One of the fun things about blogging about both science and horror fiction is the unusual connections that one can find between them. On of my favorite science topics outside of physics is vulcanology, which is why I read blogs like Magma Cum Laude.
Recently, I happened across a very nice book by J.Z. de Boer and D.T. Sanders, Volcanoes in Human History. In short, it looks at the major volcanic eruptions with a focus on their impact on human events. Perhaps the most famed of these events is the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E., which resulted in the destruction of Pompeii. What especially caught my eye, though, was the following comment,
Among the earliest books about the catastrophe of 79 C.E. is The Last Days of Pompeii, a novel published to popular acclaim in 1834 by the English writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Though overly sentimental and melodramatic for modern tastes, it presents a fascinating glimpse of Pompeiian life in the first century and a vivid picutre of what it must have been like when the earth shook, walls tumbled, and ash and lapilli rained down upon the city, turning day into night.
Emphasis mine. To a horror fiction fan, Bulwer-Lytton is known as the author of one of the greatest haunted house stories ever written, The Haunted and the Haunters: Or the House and the Brain. Of Bulwer-Lytton, H.P. Lovecraft had the following to say in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature:
At this time a wave of interest in spiritualistic charlatanry, mediumism, Hindoo theosophy, and such matters, much like that of the present day, was flourishing; so that the number of weird tales with a "Psychic" or pseudo-scientific basis became very considerable. For a number of these the prolific and popular Edward Bulwer-Lytton was responsible; and despite the large doses of turgid rhetoric and empty romanticism in his products, his success in the weaving of a certain kind of bizarre charm cannot be denied.
The House and the Brain, which hints of Rosicrucianism and at a malign and deathless figure perhaps suggested by Louis XV's mysterious courtier St. Germain, yet survives as one of the best short haunted-house tales ever written.
In light of this, I thought I would take a look at the 'other side' of Bulwer-Lytton, and read his most famous romance, The Last Days of Pompeii (1834).
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