Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-jbqgn Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-24T16:37:19.463Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Chapter 9 - “Something Vile in the Composition”: Marie Corelli's Ziska, Decadent Portraiture and the New Woman

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 July 2019

Angie Blumberg
Affiliation:
postdoctoral fellow in the English Department at Auburn University.
Get access

Summary

Marie Corelli's 1897 novel Ziska: The Problem of a Wicked Soul begins and ends in the sands beneath the Great Pyramid with the ever-watchful sphinx looking on. In the novel's prologue a voice arises in the darkness, and as it dissolves, a figure takes shape: “a Shadow and a Shape that flitted out like a thin vapor from the very portals of Death's ancient temple, and […] resolved itself into the visionary fairness of a Woman's form—a Woman whose dark hair fell about her heavily, like the black remnants of a long-buried corpse's wrappings” (8). Ziska, a reincarnated ancient Egyptian harem dancer, is both heroine and villain of the tale. Still bearing signs of her own mummification, she awakens in late nineteenth-century Egypt to exact revenge for her murder in a past life at the hands of her lover Araxes, now reincarnated as a Decadent French painter named Armand Gervase.

A few years after the novel's publication, in November 1901, Corelli delivered a lecture for the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution entitled “The Vanishing Gift: An Address on the Decay of Imagination.” In her speech she observed, “The colossal architecture of the temples of ancient Egypt, and that marvelous imaginative creation the Sphinx, with its immutable face of mingled scorn and pity […] these are all visible evidences of spiritual aspiration and endeavor” (FO 277). For Corelli archeological remnants provided a window into both spiritual and material domains, and their endurance solidified a material and spiritual connection between past and present peoples. Archeology had developed as a discipline throughout the nineteenth century, and by the 1890s, archeological exploits pervaded the popular press and filled museums and private collections with artifacts. Especially after 1882, when England began its informal occupation of Egypt, imperialists and plunderers brought ancient Egyptian artifacts back to England by the boatload, and archeological adventure inspired works by many of Corelli's contemporaries. In fact, through an article published on March 24, 1923, in the Daily Express—“Pharaoh Guarded by Poisons? Lord Carnarvon Warned by Marie Corelli”—Corelli became responsible for perpetuating one of the most famous archeological stories to date. Citing “a rare book” in her possession “which is not in the British Museum,” she warns, “The most dire punishment follows any rash intruder into a sealed tomb,” instigating the legend of the curse of Tutankhamen's tomb (“Pharaoh”).

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2019

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×