Thursday 29 October 2015

Richard Dadd and the Deadman's Head

This is Richard Dadd.

In 1842, Dadd went to Egypt. While he was out there, something happened. Convinced that he was the chosen emissary and son of the ancient Egyptian god Osiris, Dadd returned to England and murdered his father, believing that he was a demon in human form. He then fled to France, where he was arrested after attempting to murder another 'demon'. He spent the rest of his life in lunatic asylums, first in Bedlam and then in Broadmoor, painting pictures like these:

'The Fairy-Feller's Master-stroke', by Richard Dadd.
One of his less well-known paintings is called 'Patriotism'. It looks like this:

It's a map of an imaginary landscape, accompanied by a lengthy description of an imaginary war which was fought over it. (Those markings in the bottom left are miniscule text.) Here is an extract from that text:

The Deadman’s Head was quite empty when it was entered by the Victors. The Devil was very busy in Gales of Wind and from the nature of the defences would have been unconquerable, but he sunk from want of support, having no other than the lunatic asylum, which was not only unfit but was not enough. It required three Generals to conquer it & the less we say about how it was done, the better for some of us. Nobody knows what became of it and it is not usual to ask after such a savage thing as that was. The Devil was on the wrong side or rather the other side of the water.

Here's another extract:

Many brave warriors fell on both sides at Fort Fatal Truth where things were said in presences that are never forgiven any more than the Devil is forgiven. The Cheek exceeds belief. Of the City itself it may be said that it was built to obviate the effects of ignorance and vice, and fell by those causes as all others may be said to have done that have done so. It does not matter now who was right and who was wrong. 

I have no idea what it means. I don't suppose that anyone has ever had any idea what it means. But some of it sounds extremely ominous. 'It does not matter now who was right and who was wrong.' 'The less we say about how it was done, the better for some of us...'

None of this has anything to do with Central Asia. But this is exactly the sort of thing that might turn up scrawled on a wall somewhere in the depths of the Wicked City.

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