Monday, August 16, 2010

Eugene Aram


From “The Book of Days”, and the "Newgate Calendar" (source of image), comes the story of Eugene Aram who was hanged at Tyburn, per these sources, on August 16, 1759. Aram was noteworthy firstly for being a scholar, having a noted facility for languages. Unfortunately, what gained him a historical note was his conviction for murdering a man named Daniel Clarke.


The murder may have been simply for gain, or he may have suspected his wife of having an affair with Clarke, which he claimed after conviction, and before his execution. The contrast between Aram’s extraordinary self-developed language skills and this act of violence has inspired several literary works. Among those is Thomas Hood’s “The Dream of Eugene Aram”, and Edward Lytton Bulwer’s “Eugene Aram, a Tale”.

It is Bulwer’s work that provides the link to Sir Walter Scott. Bulwer dedicated his work to Scott:

TO SIR WALTER SCOTT, BART,, &c., &c.

SIR,


IT has long been the high and cherished hope of my ambition to add my humble tribute to the rich and numberless offerings that toe been laid upon the shrine of your genius. At each succeeding book that I have given to the world, I have paused to consider, if it were worthy of being inscribed with your great name, and at each I have played the procrastinator, and hoped for that morrow of better desert which never came. Having now arrived at a work which closes the series I contemplated from the first, it is possible that this may be the only opportunity afforded me of expressing that high, that just, that affectionate admiration with which you hare inspired me in common with all your cotemporaries, and which a French writer has not ungracefully termed " the happiest prerogative of genius." I seize this occasion, then, not as the best, but lest I should lose the last. As a Poet, and as a Novelist, your fame has attained to that height in which praise has become superfluous; but in the character of the writer, there seems to me a yet higher claim to veneration than in that of the writings. The example your genius sets us, who can emulate?—the example your moderation bequeaths to us, who shall forget? It is a great lesson to all cultivators of letters, to behold one who, in winning renown, has at last conquered envy, and who is at once without an equal and without a detractor.


You have left us for a while; but what heart does not, from that very absence, and from its reported cause, follow you to a southern shore, with feelings that make remembrance a duty scarcely less than a delight? What Scotchman can ever forget that you have immortalised his country — or what Englishman that you have bestowed an equal gift upon his language? Whatever the honours that await you abroad, you have left the gratitude, the homage, the very hearts of two mighty Nations to watch over your fame at home.


You, I feel assured, will not deem it presumptuous in one, who, to that bright and undying flame which now streams from the gray hills of Scotland,—the last halo with which you have crowned her literary glories, — has turned from his first childhood with a deep and unrelaxing devotion; — you, I feel assured, will not deem it presumptuous in him to inscribe an idle work with your illustrious name: — a work which, however worthless in itself, assumes something of value in his eyes when thus rendered a tribute of respect to you.


THE AUTHOR OF "EUGENE ARAM."


London, December 22, 1831

1 comment:

  1. Of course, what gained Edward Lytton Bulwer a historical note is writing "It was a dark and stormy night..."

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