Books provide us with the most enduring images of the human condition. I just finished reading “Last Days of Pompeii” by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. This book came to me as my grandmother’s unexpected gift from beyond the grave. That alone makes it special to me. Having read it, I know now I was meant to have it.
Pompeii was a great city that had sunk into hedonism and indifference. Inspired by a painting, the author wrote the story of the demise of this legendary place. The work is a tapestry of human emotion, full of drama and intrigue; both comedic and tragic.
Before the destruction we meet the young Athenian Glaucus, who is in love with the Neopolitan Ione. She is the ward of a severe Egyptian named Arbaces. The story centers around the conflict between these two men: for Arbaces is cunning and cruel and wishes to have Ione for himself.
A young blind girl named Nydia also plays a key role in this drama. She loves Glaucus for his kindness and becomes jealous of Ione. Events conspire to bring about a tragedy, before the devastation of Pompeii.
Reading this work, you will experience deeply-moving moments along with times of great excitement. The story is visual and compelling, and even the villain is sympathetic to a point. Also, it is truly frightening to behold people, whose existence is full of casual merry-making, reduced to a lust for the shedding of blood.
Speaking to us from centuries past, the warnings here remain relevant. We are not so different, in our indifference and complacence. And while nature’s fury can lay us low, it is our own wickedness that will draw it down upon our heads.