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The Meaning of Night [Hardcover]

Michael Cox
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Resonant with echoes of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens, Cox's richly imagined thriller features an unreliable narrator, Edward Glyver, who opens his chilling "confession" with a cold-blooded account of an anonymous murder that he commits one night on the streets of 1854 London. That killing is mere training for his planned assassination of Phoebus Daunt, an acquaintance Glyver blames for virtually every downturn in his life. Glyver feels Daunt's insidious influence in everything from his humiliating expulsion from school to his dismal career as a law firm factotum. The narrative ultimately centers on the monomaniacal Glyver's discovery of a usurped inheritance that should have been his birthright, the byzantine particulars of which are drawing him into a final, fatal confrontation with Daunt. Cox's tale abounds with startling surprises that are made credible by its scrupulously researched background and details of everyday Victorian life. Its exemplary blend of intrigue, history and romance mark a stand-out literary debut. Cox is also the author of M.R. James, a biography of the classic ghost-story writer.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* This enthralling historical novel--set in London in 1854, cast as a confession, and written in the dense and formal style of a Victorian novel--tells the unusual story of Edward Glyver, bibliophile, photographer, and murderer. Ostensibly the tale of a man whose rightful legacy has been deliberately withheld, it casts a much wider net, and at its center is its vivid portrait of a teeming London, "brilliant and beautifully vile." That dichotomy is also expressed in the deadly rivalry between scholarly Glyver and his archnemesis, Phoebus Daunt, who is esteemed as a poet but makes his living by bilking people of their money through elaborate con games while insidiously cultivating the affections of the heirless Lord Tansor. Raised in near-poverty, Glyver gradually becomes aware of the fact that he is Lord Tansor's son and begins a years-long search for evidence, but he is thwarted at every turn by the wily Daunt. An intriguing blend of book lover and man of the world, Glyver becomes completely obsessed with his quest, which takes him from exquisite libraries to smoky opium dens, dank bars, and gaudy brothels. His obsession also turns him from a discerning scholar into a cold-blooded murderer. Cox invokes emotions, from the iciest betrayal to all-consuming love, on a grand scale and gives them an equally impressive backdrop as he depicts a fetid London, its streets filthy but its people in thrall to the smallest details of social stratification. A masterful first novel and a must for readers of Iain Pears and David Liss. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


“A blockbuster novel…. Bravo!”
The Gazette (Montreal)

“Worth staying up all night for.”
The Times

“As beguiling as it is intelligent.”
New York Times Book Review

“This year’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.”
GQ magazine

Winnipeg Free Press

“Superb. . . . An engrossing and complicated tale of deception, heartlessness and wild justice.”
Washington Post

“Magnificent. . . . A monumental narrative that is deeply satisfying.”
National Post

“Thrilling. . . . An entertaining love letter to the bizarre and dangerous hypocrisies of Victorian England.”
The Independent

About the Author

Michael Cox edited The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories and The Oxford Book of Victorian Detective Stories. In 1974, in between releasing records for EMI under the name Matthew Ellis, he began what was to become The Meaning of Night. Originally published in 2006 to international acclaim, The Meaning of Night was shortlisted for the 2007 Costa First Novel Award, and Cox was nominated for Waterstone’s Newcomer of the Year at the 2006 Galaxy British Book Awards. Michael Cox passed away in 2009.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Editor’s Preface

The following work, printed here for the first time, is one of the lost curiosities of nineteenth-century literature. It is a strange concoction, being a kind of confession, often shocking in its frank, conscienceless brutality and explicit sexuality, that also has a strongly novelistic flavour; indeed, it appears in the hand-list that accompanies the Duport papers in the Cambridge University Library with the annotation ‘(Fiction?)’. Many of the presented facts — names, places, events (including the unprovoked murder of Lucas Trendle) — that I have been able to check are verifiable; others appear dubious at best or have been deliberately falsified, distorted, or simply invented. Real people move briefly in and out of the narrative, others remain unidentified — or unidentifiable — or are perhaps pseudonymous. As the author himself says, ‘The boundaries of this world are forever shifting — from day to night, joy to sorrow, love to hate, and from life itself to death.’ And, he might have added, from fact to fiction.

As to the author, despite his desire to confess all to posterity, his own identity remains a tantalizing mystery. His name as given here, Edward Charles Glyver, does not appear in the Eton Lists of the period, and I have been unable to trace it or any of his pseudonyms in any other source, including the London Post-office Directories for the relevant years. Perhaps, after we have read these confessions, this should not surprise us; yet it is strange that someone who wished to lay his soul bare to posterity in this way chose not to reveal his real name. I simply do not know how to account for this, but note the anomaly in the hope that further research, perhaps by other scholars, may unravel the mystery.

His adversary Phoebus Daunt, on the other hand, is real enough. The main events of his life may be traced in various contemporary sources. He may be found, for instance, in both the Eton Lists and in Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigienses, and is mentioned in several literary memoirs of the period — though on his supposed criminal career the historical record is silent. On the other hand, his now (deservedly) forgotten literary works, consisting principally of turgid historical and mythological epics and a few slight volumes of poems and poetic translations, once enjoyed a fleeting popularity. They may still be sought out by the curious in specialist libraries and booksellers’ catalogues (as can his father’s edition of Catullus, mentioned in the text), and perhaps may yet furnish some industrious PhD student with a dissertation subject.

The text has been transcribed, more or less verbatim, from the unique holograph manuscript now held in the Cambridge University Library. The manuscript came to the CUL in 1948 as part of an anonymous bequest, with other papers and books relating to the Duport family of Evenwood in Northamptonshire. It is written, for the most part, in a clear and confident hand on large-quarto lined sheets, the whole being bound in dark-red morocco (by R. Riviere, Great Queen Street) with the Duport arms blocked in gold on the front. Despite a few passages where the author’s hand deteriorates, apparently under psychological duress, or perhaps as a result of his opium habit, there are relatively few deletions, additions, or other amendments. In addition to the author’s narrative there are several interpolated documents and extracts by other hands.

I have made a number of silent emendments in matters of orthography, punctuation, and so on; and because the MS lacks a title, I have used a phrase from one of the prefatory quotations, the source of which is a poem, appropriately enough, from the pen of P. Rainsford Daunt himself. I have also supplied titles for each of the five parts, and for the five sections of the so-called Intermezzo.

The sometimes enigmatic Latin titles to the forty-seven sections or chapters have been retained (their idiosyncrasy seemed typical of the author), though I have provided translations. On the first leaf of the manuscript are a dozen or so quotations from Owen Felltham’s Resolves, some of which I have used as epigraphs to each of the five parts. Throughout the text, my own editorial interpolations and footnotes are given within square brackets.

J.J. Antrobus
Professor of Post-Authentic Victorian Fiction
University of Cambridge

From AudioFile

David Timson is superb in this lengthy melodramatic mystery, reminiscent of Poe's WILLIAM WILSON. As he recounts narrator Edward Glyver's confession, Timson's voice is as shadowy as the dimly lit rooms the players inhabit and as rich and sumptuous as their overwrought Victorian surroundings. Glyver, whose every move is colored by revenge, murders a random victim one night, just to see if he can kill. His true target is his archenemy, Phoebus Daunt, a prominent, popular poet with little talent and fewer scruples. Timson's myriad voices range from puny to plummy, from saintly to shady, each providing a perfect rendering of the character described. As Glyver's tempestuous, obsessive journey leads him through erudition, erotica, opulence, and opium dens, Timson is the listener's perfect guide. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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