Thursday, 8 April 2010

Wordy Thursday

George du Maurier was a French-born English illustrator and author, grandfather of Daphne. His biggest hit was his 1894 novel 'Trilby'. Although best remembered today for the character of Svengali - the Simon Cowell-cum-Shylock impressario - his sinister appearance is very much secondary to the main theme, which is one of jolly romps had by three well-heeled Englishmen trying to make it as artists in Paris. I ws expecting some sort of Gothic novel but overall it's a light-hearted book. It was also an enormous bestseller - which makes the following passage all the more susprising. It has no part in the narrative, effectively shoe-horned in, which makes it apparent that this strongly negative view of establishment Christianity and its teachings was one firmly held by the author himself and a message he was keen to impart to his readers. It must have proved quite unsettling for some of its cosy Victorian readers.

'It is very wicked and most immoral to believe, or affect to believe, and tell others to believe, that the unseen, unspeakable, unthinkable Immensity we're all part and parcel of, source of eternal, infinite, indestructible life and light and might, is a kind of wrathful, glorified and self-glorifying ogre in human shape, with human passions, and most inhuman hates - who suddenly made us out of nothing one fine day - just for a freak - and made us so badly that we fell the next - and turned us adrift the day after - damned us from the very beginning and ever since! Never gave us a chance!

'All merciful Father, indeed! Why, the Prince of Darkness was an angel in comparison (and a gentleman into the bargain).

'Just think of it - a finger in every little paltry pie - an eye and an ear at every keyhole, even that of the larder, to catch us tripping, and find out if we're praising loud enough, or grovelling low enough, or fasting hard enough - poor God-forsaken worms!

'And if we're naughty and disobedient, everlasting torment for us; torture of so hideous a kind that we wouldn't inflict it on the basest criminal, not for one single moment!

'Or else, if we're good and do as we are bid, an eternity of bliss so futile, so idle, and so tame that we couldn't stand it for a week, but for thinking of its horrible alternative, and of our poor brother for ever and ever roasting away, and howling for the drop of water he never gets.

'Everlasting flame, or everlasting dishonour - nothing in between!

'Isn't it ludicrous as well as pitiful - a thing to make one snigger through one's tears? Isn't it a grievous sin to believe in such things as these, and go about teaching or preaching them, and being paid for it - a sin to be heavily chastised, and a shame? What a legacy!'

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