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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83

Lady Bulwer Lytton

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Lady Bulwer Lytton.

Running a magazine may not conduce to profundity or accuracy, but it cultivates and sharpens amazingly the instinct to know what will fetch your public. Glancing in the window of a Collingwood odd and end shop, not a place of "pack-thread" and "cakes of roses," but of rusty hammers, centre-bits, gimlets, bunches of keys, and so forth, we espied a row of dingy and dusty old-fashioned novels, in half obliterated and well thumbed picture boards. One of them was "Very Successful," by Lady Bulwer Lytton, with a rubbed out illustration of a drawingroom tableau on the outside. "That's my dart," says Larrikinos, when he sees "Ned Kelly, the Ironclad Bushranger, and Lola Montes." With some such an exclamation, your Reviewer exchanged a shilling for "Lady Bulwer Lytton." Once get the right catch-line, and you can write apropos of everything, and a good many other things. We might even rope in the anecdote of Lola Montes, playing at the Bendigo Theatre, in the "Little Devil" during a real thunderstorm. The real lightning shivered a plank on the stage. Lola said to the manager, "You are introducing powerful effects." But we won't digress by bringing in such an irrelevant episode.

Lady Bulwer Lytton's novel, "Very Successful," is positively the worst we ever—tried to read. Perhaps it made a success thirty years ago, for this copy is inscribed, "New Edition." Some kind lady friend presented it to some other kind lady friend, but what the other kind lady friend died of is not stated—perhaps tetanus. It cost us a full hour of Sabbath morning to scamper through "Very Successful" in bed.

Yet there were three or four ideas in it. As soon as persecuted Mrs. Pember turned up, in Chapter I., we said, "Lady" Bulwer Lytton." Right you were. But her son Harcourt scarcely fitted in with the present Earl. He, that is Harcourt, went to the Crimea, and wrote to his mother from "The Heights of the Alma."

Sir Titaniferous Thompson, and other bad characters, kept appearing in succession, and at each one we said, "Here's Bulwer at last," but we were always wrong, until Sir Janus Allpuff arrived "With the head of a goat on the body of a grasshopper." His wrinkled countenance contained the Mountains of Hypocrisy, and was as expressive as that of the Irish Comedian which was termed a Map of Connaught. The "puffs" said his wrinkles were caused by novel writing, but the afflicted wife knew better.

Then there was his friend, Sir Jericho Jabber—no mistake about Disraeli here. Lady Bulwer has him on the hip over that hollow speech where he claimed the admission of Baron Rothschild to Parliament, because the founder of Christianity page 25 was a Jew. The authoress depicts him at a dancing party, exclaiming how divine it was, because David danced before the Ark! But Dizzy, in his more juvenile effulgence, is sketched best of all at Lady Blessington's, in "Willis's Pencillings by The Way."

We laid down "Very Successful" for a moment, or say stole three minutes out of the sixty, to reflect on the amazing development of Beaconsfield. He was fair game for the Willis's and Lady Bulwers, but yet he wrote his name by the side of that of Pitt, with his six years Premiership, and the impress of his hand in India, Afghanistan, and Egypt. Strange that the Viceroy of India, whose wires he pulled, was Lady Bulwer's son! Isn't it a marvellous world? What changes we undergo between the acts!

Again we recalled the circumstance of that mysterious and superb wreath of flowere laid on Beaconsfield's coffin, and coming from the aged Lady Bulwer! She lived only a year or two after him. Surely there was a glow of pride in her bosom at the last conjunction of the names of Disraeli and Bulwer!

Yes, time brings revenges, and glorious ones, the heaping of the coals of fire—not of malice, but of generosity, forgiveness, and love! We can never believe that Lady Bulwer would have issued the letters which a pitiful and petty spiteful woman lately tried to force upon the public. The ambition o'erleaped itself, and fell on the other side. Our sympathy is with Lord Lytton. He did not blacken his mother, though he spared his father. Nevertheless, by the inexplicable windings of fate, he has been the real instrument of drawing forth the stinging and hateful—practically libels—of Lady Bulwer's female friend. The scandal is stopped—where it is. All of us must feel ashamed of the avidity with which we rushed after the garbage. The son of Edward Lytton Bulwer and Rosina Wheeler has yet an important part to play on the political stage.

It is not to say that because "Very Successful" is a shocking bad novel, that it contains nothing good, and even instructive. It is rather an infuriated tract than a novel. We were much impressed with a passage on the Slave Trade, carried on with English girls, who are decoyed to Belgian and French houses of ill-fame. Lady Bulwer republished a lengthy and appalling letter, written by a lady to the Times, on this subject. We mention it because the matter was revived again in the Times, only about a year ago, showing that the evil is still rampant, and, of course, it has been going on for all these years!