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Collected Poems (Chatto poetry)
Collected Poems (Chatto poetry)
by Norman MacCaig
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Collected Poems of Norman MacCaig - A Review by Barry Van-Asten, 3 Mar. 2013
Norman MacCaig (1910-1996) was an exceptionally gifted Scottish poet who read classics at Edinburgh University and later became a school teacher. His first volume of poetry `Far Cry' was published in 1943 and other works include: `The Inward Eye' (1946), `Riding Lights' (1955), `The Sinai Sort' (1957), `A Common Grace' (1960), `A Round of Applause' (1962), `Measures' (1965), `Surroundings' (1966), `Rings on a Tree' (1968), `A Man in my Position' (1969), `The White Birds' (1973), `The World's Room' (1974), `Tree of Strings' (1977), `The Equal Skies' (1980), `A World of Difference' (1983) and `Voice-Over' (1988).
`The Collected Poems' (1993) contains most of MacCaig's poems which are inspired by the wild grandeur of the West Highlands and his life in Edinburgh. MacCaig is certainly a master of the poetic form and he weaves a magic of musical lyricism throughout his works. Definitely worth searching for!


Mausoleums (Shire Album)
Mausoleums (Shire Album)
by Lynn F. Pearson
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mausoleums - A Review by Barry Van-Asten, 12 Feb. 2013
Published in 2002 by Shire Publications, `Mausoleums' at only forty pages, is a fascinating little book which details the history of these memorial structures; we see the development from the great tomb at Halicarnassos built for King Mausolos of Caria by his wife Queen Artemesia in the fourth century BC, to the elegant temples and Georgian tombs attached to grand houses and parklands. Then there are the highly decorated Victorian mausoleums, rich with funerary architecture and symbolism, with their lavishly ornate interior vaults of stained glass, sculptures and ceramic tiles. Whether it is the simple obelisk tomb of a country churchyard or the massive mansions of the dead found in the great cemeteries such as London's Kensal Green or Highgate, the author, Lynn Pearson, an architectural historian and photographer, has given us an excellent and well-researched guide to these beautiful monuments in our landscape.
Pearson brings together the different styles such as Gothic, neo-Classical, Egyptianate and Greek Revival and we are presented with some of the great names in architecture: Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726), Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736), Robert Adam (1728-1792) and Augustus Pugin (1812-1852). Also included is a county by county `gazetteer of mausoleums in Great Britain' of `special architectural or historic interest'. With many photographic examples, `Mausoleums' is a really useful guide for anyone with an interest in the British way of mourning and celebrating death!


White Stains
White Stains
by Aleister Crowley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.25

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars White Stains - A Review by Barry Van-Asten., 6 Jan. 2013
This review is from: White Stains (Paperback)
First published in November 1898 in Amsterdam by the popular English publisher of erotic literature Leonard Charles Smithers (1861-1907) and printed by Binger brothers, `White Stains' remains a little known work of erotica outside of Crowley aficionados'. At the time of its publication (only 100 copies were printed, most of which were destroyed in 1924 by British Customs) Crowley was just twenty-three years old with the world before him as a man of quite a significant inheritance. Because of the book's content, Crowley had to issue `White Stains' or the `literary remains' under the authorship of George Archibald Bishop, a `Neuro-path of the Second Empire'. The name `Bishop' is a reference to Crowley's detested Uncle Tom Bishop, a devout member of the Plymouth Brethren, who looked after young `Alick' (Crowley) when his father Edward died in 1887.
`White Stains' was considered `the filthiest in the English language' by Mr Peter Fryer, an authority on erotica (Confessions. p.16), and the preface to the book leaves us with no doubt as to the orgiastic excess and debaucheries we are about to encounter: `The Editor hopes that Mental Pathologists, for whose eyes alone this treatise is destined will spare no precautions to prevent it falling into other hands.'
Many of the poems, which appear to be imitations of Baudelaire, Rimbaud and his beloved Swinburne, were written while Crowley was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge (1895-1898) and relate to some of his sexual escapades (though some are clearly products of a fertile imagination) during his vacations in Berlin, St Petersburg, Switzerland and Stockholm:

`What time for language, when our kisses flow
Eloquent, warm, as words are cold and weak? -
Or now - Ah! sweetheart, even were it so
We could not speak!'

[At Stockholm]

And there are tender moments with his lover, Herbert Charles Jerome Pollitt (1871-1942):

`His breath as hot and quick as fame;
To kiss him and to clasp him tight;
This is my joy without a name,
A strong man's love is my delight.'

[A Ballad of Passive Paederasty]

At its publication, Crowley was taking his first steps into the occult when he became a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in London on 18th November 1898.
White Stains is Crowley's reaction to the opinions of the Austrian sexologist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebbing (1840-1902) in his `Psychpathia Sexualis' of 1893. In it he claims that all sexual perversions and abnormalities are the result of illness and disease - Crowley disagrees, saying that they are `magical affirmations of perfectly intelligible points of view', they are in fact, acts of sexual magic.
The collection of poems, vile and sublime, goes beyond the bounds of common decency into a hellish nightmare in which `the mysteries of death become more and more an obsession, and he is flung headlong into Sadism, Necrophilia, all the maddest, fiercest vices that the mind of fiends ever brought up from the pit'. [Preface]. There is a romance in disgust and a childish fascination with fellatio, sodomy, urophagia, cunnilingus, lesbianism, analingus, bestiality, sado-masochism, coprophagia, venereal disease, blood lust and necrophilia (`Yea, thou art dead. Thy buttocks now / Are swan-soft, and thou sweatest not'.); in fact, the book contains all the pleasurable pursuits and virtuous acts in which the ordinary Englishman excels!

`Let my fond lips but drink thy golden wine,
My bright-eyed Arab, only let me eat
The rich brown globes of sacramental meat
Steaming and firm, hot from their home divine'.

[Go into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in]

`I yield him place: his ravening teeth
Cling hard to her - he buries him
Insane and furious in the sheath
She opens for him - wide and dim
My mouth is amorous beneath'.

[With Dog and Dame]

Despite the nature of the book, Crowley remained insistent that he wrote the book with a pure heart: `my essential spirituality is made manifest by yet another publication, which stands as a testimony of my praeterhuman innocence. The book is called white stains and is commonly quoted by my admirers as evidence of my addiction to every kind of unmentionable vice. Asses! It is, indeed, technically, an obscene book, and yet the fact that I wrote it proves the purity of my heart and mind in the most extraordinary fashion'. (Confessions. p. 139).
And the perpetrator of these crimes: a poet, who descends into madness and murder through his diabolical debaucheries! Crowley often used the device of an `imagined author' to pin his sexual abominations upon and to use as a mouthpiece for his blasphemies. In White Stains, he `invented a poet who went wrong, who began with normal and innocent enthusiasms, and gradually developed various vices. He ends by being stricken with disease and madness, culminating in murder. In his poems he describes his downfall, always explaining the psychology of each act. The conclusion of the book might therefore be approved in any Sunday School'. (Confessions. p. 139).
Amongst the poems is one titled `A Ballad of Choosing' and it shows the poet (Crowley) at a spiritual crossroads, rejecting Christ and `the vileness of his plea'. In `At Kiel' he wonders `What is Eternity, seeing we hold this hour / For all the lusts and luxuries of shame?'
In `La Juive' the poet imagines copulating with Christ's spear wound, which `lay open for a lover's prize - I violate the Crucified!'
The poet is a man who has `sold soul and body to Satan for sheer love of sin, whose mere lusts of perversion is so intense that it seems to absorb every other emotion and interest'. (Preface).
But Crowley is no Satanist; he is a man rebelling at society and howling at Victorian propriety, prejudice and Christian morals, in the only way his youthful self knew how - through his poetry. His whole life was about not conforming, breaking barriers and taboos; freeing the soul from restrictions. He saw only beauty in strength and despised weakness. In White Stains, Crowley has put into print what most of us have thought about at some time or another and for that he should be commended!
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The Simon Iff Stories and Other Works (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural)
The Simon Iff Stories and Other Works (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural)
by Aleister Crowley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £2.99

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Simon Iff Stories and Other Works - A Review by Barry Van-Asten., 22 Dec. 2012
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Published by Wordsworth Editions in 2012, this wonderful little book and accompaniment to the previous `The Drug and Other Stories' contains the complete `Simple Simon' stories featuring the wildly eccentric mystic detective Simon Iff. Crowley conceived the character of the hugely intellectual and cultured Iff as an idealised image of himself in old-age. Throughout these fascinating and engrossing stories, the great mystic applies his knowledge of philosophy, Taoism, logic and the principles of Thelemic wisdom in the art of solving the various crimes, like chess problems, that come his way. Not being a true devotee of the detective/crime novel, I thought perhaps I would lose interest, but my interest was sustained and of course, Crowley's brilliant yet often dark wit and humour are an absolute delight, such as this from the story `Not good enough', page 100 in The Scrutinies of Simon Iff:
`In summer,' he explained to them, after the first greetings, `meat heats the blood. I am therefore compelled to restrict my diet to foie gras and peaches.'
`But foie gras is meat.'
`The animal kingdom,' said the mystic, `is distinguished, roughly speaking, from the vegetable, by the fact that animals have power to move freely in all directions. When therefore a goose is nailed to a board, as I understand is necessary to the production of foie gras, it becomes ipso facto a vegetable; as a strict vegetarian, I will therefore have some more.' And he heaped his plate.'
The first six stories in `The Scrutinies of Simon Iff' are set in England and France and features the marvellous `Hemlock Club' to which Simon Iff is a member. The stories were published in a monthly periodical called `The International' in New York, edited by George Sylvester Viereck; Crowley would become its contributing Editor from 1917-18, and thus in an act of self-promotion, added his own stories and magical essays within its pages. Crowley published the `Scrutinies' under a pseudonym - Edward Kelly. The stories and their publication dates in The International are: `The Big Game' (vol xi, 9. Sept 1917), `The Artistic Temperament' (vol xi, 10. Oct 1917), `Outside the Bank's Routine' (vol xi, 11. Nov 1917), `The Conduct of John Briggs' (vol xi, 12. Dec 1917), `Not Good Enough' (vol xii, 1. Jan 1918) and `Ineligible' (vol xii, 2. Feb 1918). Crowley says of the `Scrutinies' and the Law of Thelema that:
`The Scrutinies of Simon Iff are perfectly good detective stories, yet they not only show a master of the Law as competent to solve the subtlest problems by considerations based upon the Law, but the way in which crime and unhappiness of all sorts may be traced to a breach of the Law. I show that failure to comply with it involves an internal conflict. (Note that the fundamental principle of psychoanalysis is that neurosis is caused by failure to harmonize the elements of character). The essence of the Law is the establishment of right relations between any two things which come into contact; the essence of such relations being `'love under will''. The only way to keep out of trouble is to understand and therefore to love every impression of which one becomes conscious.' (Confessions. p 828)
The next collection of twelve stories is titled `Simon Iff in America' and they were written, or at least ten of them were written, in December 1917. Crowley lived in America from 1914-1919 and it is a fascinating and magically productive period of his life. The stories are: 1) `What's in a name?' 2) `A sense of incongruity'. 3) `The ox and the wheel'. 4) `An old head on young shoulders'. 5) `The Pasquaney puzzle'. 6) `The monkey and the buzz-saw'. 7) `A dangerous safe trick'. 8) `The biter bit'. 9) `Nebuchadnazzer'. 10) `Suffer the little children'. 11) `Who gets the diamonds?' 12) `The natural thing to do'.
In 1916, Crowley left New York for New Hampshire to stay at the home of his friend the astrologer Evangeline Adams, who owned a house she called `the Zodiac' in the village of Hebron, near Pasquaney Lake (Newfound Lake). She had a small studio built near the house and Crowley stayed there from the summer to the autumn of 1916 and called it `Adam's Cottage' in his correspondence.
Many of the stories have biographical details drawing upon descriptions of his friends and lovers which are `golden nuggets' to the Crowley enthusiast.
The next collection, written around 1918, is titled `Simon Iff Abroad' and the three surviving stories from the original four are: `Desert justice'; `In the swamp' and `The haunted sea Captain'.
The following two stories, also from 1918, come under the title `Simon Iff, Psychoanalyst': `Psychic compensation' and `Sterilised Stephen'.
The character of Simon Iff appeared in Crowley's first novel `The Butterfly-Net' written in 1917 and published as `Moonchild' by Mandrake Press in 1929.
As a departure from the `mystic detective' series are a collection of eight stories which were mostly published in The International, called `Golden Twigs'. These stories of pagan belief were inspired by Sir J. G. Frazer's `The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion'. The stories and their publication dates are: `The king of the wood' (written 30 Aug 1916. Published in The International under the pseudonym Mark Wells. Vol xii, 4. April 1918). `The stone of Cybele' (written 6-7 Aug 1916. Published in The Equinox, vol iii, 10. 1986). `The Oracle of the Corcian Cave' written 3-4 Sept 1916. Published in `Golden Twigs' ed. Martin P Starr. 1988). `The burning of Melcarth' written 2 Sept 1916. Published in The International under the pseudonym Mark Wells. Vol xi, 10. Oct 1917). `The hearth' written 13-14 Sept 1916. Published in The International under the pseudonym Mark Wells. Vol xi, 11. Nov 1917). `The old man of the Peepul-Tree' written 10-11 Sept 1916. Published in The International under the pseudonym James Grahame. Vol xii, 4. April 1918). `The Mass of Saint Secaire' written 31 Aug-1 Sept 1916. Published in The International under the pseudonym Barbery de Rochechouart [author] and Mark Wells [translator]. Vol xii, 2. Feb 1918). `The God of Ibreez' written 8-9 Sept 1916. Published in The International under the pseudonym Mark Wells. Vol xii, 1. Jan 1918).
With an Introduction by William Breeze and 560 pages including notes and sources, `The Simon Iff Stories and Other Works' is an indispensible addition to any collection! Inspiring and definitely intriguing!


The Poems of Robert Browning (Wordsworth Poetry Library)
The Poems of Robert Browning (Wordsworth Poetry Library)
by Robert Browning
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Poems of Robert Browning - A Review by Barry Van-Asten, 2 Nov. 2012
We can be forgiven for thinking of Robert Browning (1812-1889) as just another boring old `stiff-necked' Victorian, and who in their right mind would accuse him of writing absolutely nothing of interest, despite living through one of the most fascinating periods of British history? In fact, Browning, by comparison to some of his contemporary `sentimental poets' can be viewed as quite modern in his outlook with his varied interests in such things as spiritual, philosophical and metaphysical subjects.
Browning was influenced by the Romantics: Shelley, Byron and Keats and his first published poem `Pauline' (1833) received little notice. He travelled to Russia in 1834 (and Italy in 1838) and his dramatic blank verse poem `Paracelsus' was published in 1835, and a play, also in blank verse, `Strafford' (1840) was produced at Covent Garden. But `Sordello' a narrative poem in iambic pentameter couplets also of 1840 and set in Italy was poorly received and almost ruined his reputation as a poet beyond repair for a long time!
Browning corresponded with fellow poet and in my opinion the greater poet, Elizabeth Barrett (1806-1861) in 1845 after admiring her `Poems' of the same year. The relationship was kept a secret from Elizabeth's father and the couple married and eloped to Italy in 1846, remaining there till Elizabeth's death in 1861 (they had one child, a disappointment hardly worth mentioning).
Browning's other works include: `Christmas Eve and Easter Day' a poem in two parts of 1850 and `Men and Women' a collection of fifty-one poems of 1855:
`There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides, met/ To view the last of me, a living frame/ For one more picture! in a sheet of flame/ I saw them and I knew them all. And yet/ Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set, / And blew `'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came''.' [xxxiv. From `Men and Women' 1855].
Other collections are: `Dramatis Personae' (1864) and `The Ring and the Book' (1868-9), a collection of twelve books in blank verse.
He returned to England and more work followed such as his `Dramatic Idylls' (1879-80) and he died in Venice in 1889. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.
Some of Browning's subject matter can be obscure and ponderous yet he achieved lasting popularity in later life. But like that other giant of Victorian verse, Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), he was a truly great poet who can only be fully appreciated by a dedicated and detailed study of his works, which of course, for those interested in poetry, is the least one can do to honour his name! Wonderful!


The Star in the West: A Critical Essay Upon the Works of Aleister Crowley (Classic Reprint)
The Star in the West: A Critical Essay Upon the Works of Aleister Crowley (Classic Reprint)
by J. F. C. Fuller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.36

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Star in the West - A Review by Barry Van-Asten, 1 Nov. 2012
The Star in the West was written by Captain (later Major-General) John Frederick Charles Fuller (1878-1966) who was born in Chichester, West Sussex, and it came to be written as an entry for a competition devised by the poet and occultist Aleister Crowley. The best entry would receive a winning prize of £100 and the competition was announced in the press of the time as `The Chance of the Year! The Chance of the Century!! The Chance of the Geologic Period!!!'
Crowley was in Darjeeling when he received a letter from the young Captain Fuller of the First Oxfordshire Light Infantry, stationed at Lucknow, informing him of the Army officer's wish to enter the competition.
In the spring of 1906, Fuller, who had fought in the South African War of 1899-1902, contracted enteric fever and was invalided home. During the summer, he met Crowley and his wife Rose at the Hotel Cecil in the Strand. By October of that year Fuller had finished his essay on Crowley's poetic works which he began writing at Lucknow, titled `The Star in the West' (Crowley, of course being the `Star') and it was posted to Crowley at his Highland home, Boleskine, on the shore of Loch Ness. As there were no other entrants in the competition the essay won hands down and it was published the following year in 1907. Fuller never received the prize money, Crowley flaunted his wealth but behind the pretence of riches he was actually quite financially disadvantaged! Fuller being a gentleman he would probably not have mentioned such things as prize money. Besides, he was becoming enamoured of the man!
And so Fuller and Crowley became great friends, seeing each other most days to work on some writing or other. Fuller helped with the editing of the great magical periodical `The Equinox', producing works such as `The Temple of Solomon the King' (first four parts), `The Treasure House of Images' (The Equinox, vol I, number iii, supplement) and `The Chymical Jousting of Brother Perardua with the Seven Lances that he brake' (The Equinox, vol I, number i). He was also a very good draughtsman producing the marvellous images for the Four Watch Towers in The Equinox, vol I, number vii.
Fuller subscribed to the Rationalist Press Association which is probably how he came upon the advert for the competition. He had previously contributed a few poems and articles to The Agnostic Journal and he agreed with Crowley that Christianity was `historically false, morally infamous, politically contemptible and socially pestilential' [Confessions. p.539]
Fuller became the loyal devotee of Crowley's poetry and his high praise and gushing adoration for him flows throughout The Star in the West: `''Behold the Lion... hath prevailed to open the Book and to loose the seven seals thereof.'' For until now `'No man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the Book, neither to look thereon.'' Yet through the astrolabe of his mind and in the alembic of his heart Aleister Crowley has opened the book, breaking not only the first six seals, but the seventh also.' [Preface to The Star in the West]. And again:
`And I for one take it that the prophecy has now been fulfilled: Aleister Crowley is the artist Elias, the marvellous being whom God has permitted to make a discovery of the highest importance in his illuminative philosophy of Crowleyanity, in the dazzling and flashing light of which there is nothing concealed which shall not be discovered'. [`Crowleyanity' in The Star in the West]. Even so, Crowley was not altogether happy:
`I could have wished a more critical and less adoring study of my work; but his enthusiasm was genuine, and guaranteed our personal relations in such sort that my friendship with him is one of the dearest memories of my life.' [Confessions. p. 543]
`He (Fuller) had originally intended his essay to conclude with the sixth chapter, and he had scrupulously avoided any reference to the magical and mystical side of my work; nay, even to the philosophical side so far as that was concerned with transcendentalism. But I showed him that the study must be incomplete unless he added a chapter expounding my views on the subjects. Thus chapter seven came to be written'. [Confessions. p. 540-41]
And so the seven chapters came into being, representing the Book of the Seven Seals and the chapters are named: I. The Looking-Glass, II. The Virgin, III. The Harlot, IV. The Mother, V. The Old Bottle, VI. The Cup and VII. The New Wine. Fuller also writes in great detail on the concept of `Crowleyanity' and he looks at various philosophical points in connection with such great thinkers as: Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, and wonders at such cosmological and religious notions as Time, Space, The Qabalah, Buddhism, Agnosticism, Yoga, Mysticism and Ceremonial Magic.
However, their friendship began to disintegrate following the Jones v the Looking Glass libel trial which concluded on 27th April 1911, in which Crowley's friend George Cecil Jones (1873-1960) sued the racing journal for claiming that his association with Crowley brought his own reputation into disrepute, Crowley being known as a publisher of pornographic literature and a suspect homosexual at a time when it was illegal (he was in fact bisexual). Jones lost the case and Fuller, not wishing to suffer the same humiliation and loss of reputation; cut his ties with Crowley and went on to became a brilliant military strategist, especially in tank warfare during the First World War. But for a short time Fuller really did believe that Crowley the poet was the new messiah of the Aeon of Horus - `It has taken 100,000,000 years to produce Aleister Crowley. The world has indeed laboured, and has at last brought forth a man.'


The Collected Poems of Kathleen Raine
The Collected Poems of Kathleen Raine
by Kathleen Raine
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Collected Poems of kathleen Raine - A Review by barry Van-Asten, 1 Nov. 2012
Kathleen Raine (1908-2003) was an extraordinary poet and critic, married to the poet and sociologist Charles Madge (1912-1996). Her poetry has an intense spiritual quality, inspired by the wild, rugged landscape of Scotland where her mother was born. Her first published collection was `Stone and Flower' in 1943, followed by `Living in Time' (1946), `The Pythoness' (1949), `The Year One' (1952), `The Hollow Hill' (1965), `The Lost Country' (1971), `On a Deserted Shore' (1973), `The Oval Portrait' (1977), `The Oracle in the Heart' (1980), `The Presence' (1987) and `Living with Mystery' (1992).
Kathleen also produced three volumes of autobiography and wrote critically on William Blake and the Neoplatonic tradition, which reflected the sense of beauty and intense mystical and visionary aspect of her poetry celebrating the vitality of the world around us.
`Towards us out of the dark blew such sweet air/ It was the warm breath of the spirit, I knew, / Fragrant with wild thyme that grew/ In childhood's fields; he led me on, / Touched a thin partition, and was gone.' [The Hollow Hill].
The Collected poems were first published in 1981 and this later edition edited by Brian Keeble and published in 2000 by Golgonooza Press is of a very high standard and makes a beautiful gift for all lovers of poetry. Simply wonderful!


Confessions of an English Opium Eater (Wordsworth Classics)
Confessions of an English Opium Eater (Wordsworth Classics)
by Thomas de Quincey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Confessions of an English Opium-Eater - A Review by Barry Van-Asten, 14 Oct. 2012
First published in 1822 (and later enlarged in 1856) `Confessions of an English Opium-Eater' by the English essayist and critic, Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) tells the autobiographical tale of his descent into laudanum addiction, which began at Worcester College, Oxford in 1804. Thomas became fully dependant on the drug in 1812, and the book details the psychological effects of opium upon the memory and how symbolic representations found in dreams can reveal interesting insights into the mind influenced by addiction. In Thomas's case, the focus of his dreams was his sister who died in childhood and another recurring memory was that of Ann, a fifteen year old prostitute who befriended but suddenly left him alone in London where he was homeless and hungry. He had ran away from his Manchester Grammar School to Wales and London and he became a friend to the poets William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) and Robert Southey (1774-1843). This book became very influential to many writers, including Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) and Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) who like De Quincey suffered from their own addictions.
From the depths of the appalling opium nightmares De Quincey did manage to have some success in controlling the habit and the `Confessions' is an interesting book on the pleasures and pains of opium. Its title may draw those curious souls seeking sensational revelations of debauchery but they will be sadly disappointed and its wordy prose style and classical references may become a little tedious and put some readers off. That said, the book is quite enlightening to those willing to stick with it!


Amphora
Amphora
by Aleister Crowley
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Amphora - A Review by Barry Van-Asten, 13 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Amphora (Paperback)
In 1908 Aleister Crowley sent his manuscript of Christian devotional verse in praise of the Virgin Mary, anonymously to the London publishers Burns and Oates, who subsequently published the work under the title `Amphora'. At the same time, Crowley issued a private printing for `the Authoress and her intimates' by Arden Press, with the inclusion of an epilogue disclosing an obscene sentence when reading the first letter of each line downwards and the first letter of each last word, downwards! `I decided to write a series of hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the simplest possible style'. [`Confessions']
When Messrs Burns and Oates discovered the true authorship, they reacted in typical Christian fashion when confronted with anything contrary or revealing free-thinking idealism and sexual expression: they closed their eyes and put their fingers in their ears, shouting `Repent!' And so the remaining copies of `Amphora' which had received mixed reviews, were withdrawn.
`Amphora' is divided into four books, each containing thirteen hymns and beginning with this short prologue: `Mother and maiden! on the natural night / Embowered in bliss of roses red and white, / To Him with gold and frankincense and myrrh.' ... `Those Pagans gazing on the Heavenly Host / Were blest of Father, Son and Holy Ghost; / And me, though I be as an heathen Mage, / Thou wilt accept in this my pious page.'
Crowley later re-issued the book in 1912 under the title `Hail Mary', and it is unlikely to appeal to anyone not interested in Crowley and his works. Nevertheless, there are moments of simple beauty in the hymns and granted, they do lack a certain `dark passion' which can be found in other Crowley poems such as his `Hymn to Pan', but `Amphora' shows to what extent Crowley's magnificent creative mind could be directed. Intriguing!


Church Monuments (Shire Library)
Church Monuments (Shire Library)
by Brian Kemp
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Church Monuments - A Review by Barry Van-Asten, 7 Oct. 2012
Being number 149 in the Shire Album series, published in 1985, `Church Monuments' is a good basic introduction to the history of English monuments beginning in the twelfth century with relief effigies, through to the tomb chests and elaborate decorations of the Renaissance. Kemp also looks at Baroque wall tablets, Rococo and Greek Revival inspired monuments of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and touches upon the Gothic Revival of the Victorian era, with its sentimental figurative sculpture.
The section on effigies is very interesting and explores the evolution of the various postures from the reclining, semi-reclining and kneeling, through to the hands clasped in prayer effigies. The symbolism of monuments and their adornments is also of particular interest, with themes concerning the Resurrection and the immortality of the soul and the stark reality of the corpse effigies, skeletons and skulls, emphasising the inevitability of death.
With a list of Cathedrals, churches and chapels containing important funerary monuments, Dr Brian Kemp has produced a good preliminary guide to the art of monuments which thankfully survived the destruction of the Reformation in the 16th century and the Civil War of the 17th century; monuments which are our cultural heritage and architectural legacy. But at only 32 pages, `Church Monuments' only allows us a glimpse into this truly fascinating subject and I was definitely left wanting more! Recommended!


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