The Last Days of Pompeii

ISBN: 158715739X
ISBN 13: 9781587157394
By: Edward Bulwer-Lytton John Gregory Betancourt

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About this book

The Last Days of Pompeii is a novel written by the baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1834. Once a very widely read book, now relatively neglected, it culminates in the cataclysmic destruction of the city of Pompeii by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. The novel uses its characters to contrast the decadent culture of 1st-century Rome with both older cultures & coming trends. The protagonist, Glaucus, represents the Greeks who have been subordinated by Rome, & his nemesis Arbaces the still older culture of Egypt. Olinthus is the chief representative of the nascent Christian religion, which is presented favorably but not uncritically. The Witch of Vesuvius, tho she has no supernatural powers, shows Bulwer-Lytton's interest in the occult--a theme which would emerge in his later writing, particularly The Coming Race.

Reader's Thoughts


Lecture très ardue au début avec description des personnages, des lieux, de l'histoire ; il faut s'accrocher sur une centaine de pages et après c'est très prenant !


A romance, heavy on the details, leading up to the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in AD 79. Throw in some hedonistic noblemen, gladiators, Christians, a scheming seductress and a few lions - what's not to like?"I believe in two deities - Nature and Necessity; I worship the last by reverence, the first by investigation. What is the morality my religion teaches? All things are subject but to general rules: the sun shines for the joy of the many... though it may bring sorrow to the few; the night sheds sleep on the multitude... but it harbors murder as well as rest; the forests adorn the earth... but shelter the serpent and the lion; the ocean supports a thousand barks... but it engulfs the one. It is only thus for the general, and not for the universal benefit, that Nature acts, and Necessity speeds on her awful course." - Edward Bulwe-Lytton, The Last Days of Pompeii


This guy is often cited as the writer of the worst English novel ever (Paul Clifford) but this one is actually fun to read. If you can get through other Victorian novels like Dickens, you can get through this.


I loved this book! It's fun to read about history in story form. It takes a bit of effort to get into the story at first, but half way through the book, it's hard to put it down. I was too tired to finish reading it last night, but woke up early (5:30AM) and finished it before doing anything else. It's a fascinating account of the unknown but one true God pursuing and rescuing some who were deeply immersed in the gods of their current culture and times. And also of the tragedy of the volcanic explosion and destruction of Pompeii.I thought the following scene of a brother trying to explain his new found devotion to the true God was worth quoting:"Thou art to be married to Glaucus - dost thou love him? Dost thou feel that for his sake, thou couldst renounce pride, brave dishonour, and incur death? I have heard that when women really love, it is to that excess.""My brother, all this I could do for Glaucus, and feel that it were not a sacrifice. There is no sacrifice to those who love, in what is borne for the one we love.""Enough! Shall woman feel thus for man, and man feel less devotion to his God?" p.233-4

Erik Graff

I read this thing while taking Latin and belonging to the Latin Club at Maine Township South High School South in Park Ridge, Illinois. Although not highly regarded as literature, I, as an early teen, liked it quite a lot except for what, even then, I felt to be a rather saccharine Christianity.

Elizabeth S

3 1/2 stars. As with many classics, the beginning is yawn-worthy. But it does eventually pick up the pace and become quite exciting. Knowing that at the end the city is destroyed, one wonders who (if anyone) will survive. Which increases the intensity of the subplots, because even if the good-guys win, they may still die at the end. So one wonders if perhaps the bad-guys will win, but suffer in the final demise. Read to find out!


This is another tangent off of my current Dickens kick. It was a fictionalized account of, obviously, the last days of Pompeii. There was love, romance, heartbreak, heroes and villains, betrayals and last-minute rescues. Really, what more could you ask? It reminded me of reading Dickens but with fewer memorable characters with quirky traits. I do, however, recommend it.


I read this perhaps 25 years ago, but just downloaded a copy, not remembering that I'm already familiar with it. The opening lines reminded me. Of course, being so long ago, I don't remember a lot about the reading (good reason to revisit the book,) but it did make quite an impression on me. Since I was a teenager, I've watched many documentaries that reference Pompeii, and have a fascination with volcanoes. In 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted, the top 1/3 of the mountain disappearing in a moment. I was 9 years old. We were near enough to the mountain to see it, but far enough away to make the catastrophe only a moderate inconvenience. I remember standing on my Aunt's back deck and watching the ash plume drifting east. Over the next several weeks, ash settled on everything, and our neighbors closer to the volcano had to cope with ashy air, ash in and on all of their possessions, unreliable transportation, and property damage. 57 people died - DIED, in spite of massive warnings from scientists watching the mountain's activity. Spirit Lake all but disappeared, poisoned by gas and debris, clogged with ash. It was an incredible thing to witness - especially for a 10 year old. Sometime thereafter, I found The Last Days of Pompeii at the library, and devoured it. In glancing over it again, I'm not sure how my middle school mind took in the archaic language, but having been raised on a steady diet of daily bible readings, I suspect I was more used to it than I would be now. I do remember the story being a fascinating look at the day to day lives of a somewhat decadent Greco-Roman city. There were elements of influence from other cultures and religions also, which made the story even more interesting to me as a child, steeped as I was in fundamentalism. It was a rare peek into other philosophies, couched in historical fiction. Perhaps on re-reading, it wouldn't stand up to my early experience. Still, I think I'll give it a shot.


Really beautiful. If you can handle the iambic pentameter, it was a classic epic of hero versus man and nature. Really liked it!!!Makes me want to go to Pompeii!


Hard to get into but worth the effort. Of course the values of the book are anachronistic, but the creative storyline created from the ruins of Pompeii is an entertaining read. I did not expect to like this one as much as I did.


Once you get past the over-the-top writing, this is pretty good.


This was just an adventure book with a historical setting. I think it had no blatant historical mistakes (I don't know much about Rome or Pompeii), and it was entertaining enough, but it didn't have me hooked, as I expected. I also expected more drama from the Vesubius eruption, but it had just a mild effect on the main characters' lives.What made me give this book just two stars was:1. Flat characters. Good ones were really good ones. Bad ones were evil. Good ones win without much effort and just in time and bad ones die because of God's Wrath. 2. I don't agree with Christian views most of the time. And this author introduced too much of them. It felt like being a child scolded for not loving and appreciating Christ enough. And everyone who was good was converted to the true religion (as they said in the book) and pagans were dead.However, it was still entertaining. I need some fluff books from time to time.


There's not a lot of point criticising Bulwer-Lytton's overblown, excessively flowery, never-use-one-word-if-you-can-use-ten style, because that was his shtick - if that's the sort of thing you like, then you'll like this. I didn't, much, I found the characters stock, the descriptions stilted and the historical accuracy too glued on. I did get involved though once the volcano erupted (oops, hope that hasn't given away the plot), and there was one insight into crowd behaviour that is universal and topical: this is the audience for the gladiators:"Aroused - inflamed by the spectacle of their victims, they forgot the authority of their rulers. It was one of those dread popular convulsions common to crowds wholly ignorant, half free and half servile."It's a readable novel, but not much more.


Interesting, but very dated. A lot of insights into Ancient Roman society, but beware of the outdated language. One laughable bit was where bloodletting by leeches was mentioned as a modern medical practice. Ewww!

Silvina Perez

Very interesting!

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