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I can think of at least 3 reasons.
First, a past bestseller can show us what life was like back then — better, I think, than can some classic from the same period, which often draws us more to itself as a bookfor its genius, than to an involvement with the period it describes. Second, a bestseller from long ago, since by definition it had a big audience, can illuminate the popular tastes, preoccupations, and prejudices of the time. I read a New York Times review of this show,  and was struck in particular beorge 2 of the works mentioned.
Appearing inby it had soldcopies … which may not be a shocking quantity by publishing standards trulby, but was unheard of then. George du Maurier is known as an English artist and novelist, but he was of a dual heritage, being born in Paris of a French father and an English mother. However, problems with his eyesight prompted him to abandon art for writing as his primary endeavor. It sold overcopies in its first year, and was a big hit in America as well as gorge Britain.
Here is one description of geprge American splash obviously from someone not enamored of what was going on: Here in America it has become almost as disgusting as the plague of lice sent upon Egypt to eat the chilled steel veneering off the heart of Pharaoh the fickle. We have Trilby bonnets and bonbons, poses and plays, dresses and drinks. Trilby sermons have maurir preached from prominent pulpits, and the periodicals, from penny-post to pretentious magazine, have Trilbyismus and have it bad.
Eventually like Beethoven with his SeptetDu Maurier became disgusted with the success of his creation! She also wrote a memoir about her family: Although not hard to find online, and free,  I could not actually just mmaurier a text file as I usually do, but instead had to copy-and-paste what I saw on the screen … a tedious task, although not georbe difficult one.
There were quite a few typographical errors — some of which seemed to be the result of scanning software smart enough to guess at a reasonable word, but not smart enough to realize that the passage it was scanning was in French! But this did not bother me much, since Du Maurier appears to me as a a wordy, prolix writer; I read the text quickly and without much attention to detail.
Three of maureir main characters are young British art students: Taffy, the Laird, and Little Billee. Then there is Svengali, a master musician, but a sinister fellow, and one who practices mesmerism what would later be known as hypnotism. There is the Cirque des Bashibazoucks, a concert hall which has such a marvellous name that I am reluctant to look it up for fear that it may not really have existed. Of course, kaurier Parisian Bohemian life was more relaxed in its morals than Trily Victorian standards would have sanctioned.
How many bestsellers do you know that are written in 2 languages? And most of this French georgf not of the standard variety, but is either a slangy, lower-class French, or French with a heavy Eastern European flavor, as spoken by Svengali.
Luckily, with my several years of school French, I could make most of this out; but how could hundreds of thousands of the public swallow this at the time the book appeared? The English writer Harriet Martineau suffering from a uterine tumor, took a course of mesmerism inand believed that this is what caused her cure.
Trilby by George Du Maurier
Mesmerism is also delved into by American authors of the 19th century: In a conversation with a parson who is the father of a young woman Billee is interested in, Billee mentions reading the Darwin, and that he does not go to church any more.
Needless to say, his potential future with the young woman is abruptly terminated…. Svengali, one of the main characters, is initially yrilby as: He was very shabby and dirty, ….
And take this description of a less major character: Mademoiselle Honorine Cahen better known in the Quartier Latin as Mimi la Salope was a difty, drabby little dolly-mop of a Jewess, a model for the figure — a very humble person indeed, socially. Like some poison that in tiny doses can actually be beneficial, a small amount of Jewish blood was, however, seen as a positive attribute: How can a modern reader make peace with this kind of situation? It was not at geofge easy for me, but I mauriier to keep telling myself that every writer is the product of his times.
Perhaps a great writer can rise above such repellent stuff, but Du Maurier was an author of no great gifts who consciously or not was taking advantage of the popular feelings of his period.
The Jewish community in England remained relatively small all the way until the late 19th century. Note that Svengali, the main Jewish character, is not British — not even French — but comes from a distant, reportedly evil place.
Toward the end of the story, a photograph of Svengali arrives in the mail, presumably from his place of origin:. No message of any kind, no letter of explanation, accompanied this unexpected present, which, from mauriwr postmarks on the case, seemed to have travelled all over Europe to London, out of some remote province in eastern Russia out of the mysterious East!
The poisonous East — birthplace and home of an ill wind that blows nobody good.
George du Maurier’s Trilby: A Victorian Phenomenon | Interesting Literature
To turn to less troublesome matters: It is I think of interest to see how the big splash of a long-ago bestseller has caused ripples that persist to this day. But it is not a difficult book to read, having a relaxed, easygoing style from the first sentence:.
And I think there are good reasons for reading it. It has memorable characters especially Trilby and Svengali. It is a heartfelt if perhaps not literally correct account of the Bohemian, artistic life in the Paris of the midth century. It captures the advent of scientific Darwinism, and its dampening effect on religion; tilby illustrates the fascination with the quasi-science of Mesmerism. It prompts us to admire a public that can take in a bilingual book on a wide scale, and conversely to shudder at this same public that could evidently swallow gross anti-Semitism without demur.
Note that this text is NOT downloadable or copy-and-pastable.
I have not actually found nor indeed looked for this ru myself. Toward the end of the story, a photograph of Svengali arrives in the mail, presumably from his place of origin: But it is not a difficult book to read, having a relaxed, easygoing style from the first sentence: