Welcome to the Day Dream. Here you'll find out my secret thoughts, such as they are. For news about my published fiction, go to the page. There are appropriate links.
If you want to find some of the things I like to read, there are links there, too. Contact me if you want to talk!
No, this is not a review of the Classics comic book, even though I loved them as a child, and would have treasured this particular one if I'd ever got my hands on it! I read the actual novel.
It's really not bad. Honestly. Something of a page-turner.
No, the phrase "It was a dark and stormy night" does not appear in this novel. You're thinking of Paul Clifford.
Bulwer-Lytton is sort of a punch line nowadays, but I can see, reading this book, why it was so immensely popular in its day. It's a quite exciting and not unduly long -- for a 19th-century novel. I thought I had read this at the age of eleven, but after a second look it's clear that I only read the eruption part, because I was fascinated by volcanoes in general, and Vesuvius and ancient history in particular at that time.
It's no more wordy than Dickens. Bulwer-Lytton presents the colorful society of Pompeii, and compares it to his own time, which dates the book for us, but would have given it a lively, contemporary feel to his first readers. It reminds me of the paintings of Lawrence Alma-Tadema, a Victorian painter who created pictures of ancient Rome with Victorian faces, making history tangible and accessible, if prettified. The characters in the novel seem no more sentimental than those of Dickens: the villain is highly-intelligent and passionate, the hero handsome, brave, and sensitive; the ladies far from mere pretty nonentities, especially Nydia, the secondary heroine, who is blind and hot-tempered -- an interesting combination.
Of course, there is a Christian subplot, which I find terribly prosing and pompous, but which was inevitable at the period it was written, and no doubt added much to its popularity and salability. It was really… not bad. I found it far more digestible than Dicken's The Old Curiosity Shop, which barely made sense to me. I would have liked more about the eruption itself, which occupies only about 30 pages and happens rather abruptly (just as the hero is about to face a lion in the amphitheater), rather than developing over a longer period of time, which we now know was closer to true events. If you want to read a novel about Pompeii that features a more accurate picture of the eruption, try Robert Harris' Pompeii (2003).
Well, what a sad book. It's 400-odd pages are filled with the doings of Charlotte (always called "Royal," from her title as eldest daughter, or Princess Royal), Augusta, Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia, and Amelia.
And largely dull doings they are. Many of us may have had fantasies about being princesses. I can tell you that nobody would want to be one of these princesses. The main thing I learned from reading this book is that not even the King and Queen of England, with all their resources, could successfully rear fourteen children.
The eldest three girls did get quite a bit of attention from their mother, and fairly good educations. By the time the other three were of school age, their mother, Queen Charlotte, was largely burnt out: made exhausted and bitter by the King's illness.
Yes, the madness of King George largely ruined his daughters' lives. He was already reluctant to arrange state marriages for them, because his own two sisters had had terrible experiences. But with his madness, it became impossible. (The war with France did not help much, either). Their mother did not deal well with the illness: the King's behavior terrified her, and during his worst spells he said and did things to her that destroyed all her love for him. The sons could get away, to some extent (though all of them rebelled in different ways, and some made marriages that the King would not recognize). The girls were stuck in a kind of English purdah, hardly seeing anyone beyond their little royal world.
And yet the daughters managed to have a few adventures: Princess Sophia had an affair with a general and bore an illegitimate child. (That romance did not survive, mainly because the father insisted on acknowledging and rearing the child, rather than hiding him away. It was terribly painful and embarrassing for Sophia). Beautiful and dutiful Princess Augusta had a decades-long romance with another soldier, and it is possible that they married secretly after her father's death. Amelia, who died quite young had a romance of her own. Three of the Princesses, Royal, Mary, and the artistic Elizabeth, actually did eventually marry (though apparently too late to ever have children themselves).
What disgusts me about the situation of these young women is the arbitrariness they were living under. Marriages, relationships, even last wills and testaments were not what the law said: they were what the King or their brothers said they were. When Amelia died, it was discovered that she had left something to her beloved Charles Fitzroy. Her brothers destroyed her will to avoid even a hint of scandal. The King is historically held to be an unusually loving parent: but he was a benevolent despot at best.
If you're very interested in royal families, you might like this book. If you're looking for information about life in the 18th century, look elsewhere. The princesses were so cocooned from real life that their experiences don't really tell you much about anybody else!