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Rienzi, Last of the Roman Tribunes   By: (1803-1873)

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Rienzi, Last of the Roman Tribunes by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton is a breathtaking historical novel that immerses readers in the turbulent times of 14th century Rome. Set against a backdrop of political intrigue, social unrest, and the decline of the Papal States, this epic tale weaves together themes of ambition, power, and the consequences of unchecked authority.

The story revolves around Cola di Rienzi, a charismatic and idealistic figure who emerges as a champion of justice and the common people. Inspired by ancient Roman history, Rienzi dreams of restoring Rome to its former glory and creating a just and equitable society. As he gains popularity and support from the disenfranchised, the narrative explores the inherent complexities and pitfalls of populism, highlighting the fine line between a noble cause and personal ambition.

Bulwer-Lytton's masterful storytelling creates a richly evocative portrayal of medieval Rome, capturing its bustling streets, architectural marvels, and the stark divide between the luxurious palaces of the nobility and the squalid slums of the working class. Through vivid descriptions, the author enables readers to visualize the grandeur of the Colosseum, the majesty of the Vatican, and the awe-inspiring remnants of ancient Roman civilization.

While the novel focuses primarily on Rienzi's rise to power, it also delves into complex interpersonal relationships, weaving in elements of romance and betrayal. The love story between Rienzi and his loyal ally Nina provides a captivating counterpoint to the political drama, adding depth and emotional resonance to the narrative.

One of the notable strengths of Rienzi, Last of the Roman Tribunes lies in the author's ability to draw parallels between ancient Rome and the time in which the novel was written. Bulwer-Lytton skillfully uses historical context to comment on his contemporary society, prompting readers to consider how power dynamics and political upheaval are not confined to a specific era.

However, some readers might find the book slow-paced, as its expansive scope sometimes detracts from the narrative's momentum. The extensive historical and political background provided by the author, while informative, can overshadow the central plot and characters. Additionally, the numerous subplots and intricate webs of alliances may be overwhelming to some readers, requiring patience and perseverance to fully appreciate the complexity of the story.

In conclusion, Rienzi, Last of the Roman Tribunes is a captivating historical novel that offers a thought-provoking exploration of power, ambition, and the complexities of governance. Bulwer-Lytton's rich prose and meticulous attention to historical detail transport readers to a bygone era, while simultaneously shedding light on timeless themes that continue to resonate in our modern world. Despite its occasional pacing issues, this book is a worthy read for history enthusiasts and fans of intricately plotted narratives.

First Page:


The Last of the Roman Tribunes


Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, Bart.

Then turn we to her latest Tribune's name, From her ten thousand tyrants turn to thee, Redeemer of dark centuries of shame The friend of Petrarch hope of Italy Rienzi, last of Romans! While the tree Of Freedom's wither'd trunk puts forth a leaf, Even for thy tomb a garland let it be The Forum's champion, and the People's chief Her new born Numa thou!

Childe Harold, cant. iv. stanza 114.

Amidst the indulgence of enthusiasm and eloquence, Petrarch, Italy, and Europe, were astonished by a revolution, which realized for a moment his most splendid visions. Gibbon, chap. 1xx.

Dedication of Rienzi.

To Alessandro Manzoni, as to the Genius of the Place,

Are Dedicated These Fruits, gathered on The Soil of Italian Fiction.

London, Dec. 1, 1835.


Prefixed to the First Collected Edition of the Author's Works in 1840.

My Dear Mother,

In inscribing with your beloved and honoured name this Collection of my Works, I could wish that the fruits of my manhood were worthier of the tender and anxious pains bestowed upon my education in youth.

Left yet young, and with no ordinary accomplishments and gifts, the sole guardian of your sons, to them you devoted the best years of your useful and spotless life; and any success it be their fate to attain in the paths they have severally chosen, would have its principal sweetness in the thought that such success was the reward of one whose hand aided every struggle, and whose heart sympathized in every care... Continue reading book >>

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