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Dark Lady of the Sonnets

saying is, much as Shakespear immortalized Mr W. H., as he said he would,
simply by writing about him.
Let me tell the story formally.
Thomas Tyler
Throughout the eighties at least, and probably for some years before, the British
Museum reading room was used daily by a gentleman of such astonishing and
crushing ugliness that no one who had once seen him could ever thereafter
forget him. He was of fair complexion, rather golden red than sandy; aged
between forty-five and sixty; and dressed in frock coat and tall hat of presentable
but never new appearance. His figure was rectangular, waistless, neckless,
ankleless, of middle height, looking shortish because, though he was not
particularly stout, there was nothing slender about him. His ugliness was not
unamiable; it was accidental, external, excrescential. Attached to his face from
the left ear to the point of his chin was a monstrous goitre, which hung down to
his collar bone, and was very inadequately balanced by a smaller one on his right
eyelid. Nature's malice was so overdone in his case that it somehow failed to
produce the effect of repulsion it seemed to have aimed at. When you first met
Thomas Tyler you could think of nothing else but whether surgery could really do
nothing for him. But after a very brief acquaintance you never thought of his
disfigurements at all, and talked to him as you might to Romeo or Lovelace; only,
so many people, especially women, would not risk the preliminary ordeal, that he
remained a man apart and a bachelor all his days. I am not to be frightened or
prejudiced by a tumor; and I struck up a cordial acquaintance with him, in the
course of which he kept me pretty closely on the track of his work at the
Museum, in which I was then, like himself, a daily reader.
He was by profession a man of letters of an uncommercial kind. He was a
specialist in pessimism; had made a translation of Ecclesiastes of which eight
copies a year were sold; and followed up the pessimism of Shakespear and Swift
with keen interest. He delighted in a hideous conception which he called the
theory of the cycles, according to which the history of mankind and the universe
keeps eternally repeating itself without the slightest variation throughout all
eternity; so that he had lived and died and had his goitre before and would live
and die and have it again and again and again. He liked to believe that nothing
that happened to him was completely novel: he was persuaded that he often had
some recollection of its previous occurrence in the last cycle. He hunted out
allusions to this favorite theory in his three favorite pessimists. He tried his hand
occasionally at deciphering ancient inscriptions, reading them as people seem to
read the stars, by discovering bears and bulls and swords and goats where, as it
seems to me, no sane human being can see anything but stars higgledy-
piggledy. Next to the translation of Ecclesiastes, his magnum opus was his work
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