LEWIS CARROLL (CHARLES LUTWIDGE DODGSON) (1832–98)
Extract from Sylvie and Bruno (1889)

Lady Muriel and her father gave me a delightfully warm welcome. They were not of the folk we meet in fashionable drawing-rooms—who conceal all such feelings as they may chance to possess beneath the impenetrable mask of a conventional placidity. ‘The Man with the Iron Mask’ was, no doubt, a rarity and a marvel in his own age: in modern London no one would turn his head to give him a second look! No, these were real people. When they looked pleased, it meant that they were pleased: and when Lady Muriel said, with a bright smile, ‘I’m very glad to see you again!’ I knew that it was true.

Extract from Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893). Ch. XIX

And now ensued quite the strangest of all the strange experiences that marked the wonderful year whose history I am writing; the experience of first hearing Sylvie’s voice in song. Her part was a very short one- only a few words—and she sang it timidly, and very low indeed, scarcely audibly, but the sweetness of her voice was simply indescribable; I have never heard any earthly music like it.

‘ ’Tis a secret, and so let us whisper it low;
And the name of the secret is Love!’

On me the first effect of her voice was a sudden sharp pang that seemed to pierce through one’s very heart. (I had felt such a pang only once before in my life, and it had been from seeing what, at the moment, realized one’s idea of perfect beauty—it was in a London exhibition, where, in making my way through a crowd, I suddenly met, face to face, a child of quite unearthly beauty.) Then came a rush of burning tears to the eyes, as though one could weep one’s soul away for pure delight. And lastly there fell on me a sense of awe that was almost terrorsome such feeling as Moses must have had when he heard the words ‘Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the Place whereon thou standest is holy ground’. The figures of the children became vague and shadowy, like glimmering meteors: while their voices rang together in exquisite harmony as they sang:

‘For I think it is Love,
For I feel it is Love,
For I’m sure it is nothing but Love!’

 

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