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Vathek; An Arabian Tale By William Beckford

Vathek; An Arabian Tale

William Beckford

Available as PDF, epub, and Kindle ebook downloads.
This book has 67 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1786. This edition was first published in 1849.


Vathek; An Arabian Tale is a Gothic novel written by William Beckford, and first published in 1786. It tells the story of Caliph Vathek, the ninth caliph of the Abassides, who buys some glowing swords from a travelling merchant. Wanting to decipher the messages on them, he invites the merchant to dinner. However, he gets no answers and locks up the merchant, who somehow disappears in the night. Finally he finds a scholar who translates the lettering, but the next morning, the message on the swords changes. Led by an insatiable thirst, Vathek goes to a fountain to drink and comes across the merchant again, who goes back to the Court with him. Afer this, things get weirder, with the merchant being transformed into a ball and being kicked by all the townspeople, child sacrifices, and Islamic dwarfs - all in the name of Vathek trying to gain supernatural powers.

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Production notes: This edition of Vathek; An Arabian Tale was published by Global Grey ebooks on 20th January 2021. The artwork used for the cover is 'Orientalec' by Ivana Kobilca. There are no chapters in this book. Just the Preface and then the book.

Random Piece of Information: I just got a tomato shaped timer to help me more effectively implement the Pomodoro technique. It's ticking along right now. I'll give it 2 days before it's consigned to a shelf somewhere.

Thoughts whilst doing this book: A weird but interesting book - one that was born out of a time when part of European culture was influenced by Orientalism.

Excerpt from 'Vathek; An Arabian Tale'

Vathek, ninth Caliph of the race of the Abassides, was the son of Motassem, and the grandson of Haroun Al Raschid.  From an early accession to the throne, and the talents he possessed to adorn it, his subjects were induced to expect that his reign would be long and happy.  His figure was pleasing and majestic; but when he was angry, one of his eyes became so terrible that no person could bear to behold it; and the wretch upon whom it was fixed instantly fell backward, and sometimes expired.  For fear, however, of depopulating his dominions, and making his palace desolate, he but rarely gave way to his anger.

Being much addicted to women, and the pleasures of the table, he sought by his affability to procure agreeable companions; and he succeeded the better, as his generosity was unbounded and his indulgences unrestrained; for he was by no means scrupulous: nor did he think, with the Caliph Omar Ben Abdalaziz, that it was necessary to make a hell of this world to enjoy Paradise in the next.

He surpassed in magnificence all his predecessors.  The palace of Alkoremmi, which his father Motassem had erected on the hill of Pied Horses, and which commanded the whole city of Samarah, was in his idea far too scanty: he added, therefore, five wings, or rather other palaces, which he destined for the particular gratification of each of his senses.

In the first of these were tables continually covered with the most exquisite dainties, which were supplied both by night and by day according to their constant consumption; whilst the most delicious wines, and the choicest cordials, flowed forth from a hundred fountains, that were never exhausted.  This palace was called “The Eternal, or Unsatiating Banquet.”

The second was styled “The Temple of Melody, or the Nectar of the Soul.”  It was inhabited by the most skilful musicians and admired poets of the time, who not only displayed their talents within, but dispersing in bands without, caused every surrounding scene to reverberate their songs, which were continually varied in the most delightful succession.

The palace named “The Delight of the Eyes, or the Support of Memory,” was one entire enchantment.  Rarities collected from every corner of the earth were there found in such profusion as to dazzle and confound, but for the order in which they were arranged.  One gallery exhibited the pictures of the celebrated Mani; and statues that seemed to be alive.  Here a well-managed perspective attracted the sight; there, the magic of optics agreeably deceived it; whilst the naturalist, on his part, exhibited in their several classes the various gifts that heaven had bestowed on our globe.  In a word, Vathek omitted nothing in this particular that might gratify the curiosity of those who resorted to it, although he was not able to satisfy his own; for he was, of all men, the most curious.

“The Palace of Perfumes,” which was termed likewise, “The Incentive to Pleasure,” consisted of various halls, where the different perfumes which the earth produces were kept perpetually burning in censers of gold.  Flambeaus and aromatic lamps were here lighted in open day; but the too powerful effects of this agreeable delirium might be avoided by descending into an immense garden, where an assemblage of every fragrant flower diffused through the air the purest odours.

The fifth palace, denominated “The Retreat of Joy, or the Dangerous,” was frequented by troops of young females, beautiful as the Houris, and not less seducing, who never failed to receive with caresses all whom the Caliph allowed to approach them; for he was by no means disposed to be jealous, as his own women were secluded within the palace he inhabited himself.

Notwithstanding the sensuality in which Vathek indulged, he experienced no abatement in the love of his people, who thought that a sovereign immersed in pleasure was not less tolerable to his subjects than one that employed himself in creating them foes.  But the unquiet and impetuous disposition of the Caliph would not allow him to rest there: he had studied so much for his amusement in the life-time of his father as to acquire a great deal of knowledge, though not a sufficiency to satisfy himself; for he wished to know everything; even sciences that did not exist.  He was fond of engaging in disputes with the learned, but liked them not to push their opposition with warmth.  He stopped the mouths of those with presents, whose mouths could be stopped; whilst others, whom his liberality was unable to subdue, he sent to prison to cool their blood; a remedy that often succeeded.

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