novel by Thomas Love Peacock
, published in 1818. The Glowrys live in the mournful
Nightmare Abbey, in the fen
s of Norfolk
, with servants named Raven
, and Graves
. Young Scythrop Glowry
, disappointed in love, turns to melancholy
, and German metaphysics
. He writes an impenetrable
book and is eventually informed by the bookseller that only seven copies have been sold. He has vision
s of himself at the head of a secret society
of seven enlightened eleutherarch
s, who will reform the world. During his father's absence he takes the precaution of having a dumb carpenter
smuggled in to build a few secret passage
s in his tower
This being a Peacock novel, the elder Mr Glowry invites a number of disparate people to his home for conversation, food, wine, and entertainment. Unlike with his other novels, these are close parodies of real people: Scythrop is Peacock's friend Shelley; and Coleridge, Byron, and Southey are also represented.
Mr Flosky is the Coleridge figure, a once fervent supporter of the French Revolution who, aghast at its outcome, has retreated into transcendental metaphysics. Mr Toobad is a Manichean millenarian, who believes this period to be that in which the Devil reigns on earth and ordains confusion: his favourite quotation is Revelation 12:12, "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea, for the Devil is come among you, having great wrath, for he knoweth that he hath but a short time"; which he repeats incessantly. The Honourable Mr Listless lies on his couch, uses his valet as his memory, and takes but does not read the latest fashionable novels.
Also of the party is Scythrop's cousin Marionetta, a gay, sprightly, musical beauty who despite her opposite temperament soon has Scythrop at her feet. She having merrily encouraged him now turns cold, and he, dumbfounded, retreats to his tower to summon her before awful mysterious tribunals of his imagination. The situation is complicated, and at this point I can no longer reveal more plot, when another beauty turns up seeking him, but one who is as dark and deep and serious as himself. He is utterly torn between them. This is in fact also based on Shelley, and his loves for Harriet Westbrook and Mary Godwin.