Godolphin Page 01
By Edward Bulwer Lytton (Lord Lytton)
TO COUNT ALFRED D'ORSAY.
MY DEAR COUNT D'ORSAY,
When the parentage of Godolphin was still unconfessed and unknown, you were pleased to encourage his first struggles with the world: Now, will you permit the father he has just discovered to re-introduce him to your notice? I am sorry to say, however, that my unfilial offspring, having been so long disowned, is not sufficiently grateful for being acknowledged at last: he says that he belongs to a very numerous family, and, wishing to be distinguished from his brothers, desires not only to reclaim your acquaintance, but to borrow your name. Nothing less will content his ambition than the most public opportunity in his power of parading his obligations to the most accomplished gentleman of our time. Will you, then, allow him to make his new appearance in the world under your wing, and thus suffer the son as well as the father to attest the kindness of your heart and to boast the honour of your friendship?
My dear Count d'Orsay,
With the sincerest regard,
Yours, very faithfully and truly,
E. B. L.
PREFACE TO GODOLPHIN.
In the Prefaces to this edition of my works, I have occasionally so far availed myself of that privilege of self-criticism which the French comic writer, Mons. Picord, maintains or exemplifies in the collection of his plays,--as, if not actually to sit in judgment on my own performances, still to insinuate some excuse for their faults by extenuatory depositions as to their character and intentions. Indeed, a writer looking back to the past is unconsciously inclined to think that he may separate himself from those children of his brain which have long gone forth to the world; and though he may not expatiate on the merits his paternal affection would ascribe to them, that he may speak at least of the mode in which they were trained and reared--of the hopes he cherished, or the objects he entertained, when he finally dismissed them to the opinions of others and the ordeal of Fate or Time.
For my part, I own that even when I have thought but little of the value of a work, I have always felt an interest in the author's account of its origin and formation, and, willing to suppose that what thus affords a gratification to my own curiosity, may not be wholly unattractive to others, I shall thus continue from time to time to play the Showman to my own machinery, and explain the principle of the mainspring and the movement of the wheels.
This novel was begun somewhere in the third year of my authorship, and completed in the fourth. It was, therefore, composed almost simultaneously with Eugene Aram, and afforded to me at least some relief from the gloom of that village tragedy. It is needless to observe how dissimilar in point of scene, character, and fable, the one is from the other; yet they are alike in this--that both attempt to deal with one of the most striking problems in the spiritual history of man, viz., the frustration or abuse of power in a superior intellect originally inclined to good. Perhaps there is no problem that more fascinates the attention of a man of some earnestness at that period of his life, when his eye first disengages itself from the external phenomena around him, and his curiosity leads him to examine the cause and account for the effect;--when, to cite reverently the words of the wisest, "He applies his heart to know and to search, and to seek out wisdom and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness."
In Eugene Aram, the natural career of genius is arrested by a single crime; in Godolphin, a mind of inferior order, but more fanciful colouring, is wasted away by the indulgence of those morbid sentiments which are the nourishment of egotism, and the gradual influence of the frivolities which make the business of the idle. Here the Demon tempts or destroys the hermit in his solitary cell. There, he glides amidst the pomps and vanities of the world, and whispers away the soul in the voice of his soft familiars, Indolence and Pleasure.
Of all my numerous novels, Pelham and Godolphin are the only ones which take their absolute groundwork in what is called "The Fashionable World." I have sought in each to make the general composition in some harmony with the principal figure in the foreground. Pelham is represented as almost wholly unsusceptible to the more poetical influences. He has the physical compound, which, versatile and joyous, amalgamates easily with the world--he views life with the lenient philosophy that Horace commends in Aristippus: he laughs at the follies he shares; and is ever ready to turn into uses ultimately (if indirectly) serious, the frivolities that only serve to sharpen his wit, and augment that peculiar expression which we term "knowledge of the world." In a word, dispel all his fopperies, real or assumed, he is still the active man of crowds and cities, determined to succeed, and gifted with the ordinary qualities of success.