Friday, April 13, 2007

Sydney Dobell—To Dr. Samuel Brown

January 1, 1851

Are we not all tyrants at heart? Those Neros of Rome and Nicholases of Russia, whom I have cursed a thousand times in my soul, and on whom I cry again, in passing, the Anathema Maranatha of mankind—are they not the type of me and of everyone of us? Here have I been wishing devoutly that the Cheltenham people had but one neck that into the mouth thereunto appertaining I may put the despot’s bit.

…And you really fancy that you are to come into these waters and cast anchor in any port but mine! What! near the enchanted island, and play chess anywhere but in Prospero’s cell. Improbe! the winds and waves should avenge me; steer as you will, the conscious waters shall dash you on my door-step. Babble not of hotels and boarding-houses; the ‘laws of nature’ are suspended as to you. Everyone you ask shall look askance at you. Every down bed shall give you up, freezing or melting you shall be everywhere fla-gellated and refused. An outcast from every Inn, you shall pace the streets that estreat you to me, kick at doors that, recalcitrating, shall export you, considerably soured: ‘Multum et terris jactatus et alto,’ you shall be driven southward halting and terrified, and finally, being in the last dilemma, shall at length choose the Coxhorne of it. Moreover, my Miranda shall afflict you with ‘stitches,’ and for me I will quelch you in the ‘knotted cleft’ of everyone of my ‘Pines.’

Forgive me. ‘Venus’ is truly ‘under eclipse,’ but does not pause in her orbit. She ‘moves for all that,’ Galileo… I like the frank simplicity with which you catechize me. My answers shall be as limpid.


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