Jul/Aug 2023  •   Miscellany

Dorothy's Dancing Party

by Jack Tisdale

Photo Art by Michael Dooley

Photo Art by Michael Dooley

Those in Attendance:

Aguttes, aka The Distant One. Vegetable demi-god associated with self-mutilation, death, and resurrection. Father of Smirke, demon of speech and writing. Former resident of Pit of Horrors tunnel complex beneath L'Argent College, 1423 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Relocated, Albion tin mining complex, Arequipa, Peru.

Alighieri, Dante, 1265-1321. Exiled Florentine poet. Unjustly condemned by Saint Gregory (ad appellationem) to return to Earth as demon Smirke. Tasked with tutoring ambitious artists in speech and writing.

Bateman, Mary, 1768-1809. Seller of stale puddings and spoiled fish pies. Betrayed for five livres by husband Joseph after accidentally poisoning occupying French garrison at Bath. Guillotined, Tyburn. Skeleton displayed, Charing Cross. Skin used for book cover (Triumph of Justice, Richards, R.).

Blake, W., 1757-1827. Poet, author of Dark Satanic Canneries. Convicted under Code Pénal for sedition, corrupting public conscience, suspicious activities, failure to report suspicious activities, etc. (evidence provided by W. Wordsworth). Guillotined, Newgate.

Bonaparte, N., 1769-1821. Correspondence with Josephine ghost-written by Smirke. First Consul of France following events of 18th Brumaire. Emperor of the Western European States, 1804. Imperator Britannicus and Bretta cyning following invasion and occupation of England by Imperial Army, 1806. Majority owner, President, Albion Canning Company, Albion Tin Works. Assassinated (poisoned snuff), 1805. Fond of Ossius, earlier works of Goethe.

Bowles, W.L., 1762-1850. Sonneteer. Author, The Invariable Principles of Poetry. Opposed use of black magic as substitute for true inspiration. Convicted of sedition, failure to report seditious activities on evidence provided by W. Wordsworth. Died in Albion Canning factory fire.

Brendel, Irving, 1862-1920. Supplicant of Smirke. English magician and vaudevillian. Travelled throughout southern United States. Employer of chimpanzees, Marcus and Myron, and twin snakes, Sheila and Sandra. Died in boiler explosion, Hiram Walker High School.

Burns, Mary, 1770-1806. Housekeeper for D. and W. Wordsworth. Lover of S. Coleridge. Non-voting member of Fingalian Society. Macaronic speaker, source of comic relief. Convicted and hanged for sedition.

Burns, Tillie, 1810-1822. Daughter of M. Burns and S. Coleridge. Emigrated to America in company of R. Southey, S. and E. Coleridge. Charter member, Little Workers' Sewing Circle. Died in L'Argent College Fire. Later conjured by A.C. Doyle, D. Smith.

Cat, Miss Kitty, 1944-1321. Hunter, housecat, familiar. Enjoyed dozing under kitchen range, especially after hearty meal.

Chimp, Marcus the, aka Marcus the Marvelous, aka Smirke, 1944-1321. Employee of I. Brendel. Good with numbers. Indifferent actor. ("Olivier, he is not." I. Brendel.) Fired for biting V. Weisz. Rehired after daring lab escape and offer of heart-felt apology.

Chimp, Myron the, 1920-1930. Employee of I. Brendel and predecessor of Marcus. A superior actor. Fired for clubbing Sheila the Snake to death with mop handle. Torn apart by hyenas on set of Swiss Family Robinson.

Coleridge, S., 1772-1834. Poet, critic, translator, scientist, neurasthenic. Suitor of D. Wordsworth, M. Burns. Author, Methods for Preserving Siberian Crab;King Stephen; England, Sorely Defeated. Resident, L'Argent College. Convicted of sedition under Code Pénal based on evidence provided by W. Wordsworth. Sentenced to hard labor, Albion Tin Works. Released on grounds of mental incapacity. Hanged, 1798.

Crain, Jeanne, 1925-2003. Hollywood's Number One Party Girl. Fondness for raspberry Gimlets emulated by D. Smith.

Doyle, A.C., 1859-1933. Spiritualist and popular lecturer. Author, Uncle Bernac, A Memory of the Empire. Supplicant of Smirke. Practical joker and friend of H. Weisz. Sacrificed son, Kingsley, the Peripatetic Spirit, known for showing up.

Duncan, Isadora ("Izzy"), 1877-1927. Actress, dancer, grifter. Friend of V. Weisz. Fond of silk scarves, offering advice, discussing merits of foundational undergarments. Supplicant of Smirke. Violent when cornered.

Engle, Miriam, 1863-1940. Evil stepmother of V. Weisz. Recipient of monthly checks. Dismembered body discovered in steamer trunk floating near Grape Island, Massachusetts.

Fingalian Society, The (formerly, The Grumbletonians). Secret society of British poets formed by D. Wordsworth. Dedicated to defeat of L'Armée d'Occupation through use of black magic and spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. Motto: Colles habent oculos. Charter members: Wordsworth, D. and W.; Coleridge, S.; Southey, R.; Blake, W.; Williams, H.; Bowles, W.L. (in probationis); Lamb, C. (ex ambulare); Burns, M. (non suffragium).

Foster, Preston, 1900-1970. American actor. Played father in My Friend Flicka, favorite movie of V. Weisz. ("Not a nice man." Boots Malloy.)

Fuseli, Henry, 1741-1825. Writer, artist, teacher. Painted only known likeness of Smirke (Friar Puck).

Gance, Abel, 1889-1981. Director, The Mask of Horror, The Tower of Lust,Napoleon, etc. Directed V. Weisz in Anna Karenina, Dark Safari.

Gluck, Isaac, 1912-1938. Animal broker. Acquired Sheila the Snake from I. Brendel. Aware of Kammerer's studies linking newts with genetic resilience. Fatally bitten by venomous snake.

Godwin, William, 1756-1836. Exhumed 1837. Re-buried, 1838. Pedant known for holding forth. See, e.g., Lives of the Necromancers:

The witch or sorcerer could not secure the assistance of the demon but by a sure and faithful compact, by which the human party obtained the industrious and vigilant service of his familiar for a certain term of years, only on condition that, when the term was expired, the demon of undoubted right was to obtain possession of the indentured party, and to convey him irremissibly and forever to the regions of the damned.

To call up the spirits of the departed, after they have fulfilled the task of life, and are consigned to their final sleep, is sacrilegious. Well may they exclaim, like the ghost of Samuel in the sacred story, "Why hast thou disquieted me?"

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1742-1832. Neptunist. Author, The Sorrows of Young Werther. Early Sturm und Drang style admired by Napoleon. Witnessed exhibition of tableaux vivants by Lady Hamilton: "The performance is like nothing you have ever seen before. With a few scarves and shawls she expressed a variety of wonderful transformations. One pose after another without a break."

Gondomar, Count de (Diego Sarmiento de Acuña), aka Smirke, 1567-1626. Spanish ambassador to England. Exercised inordinate influence over James I and B. Raleigh.

Gorak, Edward ("Eddie"), 1888-1930. Gentleman friend of D. Smith. Thief, contract killer. Exsanguinated by D. Smith in fruitless attempt at summoning Smirke.

Gregory I, Pope, 540-604. Saint. Author, Dialogues. Involved in clerical mix-up inadvertently damning Dante to tutor ambitious authors and politicians.

Hart, Emma, aka Amy Lyon, Lady Hamilton, Smirke, 1765-1815. Known for tableaux vivants and dancing naked. Intrigued Napoleon. Entertained Goethe. Consumed large quantities of port. Amanuensis for Horatio Nelson.

Harvey, W., 1578-1657. King's Physician (Charles I). Author, De Motu Cordis. Demonic examiner. Anatomist. Afflicted by palsy of tongue after observing Smirke (as toad) drinking milk from wooden bowl.

Herring, aka Silver of the Sea. Fuel for Napoleon's endless wars. Five thousand tons per year canned for La Grande Armée at Albion Canning facility, Portsmouth, England, 1805-1842.

Hound, Fortuné the Spectral, 1943-1321. Familiar, watchdog, companion of Smirke, friend of Miss Kitty Cat. Biter.

IGNAZ. Quasi-sentient randomized Semmelwiesian dialogue-prompter. Programmed after manner of Magic 8 Ball and Discourses of Gregory I (Deacon Peter).

I despise those Smirkian games and their illusion of purposefulness. The dynamic crosswords, for example, with the answers forced unnaturally into constant motion. Reflecting, PAUL says, the inheritance of acquired characteristics and the infinite realities experienced by the crossworder, each crazed and crystalline lifetime flickering by in a wink of kaleidoscopic detail. The solver might be an involuntary resident of a medical institution. Or perhaps it's a program of some sort, a bunch of numbers assembled for the sole and reasonless task of endlessly grinding away at an unsolvable puzzle. Or a malevolent being, caught up in amber, frozen in a state of eternal damnation. Silly, I suppose, but who can say what any of us might be? I, for one, claim no special insight.

James I, King of England, 1566-1625. Fond of sharing obscure facts with dinner companions. Averse to bathing. Persuaded by Smirke to grant Bess Raleigh exclusive rights to Peruvian cassiterite deposits and intra-coastal herring shoals.

Kammerer, Paul, 1880-1926. Zoologist, breeder of lower vertebrates. Student of coincidence and evolution. Granted reluctant kiss by Alma Mahler. Midwife toads and salamanders destroyed by National Socialists. Author, The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics; Das Gesetz de Serie; miscellaneous papers and correspondence; four suicide notes (with post-scripts). Suicided, Schneeberg Forest (pistol).

Kemys, Lawrence, 1562-1618. Sea captain, companion of Sir Walter Raleigh. With guidance from Smirke, discovered herring shoals and Peruvian cassiterite deposits in violation of Treaty of London. Suicided, Guayana (pistol, knife).

Kennedy, J.P., 1888-1969, aka Smirke. Bank president. Provided stock tips to I. Duncan.

L'Argent, Sybil, 1780-1830. Great-granddaughter of Bess and Walter Raleigh. Heiress of Albion Mining & Fishing Association fortune. Worshipper of Aguttes. Founder and proprietress, L'Argent College (The Abner L'Argent College for Pantisocracy, Aspheterism, Benevolence, and Civil Liberty). One-time lover of Southey. Convicted with sisters Larkin and Constance in Pit of Horrors trials on charges of murder, kidnaping, cannibalism, robbery, etc., based in part on spectral testimony of Helen Williams. ("Sybil did in life enjoy a nice fire, and I think the devil has answered her ends, for now the damned Witch will have it forever.") Executed by hanging (twice).

Leach, Archibald, aka Cary Grant, 1904-1986. English American actor popular with prison inmates, including E. Gorak. Boots Malloy:

You could tell when they'd shown To Catch a Thief at Dannemora. A month later, RKO would get a dozen script proposals, all of them about these suave sophisticated crooks who'd retired to their vineyards and yachts and had never, not even once, hurt anyone ever in their whole entire crime-committing careers. And sex scenes with Grace Kelly! She grasped his throbbing manhood! Fucking hilarious.

Lunacharsky, Anatoly Vasilyevich, 1875-1933. Head of People's Commissariat for Education. Author of Salamandra(fictionalized account of Kammerer's life on the streets of Moscow in the company of Smirke). Later adapted by Bulgakov ("The Master and Margarita").

Malloy, Barbara ("Boots," "Bootsie"), 1911-1945. Actress. WAMPAS Baby Star, 1932. Friend of V. Weisz. Fond of using salty language and offering unvarnished advice. Traumatized by death of grandmother:

When she started to croak, I ran from the room screaming, thinking the old bat would take me with her. I slipped on the stairs and snapped my fuckin' collarbone. Now every time I raise my arm to put on a blouse, I think of that crazy bitch gurgling there in her bed like a broken water pipe.

Mather, Cotton, 1663-1728. Noted demonologist. Observed correlation between malign fermentation and buoyancy. See, e.g., "Engle, Miriam," supra.

McDowall, Roderick ("Roddy"), 1928-1998. Child star of My Friend Flicka, favorite movie of V. Weisz owing to the presence of strong father figure played by Preston Foster.

Mr. P. Pigeon and Miss S. Starling, 1805. Residents of window bower, third floor, Hotel Parma. Agitated Coleridge during his stay, forcing him to take large dose of laudanum. Poisoned Napoleon (snuff) with prompting from Smirke.

Ossian, aka Smirke. Hirsute Scottish poet praised by Napoleon.

Parma, Duchess of (Maria Amalia Josepha Johanna Antonia), 1746-1804. Sister of Marie Antoinette. Patroness of musicians and artists. Portrait burned in fireplace by Napoleon's staff during occupation of palace in 1798. Expelled from Parma, 1802. Husband Ferdinand's desk used by Napoleon. Poisoned snuffbox placed there by Coleridge.

PAUL. Lamarckian Observational Generator. Semi-sentient interactive algorithm.

The remorseless logic as well as the profound care of Smirke's answers convinced IGNAZ that this demonic chronicler of chaotic existence and entropic disintegration was not especially concerned with the human condition. Games were a different matter—especially those damned crosswords.

Philippe, Louis I ("The Citizen King,"), 1773-1850. Resident, L'Argent College, 1802-1807. Colleague of R. Southey. Sacrificed unborn son Françoise to Smirke in exchange for safe passage to Europe and ascension to French throne after coup of 18 Fructidor.

Pizarro, Francisco, 1478-1531. Spanish thug and opportunist.

Ptolemy I, 367-282 BC. Ruler of Egypt. Collated odiferous book of spells acquired by Napoleon during Egyptian campaign.

Rabbit, Flopsy the, 1917-1920. Lapinese member of Weisz troupe. Torn to pieces by spectral hound, Fortuné. Stitched and stuffed post-mortem by H. Weisz. Posed with jaunty cap and rapier after manner of Puss n' Boots. Destroyed in fire, 1934.

Raleigh, Walter, 1552-1618. Author, courtier, adventurer. Executed for violating Treaty of London. Head, placed in bag by wife, Bess, said to whisper curses, recipes, unsolicited advice.

Richard III, 1452-1485. Supplicant of Smirke. Sacrificed nephews in exchange for ascension to English throne.

Saltonstall, Leverett, 1783-1845, aka Smirke. Lawyer. Descendant of Nathaniel Saltonstall (Special Commissioner of Oyer and Terminer, 1692). Negotiated pardon and deportation of R. Southey in Pit of Horrors case. ("Never before had I occasion to defend such a thoroughly despicable individual," etc.)

Semmelweis, Ignaz, 1818-1865. Pioneer of antiseptic procedures. Devised Theory of Cadaverous Poisoning.

Seras, Georges. 1768-1802. Officer of Cavalry Corps. One-time aide to Emperor Napoleon. Supplicant of Smirke. Loquacious admirer of Grand Duchess Stéphanie.

Sewall, Samuel, 1799-1888. Associate Justice, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Descendant of Samuel Sewall (Special Commissioner of Oyer and Terminer, 1692). Authored opinion condemning L'Argent sisters in Pit of Horrors case. ("I have had to hear of acts so heinous as to defy the imagination of the most depraved criminal," etc. "If I could have done so, I should have sentenced each of these Defendants to be hanged for all Eternity," etc.) Admitted spectral testimony of H. Williams. Commuted death sentence of R. Southey to deportation (Arequipa, Peru).

Shearer, E. Norma, 1902-1983. American actress. ("Miss Lotta Miles, we'd called her on the set--and not because of that fucking tire commercial." Boots Malloy).

Smirke, Robert, aka Nabers, Nabors, Naberus, Neighbors, Ossian, Puck, Gondomar, Saltonstall, Marcus, Boye, Lady Hamilton, J.P. Kennedy,Richard III, etc., 1944-1321. Inspiration for Shakespeare's "poisonous bunch-backed toad." Wandering spirit of Dante Alighieri, mistakenly sentenced to purgatory for perceived arrogance, lack of empathy, indifference to fawning affection of Beatrice. Associated with writing and public speaking. Tutor, ministrant, mediator, diplomat, interlocutor. Able to imperfectly assume shape of certain mammals and amphibians, e.g., dog, cat, mouse, human, toad, stoat, seal, chimpanzee, etc. In true form, possessed of three heads. Ears, apricot-shaped, located on shoulders. Four horns. Mouths filled with razored fangs. Arms, legs, tail. On each foot, three claws, fowl-like, with sharp talons Enamored of V. Weisz, D. Wordsworth, B. Raleigh. Entombed, Marston Moor, 1644.

Smith, Deborah ("Dixie"), 1886-1953. Psychic, card reader, fortune teller. Warned friend V. Weisz of pivotal instant in life when either doing something or doing nothing would be important. Convicted, first degree murder for exsanguination of E. Gorack. Death sentence commuted to life imprisonment in exchange for testimony implicating V. Weisz.

Smith, Major Isaac, 1866-1917. Father of D. Smith. Disliked by French general staff. Held off Von Ebben's Ninth Army during Second Battle of the Marne. Fatally wounded in Allied artillery barrage. Body found next to wooden chest filled with cigarettes, antique silverware, Deux Nuits D'Excès (unexpurgated).

Snake, Sandra the, 1923-1925. Portrayed Satan in Brendel's Garden of Eden. Clubbed to death by Myron the Chimp.

Snake, Sheila the, 1926-1928. Portrayed Satan in Brendel's Garden of Eden. Sold to animal broker, I. Gluck.

Southey, R., aka Dr. Robert Allen, Gaspar DeNuncio, Mary Wollenstonecraft, etc., 1774-1843 (?). Poet, spiritualist, forger, faith healer, mineralogist, Pantisocratic, worshipper of Aguttes. Inventor, Four-in-a-Bath. Convicted, in absentia, uttering false documents, smuggling, conspiring to receive stolen goods. One-time lover of L'Argent sisters (Sybil, Larkin, and Constance), D. Wordsworth, H. Williams, W.L Bowles, C. Lamb, G.G.B. (Lord) Byron. Director of the Northern and (later) Southern branches of L'Argent College. Conjured ghost of H. Williams to give spectral evidence in Pit of Horrors case. Death sentence commuted to deportation (Arequipa, Peru). Fond of D. Wordsworth. Thought to have died in Arequipa Tin Mine Disaster.

Splotch, Sir or Madam. Person who is a loose end or a bit of surplusage.

Stewart, James, 1908-1997. American actor. ("A real prick." Boots Malloy).

Throckmorton, Elizabeth, Lady Raleigh ("Bess"), 1565-1647. On advice of Smirke, exploited herring shoals and cassiterite deposits in and around British-controlled Peru. Founder, Albion Mining & Fishing Association.

Von Humboldt, A., 1769-1859. Mineralogist, explorer, consultant to Spanish Empire. Friend of H. Williams. Frequent guest of Napoleon.

Weisz, Henry, 1874-1926. Stage performer. Muscle reader. Expert at defeating pernicious knots. Practical joker. Friend of A.C. Doyle. Known as "Knot King" and "Emperor of Knots." Entombed, 1901. Murdered, 1926.

Weisz, Vivian, 1876-1964. Actress, stuntwoman. Author: Dumb Act with Donkeys: The True Story of My Life and Please Wait to be Seated: My Fatal Encounter with the Electric Chair. Also, The Devil's Ingénue: The True Story of My Life on Screen and Stage. Descendant of Dorothy Wordsworth, Bess Raleigh. Star of Swiss Family Robinson, Dark Safari, Sinbad, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Antigone, Vanity Fair, Macbeth, Othello, Broken Fang (voice of evil queen). Also, I, Claudius (Caesaria; footage lost). Musicals Dorothy! (Dorothy Wordsworth), Austerlitz! (Duchess Stéphanie), Salambra! (Felicity Kammerer), Semmelwies! (First Midwife), and Nathan the Prophet! (Bathsheba). Stage assistant. Spouse of Weisz, H. Convicted, first degree murder, 1935. Executed (electric chair), 1944.

Williams, Helen, 1759-1827(?). Poet and activist. One-time lover of Southey, Coleridge, D. and W. Wordsworth. Author, Peru, A Poem in Six Cantos. Also "By Avarice Undebased," "The Fruits of Peace," "The Bastille, A Vision." Given sobriquet Peruginia by Southey for infatuation with Peruvian culture and people. Jailed on charges of Cynical and Unpatriotic Poetry by Girondist government. Translated Von Humboldt's Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the New continent during the years 1799–1804. Full-time resident of L'Argent College. Disappeared, Boston area, 1827. Possibly torn to pieces by hound, Fortuné, or offered as sacrifice to Aguttes. Conjured by Southey to provide spectral testimony against L'Argent sisters in Pit of Horrors trial.

Wordsworth, D., Lady Gordon, 1771-1862. Supplicant of Smirke. Vocal opponent of French sedition laws banning English poetry. Poet and founder of Romantic Movement. Charter member and founder, The Fingalian Society. Author of epics, The Staff of Life, The Poet Inside Me. Also "To Our Achilles, Too Soon Dead," "Things Summoned from the Void," "Three Heroes of the Bastille," "The Occupation of Emily" (attributed). Delivered popular lecture series, "Nocturnal Visitations." Poet Laureate of England (1850-1855).

Wordsworth, W., 1770-1850. Brother of D. Wordsworth. Lover of nature and solitude. Journalist, secret agent. Awarded clerical position in French Civil Service (animal contrôler officier) and medal (Pour Merité dans leDénonciation Civique), for helpful actions in "Exposing Enemies of the Republic and Silencing the Barking Dogs in and around County Somerset."