The Last Days of Pompeii is a novel written by the baron Edward Bulwer Lytton in 1834. The novel was inspired by the painting The Last Day of Pompeii by the Russian painter Karl Briullov, which Bulwer Lytton had seen in Milan. It culminates in the cataclysmic destruction of the city of Pompeii by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.
The novel uses its characters to contrast the decadent culture of 1st-century Rome with both older cultures and coming trends. The protagonist, Glaucus, represents the Greeks who have been subordinated by Rome, and his nemesis Arbaces the still older culture of Egypt. Olinthus is the chief representative of the nascent Christian religion, which is presented favourably but not uncritically. The Witch of Vesuvius, though she has no supernatural powers, shows Bulwer-Lytton's interest in the occult – a theme which would emerge in his later writing.
Pompeii, A.D. 79. Athenian nobleman Glaucus arrives in the bustling and gaudy Roman town and quickly falls in love with the beautiful Greek Ione. Ione's former guardian, the malevolent Egyptian sorcerer Arbaces, has designs on Ione and sets out to destroy their budding happiness. Arbaces has already ruined Ione's sensitive brother Apaecides by luring him to join the vice-ridden priesthood of Isis.
The blind slave Nydia is rescued from her abusive owners by Glaucus, for whom she secretly pines. Arbaces horrifies Ione by declaring his love for her, and flying into a rage when she refuses him. Glaucus and Apaecides rescue her from his grip, but Arbaces is struck down by an earthquake, a sign of Vesuvius' coming eruption.
Glaucus and Ione exult in their love, much to Nydia's torment, while Apaecides finds a new religion in Christianity.
Nydia unwittingly helps Julia, a rich young woman who has eyes for Glaucus, obtain a love potion from Arbaces to win Glaucus's love. But the love potion is really a poison that will turn Glaucus mad. Nydia steals the potion and administers it; Glaucus drinks only a small amount and begins raving wildly.
Apaecides and Olinthus, an early Christian, determine to publicly reveal the deception of the cult of Isis. Arbaces, recovered from his wounds, overhears and stabs Apaecides to death; he then pins the crime on Glaucus, who has stumbled onto the scene.
Arbaces has himself declared the legal guardian of Ione, who is convinced that Arbaces is her brother's murderer, and imprisons her at his mansion. He also imprisons Nydia, who discovers that there is an eyewitness to the murder who can prove Glaucus's innocence --- the priest Calenus, who is yet a third prisoner of Arbaces. She smuggles a letter to Glaucus's friend Sallust, begging him to rescue them.
Glaucus is convicted of murder, Olinthus of heresy, and their sentence is to be fed to wild cats in the amphitheater. All Pompeii gathers in the amphitheater for the bloody gladiatorial games. Just as Glaucus is led into the arena with the lion --- who, by a miracle, spares his life and returns to his cage --- Sallust bursts into the arena and reveals Arbaces' plot. The crowd demands that Arbaces be thrown to the lion, but it is too late: Vesuvius begins to erupt. Ash and stone rain down, causing mass panic.
Arbaces grabs Ione in the chaos but is killed by lightning striking. Nydia leads Glaucus, Sallust, and Ione to safety on a ship in the Bay of Naples. The next morning she commits suicide by quietly slipping into the sea; death is preferable to the agony of her unrequited love for Glaucus.
Ten years pass, and Glaucus writes to Sallust, now living in Rome, of his and Ione's happiness in Athens. They have built Nydia a tomb and adopted Christianity.
The Haunted and the Haunters - a short story about a rationalist Victorian who visits a haunted house in order to explain the nature of its ghostly inhabitants.
Table of Contents:
THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII
BOOK THE FIRST
1. The Two Gentlemen of Pompeii.
2. The Blind Flower-Girl, and the Beauty of Fashion. The Athenian’s Confession. The Reader’s Introduction to Arbaces of Egypt.
3. Parentage of Glaucus. Description of the Houses of Pompeii. Classic Revel.
4. The Temple of Isis. Its Priest. The Character of Arbaces Develops Itself.
5. More of the Flower-Girl. The Progress of Love.
6. The Fowler Snares Again the Bird that had Just Escaped, and Sets His Nets for a New Victim.
7. The Gay Life of the Pompeian Lounger. A Miniature Likeness of the Roman Baths.
8. Arbaces Cogs His Dice with Pleasure and Wins the Game.
BOOK THE SECOND
1. A Flash House in Pompeii, and the Gentlemen of the Classic Ring.
2. Two Worthies.
3. Glaucus Makes a Purchase that Afterwards Costs Him Dear.
4. The Rival of Glaucus Presses Onward in the Race.
5. The Poor Tortoise. New Changes for Nydia.
6. The Happy Beauty and the Blind Slave.
7. Ione Entrapped. The Mouse Tries to Gnaw the Net.
8. The Solitude and Soliloquy of the Egyptian. His Character Analysed.
9. What Becomes of Ione in the House of Arbaces. The First Signal of the Wrath of the Dread Foe.
BOOK THE THIRD
1. The Forum of the Pompeians. The First Rude Machinery by which the New Era of the World was Wrought.
2. The Noonday Excursion on the Campanian Seas.
3. The Congregation.
4. The Stream of Love Runs On. Whither?
5. Nydia Encounters Julia. Interview of the Heathen Sister and Converted Brother. An Athenian’s Notion of Christianity.
6. The Porter. The Girl. And the Gladiator.
7. The Dressing-Room of a Pompeian Beauty. Important Conversation Between Julia and Nydia.
8. Julia Seeks Arbaces. The Result of that Interview.
9. Storm in the South. The Witch’s Cavern.
10. The Lord of the Burning Belt and His Minion. Fate Writes Her Prophecy In Red Letters, but who Shall Read Them?
11. Progress of Events. The Plot Thickens. The Web is Woven, but the Net Changes Hands.
BOOK THE FOURTH
1. Reflections on the Zeal of the Early Christians. Two Men Come to a Perilous Resolve. Walls have Ears, Particularly Sacred Walls.
2. A Classic Host, Cook, and Kitchen. Apaecides Seeks Ione. Their Conversation.
3. A Fashionable Party and a Dinner a La Mode in Pompeii.
4. The Story Halts for a Moment at an Episode.
5. The Philtre. Its Effect.
6. A Reunion of Different Actors. Streams that Flowed Apparently Apart Rush into One Gulf.
7. In which the Reader Learns the Condition of Glaucus. Friendship Tested. Enmity Softened. Love the Same, Because the One Loving is Blind.
8. A Classic Funeral.
9. In which an Adventure Happens to Ione.
10. What Becomes of Nydia in the House of Arbaces. The Egyptian Feels Compassion for Glaucus. Compassion is Often a Very Useless Visitor to the Guilty.
11. Nydia Affects the Sorceress.
12. A Wasp Ventures into the Spider’s Web.
13. The Slave Consults the Oracle. They who Blind Themselves the Blind May Fool. Two New Prisoners Made in One Night.
14. Nydia Accosts Calenus.
15. Arbaces and Ione. Nydia Gains the Garden. Will she Escape and Save the Athenian?
16. The Sorrow of Boon Companions for Our Afflictions. The Dungeon and its Victims.
17. A Change for Glaucus
BOOK THE FIFTH
1. The Dream of Arbaces. A Visitor and a Warning to the Egyptian.
2. The Amphitheatre.
3. Sallust and Nydia’s Letter.
4. The Amphitheatre Once More.
5. The Cell of the Prisoner and the Den of the Dead. Grief Unconscious of Horror.
6. Calenus and Burbo. Diomed and Clodius. The Girl of the Amphitheatre And Julia.
7. The Progress of the Destruction.
8. Arbaces Encounters Glaucus and Ione.
9. The Despair of the Lovers. The Condition of the Multitude.
10. The Next Morning. The Fate of Nydia.
11. Wherein All Things Cease.
THE HAUNTED AND THE HAUNTERS or, The House and the Brain
Audiobook. Last Days of Pompeii by Edward Bulwer Lytton
The Last Days of Pompeii (1984)