Our Lady of Darkness

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Publisher Description

From two till four o’clock on any summer afternoon during the penultimate decade of the last century, the Right Honourable Gustavus Hilary George, third Viscount Murk, Baron Brindle and Knight of the Stews, with orders of demerit innumerable—and, over his quarterings, that bar-sinister which would appear to be designed for emphasis of the fact that the word rank has a double meaning—might be seen (in emulation of a more notable belswagger) ogling the ladies from the verandah of his house in Cavendish Square. That this, his lordship’s daily habit, was rather the expression of an ineradicable self-complacency than its own justification by results, the appearance of the withered old applejohn himself gave testimony. For here, in truth, was a very doyen of dandy-cocks—a last infirmity of fribbles—a macaroni with a cuticle so hardened by the paint and powder of near fourscore years as to be impervious to the shafts of ridicule. He would blow a kiss along the palm of his palsied hand, and never misdoubt the sure flight of this missive, though his unmanageable wrist should beat a tattoo on his nose the while; he would leer through quizzing-glasses of a power to exhibit in horrible accent the rheum of his eyes; he would indite musky billets-doux, like meteorological charts, to Dolly or Dorine, and, forgetting their direction when despatched, would simper over the quiddling replies as if they were archly amorous solicitations. Upon the truth that is stranger than fiction he had looked all his life as upon an outer barbarian, the measure of whose originality was merely the measure of uncouthness. Nature, in fact, was a dealer of ridiculous limitations; art, a merchant of inexhaustible surprises. Vanity! he would quote one fifty instances in support of the fact that it was the spring-head of all history. Selfishness! was it not the first condition of organic existence? Make-believe! the whole world’s system of government, from royalty to rags, was founded upon it. Therefore he constituted himself understudy to his great prototype of Queensberry; and therefore he could actually welcome the loss or deterioration of anything bodily and personal for the reason that it presented him with the opportunity to substitute mechanical perfection for natural deficiency. Perhaps at no period of his life had he so realised his ideal of existence as when, upon his seventy-seventh year, he found himself false—inside and out—from top to toe.

Fiction & Literature
8 October
Library of Alexandria

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