pandemonium

 

NPG 1319; Charles Macklin by John Opie

Charles Macklin (circa 1792), by John Opie
image: National Portrait Gallery

 

 

 

MEANING

 

a place or state of utter confusion and uproar

 

ORIGIN

 

In Paradise Lost (1667), the English poet John Milton (1608-74) invented Pandæmonium, with a capital P, as the name for the capital of Hell, containing the council chamber of the Evil Spirits. This noun is from ancient Greek παν- (= pan-), meaning all, and δαίμων (= daimon), demon. Milton wrote:

The winged Haralds by command
Of Sovran power, with awful Ceremony
And Trumpets sound throughout the Host proclaim
A solemn Councel forthwith to be held
At Pandæmonium, the high Capital
Of Satan and his Peers.

The first known mention of Milton’s Pandæmonium is found in The Guardian of Thursday 9th July 1713, in which the English writer and politician Joseph Addison (1672-1719) wrote of “the noble Fire-work that was exhibited last Night upon the Thames”; he “was in Company with two or three fanciful Friends during this whole Show” and one of them

proposed a Subject for a Fire-work, which he thought would be very amusing, if executed by so able an Artist as he who was at that time Entertaining us. The Plan he mentioned was a Scene in Milton. He would have a large Piece of Machinery represent the Pan-dæmonium, where
——— from the Arched Roof
Pendent by subtle Magick, many a row
Of starry Lamps, and blazing Cressets fed
With Naphtha and Asphaltus, yielded Light
As from a Sky ———

The first known extended use of pandemonium is in M—CKL—N’s Answer to Tully (1755), by the Irish actor and dramatist Charles Macklin (1699?-1797). This pamphlet was a reply to An Epistle from Tully in the Shades, to Orator MA—N in Covent-Garden, an attack on Macklin by the British actor and dramatist Samuel Foote (1720-77). In 1753, Macklin retired from the stage and opened a tavern where he personally supervised the serving of dinner and delivered an evening lecture, followed by a debate, which soon became a hopeless subject of ridicule. (It is said that it was during one of these lectures that Foote composed a farrago of nonsense, in which he coined the word panjandrum, to test the memory of Macklin, who had asserted that he could repeat anything after hearing it once.) In his pamphlet, Macklin wrote:

As I had at the Beginning call’d myself the Grand Devil and waggishly term’d the Audience my Pandæmonium, a Hiss was the most proper Token of Applause; as Milton himself assures us, when the Devil had finish’d, the others signified their Applause by a Hiss.

One of the earliest uses of pandemonium in its current sense is in the Cheltenham Chronicle (Gloucestershire) of Thursday 11th March 1819:

Let any man, in his senses, take a view of the riot—the confusion—the fury—the pandemonium of hatred, discord, and all bad feeling, let loose in the late contest for Westminster.

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