The origins of Svengali have intrigued me for years. He appears in what was probably the first international best-selling novel. Trilby by George du Maurier, published in 1894, was a Gothic tale of possession, hopeless love and death. Svengali was its evil engine.
His name is still common currency as I wrote a few weeks ago but the story itself is largely forgotten.
These days “his Svengali” describes the managing partner in a certain type of relationship: he is the puppet master, nearly always evil, who deprives his creature of independent will. Yet most people who use the name have only the sketchiest idea of the story, and some have none at all. Continue reading