Thursday, July 31, 2008



William Hazlitt, On Personal Character:
A self-tormentor is never satisfied, come what will. He always apprehends the worst, and is indefatigable in conjuring up the apparition of danger. He is uneasy at his own good fortune, as it takes from him his favourite topic of repining and complaint. Let him succeed to his heart's content in all that is reasonable or important, yet if there is any one thing (and that he is sure to find out) in which he does not get on, this embitters all the rest. I know an instance. Perhaps it is myself.
Samuel Johnson in his Dictionary defines seeksorrow as "One who contrives to give himself vexation," i.e. self-tormentor, in Greek ἑαυτὸν τιμωρούμενος (heauton timoroumenos).

Baudelaire wrote a poem titled L'Héautontimorouménos that ends with these lines (tr. Francis Scarfe):
I am both the wounded and the knife, both the blow and the cheek, the limbs and the rack, the victim and the torturer.

I am my own heart's vampire, one of the thoroughly abandoned, condemned to eternal laughter, but who can never smile again.

Je suis la plaie et le couteau!
Je suis le soufflet et la joue!
Je suis les membres et la roue,
Et la victime et le bourreau!

Je suis de mon coeur le vampire,
— Un de ces grands abandonnés
Au rire éternel condamnés
Et qui ne peuvent plus sourire!
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