Writing the Occult: A Reading of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s "The Coming Race"


  • Lorenzo Santi University of Pisa




The Coming Race, Late-Victorian Occult Revival, Eliphas Lévi, Vril, Hollow-earth fiction


This article examines the rhetoric of the occult in Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race (1871), also known as Vril: The Power of the Coming Race, by placing the novel in the context of the late nineteenth-century Occult Revival. A writer, aristocrat, politician and Secretary of State for the Colonies when Benjamin Disraeli was Prime Minister, Bulwer-Lytton was one of the most eminent occultists of the Victorian age and a firm believer in the redemptive power of magic. As such, he supported the idea that occult practices could provide access to the deepest mysteries of the universe, freeing man from the constraints of materialism and the ‘sterility’ of the positivist episteme. Interestingly, Bulwer-Lytton had privileged contact with the vast panorama of occultism thanks to his personal acquaintance with Eliphas Lévi, the leading esotericist of the day. By observing Lévi’s work, Bulwer-Lytton had the opportunity to expand his knowledge of the occult and refine an imaginary permeated by it. From a literary point of view, this would find significant reverberations in The Coming Race, one of the author’s most enduring works and perhaps his spiritual testament, a novel which is imbued with an occult imagery that will be carefully deciphered in the course of this analysis.


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How to Cite

Writing the Occult: A Reading of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s "The Coming Race". (2024). Synergies: A Journal of English Literatures and Cultures, 4. https://doi.org/10.4454/syn.v4.902