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from the Autobiography of Thomas de Quincey

This eldest brother of mine [who died at 16] was in all respects a remarkable boy. Haughty he was, aspiring, immeasurably active ; fertile in resources as Robinson Crusoe; but also full of quarrel as it is possible to imagine; and, in default of any other opponent, he would have fastened a quarrel upon his own shadow for presuming to run before him when going westwards in the morning, whereas, in all reason, a shadow, like a dutiful child, ought to keep deferentially in rear of that majestic substance which is the author of its existence. Books he detested, one and all, excepting only such as he happened to write himself. And these were not a few. On all subjects known to man, from the Thirty-nine Articles of our English Church, down to pyrotechnics, legerdemain, magic, both black and white, thaumaturgy, and necromancy, he favoured the world (which world was the nursery where I lived amongst my sisters) with his select opinions. On this last subject especially—of necromancy—he was very great; witness his profound work, though but a fragment, and, unfortunately, long since departed to the bosom of Cinderella, entitled, "How to raise a Ghost; and when you've got him down, how to keep him down." To which work he assured us, that some most learned and enormous man, whose name was a foot and a half long, had promised him an appendix; which appendix treated of the Red Sea and Solomon's signet-ring ; with forms of mittimus for ghosts that might be refractory ; and probably a riot act, for any emuete amongst ghosts inclined to raise barricades; since he often thrilled our young hearts by supposing the case (not at all unlikely, he affirmed), that a federation, a solemn league and conspiracy, might take place amongst the infinite generations of ghosts against the single generation of men at any one time composing the garrison of earth. The Roman phrase for expressing that a man had died—viz., "Abiit ad flures" (He has gone over to the majority)—my brother explained to us; and we easily comprehended that any one generation of the living human race, even if combined, and acting in concert, must be in a frightful minority, by comparison with all the incalculable generations that had trod this earth before us. The Parliament of living men, Lords and Commons united, what a miserable array against the Upper and Lower House composing the Parliament of ghosts ! . . . .

For some time he turned his thoughts to philosophy, and read lectures to us every night upon some branch or other of physics. This undertaking arose upon some one of us envying or admiring flies for their power of walking upon the ceiling. " Pooh!" he said, " they are impostors ; they pretend to do it, but they can't do it as it ought to be done. Ah! you should see me standing upright on the ceiling, with my head downwards, for half-an-hour together, meditating profoundly." My sister Mary remarked, that we should all be very glad to see him in that position. "If that's the case," he replied, "it's very well that all is ready, except as to a strap or two." Being an excellent skater, he had first imagined that, if held up until he had started, he might then, by taking a bold sweep ahead, keep himself in position through the continued impetus of skating. But this he found not to answer; because, as he observed, " the friction was too retarding from the plaster of Paris; but the case would be very different if the ceiling were coated with ice." As it was not, he changed his plan. The true secret, he now discovered, was this: he would consider himself in the light of a humming-top; he would make an apparatus (and he made it) for having himself launched, like a top, upon the ceiling, and regularly spun. Then the vertiginous motion of the human top would overpower the force of gravitation. He should, of course, spin upon his own axis—perhaps he might even dream upon it; and he laughed at "those scoundrels, the flies," that never improved in their pretended art, nor made anything of it. The principle was now discovered ; " and, of course," he said, "if a man can keep it up for five minutes, what's to hinder him from doing so for five months?" . " Certainly, nothing that I can think of," was the reply of my sister, whose scepticism, in fact, had not settled upon the five months, but altogether upon the five minutes. The apparatus for spinning him, however, perhaps from its complexity, would not work; a fact evidently owing to the stupidity of the gardener. On reconsidering the subject, he announced, to the disappointment of some amongst us, that, although the physical discovery was now complete, he saw a moral difficulty. It was not a humming-tap that was required, but a peg-top. Now, this, in order to keep up the vertigo at full stretch, without which, to a certainty, gravitation would prove too much for him, needed to be whipped incessantly. But that was precisely what a gentleman ought not to tolerate ; to be scourged unintermittingly on the legs by any grub of a gardener, unless it were Father Adam himself, was a thing he could not bring his mind to face. However, as some compensation, he proposed to improve the art of flying, which was, as everybody must acknowledge, in a condition disgraceful to civilised society. As he had made many a fire balloon, and had succeeded in some attempts at bringing down cats by parachutes, it was not very difficult to fly [float?] downwards from moderate elevations. But, as he was reproached by my sister for never flying back again, which, however, was a far different thing, and not even attempted by the philosopher in " Rasselas" (for

"Revocare gradum, et superas evadere ad auras, Hic labor, hoc opus est"),

he refused, under such poor encouragement, to try his winged parachutes any more, either " aloft or alow," till he had thoroughly studied Bishop Wilkins on the art of translating right reverend gentlemen to the moon . . .

* "Bishop Wilkins" :—Dr. W., Bishop of Chester, in the reign of Charles II., notoriously wrote a book on the possibility of a voyage to the moon, which, in a bishop, would be called a translation to the moon, and perhaps it was his name in combination with his book that suggested the "Adventures of Peter Wilkins." . . . He was really a scientific man, and already in the time of Cromwell (about 1656) had projected that Royal Society of London which was afterwards realised and presided over by Isaac Barrow and Isaac Newton. He was also a learned man, but still with a vein of romance about him, as may be seen in his most elaborate work, "The Essay towards a Philosophic or Universal Language,"  


Emily Dickinson #465

I heard a Fly buzz-when I died—
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air —
Between the Heaves of Storm—

The Eyes around—
had wrung them dry—
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset—when the King
Be witnessed—in the Room—

I willed my Keepsakes—signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable—and then it was
There interposed a Fly—

With Blue— uncertain stumbling Buzz—
Between the light—and me—
And then the Windows failed—and then
I could not see to see—                                 

Thanks to ann holmes for this  check out her poetic book re the characters of a japanese potting community:  Shards


virginia wolf, on a winter fly in book with the famous death of a moth essay


. . . He had written a book, and for a moment it is interesting to see people who have written books. Everybody gazed at him. He was bald and not hairy; had a mouth and a chin; in short he was a man like another, although he had written a book. He cleared his throat and the lecture began. Now the human voice is an instrument of varied power; it can enchant and it can soothe; it can rage and it can despair; but when it lectures it almost always bores. What he said was sensible enough; there was learning in it and argument and reason; but as the voice went on attention wandered. The face of the clock seemed abnormally pale; the hands too suffered from some infirmity. Had they the gout? Were they swollen? They moved so slowly. They re­minded one of the painful progress of a three-legged fly that has survived the winter. How many flies on an average survive the English winter, and what would be the thoughts of such an insect on waking to find itself being lectured on . . .

i do not have a copy of the next page but it might be fun to try to guess what the lecture was about


William Blake’s  The Fly

Little Fly,
Thy summer's play
My thoughtless hand
Has brush'd away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A Man like me?

For I dance,
And drink, & sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength & breath,
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live
Or if I die

from   William Blake "Songs of Experience"   also thanks to ann holmes: -- check out her book Shards



Nothing is made in vain, but the fly came near it.     - More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

One fly makes a summer.     - "The Belated Russian Passport," also "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

I'd rather have ten snakes in the house than one fly.        - Letter to Albert B. Paine, March 1910

Mark Twain at Mono Lake: Chapters 38 and 39 of Mark Twain's Roughing It

We had a valuable dog. He had raw places on him. He had more raw places on him than sound ones. He was the rawest dog I almost ever saw. He jumped overboard one day to get away from the flies. But it was bad judgment. In his condition, it would have been just as comfortable to jump into the fire. The alkali water nipped him in all the raw places simultaneously, and he struck out for the shore with considerable interest. He yelped and barked and howled as he went—and by the time he got to the shore there was no bark to him—for he had barked the bark all out of his inside, and the alkali water had cleaned the bark all off his outside, and he probably wished he had never embarked in any such enterprise. He ran round and round in a circle, and pawed the earth and clawed the air, and threw double summersets, sometimes backward and sometimes forward, in the most extraordinary manner

There are no fish in Mono Lake—no frogs, no snakes, no pollywogs—nothing, in fact, that goes to make life desirable. Millions of wild ducks and sea-gulls swim about the surface, but no living thing exists under the surface, except a white feathery sort of worm, one half an inch long, which looks like a bit of white thread frayed out at the sides. If you dip up a gallon of water, you will get about fifteen thousand of these. They give to the water a sort of grayish-white appearance. Then there is a fly, which looks something like our house fly. These settle on the beach to eat the worms that wash ashore—and any time, you can see there a belt of flies an inch deep and six feet wide, and this belt extends clear around the lake—a belt of flies one hundred miles long. If you throw a stone among them, they swarm up so thick that they look dense, like a cloud. You can hold them under water as long as you please—they do not mind it—they are only proud of it. When you let them go, they pop up to the surface as dry as a patent office report, and walk off as unconcernedly as if they had been educated especially with a view to affording instructive entertainment to man in that particular way. Providence leaves nothing to go by chance. All things have their uses and their part and proper place in Nature's economy: the ducks eat the flies—the flies eat the worms—the Indians eat all three—the wild cats eat the Indians—the white folks eat the wild cats—and thus all things are lovely.



The History of the Fly Swatter, an American Story

As Published in Quilted Northern "100 Anniversary Bathroom Book"


Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine of the Kansas State Board of Health was watching a baseball game in Topeka in 1905. It was teh bottom of the eighth inning , the score was tied, and Topeka had a man on third. Fans were screaming "Sacrifice fly! Sacrifice fly!" to the batter, or "Swat the ball!" Crumbine, who'd spent much of the game mulling over how to reduce the spread of typhoid fever by flies during hot Kansas summers, suddenly got his inspiration: "Swat the fly!"

Crumbine didn't actually invent the fly swatter; he just popularized the idea in a front-page article titled "Swat the Fly", in the next of Fly Bulletin.

A schoolteacher named Frank Rose read the article and made the first fly swatter out of a yardstick and some wire screen.

Rose called his invention a "fly bat." Dr. Crumbine renamed it "fly swatter."



Advertisement for "The King Fly Swatter" from 1901, June, issue of Ladies Home Journal.

The King Fly Killer - Kills Without Crushing - Soils Nothing

The wire being almost invisible the flies and mosquitos are quickly killed, thus clearing your house of them in only a few minutes. A prominent lady has said, "It is the most prized article in my home."



Who is the "Lord of the Flies"? Satan or God?

Martin Luther's View

The father of Protestant Christianity, Martin Luther, thought flies were noxious, sent by the devil to vex him when reading. He may have gotten that idea from the New Testament, where "Satan" is connected with "Beelzebub" - from the Hebrew, "baal-zevuv," meaning literally, "lord of the flies." Of course, I'm not sure if calling Satan "lord of the flies" was originally meant as more of an insult to flies or to Satan.

Needless to say, Luther saw "Satan" lurking everywhere. According to Luther, "Snakes and monkeys are subjected to the demon more than other animals. Satan lives in them and possesses them. He uses them to deceive men and to injure them..."

"Demons are in woods, in waters, in wildernesses, and in dark pooly places ready to hurt and prejudice people; some are also in thick black clouds, which cause hail, lightning and thunder, and poison the air, the pastures and grounds..."
Mark Twain's View

Like Martin Luther, Mark Twain held an opinion of the "fly" that was lower than Lucifer's hooves. Unlike Luther, however, Twain did not give "Satan" the credit for wondrously designing all manner of harmful hateful creatures and natural disasters. Twain didn't think God would have allowed Satan such near-absolute creative license, allowing him to "re-create" the whole of nature. So, concerning the fly, Twain wrote:

"Can we imagine a man [much less a God] inventing the fly, and sending him out on his mission, furnished with these orders: `Depart into the uttermost corners of the earth, and diligently do your appointed work. Persecute the sick child; settle upon its eyes, its face, its hands, and gnaw and pester and sting; worry and fret and madden the worn and tired mother who watches by the child, and who humbly prays for mercy and relief with the pathetic faith of the deceived and the unteachable. Settle upon the soldier's festering wounds in field and hospital and drive him frantic while he also prays, and between times curses, with none to listen but you, Fly, who get all the petting and all the protection, without even praying for it. Harry and persecute the forlorn and forsaken wretch who is perishing of the plague, and in his terror and despair praying; bite, sting, feed upon his ulcers, dabble your feet in his rotten blood, gum them thick with plague-germs - feet cunningly designed and perfected for this function ages ago in the beginning - carrying this freight to a hundred tables, among the just and the unjust, the high and the low, and walk over the food and gaum it with filth and death. Visit all; allow no man peace till he get it in the grave; visit and afflict the hard-worked and unoffending horse, mule, ox, ass, pester the patient cow, and all the kindly animals that labor without fair reward here and perish without hope of it hereafter; spare no creature, wild or tame; but wheresoever you find one, make his life a misery, treat him as the innocent deserve; and so please Me and increase My glory Who made the fly.'" [Twain, "Thoughts of God," early 1900s]

"We approve all God's works, we praise all His works, with a fervent enthusiasm - of words; and in the same moment we kill a fly, which is as much one of His works as any other, and has been included and complimented in our sweeping eulogy. We not only kill the fly, but we do it in a spirit of measureless disapproval - even a spirit of hatred, exasperation, vindictiveness; and we regard that creature with disgust and loathing - which is the essence of contempt - and yet we have just been praising it, approving it, glorifying it. We have been praising it to its Maker, and now our act insults its Maker. The praise was dishonest, the act is honest; the one was a wordy hypocrisy, the other is compact candor...

"We hunt the fly remorselessly; also the flea, the rat, the snake, the disease-germ and a thousand other creatures which He pronounced good, and was satisfied with, and which we loudly praise and approve - with our mouths - and then harry and chase and malignantly destroy, by wholesale." [Twain, "God," 1905]

Cretinism or Evilution? Nos. 4&5
Edited by E.T. Babinski
"The Lord of the Flies"

An Essay on Women end of pt 2 prob john wilkes, mp a staunch defender of democratic principles

This is the last part of a great parody of Alexander Pope's masterpiece.

 Then say not Man's imperfect, Heaven in fault, Say rather, Man's as perfect as he ought; His Pego measured to the female Case Betwixt a woman's thighs his proper place; And if to fuck in a proportion'd sphere, What matter how it is, or when or where? Fly fuck'd by fly may be completely so As Hussey’s Duchess, or yon well-bull'd cow.

find it all in  bawdy verse ed E.J. Burford