Red Death

The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal—the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

When the first lockdown started here in the UK, one of the things that I did was go to read Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death. I can’t say why I did that, exactly. But there’s a definite sense that I have that when I’m in a bad situation, I want to engage with art that reflects that.

Admittedly, my tastes are somewhat dark. And I have two copies of Tales of Mystery and Imagination on my bookshelf, one illustrated by Arthur Rackham, the other by Harry Clarke.

There’s a sense of inevitable doom in the story that appeals to me, particularly when we’re in similar situation. I guess there’s a feeling of recognition and familiarity that comes from reading it. And perhaps without things like that I’d feel more isolated.