by Bram Stoker
If you have read Stoker’s novel on Egyptology it’s quite possible that you may have discussed this work with those who seemed to have a strange and opposite reaction to yours. This quite illustrious yarn, which entwines itself around the central characters of Margaret and Abel Trelawny, Malcolm Ross and the Egyptian Queen Tera has an insidious secret. The reason for controversy is one you may never have suspected. There are actually two versions of this novel whose endings are completely different and the revision to a happier ending, which was republished in its edited form nine years after the debut of 1903, quite alters the perspective and original theme of the book.
Even so, you will quite enjoy this novel in either form if you are ignorant of all that entails the knowledge of ancient Egypt and also keenly interested in educating yourself. My warning to you would only be that if you have no resistance to the occult and its farfetched ideas you may want to reconsider because Stoker was scrupulous in authenticating his novels with deep and accurate research. The Jewel of Seven Stars is more of a masterpiece than Dracula could ever have been. Of course, you would have to read Dracula to make the comparison. Go ahead. I dare you.
The book begins with superb prose of a dream in which Malcolm Ross is ruminating the previous days’ events at a picnic where he met Margaret Trelawny for the first time. By novel’s end the sublimity of Stoker’s exquisite prose has built to a climax tensely strung and fast paced. If you peruse the later version you will not be surprised at the mummy Queen’s reduction to ashes- along with her cat. The Great Experiment at Kyllion House in Cornwall is a logical conclusion to both versions with the second turning decidedly to the romance of Margaret Trelawny and Malcom Ross onto that of marriage. It is a bygone age to be sure.
A wonderful example of the prose of Stoker shows itself on page 154 with the following passage:
Love has divine possibilities for the lover’s heart. The wings of the soul may expand at any time from the shoulder of the loved one, who then may sweep into angel form.
Research, however, turned this into a poetic form of a true study in Egyptology which goes into accurate detail describing the several parts of a human according to their religion involving the Ka, Ba, Khu, Sekhem, Khai bit, Ren, Khat and last but not least Ab (the heart). An entire chapter was excised out of the 1912 version titled Powers- Old and New and is a well written dissertation on a tough inner debate ( of Stoker’s I am sure) between the precepts of Christianity and the enigmatic Egyptology. Most likely this was because those ideas clashed with the accepted religion of the day- allowing less tolerance for differences than currently. Of course, in any age these particular belief systems mix like oil and water. Therefore, no surprise is felt on my part for the publisher’s insistence at the revision which was done shortly before the death of Stoker that same year.
The focus and true heroine of this novel is Tera, who, in life, was Queen of the Egypts (Upper and Lower), daughter of Antef, Monarch of the North and the South, Daughter of the Sun and Queen of the Diadems. Even in her day she was the original emancipated woman because she claimed all the privileges of Kingship and masculinity and had power to compel the gods but never gave up her femininity even to the end of this story. According to the story she lived during the Theban Dynasty which was the 11th and at her birth a great aerolite fell, from whose heart was finally extracted that Jewel of Seven Stars which she regarded as the talisman of her life. It’s description is given to be that of a rare ruby with seven stars of which each star had seven points.
When Abel Trelawny decides to practically sacrifice every person that will help him for the sacred Great Experiment, Malcolm Ross is tested to his limit out of his devotion to Trelawney’s daughter. Queen Tera set the Great Experiment in motion, hundreds of years before, by being buried alive in her youth, to be succinct and to the point. Ultimately, according to the original version, everyone involved in the experiment is sacrificed only sparing Malcolm Ross in a despairing end. It is no wonder the publishers of the early 20th century insisted on a revision. It was too heartbreaking for that era and remains so to this day.
With kisses that won’t break your heart,
The Castle Lady