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MORTADELLO


 

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Title:

Mortadello or The Angel of Venice.  A Comedy.

   

Upper Cover: State (c)

 

Lower Cover: State (c)

 

Spine: State (c)

 

Interior Cover: State (c)

 

Top Edge Gilt: State (c)

 

Title Page: State (c)

 

Works of A.C. Catalog: State (c)

 

Equinox Ad: State (c)

 

 

Print
Variations
:

State (a):

Bound in a cream cover.1

Upper cover stamped in gilt with title and the lion of St. Mark.1

Spine stamped vertically, down the spine with title and author.1

Title page has Barabbas and Company, London, MCMXII.1

This is said to be a proof or trial issue and only Crowley's personal copy is known to exist.1

State (b):

Six copies printed.1

Bound in gray cloth.1

Trimmed to 210 mm x 167 mm.1

Two title pages Wieland and Company, London, MCMXII’ and ‘Barabbas and Company, London, MCMXII. 1

______________________________

 

One of these copies with an inscription by Crowley to Dennis Wheatley was auctioned by Sothebys on 7 December 2006.3

State (c):

Printed on laid paper.2
Top edges cut and gilt.2
Bound in white buckram.2
Upper cover stamped in gilt ‘MORTADELLO’ within a rectangular ornamental frame that connects to oval ornamental frame below that encircles an illustration of a haloed gryphon with a book.2
Spine lettered in gilt vertically up the spine ‘MORTADELLO — ALEISTER CROWLEY’2
8 11/16” x 7 1/8”.2

______________________________

 

A variant of this state with the upper cover and spine devoid of any stamping or embossing and inscribed by Crowley to Louis Umfreville Wilkinson can be found in the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin, Texas. (Call number - PR 6005 R7 M6 1912).

State (d):

Pages trimmed.1
Bound in plain red or black covers.
1

Top edge gilt.1

Spine lettered up the spine with title and author.1
Bound without Advertisements on pages 111-122.
1
This variation may date from the 1930's or 40's when Crowley was trying to promote a production of the play.
1

 
Publisher: Wieland and Co. / Barabbas and Company.1, 4  
Printer:    
Published At: London.4  
Date: 1912.4  
Edition: 1st Edition.  
Pages:

xvi + 122 for States (a) and (b) but with an addition of an extra title page.1

xvi + 122 for State (c).2

xvi + 110 for State (d).1

 
Price:

Priced at 10 shillings.5

 
Remarks:

Act I dedicated to Kaby Mohammed.

Act II dedicated to Eleanore de Carme-Filleul.

Act III dedicated to Victor Benjamin Neuburg.

Act IV dedicated to Mary d'Este.

Act V dedicated to Ida Nelidoff. 

 

Pagination:

State (a)1, 2

Page(s)  
[  i] Half title
[  ii] Blank
[  iii] Title page ‘Barabbas and Company’
[  iv] Blank
[v-ix] Preface
[  x] Blank
[  xi] Fly-title
[  xii] Blank
[  xiii] Contents
[  xiv] Dedication
[  xv] Persons of the play
[  xvi] Description of the characters
[1-105] Text
[106] Blank
[107-110] A note on the Alexandrine
[111-122] Advertisements ‘The Works of Mr. Aleister Crowley’
 

Pagination:

State (b)1, 2

With an additional title page of  ‘Barabbas and Company’ bound in.

Page(s)  
[  i] Half title
[  ii] Blank
[  iii] Title page ‘Wieland and Company’
[  iv] Blank
[v-ix] Preface
[  x] Blank
[  xi] Fly-title
[  xii] Blank
[  xiii] Contents
[  xiv] Dedication
[  xv] Persons of the play
[  xvi] Description of the characters
[1-105] Text
[106] Blank
[107-110] A note on the Alexandrine
[111-122] Advertisements ‘The Works of Mr. Aleister Crowley’
 

Pagination:

State (c)1, 2

Page(s)  
[  i] Half title
[  ii] Blank
[  iii] Title page
[  iv] Blank
[v-ix] Preface
[  x] Blank
[  xi] Fly-title
[  xii] Blank
[  xiii] Contents
[  xiv] Dedication
[  xv] Persons of the play
[  xvi] Description of the characters
[1-105] Text
[106] Blank
[107-110] A note on the Alexandrine
[111-122] Advertisements ‘The Works of Mr. Aleister Crowley’
 

Pagination:

State (d)1, 2

 

Page(s)  
[  i] Half title
[  ii] Blank
[  iii] Title page
[  iv] Blank
[v-ix] Preface
[  x] Blank
[  xi] Fly-title
[  xii] Blank
[  xiii] Contents
[  xiv] Dedication
[  xv] Persons of the play
[  xvi] Description of the characters
[1-105] Text
[106] Blank
[107-110] A note on the Alexandrine
 
Contents:

- Preface
- Mortadello
- A note on the Alexandrine 

 

Author’s
Working
Versions:

1. Bound holograph manuscript with revisions in the hand of Aleister Crowley.  Pages:  217.  Dated:  1912.  Box 12, Folder 4.  Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX.
2. Manuscript.  Synopsis.  Warburg Institute Collection.
3. Typescript.  Synopsis.  Pages: 15.  Warburg Institute Collection.
 

Other
Known
Editions:

+ Magick Theater, California, 1988.
+ Mandrake Press, England, 1992.
 
Bibliographic
Sources:
1.

J. Edward Cornelius, The Aleister Crowley Desk Reference, The Teitan Press, York Beach, Maine, 2013, p. 221, note 160.

2. Dianne Frances Rivers, A Bibliographic List with Special Reference To the Collection at the University of Texas,  Master of Arts Thesis, The University of Texas, Austin, Texas, 1967, pp. 101-102. 
3. Sothebys, auction archive web page, last accessed on 27 September 2015.
4. Gerald J. Yorke, Bibliography of the Works of Aleister Crowley in John Symonds The Great Beast, Rider and Co., London & New York, 1951, p. 305.
5. Aleister Crowley, The Equinox, Volume I, No. 10, Wieland and Co., London, September 1913, [advertisements bound in back of volume].
 

Comments by
Aleister
Crowley:

     Later in the summer, I set to work on a really large idea, a play of Old Venice in five acts. I kept my two main principles of composition; the use of colour and form to distinguish my characters and compose a visible symphony.

MORTADELLO

The Doge has white hair, and is seventy years of age.
Mortadello has hair died dark auburn, and forty years of age. He is stout, tall and pompous.
Alessandro has rough hair of fiery red and is thirty years of age.
Lorenzo has scanty ashen hair, and is twenty-eight years of age.
Gabriele is a hunchbacked dwarf, very strongly built, with a large and intellectual head. He is bald, and is fifty years of age.
Orlando is of a gigantic stature, a full Negro. He is forty years of age.
The Legate is an old and venerable man of ascetic and noble type.
Magdalena is a tall, robust and buxom woman of thirty-five years old.
Her hair is black, but her complexion pale.
Lucrezia is a tall, robust and buxom woman of thirty-five years old.
Her hair is of fine gold, her eyes of pale blue and her complexion fair and rosy.
Zelina is small and plump. her hair is brown, and her age nine and twenty, though she looks older.
Monica is of medium height, very thin and serpent-like, her hair black and crisp; her features like Madonna’s. Her eyes are extraordinarily black, keen and piercing. Her age is twenty. Her hands and feet are very small and white, her complexion like fine porcelain.
The Abbess is a gigantic and burly woman of fifty years old.
     — The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.  New York, NY.  Hill and Wang, 1969.  Pages 669-670.

 
Reviews:

     “Mortadello” is Mr. Crowley’s thirty-third book (not counting his “Collected Works,” in three volumes). and yet it is an amazingly juvenile performance.  I gather, from the fatuously facetious “Preface,” that the author, himself, regards the thing as a mere lark but, at its giddiest, it is a dull, stupid, dreary affair.  The stale situations, the childish “comedy,” and the puerile grossness, are incredibly school-boyish; though the verse in which the play is written is damnably accomplished.  Mr. Crowley manipulates his medium with a deadly dexterity.  He works the Alexandrine for all it is worth; and gets unexpected amusement out of it by the skilful surprise of unexpected internal rhymes.  He is a master of metrical artifice.  Possibly, I may be taking a hoax to seriously; but it seems to me a thousand pities that so much talent should be wasted on such wormy material, when the fresh stuff of poetry is ever ready to the poet’s hand.  So few poems have been written as yet; there are so many to be written; and men were never more in need of the poet’s interpretation of the world about them than at the present day: so much passion, so much wonder, so much humour, are waiting for expression: and here is Mr. Crowley with boyish glee rehashing stale tales of fornicators and strumpets in ancient Venice!  He is a clever cook; but we are sick of such concoctions. The would-be-dog-of-a-bard is the dullest of bores; and smutty stories, tricked out in fancy dress for the furtive delectation of hobbledehoys, are the cheapest and nastiest kind of entertainment.  Mr. Crowley certainly carries the thing off with a swagger: but the man who plays the fool with his instrument must always pay the penalty; and this work should damage the author’s reputation in the minds of grown men.  But before I shut the book, I must, in fairness to Mr. Crowley, quote something of his own apology which he prints in his witless “Preface”: and so give the author the last word.
     He writes:  “This comedy is perhaps my first serious attempt at a work of art; previous lucubrations of mine having been either works of necessity or of piety: that is, or I felt obliged to tell the truth about something, or I was definitely inspired.
     “But the Angel of Venice (I protest) is a very cunning concoction.  I have been revolving certain expositions by M. Henri Davray of Verlaine’s skill in treating the Alexandrine; and I couldn’t let it stay there!  Hence the form.  I had also been meditating on Maeterlinck’s method of obtaining atmosphere: but this went awry.
     “With regard to the matter of my proposed masterpiece, my mind was perfectly clear.
     “It must look like a Monticelli; it must smell like a Musc ambré; it must feel like July and August of 1911 in Paris; and above all it must taste like the Truffes au Champagne of the Cafe Riche.  How it sounded didn’t matter so much. . . .
     “Enough of this disastrous affair.  The play is ruined; if I offer it to the public, it is that they may learn the great moral lesson., not to mix their drinks.”
Rhythm, W.W.G., October 1912.

______________________________
 

     First of all to consider Mr. Crowley, an amazing creature.  He refuses to be taken seriously.  His bloodthirsty, lecherous play he calls a comedy.  It is a riotous farce.  Intoxication—of blood, of words, of hysteria, of lust—takes the place of imagination.  The play is exciting, but most amusing in its invective:

 

          Thou puny, puking patch,

     White-livered, yellow-bellied wittol!

 

     There are at least a hundred lines like that, and au fond, they are the most serious in the play, because the most sincere.  At the beginning of the second act there is a couplet for which I am very grateful.  It is one which all good critics—all writers indeed—should take to heart:

 

     Now then to sound the core of the apple of our plot,

     Sweet as it was before, theres such a thing as rot.

 

      There is; and there has never yet lived a man incapable of writing it, not even Shakespeare's self, or Goethe, or Shelley.  The truth is, I think, that only very little of any man’s work can rank as positive achievement, and it is the business of the critic to sift that little from the “rot.”  There is not a critic with health or leisure enough to perform that office for Mr. Crowley.  He has talent, scores of talents, but, seemingly, no power to use, discipline, or develop them.  It would be splendid to take him seriously, but then—one cannot.  He has abundant humour—a most necessary ingredient in a poet’s composition—but that, too, is untamed.
—the Poetry Review, Gilbert Cannan, September 1912.

______________________________
 

     “Mortadello” is a drama of old Venice.  It displays a similar fearlessness of treatment.  The theme is bitterly cynical, yet there prevails against the cynicism a just appreciation of poetic values.  Mr. Crowley has not shirked the ugliness of his theme.  He had no temptation to do so.  For he holds life cheap as against ideals, even the basest of which is sacred in his eyes.  Let Monica be a raving wanton, so she love Venice and subserve her wantonness to that first object.  The use of the Alexandrine is a pleasant innovation, and one fully justified by results.
—The Literary World, date unknown.

______________________________
 

     “Mortadello” is a much more ambitious experiment.  Dubbed a comedy, it certainly contains dramatic stuff underlying the not very pleasant externals.  It is chock-ful of incident, but one half-suspects that Mr. Crowley was mainly interested in his bold experiments with the Alexandrine.  Mr. Crowley is always clever, and some of these experiments are extraordinarily so.
—The Manchester Guardian, date unknown.

______________________________
 

     A little master piece.
—The
Times, date unknown.

 
       
   

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