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Notes on ''Beyond the Wall of Sleep''

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Dabbler
BEYOND THE WALL OF SLEEP

 

1. “I have an exposition of sleep come upon me.†– Wm. Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 35-6.  Deighton's commentary (in the Macmillan edition of 1891) gives ''a disposition to sleep.'', hence a desire to sleep – perhaps to see the dream-marvels that Slater saw and that the narrator glimpsed briefly?

 

2. ''Freud to the contrary with his puerile symbolism'' – Herr Sigmund Freud, in his ''The Censorship of Dreams'' gives the following definition of a dream:  "Dreams are things which get rid of (psychical) stimuli disturbing to sleep, by the method of hallucinatory satisfaction". In plain terms, Freud regarded dreams as the hallucinatory fulfilment of some desire repressed by societal taboo or conscience, practically invariably violent and/or indecent in nature.

 

Freud's ''puerile symbolism'' refers to the stress he laid on interpreting dream-items as symbolic of the organs of generation – a theory whose childishness and distasteful crudeness Lovecraft's sensitive and highly developed nature felt keenly. It hauls the beautiful world of dreams to a very squalid level.

 

3. ''terraqueous globe'' – the Earth, an adjective derived from the Lat. terra (earth, soil, land) and aqua (water).

 

4. ''Interne'' – a graduate student receiving training in a hospital or asylum and acting as an asisstant surgeon, psychologist &c. Not to be confused with the modern sense of ''interne'', an unpaid apprentice. Interne in the former sense is a  purely American term which can be roughly approximated by the English ''house-surgeon''.

 

5. ''matutinal'' – Pertaining to the early morning, Lat. matutinis, early.

 

6. ''the cruel empire of Tsan-Chan'' – this is the first allusion to this state-to-come, another is made in ''The Shadow Out of Time'' (''I talked with the mind of Yiang-Li, a philosopher from the cruel empire of Tsan-Chan, which is to come in A.D. 5000'')

 

7. '' red Arcturus'' – the brightest star in the constellation Boötes and indeed the brightest in the Northern Hemisphere. As observed by H.P.L., it has a ruddy hue – in modern astronomical terms it is a ''red giant''.The name itself is Greek and denotes ''guardian of the bear'', a reference to its position adjacent to Ursa Major.

 

8. ''the fouth moon of Jupiter'' – Callisto, the fourth and outermost Galilaean moon of Jupiter.

 

9. ''Algol, the Daemon-Star'' – Algol is the Arabic name of Beta Persei,  an eclipsing binary star (a system of two distinct bodies orbiting around a common point or barycentre, one of which periodically aligns with the latter, causing a dimming of the light and giving the impression of a flickering beacon) in the constellation of Perseus. Algol (al-ghul) signifies ''the Demon'', the same element being found in the English ''ghoul''.

 

10. ''Tonight I go as a Nemesis'' – In Homer, Nemesis is the personification of divine justice. Hesiod's Theogony makes her a goddess, the daughter of Night, but the passage is perhaps an interpolation. The sense used here is that of the tragedians, a divine avenger of crime

 

11. ''the shining mists of Orion's sword'' – the Orion Nebula, a mass of hydrogen, helium and dust in the sword of Orion the Hunter. It ''shines'' because it is an emission nebula, one in which the molecular elements of the nebula are excited by the radiant energy of a star or stars. The excited electrons return to their ground-state, emitting the energy absorbed in the form of photons or quanta of light. 

 

12. ''a bleak plateau in prehistoric Asia'' – at least one amateur Lovecraftian scholar has interpreted this as an allusion to the plateau of Leng.

 

13. ''Nova Persei'' – Lat., the new star of Perseus, a nova or apparent new star. It is in fact the result of a binary pair of a ''white dwarf'', a small, intensely hot core of a dead star, and a ''red giant''. The gravitational pull of the white dwarf abstracts some of the cast-off gases of the red giant to itself. The intense heat of the white dwarf causes the abstracted gases, particularly hydrogen, to ignite, producing a tremendously bright nuclear explosion. 

 

The ''Nova Persei'' is entirely genuine, occurring when Lovecraft was a child of eleven. Given his known keen interest in astronomy it must have fascinated him and he has adroitly incorporated it into his work.

 

14. ''Prof. Garrett P. Serviss'' – Garrett Putnam Serviss, (1851-1929), American astronomer and prolific writer of works of popular science. I have thus far failed to find the text quoted but continue my search.

 

15. ''Anderson'' – Thomas David Anderson, (1853-1932), Scottish amateur astronomer. 

 

16. Capella – the brightest star in the constellation Auriga, the Wain, and hence designated Alpha Aurigae. It is the third brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere, after Arcturus and Vega. It is actually an aggregate of four stars grouped into two binary pairs.

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yockenthwaite

This is another story I've reviewed in my Yog Blog fairly recently, though more in the form of short notes / thoughts as I read, rather than a coherent assessment of its merits or otherwise. The review led to some nice feedback from another site member though, so is worth checking out for that reason alone.

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Ningauble
14. ''Prof. Garrett P. Serviss'' – Garrett Putnam Serviss, (1851-1929), American astronomer and prolific writer of works of popular science. I have thus far failed to find the text quoted but continue my search.

 

It's from Astronomy with the Naked Eye (1908), p. 152.

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Dabbler

Many, many thanks indeed.

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Nescio

This is another story I've reviewed in my Yog Blog fairly recently, though more in the form of short notes / thoughts as I read, rather than a coherent assessment of its merits or otherwise. The review led to some nice feedback from another site member though, so is worth checking out for that reason alone.

 

I suspect "terraqueous" was a rather less unusual word in 1919 than now. At any rate, I've seen the expression "terraqueous globe" for "Earth" in a number of (semi-)popular science texts from the first half of the last century.

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yockenthwaite

I suspect "terraqueous" was a rather less unusual word in 1919 than now. At any rate, I've seen the expression "terraqueous globe" for "Earth" in a number of (semi-)popular science texts from the first half of the last century.

For words like that it's worth trying Google Books Ngram Viewer. This searches the digitised books that Google hold, to look for the changing use of words over time. For a fuller description see here.

 

Of course Lovecraft was very prone to using archaic language. But it does seem likely from what you've said that he would have encountered this in a popular science text.

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Nescio

Acc'd the Ngram Viewer, "terraqueous" declined in popularity during the 19th century and was already quite rare in Lovecraft's day, so my suspicion may be off. But yeah, it seems likely Lovecraft encountered the word in popular science texts (possibly ones already old in his day).

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yronimoswhateley

I think that obsolete textbooks or scientific texts sound like a very likely source.  It looks like the term was also very common at one time in world atlases - Lovecraft's reading and research methods suggest to me that it's not unlikely that Lovecraft would have been quite familiar with the term in studying over outdated atlases or encyclopaedia articles (e.g., one about this famous 18th-century map + astronomical chart) - which seems to be exactly the sort of thing to have captured young Lovecraft's attention and imagination!)

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