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Q: Literature ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Literature
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: mojoejoe-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 30 Apr 2003 20:25 PDT
Expires: 30 May 2003 20:25 PDT
Question ID: 197774
British Horror writers influence on American Horror writers?

Request for Question Clarification by justaskscott-ga on 30 Apr 2003 22:00 PDT
Are you interested in the influence during a particular time period,
or throughout the history of the United States?  What kind of answer
would be acceptable (for instance, a short essay, or links to a
certain number of sources)?

In responding to this request for clarification, you may want to keep
in mind the pricing guidelines at .

Clarification of Question by mojoejoe-ga on 01 May 2003 18:06 PDT
What I'm seeking is an essay of the influence British horror writers
have had on American horror writers. How the have influenced and
impacted the American horrors writers since horror writing began in
America. I have to do a 1500 word report on this topic as my last
assignment in HS. I would like to be able to provide examples of some
famous British horror writers and how they have impacted American
writers throughout the history of horror writing in America. Thanks
for your help.
Subject: Re: Literature
Answered By: hlabadie-ga on 02 May 2003 22:58 PDT
It is impossible to present a comprehensive analysis here of the
influence of Bristish horror writers on their American counterparts:
the field is too broad and the persons too numerous. In some cases,
e.g. Stephen King, the appropriation of material is so catholic and
the commingling so promiscuous that it would require volumes to sort
out the threads of influence. This answer can touch on only the
The seminal survey of the subject is the essay "Supernatural Horror in
Literature" by the American author Howard Phillips (H.P.) Lovecraft.
(Lovercraft, Howard Phillips, Supernatural Horror in Literature,
Dover, New York, reprinted 1973.)

HTML version with links to many works cited by Lovecraft

Supernatural Horror in Literature by H.P. Lovecraft


The earliest influence of British authors on the American horror genre
can be seen in the works of Charles Brockden Brown, in which the
features of Gothic novels (Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, John
Polidori, and  especially Ann Radcliffe q.q.v) are evident.

"Of Mrs. Radcliffe's countless imitators, the American novelist
Charles Brockden Brown stands the closest in spirit and method. Like
her, he injured his creations with natural explanations, but also like
her, he had an uncanny atmospheric power which gives his horrors a
frightful vitality as long as they remain unexplained. He differed
from her in contemptuously discarding the external Gothic
paraphernalia and properties and choosing modern American scenes for
his mysteries; but this repudiation did not extend to the Gothic
spirit and type of incident."(Lovecraft, ibid, pp.28-29)


Charles Brockden Brown Bibliography

The Library of America

Charles Brockden Brown biography pictures portarits books online forum

Wieland, the Transformation


Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

"In this same period Sir Walter Scott frequently concerned himself
with the weird, weaving it into many of his novels and poems, and
sometimes producing such independent bits of narration as The
Tapestried Chamber or Wandering Willie's Tale in Redgauntlet, in the
latter of which the force of the spectral and the diabolic is enhanced
by a grotesque homeliness of speech and atmosphere. In 1830 Scott
published his Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, which still forms
one of our best compendia of European witch-lore. Washington Irving is
another famous figure not unconnected with the weird; for though most
of his ghosts are too whimsical and humorous to form genuinely
spectral literature, a distinct inclination in this direction is to be
noted in many of his productions. The German Student in Tales of a
Traveler (1824) is a slyly concise and effective presentation of the
old legend of the dead bride, whilst woven into the cosmic tissue of
The Money Diggers in the same volume is more than one hint of
piratical apparitions in the realms which Captain Kidd once roamed."
(Lovecraft, ibid.)


"But foremost as a finished, artistic unit among all our author's
weird material is the famous and exquisitely wrought novel, The House
of the Seven Gables, in which the relentless working out of an
ancestral curse is developed with astonishing power against the
sinister background of a very ancient Salem house -- one of those
peaked Gothic affairs which formed the first regular building-up of
our New England coast towns but which gave way after the seventeenth
century to the more familiar gambrel-roofed or classic Georgian types
now known as "Colonial." Of these old gabled Gothic houses scarcely a
dozen are to be seen today in their original condition throughout the
United States, but one well known to Hawthorne still stands in Turner
Street, Salem, and is pointed out with doubtful authority as the scene
and inspiration of the romance. Such an edifice, with its spectral
peaks, its clustered chimneys, its overhanging second story, its
grotesque corner-brackets, and its diamond-paned lattice windows, is
indeed an object well calculated to evoke sombre reflections;
typifying as it does the dark Puritan age of concealed horror and
witch-whispers which preceded the beauty, rationality, and
spaciousness of the eighteenth century. Hawthorne saw many in his
youth, and knew the black tales connected with some of them. He heard,
too, many rumours of a curse upon his own line as the result of his
great-grandfather's severity as a witchcraft judge in 1692.

From this setting came the immortal tale -- New England's greatest
contribution to weird literature -- and we can feel in an instant the
authenticity of the atomosphere presented to us. Stealthy horror and
disease lurk within the weather-blackened, moss-crusted, and
elm-shadowed walls of the archaic dwelling so vividly displayed, and
we grasp the brooding malignity of the place when we read that its
builder -- old Colonel Pyncheon -- snatched the land with peculiar
ruthlessness from its original settler, Matthew Maule, whom he
condemned to the gallows as a wizard in the year of the panic. Maule
died cursing old Pyncheon -- "God will give him blood to drink" -- and
the waters of the old well on the seized land turned bitter. Maule's
carpenter son consented to build the great gabled house for his
fathet's triumphant enemy, but the old Colonel died strangely on the
day of its dedication. Then followed generations of odd vicissitudes,
with queer whispers about the dark powers of the Maules, and sometimes
terrible ends befalling the Pyncheons.

The overshadowing malevolence of the ancient house -- almost as alive
as Poe's House of Usher, though in a subtler way -- pervades the tale
as a recurrent motif pervades in operatic tragedy; and when the main
story is reached, we behold the modern Pyncheons in a pitiable state
of decay. Poor old Hepzibah, the eccentric reduced gentlewoman;
childlike, unfortunate Clifford, just released from undeserved
imprisonment; sly and treacherous judge Pyncheon, who is the old
Colonel all over again -- all these figures are tremendous symbols,
and are well matched by the stunted vegetation and anæmic fowls in the
garden. It was almost a pity to supply a fairly happy ending, with a
union of sprightly Phæbe, cousin and last scion of the Pyncheons, to
the prepossessing young man who turns out to be the last of the
Maules. This union, presumably, ends the curse. Hawthorne avoids all
violence of diction or movement, and keeps his implications of terror
well in the background; but occasional glimpses amply serve to sustain
the mood and redeem the work from pure allegorical aridity. Incidents
like the bewitching of Alice Pyncheon in the early eighteenth century,
and the spectral music of her harpsichord which precedes a death in
the family -- the latter a variant of an immemorial type of Aryan myth
-- link the action directly with the supernatural; whilst the dead
nocturnal vigil of old judge Pyncheon in the ancient parlour, with his
frightfully ticking watch, is stark horror of the most poignant and
genuine sort. The way in which the judge's death is first adumbrated
by the motions and sniffing of a strange cat outside the window, long
before the fact is suspected by the reader or by any of the
characters, is a stroke of genius which Poe could not have surpassed.
Later the strange cat watches intently outside that same window in the
night and on the next day, for -- something. It is clearly the
psychopomp of primeval myth, fitted and adapted with infinite deftness
to its latter-day setting." (Lovecraft, ibid.)

PAL: Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)

"The Novel versus the Romance 

According to Stanley Bank, Hawthorne may stand as the symbol of the
19thc. American author and his predicament. Europe could afford the
luxury of romanticizing its past and finding its ideal in the
pastoral. But America's past was too close. Yet America's literature
was in need of tradition in which literature could flourish. Hawthorne
struggled with the problem of relevance of the artist to the world and
the meaning of art to America. The American Romanticists created a
form that, at first glance, seems ancient and traditional; they
borrowed from classical romance, adapted pastoral themes, and
incorporated Gothic elements. Was there anything unique about the
American shape of prose fiction, or was it merely an amalgam of long
and fixed genres? It can be shown that romance, as practiced in
America, was a departure from each of the genres, although related to

Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Hawthorne, heir to the Puritan tradition and influenced by the
transcendental currents of his own day, drew on the history of
colonial New England and his native Salem in the time of is ancestors
for many of his plots. He saw guilt- imagined or real, revealed or
concealed - as a universal human experience, and this theme is central
to Fanshawe, his first work of fiction.

Fanshawe, published anonymously at Hawthorne's own expense three years
after he graduated from Bowdoin College, is a tale of concealed
identity, abduction, flight and pursuit that shows the influence of
the Gothic novel tradition."

Project Gutenberg Titles by Hawthorne, Nathaniel


Edgar Allan Poe, although certainly aware of the precedents of the
horror genre, was a genius, which is to say, he combined all
influences in such a manner that they became something original in the
combination and expression.

It is clear that influence in Poe's case was evinced as reaction
rather than continuation. In "The Oval Portrait", for instance, Poe
accomplishes an ironical commentary on the whole Gothic tradition by
encapsulating its most prominent features in a brief vignette,
reducing to a few paragraphs a story for which Mrs. Radcliffe would
have required hundreds of pages.

"The Oval Portrait," by Edgar Allan Poe

Poe spent five years of his childhood in Great Britain with his foster
parents, the Allans, and he was a student of the "sensation" stories
that were popular in his youth. Poe was strongly attracted by the
English Romantics -- Byron, Shelley, Keats, and particularly

Classic Review - The Works of Edgar Allan Poe

"The effect of Coleridge's influence on Poe has never been properly
estimated. Professor Woodberry, it is true, accuses him of "parroting
Coleridge," while Mr. James Russell Lowell also pointed out Poe's
great indebtedness to him. Both critics, however, failed to appreciate
the extent of this indebtedness. Not only did Coleridge exert a
general influence, which Poe shared with every other man of letters in
this country, but he transmitted a special and unique influence to him
alone. This had already made of Coleridge a great poet, while to it
Poe owes the tardy measure of fame which has been accorded him.

One aspect of the general influence which Coleridge exerted upon Poe
is curiously exemplified in his poems from the time that he began to
write. Coleridge was among the first to humanize nature. It was a
fashion of the day, and a part of those tendencies of thought already
briefly indicated. It arose, probably, from a haziness as to the
limitations of self-consciousness. But whatever its cause, the idea
strongly affected the poets, and animals, birds, plants, and insects
were given human attributes, or were made to symbolize all kinds of
abstractions. Christabel, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and many of
the political poems, such as The Destiny of Nations and The Raven, are
evidence of the attraction this notion possessed for Coleridge."

E.A. Poe Society of Baltimore

"Of Coleridge I cannot speak but with reverence. His towering
intellect! his gigantic power! To use an author quoted by himself,
"Jai trouve souvent que la plupart des sectes ont raison dans une
bonne partie de ce quelles avancent, mais non pas  en ce quelles
nient," and, to employ his own language, he has imprisioned his own
conceptions by the barrier he has erected against those of others. It
is lamentable to think that such a mind should be buried in
metaphysics, and, like the Nyctanthes, waste its perfume upon the
night alone. In reading his poetry I tremble, like one who stands upon
a volcano, conscious, from the very darkness bursting from the crater,
of the fire and the light that are weltering below."

"VII. Edgar Allan Poe"
(Lovecraft, Ibid.)

"True, his type of outlook may have been anticipated; but it was he
who first realized its possibilities and gave it supreme form and
systematic expression. True also, that subsequent writers may have
produced greater single tales than his; but again we must comprehend
that it was only he who taught them by example and precept the art
which they, having the way cleared for them and given an explicit
guide, were perhaps able to carry to greater lengths. Whatever his
limitations, Poe did that which no one else ever did or could have
done; and to him we owe the modern horror-story in its final and
perfected state.

Before Poe the bulk of weird writers had worked largely in the dark;
without an understanding of the psychological basis of the horror
appeal, and hampered by more or less of conformity to certain empty
literary conventions such as the happy ending, virtue rewarded, and in
general a hollow moral didacticism, acceptance of popular standards
and values, and striving of the author to obtrude his own emotions
into the story and take sides with the partisans of the majority's
artificial ideas. Poe, on the other hand, perceived the essential
impersonality of the real artist; and knew that the function of
creative fiction is merely to express and interpret events and
sensations as they are, regardless of how they tend or what they prove
-- good or evil, attractive or repulsive, stimulating or depressing,
with the author always acting as a vivid and detached chronicler
rather than as a teacher, sympathizer, or vendor of opinion. He saw
clearly that all phases of life and thought are equally eligible as a
subject matter for the artist, and being inclined by temperament to
strangeness and gloom, decided to be the interpreter of those powerful
feelings and frequent happenings which attend pain rather than
pleasure, decay rather than growth, terror rather than tranquility,
and which are fundamentally either adverse or indifferent to the
tastes and traditional outward sentiments of mankind, and to the
health, sanity, and normal expansive welfare of the species.

Poe's spectres thus acquired a convincing malignity possessed by none
of their predecessors, and established a new standard of realism in
the annals of literary horror. The impersonal and artistic intent,
moreover, was aided by a scientific attitude not often found before;
whereby Poe studied the human mind rather than the usages of Gothic
fiction, and worked with an analytical knowledge of terror's true
sources which doubled the force of his narratives and emancipated him
from all the absurdities inherent in merely conventional
"Like most fantaisistes, Poe excels in incidents and broad narrative
effects rather than in character drawing. His typical protagonist is
generally a dark, handsome, proud, melancholy, intellectual, highly
sensitive, capricious, introspective, isolated, and sometimes slightly
mad gentleman of ancient family and opulent circumstances; usually
deeply learned in strange lore, and darkly ambitious of penetrating to
forbidden secrets of the universe. Aside from a high-sounding name,
this character obviously derives little from the early Gothic novel;
for he is clearly neither the wooden hero nor the diabolical villain
of Radcliffian or Ludovician romance. Indirectly, however, he does
possess a sort of genealogical connection; since his gloomy, ambitious
and anti-social qualities savour strongly of the typical Byronic hero,
who in turn is definitely an offspring, of the Gothic Manfreds,
Montonis, and Ambrosios."

Poe Studies/Dark Romanticism--W.S.U. English Dept.

Project Gutenberg Edition of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe (Volume 1-5)


Lovecraft himself admitted many influences, among them the Anglo-Irish
author Lord Dunsany and the Welshman Arthur Machen.

Arthur Machen

"Of living creators of cosmic fear raised to its most artistic pitch,
few if any can hope to equal the versatile Arthur Machen, author of
some dozen tales long and short, in which the elements of hidden
horror and brooding fright attain an almost incomparable substance and
realistic acuteness. Mr. Machen, a general man of letters and master
of an exquisitely lyrical and expressive prose style, has perhaps put
more conscious effort into his picaresque Chronicles of Clemendy, his
refreshing essays, his vivid autobiographical volumes, his fresh and
spirited translations, and above all his memorable epic of the
sensitive æsthetic mind, The Hill of Dreams, in which the youthful
hero responds to the magic of that ancient Welsh environment which is
the author's own, and lives a dream-life in the Roman city of Isca
Silurum, now shrunk to the relic-strown village of Caerleon-on-Usk.
But the fact remains that his powerful horror-material of the nineties
and earlier nineteen-hundreds stands alone in its class, and marks a
distinct epoch in the history of this literary form.

Mr. Machen, with an impressionable Celtic heritage linked to keen
youthful memories of the wild domed hills, archaic forests, and
cryptical Roman ruins of the Gwent countryside, has developed an
imaginative life of rare beauty, intensity, and historic background.
He has absorbed the mediaeval mystery of dark woods and ancient
customs, and is a champion of the Middle Ages in all things --
including the Catholic faith. He has yielded, likewise, to the spell
of the Britanno-Roman life which once surged over his native region;
and finds strange magic in the fortified camps, tessellated pavements,
fragments of statues, and kindred things which tell of the day when
classicism reigned and Latin was the language of the country."
(Lovecraft, Ibid.)

Project Gutenberg Edition of The Great God Pan

Lord Dunsany

"Unexcelled in the sorcery of crystalline singing prose, and supreme
in the creation of a gorgeous and languorous world of iridescently
exotic vision, is Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, Eighteenth Baron
Dunsany, whose tales and short plays form an almost unique element in
our literature. Inventor of a new mythology and weaver of surprising
folklore, Lord Dunsany stands dedicated to a strange world of
fantastic beauty, and pledged to eternal warfare against the
coarseness and ugliness of diurnal reality. His point of view is the
most truly cosmic of any held in the literature of any period. As
sensitive as Poe to dramatic values and the significance of isolated
words and details, and far better equipped rhetorically through a
simple lyric style based on the prose of the King James Bible, this
author draws with tremendous effectiveness on nearly every body of
myth and legend within the circle of European culture; producing a
composite or eclectic cycle of phantasy in which Eastern colour,
Hellenic form, Teutonic sombreness and Celtic wistfulness are so
superbly blended that each sustains and supplements the rest without
sacrifice or perfect congruity and homogeneity. In most cases
Dunsany's lands are fabulous -- "beyond the East," or "at the edge of
the world." His system of original personal and place names, with
roots drawn from classical, Oriental, and other sources, is a marvel
of versatile inventiveness and poetic discrimination; as one may see
from such specimens as "Argimenes," "Bethmoora," "Poltarnees,"
"Camorak," "Iluriel," or "Sardathrion."

Project Gutenberg Titles by Dunsany, Edward (Lord)

HPLA - H.P. Lovecraft's Favorite Authors



Vampires deserve a section unto themselves. The lineage of the vampire
in Anglo-American literature is clear -- Polidori's Ruthven, LeFanu's
Carmilla, Stoker's Dracula and then across the Atlantic to the
creatures of Rice, King, et alia.


The Vampyre, by Dr. John Polidori, is the progenitor of the vampire
story in English. The origin of the story in Geneva during the famous
meeting of Byron and Shelley, at which Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was
also conceived, is familiar. The inspiration was a tale begun by Byron
himself, but abandoned, later developed in full by Polidori. Ruthven
is thought to be a partial portrait of Byron, with whom Polidori had
quarreled. (See below.)


The Irish novelist and short story author Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, a
relation of the Irish playwright Richard B. Sheridan, produced a
number of remarkable supernatural horror stories not to mention
several novels that took advantage of Gothic elements in the form of
rationalisitic mysteries. Carmilla, LeFanu's one vampire creation,
contains most of the elements that would later become the essential
framework of the vampire mythology.

Carmilla, by LeFanu


"But best of all is the famous Dracula, which has become almost the
standard modern exploitation of the frightful vampire myth. Count
Dracula, a vampire, dwells in a horrible castle in the Carpathians,
but finally migrates to England with the design of populating the
country with fellow vampires. How an Englishman fares within Dracula's
stronghold of terrors, and how the dead fiend's plot for domination is
at last defeated, are elements which unite to form a tale now justly
assigned a permanent place in English letters. Dracula evoked many
similar novels of supernatural horror, among which the best are
perhaps The Beetle, by Richard Marsh, Brood of the Witch-Queen, by
"Sax Rohmer" (Arthur Sarsfield Ward), and The Door of the Unreal, by
Gerald Bliss. The latter handles quite dexterously the standard
werewolf superstition. Much subtler and more artistic, and told with
singular skill through the juxtaposed narratives of the several
characters, is the novel Cold Harbour, by Francis Brett Young, in
which an ancient house of strange malignancy is powerfully delineated.
The mocking and well-nigh omnipotent fiend Humphrey Furnival holds
echoes of the Manfred-Montoni type of early Gothic "villain," but is
redeemed from triteness by many clever individualities." (Lovecraft,

Project Gutenberg Edition of Dracula


Vampire Evolution

Progression of the Image of Vampires


Salem's Lot by Stephen King - Litbitz

"King begins his extraordinary novel by coining in an introduction to
why he settled on writing a vampire novel. He jotted down his early
fascinations he had of vampires, kindled by Bram Stroker’s Dracula."



"But it remained for a very sprightly and worldly Englishman -- none
other than Horace Walpole himself -- to give the growing impulse
definite shape and become the actual founder of the literary
horror-story as a permanent form. Fond of mediæval romance and mystery
as a dilettante's diversion, and with a quaintly imitated Gothic
castle as his abode at Strawberry Hill, Walpole in 1764 published The
Castle of Otranto; a tale of the supernatural which, though thoroughly
unconvincing and mediocre in itself, was destined to exert an almost
unparalleled influence on the literature of the weird. First venturing
it only as a "translation" by one "William Marshal, Gent." from the
Italian of a mythical "Onuphrio Muralto," the author later
acknowledged his connection with the book and took pleasure in its
wide and instantaneous popularity -- a popularity which extended to
many editions, early dramatization, and wholesale imitation both in
England and in Germany." (Lovecraft, Ibid.)

Project Gutenberg Edition of The Castle of Otranto

Full Text of The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole


"...Mrs. Shelley's Frankenstein was the only one of the rival
narratives to be brought to an elaborate completion; and criticism has
failed to prove that the best parts are due to Shelley rather than to
her. The novel, somewhat tinged but scarcely marred by moral
didacticism, tells of the artificial human being moulded from charnel
fragments by Victor Frankenstein, a young Swiss medical student.
Created by its designer "in the mad pride of intellectuality," the
monster possesses full intelligence but owns a hideously loathsome
form. It is rejected by mankind, becomes embittered, and at length
begins the successive murder of all whom Frankenstein loves best,
friends and family. It demands that Frankenstein create a wife for it;
and when the student finally refuses in horror lest the world be
populated with such monsters, it departs with a hideous threat "to be
with him on his wedding night." Upon that night the bride is
strangled, and from that time on Frankenstein hunts down the monster,
even into the wastes of the Arctic. In the end, whilst seeking shelter
on the ship of the man who tells the story, Frankenstein himself is
killed by the shocking object of his search and creation of his
presumptuous pride. Some of the scenes in Frankenstein are
unforgettable, as when the newly animated monster enters its creator's
room, parts the curtains of his bed, and gazes at him in the yellow
moonlight with watery eyes -- "if eyes they may be called." Mrs.
Shelley wrote other novels, including the fairly notable Last Man; but
never duplicated the success of her first effort. It has the true
touch of cosmic fear, no matter how much the movement may lag in
places." (Lovecraft, Ibid.)

Project Gutenberg Edition of Frankenstein


"Dr. Polidori developed his competing idea as a long short story, The
Vampyre; in which we behold a suave villain of the true Gothic or
Byronic type, and encounter some excellent passages of stark fright,
including a terrible nocturnal experience in a shunned Grecian wood."
(Lovecraft, Ibid.)

Project Gutenberg Edition of The Vampyre: A Tale


"...all existing lamps are paled by the rising of a fresh luminary
order -- Mrs. Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823), whose famous novels made
terror and suspense a fashion, and who set new and higher standards in
the domain of macabre and fear-inspiring atmosphere despite a
provoking custom of destroying her own phantoms at the last through
labored mechanical explanations. To the familiar Gothic trappings of
her predecessors Mrs. Radcliffe added a genuine sense of the unearthly
in scene and incident which closely approached genius; every touch of
setting and action contributing artistically to the impression of
illimitable frightfulness which she wished to convey. A few sinister
details like a track of blood on castle stairs, a groan from a distant
vault, or a weird song in a nocturnal forest can with her conjure up
the most powerful images of imminent horror; surpassing by far the
extravagant and toilsome elaborations of others. Nor are these images
in themselves any the less potent because they are explained away
before the end of the novel. Mrs. Radcliffe's visual imagination was
very strong, and appears as much in her delightful landscape touches
-- always in broad, glamorously pictorial outline, and never in close
detail -- as in her weird phantasies. Her prime weaknesses, aside from
the habit of prosaic disillusionment, are a tendency toward erroneous
geography and history and a fatal predilection for bestrewing her
novels with insipid little poems,"
"Mrs. Radcliffe wrote six novels; The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne
(1789), A Sicilian Romance (1790), The Romance of the Forest (1792),
The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), The Italian (1797), and Gaston de
Blondeville, composed in 1802 but first published posthumously in
1826. Of these Udolpho is by far the most famous," (Lovecraft, Ibid)

Project Gutenberg Edition of The Mysteries of Udolpho


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