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Suspiria De Profundis
by [?]

Thus of the thirty-two ‘Suspiria’ intended by the author, we have only nine that received his final corrections, and even with those now recovered, we have only about one half of the whole, presuming that those which are lost or remained unwritten would have averaged about the same length as those we have. To those who have studied the ‘Suspiria’ as published, how suggestive many of these titles will be! ‘Count the Leaves in Vallombrosa’–what phantasies would that have conjured up! The lost, the apparently wasted of the leaves from the tree of human life, and the possibilities of use and redemption! De Quincey would there doubtless have given us under a form more or less fanciful or symbolical his reading of the problem:

‘Why Nature out of fifty seeds
So often brings but one to bear.’

The case of the Cagots, the pariahs of the Pyrenees, as we know from references elsewhere, excited his curiosity, as did all of the pariah class, and much engaged his attention; and in the ‘Cagot and Cressida’ ‘Suspiria’ we should probably have had under symbols of mighty abstractions the vision of the pariah world, and the world of health and outward fortune which scorns and excludes the other, and partly, at all events, actively dooms it to a living death in England of to-day, as in India of the past, and in Jewry of old, where the leper was thrust outside the wall to wail ‘Unclean! unclean!’


‘Oh, eternity with outstretched wings, that broodest over the secret truths in whose roots lie the mysteries of man–his whence, his whither–have I searched thee, and struck a right key on thy dreadful organ!’

Suffering is a mightier agency in the hands of nature, as a Demiurgus creating the intellect, than most people are aware of.

The truth I heard often in sleep from the lips of the Dark Interpreter. Who is he? He is a shadow, reader, but a shadow with whom you must suffer me to make you acquainted. You need not be afraid of him, for when I explain his nature and origin you will see that he is essentially inoffensive; or if sometimes he menaces with his countenance, that is but seldom: and then, as his features in those moods shift as rapidly as clouds in a gale of wind, you may always look for the terrific aspects to vanish as fast as they have gathered. As to his origin–what it is, I know exactly, but cannot without a little circuit of preparation make you understand. Perhaps you are aware of that power in the eye of many children by which in darkness they project a vast theatre of phantasmagorical figures moving forwards or backwards between their bed-curtains and the chamber walls. In some children this power is semi-voluntary–they can control or perhaps suspend the shows; but in others it is altogether automatic. I myself, at the date of my last confessions, had seen in this way more processions–generally solemn, mournful, belonging to eternity, but also at times glad, triumphal pomps, that seemed to enter the gates of Time–than all the religions of paganism, fierce or gay, ever witnessed. Now, there is in the dark places of the human spirit–in grief, in fear, in vindictive wrath–a power of self-projection not unlike to this. Thirty years ago, it may be, a man called Symons committed several murders in a sudden epilepsy of planet-struck fury. According to my recollection, this case happened at Hoddesdon, which is in Middlesex. ‘Revenge is sweet!’ was his hellish motto on that occasion, and that motto itself records the abysses which a human will can open. Revenge is not sweet, unless by the mighty charm of a charity that seeketh not her own it has become benignant.[1] And what he had to revenge was woman’s scorn. He had been a plain farm-servant; and, in fact, he was executed, as such men often are, on a proper point of professional respect to their calling, in a smock-frock, or blouse, to render so ugly a clash of syllables. His young mistress was every way and by much his superior, as well in prospects as in education. But the man, by nature arrogant, and little acquainted with the world, presumptuously raised his eyes to one of his young mistresses. Great was the scorn with which she repulsed his audacity, and her sisters participated in her disdain. Upon this affront he brooded night and day; and, after the term of his service was over, and he, in effect, forgotten by the family, one day he suddenly descended amongst the women of the family like an Avatar of vengeance. Right and left he threw out his murderous knife without distinction of person, leaving the room and the passage floating in blood.