By The Right Hon. Lord Lytton

Printed: Circa 1840

Publisher: George Routledge & Sons. London

Edition: New edition

Dimensions 11 × 16 × 3 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 11 x 16 x 3

Condition: Very good  (See explanation of ratings)

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Item information


Brown leather spine with raised banding and gilt title. Brown textured boards.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

  • An early edition of the second version printed after 1840.

  • This volume is in need of some TLC (tender loving care)!

Godolphin is a satirical 19th-century romance novel by British writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton. It is about the life of an idealistic man, Percy Godolphin, and his eventual lover, Constance Vernon. Written as a frame narrative, Godolphin provides a satirical insight into the day-to-day lives of the early 19th-century British elite. The story is told through the narration of two protagonists, Percy Godolphin and Constance Vernon, as they rise to prominence among the London elite.

Godolphin was published two years after The Reform Bill passed which put an end to the exclusive high class in England. Bulwer-Lytton, being a politician, was a member of this British elite. Literary scholar William Cragg reveals that the original novel published in 1833 was replaced in 1840 with a revised copy. Bulwer-Lytton received very harsh criticisms upon the novel’s original release due to its extremely harsh criticism of specific rival politicians and its appearance as a celebration of the Reform Bill.

Godolphin was first published in 1834, two years after the Reform Bill of 1832 passed through the House of Lords, effectively putting an end to the rule of the British elite by greatly increasing the number of people allowed to vote. The bill was opposed by most members of the House of Lords but eventually passed due to overwhelming public support. Edward Bulwer-Lytton was one of the few politicians who supported the Reform Bill. The first publication of Godolphin was a celebration of the bill’s passing. The public received the original print very well, but it was met with backlash by the elite due to its calling out specific politicians who found against the bill. Due to this backlash, Lytton revised and republished the novel in 1840, reducing the amount of political vitriol.

Idealism – Throughout Percy Godolphin’s life he seems doomed to never be satisfied. No matter what he achieves, reality never quite lives up to the ideal he has created in his head. Even when he eventually marries the woman he considers to be the love of his life, he soon realizes she is not the same person he has idealized. This theme explores the growing trend towards idealism coming from The Enlightenment, showing that if a person’s head is not grounded in reality they will be doomed to constant disappointment when life does not live up to their idealistic standards.

Legacy – Both Percy Goldolphin and Constance Vernon are given dying wishes by their father’s. Percy is given the mission of restoring their family estate to its former glory, while Constance is made to swear that she will avenge her father’s political downfall. Percy chooses to ignore this dying wish, due to his father’s low social standing, whereas Constance bases her entire life around achieving her father’s lost status. This highlights the social order of early 19th century British society. Specifically, the way in which social standing defined the worth of a family name.

Gender role reversal – Percy and Constance both reject the typical gender roles of the Victorian Era. Percy gains wealth, status, and power without ever doing anything, he does not work and instead focuses his life on the women he loves. His eventual fortune comes from marrying Constance and once they are married he is the one who spends the money recklessly while she acts conservatively with it. Constance sees love as weakness and focuses her entire life on gaining political influence. She is the one who takes initiative both in her social life and her relationship with Percy. Constance could be considered a precursor to the “New Woman.”

Literary scholar William Cragg reveals that there are actually two different versions of Godolphin. The first was released in 1833 and was wildly controversial. Bulwer-Lytton was a very liberal politician at the time and the original version of Godolphin was a celebration of the passing of The Reform Bill in parliament. The original novel contained obvious mockery of several rival politicians. Due to the controversy caused by this, Lytton released a revised version of the novel in 1840.

Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, PC (25 May 1803 – 18 January 1873) was an English writer and politician. He served as a Whig member of Parliament from 1831 to 1841 and a Conservative from 1851 to 1866. He was Secretary of State for the Colonies from June 1858 to June 1859, choosing Richard Clement Moody as founder of British Columbia. He declined the Crown of Greece in 1862 after King Otto abdicated. He was created Baron Lytton of Knebworth in 1866.

Bulwer-Lytton’s works were well known in his time. He coined famous phrases like “pursuit of the almighty dollar”, “the pen is mightier than the sword”, “dweller on the threshold”, “the great unwashed”, and the opening phrase “It was a dark and stormy night.” The sardonic Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, held annually since 1982, claims to seek the “opening sentence of the worst of all possible novels”.

Condition notes

Damage on the headband

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