May The Fourth Be With You

James Branch Cabell

Today, May 4, is are Anti-Bullying Day, No Pants Day, Space Day, and Star Wars Day. Tomorrow, May 5, is the Feast of James Branch Cabell, who died May 5, 1958, in Richmond, Virginia.

Cabell is best known for his fantasy novel, Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice. The book gained fame and/or notoriety shortly after its publication in 1919, telling the story of  of a medieval pawnbroker and would-be poet who journeys to the past and translates his otherworldly encounters into verse. Documenting the American South comments, “Cabell’s reader is left in the unsettling position of questioning whether the novel’s narrated events have actually transpired or if the poet-hero has merely dreamed it all.”

Reviewing Jurgen for the Fantasy Literature website, Dr. Kat Hooper notes, “…according to Cabell and his publisher, complaints about the recurrent references to Jurgen’s big staff, majestic scepter, upright lance, and amazing sword (which seem to meet a lot of veils, sheaths, clefts, and other dark places along the way) prove only that Cabell’s detractors have dirty minds.”

In an essay for the July 1923 issue of The Reviewer, Aleister Crowley said of Cabell:

One perceives that Cabell has outwitted the Lords of Illusion: the ideas derived from our impressions are as objective to him as the apparent external causes of those impressions. He gives us a direct presentation of the substance of the Universe as a spiritual reality. … There is no veil between the so-called material world and that of pure Romance of Idea. The most solid human being may at any moment find himself in touch with some personified Theorem of Philosophy: one plane interpenetrates and influences the other without interfering with it or challenging its claim to existence. Thus we are shown, exactly as in our own experience, the continuity of Nature. Our dreams and our desires are, on the one hand, symbols of our “actual” life determined (as to form) by the contents of our intellectual storehouse; on the other, they are graphic glyphs of the true self which lurks behind normal consciousness. … No writer previous to Cabell has made this manifest; and his demonstration is only the more convincing for the admirably artistic form of his expression.

In honor of James Branch Cabell’s life in Henrico County, Virginia, enjoy this recipe for no-bake cookies called Henrico County Fudgies.

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