Bulwer-Lytton’s Glenaveril

 

Swiss Alps

Another great poetry must read includes Bulwer-Lytton‘s Glenaveril.

Lord Ivor Glenaveril is born into tragedy: his father dies in a hunting accidnet the day he is born – the latest death in a long series of mortal calamities afflicting the Lords Gelenaveril over generations: so notes his studious but kindly grandfather, Professor Ludwig Elderath.

For Ivor’s birth, his mother – Eleanor – was staying in the guest-house of a recently widowed friend – Mary Muller. A strong, mutual friendship had sprung up between the two women: and as both were pregnant and near their time: they had intended to remain near at hand to lend mutual support during their respective childbirths. As it happened, the two mothers give birth on the same day: but to Eleanor’s sorrow, Mary dies shortly after delivering a healthy newborn son – who she names Emanuel. Although Eleanor is willing – even eager – to foster and raise Emanuel as her own: Emanuel’s relatives quickly intervene, and Emanuel is given to be raised by his spinster aunt – Martha Muller. Martha insists that her nephew be raised to become a Lutheran pastor and  take the place of his deceased father: so saying, she thanks the Countess Eleanor, and returns to the continent with her swaddling nephew.

But Eleanor does not forget Emanuel: and over the years she contrives opportunities for the her son to remain in contact with Emanuel: inviting Emanuel over to stay on various occasions. A fast friendship springs up between the two young men: which remains steadfast over time, despite differences in temperament, outlook, and upbringing.

And so it comes about that when both men are new-come into their majority: the pair decide to travel abroad together for a time: commencing with a walking tour of the Alps. As a friendship-pact they exchange names: Emanuel everywhere introducing himself – and acting the part of – Lord Glenaveril, while Ivor answers only Reverend Muller. But what will be the consequences of such play-acting?

  • Emanuel is being courted by Cordelia – but Emanuel cares for her not at all. When Ivor sees her he himself becomes quickly enamoured: but how can Ivor satisfy the simultaneous demands of friendship and romance?
  • Emanuel enjoys immensely playing at being a Lord: being tired of the constraints of the pastorate. Ivor similarly enjoys shedding the burdens of lordship: which he finds dull and enervating. Can their voluntary role-swop ever become anything more than a temporary reprieve from crushing responsibilities? Even if it could: would either of the twain welcome the change if it were to become permanent?

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