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A Romance of Two Worlds
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Pages (PDF): 264
Publication Date: 1886
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A Romance of Two Worlds was Marie Corelli's first novel, published in 1886. It referenced the contemporary debate between creationism and evolution, as well as supernatural themes, overlaid with elements of science fiction. It starts with a young heroine, in first person, telling her story of a debilitating illness that includes depression and thoughts of suicide. Her doctor is unable to help her and sends her off on a holiday where she meets a mystical character by the name of Raffello Cellini, a famous Italian artist. Cellini offers her a strange potion which immediately puts her into a tranquil slumber, in which she experiences divine visions.
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In the winter of 188-, I was afflicted by a series of nervous ailments, brought on by overwork and overworry. Chief among these was a protracted and terrible insomnia, accompanied by the utmost depression of spirits and anxiety of mind. I became filled with the gloomiest anticipations of evil; and my system was strung up by slow degrees to such a high tension of physical and mental excitement, that the quietest and most soothing of friendly voices had no other effect upon me than to jar and irritate. Work was impossible; music, my one passion, intolerable; books became wearisome to my sight; and even a short walk in the open air brought with it such lassitude and exhaustion, that I soon grew to dislike the very thought of moving out of doors. In such a condition of health, medical aid became necessary; and a skilful and amiable physician, Dr. R——, of great repute in nervous ailments, attended me for many weeks, with but slight success. He was not to blame, poor man, for his failure to effect a cure. He had only one way of treatment, and he applied it to all his patients with more or less happy results. Some died, some recovered; it was a lottery on which my medical friend staked his reputation, and won. The patients who died were never heard of more—those who recovered sang the praises of their physician everywhere, and sent him gifts of silver plate and hampers of wine, to testify their gratitude. His popularity was very great; his skill considered marvellous; and his inability to do ME any good arose, I must perforce imagine, out of some defect or hidden obstinacy in my constitution, which was to him a new experience, and for which he was unprepared. Poor Dr. R——! How many bottles of your tastily prepared and expensive medicines have I not swallowed, in blind confidence and blinder ignorance of the offences I thus committed against all the principles of that Nature within me, which, if left to itself, always heroically struggles to recover its own proper balance and effect its own cure; but which, if subjected to the experimental tests of various poisons or drugs, often loses strength in the unnatural contest and sinks exhausted, perhaps never to rise with actual vigour again. Baffled in his attempts to remedy my ailments, Dr. R—— at last resorted to the usual plan adopted by all physicians when their medicines have no power. He recommended change of air and scene, and urged my leaving London, then dark with the fogs of a dreary winter, for the gaiety and sunshine and roses of the Riviera. The idea was not unpleasant to me, and I determined to take the advice proffered. Hearing of my intention, some American friends of mine, Colonel Everard and his charming young wife, decided to accompany me, sharing with me the expenses of the journey and hotel accommodation. We left London all together on a damp foggy evening, when the cold was so intense that it seemed to bite the flesh like the sharp teeth of an animal, and after two days' rapid journey, during which I felt my spirits gradually rising, and my gloomy forebodings vanishing slowly one by one, we arrived at Cannes, and put up at the Hotel de L——. It was a lovely place, and most beautifully situated; the garden was a perfect wilderness of roses in full bloom, and an avenue of orange-trees beginning to flower cast a delicate fragrance on the warm delicious air.
Mrs. Everard was delighted.
"If you do not recover your health here," she said half laughingly to me on the second morning after our arrival, "I am afraid your case is hopeless. What sunshine! What a balmy wind! It is enough to make a cripple cast away his crutches and forget he was ever lame. Don't you think so?"
I smiled in answer, but inwardly I sighed. Beautiful as the scenery, the air, and the general surroundings were, I could not disguise from myself that the temporary exhilaration of my feelings, caused by the novelty and excitement of my journey to Cannes, was slowly but surely passing away. The terrible apathy, against which I had fought for so many months, was again creeping over me with its cruel and resistless force. I did my best to struggle against it; I walked, I rode, I laughed and chatted with Mrs. Everard and her husband, and forced myself into sociability with some of the visitors at the hotel, who were disposed to show us friendly attention. I summoned all my stock of will-power to beat back the insidious physical and mental misery that threatened to sap the very spring of my life; and in some of these efforts I partially succeeded. But it was at night that the terrors of my condition manifested themselves. Then sleep forsook my eyes; a dull throbbing weight of pain encircled my head like a crown of thorns; nervous terrors shook me from head to foot; fragments of my own musical compositions hummed in my ears with wearying persistence—fragments that always left me in a state of distressed conjecture; for I never could remember how they ended, and I puzzled myself vainly over crotchets and quavers that never would consent to arrange themselves in any sort of finale. So the days went on; for Colonel Everard and his wife, those days were full of merriment, sight-seeing, and enjoyment. For me, though outwardly I appeared to share in the universal gaiety, they were laden with increasing despair and wretchedness; for I began to lose hope of ever recovering my once buoyant health and strength, and, what was even worse, I seemed to have utterly parted with all working ability. I was young, and up to within a few months life had stretched brightly before me, with the prospect of a brilliant career. And now what was I? A wretched invalid—a burden to myself and to others—a broken spar flung with other fragments of ship wrecked lives on the great ocean of Time, there to be whirled away and forgotten. But a rescue was approaching; a rescue sudden and marvellous, of which, in my wildest fancies, I had never dreamed.
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