long with The Coming Race, a futuristic fantasy dating from along the latter part of his career, Edward Bulwer's Zanoni (1842) has enjoyed a certain following among fanciers of the occult, and some vigorous defenders among mainstream critics.1 Yet Bulwer's ultimate purpose in Zanoni, which draws on Gothic motifs, was to move beyond the Gothic to a revised definition of the spiritual life. Zanoni is aman of an unstated number of years who sacrifices his prospects of earthly immortality to accept human love, as a result meeting his death on the scaffold in the French Revolution. His fable is a reworking of many of the motifs not only of Bulwer's previous novels but the post-Jacobin reformism of William Godwin and others in the Shelley circle.
While Bulwer's debt to Godwin has been amply charted in reference to such Reform-decade works as Paul Clifford and Eugene Aram, his appropriation of Godwin's interest in necromancy and the occult passed largely unnoticed until very recently.3 In 1990, however, Marie Roberts published her Manchester University dissertation on the development of the "Rosicrucian novel," which traces leading Rosicrucian ideas through a number of works also discussed here.3 Hers is a competent and useful survey of the lineage of those ideas, but she fails to take account of Bulwer's long-stand ing connection with the Godwin circle, and especially Bulwer's somewhat problematic relationship to Godwinian fiction. Yet as a fictional study of the French Revolution, Zanoni returns Bulwer's readers to the decade in which Godwin wrote Things as They Are (Caleb Williams) and St. Leon, and is to that extent a post-rationalist discourse on political justice which implicitly queries its own Godwinian origins. In 1830, Bulwer had been to stand for election to Parliament from Southwark, a decision for which he had Godwin's endorsement. By 1842, when Zanoni was published, Bulwer was moving beyond his connection with Millite utilitarianism and the Durhamite wing of the Whigs, had withdrawn from Parliament after his defeat at Lincoln over his stand on the Corn Laws, and was drawing closer to the reformist Toryism of his later political career,which was to put him in alliance with Disraeli.
Another factor inBulwer's rightward drift since his political work of the Reform decade is the influence of Carlyle, whose The French Revolution (1837) and lectures on heroes and hero-worship, first published in 1841, offered a more apocalyptic, more intensely spiritualized conception of recent social change and the redefinition of leadership than Bulwer himself, in his mildly Whiggish history of Athens published the same year as The French Revolution, had acknowledged.4 Carlyle had dismissed Bulwer as a "poor fribble" in the 1830s, and in a famous passage on dandyism in Sartor Resartus, he had satirized Bulwer's Pelham without apparently realizing that Bulwer's novel was itself a satire. He had, however, praised Bulwer's ambitious study of English politics and character in England and the English (1833), and he spoke more warmly than was his wont in a frequently quoted letter to Bulwer after he read Zanoni: "it will be a liberating voice formuch that lay dumb imprisoned in many human souls; ... it will shake old deep-set errors looser in their rootings, and thro' such chinks as are possible let in light on dark places very greatly in need of light!" No longer the dandy, Bulwer begins to sound like one of Carlyle's own heroes: "I honour much the unwearied steadfast perseverance with which you prosecute this painfullest but also noblest of human callings, — almost the sum mary of all that is left of nobleness in human callings in these poor days."5
Intellectually, Bulwer had also shed any remaining attractions he might have felt toward the rationalist critique of the belief in divination and omens laid out as early as the concluding chapter of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) and Godwin's Lives of the Necromancers (1834). Instead he opted for a spiritual interpretation of life which draws eclectically on his own readings in the occult aswell as his underlying belief in the ideal of Christian self-sacrifice. To see just what Bulwer was effectively renouncing, I will treat briefly a variety of relevant texts from the Godwin-Shelley circle and suggest their relevance to Zanoni, then turn to that novel as a reflection of the complicated mixture of deference to and difference from Godwin that Bulwer increasingly felt as he embarked on his own political and religious transitions.
n Chapter XIII of her A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Woll stonecraft had already subjected to critique and rebuke a number of "in stances of the folly which the ignorance of women" generates, but what she saw as disabling examples of female credulity — submission to medical quackery, belief in the ability of oracles and other pretenders to divine the future, a trust in mesmerism and hypnotism, that is, communication with the world of spirits — were not, of course, necessarily connected with the "weaker sex" alone. "Do you know any thing of the construction of the human frame — " she asks. "If not, it is proper that you should be told what every child ought to know, that when its admirable oeconomy has been disturbed by intemperance or indolence ... it must be brought into a healthy state again, by slow degrees. . . ."6 But it is "little short of blasphemy" to pretend to be able to short-circuit that natural process of healing by communicating with the spirit world. Although Wollstonecraft's references to occult beliefs are made largely in passing, the Vindication is pervaded with a general skepticism about special claims that do not rest on verifiable data. "Love, from its very nature, must be transitory," she writes at one point. "To seek for a secret that would render it constant, would be as wild a search as for the philosopher's stone" (30). She embraces the argument for immortality of the soul on the grounds that, not being created perfect or infallible, we must find fulfillment in a future state for which this life is a probation (52-53). Thus, "if woman be allowed to have an immortal soul, she must have, as the employment of life, an understanding to improve" (63).
The rationalist alternative to an irrational belief in special intervention through the medium of spirits and occult knowledge was set forth about the same time by Godwin in An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice. In an appendix to the work subtitled "Health, and the Prolongation of Human Life," Godwin cites Benjamin Franklin's prediction that "mind will one day become omnipotent over matter, " and then proceeds to consider how our voluntary thoughts and intention might modify our frame. It is well attested, Godwin points out, that mental attitude can retard or assist convalescence, and that disease seems often if not always to be "the concomitant of confusion," delirium, or insanity." He that continues to act, or is led to a renewal of action with perspicuity and decision, is almost inevitably a man in health." He compares cold, indifferent, and sluggish natures that regard objects of human pursuits as contemptible, to that species of benevolent temper which is "peculiarly irreconcilable with those sentiments of anxiety, discontent, rage, revenge and despair, which so powerfully corrode the frame, and hourly consign their miserable victims to an untimely grave." Thus, to progress is to extend the empire of the voluntary, perhaps over "every articulation of our frame," even the circulation of the blood:
The sum of the arguments which have been here offered, amounts to a species of presumption, that the term of human life may be prolonged, and that by the immediate operation of the intellect, beyond any limits which we are able to assign. It would be idle to talk of the absolute immortality of man. Eternity and immortality are phrases to which it is impossible for us to annex any distinct ideas, and the more we attempt to explain them, the more we shall find ourselves involved in contradiction.
Godwin then goes on to envision a future world in which propagation has mostly ceased, and in which there is no war, no crime, no necessity to administer justice, no government, no disease, anguish, melancholy, or resentment.7
Godwin's views are expressed fictionally in Caleb Williams in 1794. Falkland's passions corrode his frame and lead ultimately to his death, and Caleb, though he survives, seems permanently damaged by the mental anguish he has undergone. On the other hand Clare, the poet known for his benevolence and tranquility who has sought a retreat in the country, is one who under a different order of things might have lived forever: "A sanguine observer would infallibly have predicted, that his temperate habits, activity of mind and unabated chearfulness [sic] would be able even to keep death at bay for a time, and baffle the attacks of distemper, provided their approach were not uncommonly rapid and violent." To Falkland, whom he judges through the strength of his inner resources to be capable of repelling infection, Clare says of death, "The enemy is too mighty and too merciless for me; he will not give me time somuch as to breathe. These things are not yet at least in our power" (1: v).8 Nonetheless, the hope of deferring death, if not successfully defying it forever, is rooted here in the potential of the human personality for renewal through virtuous equanimity.
By the 1830s, undoubtedly aware of his own pending dissolution and tempered by the experience which had modified his early optimistic reformism, Godwin had altered the terms of debate. In Essay VII of Thoughts on Man, "Of the Duration of Human Life," his focus is now almost wholly on the importance of using well the time we have, not in prolonging life but in looking on it, with all its limitations, as "a gigantic score of minutes and hours and days and months, abundantly sufficient to enable [us] to effect what it is especially worthy of a noble mind to perform."9 The obverse side of the issue is treated in the fifth essay, "Of the Rebelliousness of Man." Here Godwin discusses the recurrent human desire to transgress nature: for example, by being able to kill someone with a basilisk's stare. The constitution of the human mind is amiracle, and we rebel against the degradation of the flesh in which it is confined. From our mortified reflections on our own perishability arise "our most portentous follies and absurdities," and our "practice of castle-building . . . engaging the soul in endless reveries and imaginations of something mysterious and unlike to what we behold in the scenes of sublunary life" (99-103).
But Godwin also recognizes, in the preface to Lives of the Necromancers three years later, that the same human capacity for castle-building is at the heart of the most idealistic of projects. It is precisely a mark of human divinity thatwe manage to live in both the past and the future, reasoning and charting improvements by the study of the past, and laying down plans for futurity which will take years to reach fruition. Thus man "contrives machines and delineates systems of education and government, which may gradually add to the accommodations of all, and raise the species generally into a nobler and more honourable character than our ancestors were capable of sustaining." But
If we would know man in all his subtleties,we must deviate into the world of miracles and sorcery. To know the things that are not, and cannot be, but have been imagined and believed, is themost curious chapter in the annals of man. To observe the actual results of these phenomena, and the crimes and cruelties they have caused imaginary us to commit, is one of the most instructive studies in which we can possibly be engaged.10
The attempt to suspend the operation of the laws of nature through directing weather, producing miraculous cures or (alternatively) afflicting others with disease and death, calling the dead up from the grave to disclose otherworldly secrets, and enlisting devils in our aid are among the marks of that "immense wealth of the faculty of imagination" which, while it distinguishes man from the brutes, also endangers his self-control.
Whereas Wollstonecraft had linked such occult beliefs to deficiencies of education, Godwin's later remarks point to the excesses of that romantic Prometheanism that his daughter had attacked in Frankenstein. His purpose in Lives of the Necromancers, he informs us, is not merely one of idle entertainment but of salutary moral instruction by surveying the records of how those who "believed themselves gifted with supernatural endowments, must have felt exempt and privileged from common rules, somewhat in the same way as the persons whom fiction has delighted to pourtray as endowed with immeasurable wealth, or with the power of rendering themselves impassive or invisible" (6). That is, the same power which delights in imaginative indulgences likewise may subserve the ends of political tyranny, and indeed such devices as "divination, augury, chiromancy, astrology, and the consultation of oracles" are the logical next steps for amind delighted with itsown delusions of authority. Most blasphemous of all is the attempt to disturb the repose of the dead, for if, in Christian terms, life is a probation pending the last judgment, then "intermeddling with the state of the dead" is offensive to divine authority.11
That Lives of the Necromancers sums up an important theme inGodwin's own fiction is particularly clear when he writes about alchemy, the desire to convert metals into gold, "to which was usually joined the elixir vitae, or universal medicine, having the quality of renewing the youth of man, and causing him to live for ever" (29). This false science, he argues, has served all too often as a kind of extortionist's scam, an outlet for "vain and specious projectors" exploiting the human capacity to be self-deceived (30). Indeed, if there were such a secret, it could not possibly be shared, since the entire conception of "unbounded wealth" would then lose its meaning. "If the power of creating gold is diffused, wealth by such diffusion becomes poverty, and every thing after a short time would but return towhat has been. Add to which, that the nature of discovery has ordinarily been, that, when once the clue has been found, it reveals itself to several about the same period of time" (30-31).
Godwin here recapitulates the terrain he had first surveyed in St. Leon (1799); that he should revert to it some thirty-five years later is a singular mark of the forcibleness with which the alchemical myth retained its hold over his imagination. For in this novel, dating from the end of Godwin's Jacobin period, a mysterious stranger named Zampieri opens to St. Leon, a nobleman who has gambled away his wealth and lives in retreat with his wife and children, the secrets of both immortality and the philosopher's stone by which he can create as much wealth as he wishes. Like Midas, however, he must learn that those powers that render him unique also render him unprecedentedly isolated, and powerless.12 Though these new found powers will rescue his family from poverty, there is "no friendly bosom into which to pour out my feelings, and thus by participation to render my transports balsamic and tolerable" (II: iv). The result is a narrative which, having the incommunicable at its core, ultimately subverts itself: "It is no matter that these pages shall never be surveyed by other eyes than mine. They afford at least the semblance of communication and the unburthening of the mind, and I will press the illusion fondly and for ever to my heart." (II: iv).
St. Leon's Faustian bargain, in giving him immortality, has stripped him of human love. He is irremediably tainted because Faustian bargains, like medical quackery parading as direct access to the spirit world, short-circuit not only theworkings of divine Providence but those of science itself. Because both endless wealth and unending life are personal possessions he has been granted arbitrarily rather than the result of any selfless dedication on his part to scientific inquiry and social improvement, their powers cannot be turned to human benefit. Thus St. Leon becomes Godwin's variation on an old theme: to be superior to humankind is to be excluded from it, and to have everything one's heart desires is truly to live in hell.
The reprinting of St. Leon in Bentley's library at the beginning of the 1830s foreshadows a Victorian triumph of the domestic affections over Faustian ambition, while its original publication associates it with its eighteenth-century precursors that assert the joint claims of reason and benevolence. But to the extent that it draws on Gothic elements, it also partakes of the climate of the early years of the nineteenth century which implicates it, as Gary Kelly's study has shown, in the aftermath of the French Revolution and thus, in the eye of its author, must have made the novel especially appropriate in the decade of Reform agitation which served as the context for its republication in Bentley and Colburn's Standard Novel series. The linking of "the effects of superstition" with "the folly of precipitate attempts at human improvement" and the tragedy of the self isolating individualistwho renounces human limitations are both intended to highlight a norm of rational stoicism as a guide to human behavior, but the association which anti-Jacobins made between necromancy and the Jacobin movement ofwhich Godwin and Joseph Priestley were a part also suggests that the figure of St. Leon involves an element of self-projection as well.13 Terror and intolerance on the part of the mob are as much Godwin's concern as the overbearing pride of his aristocratic hero, and it seems likely, as Kelly points out, that by the time of St. Leon Godwin himself, with the memory of the recent counter-reaction in France in his mind, was "turning away from political reform to emphasis on the moral amelioration of individuals, the outlook characteristic of a depoliticized Romantic liberalism" (223). The themes Godwin had developed in the novel recur in the Godwin-Shelley circle, however, and show that his future son-in-law, at least, was to work the potential for Gothic excess for all that itwas worth. Four novels in the Godwin circle that intervene between St. Leon and Zanoni are particularly relevant in tracing the movement of ideas within that circle, though it is not possible in every case to determine whether, or to what extent, they serve directly as imaginative sources for Bulwer's novel. In the two truncated Gothic thrillers by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Zastrozzi (1810) and St. Irvyne (1810-11), it is sometimes difficult to separate the consciously facetious from the youthfully maladroit. The children of Godwin's two marriages provide the other examples: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and a now forgotten novel by William Godwin, Jr., Transfusion, or the Orphans of Unwalden, published posthumously by his admiring and grieving father in 1835. Although not all turn on the device of an elixir of life, all do involve the Gothic figure of the overreacher, by turns a figure of Byronic melancholy and Satanic evil (Zastrozzi and St. Irvyne), or a naive but reckless experimenter (Frankenstein and Transfusion). Examples of the manipulative rationalist villain would also have been available to the Shelleys in the novels of the American follower of Godwin, Charles Brockden Brown, whom they were reading somewhat later in the same decade.14 Since Zastrozzi was reissued by J. J. Stockdale, the original publisher, in 1822, and since both it and St. Irvyne enjoyed a kind of half-life in the circulating libraries, it seems at least plausible that Bulwer's choice of a title was influenced by Shelley, while, as a recent editor points out, Shelley's second novel clearly owes more than just its title to Godwin's St. Leon.15
In the first of Shelley's two novels, Zastrozzi is a figure both physically and morally gargantuan, openly superior to and contemptuous of conventional morality in his painstaking wreaking of revenge on the family whose scion had seduced his mother. He meets his death at the hands of the Inquisition, a death which he greetswith triumphant scorn,willing to pay for the happiness his revenge has brought him: "Judge, pass your sentence — but I know my doom; and, instead of horror, experience some degree of satisfaction at the arrival of death, since all I have to do on earth is completed" (102-3). Shelley's divided sympathies are evident in the fact that Zastrozzi fallsprey to the Inquisition, whose horrified judges are here the agency of justice but who elsewhere would surely have represented the height of iniquitous tyrannyfor the young Shelley, while Zastrozzi's all devouring passion is at the same time heroically Satanic in its expression.16
More lengthy and complicated is St. Irvyne, or The Rosicrucian, which clearly inscribes its debt to St. Leon in both its title and in Shelley's handling of the theme of the elixir of life. Its secret is known to yet another Italian Gothic figure, Ginotti, a diver into "the depths of metaphysical speculations," who haunts the protagonist Wolfstein after seeing him commit murder. Ginotti's dominant intellectual passion, before the satiety of sexual pleasure quenched it, has always been "curiosity, and a desire of unveiling the latent mysteries of nature." Even in his youth, love was natural philosophy his sole passion, and in the "labyrinthic meditations" of his youth he shuddered at the idea of death and at "entering a new existence to which I was a stranger." A materialist who wants to believe that his desire for physical immortality can be satisfied through the exertion of his own energies, he associates God with "priestcraft and superstition," and has led a life entirely satisfied by self-interest. He announces that in bequeathing his secret of immortal life to Wolfstein he will, with pleasure, forego his own claim to it. He promises to unveil the rest at the "ruined abbey near the castle of St. Irvyne, in France." When that interview follows, however, Wolfstein refuses to follow Ginotti's demand that he deny God, and Ginotti is blasted on the spot by the "frightful prince of terror" who promises him, indeed, eternal life, but in the form of eternal torment.
Ginotti's revelation climaxes a series of events in which he has become Wolfstein's mysterious pursuer. Drawing here on the motifs of Caleb Williams as well as such other sources as Faust and Schiller's The Robbers, Shelley makes Ginotti mysteriously all-powerful, a figure of the sort that Caleb Williams, in his fear of Falkland, has only imagined to be a pursuing Calvinist deity.17 In their penultimate interview, Wolfstein is told by Ginotti only that it is sufficient that he know "that every event in your life has not only been known to me, but has occurred under my particular machinations" (170); even miles away he has known his thoughts and, indeed, developed Wolfstein's mind from afar so that it will "despise contented vulgarity" (171). Wolfstein is frightened but unable to act on the dawnings of repentance: "The strange gaze of Ginotti, and the consciousness that he was completely in the power of so indefinable a being; the consciousness that, wheresoever he might go, Ginotti would still follow him, pressed upon Wolfstein's heart." Death looms as a terror because he fears he has lost his prospect of salvation, and "mournfully convinced" of his inability to evade it, he renounces further speculation. Wolfstein's transgression — the poisoning of Cavigni, the bandit chieftain — has attracted Ginotti because it duplicates his own offense. But Wolfstein lacks Ginotti's perverted grandeur of soul; his vice is not Prometheanism, but rather sensuality and selfishness. At the end he is able to resist Ginotti's imperious demand that he deny God, a resistance which is insufficient to save Wolfstein's life but which, we are assured, preserves him from eternal damnation.
The relevance of Frankenstein to our theme is implied in Godwin's reference to those who would compel the dead to speak their secrets. "I thought," Victor Frankenstein writes, "that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time . . . renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption."18 But of course Godwin is not really describing the central situation in Mary Shelley's novel at all; in Frankenstein the dead are simply commodified, not forwhat they can tell us of a future state, but for the gross material parts that are, so to speak, cannibalized for the construction of the pathetic misshapen Creature resulting from Victor's researches. Both Ginotti and Victor Frankenstein search for the secret of the elixir of life as a result of their own efforts. But in Ginotti's case the efforts derive from a selfishness implicit from the very start of the process, whereas Victor's motive, at least initially, is to provide benefaction to the human race, which in turn would bless him for his efforts. Like St. Leon before him, he enters "with the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life" in the hope that he might "banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death." (34)
What decisively separates Mary Shelley's fable from Percy's potboilers, as well as from her father's muted description of the method by which St. Leon came into his secret, is the gross materiality of her protagonist's researches. Even one of the attributes of the Gothic oppressor, his mysteriously grandiose stature, is here accounted for in explicitly material terms when Victor describes his work on the first monster: "As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature; that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large" (49). His loathing is increased when he reluctantly sets about the task of making a mate for the Creature. When he finally rebels against the Creature's order and destroys this second work before it is too far advanced, the experience of reentering the laboratory, packing his instruments "the sight of which was sickening to me," and seeing "the remains of the half-finished creature" excites a guilt almost equal to that which he believes he would have felt had he finished the obscene assignment: "I almost felt as if I had mangled the living flesh of a human being" (167).
As Sir Walter Scott understood in his review of the novel, Mary Shelley's purpose resembles that of her father in St. Leon, namely to present realistically the consequences of a fabulous cause.19 And like her father, she locates much of the action in Switzerland, particularly Geneva, the seat of enlightenment in the 1790s; with the choice of such a setting, as Rieger points out, "the reversal of the Gothic strategy could not be more complete" (xxvii). Because Victor embarks on his researches unaided rather than being granted an occult secret by a mysterious stranger, his narrative raises issues fundamental to the nature of scientific inquiry and the communication of scientific results. The narrative strategy shifts the issue from that of mere scientific naivete to the ethics of research, and realism of detail is deflected from the unstipulated stages of Victor's work — which, we are asked on faith to assume, follow some sort of experimental pattern — to its gross and sickening outcome. "If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures inwhich no alloy can possibly mix," Frankenstein warns Captain Walton, "then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind" (51). Thus while Frankenstein may not resemble present-day science fiction, in its raising of ethical issues it is a scientific fable testing the limits of the researcher's probity. For just as St. Leon cannot reveal Zampieri's secret, so too the demands of morality prevent Victor's communication to his listener of the steps by which he reached his results.
Though he does not write about the elixir of life, the raising of the dead from the grave, or the manufacture of new life, William Godwin, Jr., son of Godwin by his second marriage, treats several recurring and related themes in the novel issued by his father after his death.20 The orphans referred to in the subtitle are Albert and Madeline Schvolen, actually of English extraction, whose mother's death initiates the novel, and their misfortunes, in a narrative ploy typical of the day, have been communicated inmanuscript form to an editor who serves as narrator. Unmemorable for its creaky, melodramatic plot (in which the central Gothic device is con cealed formore than a volume and which plays a relatively minor role until the tragic ending), Transfusion holds its interest today as another characteristic Godwinian exploration of the theme of reason subverted by sexual passion and the desire for occult knowledge. The first of these excesses ultimately drives Madeline mad, while the second, cultivated by the gentle and trusting but increasingly secretive Albert, results in the death of both orphans. Godwin's somewhat awkward occult "device" is Albert's discovery of the ability to exchange minds with someone else.21 In a rare flight of egoistic fancy soon after his discovery (Albert is for the most part shy and unassuming), he compares himself to Socrates, Galileo, and Columbus, and welcomes the prospect of persecution "as long as I can lay my finger on my forehead and say, 'Here stands the man that possesses the secret of the soul's transfusion — that can change his own mind with that of any other — or can pour that which is one man's brain into another's, and reverse the operation as long as life endures" (III: i).22 But because the ability can only be exercised by the living, its misuse results in disaster. Determined to exchange minds with Madeline so tha the can test the extent of her allegiance to the libertine villain De Mara, Albert "transfuses" at the moment of her death, so that his body lies empty of her life while his soul can only temporarily reanimate her decaying body. Mistaken by all spectators for Madeline herself, Albert in the few breaths remaining to him curses DeMara before falling dead at his feet.
Like all narrators in such fiction, Godwin's editor must keep the secret knowledge hidden, both because its revelation would be perilous and because, like Frankenstein's secret, it cannot be scientifically demonstrated. The description of Albert's discovery is rather obscurely handled. When Albert, who is deaf at the beginning of the novel, gains his hearing through a successful but dangerous and experimental surgical procedure, his first exposure to music is almost overwhelming in its effect. Not having learned music gradually from infancy, and thus successively with each lesson learn ing "a share of self-governance and controul" which is part of its discipline, he experiences instead a "wild and ardent overrunning of the soul, which mastered [him] in his first moments of receiving the insidious strain that diffused itself through each cranny of his brain" (II: iii). Through some unspecifiable process related to this first and subsequent hearings of music, we are asked to believe that Albert's "sacred and unutterable effusions of [the] brain" lead him to the discovery of "transfusion." Although the self-absorption of Albert's researches, like those of other protagonists we have been examining, absents him to a large degree from the concerns of everyday life, he is too much the virtuous brother and loyal son to the memory of his mother to be a convincing Promethean overreacher. He is, in fact, more like Victor Frankenstein in his unavailing effort to contain the potential destructiveness of his own secret. The ethics of retaining that secret preoccupy him, and he fears and resists the trivializing uses to which Madeline, on learning of its nature, would put it: namely, to discover to her own satisfaction the state of the Count's mind of the toward her. Her "tormenting passions," the "tumultuous fast-gathering phantasmata that pressed upon her brain and hurried her to the verge of madness" parallels her brother's elation at "the mystic idea thathad taken possession of his brain" (III:iii). Albert's discovery contributes directly to her destruction. In Madeline reason is "overborne by the tide of sensations towhich the headlong nature of her disposition allowed full force and power," and it is clear that "the mixture of Albert's preternatural knowledge, to she had attached such price, had probably assisted in producing this result" (III:iii).
The Swiss setting reinforces here, as it did in Frankenstein, the contrast between the civilized, orderly society of the canton and the potential for anarchy unleashed by the desire for forbidden knowledge. In returning to Unwalden, where a ruse by De Mara has led them, Albert hopes that there his sister will be cured by a return to the place sanctified by recollections of their mother and the "hallowed ground" where her remains lie "and here her spirit might best be supposed towatching over their actions, and guiding their course" (III:vii). But a reintegration into this world of family sanctities and natural piety, a necessary preface to the ties of civic life, is no longer possible for the two orphans, whose secret dies with them.
n the Godwinian narratives we have discussed thus far the central figure takes on by turns or simultaneously the roles of Cain or the Wandering Jew (the exile who, by an earlier misdeed, has set inmotion a train of events that alienates him from humanity), Prometheus (the overreacher desirous of godlike power), or Faust (the searcher after knowledge whose zeal involves him in a demonic bargain). In all these texts the "secret" is incommunicable, and hence it is isolating; the protagonist is either forced into outright deception to maintain some social role, or driven to society's fringes. Ginotti's researches are poisoned from the beginning; Victor Frankenstein and Albert Schvolen embark on a long and initially well intentioned but misdirected labor (though the younger Godwin, unlike Mary Shelley, gives us little detail about Albert's studies); St. Leon obtains his secret by a shortcut. The results of their researches may lead the protagonist or someone near him to run athwart legal authority, such as St. Leon, who is suspected by the authorities of Constance of being implicated in Zampieri's death and by the Inquisition (not without some justice) of unholy arts and heresy, and Victor, whose Creature implicates the innocent Justine in the death of young William. But the protagonist is often more effectively dogged by the creature of his own devising — either a literally constructed creature, as in Frankenstein, or one whom he has in some other way brought to his side and who may be his symbolic counterpart. In Transfusion, Madeline comes to represent the irrational impulses that Albert has kept at bay. Madeline, indeed, embodies a milder form of the transgressive Shelleyan anti-heroine — jealous schemers, like Matilda in Zastrozzi and Megalena in St. Irvyne, who do not stop at murder.
It is no new thesis to suggest that, inasmuch as the Gothic form itself dramatizes transgressive states — the crossing of moral boundaries, the overthrow of socially- and scientifically-ordered conventions through an irresponsible exercise of the individual will — that form is particularly suited to a Europe which had witnessed anarchy, mob rule, and a new absolutism descend on Revolutionary France. Bulwer employs a number of the occult and Gothic devices we have just surveyed. Though undoubtedly, as Wolff and Roberts have shown, they come to him from many different sources, he would have been particularly fascinated by the possibility of using them to re-explore the Jacobin terrain in the years after the first Reform bill, particularly the decade of the Hungry Forties which seemed to some troubled observers to threaten the unraveling of the contract of 1832. Yet his employment of those devices is no simple act of imitation; he appropriates them tomove beyond both the earlier rationalism of Wollstonecraft and Godwin, and the Shelleyan romantic version of the Gothic. Thus the name of his protagonist ("Zicci" in the early sketch for the novel which Harrison Ainsworth published in the Monthly Chronicle) recalls the Italianate names of the fictional predecessors (Zampieri, Zastrocci); yet the narrator insists that Zanoni's origins are Chaldean, not Italian. The point signifies Bulwer's own intention of denying Gothic precedent and making his all-seeing hero and savant an instrument of benefit rather than injustice, of divine forgiveness rather than of stern Calvinist justice.
Bulwer's connection with Godwin explains why in Zanoni politics and the occult are thoroughly interwoven. From both Caleb Williams and Frankenstein Bulwer drew an interest in themes of flight and pursuit, the tendency of pursuer and pursued to develop a symbiotic relationship, sometimes carried to the point of role reversal. Bulwer's analysis of power relationships, the tendency to use others as tools, also reflects some characteristic Godwinian concerns, as does his fascination with crime in the remote past of a present-day protagonist. Likewise Godwinian is Bulwer's interest in describing mistaken concepts of honor and his larger concern with the role rationality can play in a world that sometimes resists rational analysis. The theme of madness, a concern for the psychic balance of individuals whose ill fortune, self-delusion, or manipulations by others has driven a wedge between them and society, is also present in much of Bulwer's fiction, along with its counter theme, the need for companionship in a hostile and sometimes isolating environment. In the paired novels of Ernest Maltravers and Alice (1837-38), he had drawn on the Frankenstein motif in his portrayal of the mad poet Castruccio, who (like Victor's avenging Creature) reappears mysteriously and unpredictably to trouble the tranquility of other characters and finally to murder one of them. Finally, Bulwer's earlier novels such as Godolphin (1833) and The Last Days of Pompeii (1834) had already manifested an interest in necromancy, to which is superadded the existence of a supramundane world which from time to time breaks in on the rational senses.
In a column called "The Lounger" which Bulwer wrote during his period as editor of New Monthly Magazine, he described Godwin as "a link between a past age, full of the strife and roar of newly-aroused elements of thought, and an age to which I fancy that I behold ourselves already approaching — when those elements will no longer struggle against each other, and men will have discovered that the severest conflicts rarely in the Moral World produce the most lasting victories." Despite his philosophical and political differences, he continued, he found Godwin's earlier novels "dimly prophetic in their profound and immoveable calmness, unruffled as they are by party, or personality, or reference to fleeting interests. . . ,"23 Five years later he expressed his admiration for Godwin's ability to convey "his great knowledge of the darker metaphysics of character," but this strength had its corresponding drawbacks: "his power is not always equal to the material he employs. . . .He frequently becomes too minute and too prolix. Besides, his metaphysics are somewhat too gloomy to be wholly true — our nature does not quietly acknowledge, but, on the contrary, perpetually struggles against his deductions; and the impression he leaves with us fails somewhat of themoral effecthe intends, because it is so painful to the memory, that we endeavour to forget it."24 With a few exceptions, notably the early Pelham (1827) and Devereux (1829), Bulwer by and large eschewed first person narrative not only, one suspects, because he was aware of the danger of indulging in prolix and morbid introspection, but also because only through an omniscient narration (and, in the case of Zanoni, omniscient characters) could the novel be an adequate vehicle for conveying the philosophical idealism that he admired in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister and for which he sought to be the exponent in English fiction.25
The sources of Zanoni appear to lie as far back as Bulwer's Neapolitan trip of 1832-33, in connection with The Last Days of Pompeii, when, according to S. B. Liljegren, Bulwer seems to have developed his earliest interests in Egypt as a source of magic and occultism.26 Bulwer himself does not discuss the novel's genesis in the published text but in a preface added in 1853, he invited the reader to compare the novel with his narrative poem King Arthur "in the contemplation of our positive life through a spiritual medium."27 To hedge against the tendency of a reader to regard the novel as a mere piece of frenzy, Bulwer adopts the expedient, better known from Carlyle but also employed in Transfusion, of an editor, in this case a somewhat superstitious and literal-minded inquirer after arcane lore, who acquires a hieroglyphic manuscript. The old gentleman who wills it to him has promised that the story that follows "is a romance, and it is not a romance. It is a truth for those who can comprehend it, and an extravagance for those who cannot" (Introduction).
In the Introduction, the old bookshop in which Bulwer's editor finds himself offers a transition from the quotidian world — the lanes in the neighborhood of Covent Garden, the comically possessive proprietor who is himself a believer in the occult — to the retreat of the old gentleman of Highgate, where the editor's curiosity about the Rosicrucians ultimately leads him. The old gentleman is Glyndon, the young artist of the novel who was in Italy and France during the 1790s. From "the Retreat of the Hermit" in Highgate (the association with Coleridge is probably intentional), Glyndon looks out on the "Mare Magnum of the world," thus illustrating a major point of Bulwer's dedication to Gibson: "It is not in the life of cities — in the turmoil and the crowd; it is in the still, the lonely, and more sacred life, which for some hours, under every sun, the student lives — (his stolen retreat from theA gora to the Cave) — that I feel there is between us the bond of that secret sympathy, that magnetic chain, which unites the Everlasting Brotherhood, of whose being Zanoni is the type." When old Glyndon outlines his Platonic system of the "four kinds of mania" through which the soul ascends — the musical, the telestic or mystic, the prophetic, and "that which belongs to love" — the old gentleman encounters only incomprehension from the editor: "I don't understand a word of it. The mysteries of your Rosicrucians, and your fraternities, are mere child's play to the jargon of the Platonists." And yet, responds the old man, "not till you rightly understand this passage, can you understand the higher theories of the Rosicrucians, or of the still nobler fraternities you speak of with so much levity."
Bulwer's procedure at the beginning is both a domestication of the Gothic and an attempt to provide a discipline for the reader, who must gradually ascend through several stages of "soul's mania" in reading the text. The first book, entitled "The Musician," describes Gaetano Pisano, the composer and violinist whose compositions excite "a kind of terror in those who listened" (I:ii), and whose almost diabolic improvisations on the violin, as Wolff has pointed out (167), suggest Paganini, who had refused the last offices of the Church and whose talents were ascribed by some hearers to supernatural influences. This opening book, which ends with Pisani's attempt, learning of his wife's death, to challenge the shades to give up their secret, is described by the narrator as an "opening prelude," like "the overture to some strange and wizard spectacle," and throws down a challenge to the reader: "Wilt thou hear more — Come with thy faith prepared. I ask not the blinded eyes but the awakened sense" (I:x). The literal unstopping of the ears, and music as symbolic of an awakening spirituality — as the younger Godwin had portrayed it in Transfusion — may also carry within it the seeds of anarchy and discord, evident in Pisani's opera, The Siren, which is considered too dangerous to be played.28Taken in this light, the layers of prefatorymatter, tow hich Book 1 is itselfpartly assimilated, are a kind of reader's probation analogous to thatwhich Glyndon undergoes in his own (third-person) narrative. Bulwer thereby provides a bridge between what, in his 1853 preface to the novel, he calls the "plain things of the day" and "the latent, often uncultivated, often invisible affinitiesof the soulwith all the powers that eternally breathe and move throughout theUniverse of Spirit." By doing so, and by referring the reader to King Arthur for "those regions of speculative research . . . which have engaged the students of immaterial philosophy inmy own age," he defends his idealizing treatment of the subject.
Old Glyndon's reference to the Rosicrucians in the Introduction is important in explicating a major theme of the novel: that Zanoni's condition of being requires that he avoid "the love of the daughters of earth" in his devotion to the Beautiful. Glyndon wonders if the strange man belongs to that "mystical Fraternity, who, in an earlier age, boasted of secrets of which the Philosopher's Stone was but the least . . . and who differed from all the darker Sons of Magic in the virtue of their lives, the purity of their doctrines, and their insisting, as the foundation of all wisdom, on the subjugation of the senses, and the intensity of Religious Faith?" (II:vi). Though Zanoni and his still older colleague and master Mejnour declare fealty to an older doctrine still, Bulwer clearly draws on Rosicrucian lore in speculations on the existence of spirits not visible to the ordinary senses, whether inimical or benign. Mejnour tells Glyndon, "The microscope shews you the creatures on the leaf; no mechanical tube is yet invented to discover the nobler and more gifted things that hover in the illimitable air. Yet between these last and man is a mysterious and terrible affinity." To see them, one must be purified from all earthly desires; then science, the "higher chemistry," not magic — which is pseudo-science that violates nature — assists one in seeing these strange beings, containing "certain forms of matter, though matter so delicate, air-drawn, and subtle, that it is, as itwere, but a film, a gossamer that clothes the spirit. Hence the Rosicrucian's lovely phantoms of sylph and gnome" (IV:iv).
In Lives of the Necromancers, Godwin had written of the elementary beings of the Rosicrucians: sylphs, gnomes, salamanders, and undines representing the four elements, with extraordinary powers, but subordinate to men, mortal, and visible to men only when the mortal sight of the latter was purged. Their hope for immortality was to awaken the passion for marriage in one of the human initiates, and the sylph marrying a virtuous man became immortal, while if she married an immoral profligate, the husband took on her mortality with no hope of an afterlife:
The initiated however were required, as a condition to their being admitted . . . into the secrets of the order, to engage themselves in a vow of perpetual chastity as to women. And they were abundantly rewarded by the probability of being united to a sylph, a gnome, a salamander, or an undine, any one of whom was inexpressibly more enchanting than the most beautiful woman, in addition to which her charms were in a manner perpetual, while a wife of our own nature is in a short time destined to wrinkles, and all the other disadvantages of old age.
Godwin dismisses these "lawless extravagancies" as sops to the credulity of those erratic minds forwhom the conception of being in contact with an invisible race of beings is particularly soothing amidst the actualities of human solitude (37-38). In Zanoni, however, the Rosicrucian apparatus of sylphs, gnomes, salamanders, and undines is set aside, and the idea of a wedding between two unlike natures, one human and one quasi-divine, is recast to place in the strongest possible terms the case, not for ascending to earthly immortality through marriage, but rather willingly taking on oneself the burdens ofmortality.29
At the beginning of Book II , Chapter vi, the narrator writes, "Of all the weaknesses which little men rail against, there is none that they are more apt to ridicule than the tendency to believe. And of all the signs of a corrupt heart and a feeble head, the tendency of incredulity is the surest." What follows is an implicit critique of Godwinian rationalism:
Real philosophy seeks rather to solve than to deny. While we hear, every day, the small pretenders to science talk of the absurdities of Alchemy and the dream of the Philosopher's Stone, a more erudite knowledge is aware that by Alchemists the greatest discoveries in science have been made, and much which still seems abstruse, had we the key to the mystic phraseology they were compelled to adopt, might open the way to yet more noble acquisitions. The Philosopher's Stone itself has seemed no visionary chimera to some of the soundest chemists that even the present century has produced.30 Man cannot contradict the Laws of Nature. But are all the Laws of Nature yet discovered?
On the political level, the cheap jests of the rationalist are directed, not against this "more erudite knowledge," but against religion and morality; the obverse of Faustian ambition is the degraded materialism of the French revolutionaries. The older Glyndon writes, "You must have a feeling — a faith inwhatever is self-sacrificing and divine — whether in religion or in art, in glory or in love — or Common-sense will reason you out of the sacrifice, and a syllogism will debase the Divine to an article in the market" (II:ix). Against this is juxtaposed both the worldly prudence of Glyndon's compatriot Mervale and the cowardly sensuality of the French painter and revolutionist Jean Nicot, whose artistic denial of the "ideal" of Italian artists and of Reynolds' theories is part and parcel of his atheistic politics: "I understand a man when educated and intelligent as for the soul — bah! — we he talks of composing reason — for a sense are but modifications for a refined taste — for an that comprehends truths. But of matter, and painting is modification of matter also" (II: iv).31
What appears to the unbeliever as alchemic charlatanry is authenticated by an appeal to the laws of nature. When Glyndon asks Mejnour, the supernaturally aged (and ageless) exponent of pure rationality, from what laboratory his mysterious science is drawn, Mejnour responds, "Nature supplies the materials; they are around you in your daily walks" (III:xviii). While denying that he has the power to eliminate Death or Heaven's will, he professes only "to find out the secrets of the human frame, to know why the parts ossify and the blood stagnates, and to apply continual preventives to the effects of Time. This is not Magic; it is the Art of Medicine rightly understood" (IV:ii).32 If "all earthwere carved over and inscribed with the letters of diviner knowledge, the characters would be valueless to him who does not pause to inquire the language and meditate the truth" (III:xviii).33 Bulwer thus shifts the emphasis from occult acts, at the heart of such fictions as St. Leon and Transfusion, and from materialistic quasi-science, the donné of Frankenstein, to the mind and heart of the believer. For at the heart of the science over which Mejnour and Zanoni preside is an exacting probation designed to weed out the unworthy. As Zanoni sternly puts it to the young Englishman, the neophyte must deny the love of woman, avarice or ambition, even "the dreams . . . of art, or the hope of earthly fame"; dauntless moral courage joined with an "ethereal nature" isnecessary to survive the test (III:iv). Mejnour describes the stages of probation inmore detail when Glyndon decides to embark on studies under him: "to withdraw all thought, feeling, sympathy from others," and to concentrate on knowing the self and perfecting its faculties (III:xviii). For "though the elixir be compounded of the simplest herbs, his frame only is prepared to receive it who has gone through the subtlest trials," while those who are unprepared may die of horror (IV:iv). In Mejnour's description of "modest Paracelsus" who "thought he could make a race of men from chemistry," Bulwer tacitly measures the distance between Mejnour's morally-strengthening, if inhuman, discipline and the ambitions of a Frankenstein: Paracelsus "arrogated to himself the Divine gift — the breath of life. He would have made men, and, after all, confessed that they could be but pygmies! My art is to make men above mankind . . ." (IV:iii).34
The probation is designed for another reason as well: to make certain that the secret is in the hands of those who can use it for the advantage of the race. Glyndon, who despite his ambitions retains something of the skepticism of the enlightened Englishman, challenges the veracity of this new science by arguing that only charlatans refuse to disseminate information about their experiments, and that they do so to maintain an atmosphere of mystery. Mejnour pays ironic tribute to the young man's powers as a logician, but adds: "... Suppose we were to impart all our knowledge to all mankind, indiscriminately, alike to the vicious and the virtuous — should we be benefactors or scourges — Imagine the tyrant, the sensualist, the evil and corrupted being possessed of these tremendous powers; would he not be a daemon let loose on earth — " Even if the secret were simultaneously in the hands of the good, society would be at war, and in the present state of civilization evil would be likely to win. Hence are we "not only solemnly bound to administer our lore only to those who will not misuse and pervert it, but [to] place our ordeal in tests that purify the passions, and elevate the desires" (IV:ii). Zanoni seconds the thought: "If it were possible that a malevolent being could attain to our faculties, what disorder itmight introduce into the globe!" (IV:x). While Victor Frankenstein agonizes about his secret in private, and St. Leon simply draws a veil over the transaction between himself and the mysterious stranger which leaves him inpossession of occult knowledge, in Zanoni, at least as Mejnour imagines it, such knowledge is to be the possession of a privileged race who, when sufficiently numerous, will rule mankind for mankind's own benefit.35 Yet this Olympian ambition, in its own way, though at the opposite extreme from the cruel tyranny of the French Revolution, is in Bulwer's scheme almost as culpable morally.
Over the many centuries of Mejnour's life, few probationers have qualified for initiation into the secrets of immortality. One is Glyndon's ancestor who attained an exceptionally ripe age but chose death when he lost a great-grandaughter and was unable to endure the bereavement. Another is Zanoni himself, whose own purchase on the secret is threatened by his growing love for and commitment to Viola, the daughter of the Neapolitan violinist and composer Pisano. Mejnour is in fact chilling in his independence of human ties. "He asks no charity, and he gives none — he does no evil, and seems to confer no good" (I:v). "His deed relieved no want, his words pitied no distress.What we would call the heart appeared to have merged into the intellect" (IV:ii). Yet, Zanoni claims in a letter to him, even Mejnour has sought converts because "thou recoilest from the thought to be alone. So with myself: at last I, too, seek a convert — an equal — I, too, shudder to be alone" (IV:x). In a spectrum of characters ranging from the pure idealist to the pure materialist, Mejnour stands in lonely solitude at the idealistic end. In Bulwer's allegorization, expressed in Zanoni's own words, he is the type of "art, that enjoys," Mejnour the type of "science, that contemplates" (VII:ix).
Zanoni, unlike his master, "has acted in the past he surveys." Even in the novel, when the two men are first introduced (I:v), his features reflect the humanity to which he still feels an allegiance. The paradox in early Zanoni's situation is that to the extent that he allows the claims of love to sway him, to that extent his power (and with it the power to protect others) is diminished. First viewed in the opera box in Naples, where Viola, the young singer, finds herself panic-stricken during the performance of her father's opera, his "sudden and inspiriting influence" gives her the strength to continue (i: iii). We then learn from a circle of acquaintances that a man of 86 claims to have seen Zanoni seventy years before, while on that occasion an old man had recalled seeing him yet another sixty years earlier. This is, as it were, St. Leon seen from without, but St. Leon without the shifts, disguises, and compromises necessitated by the latter's misjudgments and ill fortune.
Zanoni's vulnerability distinguishes him from some of the apparently unconquerable Gothic figures we have seen in much of the preceding fiction, and characters who see him as all-powerful themselves stand indicted of superstition. When Glyndon suspects Zanoni of having an evil eye, he is in effectmisreading Zanoni as Gothic villain. Rather, Zanoni's intrusions are almost all moral cautions to the frivolous or direct benefactions, as when he cures the sick child with a medicine, rebuking the superstitious Viola's fears with the statement, "The danger is not beyond the reach of human skill" (III:i). As a theist, he regards himself as another of "the permitted instruments of the Power, that vouchsafes our own, but only to direct it" (IV :x). Yet ultimately his love forViola forces Zanoni to choose between superhuman powers and ordinary ties. When the overly eager Glyndon proclaims the desirability of penetrating into the secret of immortality, Zanoni reminds the young artist that in a sense that power is already his, for art confers immortality on its subject matter, a power superior to that of "baffling the grave." "Would it be so sweet a lot to outlive all you loved, and to recoil from every human tie — " he asks Glyndon. "Perhaps the fairest immortality on earth is that of a noble name" (II:viii). If the alchemists did discover the golden elixir, he tells the Englishman, "they died because they refused to live!" Much later in the narrative, as disaster impends in France, he reverts to this subject with Glyndon: "the error of our lofty knowledge was the forgetfulness of the weakness, the passions, and the bonds" of physical life. "Canst thou think that it is no sorrow, either to reject all human ties, all friendship, and all love, or to see, day after day, friendship and love wither from our life, as blossoms from the stem?" (VII:ix).
Zanoni's letters to Mejnour similarly interrogate the latter's perfectionist humanism:
"Is not this sublime egotism, this state of abstraction and reverie — this self-wrapt and self-dependent majesty of existence, a resignation of that nobility which incorporates our own welfare, our joys, our hopes, our fears with others — To live on in no dread of foes, undegraded by infirmity, secure through the cares, and free from the disease of flesh, is a spectacle that captivates our pride. And yet dost thou not more admire — him who dies for another — Since I have loved her, Mejnour, it seems almost cowardice to elude the grave which devours the hearts that wrap us in their folds. I feel it — the earth grows upon my spirit." (IV:x)
Thus Zanoni begins, under the influence of his love for Viola, to embrace a more noble model of human life which culminates in his marriage to her, the confirmation of the claims of the sense infused by spirituality which is represented by the birth of their child (a pledge of the only form of physical immortality worth having), and his Christ-like substitution of himself for her on the guillotine in France.36 "Mejnour, I see here, for the first time, how majestic and how beauteous a thing is death! Of what sublime virtues we robbed ourselves, when, in the thirst for virtue, we attained the art by which we can refuse to die." For "to live forever upon this earth, is to live in nothing diviner than ourselves," and thus, even "amidst this gory butcherdom" in France, God "vindicates toman the sanctity of His servant,Death!" (VII: iii; Bulwer's emphasis).
lyndon, Bulwer's homme moyen sensuel, is at the midpoint of the spectrum, and another version of Bulwer's young heroes in the novels of the 1820's and 1830's: young, restless, aspiring, capable equally of rising to virtue or falling into vice, but with the scales tilted toward virtue. "Brave, adventurous, vain, restless, inquisitive, he was ever involved in wild projects and pleasant dangers — the creature of impulse and the slave of imagination" (II:ii). If Zanoni is a "successful" St. Leon, Glyndon is an impatient young version of Godwin's hero who wants to achieve the secret at a English single blow, but who, fortunately, is spared the obloquy and perpetual torment of Godwin's hero. Glyndon proves an unworthy probationer by violating Mejnour's directions, and thus brings upon himself the Dweller of the Threshold, a malignant force which objectifies his own folly and failure to pursue undivided aims, whether in art or the discipline of the arcana; this strange curse extends even to the sister who visits him and who perishes as a result. Like Frankenstein, Glyndon, in effect, has raised his own monster, his own Other, from the dead; like Wolfstein, he has brought into being his own Ginotti, though one totally devoid of flesh and blood.37 Lacking the persistence to woo and win Viola, he is entrapped by the beauty of the fiery and jealous young Italian girl Fillide, another female transgressor out of the Gothic tradition. Zanoni, whose advice he generally neglects, rebukes his lack of "earnest labour": "You are constitutionally brave . . .you like to be the hero of a romance" (II:v). For Glyndon loves to create mystery where there is none; "it would have only disappointed his curiosity to find the supernatural reduced to nature" (II:vi). Because of his dislike of drudgery, his failure to observe abstinence and sexual continence, his inclination tomake obscure what is clear, he raises his own demon. Mejnour warns him sternly that "thou thyself must exorcise the phantom thou hast raised. Thou must return to the world; but not without punishment and strong effort canst thou regain the calm and the joy of the life thou has lef tbehind" (V:i). The demon is, typically,visible only when Glyndon is not engaged in frivolity and pleasure-seeking; in Fillide's company the Dweller does not reveal itself because she is doing its work. The death of his sister is indirectly Glyndon's responsibility, because like Victor Frankenstein he has brought the monster into his domestic circle, though the threat it poses is mental, not physical: "He had transferred to her fancy the spectre, and the horror that cursed himself" (V:v), and her death, medically ascribed to epilepsy, occurs at themoment when the vision is transferred to her.
Glyndon attempts to escape the encroachments of the demon by seeking refuge in France at precisely the moment when the Revolution is reaching its crisis, hoping that "among these high hopes and this brave people" the phantom will vanish and he be cured. Yet France is an objectification of the demonic, in which the Reign of Terror is a kind of collectivized Dweller of the Threshold, and hence Glyndon is seeking a cure which amounts to an exacerbation of the disease.38 In the confession to Adele which ultimately causes her death, he describes a masked ball in Genoa, where the guests herald the coming millennium,
"not as philosophers rejoicing in the advent of light, but as ruffians exulting in the annihilation of law. I know not why itwas, but their licentious language infectedmyself; and, always desirous to be fore most in every circle, I soon exceeded even those rioters in declama tions on the libertywhich was about to embrace all the families of the globe — a liberty that should pervade not only public legislation, but domestic life — an emancipation from every fetter thatmen had forged for themselves." [V:iv]
In his delusion Glyndon persuades Viola after her marriage to Zanoni to flee the dark secrecies of her husband, taking her child with her and following Glyndon to Paris. The result is that, once enmeshed in the political scheming of such zealots as the sinister Jean Nicot, the lives of all three of them are in danger. Zanoni, whose diminution of powers have left him unable to penetrate the secrecy surrounding her departure, be comes dependent on Glyndon for finding her address. In their final encounter, Glyndon accuses Zanoni of inciting in him "the irresistibledesires of that wild and unholy knowledge" with his evil eye. Zanoni responds that the desires were in Glyndon already, and that the power to banish the demon lies in himself. "Away with your gloomy phantasies of sorcerer and daemon! — the soul can aspire only to the light; and even the error of our lofty knowledge was but the forgetfulness of the weakness, the passion, and the bonds, which the death we so vainly conquered only can purge away" (VII:ix). The demon has wished on himself can be banished when he makes peace with the daily world; "never will it cease to haunt, till thou canst pass to the Infinite, as the seraph, or return to the Familiar, as a child!"
The conversion of Glyndon, literally his turning aside from the wrong way into the right, is accomplished when he can face down his own phantoms and thus understand the superstitions with which he has regarded the activities of others. Glyndon helps reunite Zanoni with Viola; Zanoni in turn lays healing hands on him, and in the trance that follows Glyndon imaginatively retraces his life to the home of his infancy, made sacred by his mother, the churchyard with its yew-trees, and the hopefulness symbolized by the spire of the parish church pointing heavenward. When the Dweller of the Threshold falls away, so does the ghastly backdrop of the Revolution. Glyndon makes his way home, and Zanoni on the guillotine, followed shortly (through natural causes) by Viola in her prison cell, achieves the apotheosis of death and transfiguration. As Zanoni's own benevolent spirit, the angelic Adon-Ai, tells him, "Wiser now, in the moment when thou comprehendest Death, than when thy unfettered spirit learned the solemn mystery of life; the human affections that thralled and humbled thee awhile bring to thee, in these last hours of thy mortality, the sublimest heritage of the race — the eternity that commences from the grave," a moment of fulfillment which Zanoni himself describes as "the true initiation into the holy and thewise" (VII: xiii, xiv).
An apotheosis of quite a different sort, one of violence, bloodshed, and a grimly apocalyptic finale is being played out simultaneously in France. Bulwer's depiction of the events of theweek of 2 Thermidor in July 1794 not only reflects the pervasive influence of Carlyle's French Revolution but seems simultaneously to be a kind of critical reprise of his Godwinian origins.39 Whereas Godwin the benevolist had portrayed in the figure of Clare the possibility of prolongation of life through an admixture of science and tranquility ofmind, Bulwer's revolutionists embrace naive hopes for biological regeneration through political revolution. Thus Condorcet discourses airily on how
"The very destruction of the two most active causes of physical deterioration — here, luxurious wealth — there, abject penury — must necessarily prolong the general term of life. The art of medicine will then be honoured in the place of war, which is the art of murder: the noblest study of the acutest minds will be devoted to the discovery and arrest of the causes of disease. Life, I grant, cannot be made eternal; but it may be prolonged almost indefinitely." (I:vi)
Similarly Nicot, who himself will fall to the headman's ax, promises "a science that, springing from the soil of equal institutions and equal mental cultivation, should give to all the races ofmen wealth without labour, and a life, longer than the Patriarchs' ..." (II:vii). "Life is a melancholy thing, Couthon!" Robespierre says to his coadjutor in the last few days of his life. "Begging your pardon, I think death worse," the sinister "philanthropist" responds (VII: vii). Their fear is, at bottom, no more sophisticated than the fear of death manifested by the bandit, Maestro Paolo, when he discovers that his beloved Clara has died during his absence, and who in his grief exhumes her to see her before the onset of decay. Materialism, whether of the bandit or the philosophe, leaves one baffled by, fearful of, and unprepared for death, as witness the animal howlings of Nicot, the radical and libertine, when he lies in prison awaiting execution. It also dissolves familial bonds; in one episode, a man is nearly murdered by an adopted son to whom he had taught atheism as a child.
Bulwer's view is that materialism and superstitious credulity are two sides of the same coin:
It was then the period, when a feverish spirit of change was working its way to that hideous mockery of human aspirations, the Revolution of France. And from the chaos intowhich were already jarring the sanctities of the World's Venerable Belief, arose many shapeless and unformed chimeras. Need I remind the reader, that while that was the day for polished scepticism and affected wisdom, it was the day also for themost egregious credulity and themost mystical superstitions — the day in which magnetism and magic found converts amongst the disciples of Diderot, — when prophecies were current in every mouth, — when the salon of a philosophical deist was converted into an Heraclea, in which necromancy professed to conjure up the shadows of the dead — when the Crosier and the Book [of the Rosicrucians] were ridiculed, and Mesmer and Cagliostro were believed. . . . Dazzled by the dawn of the Revolution, Glyndon was yet more attracted by its strange accompaniments; and natural itwas with him, as with the others, that the fancy which ran riot amidst the hopes of a social Utopia, should grasp with avidity all that promised, out of the dusty tracks of the beaten science, the bold discoveries of some marvelous Elysium. [II:ii]
Thus, Bulwer's compressed reference to Robespierre, one "to whom Catherine Theot assured immortal life, looked, indeed, like aman at death's door," recalls Carlyle's description of the octogenarian servant, "inured to prophecy and the Bastille from of old" and reading Revelations to find "that this astonishing thrice-potentMaximilien really is theman spoken of by prophets, who is tomake the earth young again." For the idolizing women who surroundRobespierre, "Mumbo is Mumbo, and Robespierre is his prophet."40 Libertinism, utopianism, and egalitarianism in Zanoni are the products of that strange blend of superstition and millennarianism of the sort Carlyle had attacked over a decade earlier in "Signs of the Times" (text). Bulwer, who had once flirted with utilitarianism, here openly aligns himself with the counter-rational strain of Victorian prose, and Carlyle is his precursor. That he was no longer confined by earlier Godwinian paradigms is attested by Harriet Martineau's reassuring words to Bulwer as he awaited with trepidation the novel's reception: "If, for some long time to come, you find the world preferring your earlier works, or a hundred reading St. Leon for one that takes new life from Zanoni, you will be satisfied with the earnest of recompense you must already have had ... in conceiving and working out such a problem of sacred philosophy" (quoted by Wolff 213).
But in doing so, and in affirming a proto-Christian ideal of self-abnegation, Bulwer also remains close to the later Godwin if not the earlier one, even as he transcendentalizes Godwin and elevates Gothic convention so that Zanoni, the all-seer, capable of mysterious disappearance and reappear ance, is also the beneficent, not the vengeful, Deity, the Christian hero rather than the Gothic villain. By the time he published Thoughts on Man, Godwin, as F. E. L. Priestley points out, had substituted imagination for reason as the instrument of reform, and ascribed unselfish acts to "an exalted point of self-oblivion" inwhich spontaneous love triumphs over the rationalist's calculation of consequences (Political Justice in: 92-94). In the twelfth essay of Thoughts on Man, "Of the Liberty of Human Actions," Godwin had written, "It is the going forth of the heart towards those to whom we are bound by the ties of a common nature, affinity, sympathy, or worth, that is the luminary of themoral world. Without it there would have been 'a huge eclipse of sun and moon;' or at best, as a well-known writer [Paine] expresses it with reference to another subject, we should have lived in 'a silent and drab-coloured creation'" (Thoughts on Man, 234). As in Godwin's St. Leon and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, so in Zanoni the affirmation of the essential need for human sympathy transcends occultism in a moral fable exploring those human virtues necessary for the creation of a just society.
Last modified 24 November 2014