Brief Candles

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First edition cover (Chatto & Windus)

Brief Candles (1930), Aldous Huxley's fifth collection of short fiction, consists of the following four short stories:

  • "Chawdron"
  • "The Rest Cure"
  • "The Claxtons"
  • "After the Fireworks"

Brief Candles takes its title from a line in William Shakespeare's Macbeth, from Macbeth's famous soliloquy: "Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

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Brief Candle was also the title of a verse play by Laurence Binyon published in 1938 but first performed in 1931 and written, according to Binyon in the Preface to the Golden Cockerel Press edition of the play, 12 years earlier. Binyon's play was a reconsideration of a portion of the story told by Shakespeare in Richard III with greater emphasis on the influence of Richard's mother on her son's actions. In Binyon's play the "brief candles", lit by his mother, the Duchess of York, and extinguished by Richard, are two actual candles symbolic of his two young nephews, soon to be killed.

Brief Candles is also the title of a fantasy novel written by Manning Coles.

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