Marie Corelli’s Electric Creed

Marie Corelli is one of the most undervalued Victorian authors, yet she was as prolific — and as popular — as Dickens in her own time.

Her novels drip with supernaturalism, mesmerism, and science fiction: they’re exciting and bizarre.  Novels such as Ardath: A Story of a Dead Self, The Sorrows of Satan, or Wormwood have had me teetering on the tip of my old Victorian seat, snatching at the pages, trying to turn them faster.

Perhaps her best work is her first novel, A Romance of Two Worlds.  It is, certainly, my favorite due to its synthesis of scintillant sanguinity and macabre fatalism. The tale revolves around an unnamed female hysteric whose musical genius has degenerated due to the malaise of urbanity.  Her friends take her abroad to a rustic hotel in Cannes where she meets Raphaello Cellini, a rejuvenated artist who, through the help of Heliobas Casimir – the “physical electrician” – has recovered his creative genius and zest for life.

Casimir implicates the narrator into a world of “human electricity:” the name that Corelli gave the Victorian preoccupation with female conductors of terrestrial force (remember when Jane Eyre hears Rochester calling her from hundreds of miles away?).  The unnamed narrator is able to traverse the spirit world — where she learns the secret of creation and is also able to heal her “hysteria” — due to her increasingly salubrious body. In the end, she goes on to become the century’s most genius musical composer.

Corelli’s “electric creed” insists upon two critical changes to how English society imagined women’s position. Such a philosophy firstly called into question the definition of hysteria, and secondly offered women a new form of empowerment — physical — which rivaled the popular theories of “muscular Christianity” — popularized by Kingsley and Hughes — which were centered on men alone.

A healthy and strong body — particularly the female body — is the most important component of Corelli’s electric creed. The narrator is attributed with physical strength for reasons other than childbearing.  In a word, her novel is revolutionary.  Hence, I have named my blog after her “electric creed.”

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