W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

Opening lines: “Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line” (v).

“Leaving, then the world of the white man, I have stepped within the Veil, raising it that you may view faintly its deeper recesses–the meaning of its religion, the passion of its human sorrow, and the struggle of its greater souls. all this I have ended with a tale twice told but seldom written” (v).

“…need I add that I who speak here am bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of them that live within the Veil?” (vi).

*Chapter headings open with religious songs or spirituals

“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem?, they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town… To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem?, I answer seldom a word” (1).

“After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world – a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,– an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,– this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face (2-3).

“The would-be black savant was confronted by the paradox that the knowledge his people needed was a twice-told tale to his white neighbors, while the knowledge which would teach the white world was Greek to his own flesh and blood. The innate love of harmony and beauty that set the ruder souls of his people a-dancing and a-singing raised but confusion and doubt in the soul of the black artist; for the beauty revealed to him was the soul-beauty of a race which his larger audience despised, and he could not articulate the message of another people. This waste of double aims, this seeking to satisfy two unreconciled ideals, has wrought sad havoc with the courage and faith and deeds of ten thousand thousand people, –has sent them often wooing false gods and invoking false means of salvation, and at times has even seemed about to make them ashamed of themselves” (3).

[After the Civil War] “The ballot, which before he had looked upon as a visible sign of freedom, he now regarded as the chief means of gaining and perfecting the liberty with which war had partially endowed him. And why not?…” (4).

“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships…the accumulated sloth and shirking and awkwardness of decades shackled his hands and feet. Nor was his burden all poverty and ignorance. The red stain of bastardy, which two centuries of systematic legal defilement of Negro women had stamped upon his race, meant not only the loss of ancient African chastity, but also the hereditary weight of a mass of corruption from white adulterers, threatening almost the obliteration of the Negro home.

A people thus handicapped ought not to be asked to race with the world, but rather allowed to give all its time and thought to its own social problems” (5-6).

“Nevertheless, out of the evil came something of good,–the more careful adjustment of education to real life, the clearer perception of the Negroes’ social responsibilities, and the sobering realization of the meaning of progress.

So dawned the time of Sturm und Drang: storm and stress to-day rocks our little boat on the mad waters of the world-sea…” (6).

“The bright ideals of the past,–physical freedom, political power, the training of brains and the training of hands,–all these in turn have waxed and waned, until even the last grows dim and overcast. Are they all wrong,–all false? No, not that, but each alone was over-simple and incomplete,–the dreams of a credulous race-childhood, or the fond imaginings of the other world which does not know and does not want to know our power” (6).

“…there is no true American music but the wild sweet melodies of the Negro slave; the American fairy tales and folk-lore are Indian and Africa; and, all in all, we black men seem the sole oasis of simple faith and reverence in a dusty desert of dollars and smartness” (7).

[I have written this] “…that men may listen to the striving in the souls of black folk” (7).

Opens Ch. 2 with a hymn by Lowell in which he reappropriates the “shadow” from which God “keeps watch above his own” as a metaphor for the Veil.

He gives a history of the Civil War and Reconstruction periods: “…the destitution of the freedmen was often reported as ‘too appalling for belief,’ and the situation was daily growing worse rather than better…The broader economic organization thus clearly demanded sprang up here and there as accident and local conditions determined” (11).

“Three characteristic things one might have seen in Sherman’s raid through Georgia, which threw the new situation into shadowy relief: the Conqueror, the Conquered, and the Negro. Some see all significance in the grim front of the destroyer, and some in the bitter sufferers of the Lost Cause. But to me neither soldier nor fugitive speaks with so deep a meaning as that dark human cloud that clung like remorse on the rear of those swift columns, swelling at times to half their size, almost engulfing and choking them…. All these experiments, orders, and systems were bound to attract and perplex the government and nation” (12).

“The annals of this Ninth Crusade are yet to be written, – the tale of a mission that seemed to our age far more quixotic than the quest of St. Louis seemed to his. Behind the mists of ruin and rapine waved the calico dresses of women who dared, and after the hoarse mouthings of the field guns rang the rhythm of the alphabet. Rich and poor they were, serious and curious. Bereaved now of a father, now of a brother, now of more than these, they came seeking a life work in planting New England schoolhouses among the white and black of the South. They did their work well. In that first year they taught one hundred thousand souls, and more” (16).

“…the Negro knew full well that, whatever their deeper convictions may have been, Southern men had fought with desperate energy to perpetuate this slavery under which the black masses, with half-articulate thought, had writhed and shivered. They welcomed freedom with a cry. They shrank from the master who still strove for their chains; they fled to the friends that had freed them, even though those friends stood ready to use them as a club for driving the recalcitrant South back into loyalty” (18).

Everyone had to develop a “new way of working… The largest element of success lay in the fact that the majority of the freedmen were willing, even eager, to work… the two great obstacles which confronted the officials were the tyrant and the idler, – the slaveholder who was determined to perpetuate slavery under another name; and the freedman who regarded freedom as perpetual rest, – the Devil and the Deep Sea” (19).

“…the South believed an educated Negro to be a dangerous Negro. And the South was not wholly wrong; for education among all kinds of men always has had, and always will have, an element of danger and revolution, of dissatisfaction and discontent” (20).

“Bureau courts tended to become centres simply for punishing whites, while the regular civil courts tended to become solely institutions for perpetuating the slavery of blacks… It is not difficult now to say to the young freedman, cheated and cuffed about, who has seen his father’s head beaten to a jelly and his own mother namelessly assaulted, that the meek shall inherit the earth. Above all, nothing is more convenient than to heap on the Freedmen’s Bureau all the evils of that evil day, and damn it utterly for every mistake and blunder that was made. All this is easy, but it is neither sensible nor just” (21).

“When sticks and stones and beasts form the sole environment of a people, their attitude is largely one of determined opposition to and conquest of natural forces. But when to earth and brute is added an environment of men and ideas, then the attitude of the imprisoned group may take three main forms, – a feeling of revolt and revenge; an attempt to adjust all thought and action to the will of the greater group; or, finally, a determined effort at self-realization and self-development despite environing opinion. The influence of all these attitudes at various times can be traced in the history of the American Negro, and in the evolution of his successive leaders” (28).

“Mr. [Booker T.] Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission; but adjustment at such a peculiar time as to make his programme unique. This is an age of unusual economic development, and Mr. Washington’s programme naturally takes an economic cast, becoming a gospel of Work and Money to such an extent as apparently almost completely to overshadow the higher aims of life” (30).

“…it has been claimed that the Negro can survive only through submission. Mr. Washington distinctly asks that black people give up, at least for the present, three things, –

First, political power,

Second, insistence on civil rights,

Third, higher education of Negro youth, –

and concentrate all their energies on industrial education, the accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South. This policy has been courageously and insistently advocated for over fifteen years, and has been triumphant for perhaps ten years. As a result of this tender of the palm-branch, what has been the return? In these years there have occurred:

  1. The disenfranchisement of the Negro.
  2. The legal creation of a distinct status of civil inferiority for the Negro.
  3. The steady withdrawal of aid from insitutions for the higher training of the Negro (31).

“…for where in the world may we go and be safe from lying and brute force?” (31).

“…it is wrong to aid and abet a national crime simply because it is unpopular not to do so” (33).

“First, it is the duty of black men to judge the South discriminatingly. The present generation of Southerners are not responsible for the past, and they should not be blindly hated or blamed for it…Discriminating and broad-minded criticism is what the South needs, – needs it for the sake of her own white sons and daughters, ad for the insurance of robust, healthy mental and moral development” (33).

“I have called my tiny community a world, and so its isolation made it; and yet there was among us but a half-awakened common consciousness, sprung from common joy and grief, at urial, birth, or wedding; from a common hardship in poverty, poor land, and low wages; and, above all, from the sight of the Veil that hung between us and Opportunity. All this caused us to think some thoughts together; but these, when ripe for speech, were spoken in various languages” (41).

“My log schoolhouse was gone. In its place stood Progress; and Progress, I understand, is necessarily ugly” (43).

“Uncle Bird told me how, on a night like that, Thenie came wondering back to her home over yonder, to escape the blows of her husband. And next morning she died in the home that her little bow-legged brother, working and saving, had bought for their widowed mother. …How shall man measure Progress there where the dark-faced Josie lies?…” (45).

“Atlanta must not lead the South to dream of material prosperity as the touchstone of all success; already the fatal might of this idea is beginning to spread; it is replacing the finer type of Southerner with vulgar money-getters; it is burying the sweeter beauties of Southern life beneath pretence and ostentation” (49).

“Today it makes little difference to Atlanta, to the South, what the Negro thinks or dreams or wills. In the soul-life of the land he is to-day, and naturally will long remain, unthought of, half forgotten; and yet when he does come to think and will and do for himself, –and let no man dream that day will never come, –then the part hep lays will not be one of sudden learning, but words and thoughts he has been taught to lisp in his race-childhood. To-day the ferment of his striving toward self-realization is to the strife of the white world like a wheel within a wheel: beyond the Veil are smaller but like problems of ideals, of leaders and the led, of serfdom, of poverty, of order and subordination, and, through all, the Veil of Race… The old leaders of Negro opinion, in the little groups where there is a Negro social consciousness, are being replaced by new; neither the black preacher nor the black teacher leads as he did two decades ago” (50).

“The South laments to-day the slow, steady disappearance of a certain type of Negro,–the faithful courteous slave of other days, with his incorruptible honesty and dignified humility. He is passing away just as surely as the old type of Southern gentleman is passing, and from not dissimilar causes, –the sudden transformation of a fair far-off ideal of Freedom into the hard reality of bread-winning and the consequent deification of Bread” (50).

“In the Black World, the Preacher and Teacher embodied once the ideals of this people, –the strife for another and a juster world, the vague dream of righteousness, the mystery of knowing; but to-day the danger is that these ideals, with their simple beauty and weird inspiration, will suddenly sink to a question of cash and a lust for gold… What if the NEgro people be wooed from a strife for righteousness, from a love of knowing, to regard dollars as the be-all and end-all of life?” (50).

“The hundred hills of Atlanta are not all crowned with factories…There I live, and there I hear from day to day the low hum of restful life. In winter’s twilight, when the red sun glows, I can see the dark figures pass between the halls to the music of the night-bell. In the morning, when the sun is golden, teh clang of the day-bell brings the hurry and laughter of three hundred young hearts from hall and street, and from the busy city below, – children all dark and heavy-haired, – to join their clear young voices in the music of the morning sacrifice. In a half-dozen class-rooms they gather then, – here to follow the love song of Dido, here to listen to the tale of Troy divine; there to wander among the stars, there to wander among men and nations, – and elsewhere other well-worn ways of knowing this queer world. Nothing new, no time-saving devices, –simply old time-glorified methods of delving for Truth, and searching out the hidden beauties of life, and leanring the good of living. The riddle of existence is the college curriculum that was laid before the Pharaohs…and is today laid before the freedmen’s sons by Atlanta University. And this course of study will not change; its methods will grow more deft and effectual, its content richer by toil of scholar and sight of seer; but the true college will ever have one goal, –not to earn meat, but to know the end and aim of that life which meat nourishes” (51).

[Those who planted Fisk & Howard] “forgot, too, just as their successors are forgetting, the rule of inequality: that of the million black youth, some were fitted to know and some to dig; that some had the talent and capcity of university men, and some the talent and capacity of blacksmiths; and that true training meant neither that all should be college men nor all artisans, but that the one should be made a missionary of culture to an untaught people, and the other a free workman among serfs. And to seek to make the blacksmith a scholar is almost as silly as the more modern scheme of making the scholar a blacksmith; almost, but not quite” (52).

“The function of the university is not simply to teach breadwinning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools, or to be a centre of polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life, an adjustment which forms the secret of civilization” (53).

“The tendency is here, born of slavery and quickened to renewed life by the crazy imperialism of the day, to regard human beings as among the material resources of a land to be trained with an eye single to future dividends” (58).

“…they are not fools, they have tasted of the Tree of Life, and they will not cease to think, will not cease attempting to read the riddle of the world” (64).

“I insist that the question of the future is how best to keep these millions from brooding over the wrongs of the past and the difficulties of the present, so that all their energies may be bent toward a cheerful striving and co-operation with their white neighbors toward a larger, juster, and fuller future” (66).

“I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color-line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out the caves of evening that swing between the strong-limbed earth and the tracery of the stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the Veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America: Is this the life you long to change into the dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are you so afraid lest peering from this high Pisgah, between Philistine and Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?” (67).

“I think I never before quite realized the place of the Fence in civilization. This is the Land of the Unfenced, where crouch on either hand scores of ugly one-room cabins, cheerless and dirty. Here lies the Negro problem in its naked dirt and penury… for has he not fine fences? And those over yonder, why should they build fences on the rack-rented land? It will only increase their rent” (75).

“There is little of the joyous abandon and playfulness which we are wont to associate with the plantation Negro. At best, the natural good-nature is edged with complaint or has changed into sullenness and gloom” (79).

“Have you ever seen a cotton-field white with the harvest, – its golden fleece hovering above the black earth…I have sometimes half suspected that here the winged ram Chrysomallus left that Fleece after which Jason and his Argonauts went vaguely wandering…one might frame a pretty and not far-fetched analogy of witchery and dragon’s teeth, and blood and armed men, between the ancient and the modern Quest of the Golden Fleece in the Black Sea” (83).

“The system of labor and the size of the houses both tend to the breaking up of family groups: the grown children go away as contract hands or migrate to town, the sister goes into service; and so one finds many families with hosts of babies, and many newly married couples, but comparatively few families with half-grown and grown sons and daughters. The average size of Negro families has undoubtedly decreased since the war, primarily from economic stress. …such postponement [of marriage and children] is due to the difficulty of earning sufficient to rear and to support a family; and it undoubtedly leads, in the country districts, to sexual immorality. The form of this immorality, however, is very seldom that of prostitution, and less frequently that of illegitimacy than one would imagine. Rather, it takes the form of separation and desertion after a family group has been formed…the plague-spot in sexual relations is easy marriage and easy separation… It is the plain heritage from slavery” (87).

[due to buying, selling, moving] “it was clearly to the master’s interest to have both of them take new mates…and a broken household is the result. The Negro church has done much to stop this practice, and now most marriage ceremonies are performed by the pastors. Nevertheless, the evil is still deep seated, and only a general raising of the standard of living will finally cure it” (87).

Housewifery is at stake here: “…here ninety-six per cent are toiling; no one with leisure to turn the bare and cheerless cabin into a home, no old folks to sit beside the fire and hand down traditions of the past; little of careless happy childhood and dreaming youth” (88).

“Their great defect as laborers lies in their lack of incentive to work beyond the mere pleasure of physical exertion. They are careless because they have not found that it pays to be careful; they are improvident because the improvident ones of their acquaintance get on about as well as the provident. Above all, they cannot see why they should take unusual pains to make the white man’s land better, or to fatten his mule, or save his corn” (94).

“the best of the whites and the best of the Negroes almost never live in anything like close proximity. It thus happens that in nearly every Southern town and city, both whites and blacks see commonly the worst of each other” (101).

“I will not stop to ask whose duty it was, but I insist it was the duty of someone to see that these workingmen were not left alone and unguided, without capital, without land, without skill, without economic organization, without even the bald protection of law, order, and decency, –left in a great land, not to settle down to slow and careful internal development, but destined to be thrown almost immediately into relentless and sharp competition with the best of modern workingmen under an economic system where every participant is fighting for himself, and too often utterly regardless of the rights or welfare of his neighbor” (102).

“The laws are made by men who have little interest in him; they are executed by men who have absolutely no motive for treating the black people with courtesy or consideration; and, finally, the accused law-breaker is tried, not by his peers, but too often by men who would rather punish ten innocent Negroes than let one guilty one escape” (106).

“the Negro has already been pointed out many times as a religious animal– a being of that deep emotional nature which turns instinctively toward the supernatural. Endowed with a rich tropical imagination and a keen, delicate appreciation of Nature, the transplanted African lived in a world animate with gods and devils, elves and witches; full of strange influences, –of Good to be implored, of Evil to be propitiated… the Negro, losing the joy of this world, eagerly seized upon the offered conceptions of the next; the avenging Spirit of the Lord enjoining patience in this world, under sorrow and tribulation until the Great Day when He should lead His dark children home, – this became his comforting dream” (121).

The Sorrow Songs “are the articulate message of the slave to the world. They tell us in these eager days that life was joyous to the black slave, careless and happy. I can easily believe this of some, of many. But not all the past South, though it rose from the dead, can gainsay the heart-touching witness of these songs. They are the music of an unhappy people, of the children of disappointment; they tell of death and suffering and unvoiced longing toward a truer world, of misty wanderings and hidden ways” (157).

Afterthought: “Hear my cry, O God the Reader; vouchsafe that this my book fall not still-born into the world-wilderness…” (165).





George Macdonald, Lilith

Macdonald, George. Lilith. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1962. Print.

Opening lines: “I had just finished my studies at Oxford, and was taking a brief holiday from work before assuming definitely the management of the estate. My father died when I was yet a child; my mother followed him within a year; and I was nearly as much alone in the world as a man might find himself” (187).

“Nothing surely can more impress upon a man the transitory nature of possession than his succeeding to an ancient property! Like a moving panorama mine has passed from before many eyes, and is now slowly flitting from before my own” (187). (AD: Adam’s possession of Lilith is transitory, as is God’s, as is Lilith’s possession of her own will.)

“Mr. Raven continued to show himself at uncertain intervals in the library. There were some who believed he was not dead; but both he and the old woman held it easier to believe that a dead man might revisit the world he had left, than that one who went on living for hundreds of years should be a man at all” (190).

(his first discovery of the other world): “I had been looking at rather than into the mirror, when suddenly I became aware that it reflected neither the chamber nor my own person. I have an impression of having seen the wall melt away, but what followed is enough to account for any uncertainty: –could I have mistaken for a mirror the glass that protected a wonderful picture?” (192). (AD: what a beautiful, Irigarayan portrait of the man who looks for himself in a woman and ends up seeing the woman herself. Of course, for Macdonald, this is demonic rather than appropriate, although it may lead to the discovery of new worlds. Mr. Vane doesn’t know it, but it is in fact Lilith herself, and her disobedience–the painting behind the mirror–that leads him on this journey.)

“One fact only was plain–that I saw nothing I knew” (193).

“Oblige me by telling me where I am.”

“That is impossible. You know nothing about whereness. The only way to come to know where you are is to begin to make yourself at home.”

“How am I to begin that where everything is so strange?”

“By doing something.”


“Anything; and the sooner you begin the better ! for until you are at home, you will find it as difficult to get out as it is to get in” (195). (AD: Doing something is, in fact, Lilith’s problem: doing Adam in her own way, and exerting will.)

“You have, I fear, got into this region too soon, but none the less you must get to be at home in it; for home, as you may or may not know, is the only place where you can go out and in. There are places you can go into, and places you can go out of; but the one place, if you do but find it, where you may go out and in both, is home” (196). (AD: is Lilith at home on the Earth also, then, since she can go in and out?)

“In the morning all that horror of the empty garret spaces had left me” (199). (AD: lots of horror of vaginal spaces. Mothers are terrifying, and Lilith is in fact a vampiric cunt.)

“Going where?” I asked.

“Going where we have to go,” he answered. “You did not surely think you had got home? I told you there as no going out and in at pleasure until you were at home!”

“I do not want to go,” I said.

“That does not make any difference–at least not much,” he answered. “This is the way!”

“I am quite content where I am.”

“You think so, but you are not. Come along” (200). (AD: His words mirror Lilith’s. Also, though, is he more content later, in fact? Not so sure.)

“No creature should be allowed to forget what and where it came from!”

“Why?” said the raven.

“Because it will grow proud, and cease to recognise its superiors.”

No man knows it when he is making an idiot of himself” (201).


“What right have you to treat me so, Mr. Raven?” I said with deep offence. “Am I, or am I not, a free agent?”

“A man is as free as he chooses to make himself, never an atom freer,” answered the raven.

“You have no right to make me do things against my will!”

“When you have a will, you will find that no one can.”

“You wrong me in the very essence of my individuality!” I persisted.

“If you were an individual I could not, therefore now I do not. You are but beginning to become an individual.”

All about me as a pine-forest, in which my eyes were already searching deep, in the hope of discovering an unaccountable glimmer, and so finding my way home. But, alas! how could I any longer call that house home, where every door, every window opened into–Out, and even the garden I could not keep inside!

I suppose I looked discomfited.

“Perhaps it may comfort you,” said the raven, “to be told that you have not yet left your house, neither has your house left you. At the same time it cannot contain you, or you inhabit it!”

“I do not understand you,” I replied. “Where am I?”

“In the region of the seven dimensions,” he answered, with a curious noise in his throat, and a flutter of his tail. “You had better follow me carefully now for a moment, lest you should hurt some one!” (202). (AD: 1) emphasis on will of man. Is Lilith an individual in the same way Vane or Raven/Adam is? In the same way as Eve? What place does she occupy? Perhaps the chora, of which the “seven dimensions” seems to be a part. The chora, which changes the way we see things, and exists outside the intelligible realm (re Kristeva).)

“There is no lady in the house!”

“Indeed! Is not your housekeeper a lady? She is counted such in a certain country where all are servants, and the liveries one and multitudinous!” (202). (AD: If the inhabitants of the worlds are equal, who is she? Lona? Mara?)

“Entreaty was in vain. I must accept my fate! But how was life to be lived in a world of which I had all the laws to learn? There would, however, be adventure! That held consolation; and whether I found my way home or not, I should at least have the rare advantage of knowing two worlds!” (203). (AD: he should have been a woman! Sounds like Lilith / the chora )

“But how can a pigeon be a prayer?” I said. “I understand, of course, how it should be a fit symbol or likeness for one; but a live pigeon to come out of a heart!” …”When a heart i really alive, then it is able to think live things…All live things were thoughts to begin with, and are fit therefore to be used by those that think” (206). (AD: Metaphor become flesh! This is the purpose Lilith serves here, too. In fact, it is the purpose that everyone except Vane serves in the story. He is the brain thinking the live thoughts which are in fact only metaphors become flesh.)

“Why know the name of a thing when the thing itself you do not know? Whose work is it but your own to open your eyes? But indeed the business of the universe is to make such a fool of you that you will know yourself for one, and so begin to be wise!” (207).

“Every one, as you ought to know, has a beast-self–and a bird-self, and a stupid fish-self, ay, and a creeping serpent-self too – which it takes a deal of crushing to kill! In truth he has also a tree-self and a crystal-self, and I don’t know how many selves more – all to get into harmony. You can tell what sort a man is by his creature that comes oftenest to the front” (211). (AD: or woman. most of the animal hybrids are in fact women.)

“Here I interrupt my narrative to remark that it invovles a constant struggle to say what cannot be said with even an approach to precision, the things recorded being, in their nature and in that of the creatures concerned in them, so inexpressibly different from any possible events of this economy, that I can present them only by giving, in the forms and language of life in this world, the modes in which they affected me–not the things themselves, but the feelings they woke in me” (227). (AD: sounds like Luce Irigaray.)

“I knew what an awful thing it was to be awake in the universe: I was, and could not help it!” (229).

“Though hers [the moon’s] was no primal radiance, it so hampered the evil things, that I walked in safety. For light is yet light, if but the last of a countless series of reflections!” (229) (woman reflects man. Moon is a “she”.)

[he sees Lilith for the first time without knowing her] “A white mist floating about her, now assuming, now losing to reassume the shape of a garment, as it gathered to her or was blown from her by a wind that dogged her steps. She was beautiful, but with such a pride at once and misery on her countenance that I could hardly believe what yet I saw” (230). (AD: Mara also sad, if not miserable. Women don’t get off too well in this world.)

Lilith instigates fights. “The holiest words went with the most halting blow. Lie-distorted truths flew hurtling in the wind of javelins and bones… The moon shone till the sun rose, and all the night long I had glimpses of a woman moving at her will above the strife-tormented multitude, now on on this front now on that, one outstretched arm urging the fight, the other pressed against her side. ‘Ye are men: slay one another!’ she shouted. I saw her dead eyes and her dark spot…” (234).

pg 241 the Little ones don’t know their gender makeup and would rather not know

“But they can’t be glad when they have no babies! I wonder what bad means, good giant!” (245). (AD: in a way the Lovers are the human baseline: they have the appropriate human drive for the production of babies that Lilith lacks. Being children, they want more to exist.)

“Knowledge no doubt made bad people worse, but it must make good people better!” (247). (AD: Lilith & knowledge of will, of good and evil, of her own feminine power.)

The cat-woman’s name is “Mara,” hebrew for “bitter,” and recalling the “manna” from heaven (she gives bread and water.)

“Some people…take me for Lot’s wife, lamenting over Sodom; and some thing I am Rachel, weeping for her children; but I am neither of those” (256). (AD: she & Lilith, unlike everyone else, know exactly who they are.)

The white leopard, Mara’s, is named Astarte – think about that.

“I had stopped under one of the windows, on the point of calling aloud my repentant confession, when a sudden wailing, howling scream invaded my ears, and my heart stood still. Something sprang from the window above my head, and lighted beyond me. I turned, and saw a large gray cat, its hair on end, shooting toward the river-bed. I fell with my face in the sand, and seemed to hear within the house the gentle sobbing of one who suffered but did not repent” (259).

“What a hell of horror, I thought, to wander alone, a bare existence never going out of itself, never widening its life in another life, but, bound with the cords of its poor peculiarities, lying an eternal prisoner in the dungeon of its own being! … ‘Any man,’ I said now, ‘is more than the greatest of books!’ I had not cared for my live brothers and sisters, and now I was left without even the dead to comfort me!” (262). (AD: Lilith is not more than the Bible, though, which is ostensibly the greatest of books.)

When he finds Lilith half-dead:

“I crept into the heap of leaves, got as close to her as I could, and took her in my arms. I had not much heat left in me, but what I had I would share with her! Thus I spent what remained of the night, sleepless, and longing for the sun. Her cold seemed to radiate into me, but no heat to pass from me to her. Had I fled from the beautiful sleepers, I thought, each on her ‘dim, straight’ silver couch, to lie alone with such a bedfellow! I had refused a lovely privilege: I was given over to an awful duty! Beneath the sad, slow-setting moon, I lay with the dead, and watched for the dawn” (275). (AD: the necrophilia here is almost a fantasy of possession: Lilith is here will-less, and he mothers her.)

“In that cave, day after day, night after night, seven long days and nights, I sat or lay, now waking now sleeping, but always watching. Every morning I went out and bathed in the hot stream, and every morning felt thereupon as if I had eaten and drunk – which experience gave me courage to lay her in it also every day. Once as I did so, a shadow of discoloration on her left side gave me a terrible shock, but the next morning it had vanished, and I continued the treatment– every morning, after her bath, putting a fresh grape in her mouth…” (279)

“But Adam himself, when first he saw her asleep, could not have looked more anxiously for Eve’s awakening than I watched for this woman’s. Adam knew nothing of himself, perhaps nothing of his need of another self; I, an alien from my fellows, had learned to love what I had lost! Were this one wasted shred of womanhood to disappear, I should have nothing in me but a consuming hunger after life! I forgot even the Little Ones…I saw now that a man alone is but a being that may become a man–that he is but a need, and therefore a possibility. To be enough for himself, a being must be an eternal, self-existent worm!” (279). (AD: he in fact needs Lilith. Does he need her willful or dead, though? Also, the worm that shows her her true self later – is it this self-existant worm? He is but a need for a woman. Woman is but the fulfillment of that need.)

“You have done me the two worst of wrongs–compelled me to live, and put me to shame: neither of them can I pardon!” (285).

“I must devote my life to sharing the burden I had compelled her to resume!” (285).

“To rouse that heart were a better gift to her than the happiest life! It would be to give her a nobler, higher life!” (286).

[says the woman from Bulika] “There is an old prophecy that a child will be the death of her. That is why she will listen to no offer of marriage, they say” (291). Like Oedipus, Jesus/Herod

“The seemingly inscrutable in her I would fain penetrate: to understand something of her mode of being would be to look into marvels such as imagination could never have suggested! In this I was too daring: a man must not, for knowledge, of his own will encounter temptation!” (294).

“I was wakened by something leaping upon me, and licking my face with the rough tongue of a feline animal. ‘It is the white leopardess!’ I thought. ‘She is come to suck my blood! – and why should she not have it? – it would cost me more to defend than to yield it!’ So I lay still, expecting a shoot of pain. But the pang did not arrive; a pleasant warmth instead began to diffuse itself through me. Stretched at my back, she lay as close to me as she could lie, the heat of her body slowly penetrating mine, and her breath, which had nothing of the wild beast in it, swathing my head and face in a genial atmosphere. A full conviction that her intention toward me was good, gained possession of me…” (300). (AD: sexual vampirism.)

“I sprang from the bench. Had I indeed had a leopardess for my bedfellow, or had I but dreamed it? She had but just left me, for the warmth of her body was with me yet! I left the recess with a new hope, as strong as it was shapeless. One thing only was clear to me: I must find the princess! Surely I had some power with her, if not over her! Had I not saved her life, and had she not prolonged it at the expense of my vitality? The reflection gave me courage to encounter her, be she what she might” (300). (AD: Lilith satiates herself vampirically.)

“Many lovers have sought me; I have loved none of them: they sought to enslave me; they sought me but as the men of my city seek gems of price…” (305). She’s a siren, but she isn’t lying.

“She looked at me tenderly, and hid her face in her hands. But I had caught a flash and a sparkle behind the tenderness, and did not believe her. She laid herself out to secure and enslave me; she only fascinated me!” (306). (AD: re: etymology of “glamour”)

“Her great eyes were clear and calm. Her mouth wore a look of satisfied passion; she wiped from it a streak of red” (309). “I was a tame animal for her to feed upon; a human fountain for a thirst demoniac! She showed me favour the more easily to use me!” (309). (AD: the horror when it is the woman who has this power rather than the man who subdues and uses the woman.)

The poem he finds, that is a kind of rune:

In me was every woman. I had power

Over the soul of every living man,

Such as no woman ever had in dower–

Could what no woman ever could, or can;

All women, I, the woman, still outran,

Outsoared, outsank, outreigned, in hall or bower.


For I, though me he neither saw nor heard,

Nor with his hand could touch finger of mine,

Although not once my breath had ever stirred

A hair of him, could trammel brain and spine

With rooted bonds which Death could not untwine–

Or life, though hope was evermore deferred.” (319).


Lilith was created out of the earth, just like Adam (320).

The Raven explains Lilith to the Persian Cat (her feline familiar):

“Lilith, when you came here on the way to your evil will, you little thought into whose hands you were delivering yourself! – Mr. Vane, when God created me–not out of Nothing, as say the unwise, but out of His own endless glory–He brought me an angelic splendour to be my life: there she lies! For her first thought was power, she counted it slavery to be one with me, and bear children for Him who gave her being. One child, indeed, she bore; then, puffed with the fancy that she had created her, would have me fall down and worship her! Finding, however, that I would but love and honour, never obey and worship her, she poured out her blood to escape me, fled to the army of the aliens, and soon had so ensnared the heart of the great Shadow, that he became her slave, wrought her will, and made her queen of Hell. How it is with her now, she best knows, but I know also. The one child of her body she fears and hates, and would kill, asserting a right, which is a lie, over what God sent through her into His new world. Of creating, she knows no more than the crystal that takes its allotted shape, or the worm that makes two worms when it is cloven asunder. Vilest of God’s creatures, she lives by the blood and lives and souls of men. She consumes and slays. but is powerless to destroy as to create.”

The animal lay motionless, its beryl eyes fixed flaming on the man: his eyes on hers held them fixed that they could not move from his.

“Then God gave me another wife – not an angel but a woman–who is to this as light is to darkness” (323).

“It is but her jealousy that speaks,’ he said, ‘jealousy self-kindled, foiled and fruitless; for her eI am, her master now whom she would not have for her husband! while my beautiful Eve yet lives, hoping immortally! Her hated daughter lives also, but beyond her evil ken, one day to be what she counts her destruction–for even Lilith will be saved by her childbearing. Meanwhile she exults that my human wife plunged herself and me in despair, and has borne me a countless race of miserables; but my Eve repented, and is now beautiful as never was woman or angel, while her groaning, travailing world is the nursery of our Father’s children” (323).

“She fears, and therefore hates her child, and is in this house on her way to destroy her. The birth of children is in her eyes the death of their parents, and every new generation the enemy of the last” (325).

“Nothing will ever close that wound…It must eat into her heart! Annihilation itself is no death to evil. Only good where evil was, is evil dead. An evil thing must live with its evil until it chooses to be good. That alone is the slaying of evil” (328). (AD: Lilith is evil.)

328-9 literal catfight between Mara and Lilith as leopards.

332 Vane experiences the same false sense of power as Lilith with his mighty horse and botches everything by asserting his own will rather than listening to Raven.

“In Lona the beauty of Lilith was softened by childlikeness, and deepened by the sense of motherhood…I loved her as one who, grow to what perfection she might, could only become the more a child” (339). (AD: this is the perfect woman.)

“I hardly remembered my mother, but in my mind’s eye she now looked like Lona; and if I imagined sister or child, invariably she had the face of Lona! My every imagination flew to her; she was my heart’s wife! She hardly ever sought me, but was almost always within sound of my voice. What I did or thought, I referred constantly to her, and rejoiced to believe that, while doing her work in absolute independence, she was most at home by my side. Never for me did she neglect the smallest child, and my love only quickened my sense of duty. To love her and do my duty, seemed, not indeed one, but inseparable. She might suggest something I should do; she might ask me what she ought to do; but she never seemed to suppose that I, any more than she, would like to do, or could care about anything except what must be done. Her love overflowed upon me–not in caresses, but in a closeness of recognition which I can compare to nothing but the devotion of a divine animal” (347).

She appreciates his attempt to make clothes for her, vs. Lilith who is ungrateful (347).

“I do not remember ever being without a child to take care of…” (348 [Lona]).

“Mothers are worth fighting for!” (349, Vane)

“Mother! Mother! she sighed, and her breathing ceased…. She was ‘dead as earth.'” (357).

Lilith & Mara:

“Will you turn away from the wicked things you have been doing so long?” said Mara gently….

“I will not,” she said. “I will be myself and not another!”

“Alas, you are another now, not yourself! Will you not be your real self?”

“I will be what I mean myself now…I will do as my Self pleases–as my Self desires… No one ever made me. I defy that Power to unmake me from a free woman! You are his slave, and I defy you! You may be able to to torture me–I do not know, but you shall not compel me to anything against my will!” (371).

“She alone is free who would make free; she loves not freedom who would enslave: she is herself a slave. Every life, every will, every heart that came within your ken, you have sought to subdue: you are the slave of every slave you have made–such a slave that you do not know it! –See your own self!” (372). (AD: Christian logic here sounds eerily Hegelian.

“Why did he make me such?”

“…he did not make you such. You have made yourself what you are… If you are willing, put yourself again on the settle.”

“I will not…” (374).

“Will you restore that which you have wrongfully taken?”

“I have taken nothing,” answered the princess, forcing out the words in spite of pain, “that I had not the right to take. My power to take manifested my right” (375).

“She was what God could not have created. She had usurped beyond her share in self-creation, and her part had undone His! She saw now what she had made, and behold, it was not good! She was as a conscious corpse ,whose coffin would never come to pieces, never set her free!” (378).

“They walked from beside her, and left her with him who had been her husband–ashamed indeed of her gaunt uncomeliness, but unsubmissive” (384).

Lilith asks them to cut off her hand with the sword to get rid of the fist she cannot open herself (if your eye lusts, poke it out…)

Vane sees that his mother also has a wounded hand… is she a Lilith figure too? (399)

“Their empty places frighten me,” (409). Vane says to Lona of the tomb. VAginal.

Heaven is full of and based around mothers (416): a “group of woman-angels descended upon them, and in a moment they were fettered in heavenly arms. The radiants carried them away, and I saw them no more” (418).


“Man dreams and desires; God broods and wills and quickens” (420). (AD: And woman?? It seems like, here at least, it was mostly Lillith doing the willing and brooding, and women’s bodies doing the quickening of life.)

Schaafsma, Karen. “The Demon Lover: Lilith and the Hero in Modern Fantasy.” Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy 28.1, 1987. 

“In many fantasies, then, the hero’s development depends upon his encounters with archetypal feminine figures who may be inspiring or threatening or both, but who act as catalysts for his radical transformation. Through these encounters, the successful hero undergoes a process of feminization, in which he is forced to abandon his reliance on the intellect and on the ego’s will to power and to surrender himself to the feminine domain of the unconscious” (53). (AD: she uses this to argue that fantasy is essential matriarchal in nature.)

“In Neumann’s analysis of feminine archetypes, Lilith is symbolic of negative transformation; her influence leads to a dissociation of consciousness through seduction, intoxication, ecstasy, and madness… the figure of Lilith can shift into that of her opposite, the Virgin-Sophia, bearer of illumination, source and goal of the highest spiritual development” (53).

“The power of the Mother-Creator cannot be denied; the gap left in consciousness by the absent mother will be filled by another presence. As William Irwin Thompson observes, ‘When man will not deal with Isis, through the path of initiation, he must deal with Lilith’…the murder of the mother leads to the masculine projection of the murdering female, who is both the enemy of masculine consciousness and, paradoxically, its shadow” (53-4).

“Young-old, beautiful and horribly disfigured, seductive and deadly, Lilith is supreme ego, boundless desire” (55).


look up The Great Mother by Erich Neumann.


Gaarden, Bonnie. “Cosmic and Psychological Redemption in George MacDonald’s Lilith.” Studies in the Novel 37.1, 2005.

MacDonald was a failed Congregational minister and was chastised for his belief in universal redemption. “Lilith contains its author’s strongest affirmation of his doctrine of universal redemption. If, as the story has it, even a Lilith can be saved, who then shall be eternally condemned?” (21).

Gaarden argues that MacDonald and Jung have a lot in common. “In Jungian terms, she [Lilith] insists upon her ego’s right to define and control her self, the right of her consciousness to dictate to her unconscious” (29).

Kathryn Walls, “George Macdonald’s Lilith and the Later Poetry of T. S. Eliot.” Engilsh Language Notes January 1978.

Is the raven in Eliot’s “Burnt Norton” reminiscent of Macdonald’s Raven?

Vane’s entrance into the 7 dimensions he does not hear piano music and enters by a rosebush.

Eliot’s image of children is reminiscent of the Little ones.

Vane should have responded to Raven’s riddles with Eliot’s “I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.”

Comparisons b/w Eliot & ideas about Lilith / Mother of Sorrow may just be that both are grounded in tradition that holds very strong beliefs about the way women work in myth and society.