Vathek (Oxford World's Classics)
Thomas Keymer, William Beckford
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"Woe to the rash mortal who seeks to know that of which he should remain ignorant; and to undertake that which surpasseth his power!"
One of the strangest and most unforgettable eighteenth-century novels, Vathek is a wild Gothic fantasy whose sensuous imagination and grotesque comedy have inspired writers from Byron to Lovecraft. The Caliph Vathek is dissolute and debauched, and hungry for knowledge. When the mysterious Giaour offers him boundless treasure and unrivalled power he is willing to sacrifice his god, the lives of innocent children, and his own soul to satisfy his obsession. Vathek's extraordinary journey to the subterranean palace of Eblis, and the terrifying fate that there awaits him, is a captivating tale of magic and oriental fantasy, sudden violence and corrupted love, whose mix of moral fable, grotesque comedy, and evocative beauty defies classification.
This new edition reprints Beckford's authorized English text of 1816 with its elaborate and entertaining notes. In his new Introduction, Thomas Keymer pays special attention to the novel's literary qualities, its hybrid nature and its connections with oriental fiction and the Gothic as well as to its origins and Beckford's scandalous public persona. Completely reset, the second edition includes new, fuller notes, an up-to-date bibliography, and a new chronology of the author.
About the Series: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
of Vathek has been reproduced here. In a few cases readings from the editions of 1786 and 1823 have been preferred. The sometimes inconsistent spelling has been preserved, as has the heavy and idiosyncratic punctuation, which evidently served an emphatic and rhythmic function. Occasionally missing quotation marks have been supplied at the end of passages of direct speech’ (p. xxxv). For line-by-line detail, see the collation of variants and record of emendations on pages 171–87 of Lonsdale’s
Caliph: ‘Dear sovereign of my soul! I will follow thee, if it be thy will, beyond the Kaf, in the land of the afrits. I will not hesitate to climb, for thee, the nest of the Simurgh; who, this lady excepted, is the most awful of created beings.’—‘We have here then,’ subjoined Carathis, ‘a girl, both of courage and science!’ Nouronihar had certainly both; but, notwithstanding all her firmness, she could not help casting back a thought of regret upon the graces of her little Gulchenrouz; and the
childhood.* EXPLANATORY NOTES VATHEK first appeared in English, translated and annotated by Samuel Henley from Beckford’s French, under the title An Arabian Tale, From an Unpublished Manuscript: With Notes Critical and Explanatory (1786). The notes given such prominence here were immediately recognized as an important element of the work. Though occupying more than a third of the first edition (122 pages—there are 211 pages of narrative text), they struck one reviewer as admirably detailed but
Babylon, inscribed on the wall: Thou art weighed in the balance, and found wanting. [TK] See Daniel 5:27. 83 Balkis: This was the Arabian name of the Queen of Sheba, who went from the south to hear the wisdom and admire the glory of Solomon. The Koran represents her as a worshipper of fire. Solomon is said not only to have entertained her with the greatest magnificence, but also to have raised her to his bed and his throne. Al Koran, ch. XXVII. and Sale’s notes. D’Herbelot, p. 182. ruins of
Lavault, Lewis Melville, and Valéry Larbaud, ‘Le Dossier Vathek’, Nouvelle Revue Française, 9 (1913), 1044–50. 16 Gemmett (ed.), Consummate Collector, 290, dated 10 July 1834; 292, dated 12 July 1834. 17 Cyrus Redding, Memoirs of William Beckford, of Fonthill, 2 vols (London: C. J. Skeet, 1859), i, 243. 18 William Beckford, Vathek, ed. Roger Lonsdale, Oxford English Novels (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. xiii; the recent French editor of ‘L’Esplendente’ tactfully mentions having to