness William of Orange.

Cornelius sees the festival of tulips and is allowed to have a close look at the black tulip. William of Orange has a speech that praises the black tulip and announces the owner: Rosa, to which the audience cheers, Boxtel collapses and dies, and Cornelius and Rosa are united. Furthermore, the Prince apologizes and excuses Cornelius, giving him back everything that was confinscated, and the black tulip is named Tulipa nigra Rosa Barlænsis.

Gryphus isn’t pleased at first with this marital arrangement, but comes to adjust, and just as he was harsh as a jailer, so he is as a tulip keeper: keeping a look-out for dangerous butterflies, harmful insects, and swatting away greedy, overfed bees.

Within two years of marriage, Rosa and Cornelius discover many other varieties of tulips and they have two children: a boy and a girl, which are named, respectfully, Cornelius and Rosa. Rosa the elder has grown in wisdom and her reading and writing have improved so much that she decides to educate her own children.

All in all, they lived happily ever after.


Robin Buss notes in his introduction that Mr. Dumas only used history as a means of telling great stories and didn’t always stick to the facts, thus he often confuses the William of Orange described in The Black Tulip with a predecessor, William the Silent (Prince William I of Orange, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg). The William of Orange here in The Black Tulip is actually William III of Orange who also came to be King of England, Ireland, and Scotland until his death.

Alexandre Dumas did once visit Holland, to witness the coronation of King William III, yet there is not great detail of the Dutch landscapes, the only ones being described are the ones in which the events take place, otherwise…

The period of the tulipomania is true and it was a time when tulip bulbs were very expensive, an example being that a single bulb of a famous variety of tulip could cost one thousand florins, compared to a ton of butter that was only one hundred florins. (At the time, the average yearly income was one hundred fifty florins.)

Recommended Editions of The Black Tulip

I recommend the Penguin Classics edition, published in 2003, and translated with an introduction and notes by Robin Buss. The notes are helpful and this edition also contains a section of further reading, available from Penguin Classics.

May 21, 2008

The Time Machine

Posted in Classics of World Literature, Science Fiction at 5:40 am by j128

First edition of

First edition cover of The Time Machine

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is a science fiction novel, first published in 1895, and is cited to have developed an interest in the possibilities of time travel via a machine, such as the one described in the book. The term “time machine”, coined by Mr. Wells, is universal in regards to such a vehicle.

The History of The Time Machine

Mr. Wells had actually explored the concept of time travel in a previous, lesser-known story called The Chronic Argonauts; when asked by his publisher to write a serial novel based upon the subject, he readily accepted and wrote it based it on the Block Theory of the Universe, and was paid £100 upon its publication.

The Time Machine‘s published book form was slightly abridged when it was released: an extract from the eleventh chapter was censored from the book as it was believed to be too frightening and disturbing and it has been subsequently released as The Grey Man. The censored excerpt is contained in the summary.


The story begins with the Time Traveller, the protagonist of the novel, who has just demonstrated to his invited guests by using a miniature model, that time is a fourth dimension and that a suitable apparatus can move back and forth in this fourth dimension. He built a larger machine that could carry himself and set off into the future.

Next Thursday, he returns and details his journey to his guests, which takes up the length of the book except for the last chapter or two. He describes that while time traveling it gives a feeling of disorientation to one and as the machine travels farther and farther into the future, the outside sceneries become a blur and the Time Traveller witnesses the rapid changes and evolution that occurs in the sceneries surrounding him until finally arriving in the year 802, 701 A.D.

In the year 802, 701 A.D. the Time Traveller discovers a idyllic, utopian, and peaceful future where a kind of subspecies of humans live and they are called the Eloi. They are described as being simple, childlike, and happy, and are about four feet tall with curly hair, small ears and mouths, and large eyes. There is hardly any distinction between the men and women as they are similar in build, and they have high-pitched voices and speak an unknown language, and are apparently unintelligent and live without conflict or fighting.

The Eloi live in large futuristic but dilapidated buildings, and the land around London has become a sort of sprawling garden with many curious flowerings and fruits. The Eloi eat the fruits, of which their diet solely consists of. There isn’t any evidence of technology or agriculture, which the Eloi seem incapable of doing.

The Eloi eagerly accept the Time Traveller into their community and share a meal with him, which is a spread banquet with a variety of fruits, but the Time Traveller begins yearning for a nice piece of meat, and tries to speak to them, only for the Eloi to be confused.

Afterwards he decides to explore the area and with a scientific mind, and explains the future he is in hypothetically: he muses over the factors that have resulted in the Eloi’s society and physical conditions, being that humanity had finally been successful in transforming and controlling nature through the technology, art, creativity, and politics the Eloi developed; furthermore, due to the discontinuation of improving life with technology, agriculture, and other innovations the Eloi developed a lack of intelligence and became unimaginative and lost their curiosity regarding the world.

Without work, the Eloi became physically frail and weak, and became shorter in stature. This is especially so since there is nothing to distinguish between the sexes, as in former times males had worked but now in this future they have a loss of physique, which explains the reason for this lacking dimorphism. The Time Traveller also supposes preventative medicine was also developed as there isn’t any evidence of disease among the Eloi and that also some form of birth control had been implemented so as to prevent overpopulation.

At sunset, he finds the Time Machine has disappeared and thinks that perhaps the Eloi moved it to their sanctuary, but it isn’t there, and when he begins trying to communicate with them, his behaviour and manner frightens them. He gives up trying to explain and searches for the Time Machine all night until finally falling into a restless sleep.

As the Time Traveller continues his explorations, he discovers that the utopian society is actually deceptive in that the class structure has survived from his own time and humanity has diverged into two branches: the Eloi are actually devolved from the wealthy class, and he also discovers that deep below in the depths of darkness are the fearful Morlocks, which have stemmed from the working classes bent under the wealthy, which are faintly hominid, yet cannabalistic, and resemble human spiders. They work underground and maintain the machinery that keep the Eloi – which they feed upon – docile and plentiful. They only surface at night and any unfortunate Eloi that is still wandering meets its horrible death.

During his stay in this future, the Time Traveller rescues a female Eloi from drowning, and her name is Weena. Surprisingly, she remains grateful to him and follows him everywhere, and over time the Time Traveller does develop affectionate feelings for her.

The Time Traveller eventually ascertains the Morlocks took the Time Machine into the depths of the underground in which they dwell and he goes down to find it, only to have the Morlocks groping his clothing as he makes his descent, and he only manages to keep them away with his matches. He hears loud thumping of machinery and only just manages to escape the darkness and the Morlocks.

Sometime afterwards, he and Weena go exploring and rest at night in a meadow with flowers. Weena is fast asleep while the Time Traveller has discovered the horrific realization that the Morlocks feed upon the Eloi, and the poor creatures are unaware of this horrible, horrible fact.

The Time Traveller and Weena arrive at the Palace of Green Porcelain, which is realized by the Time Traveller to be the remains of a great museum. Inside, they find various artifacts of past ages such as dinosaur fossils, minerals, machines of war, and all other things that build civilizations and that which makes them great. Weena grows apprehensive as the museum continues into darkness and the Time Traveller senses the presence of the Morlocks. He takes some of the artifacts with him as weapons: matches, camphor, and a crowbar.

The Time Traveller, with Weena in one arm, and his weapons in the other, tries to escape the persisting darkness, the Morlocks stalk him. Finally, he has to set Weena down to defend himself, and throws a lighted branch at the Morlocks, which are repelled temporarily.

He lights a fire, by which Weena is fascinated and tries to play with it, only for the Time Traveller to dissuade her from such a notion. Sitting down in the forest, the Time Traveller fights sleep only to succumb to it. Later, he wakes up, and the fire is burning low and the Morlocks have surrounded him and Weena.

The Time Traveller defends himself and Weena, attacking the Morlocks, and in the confusion the forest goes up in flames, and he is lost, and Weena is nowhere to be found, whom he comes to believe to be dead.

Now that he knows the Morlocks most certainly possess the Time Machine, he goes back down into the Morlocks’ territory and there he finds his invention. The Morlocks trap him and the Time Traveller only just narrowly escapes when he propels himself into the future.

[What follows is the censored excerpt published elsewhere as The Grey Man.]

The Time Traveller wakes up in his Time Machine after escaping the Morlocks and finds himself in an unrecognizable far future. He sees peculiar creatures, resembling rabbits or some small breed of kangaroos, only to discover they are actually some kind of plantigrade, and he suddenly sees a score of them. He hopes to capture a speciman and successfully stuns one by hitting it on the head with a stone.

Upon closer inspection, he discovers the creature has five feeble digits on both its fore and hind legs like that of a human, a roundish head with eyes positioned in the front, and lank hair. It is also tailess and has long legs.

The Time Traveller has to abandon his specimen when a giant, metallic centipede-like creature comes, and all the other grey creatures flee. He goes one day forward and finds the centipede-like predator gone and his specimen as well. He tries to capture another of these grey creatures but to no avail as none of his aims are as successful as his first one. He theorizes that these grey creatures are descendants of the Eloi and travels further into the future.

[As the above summary of the incident of the grey creatures was deemed too disturbing, it was subsequently omitted from the published book, and the following was substituted.]

The Time Traveller travels about thirty million years into the future and arrives on a kind of beach, where monstrous crabs try to grab him for a meal, but he sets one month between himself and the creatures, only to arrive again at the same spot with the crabs looming in the distance.

He continues to travel into the future, stopping every once or so in a while, curious to learn and observe the Earth’s fate. Towards the very end of the world, the only remaining life left are small life forms such as lichen and the Earth is very dead, now a harsh environment and the Time Traveller is so shocked by this revelation that he feels incapable of making the return journey, but when he sees a roundish creature about the size of a football (soccer ball) with tentacles falling from its body, the mere sight of it frightens him, pivoting him to launch the Time Machine back to his own time, with the sceneries whizzing past him at a blurring pace and he arrives back at the time where the story began.

All but one of the guests are skeptical, the only one who is not is the other narrator who is never named. They go home, with the narrator fascinated by the incredible story the Time Traveller told, yet it was so credibly and soberly told. Next day, he goes to meet the Time Traveller, and the young scientist tells the narrator to stay for lunch and that he’ll be with him within half an hour.

The narrator consents and waits for the Time Traveller. But the Time Traveller has disappeared into time and hasn’t come back yet – he’s been missing for three years.

Recommended Editions of The Time Machine

The Time Machine is indeed a marvelous work of literature and art, and it is my favourite by Mr. Wells. His writing is so compelling and creative, and the words and phrases he uses to describe his ideas and stories so well are such fine examples as are found in good storytelling.

I’ve only ever listened to The Time Machine and so I can’t really recommend it in book form, though I do suspect none of them contain The Grey Man, but if one wishes to, he can find a link below for the “short story.”

  • For audio books, I would recommend the Recorded Books (1996) edition and it is available on audio CD. It is unabridged, containing four discs, totaling four hours in length, and is excellently narrated by Simon Prebble.

Film Adaptations

Two film adaptations have been made of The Time Machine, one in 1960 and a remake in 2002 by Mr. Wells great-grandson Simon Wells. I haven’t seen either, but from my reading of the reviews, they are only loosely adapted and they each make some drastic changes to the plotline, such as the Eloi fighting against the Morlocks towards the end of the 1960 film or the Time Traveller having a girlfriend who is killed, which in turn inspires him to travel in time to prevent her death, only for her death to be a temporal paradox in the 2002 version. I really can’t say what I think about them, only that I don’t feel in any rush to see them.


The Time Machine

Review of The Time Machine

Teacher’s Guide to The Time Machine – PDF format

Summary of The Time Machine – Wikipedia article

The Time Machine at Wikisource (complete)

The Grey Man at Wikisource

The Time Machine on Project Gutenberg

How Time Travel Works

Topics related to The Time Machine

Heat death – one of the “end of the universe” theories; Mr. Wells’ interpretation of heat death is based on the imaginings of scientists of his day, such as William Thomson, First Baron Kelvin (Lord Kelvin), who developed ideas during the 1850s.

January 3, 2008

The Count of Monte Cristo

Posted in Adventure, Classics of World Literature at 5:24 pm by j128

The Count of Monte Cristo (Penguin Classics edition)

The Count of Monte Cristo (Penguin Classics)

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, was published from 1844-1846 as a serialization in a French magazine. It is considered one of Mr. Dumas’s greatest works along with The Three Musketeers and as with many of his works, the story is expanded from the plot outlines suggested by Mr. Dumas’s collaborating ghost writer Auguste Maquet. The entire story spans a thousand and something pages in length. (Personal note: I read this book in 12 days!)

History of The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo, as already said, is considered as one of Mr. Dumas’s greatest works – it is told with remarkable storytelling containing elements such as revenge, mystery, love, and betrayal. It is also often called a swashbuckling and/or adventure novel. Indeed, Robert Louis Stevenson said it is “A piece of perfect storytelling.”

It is set just before The Hundred Days War and during the reign of Louis-Phillipe.

Alexandre Dumas found the inspiration for Monte Cristo from his acquaintance with Jérôme Bonaparte’s young son whom Mr. Dumas took occasionally on educational journeys and during one of those trips he saw the deserted Monte Cristo and resolved that he would write a novel about it. Mr. Dumas also was inspired partly from a true story in the memoirs of Jacques Peuchet, who related the tale of a man named Pierre Picaud, whose profession was a shoemaker, and lived in Paris in 1807. He was engaged to marry a wealthy woman, however, four jealous friends made a false accusation against him as being a spy for England. During his imprisonment of seven years he befriended a fellow prisoner and this fellow prisoner bequeathed him a treasure in Milan. When Mr. Picaud was released in 1814, he spent ten years plotting his revenge against his former friends. At the time of his death, Mr. Picaud related all of these events to Jacques Peuchet, which was published in a newspaper. In the Signet Classics edition the author of the introduction lists a title of a book, which in brief, roughly translates to historic memoirs of the Paris police – the title is available on and is only available in the French language; it contains other cases aside from Mr. Picaud’s. However, there is an edition by Claude Schopp, which includes the document, and it is mentioned at the end of this review.


The Arrival, the Catalans, and the Destroyed Betrothal & Wedding

The date is the twenty-fourth of February, 1815, and the young nineteen-year-old sailor Edmond Dantes, aboard the ship Pharaon, has just arrived in Marseilles. Captain Leclere of the Pharaon has recently died of brain fever and gave Edmond instructions to visit the Isle of Elba and as part of the instructions, also gave him a packet to give to the Marechal Bertrand – Capt. Leclere was a strong supporter of Napoleon. While Edmond is in Elba, he meets the former emperor Napoleon Bonaparte himself. Napoleon speaks to Edmond and asks him to deliver a confidential letter to a man in Paris.

After meeting with the shipowner of the firm Morrel and Son, which the Pharaon is bound to, and declining the shipowner’s invitation to dine, Edmond goes to visit his father and breaks news that M. Morrel will try to appoint Edmond as captain since Capt. Leclere has died. A neighbour, the tailor Cadderouse, hears of this, and Edmond has departed to visit his fiancee: a beautiful Catalane by the name of Mercedes.

Mercedes is described as having dark hair and eyes like the gazelle – a beauty that no one can match. She and Edmond love each other very much and if Edmond should die, she says, she shall die, too. Mercedes has a cousin, Fernand, who loves her passionately as well and would do anything to make Mercedes his.

Edmond meets Mercedes and almost as soon as Fernand is introduced to Edmond, the cousin flees in a frenzy, and meets Danglers and Cadderouse, who are nearby and having drink. Cadderouse is very drunk and can hardly perceive things, though he does have a bit of sense about him, to which Danglers replies in giving the tailor more drink. Danglers and Fernand write a letter accusing Edmond and addressing it to the deputy crown prosecuter in Marsellies – they treat it as a joke, yet when Danglers escorts Cadderouse back home, Cadderouse believes he saw Fernand pick up the crumped ball of the letter that Danglers had thrown into a nearby bush.

Soon after is the wedding day of Edmond and Mercedes. All is full of love, happiness, and joy…and to a somewhat degree, uneasiness on Fernand’s part. Not long after Edmond has announced that he and Mercedes will be officially married once he has run an errand in Paris and that this is only a pre-marital event, there is a dreadful noise of marching feet belonging to what could only be soldiers. Edmond is arrested amongst all his guests as witnesses – yet Edmond amongst all this bewildering flurry of events does not suspect anything or anyone in the least. He is too good-natured, naive, and caring to seek any dislike or bad feeling against anyone.

Edmond is taken to the office of the deputy crown prosecuter whom we mentioned earlier and his name is M. de Villefort. The deputy crown prosecuter listens to all that the young sailor says, Villefort even goes so far as to sympathize with him but only for a time. Villefort shows Edmond the accusing letter written by Danglers in his left hand. Edmond does not know what to make of it, he does not know who wrote it – when the letter was written, Danglers displayed some of his cleverness and he wasn’t drunk so he could think clearly – and he states that everything in the letter is false.

Villefort then asks if he could see the confidential letter destined to Paris and Edmond does so. Once Villefort has read the letter (and he is deeply disturbed by it in some way) he loses all motivation to allow Edmond back to his regular life. Villefort’s own personal interests override Edmond’s as the letter in question could possibly ruin his policital career and the addressee is someone who is related. The deputy sentences Edmond Dantes to lifelong imprisonment at the Chateau D’If.

The Chateau D’If Years

As said above, Edmond is sentenced lifelong imprisonment in the Chateau D’If, which the young sailor often passed in his past voyages. Primarily, he keeps his faith in the Lord God during the start of his imprisonment but slowly it ebbs away as his position becomes more and more futile.

After he threatens a gaoler, he is sent down deep into the dungeons where only the craziest of the crazy reside (if that is the proper usage of the word reside), which is also where the famed L’Abbe Faria is. He is allegedly mad with not a drop of sense in him left, however, as is proven to the reader as one continues, he is on the contrary full of sense and high intelligence.

Meanwhile, Edmond begins starving himself as he believes there is no point in living if he’s going to be imprisoned for the rest of his life. His perseverance to live is restored when he hears a scraping sound in the walls and inspired by the other prisoner’s efforts, he too begins scraping away at the walls in hopes of escape.

It is through these efforts the former sailor comes into contact with the mad abbe. Thus begins a father-son relationship between the sailor and abbe. L’Abbe Faria teaches Edmond all that he knows and helps Edmond comprehend the past events leading to his imprisonment and the change in Villefort after the letter addressed to M. Nortier – who could only be Villefort’s Bonapartist father.

Several years pass at the Chateau D’If and the abbe dies. Edmond plans his escape by placing himself in the sack meant for Faria’s body but instead of being buried as he had expected, he is is placed into a cannon and shot out into the sea. He is rescued by some sailors whom he comes to learn are pirates. Edmond becomes acquianted with the pirates and he temporarily joins them under the alias of Sinbad the Sailor.

Eventually Edmond and the pirates dock at the island of Monte Cristo, where Edmond discovers the treasure that the abbe bequeathed to him after much exploring and searching. He deceives the pirates by pretending to have injured himself and he cannot go on, thus giving the pirates no option but to leave the island without him. Once the pirates have left, Edmond enters the cave where the hoard of treasure is that the abbe describe to him and he begins his new life as the weathly and mysterious aristocrat Count of Monte Cristo.

Revenge and Redemption

Ten years have past and the Count begins putting his plan of revenge into action. He first makes his appearance in Rome, Italy, where he becomes acquainted with Franz d’Epinay, a young aristocrat, and Albert de Morcerf who is to be later revealed as the son of Fernand and Edmond’s love Mercedes.

During their stay in Rome, Albert is taken hostage by the famous bandit and fugitive Luigi Vampa. Albert was seduced by a beautiful stranger and in this manner, was captured. Franz receives a letter from Albert in which there are instructions to retrieve four thousand piastres; and it is to be done as quickly as possible as Albert’s life depends on it and if it is not received by six o’clock in the morning, by seven o’clock Albert will have ceased to exist. The Count confronts Vampa and Albert is set free without the ransom. Vampa holds respect for the Count as it was he who helped him in earlier years, as described in Chapter XXXIII (33): Roman Bandits.

Soon afterwards, the Count moves to Paris, France for one year, which is enough time to act on his revenge. He travels under the alias of an abbe and finds Cadderouse who is now married and lives in poverty. The abbe acts on Cadderouse’s greed and gives him a diamond that can be seen as a double-bladed sword: the diamond can buy wealth or it can serve as the downfall of Cadderouse. The diamond results in murder and after having been in prison, Cadderouse lives a criminal life, which only ends when Cadderouse himself is murdered by a confederate after having made an attempt to rob the Count’s house. Before he dies, Cadderouse discovers who the Count of Monte Cristo really is.

The Morrels are not faring well: M. Morrel is in debt and he cannot pay it off. His only hope is that the ship Pharaon comes to port successfully and is safe. Despite his hope, the ship does not have a successful journey, thankfully all the crew are safe, but M. Morrel has to withhold the payments due until further notice. He is alone and has no help from anyone or so he thinks. On the fifth of September, he is rescued from his debt by a letter signed by Sinbad the Sailor.

Meanwhile Danglers has become a banker and is wealthy as well as happy with his wife and daughter. He is dazzled by the Count’s seemingly unlimited wealth and eventually the Count convinces Danglers to give him a line of “unlimited credit” the first installment being six million francs. Meanwhile, the Count manipulates the bond market and ruins Danglers by destroying a large portion of the banker’s fortune.

As well as owning a mute Nubian slave named Ali, the Count also owns a Greek slave, Haydee, who was the daughter of the noble Ali Pasha. Her father had trusted Fernand, yet he was only to be betrayed in war, and after Ali Pasha’s death, his wife and daughter were sold into slavery. The Count brings up the event to Danglers and exploits him to research the event and it is published in a newspaper. Danglers’s research ultimately ruins Fernand as he is brought to trial in court, Haydee testifies against him, and he is disgraced. Meanwhile, Danglers is soon left with only the six million francs he left to the Count. Danglers flees to Italy, which is where the Count’s personal bank, Thompson and French, is based.

Mercedes is the only one who realizes who the Count of Monte Cristo is and she tells Albert the story of her youth so as to prevent Albert from fighting a duel with the Count over the Count’s role in his father’s downfall: after Edmond had been imprisoned in the Chateau D’If and supposedly died, she reluctantly married Fernand Mondego (who later changed his name to Morcerf to cover his military career) and gave birth to Albert, who is viewed – by the Count – as the ideal son that Edmond and Mercedes should have had. Mercedes regrets everything that she did – even going so far as to apologize to Edmond/Monte Cristo but finding it is too late – and she and Albert disown Fernand and begin a new life. Fernand subsequently commits suicide.

The Count also pays a call to the Villeforts and the family is divided: his daughter Valentine by his first marriage, is to inherit the family fortune and that of her grandfather’s, M. Nortier. However, Villefort’s second wife, Heloise, is against it and will do anything in her will to prevent it, and intentions the fortune for her son Edouard*. As the Count knows of Heloise’s intentions, he gives her in an innocent fashion, a drug that cures people with one drop but an overdose is fatal. With this tool, Heloise sets about murdering Villefort’s in-laws Saint-Merans, a house servant, and unintentionally kills Barrois, and plans to kill both Valentine and M. Nortier.

Leaving Heloise to her own devices, the Count haunts Villefort with past memories of his past affair with Danglers’ wife and their son that was born. Madame Danglers had given birth to a son with Villefort. Villefort had told Madame Danglers the child was stillborn and proceeded to bury the child in the garden of their house in Auteuil. However, the child was saved when another character, Bertuccio, an enemy of Villefort, had planned to kill the judge. Bertuccio takes the child and raises him, the child only appearing later in the story as a grown man under the disguise as Count Andrea Cavalcanti and only reveals his true identity to Villefort after he is arrested for the murder of Cadderouse. The Count of Monte Cristo owns the same house in Auteuil where the child was supposed to have been buried; Bertuccio is the Count’s servant, and he uses both against Villefort.

The Count saves Valentine from Heloise’s murderous intentions of poisoning her as he knows of Maximilien Morrel’s love for Valentine. Through M. Nortier, Villefort discovers Heloise is a murderer and confronts her. Heloise panics and poisons herself and Edouard. The death of his wife, son, and the previous events as well as the knowledge of the Count’s true identity drives Villefort insane.

Maximilien is depressed as he believes Valentine to be dead and is contemplating suicide after having witnessed Valentine’s funeral. One month later, on the fifth of October, the Count invites Maximilien to the island of Monte Cristo, and there reveals it was he who rescued M. Morrel from suicide years earlier and presents Valentine, alive and well, to an overjoyed Maximilien. He gives a letter to Jacopo, which is to be delivered to the two reunited young people, telling he has left all of the treasure to Maximilien. He departs with Haydee, who offers him a new love and life, beginning anew.

*In most English translations, Heloise’s son’s name is translated as Edward.

List of Edmond Dantes’s aliases:

  • Edmond Dantes
  • Number 34 – While imprisoned in the Chateau D’If, Edmond becomes to be known as No. 34 as the new governor of the prison does not feel it is worth to learn all of the prisoners’ names, thus he assigns them numbers.
  • Sinbad the Sailor – The alias that Edmond takes on when he is rescued by the sailors after he escapes from prison as well as other occasions.
  • Count of Monte Cristo – The extremely wealthy and mysterious aristocrat. The Count is marked by a pale countenance and always has a smile that can be interpreted as either diabolical or angelic.
  • Lord Wilmore – An Englishman who performs random acts of generosity as well as kind, he is eccentric and refuses to speak French. As he is opposite of the Count’s character, they are appropriately supposed to be enemies.

Recommended Editions of The Count of Monte Cristo

Various editions of The Count of Monte Cristo are abridged and most unabridged editions, such as the Modern Library and Oxford’s World Classics use the English translation by Chapman and Hall (1846). However, Penguin Classics published a new unabridged edition of Monte Cristo in 1996 with an introduction by Robin Buss. The text is updated for modern readers, yet it still manages to keep the spirit of the original story, and it has also restored content that was omitted in the 1846 translation due to Victorian English social restrictions. Other English translations of the book exist but are rarely seen in print and most borrow from the 1846 translation.

Editions I recommend:

  • The Modern Library edition – Complete and unabridged, it has the archaic English translation and uses the 1846 translation.
  • Penguin Classics edition – Published in 1996, there is an introduction by Robin Buss, and it is the best edition available as far as unabridged, restored texts of Monte Cristo is concerned. The English is slightly updated for modern readers. Includes notes.
  • There is an edition of Monte Cristo by Claude Schopp, published by Robert Laffont, Paris (1993), which has a reprint of Jacques Peuchet’s text. I think this is the first class edition for those who wish to read the original text that inspired Mr. Dumas to write Monte Cristo.
  • As for audio books, I would recommend the Blackstone Audio Inc. edition (published in 1996), read by Fred Williams and his narration is good. I’ve only found it on audio cassette and it’s split into three parts totaling thirty-five cassettes, with a length of one and a half hours each. It uses the 1846 translation.

Film Adaptations

The Count of Monte Cristo has been made into films several times, though it is said the best adaptation ever was the 1934 version, starring Robert Donat as Edmond Dantes. This version is featured in the movie V for Vendetta and is referred to throughout the movie. It is available at on VHS.

Another version, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, is an anime adaptation, released in 2004, and it retells the tale with a futuristic and some supernatural elements. It is the first film adaptation I have seen of Monte Cristo and it is very enjoyable.


Claude Schopp Interview – Article containing interview with Claude Schopp about The Count of Monte Cristo.

137 Years Later a New Story is Discovered – Claude Schopp uncovers a forgotten manuscript while researching Alexandre Dumas. article – Article discussing Monte Cristo

Further Notes on The Count of Monte Cristo – Includes notes on the plot summary, characters, themes, style, historical context, etc.

Pierre Picaud, the real “Count” – Brief summary of Pierre Picaud

The Count of Monte Cristo on Project Gutenburg

Alexandre Dumas – Biography of Mr. Dumas and summary of his great classics, including Monte Cristo.

Château de Monte Cristo (official website) – Translated into English, view the website in the original French here.

January 2, 2008

The Phantom of the Opera

Posted in Classics of World Literature at 2:50 pm by j128

(One of) the new covers of \"The Phantom of the Opera\"

The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux was published from September 23, 1909 to January 8, 1910 as a serialization in George De Maurier’s Tribly. It was published in English in 1911. Gaston Leroux wrote other stories such as The Yellow Room, a mystery novel, after suddenly departing from journalism, but in the English-speaking world he is best known as the author of The Phantom of the Opera.

The Phantom of the Opera has been adapted many times for the screen, children’s books, plays, and even one episode of the television show Wishbone.


The story is set in late nineteenth-century Paris, France. Within an opera of Paris, there is a legend of a phantom – even more so, a myth. The proprietors of the opera believe so deeply in this phantom that they always leave a specified sum of money (20,000 francs) for the ghost and its own box (Box Five) for every show, though there is no evidence of O.G. (Opera Ghost) ever appearing. Despite the lack of evidence, it has been discovered that any failure in accomadating or displeasing O.G. leads to it wreaking chaos and havoc taking appearance in an unexplained accident or occurance. When the two new proprietors arrive, they discount everything the employees say about the Phantom, and refuse to give in to seemingly empty threats.

The protagonist of the novel is Raoul, the Vicomte de Changy, and who has been in love with Christine Daae since childhood. He has one older brother, Phillipe Georges Marie Comte de Changy and in the original novel, two sisters are mentioned once. While Raoul seems to act on impulse, his older brother acts on reason and logic, and tries to restrain his younger brother on sometimes rash decisions.

When Raoul and Christine Daee meet again, Christine is an opera singer, and she is instructed by an “Angel of Music”, which she does not tell to Raoul until later. When Christine was growing up, her father often told of an “Angel of Music” that was to come to a promising person at some time of his life, and teach him about music. The “Angel of Music” in question gives her lessons through the walls of her dressing room and Christine rapidly develops her voice skills and becomes prominent on stage when she is selected to replace the currant prima donna Carlotta, whose act is sabotaged by the Phantom. Christine out-sings Carlotta and wins the hearts of the audience, including that of Raoul.

The “Angel of Music”, Christine discovers, is nobody but the Phantom of the Opera. She learns this when Erik (the Phantom) takes her to his underground lair out of jealousy of her relationship with Raoul. During the construction of the opera, it became necessary to pump underground water from the foundation pit, which created a huge subterreanean lake. Christine is naturally terrified especially as she finds that Erik is not angelic at all – indeed, he is physically deformed as well as malicious, volatile, and dangerous, and a brilliant genius as well as being the best ventriloquist ever, as demonstrated. She discovers Erik’s physical defomities when she removes his mask out of curiosity. Erik is outraged at first and threatens Christine that he shall keep her in his lair forever, however, he does forgive her somewhat and he releases her, promising that she can come back whenever she wishes to.

Meanwhile, Raoul has become suspicious of Christine and her “Angel of Music”. He is also envious when, after her performance, hears her succumb to a disembodied voice in her dressing room, and suspects another man has taken advantage of Christine’s innocent belief in the “Angel of Music,” and is using it to seduce her. Accordingly, he begins spying on her in her dressing room to learn who the mysterious person is and where the disembodied voice comes from.

These excursions of spying are eventually discovered by Christine and she is very angry but when realizing Raoul was only doing it out of the goodness of his heart, she tells all that has happened between her and Erik. Raoul develops a spitefullness for the Phantom and he and Christine plan to elope from Paris and the “horror of Erik.” Unfortunately for them, Erik eavesdrops upon their conversation, and does the greatest feat yet by abducting Christine during her final performance as Margarita in Gounad’s Faust as she was appealing to the angels to send her soul to Heaven.

Raoul suspects the action to be the Phantom’s doing and goes to Christine’s rescue, being guided by another mysterious character only known as the Persian Daroga Nadir, who had saved Erik’s life once. Together, Raoul and the Persian go into the dark depths of the underground of the opera. Unfortunately, the route that they took leads them to the torture chamber (a catoptric cistula), which they become trapped in.

While in the torture chamber, they learn that Erik has made a deal with Christine: that he will kill everybody and himself with everybody unless she consents to being his wife. It is a terrible decision and she only has until the next evening at eleven o’clock to decide and in the meantime, Raoul and the Persian are to be silent lest they are discovered in the torture chamber…


The Phantom of the Opera and its various adaptations, etc. on

The Phantom of the Opera on Project Gutenberg

December 10, 2007

The Invisible Man

Posted in Classics of World Literature, Science Fiction at 4:34 am by j128

Cover of the Folio Society edition of \

Folio Society edition of The Invisible Man (a link to the Folio Society website can be found in my blogroll, under Reading)

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells was published in 1897 and while not exactly one of Mr. Wells’ strongest stories (compare The Time Machine, published 1895)due to a slightly meandering plot, it is a marvelous read. It is the story of Griffin, the Invisible Man, who reaches a certain point of frustration, and possibly insanity, due to his state of invisibility and the burden which he carries of not being able to confide in anyone about his predicament.


Griffin reached his invisible state by several experiments he conveyed secretly and privately alone; for fear of others knowing what he was up to. He discovered his positive invisibility results when he experimented with the formula on a white cat, which turned out to be a neighbour’s, and she (the neighbour) inquires after her cat under suspicion he has it in his possession. The cat does become invisible except for its claws and its eyes’ retinas and those are visible only slightly. Realizing what he could do, Griffin experiments on himself after the landlord comes to check on Griffin’s domain due to the neighbour who owned the white cat (the neighbour was very determined to prove Griffin had been vivisecting her cat).

After burning down the building so that his tracks are covered, Griffin escapes out into the world enjoying his blessing of invisibility. But for what seems to be a blessing it soon transforms into a curse as he discovers the disadvantages as well as the advantages of being invisible. He explains to Dr Kemp later on that there were disadvantages with the weather: if it snowed, it would begin to settle and form a figure, if it rained, pretty much the same thing, and in fog there was the faintest outline of an individual.

Illustration from the Folio Society edition of \

The Invisible Man sets out of London to Iping, somwhere in West Sussex. Iping is a small village and when he comes heavily cloaked and wearing a bandage round his head with a moustache and beard, goggling spectacles, and a pink shiny costume nose he causes a sensation in the village and many come to inquire who he is or what he’s up to with one thousand and one bottles. Griffin is prone to quick temper and prefers to be left in solitude, hardly disturbed, and above all else, complete privacy.

Mr. and Mrs. Hall of the local inn, The Coach and Horses, which is where Griffin is lodging, discover his invisibility along with others in the inn when they question him about his queer behaviour and the violent furniture that attacked them the other night, the same night the vicar and his wife were robbed. When he removes his bandages, costume nose, spectacles, artificial facial hair, he causes ultimate panic and fright. The police are called to capture him but Griffin only escapes by removing all his clothing.

Now having escaped, Griffin convinces a tramp named Mr. Marvel to help him restore his possessions he had had to inevitably leave behind at The Coach and Horses. Mr. Marvel does not know of the incident that happened at the inn but he is scared by the bodiless voice, which could only belong to the Invisible Man, and he does as Griffin wishes; only to flee once the task is accomplished along with Griffin’s notebooks and cheques and attempts to betray Griffin to the police. The Invisible Man threatens to kill Mr. Marvel and is in hot pursuit when a black-bearded American man shoots his gun and Griffin is wounded.

Griffin bandages himself at a house, which is revealed to be the house of Dr. Kemp, whom Griffin was acquainted with during his college days. Griffin explains to Dr Kemp he is invisible until Dr. Kemp comes to believe it and he also begins to believe all those stories in the newspaper. After reading all the news stories he can get his hands on about the Invisible Man Dr. Kemp contacts the police.

Meanwhile Griffin tells Dr. Kemp his life story after college, including that of which is described in the beginning paragraphs above. Some of the occurances not mentinoed in the beginning paragraphs were his first experience of a disadvantage of being invisible when he walked up a stairway after hours of walking barefoot and two men see dirty footprints on the freshly cleaned stairway stop abruptly without a clue, after that he stayed overnight in a seemingly large department store that had everything the Invisible Man needed and he began feeling human again as he wore clothing but he had to throw them off when the staff found him next morning, and before he departed to Iping he went into a man’s house, who owned a costume shop, and after several days of living in the man’s house secretly and setting the man on his nerves due to Griffin’s carelessness the man began carrying a revolver and locking up all the doors. Finally out of desperation Griffin knocks the man over the head and bundles him up in a sack while Griffin took what he needed to disguise himself.

Shortly after that episode Griffin made his way to Iping and that was where all the adventure rolled downhill. He reveals to Dr Kemp that he is to begin a Reign of Terror and anyone who stands in his way he will kill including those who try to defend the victim and Dr Kemp is to be his visible ally.

Griffin was trying to find a way to make himself visible again but all the notes and formulas are in the notebooks Mr Marvel stole.

Dr Kemp is in no way willingly going to help Griffin, not only because he does not wish to associate himself with this Reign of Terror, but also because he sees Griffin as a maniac, and soon the police come. Griffin attacks Dr. Kemp, saying he is a traitor, and also tackles one of the policemen before escaping.

The next day Dr. Kemp receives a note written on greasy paper notifying that he is the first on the list to be killed by the Invisible Man and that it is the first day of the first year of the Epoch of the Invisible Man.

Unfortunately for the protagonist, the Epoch does not go very far. Indeed, the navy kills Griffin on the first day, when Dr. Kemp cries for help as a vacuum of air is attacking him.

Badly wounded and beaten, Griffin dies, and as he does so he becomes visible once more beginning with outlines of albino skin until his entire naked body can be seen with his eyes “like garnets.”

In the epilogue, it is said that to know more about the Invisible Man to ask the landlord. The landlord will refuse to know anything about the notebooks but when all is quiet, in a room, he will take out a box. And in this box are the three notebooks and Mr Marvel, for it is he, will struggle over the equations, getting no further than “Hex, little two up in the air, cross, and a fiddle-de-dee”, which is his struggling attempt to verbalize Griffin’s algebra notation “X2+.”


The Invisible Man on Project Gutenberg

Invisibility Cloak – Article on HowsStuffWorks about the possibility of a cloaking device rendering one invisible.

August 29, 2006

Black Beauty

Posted in Autobiography, Classics of World Literature at 10:51 pm by j128

Notice: I am finding a new image for the cover of Black Beauty.

Black Beauty by British author Anna Sewell was published in 1877. It was Anna Sewell’s first and only book, composed in the last years of her life between 1871 and 1877, confined in her home as an invalid. Anna Sewell dictated it to her mother who transferred it to paper.

The inspiration to write Black Beauty began for Anna Sewell early in life because she had exposure to horses early on as she was unable to walk and crippled since a young child and spent many hours driving her father to and from the station where he commuted.

Black Beauty was not originally intended a children’s book, it was more a book for people who worked with horses. Anna Sewell lived long enough to see the book become an immediate best-seller and to see it become a success.


The story is told in the first person by a black horse, Black Beauty. Black Beauty tells his life’s story from when he was a little foal in the English countryside living with his mother to his retirement as a working horse, etc.

Black Beauty undergoes many experiences in a horse’s life. He experiences the carefree days of a foal with his mother, and the difficulties of pulling cabs in London. Black Beauty recounts events in his life in each chapter, more or less containing morals. He has, throughout his life, kind and loving masters, and cruel and careless masters. Finally he retires into the country after being rescued from an old human friend that he met when he was young.

Black Beauty has become a classic and is one of the most widely read books in the English language.

Black Beauty has also been subject to several movies. The movie that is most faithful to the book is the 1994 Warner Brothers’ Black Beauty. I have seen the 1994 Black Beauty and it is a work of art. Some scenes are very emotional and may trigger tears, so be alert if viewing with young children. Alan Cumming supplies the voice of Black Beauty in the 1994 adaptation.


Black Beauty on Project Gutenberg