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White dotted with black, Des Esseintes, Ermine

(Added 30 December 2008)

Image: Alternate Ermine Spot Styles, A Dictionary of Heraldry, Stephen Friar, Harmony Books, 1987

As the snow alternately blows, melts and freezes, Leisure Projects is curled up with a good book. Huysmans recommends a drop of spirits to cheer the winter months… for our fellow aesthete recluses during the winter season we recommend ‘Against Nature’ . For more on this leisure standard refer to the Leisure Letters archives, Leisure galleries: Huysmans’ Against Nature.

Des Esseintes sat dreaming of one thing and another. The burning logs piled high in the fire-basket filled the room with hot air, and eventually he got up and opened the window a little way. Like a great canopy of counter-ermine, the sky hung before him, a black curtain spattered with white.

Suddenly an icy wind blew up which drove the dancing snow flakes before it and reversed this arrangement of colours. The sky’s heraldic trappings were turned around to reveal a true ermine, white dotted with black where pinpricks of darkness showed through the curtain of falling snow.

He shut the window again. This quick change, straight from the torrid heat of the room to the biting cold of mid-winter had taken his breath away; and curling up beside the fire again, it occurred to him that a drop of spirits would be the best thing to warm him up.”

‘Against Nature’ A Rebours, Joris-Karl Huysmans. 2003 edition translated by Robert Baldick, with notes and introduction by Patrik McGuinness, p.44-45

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