The Cockatrice According to STC

"The Cockatrice is a foul dragon with a crown on its head. The Eastern nations believe it to be hatched by a viper on a cock's egg.... The cockatrice is emblematic of monarchy, a monster generated by ingratitude or absurdity." -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge in a letter to Robert Southey July 6, 1794. STC, aged 22, was walking in Wales at the time.

Jane Austen Wrote His Epitaph

 From The Guardian:              
from Northanger Abbey
“Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?”
They had reached the end of the gallery, and with tears of shame she ran off to her own room.

I first read this passage in 1965 at the age of 17 and it made a great impression on me. The heroine’s unruly imagination is suddenly tethered by this vigorous remonstration from General Tilney. What’s striking is that in the very early 19th century, before the railways had transformed the country, long before the telegraph, the General evokes a society that is intricately connected, where no one can hide from public scrutiny when a network of communications and media can “lay everything open”. No place here for wild and foolish imaginings. Perhaps this is the very essence of the condition of modernity – always to believe one has arrived in one’s time at the summit of the modern.

Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey profoundly influenced my novel Atonement. General Tilney’s resounding words form the epigraph.
Ewan McEwan explains an arresting speech from Jane Austen.

Election Day 1992

Caerphilly, South Wales

My late wife Allie and our family car were pressed in to service to help get every vote out.

Allie and I were to collect Labour voters and take them to the polling station.

One woman told us that she wanted to vote but had to wait for her husband who expected to have his tea on the table on arrival from work. He would be displeased if he got home to find she wasn't there.

Allie assured her that we'd get her back before he arrived. It would only take a minute.

The voter beamed. She and her kids piled in and off we shot.

After the deed had been done the delighted voter and kids were then taken back home. It had been fun for them.

A hungry and disgruntled husband was waiting on the doorstep. We hadn't been quick enough.