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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 388

Aegypt, the first in Crowley's four novel sequence, is a book about history, or more accurately, histories. In it, Piece Moffett, a troubled historian, forsakes his position at Barnabas College in New York to resettle in bucolic Blackberry Jambs where he plans to write a history. In the process, Moffett...

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Aegypt, the first in Crowley's four novel sequence, is a book about history, or more accurately, histories. In it, Piece Moffett, a troubled historian, forsakes his position at Barnabas College in New York to resettle in bucolic Blackberry Jambs where he plans to write a history. In the process, Moffett comes to learn much, including that the standard story of human life is not necessarily the only story, that there may indeed be many histories. Once again, Crowley employs Frances Yates's The Art of Memory as a source in his theme of memory in the novel, a theme which investigates the connection between history and memory. As in Little, Big, Crowley demonstrates in Aegypt that the stories that make up individual lives are much like small Chinese boxes nested in larger ones.

Of the many histories of this world, Moffett postulates a secret one, a history in which magic dominates over science, in which astrology holds a valid predictive value, and in which the old world view of the great chain of being and the harmony of the spheres still operates. Gypsies, he believes, serve as a paradigm for this secret history. Questioned why they are reputed to be so adept at telling fortunes, Moffett postulates a home for the Gypsies, Aegypt, a country whose natives possessed magical skills. Sometime in the past, the country Aegypt ceased to exist; all that remains of that mysterious land are the descendants of the former inhabitants, gypsies, possessing the magical skills in sadly decaying form. Moffett believes that like the gypsies, bits of an older science — sometimes seen in the form of astrology and superstitions — persist to this day, even after being superseded by modern science.

In addition to these considerations of history, science, and memory, Crowley introduces a pastoral theme. Moffett forsakes the city and a failed romance for the country and the possibilities for spiritual as well as romantic renewal. His guide to the country, a former student named Spofford, lives in a rustic cabin and tends a flock of sheep, serving in this way as a foil to the citified Moffett and an evocation of the pastoral ideal. In addition, a large portion of the novel is set at Boney Rasmussen's country house, Arcady, a reference, of course, to the classical region and reputed home of pastoral simplicity.

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