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New at IWP Books: E. M. Forster (1923) Pharos & Pharillon.

The career of Menelaus was a series of small mishaps. It was after he had lost Helen, and indeed after he had recovered her and was returning from Troy, that a breeze arose from the north-west and obliged him to take refuge upon a desert island. It was of limestone, close to the African coast, and to the estuary though not to the exit of the Nile, and it was protected from the Mediterranean by an outer barrier of reefs. Here he remained for twenty days, in no danger, but in high discomfort, for the accommodation was insufficient for the Queen. Helen had been to Egypt ten years before, under the larger guidance of Paris, and she could not but remark that there was nothing to see upon the island and nothing to eat and that its beaches were infested with seals. Action must be taken, Menelaus decided. He sought the sky and sea, and chancing at last to apprehend an old man he addressed to him the following winged word:

“What island is this?”

“Pharaoh’s,” the old man replied.


“Yes, Pharaoh’s, Prouti’s” — Prouti being another title (it occurs in the hieroglyphs) for the Egyptian king.



As soon as Menelaus had got everything wrong, the wind changed and he returned to Greece with news of an island named Pharos whose old man was called Proteus and whose beaches were infested with nymphs. Under such misapprehensions did it enter our geography.