The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16, 1834, by Joseph Mallord William Turner, c. 1835. © The Philadelphia Museum of Art / Art Resource.


Volume IX, Number 2 | spring 2016


Astrologers of the Ayyubid Empire predicted in 1186 that the world would end September 16 of that year; a dust storm, stirred up by planetary alignment, would scour the earth of life. Sultan Saladin criticized the “feeble minds” of believers and planned an open-air, candlelit party for that evening. “We never saw a night as calm as that,” an attendee later remarked.

Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.

—Ambrose Bierce, 1906