Tag Archives: Transit of Venus

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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