Tag Archives: Hell

Marginalia, no.307

Hell was happy to oblige.

~ Andrea Wulf, Chasing Venus

People are always inviting hell, and it always is happy to oblige. But the Hell intended here is Maximilian Hell, a Jesuit astronomer who observed the 1769 transit of Venus from the Scandinavian arctic by invitation of Denmark’s Christian VII. Now, it is a fact that an old name for the planet Venus is Lucifer. It is also a fact that Fr Hell brought a pet dog named Apropos along with him. Which makes it tempting and plausible (and strikingly Miltonic until you get to the pooch) to say that “Hell watched Lucifer pass before the sun, and when the Hell-hound barked it was only Apropos.”

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Marginalia, no.138

Few places capture your imagination… even fewer capture your soul.

~ Hotel promotional pamphlet

If it weren’t for this little clue printed on the folding map handed to me by the concierge I don’t know how long it might have taken to figure out just where I was.  Hell is nothing like you imagine it.  Dante and Milton would be disappointed.  There’s valet parking, a fitness center and a miniature golf course.  There are also several casinos nearby, which you might have expected.  But the heated pool is not exactly a lake of fire.

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Marginalia, no.32

Its passage was lit by the usual lamps.

~ John Collier, Halfway to Hell

Several of Collier’s stories were adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and he was an inspiration for Rod Serling, which is obvious enough after you’ve read some Collier for yourself.  In this particular story (collected in Fancies and Goodnights), the hero, Louis, commits suicide in a hotel room near Piccadilly Circus.  But rather than melting into a desired oblivion, he finds himself still conscious – dead, but self-aware and able to move spectrally about, invisible to the living.  He steps out for a walk and is accosted on the street by a devil who announces his intention of delivering him to hell.  Louis manages to distract the devil with liquor, and comedic adventures follow.  But at one prickly point in the story, when the devil drags him down into the Piccadilly Circus tube station, Louis catches sight of an escalator shaft he’d never noticed before.  It’s down this that the souls of the departed and their fiery escorts make a long final descent.  The shaft appears bottomless and has an odd reek of sulphur about it, but is nonetheless “lit by the usual lamps” – the same as one finds in any other tube shaft.  Which seems right: hell would have to be as mundane as that.

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