Tag Archives: Trilby

Origins of Svengali Part 2

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

In Search of Svengali – Part One

Svengali, silent movie

Wilton Lackaye as Svengali (1905)

Looking for Svengali has been in my mind for a while now. I have a Project. (It’s medium term, no need to think I’m abandoning The Book I Need to Finish, Libertà hivies!)

When I realised that today would be Halloween, I thought  the time had come to share a little of my digging so far. After all, on Halloween the novelist’s imagination lightly turns to thoughts of spookiness. And Svengali is surely one of the most unsettling creations of any novelist.

As it happens, last year I got the Halloween brief too . It took me on a wild ride of serendipity. We went to 1938 New York, by way of my neighbours’ pumpkins and The Golden Bough.

So this year please follow me to the nineteenth century in Paris;  and London; and Australia; well all around the world really. Continue reading