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The History of Caliph Vathek

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Published: 1787
Language: English
Wordcount: 38,037 / 117 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 62.7
LoC Category: PR
Downloads: 5,325
Added to site: 2005.04.27 10179

A story that paints neither man nor outward nature as they are, but reproduces with happy vivacity the luxuriant imagery and wild incidents of an Arabian tale. There is a ghost of a moral in the story of a sensual Caliph going to the bad, as represented by his final introduction to the Halls of Eblis. But the enjoyment given by the book reflects the real enjoyment that the author had in writing it--enjoyment great enough to cause it to be written at a heat, in one long sitting, without flagging power.

Show Excerpt

a little startled, renewed his inquiries, but without being able to procure a reply; at which, beginning to be ruffled, he exclaimed: "Knowest thou, varlet, who I am? and at whom thou art aiming thy gibes?" Then, addressing his guards, "Have ye heard him speak? is he dumb?"

"He hath spoken," they replied, "though but little."

"Let him speak again, then," said Vathek, "and tell me who he is, from whence he came, and where he procured these singular curiosities, or I swear by the ass of Balaam that I will make him rue his pertinacity."

The menace was accompanied by the Caliph with one of his angry and perilous glances, which the stranger sustained without the slightest emotion, although his eyes were fixed on the terrible eye of the prince.

No words can describe the amazement of the courtiers when they beheld this rude merchant withstand the encounter unshocked. They all fell prostrate with their faces on the ground to avoid the risk of their lives, and continued in the same abject

Reader Reviews

Average Rating of 3.3 from 3 reviews: ****

This book is worth reading if only for the beautiful use of language. As far as the plot - lots of drift and seemingly unrelated tangents but it all ties together at the end.


good gothic story it is highly recommended for all gothic fans.


This gothic novel takes a different turn from most. It's not a story based in a castle in Europe, with ghosts, demons, and vampires . . . this time it's set in Middle East about a Caliphate's descent to hell, almost like Dante's Inferno without the happy ending. A wonderful read.



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