Hello Guy,
That's good question.  Following Polly Duryea, I discussed it as one of Cather's self-illustrated stories, and the humanoid skull in the lower portions of her illustration link the story backward to Elihu Vedder's  illustrated edition of Edward FitzGerald's Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám  (Cather's graduation gift to Louise Pound) and to her own illustrations to "Peter" in the previous month's Hesperian.  That essay was in Merrill Skaggs's New Glimpses, Revisions collection:

The impressive illustrations for Cather’s "A Tale of the White Pyramid" appear in the Hesperian's Christmas 1892 issue. This time the wispy lines accompany an Egyptian sphinx.  Under the sphinx are the eye sockets of what appears to be a massive, compressed humanoid skull. In the corresponding illustration by Vedder, titled “The Inevitable Fate,” a watchful sphinx “stretch[es] over the remains of Creation [representing] the destructive side of Nature” (See Figure 6, Vedder “Notes”). The tailpiece to Cather’s story foregrounds half of the fabled White Pyramid, dwarfing through perspective the three great pyramids at Giza in mid-center. The smoke or incense emanating from the top of the pyramid recalls the wispy frame of the head and tailpieces of "Peter" published the month before.

See you all soon!


On Fri, Apr 19, 2019 at 3:03 PM Guy Reynolds <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

This is a completely open-ended question – and one which I’m asking in a completely non-prescriptive (but bemused) manner: what do Cather readers make of that 1892 curio, ‘A Tale of the White Pyramid’?



Guy Reynolds


Director, Cather Project

Department of English

337D Andrews Hall

Lincoln, NE 68588-0333

(402) 472-1885

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