Monday, December 05, 2005

Appearances and Corelli

A major theme that Corelli touches on in the text is the importance of appearances. “In very truth, one of the reasons why fashionable men and women cannot bare to be alone is that the solitude in which they are compelled to look face to face upon their secret selves” (Corelli 236). Corelli hints at the importance of appearance throughout the book. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” (Corelli 205). Early in the book, even Lucio admits he is somewhat of an actor himself. Perception and appearance play a major role for Tempest’s character. Tempest only changes when the general perception of his appearance changes. Once the public starts labeling him as Geoffrey Tempest the millionaire, he slowly begins taking on the role of the wealthy Edwardian male. Tempest’s wife Lady Sybil is the love of his life until he discovers her secret love of Lucio. After this discovery her appearance changes, Lady Sybil never really was the woman Tempest had thought she was. “She was not my purchase – she was my love, my saint, my queen! – or so I chose to think, in my foolishness and vanity!” (Corelli 224). Tempest also accepts Lucio as his closest companion right up to the point when Lucio bluntly admits to being the devil. Tempest shift in perception at this point is likely what saves his life. The importance of perception and appearance is undoubtedly a vital component to Lucio’s deception, as well as Edwardian behavior and moral ethics. “Society prefers a false glare to all true radiance. And what is worse it tries to make true things take a second place as adjuncts to sham ones – and there comes in the mischief” (Corelli 231).

The Edwardian Era

The time period roughly between the mid-1890’s and the beginning of the First World War is known as the Edwardian era. Named after King Edward VII, was a time of decadence and overindulgence. Someone who was high class had complete access to all that one might desire. “The inexhaustible greed of a man, my dear sir, can never be satisfied. If he is not consumed by desire for one thing, he is for another, and his tastes are generally expensive” (Corelli 21). If someone had enough money, they could likely purchase whatever they might desire. While this may also be true of other eras, the Edwardians took full advantage of their situation in fulfillment of their brutal lusts. In “The Sorrows of Satan”, Lucio single handedly leads Tempest down the path of excess and brutal lust. Satan appears to take a Machiavellian approach when he takes the form of Lucio Rimanez. Satan, as Lucio, convinces Tempest that his money can buy him anything he wants, including the love of a pure woman. One by one, Tempest exhibits almost all forms of moral deviance, concluding with the eventual realization of his misdeeds and finally repentance. Only through repentance is Tempest finally saved from the clutches of Satan and returned to the moral teachings of God.

Man's Brutal Lust

The virgin woman is widely regarded as the purest of all women. Corelli suggests that it is man’s urge to gratify himself that ultimately robs women of their virginity and thus their purity. Man’s moral choices come under question in Corelli’s work. Through Satan’s dialogue Corelli supports this theory. “(Man) will even deify the loss of chastity in woman by the name of purity.” Corelli does not necessarily claim that all mankind suffers from this moral ineptitude suggested above, these moral concerns specifically relate to Edwardian England. Corelli is suggesting that it is a common trend among men of this time period to pursue the fulfillment of their “brutal lust”.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Religious Background

To get a pretty good sense of marie Corelli's unorthodox Christian beliefs, take a peak at this article: http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/corelli/religion1.html#carlyle. Her views are seen quite openly in one of her works, The Master-Christian:

"A church is a building more or less beautiful or ugly as the case may be, and in the building there is generally a man who reads prayers in a sing-song tone of voice, and perhaps another man who preaches without eloquence on some text which he utterly fails to see the true symbolical meaning of. . . . But as matters stand I am not moved by the church to feel religious. I would rather sit quietly in the fields and hear the gentle leaves whispering their joys and thanksgivings above my head, than listen to a human creature who has not even the education to comprehend the simplest teachings of nature, daring to assert himself as a teacher of the Divine. My own chief object in life has been and still is to speak on this and similar subjects to the people who are groping after lost Christianity. They need helping, and I want to try in my way to help them."

Although much of her criticism in this novel is aimed at the Catholic church, she is known to have criticized the Protestant church as well. Mainly, however, she was opposed to the hierarchical system within the church, and the institutionalization of Christianity.

Corelli's Musical background

Marie Corelli originally moved to France to study music at a convent when she was thirteen years old. Her father wanted her to become a musician. However, she eventually began writing operas, and started writing poetry soon afterwards. Much of her poetry was rejected by publishers, and it wasn't until her first novel (A Romance of Two Worlds) when she began her road to success.

Her musical background seems to shine through in "The Sorrows of Satan". One of my favorite parts of the novel, when we get a true sense of Lucio's supernatural power, is when he sits down to play the piano. Geoffrey is horrified, yet so immersed in the music, that he does not know how to react. In my opinion, no author could describe that scene with such vivid detail and emotion without having a deep, emotional connection to music. I think that Corelli's musical background played a role in this scene.

The New Woman

During one of our tutorial times, we discussed Corelli's treatment of women in the novel, and looked at a few passages that dealt with this. In our discussion of the character of Sybil, we began to discuss the New Woman idea, which was hovering around the Nineteenth Century. For a pretty good idea of what the New Woman was like, read Grant Allen's "The Typewriter Girl". It gives us an excellent picture of the New Woman.

Just for the sake of connection...

In the popular magazine "The Spectator", Grant Allen called Marie Corelli, "a woman of deplorable talent who imagined that she was a genius, and was accepted as a genius by a public to whose commonplace sentimentalities and prejudices she gave a glamorous setting;"

Corelli's Poetry

Check out this website: http://www.cordula.ws/a-corellim.html for a few of Marie Corelli's poems. I thought I would post the first three stanzas of "Time of Sorrow", since it has some silimarities with the novel we have studied. I came across other poetry of hers, and I'll post some if I find them again.

Time Of Sorrow
Marie Corelli

We live in a time of sorrow,
A time of doubt and storm,
When the thunder-clouds hang heavy,
And the air is thick and warm;

When the far-off lightnings gather
On the verge of the darkening sky,
And the birds of the air, fear-stricken,
To nest and cover fly:
Look up! ye drowsy people,
There's desolation nigh!

* * * * *
Look up! ye drowsy people,
And shield yourselves in time,
From the wrath and retribution
That track the heels of crime;

That lie in wait for the folly
Of the lordly and the strong;
That spare not nigh nor lowly
From vengeance threatened long,

But strike at the heart of nations,
And kings who govern wrong.

* * * * *
Kneel down in the dust and sackcloth,
And own, with contrite tears,
Your arrogant self-worship,
And wrongs of many years;

Your luxuries hard-hearted;
Your pride so barren-cold,
Remote from the warmth of pity
For men of the self-same mould,

As good as yourselves, or better,
In all but the shining gold.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Corelli and Tennyson

I found an interesting quotation at this website: http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/corelli/kuehn4.html

Corelli had a somewhat close relationship with Alfred Lord Tennyson. In a letter that he writes in response to her, Tennyson tells Corelli:

"You do well not to care for fame. Modern fame is too often a crown of thorns and brings all the vulgarity of the world upon you. I sometimes wish I had never written a line."

This is a major theme in "The Sorrows of Satan", and I believe these words directly relate to Geoffrey Tempest's situation. This may be a lesson not only for Tempest, but also for Corelli. She faced a lot of negative criticism, even though she was a popular author. According to the article in the website, Corelli liked this quotation, and used it often to express that she does not seek fame through her writing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Victorian Ghost Story

Part of Victorian literature was the rise of the gothic novel, and other short stories about haunted houses, murder mysteries, ghosts, and scary people. After reading a short one from Wilkie Collins in another course, I immediately began to draw parallels between the haunted stories they had back then to the mysteries that we read and see on TV all the time these days. The similarities are everywhere. Corelli seems to lend from the gothic writings that appeared during that time period. One of many conventions that several of the ghost story writers used was the character of the strange foreigner. Everytime there was a murder mystery to be solved, the suspicion was centered around the stranger. Lucio, in "The Sorrows of Satan", is the epitome of a foreign stranger. No one knows about his background, and he does and says things that draw attention to him.

To read an excellent example of a Victorian murder mystery, take a look at Wilkie Collins' "Miss Jéromette and the Clergyman" (1887), found here: http://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/ghost-stories-collins.html

Another one of my favorites is Elizabeth Gaskell's "The Old Nurse's Story."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Romance?

I've had trouble understanding why "Sorrows of Satan" is a romance. This is not a topic of speculation either, since Corelli gave the novel its proper title: "The Sorrows of Satan: or The Strange Experience of One Geoffrey Tempest, Millionaire: A Romance". According to the English Department at Brooklyn College, a romance novel 'tells stories of larger-than-life characters. It emphasizes adventure and often involves a quest for an ideal or the pursuit of an enemy. The events seem to project in symbolic form the primal desires, hopes, and terrors of the human mind and are, therefore, analogous to the materials of dream, myth, and ritual. Although this is true of some novels as well, what distinguishes the novel from the romance is its realistic treatment of life and manners. Its heroes are men and women like ourselves, and its chief interest, as Northrop Frye said, is "human character as it manifests itself in society." '
(http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/novel.html)

So how can we apply this?
1. I think we can all agree that larger-than-life characters appear in "Sorrows of Satan", considering Satan himself is a character.
2. Although adventure probably isn't the best way to describe the events of the novel, there is a pursuite involved. However, there is no pursuit of the enemy, but rather a pursuit by the enemy. Geoffrey does not even know that he has an enemy.
3. There is certainly no quest for any kind of moral ideal, but one might be able to argue that Geoffrey is looking for an ideal relationship with Sybil, or that Lucio seeks to improve humanity so that he can go back to heaven, but these arguments will require a lot of evidence and are best left for discussion in another post.
4. Primal desires, hopes, and terrors of the human mind are all themes found in the novel.
5. For what sets apart romance from other forms of novel is its "realistic treatment of life and manners." Corelli definitely comments on life and manners through "Sorrows of Satan", but how realistic is it? My opinion: not very.

Regardless, this definition helps me understand how "Sorrows of Satan" might fit into the category of being a romance novel. The novel is certainly not an ideal love story. As a matter of fact, the central "love" relationship in the novel (between Sybil and Geoffrey) is completely disfunctional. seeing that this definition does not include an aspect of a loving relationship allows "Sorrows of Satan" to fit semi-comfortably into the category of a romance novel. Still, if we consider only this definition, it does not work perfectly. What do you think? A romance, or other?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Poster

When I read a novel or book of any kind, I often find it interesting to take a few minutes and examine the cover of it. This is not to say that I always judge a book by its cover. I just find that it can complement the reading of the text. I will try to post something about book covers later, when I find a few more. However, in my web browsing, I came across a few interesting posters. You can look at the first one here: http://www.rainfall.com/posters/Theatrical/2891.htm

Because the image cannot be enlarged, it is a little bit difficult to see the fine details. However, I think the image is wonderful. Unlike the novel, there is certainly a realistic element to this artwork. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that this is from the final encounter between Lucio and Geoffrey in the novel. A few things come to mind when I look at the image:

1. Lucio is being glorified by the rest of the angels. In the novel, he is denied in the end by Tempest. Although Satan is rejected in this scene, the image shows us how Lucio comes out on top because his rejection by one human brings him one step closer to heaven again. The magnificence of Lucio's departure in the novel (pg. 380) is described with great detail, and I think the artist captured this detail very well.

2. The first thing that came to mind when I saw Geoffrey in the water was Christ on the cross. His left arms is stretched to his side, resting on what appears to be a peice of a shipwreck. Perhaps the artist was working with the idea of salvation, and how Tempest finally has freedom from Satan after he rejects him. Tempest is saved.


Another poster I found gives us a wonderfully colourful version of Lucio: http://www.decospirit.com/graphic1.htm

The facial hair and red colour are exactly what one might expect to see on Satan. A few things I noticed in this painting:

1. The green shading around his eyes creates almost a mask effect. This symbolizes Lucio's disguise throughout the novel.

2. Although he has no quintessential devil horns, his collar and shoes are pointed to compensate for this.

3. His right hand appears to be releasing beams of some sort. Perhaps this is representative of the power that Lucio has. He could be using these powers to control something or somebody who is below the clouds, on the earth. And the fact that he is looking away from the object he is controlling is signficant: it's so easy fro him to control Tempest in the novel that he can do it with his eyes closed if he wanted to.


Here (http://www.disobey.com/horror/posters_and_similar/downloads/sorrwstn.jpg) is another poster I found. This one advertises the 1926 movie release of "Sorrows of Satan".

All of these posters are different. Which do you think is the best? Why? Do you think they accurately depict the text?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Corelli's popularity

I just thought I would share something interesting that I found. I was reading a novel for one of my other courses (English 368: studies in drama) called "Trottie True". The theme for the course is music hall, and this novel is about a young girl named Trottie True who finds success in pursuing a career as a music hall performer. British music hall was at its highest point during the Edwardian period, so I have been able to make several connections between some of the content in our course and Engl 368. A connection such as this one, a short quotation for "Trottie True":

"It would be quite half an hour before she could retire to her room, sit down by the fire, unloosen her corsets, let down her hair, put her feet up, dip into the latest Marie Corelli-- just enough to talk about it-- and swallow a supply of cachet fievres."

This passage shows the popularity of Corelli as a writer. And not only were her novels read by many, but they were also discussed, as the passage suggests. One could engage in intellectual conversation by discussing the latest Corelli novel. The character in "Trottie True" would use a Corelli novel as an escape. More specifically, I would even argue that it is a form of female liberation for the character. She physically relaxes herself by loosening her wardrobe, letting her hair down and enjoying edible delicacies just as any other woman would do after a stressful day. This character choses not to read just any author, but the one who stands for womanhood.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Contradictions

I agree Marko that many of Rimanez’s comments appear contradictory. Why would Satan preach the word of God or try to convince Tempest to do a good deed? I have two ideas regarding these contradictions: First Rimanez knows that money corrupts people and by giving away half of his money, Tempest would simply be damning someone else. “The inexhaustible greed of a man, my dear sir, can never be satisfied. If he is not consumed by desire for one thing, he is for another, and his tastes are generally expensive” (21). Second Rimanez gives Tempest several chances to escape the clutches of Satan, maybe this is just one more chance that Satan is offering Tempest. Early on in the story, Rimanez tells Tempest, “in God’s name give it full way and let me go—because I swear to you in all sober earnest that I am not what I seem” (32). As for preaching the word of God, we must consider that Rimanez is a cynic, so possibly he is simply mocking God.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Corelli and the Bible

Besides Rimanez' constant comparisons to angelsor Satan, I noticed a few biblical references in "Sorrows of Satan", and realized that this blog would probably be a good place to point them out. One of the references was Rimanez' allusion to Jesus' parable of the richyoung man in the book of Mark (New Testament):

"Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven."
Mark 10:21 (NIV)

Rimanez tells Tempest to "let all this false and frivolous nonsense go, and [him] with it!" (235). He is talking about Tempest's money and power. He then tells Tempest, "as Christ said to the rich ruler--'Sell half thou hast and give to the poor.' " (235) Rimanez says"half" instead of "all" for the reason that Tempest knows little about The Bible. He even cofesses it. To him, "the New Testament was of all books in the world the most unfamiliar" (266). Rimanez can get away with misquoting The Bible on purpose.

Why else would Rimanez say this to Tempest? Perhaps he does it to ruin the word of God, simply by changing it and getting someone to believe it as true. Or perhaps he is trying to look good. Quoting from the bible might make him look like an honest, good person, following a righteous path. And if Tempest agrees to his suggestion, at least he still has the other half of his money, an amount that would be large enough to continue ruining his life. It is interesting how Lucio makes himself look like the good guy by telling Tempest to give away his money to charity. He does this on more than one occasion in the novel, and he also adds that he himself gives to charity consistently (57). Why do you suppose Rimanez would try and convince Geoffrey to do the right thing, like give his money to charity? Does it influence Tempest

Another biblical reference is found soon after Lucio's encounter with Mavis Clare, when he tries to convince her to accept him as a close companion, as he is for Tempest. Geoffrey is thinking about Mavis Clare: "Somehow I felt that of late she had been more or less adiscordant element whenever she had joined our party. I admired her--in a sort of fraternal half-patronizing way I even loved her--nevertheless I was conscious that her ways were not as our ways--her thoughts not as our thoughts." (285) In the Old Testament we find:

'For my thoughts are not your thoughts , neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord
Isaiah 55:8

This reference gives birth to the thought that Mavis Clare represents virtue, holiness and morality in the novel. She is the opposite of Rimanez in many ways, and seems to rise above all the others, according to tempest.