Like The Haunted Woman, Sphinx begins with its young protagonist inheriting money. But, whereas Isbel Loment hadn't, by book's end, succeeded in breaking from her old life into the new one inheritance would enable, Sphinx' Nicholas Cabot has started on his. He rents a room at the Sturt household in Newleigh village, intending to devote himself to the invention of a deep-slLike The Haunted Woman, Sphinx begins with its young protagonist inheriting money. But, whereas Isbel Loment hadn't, by book's end, succeeded in breaking from her old life into the new one inheritance would enable, Sphinx' Nicholas Cabot has started on his. He rents a room at the Sturt household in Newleigh village, intending to devote himself to the invention of a deep-sleep dream recorder. A retired actor, Sturt lives with wife & daughters, Audrey, Evelyn & Katherine, aged 19, 21 & 23. Flighty Audrey is interested in tennis. Musical Evelyn is serious--a portentous sign from Schopenhauerian Lindsay. Katherine is more interested in belles-lettres than intellectual matters. Celia Hantish, a fashionable young widow, lives nearby. Nicholas learns of another neighbor, composer Lore Jensen. Her early compositions showed genius, but she had to turn to commercial work for a living. Now having the money to live, her inspiration ended, she's turned to drink & drugs. Evelyn plays him an early piece entitled Sphinx. It poses an "indubitable question". Katherine explains: "the Sphinx was a monster that used to ask riddles...those who were unable to solve them correctly lost their lives." Evelyn thinks the riddle is, "'Why are you living in the world?' As none of us can answer it, we all have to die." Nicholas disagrees. For him a Sphinx is goddess of the "dreams we dream during deep sleep & remember nothing of afterwards." Maurice Ferreira, a suavely selfish philanderer Nicholas briefly employs, is having affairs with Evelyn & Lore. Things come to a head when he produces a revolver, holding it drunkenly to Lore's head, demanding she marry him. Rumor of the event circulates & is taken by Mrs Sturt & Katherine as evincing Lore's dissolute lifestyle. They break relations. Unbeknown to all, Sturt is Lore's father. Because of Lore & Sturt's close relationship, Ferreira threatens to rumor they're having an affair to get back at Lore when she refuses seeing him. Having acted as general go-between, Nicholas scuffles with Ferreira, taking the gun. Celia reconciles the Sturts & Lore to avoid scandal. Things start returning to normal. Lore announces she's to wed music critic Monro Dawson. Ferreira finishes working for Nicholas & has his revolver back. He declares intent to gatecrash a fête to be given by Lady Wyburn, at which Lore & Dawson will be. Nicholas has progressed with his dream-recorder. He's recorded three dream-fragments which he plays to Evelyn, the only one aware of his research. In the 1st dream, Nicholas meets Lore on a forest path. She begs help with an expression of "agonised despair". Evelyn insists they check Lore's house. They're turned away, this being after Mrs Sturt's snub. In the 2nd dream, Lore walks towards a devilish Ferreira. In the 3rd, viewed once Ferreira has been dismissed, it appears he's killed Lore in the dream world. Nicholas is infatuated with the sophisticated Celia. She agrees to wed. He doesn't realise they're mismatched, even when she's obviously disappointed by his intention to continue work after marriage. The fête arrives. Nicholas & Celia meet Lore & her fiancé Dawson, who've been arguing. Dawson leaves. Lore calls the engagement off. Nicholas & Celia walk away. Lore stares into a river, depressed. Nicholas sees someone he guesses is Ferreira approaching her. Soon after, the fête is halted. Lore has been found drowned. Celia tries getting Nicholas to blame Ferreira. He refuses to swear it was Ferreira he saw. Seeing it as a personal affront, she breaks off their engagement. Back home, Sturt collapses on hearing Lore's fate. Knowing he must provide evidence, Nicholas decides recording a dream to see what it reveals of Ferreira's involvement. Having a desire to protect Ferreira, Evelyn doubles Nicholas's sleeping powder dose, putting the recorder in her father's room, hoping it will record innocent dreams indicting nobody. She watches it as it's recording. It provides a tri-level interpretation of events. In the dream, Sturt walks along a beach. He stops at a pool. Running under the water's surface is a sort of air-tunnel. Lore is trapped in it. Below are a series of shadow-images of Lore presenting different views of her predicament. In one image, she's walking along a forest path—this is the Lore Nicholas met in his dreams. Below that is another image in which Lore stands at river's edge—this shadow level is the everyday waking world. Ferreira appears in it, threatens her with a revolver but leaves, whereupon she jumps into the river. In the forest image, however, Ferreira murders her. At water-tunnel level, he appears as a dark tunnel-orifice. Confronted with this, Lore reaches up & climbs from the pool. In one interpretation, Ferreira has killed Lore. In another, he's the conduit by which she freed herself. In the main dream world on the beach, two white horses appear, one ridden by Nicholas. Lore mounts the other. They gallop seawards. The horses start flying. The dream ends. Evelyn rushes to Nicholas's room to find the extra dose of sleeping powder has killed him....more
Hardcover, 287 pages
July 1st 1988
by Carroll & Graf
(first published 1923)
Sphinx is a marvellous book which I re-read often and always get more from. It is difficult to say anything about Lindsay's writing that does it justice. His style is his own, created for his own purposes. There is a flaw in this edition : It has two pages printed twice and two omitted that are present in the first edition and in the recent Resonance Bookworks edition. For about ten years, however, it was the only edition I had and I loved it despite the suspicion there was some missing in the closSphinx is a marvellous book which I re-read often and always get more from. It is difficult to say anything about Lindsay's writing that does it justice. His style is his own, created for his own purposes. There is a flaw in this edition : It has two pages printed twice and two omitted that are present in the first edition and in the recent Resonance Bookworks edition. For about ten years, however, it was the only edition I had and I loved it despite the suspicion there was some missing in the closing chapters....more
David Lindsay (1876-1945) was a Scottish author now most famous for the philosophical science fiction novel A Voyage to Arcturus. Lindsay was born into a middle-class Scottish Calvinist family who had moved to London, tho growing up he spent much time in Jedburgh, where hiLibrarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
David Lindsay (1876-1945) was a Scottish author now most famous for the philosophical science fiction novel A Voyage to Arcturus. Lindsay was born into a middle-class Scottish Calvinist family who had moved to London, tho growing up he spent much time in Jedburgh, where his family was from. Altho awarded a university scholarship, he was forced by poverty to enter business, becoming a Lloyd's of London insurance clerk. He was very successful but, after serving in WWI, at age forty, he moved to Cornwall with his young wife, Jacqueline Silver, to become a full-time writer. He published A Voyage to Arcturus in 1920. It sold 596 copies before being remaindered. This extremely strange work was not obviously influenced by anyone, but further reading shows links with other Scottish fantasists (e.g., Geo. MacDonald). It was in its turn a central influence on C. S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet. Lindsay attempted to write more commercially with his next work The Haunted Woman (1922), but this was barely more successful than Voyage. He continued writing novels, including the humorous potboiler The Adventures of Monsieur de Mailly, but after Devil's Tor in 1932 he found publication increasingly difficult & spent much time on his last work The Witch, published posthumously. He & his wife opened a Brighton boarding house. They did not prosper & their marriage underwent considerable strain. The house was damaged by the first bomb to fall on Brighton in WWII. In his bath at the time, Lindsay never recovered from the shock. His death from infection caused by a tooth abscess was unrelated to the bomb. A Voyage to Arcturus has been described as the major underground novel of the 20th century. The secret of Lindsay's apparent strangeness lies in his metaphysical assumptions. A gnostic, he viewed the "real" world as an illusion which must be rejected in order to perceive genuine truth. In The Haunted Woman, the two main characters discover a room which exists only some of the time. Together there they see more clearly & express themselves honestly. In The Violet Apple, the fruit is that eaten by Adam & Eve. The description of its effects is a startling, lyrical episode in a novel otherwise concerned with ordinary matters. Lindsay's austere vision of reality may have been influenced by Scandinavian mythology. After being out of print for decades, his work has become increasingly available. He is now seen as being a major Scottish fantasist of the 20th century, the missing link between George Macdonald, & modern writers such as Alasdair Gray who have also used surrealism & magic realism. Arcturus was produced as a 35mm feature film by William J. Holloway in 1971. It was the first film funded by a National Endowment for the Arts & has recently been re-released. Harold Bloom has also been interested, even obsessed, with Lindsay's life & career, going as far as to publish The Flight to Lucifer, which he thought of as a Bloomian misprision, an homage & deep revision of Arcturus. Bloom admits his late-comer imitation is overwhelmed by Lindsay's great original.
Bibliography: A Voyage to Arcturus, 1920 The Haunted Woman, 1922 Sphinx, 1923 The Adventures of Monsieur de Mailly, 1926 Devil's Tor, 1932 The Violet Apple & The Witch, 1976 A Christmas Play, 2003
Further reading: The Strange Genius of David Lindsay: An Appreciation by J. B. Pick, E. H. Visiak & Colin Wilson, 1970 The Life & Works of David Lindsay by Bernard Sellin, 1983 David Lindsay's Vision by David Power, 2005...more