Faust as Satire

Posted on 30th April 2020 by simonbeattie

Among the Faustrelated items included in our Anglo-German Cultural Relations catalogue, item 214 may be the most charming.

Faust and ‘Phisto is a cheeky example of Victorian Goetheana that appeared in the Sixteenth Season of Beeton’s Christmas Annual (London, Ward, Lock, and Tyler, 1875).

‘In “Faust and ’Phisto” Goethe’s famous creation will be adapted and improved to an extent which even the powerful genius of the great German poet could not have anticipated, Faust himself being developed in a surprising manner, and Mephistophiles being adapted to the requirements of modern society…’ (The Bookseller, 5 Nov. 1875).

This is one of a number of satirical swipes at the Prince of Wales by Beeton (husband of the celebrated Mrs Beeton) and his fellow writers at the Annual.  ‘At the end of 1870 there was published a clever parody of Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King” called “The Coming K——,” which with much insolence purported to draw the veil from the prince’s private life.  The assault was pursued next year by the same authors in “The Siliad,” and the series was continued in “The Fijiad” [also bound in here], “Faust and ’Phisto”, “Jon Duan”, and finally in a prophetically named brochure, “Edward VII; a play on the past and present times with a view to the future”.  All current politics and society came under the satirists’ lash.  But the burden of the indictment, phrased in various keys of scurrility, was that the prince’s conduct was unfitting him for succession to the throne.  The recrudescence of Queen Victoria’s popularity and the manifest good-nature and public spirit of the prince soon dissipated for the most part the satiric censure.  Yet an undercurrent of resentment against reputed indulgences of the prince’s private life never wholly disappeared’ (original DNB). 

Posted in

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *