Sunday, October 6, 2013
Countdown to Halloween: "The Lemur, A Halloween Divertimento" (1822)
Blackwood's Magazine was the unrivalled home of Gothic terror in the early nineteenth century, which makes it rich pickings for those looking for antiquarian thrills at this time of year. Today, however, I'm highlighting a bona fide Halloween treat from Blackwood's, in name as well as substance - "The Lemur, A Halloween Divertimento", published in both the November and December issues in 1822.
A distinctly peculiar poem (who would have guessed?), it details the misadventures of the titular Lemur - a mercurial, devilish kind of creature - on a trip out of hell. Here's the first stanza:
available here, part two here.
If you're looking for more strange offerings from Blackwood's, then I thoroughly recommend trying to get hold of this collection: Tales of Terror from Blackwood's Magazine (Oxford World's Classics, 1995). As you can see, it goes for insane prices at the moment, so your local library might be your best bet. The introduction by Robert Morrison and Chris Baldick does a great job of contextualising these kinds of stories and Blackwood's more generally.
In particular, it highlights the significance of this magazine for one American writer in particular. Step forward, Mr Poe: "The tales [Blackwood's] published in its first fifteen years set a new standard of concentrated dread and precisely calculated alarm. A distinctive style of hair-raising sensationalism took shape in its tales of terror and guilt, one that was astutely recognized, parodied, and reworked by Edgar Allan Poe, with momentous consequences for the tradition of the short story in English." And Poe himself repaid that debt most famously - gleefully, backhandedly - here, in "How To Write A Blackwood Article."
Halloween related Walter Scott bonus content! Also gleaned from Morrison and Baldick's introduction: in 1818, Scott reviewed Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for Blackwood's - and according to the editors of this anthology, it was "the most discerning of the early reviews." Happily, that's available here.