“The key to every man is his thought. Sturdy and defiant though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which all his facts are ordered. He can only be persuaded by showing him a new reason which commands his own. ”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Sorrows of Satan is the title of a novel first published in Edwardian England, in 1895. It is considered one of the world’s original bestsellers and was penned by a woman whose moralistic ideas were ahead of her time, the diminutive Marie Corelli (1855 – 1924). Marie introduces a new dimension to the concept of Satan; that he above all others desires salvation, but as a consequence of his rebellion against God, is forever impeded by the fates. This is interesting, because rather than the traditional view of a Satan eternally inclined to mischief, Marie Corelli paints a picture of a Satan who is beset by the same dilemmas’ as humankind. Therefore, Marie personifies him as Prince Lucio Rimanez, of very old and distinguished origins, rather than as Satan, the devil.
The book starts off with Prince Lucio Rimanez setting out to genuinely uplift a very talented aspiring author, who has been inadvertently rejected by an uncaring society. However, before the prince reaches his modest lodgings, the aspiring author receives legal notification that he has inherited considerable riches from a distant relative, effectively ending Prince Rimanez’s altruistic attempt to mentor him to greatness. A disappointed Lucio is left to rue, once again, a missed opportunity to do a good turn and thereby bring himself one step closer to “paradise lost” and salvation. The tragedy of the story is that once Lucio’s attempt to do some good is thwarted, he proceeds to do a whole lot of evil, by single handedly leading the aspiring author down the path of excess and brutal lust.
The Sorrows of Satan is set in the Edwardian era, the time period roughly between the mid-1890’s and the beginning of the First World War, a time of decadence and moral deviance, which accounts for the importance of perception and appearance throughout the text. In page 231, Marie Corelli writes “Society prefers a false glare to all true radiance. And what is worse, it tries to make true things take a second place as adjuncts to sham ones – and there comes in the mischief”.
As Nigeria approaches her 50th year of nationhood, she is confronted by her own Edwardian era, the time period between the mid 1980’s until now, and as the English version of this era was punctuated by the publishing of Marie Corelli’s book and the First World War, the Nigerian version is significant for one individual and for one event, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) and the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential polls.
Once again, we see a society “preferring false glare to all true radiance…” as the public space is filled with an elaborate play at whitewashing history. The news media is filled with all manner of apology for IBB’s eight year slice of the Nigerian Edwardian era, and as Marie Corelli rightly points out, this effort to substitute falsehood for truth, opens the door wide for mischief to step in. Herein lays the legitimate parallels between Prince Lucio Rimanez and General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.
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