Tuesday Terror! Monos and Daimonos by Edward Bulwer

I vant to be alone…

I love solitude. Next to chocolate and cake, it’s my favourite thing. Give me a desert island with a nice house (with a library) on it and regular food drops from the local supermarket and I’d be a happy bunny! (I’d take the cats, of course, but only if they promised not to disturb me while I was reading.) But after reading this week’s tale, I may have to rethink my position…

Monos and Daimonos
by Edward Bulwer

Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Our narrator was taken as a child by his father to live in solitude in a rocky wasteland…

…the whole country round seemed nothing but rock! – wastes, bleak, blank, dreary; trees stunted, herbage blasted; caverns through which some black and wild stream (that never knew star or sunlight, but through rare and hidden chasms of the huge stones above it) went dashing and howling on its blessed course…

When his father dies, he is sent to live with relatives, but he finds he doesn’t really like people and they don’t much like him. So on reaching his majority, he demands control of his money and leaves, to the mutual satisfaction of all…

So I took my leave of them all, cousin and aunt – and when I came to my old uncle, who had liked me less than any, I grasped his hand with so friendly a gripe, that, well I ween, the dainty and nice member was but little inclined to its ordinary functions in future.

For many years, he travels in the wild and lonely places of the world, far from humanity…

I commenced my pilgrimage – I pierced the burning sands – I traversed the vast deserts – I came into the enormous woods of Africa, where human step never trod, nor human voice never started the thrilling and intense solemnity that broods over the great solitudes, as it brooded over chaos before the world was!

But at last he decides to return to civilisation. He sets off on a sea voyage to return to his native land, soon discovering that he dislikes humanity just as much as ever. However, one other passenger befriends him against his will…

He was an idle and curious being, full of the frivolities, and egotisms, and importance of them to whom towns are homes, and talk has become a mental aliment. He was one pervading, irritating, offensive tissue of little and low thoughts.

Happily for our narrator the ship strikes a rock, and he swims to a deserted island, thrilled at the thought that his new friend has doubtless drowned. His happiness turns out to be premature, when the offensive tissue suddenly appears again, all cheery and smiley…

He came up with his hideous grin, and his twinkling eye; and he flung his arms round me, – I would sooner have felt the slimy fold of the serpent – and said, with his grating and harsh voice, “Ha! ha! my friend, we shall be together still!”… And my lip trembled, and my hand clenched of its own accord.

* * * * *

This is a great little tale! To our misanthropic narrator, his tale is one of unjust misery and woe, but to the reader there’s a vein of humour running through it. How often have we all tried to get away from that irritating person who for some reason won’t realise that they’re annoying us? While Bulwer (later Bulwer-Lytton) exaggerates massively, the premise is familiar enough to induce recognition and even some sympathy for his constantly thwarted desire for solitude. But there’s also, of course, horror in the story as our narrator reaches the end of his tether and then is forced to suffer the consequences…

While I was reading it, I kept being reminded of my favourite Poe story, Silence: A Fable. That one has no humour and is much more mysterious and unsettling in tone, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why this one felt so reminiscent of it, other than that they both involve solitude and a rocky wasteland. Fortunately the notes in The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre explain. Apparently Poe was a great admirer of Bulwer-Lytton’s work and praised this story highly. “Poe’s Silence – A Fable (1838) is heavily indebted to ‘Monos and Daimonos’, to the point where, as Mabbot points out, some sentences are taken ‘almost verbatim’.” Aha! That explains why I kept feeling a mild sense of déjà vu, particularly over phrases like “illimitable deserts”!

And mine eyes fell upon the countenance of the man, and his countenance was wan with terror. And, hurriedly, he raised his head from his hand, and stood forth upon the rock and listened. But there was no voice throughout the vast illimitable desert, and the characters upon the rock were SILENCE.

However, the tales are certainly different enough that I don’t feel Poe has in any way stolen from this tale – he has merely used it as an inspirational jumping off point to create something unique and wonderful in itself. (I was rather thrilled, I admit, to discover that finally I’ve read enough horror to make the odd connection and spot the odd reference for myself. *preens smugly*)

I can only find a link to a rather messy scanned version this week, but here it is. I do recommend The Vampyre collection though – only about halfway through it, but so far I’ve thoroughly enjoyed most of the stories I’ve read. I’ll review it fully later.

The porpy and I loved this one, even though we were more amused than terrified by it. Now we’re off out to find a party and be sociable – sometimes solitude can be taken too far…

Fretful Porpentine rating: 😱 😱

Overall story rating:          😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Porpy Party!
A Prickle of Porpentines

NB The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre was provided for review by the publisher, Oxford World’s Classics.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

31 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! Monos and Daimonos by Edward Bulwer

  1. I’m not terribly good with horror ever since having mistakenly watched The Omen all by myself in an old creaking Victorian house when everyone else had gone to bed and turned out the lights. After that I realised what it meant to be paralysed by fear. However I very much enjoyed your review!


  2. I love that ‘photo of the porpy party, FictionFan! As for the story’s, I get a real sense of the desolate settings. It takes talent to evoke that well. And I do understand that feeling of wanting solitude, although I’m not as desperate for it… This sounds like an interesting mix of horror and wit. Glad you liked it.


    • Haha – it’s good, isn’t it? I was hoping I could find a gif of them dancing… 😉 This one was great because it played on feelings we all have from time to time when we just want a bit of peace and quiet. But hopefully most of us don’t act in quite such an extreme manner to get it… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your review was hilarious. 😀 Um this is a horror story, right?
    A desolate, rocky wasteland in a book is always a sign that something untoward is about to happen! If I were forced to go to one, I would come equipped with weapons to fight the undead. Because they always show up in these places.


    • Haha – glad you enjoyed it! Yes, proper horror but not very scary. It was more a kind of light-hearted morality tale…

      Yeah, I must admit I’ve gone off rocky places – it feels like I’ve read a LOT of horror stories set in them. And the things that slink out from behind those rocks are enough to turn the porpy’s quills grey!! 😱


  4. I enjoyed reading your review here, FF, and I do love the photo of the porpy party! I think I’d feel sorry for the narrator in this story, trying so hard to find solitude and coming up empty-handed. This sounds like me when I’m trying to write, only I suppose I’m at least partly to blame, seeing as how I let myself get side-tracked by other people and things!


    • The porpies look like they’re having fun, don’t they? 😀 Haha – yes, it worked so well because even the most sociable among us have times when we just want to be left alone for a bit! Usually I just unplug the phone rather than running off to rocky wildernesses though… 😉


  5. Like you, I feel as though I could get along with my books, cats, chocolate and not much else. Too much solitude isn’t a good thing though, which I learned when I had my first baby-I needed to get out and talk to people after a few days.


  6. This sounds fun! I’ve never read anything by Edward Bulwer-Lytton but I’ve always been curious – I think I’ll have to give him a try soon. Silence is one of my favourite Poe stories too, so I wonder if I would have spotted the similarities.


    • This was my first story by him too, and being in an anthology I just read the next story in the book without paying attention to who wrote it till I finished. I was really impressed with his writing – I’ll be seeking out more! I think you probably would – it’s kinda like hearing a muffled echo in the words, although the style of the stories is very different…


  7. So where’s my invitation to the porpy party? I have a vague feeling that I’ve read this (or perhaps Poe’s story) at some time in the past, but I don’t remember much about it.


    • Didn’t even invite me! That’s the last time I let him have a piece of my cake…!!! It’s not really one of the ones that would sear itself into your memory banks for eternity, I think – just a great piece of entertainment while reading. I think you’d remember Silence if you read it though – it’s a fabulous story…


  8. At first, I did not know what was present in that porpy picture. (My autocorrect is finally accepting “porpy!”) I love a prickle of porpies! How fun! I’m glad you were at least amused, if not “horrorfied!” 😊


  9. As I’m also very content with a good amount of solitude (especially if books are involved) this man’s fate would truly be a horror for me! I did enjoy the author’s luxurious language too. Apparently, he is the originator of “it was a dark and stormy night….”, maybe his writing was at other times too elaborate? I love a prickle of porpentines – just about as good as a murder of crows!


    • Haha – he wasn’t a terribly nice man but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him! Yes, I’ve always felt he gets a lot of unfair criticism for that line – it’s better than many I’ve read. 😉 I think it’s the elaborate language and the wonderful use of vocabulary that attracts me to the older writers, especially the Victorians. I don’t think an author would get away with it now, sadly. I should never have let the porpy go to that party though… he’s demanding to bring his friends round for dinner…


  10. As always a brilliant review of what sounds to be an unsettling story and one I can easily relate to – solitude is to be relished! I am also pleased to know that it is a prickle of porcupines – there are some brilliant terms used for groups of animals – I had a list of them, now sadly lost, which I would recite to help me sleep but I don’t remember this one being included!


    • Ha – I think all readers have some sympathy with the notion of annoying people who won’t give us peace! 😉 I was thrilled to find out it was a prickle of porpies – you have to wonder who thinks these things up! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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