Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton. Lord Lytton:
ON the occasion of the commencement of Sir E. B.
LYTTON'S new tale " A STRANGE STORY," we publish herewith a portrait of the famous novelist. He was born about 1806, in Herefordshire,
England; his father was General Bulwer, a distinguished officer, who left a fortune to his son. Young Bulwer's first published
work was a volume of verse, which fell dead. In 1827 he published his first novel, " Falkland," which had but slender success.
But next year " Pelham" appeared, and at once established the rank of its author. The "Disowned," "Devereux," "Paul Clifford,"
"Eugene Aram," followed in rapid succession, and were all popular, We can not enumerate the long list of novels which this
fertile author gave to the world between 1830 and 1845; all are still read, though they are far from comparing with the master-pieces
which succeeded them. In 1845 Bulwer struck a new vein in the " Caxtons." This admirable work was open to none of the criticisms
which had as-sailed its predecessors; it went home to the heart of every man, woman, and child, and endeared its author to
the Christian world. It was followed in the same vein by "My Novel" and " What will he 10 with it ?" the latter of which was
introduced to the American public in the pages of this journal.
Sir E. Bulwer Lytton is not only a novelist of the
first rank; he has achieved remarkable success as a dramatist and as a politician. He held office under Lord Derby, and is
one of the most distinguished orators in Parliament. His career shows that even wealth and high birth do not always stifle
We subjoin the following extracts:
Who is there uniting in one person the imagination,
the passion, the humor, the energy, the knowledge of the heart, the artist-like eye, the originality, the fancy, and the learning
of Edward Lytton Bulwer? In a vivid witâ€”in profundity and a Gothic massiveness of thought in style in a calm
certainty and definitiveness of purpose in industry and, above all, in the power of controlling End regulating by volition
his illimitable faculties of mind, he is unequaled he is unapproached. - EDGAR A. POE.
To Bulwer, the author of "Pelham," "The Caxtons,"
and " My Novel," we assign the highest place among modern writers of fiction. There is always power in the creations of his
fancy: he is always polished, witty, learned. Since the days of Scott were ended, there is, in our apprehension, no pinnacle
so high as that on which we hang our wreath to Bulwer: like the Roman emperor, a prince among his equals, the first of his
craft.”Blackwood's Mag. NEW YORK, SATURDAY, AUGUST 10, 1861. http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/sir-edward-bulwer-lytton.htm
Sir E. Bulwer-Lytton, author of the initiatic novel
Zanoni, received Eliphas Lévi into the Martinist and Rosicrucian Brotherhoods and conferring upon him the Baptism of Light,
at the 1854 Spring Equinox, in London. The ordinand made a 21 days retreat and participated in his initiator's theurgical
experiences, invoking Appolonius of Tyana. He received special teachings from him, which he transmitted in secret communications
to his few disciples.
After his return, Eliphas will live in Paris for
the remainder of his life. In a short period of time, he wrote six other books, attempting to transmit his spirital message.
He assembled a small group of students, and adopted in his relations with them, the motto: "I don't teach, I awaken". He died
on May 31, 1875. http://www.hermanubis.com.br/Artigos/EN/ARBRAlphonseCharlesConstant.htm
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton
the free encyclopedia.
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton (May 25, 1803 - January 18, 1873) was an English novelist,
playwright, and politician.
He was the youngest son of General William Earle
Bulwer of Heydon Hall and Wood Balling, and Elizabeth Barbara Lytton, daughter of Richard Warburton Lytton of Knebworth, Hertfordshire.
He had two brothers, William (1799-1877) and Henry (1801-1872), afterwards Lord Dalling.
died when he was four years old, after which his mother moved to London. A delicate and neurotic, but precocious, child, he
was sent to various boarding schools, where he was always discontented until a Mr Wallington at Baling encouraged him to publish,
at the age of fifteen, an immature work, Ishmael and other Poems.
In 1822 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, but
moved shortly afterwards to Trinity Hall, and in 1825 won the Chancellor's medal for English verse. In the following year
he took his B.A. degree and printed for private circulation a small volume of poems, Weeds and Wild Flowers. He purchased
a commission in the army, but sold it again without serving, and in August 1827 married, in opposition to his mother's wishes,
Rosina Doyle Wheeler (1802-1882). Upon their marriage, Bulwer's mother withdrew his allowance, and he was forced to set to
His writing and his efforts in the political arena
took a toll upon his marriage to Rosina, and they were legally separated in 1836. Three years later, she published a novel
called Cizeveley, or the Man of Honour, in which Bulwer was bitterly caricatured. In June 1858, when her husband was standing
as parliamentary candidate for Hertfordshire, she appeared at the hustings and indignantly denounced him. She was consequently
placed under restraint as insane, but liberated a few weeks later. This was chronicled in her book A Blighted Life. For years
she continued her attacks upon her husband's character; she would outlive him by nine years.
Bulwer began his career as a
follower of Jeremy Bentham. In 1831 he was elected member for St Ives in Huntingdon, after which he was returned for Lincoln
in 1832, and sat in parliament for that city for nine years.
He spoke in favour of the Reform Bill, and took the
leading part in securing the reduction, after vainly essaying the repeal, of the newspaper stamp duties.
His influence was perhaps most keenly felt when,
on the Whigs' dismissal from office in 1834, he issued a pamphlet entitled A Letter to a Late Cabinet Minister on the Crisis.
Lord Melbourne, then Prime Minister, offered him a lordship of the admiralty, which he declined as likely to interfere with
his activity as an author.
In 1838 Bulwer, then at the height of his popularity,
was created a baronet, and on succeeding to the Knebworth estate in 1843 added Lytton to his surname, under the terms of his
mother's will. In 1845, he left Parliament and spent some years in continental travel, reentering the political field in 1852;
this time, having differed from the policy of Lord John Russell over the Corn Laws, he stood for Hertfordshire as a Conservative.
Bulwer held that seat till 1866, when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Lytton of Knebworth.
In 1858 he was appointed secretary for the colonies.
In the House of Lords he was comparatively inactive. Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton (June 5, 1858 - June 11, 1859)
The Secretary of State for the Colonies or Colonial
Secretary was the British Cabinet official in charge of managing the various British colonies. The position was first created
in 1768 to deal with the increasingly troublesome North American colonies.
In 1828 he attracted general attention
with Pelham, an intimate study of the dandyism of the age that kept gossips busy in identifying the characters of the romance
with the leading men of the time. By 1833, he had reached the height of his popularity with Godolphin, followed by The Pilgrims
of the Rhine (1834), The Last Days of Pompeii (1834), Rienzi (1835), Last of the Saxon Kings (1848), and others. Though prolific,
Bulwer tended to be perhaps overly colorful in his writing; today, his name lives on in the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest,
in which contestants have to supply the openings of terrible (imaginary) novels, inspired by his novel Paul Clifford, which
opens with the famous words,
"It was a dark and stormy night"
or to give the
sentence in its full glory:
"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in
torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it
is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that
struggled against the darkness."
The shorter form of the opening sentence was popularized by the Peanuts comic strip.
Snoopy's sessions with the typewriter usually began with it. Entrants in the contest seek to capture the rapid changes in
point of view, the florid language, and the atmosphere of the full sentence.
In The Last Days of Pompeii, Bulwer-Lytton used the
phrases "the pen is mightier than the sword," "the great unwashed," and "the almighty dollar."
In 1831 he undertook the editorship of the New Monthly,
but resigned in the following year. In 1841, he started the Monthly Chronicle, a semi-scientific magazine. During his career
he wrote poetry, prose, and stage plays; his last novel was Kenelm Chillingly, which was in course of publication in Blackwoods
Magazine at the time of his death in 1873. http://www.searchspaniel.com/index.php/Edward_Bulwer-Lytton,_1st_Baron_Lytton
No author in the world of literature ever gave
a more truthful or more poetical description of these
beings than Sir E. Bulwer-Lytton, the author of Zanoni. IU1 286.
It is the vril of Bulwer Lytton's "Coming Race,"
and of the coming races of our mankind. The name vril may be a fiction; the Force itself is a fact doubted as little in India
as the existence itself of their Rishis, since it is mentioned in all the secret works. SD1 563.
How much has Bulwer Lytton known of this mystic fact
when describing, in one of his highest inspirational moods, Zanoni face to face with his Augoeides? SD1 573.
Augoeides – (Gr.). Bulwer Lytton calls it the
"Luminous Self", or our Higher Ego. AY Gloss.
This is the secret of the old-world magicians, who
made Nature serve them and work miracles every
day for their convenience. This is the secret of the coming race which
Lord Lytton foreshadowed
for us. Through Gates of Gold. M Collins. 1887.
It is from an old fragment that was translated to
him, that the late Lord Bulwer Lytton got his idea of Vril. SD3 107.
"The theurgic or benevolent magic, the Goetic, or
dark and evil necromancy, were alike in preeminent repute during the first century of the Christian era."* But never
have any of the highly moral and pious philosophers, whose fame has descended to us spotless of any evil deed, practiced any
other kind of magic than the theurgic, or benevolent, as Bulwer-Lytton terms it. IU xliii. *Bulwer-Lytton: "Last Days of Pompeii,"
The antediluvian children -- who perhaps played with
it, using it as the boys in Bulwer-Lytton's Coming Race, use the tremendous "vril" -- called it the "Water of Phtha." IU1
Apollonius and Iamblichus held that it was not "in
the knowledge of things without, but in the perfection of the soul within, that lies the empire of man, aspiring to be more
than men." Bulwer-Lytton: "Zanoni." IU1 65.
Sir E. Bulwer-Lytton, in his Coming Race, describes
it as the VRIL,** used by the subterranean populations, and allowed his readers to take it. ** We apprehend that the noble
author coined his curious names by contracting words in classical languages. Gy would come from gune; vril from virile. IU1
Moses was determined to exterminate all those who,
sensitive to its influence, allowed themselves to fall under the easy control of the vicious beings which move in the astral
waves like fish in the water; beings who surround us, and whom Bulwer-Lytton calls in Zanoni "the dwellers of the threshold.
There are the world of Maya, the world of glamor
and the world of illusion. There is also that mysterious "Dweller on the Threshold" to which Bulwer Lytton refers in Zanoni.
All of these four Christ met and vanquished in the desert-experience. BC 118.
Sir Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873):
A Chronology of His Life and Works
Philip V. Allingham, Contributing Editor, Victorian Web; Faculty of Education, Lakehead
University, Thunder Bay, Ontario.
1803 Born 25 May at 31 Baker Street, London,
youngest of three sons of General William Earle Bulwer (1757-1807) of Heydon Hall in Norfolk and Elizabeth Barbara Lytton
(1773-1843), heiress of the Robinson and Lytton families of Knebworth in Herfordshire.
1804 Mrs. Bulwer obtains
legal guardianship of her children through the Court of Chancery; her husband appoints her estranged husband military commander
1807 7 July: Death of his father, General William Earle Bulwer, who, having arranged for the defence
of Lancashire against possible French invasion, had anticipated being elevated to the peerage.
1812 Attends Dr.
Ruddock's school in Fulham; as a result of ill treatment, he is transferred to Dr. Hooker's school at Rottingdean.
Studies Latin, Greek, history, and rhetoric under Rev. Charles Wallington at Ealing in preparation for attending Cambridge.
His platonic love affair with Lucy D is cut short by her family's marrying her off, sending him into a Byronic melancholy.
1820 London firm of J. Hatchard and Son publishes the Byronic Ismael: An Oriental Tale, with Other Poems, for which
BL received acknowledgement from Sir Walter Scott.
1821 Works on his mathematics skills with Oxford tutor Thomson.
1822 Enters Trinity College, Cambridge, during the Easter term ; subsequently transferred to Trinity Hall as a fellow-commoner,
thereby being excused from attending lectures. Through the Union Debating Society he becomes acquainted with the university's
leading undergraduates, including Thomas Babington Macaulay.
1823 Delmour; or, A Tale of a Sylphid, and Other Poems
1824-1826 Travels in England and abroad, making a pilgrimage to the grave of Lucy D in Ullswater. He also visited
Robert Owen's model factory. At Brocket Park near Knebworth becomes infatuated with Byron's ex-mistress, the mercurial Lady
1825 July, wins the Chancellor's medal for his poem "Sculpture." The poem is attacked by Fraser's
Magazine. Bulwer-Lytton publishes the early novel Rupert de Lindsay
1826 Weeds and Wildflowers published. Bulwer-Lytton
takes his BA, then travels to Paris, the Faubourg St. Germain, and Versailles, returning to London in April.
On 30 August, at St. James's Church in London, BL married Irish wit and free-thinker Rosina Doyle Wheeler, niece of General
Sir John Doyle and prot´g´e of Lady Caroline Lamb, much to his mother's disapproval. BL publishes the gloomy Byronic romance
1828 June: Bulwer-Lytton publishes the witty, anti-ByronicPelham, a 'silver fork' novel about fashionable
life. December:The Disowned based on BL's youthful excursions with the Gypsies near his home and his brief adventures in France.
1829 June: BL attempts the genre of the historical novel with Devereux, set in the reign of Queen Anne.
August: BL publishes his first 'Newgate' (crime) novel, Paul Clifford , a novel with a purpose: the reform of the British
1831-1832 BL publishes the long, satirical poem The Siamese Twins and an edition of Collected Poems
. BL becomes editor of the New Monthly Magazine.
1831-1841 As reforming Liberal Member of Parliament for St. Ives
and Lincoln, BL is instrumental in the passage of the First Reform Bill of 1832, and helps prevent a Tory return to power
through the publication of the pamphlet Letter to a Late Cabinet Minister on the Present Crisis (1834).
PublishesEugene Aram, a psychological crime thriller; the controversial aspect of the story is that the protagonist is a murderer.
1833 Anticipates his later occult thrillers with Godolphin , a novel of fashionable life. He also publishes the
two-volume History of England , about his nation during and after the Napoleonic Wars. Breakdown of health, journey to Italy,
and first separation from his wife.
1834 The Last Days of Pompeii BL meets noted actor-manager W. C. Macready.
1835 Receives an MA from Cambridge, and publishes Rienzi, a novel about mediaeval Italy.
1836 Final separation
from his wife. The Duchess de la Valliere .
1837 4 January: Macready stages The Duchess de la Valliere , a Three
Musketeers-like drama concerning a young courtier in the days of Louis XIV and her tragic love for a soldier, but the play
holds the stage only seven nights. publishes a two-volume classical history Athens, Its Rise and Fall and another novel of
fashionable life, Ernest Maltravers .
1838 Sequel to Ernest Maltravers, Alice, a bildungsroman; and two mediaeval
Spanish-set potboilers, Leila; or, The Siege of Granada and Calderon the Courtier. Bulwer-Lytton wins parliamentary abolition
of the last vestige of West Indian slavery ("apprenticeship"). He writes the highly successful drama The Lady of Lyons, which
Macready stages from 15 February at Covent Garden.
1839 William Macready stages Bulwer-Lytton's Richelieu a five-act
play in blank verse, from 7 March to public acclaim. Encouraged by its success, Bulwer-Lytton writes another historical five-act
drama, The Sea Captain; or, The Birthright , which ran for several weeks at the Haymarket Theatre in October, but popular
reception is mixed, and W. M. Thackeray satirizes the play with ruthless brilliance in The Yellow Plush Papers.
8 December: The pre-Wildean comedy Money at the Haymarket wins wide acceptance among London theatre audiences, running until
May, 1841; this drawing-room comedy would be revived throughout the century.
1841 Retires from Parliament. Publishes
the novel Night and Morning
1843 Parliament finally passes the Theatre Regulation Act ("Bulwer's
Bill") granting status to minor theatres but extending the licensing power of the Lord Chamberlain. The Last of the Barons.
Mother's death; following the terms of her will, he hyphenated his name to the patrician-sounding "Bulwer-Lytton."
Lucretia; or, The Children of the Night
1847 Defends his crime fiction against public criticism in A Word
to the Public.
1848 The historical novel Harold, set at the time of the Norman Conquest, embodies Bulwer-Lytton's
theory about certain leaders' being successful because they exemplify the Spirit of the Age. His beloved daughter Emily dies
of typhus in London; Bulwer-Lytton is stricken with grief.
1849 The Caxtons: A Family Picture runs serially in Blackwood's
Edinburgh Magazine from April, 1848, through October, 1849, prior to volume publication.
1850 My Novel, by Pisistratus
Caxton; or, Varieties in English Life runs serially in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine from Sept., 1850, through January, 1853,
prior to volume publication.
1851 Dickens and his amateur perform Bulwer-Lytton's especially-written Not So Bad
as We Seem for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on May 7 as BL's contribution to The Guild of Literature and Art, a pension
scheme he and Dickens have created; Bulwer-Lytton joins the Conservative party.
1852-1866 Returns to Parliament
as Conservative member for Hertford.
1857 The story "The Haunted and The Haunters" appears in Blackwood's Edinburgh
Magazine in August.
1853 My Novel published by Blackwood and Son.
1858 Charles Dickens supplies
Bulwer-Lytton with the title What Will He Do with It? by Pisistratus Caxton, which runs serially in Blackwood's Edinburgh
Magazine from June, 1857, through January 1859, prior to volume publication.
1858-1859 As Secretary of State for
the Colonies in Lord Derby's conservative administration, Bulwer-Lytton names the new Pacific crown colony where gold has
been discovered "New Caledonia."
1862 The (anonymous) novelA Strange Story runs weekly in Dickens's journal All
the Year Round from 10 August, 18621, to 8 March, 1862. Bulwer-Lytton turns down the throne of Greece left vacant by the abdication
of King Otho.
1863 Caxtoniana .
1864 Cambridge honours a lifetime's contributions to literature with the
degree of LLD.
1866 Raised to the peerage as Baron Lytton -- henceforward, he is known as "Bulwer-Lytton." Volume
of verse The Lost Tales of Miletus published by Blackwood.
1869 The historical play Walpole; Bulwer-Lytton's metrical
translation of The Odes and Epodes of Horace published.
1870 On 15 January, receives the order of St. Michael and
1871 The novel The Coming Race is published by Blackwood in a single volume.
1872 The novel
The Parisians runs serially in Blackwood's from October, 1872, through January, 1874.
1873 Kenelm Chillingly: His
Adventures and Opinions published in three volumes by William Blackwood. 18 January, Bulwer-Lytton dies at Torquay. The Parisians
published in four volumes by William Blackwood.
1876 Pausanias the Spartan published posthumously through the efforts
of his son, Robert, and Bulwer-Lytton's old college friend, Benjamin Hall Kennedy from BL's notes.
last historical drama Darnley staged.
by John S Moore.
ancestral home of the Lytton family, and before the first Baron’s writing desk the guide informs you that although he
was a very famous novelist in his day nobody reads him any more. This is not much of an exaggeration. The last of his books
to be popular was The Last Days of Pompeii, a cruder work than his best historical novels, though credited with inspiring
Madame Blavatsky to her adventurous career as mystical hierophant and founder of the theosophical society. But it would be
wrong to conclude from the fact that he is not read to the judgement that he is not worth reading. Why has this idea taken
Born Edward Bulwer in 1803, he was educated at Trinity
College Cambridge. He began writing to finance an extravagant lifestyle as man of fashion. He was Secretary of State for the
Colonies in 1858. For his achievements as novelist, playwright and statesman, he was elevated to the peerage in 1866. For
forty years he was known as Bulwer, for twenty-two, having added his mother's surname on inheriting Knebworth, Bulwer-Lytton,
and the last seven as Lord Lytton. He died in 1873.
Lytton’s work expresses some of the most significant
intellectual currents of the nineteenth century, several of which are far from are exhausted. He treated intelligently and
interestingly perennial themes of good and evil, of freedom and despotism, egoism and altruism, life affirmation and the power
of will. His treatment can seem all the fresher partly because he is no longer familiar. His influence was world-wide. It
was notable in Germany, whose deep and thoughtful culture he both affected and was affected by. He was influenced by Schiller
(whom he translated), and by Goethe, sharing something of the latter's eclectic liveliness, and exploring subjects that strongly
suggest his speculations about the daemonic. His novel of thirteenth century Italy, Rienzi, inspired Wagner's third opera.
Britain and Germany have often seemed far apart culturally,
looking to different types of philosophy, and separated by a degree of mutual contempt. British writers deplore Germany's
tendency to obscurity and dangerously misguided enthusiasm, Germans British pedestrianism of ideas and arrogant insularity.
To some continental critics, the stranglehold of the old universities has adversely affected the whole of English cultural
life. Such criticism was by no means unechoed in Britain.. Some of Bulwer's thoughts upon power and charisma suggest a discontent
that a complacent English culture has often felt able to dismiss as typical of an alien tradition.
Coleridge and Carlyle are examples of that enthusiasm
for Germany that was a significant strand in nineteenth century British culture. Many in Victorian times had ideas of Germany
as a kind of alternative England, a place of new possibilities, romantically rich, a new country to be constructed. We may
think of the creation of an original German culture as an international project, with a not altogether happy outcome. Viewing
Bulwer as part of this is to guard against thinking solely in terms of English literature. For the German connection see ZIPSER
Richard A., Edward Bulwer-Lytton and Germany,: Berne & Frankfurt/M.: Herbert Lang, 1974.
Allan Conrad Christensen, author of one modern study
(Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the fiction of new regions, Athens, GA University of Georgia Press 1976), asserts that Lytton was 'not
one of the very great novelists' and that he is interesting for his ideals and aspirations more than for the perfection of
his work. He says that he throws valuable light on the thought of the Victorians, on their view of the world. Though he also
argues for his intrinsic interest, many might think that Bulwer is mostly of concern to historians, and students of the Victorian
age, and that for literature we should read other novelists. That he was original and influential no one would deny. Others
have surpassed him in some, perhaps most, of the genres in which he worked. Vanity Fair has been called the masterpiece of
the fashionable, Oliver Twist of the Newgate school. Some conclude that his influence has passed on, into other and greater
writers, with the implicit suggestion that he has nothing to say to us. This is very disputable, certainly in view of much
of the nineteenth literature that still continues to be read. Many of the ideas expressed are as lively and relevant today
as they were when he wrote.
As for Bulwer's deficiency in purely literary qualities,
that is less decisive than some critics have held. Understanding something of what his ideas are, we no longer judge him by
some simplistic canon of what is or is not ‘great literature’. Supposed weaknesses of style like his unfashionable
archaism, need not obstruct appreciation. Admittedly he has acquired an unfortunate reputation for corniness. The opening
lines of his Paul Clifford (1830) have inspired a number of childish jokes, largely through the influence of Schultz’s
Peanuts strip cartoon. The sentence runs: - "It was a dark and stormy night and the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional
intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies),
rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness." This
is supposed to be so laughable that someone is offering an annual ‘Bulwer-Lytton prize’ for bad writing.
Another obvious obstacle is the sheer diversity and
range of his work. No one is likely to be drawn to all of it. I only feel qualified to argue for the interest of some of it,
and to indicate a few of his more notable themes. Far from being superseded, his best work is unique in English literature,
of permanent interest, and quite unfairly ignored. It would be surprising if someone who made so many successful hits never
attained to lasting originality Admittedly the idea of having to plough through his whole oeuvre would be dismaying. I am
prepared to concede that a work like Ernest Maltravers (1837)* may well be dead for the rest of time, though I would not want
to pontificate on the subject. Who could say where a Lytton revival might lead?
We can certainly see him as a representative Victorian,
with his roots appropriately in an earlier era. He was a survivor from the days of George IV. His first poetry was published
in 1820, his first novel in 1827. All his life he cultivated a dandy image which came to seem worse than old fashioned. It
inspired counter accusations of effeminacy from Tennyson, whom he had himself accused of girlishness. This inspired a lifelong
The young Bulwer, who began as an admirer of Byron,
found a new hero in Bentham, entering parliament in the reform interest in 1831. At this period he wrote of the need to balance
the urge to self fulfilment with more social concerns. His Pelham (1828) allegedly changed the fashion from Byronism to the
moral earnestness of the Victorian social reformers. For amoral individualism, the Byronism of the 1820s had prefigured the
Nietzscheanism of the end of the century. After the 1820s people tired of egoistic assertion for a season, much as, following
a similar reaction, was to happen with Nietzsche. Bulwer found fertile material in the dialectic of egoism and idealism. The
tension between the two suggests what Aleister Crowley, the prophet of Magick and thelema, and admirer of Lytton’s work,
said of the conflict between his own Beast personality and his utopian, Shelleyan side, though in his case it might all reduce
to egoism. He remarks on Zanoni’s sacrifice in language that time has not softened into respectability.
"We have a sentimental idea of self sacrifice, the
kind which is most esteemed by the vulgar and is the essence of popular Christianity. It is the sacrifice of the strong to
the weak. This is wholly against the principles of evolution. Any nation which does this systematically on a sufficiently
large scale destroys itself. The sacrifice is vain, the weak are not even saved. Consider the action of Zanoni in going to
the scaffold in order to save his silly wife. The gesture was magnificent; it was evidence of his own supreme courage and
moral strength; but if every one acted on that principle the race would deteriorate and disappear".
With the reaction against rationalism and a new cultural
climate, Bulwer’s lifelong occult interests gained a new relevance. He was a living link between the original Romantic
Movement, and the belief in the power of the imagination that characterised the aesthetic revolt. His conception of the ideal
world and the soul prefigured the principles of the symbolists and decadents who made up romanticism's second wind. The symbolist
movement was largely underpinned by occult philosophy. Mystery was intrinsic to the reaction against the supposed rationality
of the high Victorians. Bulwer had a rich and genuine occult learning that earned him the respect of all the leading figures
of the occult revival. He had made an intensive study of magical writers like Iamblichus, Psellus, and Cornelius Agrippa,
and was not above claiming secret knowledge and initiation into the Rosicrucian brotherhood.
The concern with egoism led to a preoccupation with
villainy. In defence of the subject matter of his Newgate novels, Bulwer argued that crime reveals deep truth about human
nature. This was another of his seminal ideas. Arbaces the magician in The Last Days of Pompeii (1834), last descendant of
the Egyptian royal line, is a gloomy, sensual aristocratic criminal. The theme was more deeply explored in his occult stories.
In The Haunted and the Haunters† (1857), he presents a malevolent character who transcends the Byronic to create a fascinating
image of daemonic will. In the full version of the story, he is encountered in his contemporary embodiment as Richards, the
mysterious long-lived being responsible for the hauntings. Sometimes described as the best ghost story ever written, this
is arguably his masterpiece. He cut it short in later editions, because he wanted to develop the theme into a full-length
novel. It became A Strange Story (1862), where the same malignant will is personified as Margrave, an evil character who wants
to live forever. This desire comes across as a powerful image of life affirmation, though in the form of black magic.
White magic is portrayed in the earlier Zanoni (1842).
Zanoni stands for the virtuous version of daemonic will. He has lived for many centuries as a member of a wise circle of initiates
who have discovered the secret of eternal life. Taking another's place on the scaffold, during the Reign of Terror, he offered
the pattern for Sidney Carton’s sacrifice in Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. Lytton stated that this novel represents
the fullest expression of his thought. We can think of it as a Rosicrucian novel of ideas. It brought to a nineteenth century
audience the timelessly fascinating Rosicrucian alchemical tradition. The character of Zanoni represents his synthesis of
these ideals. For its treatment of these, it belongs with his historical novels.
Late in his career, Bulwer turned against the pretensions
of scientific rationalism, expressing hostility towards Marxism, Darwinism and socialist utopias. Other of his contemporaries
expressed comparable reservations, not least Tennyson, whose Locksley Hall Sixty Years After shows his discontent with the
ideals of progress he had done so much to hymn.The Coming Race (1873) has sometimes been interpreted as one of the earliest
blasts in a dystopic tradition that was to culminate in Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World, books which for a few
decades offered powerful prophylactics against some disturbing modern tendencies.
How much his thoughts on will derived from philosophical
sources like Schopenhauer, if at all, and how much from humbler sources like Balzac, has been a subject of argument.
Whatever his inspiration there are fertile possibilities
in the subject. The Coming Race explores some of them in the form of science fiction. Vril is will power made into the direct
energy source of society. (The word survives on the supermarket shelf as Bovril). Like Huxley's Brave New World, the novel
included speculations about interesting technological developments, but set in the framework of an inhuman and unacceptable
future. The scientific perfection of this society is that of another species, and really intolerable to the human being.
High claims have been made for this book, and even
for the idea of vril, which has been described as anticipating nuclear energy. As science fiction it long predated Wells who
was impressed by it,
His idea of historical romance is outlined in his
introduction to Harold, or the Last of the Saxon Kings (1848), serious history mixed with romance. This offers a natural framework
for such themes as the perils of a political career, and the meaning of aristocracy, subjects unfortunately prone to easy
trivialisation. The historical novel itself is a genre that has sometimes been degraded to the level of feminine emotional
pornography. With the debased romanticism of 'romantic fiction' the aristocratic ideal becomes little more than a form of
titillation for female readers. So the seriousness and originality of Bulwer's treatment may be overlooked. The eras he writes
about he chooses not just for their dramatic interest. At his best he was writing historical novels of ideas. The Last Days
of Pompeii, for all its merits, has presumably had its day. Brilliant entertainment for its time, its concessions to popular
sentiment give an inadequate image of his powers. Modern readers who want that sort of thing seem to prefer Robert Graves’s
evocations of the Roman Empire in his Claudius series. Pompeii gives some intriguing insights into the Victorian imagination.
But the interest of Rienzi (1835), and The Last of the Barons (1843) goes much further. In these novels, important universal
issues are treated, unresolved arguments aired.
Bulwer teaches a history that deserves to be better
known, bringing it imaginatively alive, and revealing a lot about nineteenth century British attitudes towards it. Rienzi
expresses something of his social radicalism. It anticipates the intellectual atmosphere that generated fascism in its engrossing
concern with charisma, the nature of political leadership, nationalism and ambition. He says that the Roman people rejected
Rienzi’s leadership because they were not worthy of him. He holds that it was the same with the English who rejected
Cromwell’s republic. His description of Charles II, as "the lewd pensioner of Louis", reveals something of his political
position. The aristocratic families of the Orsini and the Colonna come across as negative and destructive forces, though their
point of view is by no means presented without sympathy.
The Last of the Barons was his next novel after Zanoni.
Most critics acknowledge it to be one of his best. Perhaps we can trace a link with the heroic theme of its predecessor. Much
as Zanoni is a hero held up for our admiration, it could be argued that Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known as the Kingmaker,
represents his ideal in a more earthly form. This is nobility benevolent and not simply Byronic. He based his writing on a
thorough study of contemporary sources, including the chroniclers like Hall that Shakespeare read for his tetralogy on the
Wars of the Roses. This epoch was England at its most self absorbed, the time when English literature retreated north of the
border and perpendicular architecture developed in virtual isolation from continental influences. Perhaps such history is
not of world-wide interest; its concerns reflect deep into the essence of English nationhood. Bulwer has an intriguing thesis
that Warwick the Kingmaker had a better vision of England than did Edward IV and his Tudor successors. It cannot be said that
the thesis obtrudes. We are hardly aware of it till the end of the book. Viewpoints of other, often opposed, characters are
treated very sympathetically. The novel may even at first seem to be about the rise of the new middle classes, with heroes
like Nicholas Alwyn, the ambitious goldsmith, and Master Warner, the inventor, who looks back to Friar Bacon and forward to
the industrial revolution. Warwick is far from a mere apologist for the power of exploiters. Far more than the old order,
he represents England in all its contradictions. Considerations of policy are always tempered by a deep sense of traditional
liberties. The value of aristocracy becomes apparent where liberty is overridden in the name of reform.
In this feudal vision is a wonderful lost cause to
compare with Jacobitism. As a lost cause it could even have more appeal than that of the Stuarts, who might be perceived as
primarily a Scottish dynasty. Bulwer links it with his own pride of ancestry; one of his own ancestors is periodically mentioned
throughout the book as fighting on the Lancastrian side. The value of lost causes has often been understood as far more than
that of doomed classes or misfit individuals. Even in their failure they are somehow liberating, a challenge to the idea that
justice lies with the victors. The eighteenth Whig settlement with its all embracing claim to represent freedom and reason
was confronted by an alternative. The defeated cause, especially after 1745, inspired the most romantic emotions, as captured
in Lady Nairne's beautiful songs. This book does something the same for the equally well known Tudor settlement.
In the very notion of the lost cause there is a world
of emotional possibilities to enrich the present. A settlement that is found oppressive may be countered by this spirit. We
live in a world in which a number of cultures and countries have recently experienced defeat. In a demoralised culture, it
is important to find some compensation for defeat. Factors such as material wealth and erotic enjoyment generally offer consolation.
What is most oppressive is that we are told that what we experience as defeat is not defeat, that it is really a triumph we
are simply too backward to understand. We are under pressure to think what the dominant group in society means us to think,
confounding power with wisdom. Despite the occasional encouragement when dissenting points of view find their way into the
newspapers, it is hard for such attitudes to sustain themselves. Bombarded with orthodox propaganda, it is hard to reject
what we feel we ought to reject. How can we resist the idea that we live among reasonable people worthy of respect?
That other values than those in authority live and
flourish within our society goes without saying, but typically their official status is low, and they are derided as outmoded,
or unenlightened. Those who live by them are under pressure to change. Theirs is denied to be a perspective from which much
develops. Against this tyranny art can operate as a subversive force. As a way of memory and of crystallisation, it opens
the gate to enjoyment that is otherwise barred. Artists and writers create separate worlds where it is possible to ignore
the pressure of outside opinion. The Last of the Barons is such a work. As a novel of a lost cause, preserving as literature
Warwick's vision of aristocracy based on popular affection, lies much of its aesthetic value. In this sense we can see the
book as successful and satisfying, the creation of a self contained other world where ideas and values do not keep changing
into one another.
Even as a historical novelist Bulwer-Lytton is universally
held to be inferior to such masters as Hugo, Dickens and Scott, presumably as regards character, psychological drama, and
other pure literary qualities. But he has a different sort of interest. He participates in the intellectual climate in a different
way. He was writing a different sort of novel, whose interest is largely in its ideas. I strongly deny that his books have
lost their relevance. They maintain interesting historical theses. It is recognised that the Last of the Barons is more historically
accurate than Scott’s novels, certainly than his English ones. Bulwer's historical research was deep and thorough. But
even Scott is little read now.
One thesis is that the mediaeval barons were the
foundation of English liberty. Even by Warwick's day, as Bulwer points out, they were still half Norman. He puts forward an
argument for the value of feudalism, contending that English liberty grew out of the feudal past, the Norman freedom of the
barons, their history and traditions. These values were to lay dormant for 150 years to re-emerge in the Cromwellian republic.
This view is an alternative to the Saxonism that is emphasised in Harold, and sits more easily with the cosmopolitanism of
the post war era. Feudalism involves voluntary commitment to rightful authority. Against this was the new monarchical absolutism
with its basis in Machiavelli, appealing to the thrusting new middle class, and promoted by Edward IV, Richard III and the
Tudors. Bulwer presents the young Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III, as a serious student of these new ideas. Not
only is he intelligent, ruthless and brave, as Shakespeare portrays him, but also a more sympathetic character, in his own
way an idealist rather than a mere villain.
Machiavelli represents rationalisation. We may think
of him as a revolutionary, the Marx or Lenin of his day. One dispenses with morality for the duration of the revolution; after
that it is presumably to return. Machiavellianism means cynicism about power and about the immovable beliefs of the people,
to which hypocrisy has to be paid as tribute. Some basic questions of political philosophy present themselves. How much can
a society be based upon true beliefs? There is a dialogue with Shakespeare, especially on the character of Gloucester, the
significance of Machiavelli and the merits of the Tudor despotism. We see how much Shakespeare was writing Tudor propaganda.
There are various sub themes that might have some
contemporary resonance. The descriptions of the court of Edward IV in the Tower of London reveal much about nineteenth century
ideas of effeminacy. Despite Edward's military prowess and somewhat brutal courage when called upon, he presides over a frivolous
feminine culture, preoccupied with fashion, entertainment and display. Another theme is the political use made of hypocritical
piety. Another is that of the newly created aristocrats, represented by Hastings, relatives of the Queen, pitted against the
old baronage in the effort to undermine its power. And it is instructive to see Warwick as putting Edward IV in power then
regretting what he had done.
Today, when England is looking for a new identity,
it is worth looking at earlier settlements. For this reason alone The Last of Barons would be worth rereading. Even for making
modern points, it can be useful to focus on something from history. There is much in national life that is only tolerable
once we have risen to a vision, one might call it illusion, of mutual agreement. Where there are few we can agree with completely,
politics becomes a matter of alliances. To be against something can give a feeling of unity, though our individual voices
are unheard. The unifying cause here is regret at the triumph of a modernising despotism. Here is a vision of England in one
of its most formative eras, as engaging and thought provoking as much of Shakespeare.
New Labour's reforms seem likely to create a nostalgia
for the things it is setting out to destroy. Most obvious of these is the vestigial political power of the old hereditary
nobility. Encouraged by this attack, new voices are raised against the monarchy. Soon the nation itself may be called upon
to give up its sovereignty to join a new European federation. Also some people are talking about the crisis of English identity
as Scotland and Wales make moves away from the union, and the Union Jack is decried as a racist symbol. There is potential
solace in the England before the Tudors, and a lament for freedoms and values that went into eclipse. This is not jingoism.
There is little imperialism in The Last of the Barons, unless against the French who are still regarded as fair game. And
it is a perfectly readable book, certainly as much so as much of what is still published in popular paperback editions and
expected to be taken seriously as great literature. Much of its merit is its intellectual content. It is meaty enough in this
respect. Also it evokes a believable picture of a unique, complex and little known era, and compelling psychological portraits
of interesting historical characters. There are riches for which there is no space in this introduction. It is hard to think
of any significant feature of the period that has been altogether omitted.
Until recently the motive for this journey into the
roots of English national feeling and identity would have been generally obvious. The former is increasingly marginalised
to the frivolity of football and out of the way places like Northern Ireland. In some quarters it is so unfashionable as to
have become almost incomprehensible. In others it is identified with a narrow party line. Historical understanding is obscured
by the moralistic prejudices of right and left. The Last of the Barons is good enough to bear a new interpretation. This well
constructed book with its far from happy ending can speak a new message as much of the mere background becomes a source of
illumination to a generation that is forgetting what once was common currency. It relates to a traditional image and interpretation
of England that has played a large role in history and if only for this reason would be worth remembering.
Enthusiasts for reform may be tempted to dismiss
the whole idea of such an artistic value as mere right wing tosh. In one sense, of course, romanticising the lost cause is
inevitably a reactionary idea. But that is not exactly the point that is being made. The object is not directly political,
it speaks more to frustration of the will, disillusion and disgust with politics. For aesthetic purposes the lost cause is
often far more valuable than the live political option. With the revolt against a one-sided, often philistine, rationalism,
comes restoration of imaginative balance. A vision, even a fantasy, of historical rootedness offers an antidote to the rootless
metropolitanism of an obnoxious zeitgeist. Such a counteragent is not necessarily rightist, unless as conflicting with certain
current loyalties, self righteously assured of their unimpeachable rationality. © SRP Publications 1998
Absent Yet Present
As the flight of a river
flows to the sea
My soul rushes ever
In tumult to thee.
A twofold existence
I am where
My heart in the distance
Beats close to thy heart.
Look up, I am near thee,
gaze on thy face:
I see thee, I hear thee,
I feel thine embrace.
As the magnet's control on
The steel it draws to it,
Is the charm of thy soul on
The thoughts that pursue it.
And absence but brightens
eyes that I miss,
And custom but heightens
The spell of thy kiss.
It is not from duty,
that may be owed,-
It is not from beauty,
Though that be bestowed:
But all that I care for,
all that I know,
Is that, without wherefore,
I worship thee so.
Through granite it breaketh
A tree to the ray:
As a dreamer forsaketh
The grief of the day,
My soul in its fever
O dream to the griever!
O light to the tree!
A twofold existence
I am where
Hark, hear in the distance
The beat of my heart!
Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton
Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton (November 8, 1831 - November 24, 1891) was an English statesman and poet.
son of the novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, he was educated at Harrow School and at the University of Bonn. When eighteen years
old, he went to the United States as private secretary of his uncle, Sir Henry Bulwer, who was Minister at Washington, DC.
Directly off the A1 is the world
famous venue for open air rock concerts, but maybe less well-known as the romantically gothic ancestral home of the Lytton
family. The story begins in 1490 when Sir Robert Lytton purchased Knebworth, at that time little more than a gatehouse, for
£800, and then gradually transformed the building into a traditional style, red brick Tudor manor house. For over 300 years
it remained virtually unaltered until, in 1810, Mrs Elizabeth Bulwer-Lytton decided to modernise the house in a rather radical
manner. With the demolition of three sides of the house, including the medieval gatehouse previously incorporated by Sir Robert,
she proceeded to remodel the one remaining wing and cover the brickwork in stucco.
Continuing the work of his mother, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton,
the famous novelist and playwright, embellished the exterior of Knebworth in an eccentric gothic fashion that resembled a
cross between a fairy-tale castle and an eerie 'Adams family' abode. A liberal array of fancy domes and turrets are vividly
contrasted with carved bats, griffins and grotesque gargoyles. In the late 19th century further additions were made to the
building by the first Earl of Lytton, but more major changes were made when the 2nd Earl came to Knebworth. During this period
much of the internal décor was re-fashioned with the expert advice of his brother-in-law, Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Architecturally, the house gives a perfectly clear
understanding of the changing styles and ideas right through the ages, with a number of rooms specifically depicting a certain
era. An outstanding spectacle is the Banqueting Hall, not only because of its varied 17th century influences and craftsmanship,
but also because it holds a fascinating history. Many distinguished guests have passed through this hall, and numbering among
them were Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill. On several occasions the celebrated Dickens, great friend of Sir Edward,
transformed the hall into a theatre when he and his fellow amateur actors gave private performances at Knebworth. Churchill's
connection is more romantically linked to the 2nd Earl's wife, Pamela.
Whilst living in India, she met Winston Churchill
and he fell in love with her and, no doubt, her great beauty. Despite Pamela's subsequent marriage to the 2nd Earl of Lytton,
Churchill remained a lifelong friend and was always welcome at Knebworth where, on occasion, he used to sit and paint in the
banqueting hall. There are two rooms entirely dedicated to the life and works of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, with several personal
knick knacks and mementoes highlighting his colourful character. The state drawing room is distinctly Victorian-Gothic, but
other areas, including the dining parlour, are typical of the Edwardian re-styling adopted by Lutyens. To commemorate the
family's involvement with India, an exhibition of artefacts, collected over some 50 years, is housed in the former squash
court. Here are many personal items and treasures from the time of the 1st Earl of Lytton's Viceroyalty, as well as items
from Pamela's years in India, and the 2nd Earl's period as Governor of Bengal.
So a visit to Knebworth House does not necessarily
mean having to endure hours of loud music and throbbing crowds, it might simply prove to be a fascinating historical experience.