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


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.

Gabriel Wallis

What a difficult book to read! I've owned "The Last Days of Pompeii" since I was a child, and finally decided to sit down and read it. Over the years I've picked it up, looked at it, and put it back down, always playing with the idea to actually read it. And now that I've read it, I'm glad I did. It was good! So much happened in the storyline, there's not enough time to go over the details. I really appreciated the Christians (Nazarenes) in the story. They caught my attention, being a Christian myself. But Mount Vesuvius! That must've been horrible! What a horrible way to die!


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.


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.


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!


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.


This was actually really good. Considering this is the same guy who famously wrote "It was a dark and stormy night...". A good historical novel, and by some accounts, the first in that genre.


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.


A veiled Roman lady walks down the cobble stone street of ancient Pompeii. She smiles when she sees her friend and modestly removes only half her veil to greet her in front of the House of the Tragic Poet, a name that will be conferred upon it seventeen centuries hence.“O friend! By wise Juno, how are you?”“Alas and alack, dear friend! This day I am forced to place a one star review on Goodreads!”“By the gods this is sore news indeed! Why?”“The melodramatic overacting of the main characters is quite, quite terrible! Everything they say, by thunderous Jove, is exclaimed upon!”“But-but, by Vulcan’s forge, a volcano ruins their whole world, is that not enough reason to be dramatic?”“Not when the volcano erupts in only the last ten of 400 pages!”The women stand and, with nervous hands, twist at the edges of their stola, a garment that was a long, pleated dress, worn over an undergarment called a tunica intima. The stola was generally sleeveless but versions of it did have short or long sleeves. These sleeves could belong to the stola itself or be a part of the tunic. The traditional sleeveless gown was fastened by clasps at the shoulder called fibulae. The stola was typically girt with ribbons, and typically had two belts. The first was worn just below the upper chest creating a great number of folds. The second and wider belt was worn around the waist. Stolas were generally made of fabrics like linen or wool, but a wealthy woman could be seen wearing a stola made of silk. “Well then, you must at least then get a good day-in-the-life examination of the ancient city!”“Nay! Tis a horrible Victorian soap opera of halfhearted assassinations and chaste love affairs!”“O alas! That such a tale is wrecked in the telling!”“Alas! By Mercury!”


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.

Kat Gunya

This is overall an amazing book. Once you get past the stumbling block that is old English, you suddenly find yourself extremely engaged and do not want to put the book down. The plot is exciting and the book itself is fairly fast-paced. I would definitely recommend it to anyone with a voracious reading appetite or somebody looking for a challenge.

Silvina Perez

Very interesting!

Christy Stewart

I cannot judge this book as a novel because it reads so beautifully that I consider it poetry.It's a great book to use for bibliomancy and it's so old that you can get great antique copies of it.PS. I once read that no one practices bibliomancy anymore and I divined from the text that the author is retarded.

James Violand

Good read. The movies that supposedly follow this novel - do not! The reader gets to understand the motives of the personalities in a typical Roman city of the 1st century. Entertaining.


A book I read more from seeing it referenced in other 19th century novels than for its own sake. I gave it four stars rather than three for the picture it indirectly reveals of educated British morals and tastes.

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