“It has always seemed impossible to me to write the mysteries of a land that has none, and, invented, nobody believes them. I was wrong. It is because I did not know Lisbon, or not able to calculate the power of a man’s imagination.”
New Discovery: Photograph of Famous Victorian Novelist Pierce Egan the Younger (1814–80) | Stephen Basdeo
“Many among us fancy that they have a good general idea of what is English literature. They think of Tennyson and Dickens as the most popular of our living authors. It is a fond delusion, from which they should be aroused. The works of Mr. Pierce Egan are sold by the half million.”
Mysterymania gripped the world in the 1840s and 1850s. From London and France it spread to USA, Germany, Italy, Brazil, and Portugal. Camilo Branco’s Misterios de Lisboa was part of this thrilling genre.
“G. W. M. Reynolds we devoured in The Coral Island, a big tome of horrors; and there was Eugéne Sue’s Mysteries of Paris in three big volumes.”
The effects of that glorious revolution which gave so vast an impulse to the energies and intelligence of the French, have been subsequently felt by all the other nations of Europe; and while Burke aimed his thunders against those principles which restored a desponding people to freedom, light, and happiness…
The fact is, that America is better understood by Europeans than by its own citizens. While she is occupied in self-contemplation and self-admiration—a state of quiescent beatitude originated by amour-propre—we are in a situation which enables us to judge of her with impartiality and calmness.
The following short poem appeared in G.W.M. Reynolds’s novel Robert Macaire. Away, away, the god of day Depart to another sphere: The mists arise, but the darkling skies Like a jewell’d vest […]
“Karl has a wife and a child—if you consign him to death, you kill three persons at once;—if you give me up to the executioner, my fate will redound so terribly on no one!”
His rage knew no bounds. He muttered threats of deadly vengeance; and on the following morning, he commanded the prisoners to be brought into his presence. Then commenced a terrible massacre, the horrors of which no human pen nor tongue can narrate.
His style reminds us of Cooper’s most approved nautical fictions, rather than of the coarse and vulgar “yarns” so tediously spun by Captain Marryat. He introduces us to scenes and adventures of stirring and painful interest.
A page of his book an echo to the tablet of his memory; and hence does he occasionally detail minutely those feelings and passions which the generality of authors usually express in one word.
The Political notions of the poet must not be judged by this Song. In condemning the conduct of an individual, who betrayed a woman to her enemies, he does not vituperate the subsequent measures which were necessarily adopted with regard to that noble personage: he simply anathematizes the name of a wretch, whose heart, devoid of all kind feelings of gratitude—of respect—and of pity, was corrupted by gold, and rendered subservient to the designs of his employers.
‘Lines Written on a Ball at the Hotel-de-Ville was written by Victor Hugo in 1833 and published in Les Chants du Crepuscule (1835). It was then translated by George W.M. Reynolds and published in Songs of Twilight (1836).
In this book, therefore—small though it be when compared with the vast magnitude of its subject—there are a thousand discrepancies—lustre and obscurity, which pervade all we see, and all we conceive in this age of twilight, which envelope our political theories, our religious opinions, our domestic life, and which are even discovered in the histories we write of others, as well as in those of ourselves.
The following poem appeared in Victor Hugo’s Chants des Crepuscules (1835) and was translated by G.W.M. Reynolds. It celebrates Napoleon’s son, Napoleon, who died too young and had no contact with father after the emperor was exiled to St Helena.
The following poem, titled ‘The Sea’, was written by G.W.M. Reynolds and first appeared in the London Journal in 1845. It has been transcribed by Stephen Basdeo.
“He appeared to me to be a West Indian, born of European parents; for his complexion is darker than even that of a Spaniard, and his hair black as jet. His face was at that time singularly handsome.”
As Reynolds approached the Prime Minister to ask permission, Lord Harrowby jumped upon him in a rage — here was a lord attempting to silence the representative of the people!
The following poem was written by George W.M. Reynolds and originally appeared in his novel Alfred: The Adventures of a French Gentleman (1838), which was originally serialised in the Monthly Magazine. The poem is about the deeds of a knight errant in medieval Palestine during the crusades.
“Reynolds is a rascal,” said Marx, “but a rich and able speculator. Find out what the father of communism thought about the biggest-selling novelist of the Victorian era.
I defy any living soul to refute Thomas Paine’s arguments. I have read answers to them, and attempts at refutation; but none succeed–all sink into the ground.
In 1851 G.W.M. Reynolds launched a new series of ‘memoirs’ novels that told the story of poor women struggling to make their way in a heartless and alienating capitalist world.
George W. M. Reynolds spent his teenage years and early twenties in France and was a great admirer of the country’s history and culture which is celebrated in this poem.
“He defied the law, he suffered imprisonment, and lost his property in struggling for a right … we are indebted for the immense benefits derived by the masses from the circulation amongst them of cheap literature.”