HIST 1100: History and Civilization
©Damen, 2022

Daniel Mendelsohn, The New York Times Book Review, 12/21/03, review of Pompeii by Robert Harris: "The most famous (or, given the deep aubergine hue of the author's prose, perhaps infamous) of all Pompeii novels is Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 'Last Days of Pompeii,' first published in 1834, a book whose villain is a devotee of the exotic cult of Isis (the New Age religion of its time), and whose two main characters convert to Christianity as their city falls to ruins around them. Some might argue that to invent a human-interest subplot in order to give the events of August 79 more pizazz is, so to speak, to gild the lilium; still, that Bulwer-Lytton's clanking morality play has provided a certain satisfaction is evident in the fact that his novel was adapted for the screen in every generation of the past century: in a 1913 Italian silent epic; a 1935 version, featuring Basil Rathbone; a 1960 remake with, inevitably, Steve Reeves as a gladiator; and finally as a 1984 ABC star-studded mini-series featuring, inter alios, as the Romans might say, the late-stage Laurence Olivier."