London is almost replete with cavaliers and learned men but twenty-two-year-old Londoner Geoffrey Tempest is atypical of the learned. Filled with paranoia, the squeak of the door latch, the knock of a mailman is synonymous to the knocks of the landlady he can neither pay nor promise to pay the overdue rent bills.
Losing his job and the death of his hugely insolvent father have left him just a holder of a degree in literature. Getting someone to publish his manuscript remains his sole hope for surviving pennilessness, emaciation and his chronic convulsing from hunger.
On the evening of his financial apocalypse, the piteous state of his cold, pitch-dark room is enough to sum up his stark poverty and hopeless state. Everything about him is a perfect veil of his impending transformation from being a learned pauper to London’s most renowned millionaire. Three mails arrived. He expects to these to be ‘three more rejection notes’ of his manuscript from publishers. Against the odds, it turns out that the first mail is not only an unanticipated reply to his desperate loan-request from a friend who has made some fortune in Australia, but also with it is the fifty pounds he had begged from him. The letter is also to introduce Geoffrey to a blue-blooded man who can turn around his life. The second is a solicitor’s notice on Geoffrey Tempest’s inheritance of millions of fortune from a deceased uncle. The third is a letter from Prince Lucio Raminez, the aristocrat being introduced, who befriends him and proceeds to be influential in the management of his assets and in spreading his fame as one of London’s wealthiest men.
Being the kind that is neither superstitious nor believes in religion’s Satan and God, Geoffrey Tempest does not question—but is simply overwhelmed by—the eerily impressive Prince Lucio Raminez. With Prince Raminez, he rents in London’s most exclusive hotel. In hope for gratification and vengeance, Geoffrey decides to make up for the ridicule his genius has suffered from numerous cynical publishers. He uses his massive fortune to orchestrate a pomp of advertisement for what he considers his ‘original and most genius manuscript’ but with the mind of winning the love of the public as the most refined writer in England.
Despite enjoying living in a world far from his previous depravity, Geoffrey suffers a chronic lack of happiness largely because of being haunted by the hypocrisy of his current way of life, contrasting with much of the noble virtues he had written in his novel, and the failure of his paying off the best publishers and critics to usurp a one Mavis Clare’s position as the best writer in London.
He is left to believe that happiness and fulfilment may be found in finding true love from a woman he is obsessed with. As a result, under the persuasion of Prince Raminez, he throws an extravagant wedding as he marries Sibyl, the most beautiful woman in London. While concealing her obsession with Prince Raminez’s charm, Sibyl is oblivious of his (Prince Raminez) intense hatred for women. She attempts a sedulous pleading for Prince Raminez’s love as Geoffrey eavesdrops and commits suicide following the embarrassment. But for Geoffrey, the most unperceivable truth as to why Prince Raminez is unmarried and bears severe loathing toward every woman beneath the sky lies beneath his true identity as the biblical Lucifer who suffers eternal sorrow.
In a fictitious but truly reflective writing, Marie’s Corelli’s novel not only dares into unrequited love but also explores the jeopardy of insincere media and literature on human life and society. It turns the tables on a modern society of many people with ambitions and egos that do not imply achievement of the common good. It casts a light on how many people’s work is a mask of the mammoth of hypocrisy that lies behind their very work.
The Sorrows of Satan indubitably, while questioning the true source of evil and the fall of social values, is far from being a theological-pamphlet. It is as much captivating, dramatic and thrilling a work of fiction as it is an unusual book whose qualities and eeriness of plot and characters dissects several phenomena of modern society looked at through unfamiliar lens. It transcends many works of literature by women of a century different from the present in such a way as to be crowned one of the bestsellers of the time. Marie’s novel defies the belief that old books are novels to be merely dusted from a century old chest to throw in the fireplace.
Mitchel Tumuhimbise is from Kampala, possibly “cursed with imagination” that makes him create surreal-worlds in speculative short fiction–part of which was shortlisted for Black Letter Media’s The Short Story is Dead, Long Live The Short Story 2017 competition. His other written work can be found on Kalahari Review and several other online spaces.