Saturday, January 30, 2010


Zanoni, A Rosicrucian Tale by Edward Bulwer Lytton, 1842

"The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword"

Edward Bulwer Lytton can be a difficult author for today's reader. The sensibility towards literature prevalent in  the middle of the 19th century has almost vanished today. The typical modern book reader rejects the unfamiliar words of  an author who uses an extensive vocabulary. He is ignorant of etymology. He declines to follow the twists and turns of the longer sentence and is confused by the plethora of characters. Second person singular usage sounds precious to him. Greek and Latin phrases, even when a translation is provided, appear to be affectation. He expects irony from an author who says what he means and means what he says  in a  manner more erudite than accustomed. He is appalled by what seem to be clichés which are really original turns of phrase that have become clichés over the years in testament to their effectiveness. When Bulwer Lytton's esoteric thematic content is added to his alien stylistic elements, today's average reader is compelled by his experience to reject him as obtuse, emotional and boring. In fact, he was a very popular author in his day and will reward the intrepid explorer of his work. But I admit that sometimes when immersed in one of his books I am feeling this sentiment: "Just come out with it directly!"

Some Interesting Quotes from Zanoni

The Fanaticism Of Unbelief

Who shall argue with the most stubborn of all bigotries,--the fanaticism of unbelief?

Human Love

It is true that the desires of earth chain me to the present, and shut me from the solemn secrets which Intellect, purified from all the dross of the clay, alone can examine and survey. The stern condition on which we hold our nobler and diviner gifts darkens our vision towards the future of those for whom we know the human infirmities of jealousy or hate or love. Mejnour, all around me is mist and haze; I have gone back in our sublime existence; and from the bosom of the imperishable youth that blooms only in the spirit, springs up the dark poison-flower of human love.

Introduction to the Dweller on The Threshold

Thou austere and remorseless Hierophant,--thou who hast sought to convert to our brotherhood every spirit that seemed to thee most high and bold,--even thou knowest, by horrible experience, how vain the hope to banish FEAR from the heart of woman.
My life would be to her one marvel. Even if, on the other hand, I sought to guide her path through the realms of terror to the light, think of the Haunter of the Threshold, and shudder with me at the awful hazard!


"Rouse thyself," said Mejnour; "thy ordeal has commenced! There are pretenders to the solemn science who could have shown thee the absent, and prated to thee, in their charlatanic jargon, of the secret electricities and the magnetic fluid of whose true properties they know but the germs and elements. I will lend thee the books of those glorious dupes, and thou wilt find, in the dark ages, how many erring steps have stumbled upon the threshold of the mighty learning, and fancied they had pierced the temple. Hermes and Albert and Paracelsus, I knew ye all; but, noble as ye were, ye were fated to be deceived. Ye had not souls of faith, and daring fitted for the destinies at which ye aimed! Yet Paracelsus--modest Paracelsus--had an arrogance that soared higher than all our knowledge. Ho, ho!--he thought he could make a race of men from chemistry; he arrogated to himself the Divine gift,--the breath of life. (Paracelsus, 'De Nat. Rer.,' lib. i.)

First Step In Training The Mind

Boy, I could tell thee such truths of the past as would make thee the luminary of schools. But thou lustest only for the shadows of the future. Thou shalt have thy wish. But the mind must be first exercised and trained. Go to thy room, and sleep; fast austerely, read no books; meditate, imagine, dream, bewilder thyself if thou wilt. Thought shapes out its own chaos at last. Before midnight, seek me again!

The Challenges To The Traveller And The Fear Posed By The Dweller On The Threshold

"He who would establish intercourse with these varying beings resembles the traveller who would penetrate into unknown lands. He is exposed to strange dangers and unconjectured terrors. THAT INTERCOURSE ONCE GAINED, I CANNOT SECURE THEE FROM THE CHANCES TO WHICH THY JOURNEY IS EXPOSED. I cannot direct thee to paths free from the wanderings of the deadliest foes. Thou must alone, and of thyself, face and hazard all. But if thou art so enamoured of life as to care only to live on, no matter for what ends, recruiting the nerves and veins with the alchemist's vivifying elixir, why seek these dangers from the intermediate tribes? Because the very elixir that pours a more glorious life into the frame, so sharpens the senses that those larvae of the air become to thee audible and apparent; so that, unless trained by degrees to endure the phantoms and subdue their malice, a life thus gifted would be the most awful doom man could bring upon himself. Hence it is, that though the elixir be compounded of the simplest herbs, his frame only is prepared to receive it who has gone through the subtlest trials. Nay, some, scared and daunted into the most intolerable horror by the sights that burst upon their eyes at the first draft, have found the potion less powerful to save than the agony and travail of Nature to destroy. To the unprepared the elixir is thus but the deadliest poison. Amidst the dwellers of the threshold is ONE, too, surpassing in malignity and hatred all her tribe,--one whose eyes have paralyzed the bravest, and whose power increases over the spirit precisely in proportion to its fear. Does thy courage falter?"

Meeting The Dweller On The Threshold

The cloud retreated from it as it advanced; the bright lamps grew wan, and flickered restlessly as at the breath of its presence. Its form was veiled as the face, but the outline was that of a female; yet it moved not as move even the ghosts that simulate the living. It seemed rather to crawl as some vast misshapen reptile; and pausing, at length it cowered beside the table which held the mystic volume, and again fixed its eyes through the filmy veil on the rash invoker. All fancies, the most grotesque, of monk or painter in the early North, would have failed to give to the visage of imp or fiend that aspect of deadly malignity which spoke to the shuddering nature in those eyes alone. All else so dark,--shrouded, veiled and larva-like. But that burning glare so intense, so livid, yet so living, had in it something that was almost HUMAN in its passion of hate and mockery,--something that served to show that the shadowy Horror was not all a spirit, but partook of matter enough, at least, to make it more deadly and fearful an enemy to material forms. As, clinging with the grasp of agony to the wall,--his hair erect, his eyeballs starting, he still gazed back upon that appalling gaze,--the Image spoke to him: his soul rather than his ear comprehended the words it said.
"Thou hast entered the immeasurable region. I am the Dweller of the Threshold. What wouldst thou with me? Silent? Dost thou fear me? Am I not thy beloved? Is it not for me that thou hast rendered up the delights of thy race? Wouldst thou be wise? Mine is the wisdom of the countless ages. Kiss me, my mortal lover." And the Horror crawled near and nearer to him; it crept to his side, its breath breathed upon his cheek! With a sharp cry he fell to the earth insensible, and knew no more till, far in the noon of the next day, he opened his eyes and found himself in his bed,--the glorious sun streaming through his lattice, and the bandit Paolo by his side, engaged in polishing his carbine, and whistling a Calabrian love-air.

Thoughts Are Souls

The master has no power to say, 'Exist no more,' to one THOUGHT that his knowledge has inspired.Thou mayst change the thoughts into new forms; thou mayst rarefy and sublimate it into a finer spirit,--but thou canst not annihilate that which has no home but in the memory, no substance but the idea. EVERY THOUGHT IS A SOUL! Vainly, therefore, would I or thou undo the past, or restore to thee the gay blindness of thy youth. Thou must endure the influence of the elixir thou hast inhaled; thou must wrestle with the spectre thou hast invoked!


Everywhere I see the track and scent the presence of the Ghostly One that dwells on the Threshold, and whose victims are the souls that would ASPIRE, and can only FEAR. I see its dim shapelessness going before the men of blood, and marshalling their way. Robespierre passed me with his furtive step. Those eyes of horror were gnawing into his heart. I looked down upon their senate; the grim Phantom sat cowering on its floor.

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