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(Inside the Mind of) Le Comte
I’d only met Le Comte once. It was in London, circa 1825. I was a child, a queer boy of eight, with uneven legs which caused me to walk at a hobble. I remember in peculiar detail the strange brightness of the sun that day, and waiting expectantly to meet him, also the manner in which he tapped his cane to the ground as he’d exited his carriage, and the tone of voice of my mother, a timbre I’d never heard before or since. We visited the rose garden and picnicked there. They seemed to understand each other intimately, but on opposing sides of an issue. They spent most of that afternoon quibbling; I remember my stomach going soft and being unable to finish my food. My Uncle had said, ‘You’ve got to eat my boy, in spite of all the hullaballoo!” And then he laughed like a lion. That was the only time Le Comte entered my life, so as to just why he’d left me with the most intimate details of his mind was beyond me. My mother thought it might be because I was a cripple, and that he pitied me or the fact that I’d studied at Oxford, which meant I wasn’t a total dope. But then she added more certainly that it was most likely due to the fact that he simply didn’t trust anybody else in the family.
I spent a great deal of last year at his summer estate. I would arrive in the morning by carriage, have a cup of tea and open at random one of the hundreds of dusty journals. They occupied the study like learned poltergeists, perching, hanging, veering. They were of the most ornate appearance. Not only were they firmly bound, and self-published, but they were composed in illuminated script. If my brief stint in graphology taught me anything, it was that Le Comte’s penmanship was fascinatingly deft, and his swooping j’s and well proportioned w’s were trademarks of both ostentatiousness and temperance. To find both in a single stroke of the pen was rare. At first I didn’t read them, I couldn’t, they were too alien. I will explain this otherness shortly. Instead, I held them. I picked them up and set them down. I ran my forefinger along their spines and turned their pages. This was what my late uncle would have referred to as a metaphysical exercise in psychometry.
Because I couldn’t actually extract a single notion of what any of the journals meant I considered discontinuing the project altogether. It wasn’t until I threw a journal on the ground out of frustration and it landed in front of the study’s mirror that I realized portions of the composition had been done in reverse. This would have been a relatively easy thing to spot initially, but was made unidentifiable because sentences had been written in a hybrids of Greek, French, Arabic, Italian, Chinese, Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs and even another unidentifiable language (consisting of variegated patterns of dots and wavy lines). Upon closer inspection I discovered even single words were in some cases, portmanteaus of these languages. It was a sort of etymological poetry. Each sentence, since written backwards, would only be clear when seen through the looking glass. In order for the next word to be what followed the previous, I had to start reading at the end of the journal and go from right to left and bottom to top until I got to the beginning of the journal, which was its natural end.
Three journals proved modestly revealing, and from them I managed to cobble together partial strands of coherence, a semblance of what may have been intended amidst all the pages of all the journals. What I gathered from the first journal were two items of note: a spat of Arabic poetry that described the universe as we know it, and a Chinese description of the phenomenon of moving objects with your mind. The first was composed in the vein of Sufic poetry and it read, roughly translated, the inhalation of / god, the second was the Chinese character for wind beside the character for hand, which roughly translated meant, hand of the wind, or more precisely, hand on the wind.
The second journal remained impenetrable. Filled primarily with that otherly langauge consisting of differently spaced dots and multi-directed wavy lines, the only discernible characters were sporadic hieroglyphs mixed with cuneiform. I wrote out a few of those otherly characters from the second journal, if only to feel an alien set of letters upon my hand. However, there was one extractible datum from the second journal. An inscription written upon the base of its frontispiece, which read: Hic eft draco caudam fuam devorans, which was Latin for ‘the dragon devours his tail’. It was below a picture of the same, set in front of a crumbled wall, and a dirt road, in some quaint middle-age village.
The third journal I was able to have some success with as most of it had been composed in English. It consisted primarily of a collection of alchemical aphorisms, for example, “the androgen seeks fire by reunification” and philosophical axioms such as, “every action is accounted for, every thought an action”. Romantic epithets also peppered its pages, “give not that which you do not have to give, lest you lose yourself”, contrarily followed by, “give of thyself, until there is nothing more”. Most of this seemed trivial, if perhaps arcane, and yet all of which, apparently moved its author to some degree. Despite these kernels of extraction, the only part I really understood clearly in the third journal was a quote by a philosopher I’d never heard of and amidst all my scholarly research, declare does not exist, a man named Ludwig Wittgenstein, from a book called, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which employed seven groups of aphorisms. The seventh of which was a single line, most memorable and instructive, which was, “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, daruber muss man schweigen.” (Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent). From there I endeavored to go no further.