Sunday, October 06, 2013

Vivian Grey (1826-7)--Benjamin Disraeli Part 1

basis porch gathering alone 1834 undergraduates

I started this May 6, 2009. I scarcely remember anything about it, except that the title character went to Germany and hung out in several bizarre castles belonging to various of the petty princelings there, and that there was not a plot that was intelligible to me over the last 2/3rds of the book. So I am going to have to rely on my largely illegible notes to see what my impressions of it were.

This is a 393 page Victorian novel written by a 21-year old. It shows in over-elaborate constructions (I presume sentence constructions), and 100-something something, (maybe 100-pound words)?

I could have used a glossary for all the school terms and slang (I have still not really learned to use the internet as a real-time reference while reading, though I will go to it if there is a question that I simply must have the answer to).

Someone's eyes gaze 'in all the vacancy of German listlessness." This was the stereotype for a long time. Of course most people in the West wold have considered the Chinese and the Indians to have been listless as recently as the 1960s. I wonder what happens at certain points of history to kick large groups of people into gear where in the course of a generation they come to be seen as just about the antithesis of listless (and apply the discovery in my own family).

I was musing at one point about Vivian's being a member of the famous family of literary Greys--Dorian, Agnes, et al--I did not check the spelling on these names, and besides bohemian English people are at liberty to spell their names any way they want. This probably tells you something about how scintillating the story was.

It only took to page 57 to find the Minor Character Who is Just Like Me for this book: "Mr Boreall (nice name) was one of those unfortunate men who always take things to the letter."

Goethe was still alive at the time this book was published. For some reason this struck me as remarkable when I considered it at the time.

Party Girls in Warsaw (see below)

It also struck me as remarkable that the author of such a juvenile novel could go on to have the political career that Disraeli had without constantly being attacked about the thoughts he revealed in it. Maybe he was, but it doesn't seem to have hurt him if it did happen.

I also noted on the same page that Disraeli was obviously of the type that has no sympathy for timid hem-hawers, people who don't know their own minds.

It only took as far as page 79 to find the one sentence Anti-me of this book: "Frederick Cleveland was educated at Eton and at Cambridge; and after having proved, both at the school and the University, that he possessed talents of a high order, he had the courage, in order to perfect them, to immure himself for three years in a German University."

B.D. is more of a teller than a shower (as in one who shows, not a fall of water under which one cleans oneself, which is how I was trying to read it before I could decipher "teller").

This is a strange book. Mrs Felix Lorraine is strange. The scene of the midnight meeting evokes the college atmosphere well though, via rustles, shadows, odd silence and the unnatural stillness of objects. This is all one note, and I don't have the slightest idea what I meant by it.

Smart people (really smart people) have so much attitude and easy superiority. It gets to be a bit much for me however.

Of course they have to talk about Byron. His role in the civilizational imagination at this time cannot be overstated. He was a presence that people could not get around. When Byron's admiration of Bolivar is referenced, it is spoken of as if Bolivar's personal greatness is confirmed as much by Byron's opinion of it as by the man's own actions. Frederick Cleveland, already shown to be a superior being himself, said of the poet, "He was indeed a real man; and when I say this, I award him the most splendid character which human nature need aspire to."

Heidelberg is described as 'a place of surpassing loveliness, where all the romantic wildness of German scenery is blended with the soft beauty of the Italian." I haven't been there.

Warsaw is described as a 'Paradise of women' by the Baron Julius von Konigstein. I suspect that it is. The Baron was a great traveler, and claimed that the only places he hadn't seen were "In Europe...the miracles of Prince Hohenlohe. In Asia, everything except the ruins of Babylon; In Africa, I have seen everything but Timbuctoo; and in America, everything except Croker's Mountains." Croker's Mountains were a mirage reported as being seen near Baffin Island in Arctic Canada by a British explorer who was searching for the Northwest Passage, the non-existence of which were demonstrated shortly before this book was written.

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