Thoth: Thoth: A Romance written by Joseph Shield Nicholson who was an English economist. This book was published in 1888. And now republish in ebook format. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book.
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Joseph Shield Nicholson
Some Opinions of the Press on the First Edition of this Work.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
CHAPTER I. THE PLAGUE AND THE MERCHANTS.
CHAPTER II. DAPHNE.
CHAPTER III. NEPENTHE.
CHAPTER IV. THE MIGHT OF SKILL.
CHAPTER V. THE MIGHT OF CHANCE.
CHAPTER VI. A STRANGE WELCOME.
CHAPTER VII. THE WONDERS OF THE CITY.
CHAPTER VIII. THE DISHONOURED STATUE.
CHAPTER IX. THE WOMEN OF ROYAL RACE.
CHAPTER X. THE MYSTERY OF THE WOMEN RESOLVED.
CHAPTER XI. THOTH FORSWEARS HIS OATH.
CHAPTER XII. A WEARY INTERVAL.
CHAPTER XIII. TRANSFORMATION.
CHAPTER XIV. GREEK AND BARBARIAN.
CHAPTER XV. THE DOOM OF THE FIRST THOTH.
CHAPTER XVI. THE REVOLT OF NATURE.
CHAPTER XVII. GRECIAN GUILE.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE ASSEMBLY OF ANCESTORS.
CHAPTER XIX. THE VICTORY OF LOVE.
CHAPTER XX. THE RETURN TO ATHENS.
APPENDIX. (The last chapter of ‘Thoth’ as originally written in 1876. See Preface.)
“The beauty of ‘Thoth’ is that you never have the faintest idea what will happen next. This is the glory of romance, to keep up the reader’s curiosity from page to page.... But what could hardly be bettered is the veiled yet awful picture of the women, the mothers of the ruling race in this wonderful city.... The central and vivifying idea is, to us, absolutely novel.”—Saturday Review.
“‘Thoth’ has imagination, delicacy, and finish.”—Athenæum.
“It is admirably written, many of its passages are not likely to be forgotten.”—Graphic.
“‘Thoth’ is a weird and mysterious romance, manifesting unusual literary skill, and displaying no small amount of imagination.”—Academy.
“Very curious and notable little book.”—Daily News.
“The story is one of great power and of the highest imagination.... One of the cleverest things of the day.”—Glasgow Herald.
“An excellent romance, strongly imagined, and worked out with praiseworthy delicacy and skill.”—Scotsman.
“The book is full of imaginative beauty of a rare order.”—Leeds Mercury.
“The tale is told with such a wealth of imagination and power of graphic description, that it is not only possible to take a lively interest in the fortunes of the heroine, but even difficult to cease following them till the last page is reached.”—Guardian.
I gladly avail myself of this occasion to thank my critics for the very friendly reception they have accorded to a book which was issued, in the fullest meaning of the term, anonymously—that is to say, even without the knowledge of a single personal friend. At the same time, I wish to make an explanation which is partly of the nature of a protest.
Post hoc ergo propter hoc may not always be a fallacy, but it was certainly a mistake on the part of several reviewers of ‘Thoth’ to translate it in their haste, “after ‘She,’ therefore on account of ‘She.’” For, as a matter of fact, ‘Thoth’ was designed and in part composed more than twelve years ago. In its present form, however, it has been entirely rewritten. It may interest some of my critics to know the original intention and scheme, and the reasons why I delayed the publication even longer than the classical ninth year.
The original idea was philosophical. I wished to illustrate the power of will and intellect working through generations with a definite design, and to show that this power might be used for the most repulsive object. The object I chose for my purpose was the destruction of the whole human race by means of pestilences, with the intention of replacing it with a race of men who had for generations been trained in the exercise of the highest intelligence. The new rule was to be a tyranny of intellect. The original designer of this scheme was supposed to be an Egyptian, who had discovered a method of suspending animation. His attempt to introduce the government of intellect amongst existing races had failed, and he determined to destroy them, even if it took thousands of years to prepare the means. The defeat of the scheme in the original plan was due to the friendship of the latest Thoth for Philetos. Philetos was, in marked contrast to these haters of men, a man whom every one loved, and who was the beau ideal of a philanthropist. Thus the victory over hate in the original plan was gained by friendship. The reigning Thoth introduced the plague at Athens, and his life was saved by Philetos. Afterwards Thoth attempted on three occasions to kill his friend, fearing the power of his friendship. The climax was reached in a scene in which the ancestral Thoth and his descendants were aroused, and the fate of the world was to depend on the decision of the ancient ruler.
After writing a considerable part of ‘Thoth’ on this plan, I became dissatisfied for several reasons. In the first place, friendship alone, though in the ancient world one of the strongest passions, did not seem as I worked it out strong enough for my purpose. I had introduced also, in the last scene, a supernatural element of a purely imaginary kind, and I heartily disliked the deus ex machinâ even when of my own making. I also considered the style inflated and the characters far too abstract. The original idea, however, seemed worth developing; and when I took it up again after an interval of ten years, I substituted Daphne and love for Philetos and friendship, and put more of the elements of common humanity into the characters. I discarded the supernatural altogether, for however wonderful Thoth’s powers are, there is nothing beyond the possibility of modern science. Even the destruction of the city in the end is due to the want of a guiding mind.
I have perhaps said enough to clear myself from the charge, never very hardly pressed, of conscious or unconscious imitation; but as it may interest some of my readers, I print in an appendix the last chapter as it originally stood.
BY THE CELEBRATED PHILOSOPHER ANDPHYSICIAN XENOPHILOS.
Nothing is more difficult than to separate the true from the false in a narrative in which it is necessary for the most part to rely on the testimony of one person only, and that person a woman whose mind had been shaken by extraordinary perils and vicissitudes. A task so laborious I shall not attempt, but shall simply set forth in order what Daphne, the daughter of Philetos, told me in fragments at various times, although I confess that some things seem in their nature impossible.
This much, however, I will say for the benefit of posterity, and that it may not be imagined this writing is from beginning to end the figment of a poet’s fancy: Daphne was, without question, by far the most beautiful woman of her time, and excited a most violent and extreme passion in some of the wisest and most celebrated Athenians, before the events occurred which I am about to record. And I do not think it at all incredible that a man, driven by the madness of his love for her, should be induced to sacrifice everything he held most dear. Nor do I think it wonderful, considering the haughty ambition of many of no great worth or power, that a man who had a marvellous genius in making discoveries of the hidden nature of things, should try to emulate the might of far-darting Apollo, who in his anger slays people in multitudes by the shafts of his plagues and pestilences. And if any one should think the conduct of this Egyptian and his ancestors, as manifested in their deeds, altogether contrary to human nature (as if one should say that doves chased hawks, or any other creature acted in a way quite different from its kind), I would not only remind him of the horrible and perverse sins even of Greeks in former times, but would also ask him to remember that for ages the Egyptians had been soured by a gloomy and cruel superstition.
Then, again, as to all the matters which are said to have occurred in Athens, I have made the most careful inquiries, and, even in the most minute particulars, I find that the testimony of Daphne is confirmed.
But to him who will be admonished, this narrative, whether true or false, certainly declares that no human skill or strength of purpose can altogether conquer nature and chance, and may thus serve, like the tragedies of our poets, as a notable warning against pride and presumption.
In the time of Pericles, as every one knows, Athens attained her greatest glory. Magnificent buildings were erected, and in them were placed statues and other ornaments of most exquisite workmanship. Whilst the work was in progress, great encouragement was given to foreign merchants, who brought materials of various kinds, and especially ivory and metals. The laws against strangers were in a great measure relaxed, and they were enabled to prosecute their business with as much freedom as the citizens themselves. Even after the outbreak of the Peloponnesian war, and when fear of spies and treachery was natural, there was still a great concourse of foreign merchants in the port and the city.
But an event occurred which soon put to flight all strangers, and made Athens an object of the utmost dread. This was the great plague, of which Thucydides, the son of Oloros, has given a memorable account in his history.
A most remarkable incident, however, which is the key-stone of this narrative, he has omitted to notice, probably because, being incredible in its nature, he ascribed it to the invention of those whose minds had been affected by the horrors of the scene, and considered it to be unworthy of the dignity of his style and his careful adherence to truth.
A few days before the outbreak of the plague, a company of merchants, about a score in number, arrived at Athens. They gave out that their native land was Egypt, but they had been trading with many Grecian cities at peace with Athens. They seemed to be extremely wealthy, and their merchandise consisted mainly of ivory and gems. They had also abundance of gold and silver. They acted as if they did not speak or understand the Greek tongue, and always transacted their affairs by means of interpreters. They appeared to be very careless or ignorant in their bargains, often selling their wares for a much less price than, with a little trouble and inquiry, they might have obtained.
They made no purchases themselves, with one exception, and in this particular they were most fastidious and difficult to please. They showed the greatest anxiety to buy young female slaves, and they exercised the greatest care in the selection. They not only demanded beauty and health, but inquired carefully into their education and abilities. It was generally complained that it was impossible to satisfy the demands of the merchants, as they appeared to apply tests which neither the women nor their owners could understand.
As soon as the plague appeared, which happened first of all in the port, all foreigners, with the exception of these Egyptians, fled away in their ships. They, however, in spite of the dissatisfaction they expressed with the slaves offered for sale, not only lingered on, but appeared to be quite regardless of the dangers of infection.
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