Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
Kenelm Chillingly: His Adventures and Opinions
Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873)
Kenelm Chillingly, His Adventures and Opinions, by Edward Bulwer Lytton (Lord Lytton) (1873). This, one of Bulwer’s artistic novels of English life, is considered by many a masterpiece, and is certainly one of his most popular works. Kenelm Chillingly is the long-desired heir of an old family, who develops symptoms of remarkable precocity, to the anxiety of his parents and teachers. After leaving school, he is given an insight into London society, and enters Cambridge with matured opinions and judgment, graduating with honors. Coming of age in the early part of the nineteenth century,—a time of unwonted progress, of unsettlement of beliefs, and of dissatisfaction with the existing state of affairs,—he adds to the general unrest of his generation an individual melancholy of temperament, a phenomenal clearness of vision which detects and despises shams, and an inability to fit himself into commonplace grooves and the ruts of inherited habit. In various phrases throughout his biography he is described, or describes himself—“A mere dreamer”; “He had woven a solitude round him out of his own heart”; “I do not stand in this world: like a ghost I glide beside it and look on.” With the temperament of the idealist, Kenelm possesses an attractive face and figure, a fondness for athletic exercise, and a perfect physical development. He leaves home in search of adventures, an unknown pedestrian with a few pounds in his pocket (and unlimited credit at his bankers’), unincumbered by letters of introduction or social fetters. His adventures, which are in keeping with his personality, extend over a few years, varied by periodical returns to his family and reappearances in society; where he is courted for his wealth, his gentle birth, and his eccentricities. The culmination of his fortunes is reached in an unfortunate love affair with Lily Mordaunt, a spirituelle creature, half child, half woman, a “human poem,” who dies broken-hearted when a cruel fate separates her from her lover.  1
  ‘Kenelm Chillingly’ is less the life of a man than the prelude to a life; a preface of dreams, of disappointments, of disillusionments, before the realities begin. He himself epitomizes his future and his past, when he says to his father, in their last recorded interview, “We must—at whatever cost to ourselves—we must go through the romance of life before we clearly detect what is grand in its possibilities”; and again, “My choice is made: not that of deserter, but that of soldier in the ranks.”  2
  Round him are grouped many interesting characters,—Sir Peter and Lady Caroline, his father and mother; his cousin, Gordon Chillingly, the ambitious politician; Chillingly Mivers, the caustic editor of The Londoner; the reformed bully, Tom Bowles; the pretty village belle, Jessie Somers, and her crippled husband; Cecilia Travers, who remains faithful to her unreciprocated attachment for Kenelm; Mr. Welby, the polished man of society; Walter Melville, the celebrated artist and “Wandering Minstrel”; and several others.  3

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.