Marie Corelli published “The Soul of Lilith” in 1892, her sixth novel in just seven years. This novel fits in well with her Heliobas stories, though he is not a character here. There are many similarities, including the main character, El-Râmi Zarânos, who plays the role of the man who needs proof, taking the role that Theos Alwyn played in “Ardath”. Many of the speeches made by both sides of the question could easily fit in either book as well. One key difference is that unlike Theos Alwyn, El-Râmi refuses to accept anything on faith until there is a tragic event. Overall this book lacks the wonderfully imaginative second section, but it does contain some interesting points which prevent it from becoming completely redundant.
The novel opens with the introduction of El-Râmi who has arrived during a production of “Hamlet”. El-Râmi is at the height of his strength at this time, as he pursues the course of science. He demonstrated his ability to logically deduce future events when he tells Sir Frederick Vaughan that he will be introduced to a Miss Idina Chester before the evening is out and that he will propose to her within a month and that they will be married. El-Râmi is a man from the Orient, though in the days in which this novel was written, the Orient referred to the near East and North Africa, and not the far East as it does today. Along with El-Râmi , there is his brother Féraz, an older woman Zaroba, and the body of Lilith, which El-Râmi has kept alive through an elixir he has created scientifically. El-Râmi is able to talk with the spirit of Lilith through the body he has kept alive. Lilith died when she was 12-years old, but the body has aged and is now that of a young woman. The exploration of the divide between the physical and spiritual world is a common theme in Corelli’s works, but the use of a being on the edge between the two is a new twist from the territory she has covered before. The first volume shows us the dominance that El-Râmi has over all the character’s lives, and it ends with a visit from a monk from Cyprus who plays the role of the all-knowing man of faith, similar to that of Heliobas in some of Corelli’s other stories. El-Râmi is on the verge of showing the monk his great experiment with Lilith at the close of the volume.
Volume two picks up where one left off, with the monk witnessing El-Râmi’s work, though he was already well aware of it. As is often the case with this type of character in Corelli’s books, he provides warnings and clues to the future which the reader picks up on, but of course El-Râmi is by no means convinced of their validity. In particular the “Master” tells El-Râmi that Love will be the force which releases her soul which he has chained through his scientific means, and he warns El-Râmi that he is on the verge of darkness. Even when the monk helps El-Râmi see a Messenger of God, El-Râmi decides it was a trick, though initially it does cause him to lose consciousness. Much of the rest of the volume deals with El-Râmi allowing Féraz to experience the real world from which he has sheltered him for so long. Féraz takes a different course than El-Râmi though, as the horrible behavior of the people he meets reinforces his faith and his character. Also in this volume is much more detail about the scientist Kremlin and his experiments which El-Râmi is helping him. The tragedy at the end of Kremlin’s experiment foreshadows that at the end of El-Râmi’s in volume three. The volume ends with El-Râmi alone with Lilith on the verge of admitting his feelings.
Volume three opens with Lilith telling El-Râmi to wait. He does so for a while, but eventually he has to force the issue, he cannot wait any longer. When forced to choose between the beautiful spirit and her beautiful body, he is unable to let the body go. The story has a tragic end for El-Râmi in one way, though in some ways he is freed from his doubt in the end, and perhaps his final days were the happiest he had ever known. Féraz is able to survive quite well, and finds the life he needed to have with the monks on Cyprus.
This book does have some new ideas and new twists in it, but it is a bit too similar to her previous works “A Romance of Two Worlds”, and “Ardath” for me to give it a higher rating. Thus far Corelli has only shown a couple of types of works, those which deal with the conflict between faith and science, which to some extent one can add “Thelma” to this and the works already mentioned; and then there are those works which deal with the idea of vengeance for which she wrote “Vendetta!” and “Wormwood”. It is the spiritual men from the East who she favors in her novels, and European societies are viewed as decadent, though there are a few good people caught up in the decadence.