The Difference Dictonary

Pandaemonium: The Coming of the Machine as Seen by Contemporary Observers, 1660-1886 - A remarkable book by Humphrey Jennings, a painter and poet who was on the organizing committee of the International Surrealist Exhibition in London in 1936.The book is a collage of texts from the works of Milton, Pepys, Carlyle and others, and from the letters and writings of factory workers, farm laborers, amateur scientists, inventors, people from all walks of life. Of it, the renowned anthropologist Jacob Bronowski has said, "It gives a sulphurous, splendid furnace picture of the greatest days of industry – their poverty and their exhaltation, the garish flames and the sense of creation, the squalor and the confidence and the powerful sense of self-sufficiency, the sense of a new culture which did not give a damn for anyone else and for anything that had happened before."
Culture shock in Victorian England

Pandemonium - In Milton's Paradise Lost, the dwelling place of all demons, the capital of Hell.

Pantisocracy - A Utopian plan devised by Coleridge and Southey in 1794-5 to set up an egalitarian commune of six families, based as a joint-stock farm, in New England, "on the banks of the Susquehanna" (which is a river in Pennsylvania).

Pathetic fallacy - A term coined by John Ruskin to deplore the tendency of certain writers and artists to ascribe human emotions and sympathies to nature, a technique used extensively in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by Wordsworth, Shelley, and other Romantic writers to indicate a feeling of oneness with Nature and a sense of the unity of creation.
John Ruskin: An Overview
Professor Landow's discussion of Ruskin's discussion of the pathetic fallacy

A pepperbox.Pepperbox - A firearm with a cluster of barrels, often a revolver, each barrel of which fires separately. Also, some weapons with fixed barrels and rotating hammers.

A peyote cactusPeyote - A small grey-green cactus, brown when dried, that has been harvested by certain Indians of Mexico for hundreds of years and used in religious ceremonies for its pyschoactive properties. In the latter part of the 19th century, it became known to Indians living much further north, in the United States, and a cult grew up there around its use.
Havelock Ellis eats mescal, 1898.

A Philosophical View of Reform - An unfinished political essay by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Written in 1820, it describes oppressive conditions in Britain at that time, and proposes specific legal and parliamentary reforms. Although advocating non-violent protest, it proposes insurrection as a last resort.
Shelley's complete poetical works.

Pinkerton's National Detective Agency - One of the first private detective agencies in the world, established in the United States early in the 1850s by Allan Pinkerton (1819-1884), a Scottish emigre. Its agents operated nationally and even occasionally worldwide. During the Civil War, its agents were used as a counter-spy and secret service agency under General McClellan. Pinkerton's was the first American agency to maintain centralized criminal records, starting in 1897. (These were "turned over to the FBI" in 1924.) Its brutal anti-union operations on behalf of railroad and mine owners were notorious well into the 20th century, and it was employed by the Spanish government before (and possibly during) the Spanish-American War. It is now best-known as a private guard service.

Pneumatic dispatch - A system of transporting written dispatches through tubes, by means of compressed air or a partial vacuum. Introduced in London in 1853, a system for the transmission of telegraph messages was set up by the British post office and extended around London and in large provincial towns. At one time, pneumatic dispatch tubes were widely used in many countries for both telegraphic and postal messages. They are still used in some automated bank machines (and occasionally in elderly libraries).

The Poor Law of 1834 - A law aimed at making the actual relief more unpleasant than the most unpleasant means of making a living.
Housing the London Poor

Positivism - A philosophical movement that spread throughout the Western world in the latter half of the 19th century. It holds science to be the only valid source of knowledge, and philosophy to be rightfully the search for general principles common to all sciences. Evolutionary positivism, stemming from the work of geologist Charles Lyell and the theory of biological evolution, held that there was a natural, necessary process of progress in the entire universe, beginning with the formation of the cosmos and culminating in human history.

Potash - Potassium hydroxide, used occasionally as a caustic. Poisoning causes violent pain in the throat, vomiting, and possibly fatal collapse or constriction of the esophagus.

Winthrop Macworth Praed (1802-1839) - Composer of humorous verse and elegant light satiric verse. He was a barrister and member of Parliament, appointed secretary to the Board of Control in 1834.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood - A group of English artists, poets, and critics, led by John Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and W. Holman Hunt. Formed in 1848, it dissolved as a brotherhood in the 1850s, but its influence extended much later, through aestheticism and into art nouveau, and emerged again in the 1960s. Some of its most striking paintings were inspired by poetry, that of Keats among others. The Pre-Raphaelites saw themselves as revolting against the ugliness of modern life and dress, as well as against the 19th century painters of the Royal Academy.
William Holman Hunt
Sir John Everett Millais
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The Rossetti Archive

Prince Albert (1819-1861) - Queen Victoria's husband, prince of Saxe-Coburg Gotha, was passionately interested in science. Said Benjamin Disraeli: "This German prince has served England for 21 years with a wisdom and energy such as none of our kings have shown." His work for education, art and science was important; he freed the British monarchy from the party allegiances that had hitherto been accepted, paving the way for a constitutional model in which there was a role for both the government and the Loyal Opposition.
Victoria and Albert

Bryan Waller Procter (1787-1874) - Writing under the pseudonym of Barry Cornwall, Procter was a popular writer of songs and lyrics in the early part of the 19th Century. Keats and Shelley disparaged his work. A solicitor and barrister in London, he was made a commissioner on lunacy.

Protoceratops - An early, horned dinosaur. Skeletons of adults and young and whole nests of eggs were collected by Drs. W. Granger and W.K. Gregory in Mongolia in 1922.

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The Difference Dictionary was first published
in slightly different form in Science Fiction Eye, Issue #8.
Text copyright 1990, 1996, 2000, 2003,
by Eileen K. Gunn.

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