A cornerstone of horror literature ?
Recently perused : [Malthus], An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798),
the original. From the preface: “ . . . but [the Author]
has not acquired that command over his understanding which would enable him to
evidence, or to refuse his assent to what might be unpleasing, when accompanied
with evidence. ”
From chapter one : “ Population, when unchecked, increases
in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio.
A slight acquaintance with numbers will shew the
immensity of the first power in comparison of the second. ”
John Clute, in The Darkening Garden and elsewehere, has been exploring
the ways in which the fantastical mode of writing arose in the second half of
the eighteenth century. He has noted that western Europe first appeared to become
aware of the planet as a whole ; certainly by the time of Malthus, the notion
is so firmly established that he wrote : “ . . . let
us take the whole earth, instead of one spot, and suppose that the restraints
to population were universally removed . . . ”
The earliest identifiable mode of fantastic literature is the gothic, from
science fiction soon emerged. Clute writes, “ Horror is that category
of stories set in worlds that are false until the tale is told. ”
one plausibly date horror writing before Malthus ? This is a relevant
question, for Malthus wrote his Essay in response to ideas
expressed by William Godwin, whose “ Political
Justice was followed in May 1794 by the remarkable novel Caleb
Williams , suggested partly by some of his views
as to the falseness of the common code of morality . . . ” (DNB). Things
as they are ;
or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams is a gothic thriller, but is
it horror ?
I can see that I shall soon have to read this novel (long on my list of books
I have been meaning to read).