The following is a Gaslight etext....

A message to you about copyright and permissions

(L'Affichage celeste)

by Villiers de L'Isle-Adam

from Contes Cruels (1883, 1927 ed.)

Translated by Hamish Miles

                                 Erstis sicut Dii. 
                                    OLD TESTAMENT.  

   A strange thing — one that could raise a smile at a  
financier's: our subject is Heaven!  But make no mistake; 
it is heaven considered from an industrial and serious point
of view.  

   At the present day certain historic happenings have been 
scientifically verified and explained (or practically so):
the Labarum of Constantine, for instance, and crosses cast
upon the clouds by plains of snow, and the phenomena of
refraction on the Brocken, and certain effects of mirage in
northern countries.  

  These have engaged in a singular degree the mind of a
learned engineer from the south, M. Grave, and have, so to
speak, incited his emulation, with the result that a few
years ago he conceived the luminous project of utilizing the
vast expanses of the night — in a word, of raising the 
heavens to the level of our epoch.  

   And what indeed is the good of these azure vaults,
useless save to provide a feast for the unhealthy
imaginations of the last lingering daydreamers?  Would it
not earn a legitimate claim to public gratitude, and, let us
say it (why not?), to the admiration of posterity, if these
sterile spaces were converted into really and fruitfully
instructive spectacles, if these immense Saharas were made
of some value, if these boundless and transparent tundras
could in the end be brought to yield some dividend?

   We are not concerned here with sentiment.  Business is 
business.  We are taking the opportunity of calling on the 
support, and if need be the energy, of serious people,
directed towards the value and the pecuniary results of the
unexpected discovery which we have just mentioned.  

   At first sight the root of the matter seems to border on
the impossible, almost on the insane.  To clear up the
azure, to quote rates on the stars, to exploit the two
twilights, to organize nightfall, to make the firmament
profitable until the return of the unproductive
daylight — what a dream!  What thorny struggles!  How it
bristles with difficulties!  But what problems are there to
which Man, strong in the spirit of progress, could not
contrive to find the solution? 

   Full of this idea, and convinced that if Franklin,
Benjamin Franklin, the printer, had snatched down the
thunder-bolt from the heavens, it should a fortiori be
possible to utilize this to humanitarian ends, M. Grave
studied and travelled, compared and expended and hammered,
and in the end perfected those enormous lenses and gigantic
reflectors of the American engineers, notably the
contrivances of Philadelphia and Quebec (which have fallen,
for lack of a tenacious genius, into the domain of Cant and
Puff).  Whereupon M. Grave proposes (furnished with
provisional patents) to offer forthwith to our great
manufacturing industries, and even to small businesses, the
assistance of an absolute Publicity.  

   Against this system of universal popular information, all
competition would be impossible.  Let anyone imagine,
indeed, some of our great commercial centres, Lyons,
Bordeaux, and the like, with their restless populations, at
the hour of nightfall.  Here one sees that movement, that
liveliness, that extraordinary animation which nowadays can
only be given to serious towns by financial interests. 
Suddenly powerful bursts of magnesium or electric light,
magnified one hundred thousand times, start from the summit
of some flowery hillock, the paradise of young couples — some
hill, for instance, like our own beloved Montmartre; and
these luminous beams, maintained by immense multicoloured 
reflectors, shoot violently into the depths of the heavens,
between Sirius and Aldebaran, in the eye of the Bull, if not
even into the midst of the Pleiades, the charming image of 
that young adolescent holding a scarf whereon we read, with 
renewed delight every day, these splendid words: 

                      DOES NOT PROVE 

   Can one adequately picture the different expressions then
assumed by all these heads in the crowd, the illumination,
the bravos, the care-free gaiety? 

   After the first movement of very pardonable surprise, 
foes of long standing will embrace, the bitterest domestic 
feuds will be forgotten, people will sit down under the 
vine-arbour, the better to relish this spectacle, at once so
magnificent and so instructive; and the name of M. Grave,
borne upward upon the wings of the breeze, will take its
flight into Immortality.  

   The briefest reflection will be enough to allow anyone to
conceive the results of this ingenious invention. — There 
would be something astounding (would there not?) to the 
Great Bear herself, if suddenly, between her sublime paws, 
there burst forth this disturbing announcement: 

                      DO YOU NEED CORSETS? 
                         YES  —  OR NO? 

   Or better still: it would surely be a spectacle fit to
alarm the weak-spirited and to stir the attention of the
clergy, if there should appear on the very disc of our own
satellite, on the rotund countenance of the moon, that
marvellous dry-point which we have all admired on the
boulevards, inscribed "A l'Hirsute!"  What a stroke of
genius if, on one of the segments drawn between the v of
the Sculptor's constellation, one could at last read: 

                  VENUS  —  KAULLA REPRODUCTION! 

   What would be one's emotion if, in connection with one of
these after-dinner liqueurs whose use is recommended under 
a variety of titles, one perceived, in the south of Regulus,
the capital of the Lion, on the very top of the Virgin's
ear, an Angel holding a bottle in one hand, while a strip of
paper issued from the mouth with the words: 
                       JOVE!  IT'S GOOD! 

   In short, it can readily be appreciated that we have to
deal here with an unprecedented enterprise in advertising,
one with limitless responsibility, and infinite material. 
(The government could even guarantee it, for the first time
in its life!) 

   It would be idle to dwell upon the truly eminent services
which such a discovery is called upon to render to society
and to Progress.  Imagine for instance photography upon
glass slides and the process of the magic lantern applied in
this fashion — that is to say, with magnification of
100,000 — for the capture of absconding bankers, or that of
notorious criminals!  Why, the wrongdoer, henceforth easy to
trace, could not so much as put his nose out of his carriage
window without seeing his own features denouncing him across
the clouds.  

   And in politics!  In the business of elections, for
example!  What preponderance!  What supremacy!  What an
incredible simplification in the methods of propaganda,
always so burdensome! — No more of those little papers, blue,
yellow, or tricolour, which spoil the walls and
everlastingly report to us the selfsame name, like something
singing endlessly in one's ears!  No more of those expensive
photographs (faulty, more often than not), which miss their
aim; which fail to excite, that is to say, any sympathy at
all among the electors, whether from the charm of the
features of the candidates, or from the majestic air of the
whole.  For in politics, when all is said and done, the true
worth of a man is dangerous, harmful, and subsidiary: the
essential thing is that he should have a "dignified" air in
the eyes of his electors.  

   Suppose that at the last election, for example, the
medallions of M.B — and M.A —  [footnote: The gentlemen of
whom the author seems to speak died while we were putting
his story through the press. — Publisher] had appeared every
evening, as large as life, exactly beneath the star beta of
Lyra. — That was just their place, it will be agreed, since
these gentlemen in their time bestrode Pegasus, if report is
to be credited.  Both would have been exhibited there,
during the evening preceding the poll, both faintly smiling,
their foreheads veiled by a fitting inquietude, but none the
less with an air of assurance.  With the aid of a little
wheel, the magic-lantern process could even modify at any
moment the expression of the two physiognomies.  It would
have been possible to make them smile at the Future, shed
tears for our disappointments, open the mouth, wrinkle the
brow, swell the nostrils in anger, assume an air of
dignity — do everything in fact which appertains to the
public platform and adds so much value to thought in a true
orator.  Every elector would have made his choice, would
have been enabled, in fact, to have a clear view beforehand,
would have conceived some idea of what his deputy was like,
and would not, as they say, have merely bought a pig in a
poke.  Indeed, one can affirm that without M. Grave's
discovery universal suffrage is simply a farce.  

   Let us look forward, then, to the dawn, or better, the  
evenings, when M. Grave, supported by the assistance of an  
enlightened government, will begin his important
experiments.  The sceptics will have all the cards in their
hands between now and then: just as in the days when M. de
Lesseps was talking of linking the Oceans (which he has
done, despite the sceptics).  Here, as then, Science will
have the last word, and M. Grave will have the laugh. 
Thanks to him, the Heavens will at last be good for
something, and end indeed by acquiring an intrinsic value.  

(Prepared by Laurence Roberts)