Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Suicide Club by Robert Louis Stevenson (1882)


I.  "Fortunate beings!", cried the young man.  "Forty pounds is the entry money of the Suicide Club".  

    "The Suicide Club," said the Prince, "why, what the devil is that?"

"Listen," said the young man; "this is the age of conveniences, and I have to tell you of the last level of perfection of the sort.  We have affairs in different places; and hence railways were invented.  Railways separated us infallibly from our friends; and so telegraphs were made that we might communicate speedily at great distances.  Even in hotels we have lifts to spare us a climb of some hundred steps.  Now we know that life is but a stage to play the fool upon as long as the part amuses us.  There was one more convenience lacking to modern comfort; a decent, easy way to quit that stage; the back stairs to liberty; or, as I said this moment, Death's private door."

II.  An hour after, Florizel in his official robes, and covered with all the orders of Bohemia, received the members of the Suicide Club.  

    "Foolish and wicked men," said he, "as many of you have been driven into this strait by the lack of fortune shall receive employment and remuneration from my officers.  Those who suffer under a sense of guilt must have recourse to a higher and more generous Potentate than I."

Illustrations (from top):

1. Banksy, Rat, Westbourne Grove, London W11.
2. From Unheimlichte Geschichten (dir. Richard Oswald), 1919 (German film adaptation of "The Suicide Club").
3. From "The Suicide Club", Suspense (CBS television series), February 14, 1950. The program was an adaptation of "Story Of The Young Man With The Cream Tarts", the first story in Stevenson's "The Suicide Club".
4. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Bas Relief Portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson, The St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland, ca. 1899.
5. Martha Stewart, Strawberry cream tart.
6. Satan, Gustave Dore, Paradise Lost, wood engraving, 1866.
7. Unknown artist, Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor of the House of Luxembourg, and his third wife, Anna of Schweidnitz (Anne of Swidnica).
8.  The Queen of Bohemia Swallowed Up Alive, From Robert Burton, Wonderful Prodigies of Judgement And Mercy, 1685.

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