The Meaning of Night: A Confession

The Meaning of Night: A Confession

by Michael Cox

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The atmosphere of Bleak House, the sensuous thrill of Perfume, and the mystery of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell all combine in a story of murder, deceit, love, and revenge in Victorian England.

"After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper." So begins the "enthralling" (Booklist, starred review) and "ingenious" (Boston Globe) story of Edward Glyver, booklover, scholar, and murderer. As a young boy, Glyver always believed he was destined for greatness. A chance discovery convinces him that he was right: greatness does await him, along with immense wealth and influence. Overwhelmed by his discovery, he will stop at nothing to win back a prize that he knows is rightfully his.

Glyver's path to reclaim his prize leads him from the depths of Victorian London, with its foggy streets, brothels, and opium dens, to Evenwood, one of England's most beautiful and enchanting country houses, and finally to a consuming love for the beautiful but enigmatic Emily Carteret. His is a story of betrayal and treachery, of death and delusion, of ruthless obsession and ambition. And at every turn, driving Glyver irresistibly onward, is his deadly rival: the poet-criminal Phoebus Rainsford Daunt.

The Meaning of Night is an enthralling novel that will captivate readers right up to its final thrilling revelation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393067125
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/17/2007
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 720
Sales rank: 66,409
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Michael Cox (1948-2009) was the biographer of the ghost-story writer and scholar M. R. James. His first novel, The Meaning of Night, was shortlisted for the 2007 Costa First Novel Award.

Read an Excerpt

Editor’s Preface

The following work, printed here for the first time, is one of the lost curiosities of nineteenth-century literature. It is a strange concoction, being a kind of confession, often shocking in its frank, conscienceless brutality and explicit sexuality, that also has a strongly novelistic flavour; indeed, it appears in the hand-list that accompanies the Duport papers in the Cambridge University Library with the annotation ‘(Fiction?)’. Many of the presented facts — names, places, events (including the unprovoked murder of Lucas Trendle) — that I have been able to check are verifiable; others appear dubious at best or have been deliberately falsified, distorted, or simply invented. Real people move briefly in and out of the narrative, others remain unidentified — or unidentifiable — or are perhaps pseudonymous. As the author himself says, ‘The boundaries of this world are forever shifting — from day to night, joy to sorrow, love to hate, and from life itself to death.’ And, he might have added, from fact to fiction.

As to the author, despite his desire to confess all to posterity, his own identity remains a tantalizing mystery. His name as given here, Edward Charles Glyver, does not appear in the Eton Lists of the period, and I have been unable to trace it or any of his pseudonyms in any other source, including the London Post-office Directories for the relevant years. Perhaps, after we have read these confessions, this should not surprise us; yet it is strange that someone who wished to lay his soul bare to posterity in this way chose not to reveal his real name. I simply do not know how to account for this, but note the anomaly in the hope that further research, perhaps by other scholars, may unravel the mystery.

His adversary Phoebus Daunt, on the other hand, is real enough. The main events of his life may be traced in various contemporary sources. He may be found, for instance, in both the Eton Lists and in Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigienses, and is mentioned in several literary memoirs of the period — though on his supposed criminal career the historical record is silent. On the other hand, his now (deservedly) forgotten literary works, consisting principally of turgid historical and mythological epics and a few slight volumes of poems and poetic translations, once enjoyed a fleeting popularity. They may still be sought out by the curious in specialist libraries and booksellers’ catalogues (as can his father’s edition of Catullus, mentioned in the text), and perhaps may yet furnish some industrious PhD student with a dissertation subject.

The text has been transcribed, more or less verbatim, from the unique holograph manuscript now held in the Cambridge University Library. The manuscript came to the CUL in 1948 as part of an anonymous bequest, with other papers and books relating to the Duport family of Evenwood in Northamptonshire. It is written, for the most part, in a clear and confident hand on large-quarto lined sheets, the whole being bound in dark-red morocco (by R. Riviere, Great Queen Street) with the Duport arms blocked in gold on the front. Despite a few passages where the author’s hand deteriorates, apparently under psychological duress, or perhaps as a result of his opium habit, there are relatively few deletions, additions, or other amendments. In addition to the author’s narrative there are several interpolated documents and extracts by other hands.

I have made a number of silent emendments in matters of orthography, punctuation, and so on; and because the MS lacks a title, I have used a phrase from one of the prefatory quotations, the source of which is a poem, appropriately enough, from the pen of P. Rainsford Daunt himself. I have also supplied titles for each of the five parts, and for the five sections of the so-called Intermezzo.

The sometimes enigmatic Latin titles to the forty-seven sections or chapters have been retained (their idiosyncrasy seemed typical of the author), though I have provided translations. On the first leaf of the manuscript are a dozen or so quotations from Owen Felltham’s Resolves, some of which I have used as epigraphs to each of the five parts. Throughout the text, my own editorial interpolations and footnotes are given within square brackets.

J.J. Antrobus
Professor of Post-Authentic Victorian Fiction
University of Cambridge

Reading Group Guide

1. Do you find Edward Glyver (Glapthorn) an appealing main character? Why, or why not?

2. What is the importance of fate in The Meaning of Night? How does it change over the course of the book?

3. How do the footnotes provided by the “editor” change your impressions of The Meaning of Night?

4. What does the inclusion of Glyver’s poetic (sometimes opium-fuelled) dreams add to the novel?

5. What are the meanings of the title, The Meaning of Night?

6. Do you think The Meaning of Night would make an entertaining film? Why so–or why not? Who would you cast as the protagonists of your film version, and who would you have direct?

7. In an interview, Michael Cox wondered whether Edward Glyver might suffer from a certain weakness:

“He’s so sure of himself. He describes himself as resourceful, street-wise, physically strong, intellectually strong. He thinks that pretty much anything that is thrown at him, whether it’s physical or mental, he can deal with. But in fact he gets it wrong all the time. Miscomprehension is one of his major flaws, and that is a kind of blindness.”

What does Glyver get wrong in the novel? Is he a reliable narrator?

8. How does London differ from Evenwood in The Meaning of Night? How are they described? Is there a sense in which these settings might be considered “characters” in the novel?

9. If you were to meet Michael Cox, what would you ask him about his book or his characters?

10. What other books would you compare The Meaning of Night to? Do you find the book more similar to works by contemporary authors or Victorian ones?

11. Who do you find the most compelling secondary character in the book, and why?

12. What are your criticisms of The Meaning of Night? What would you have liked to see more, or less of, if anything?

13. Does reading The Meaning of Night change your sense of the Victorian era? How?

14. Do you find the conclusion of the novel satisfying?

15. Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why, or why not?

Customer Reviews

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Meaning of Night 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 183 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Meaning of Night offers readers an in depth personal view on a wide range of characters possessing strong unique personalities. Michael Cox delivers the full spectrum of human emotion, as well as the extreme moral dilemmas that one can face when living as a character betrayed by a fate beyond his control. I can promise you will be hooked from the start and come away with an increased knowledge of the most intense character traits that we all can have the potential of acquiring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!!! It's rare to find a book that does it all. It was extremely satisfying as a thriller, as literature, as a historical novel, and as a dark comedy. It dumbfounds me when others say it was too long. When a book is great, why would you ever want it to end?
Gerty954 More than 1 year ago
Michael Cox is, in my opinion, a terrific story teller, I could not put the book down. My only disappointment was that it had to end, I wanted more.
SidPSpargo More than 1 year ago
Edward Glyver is the definition of a tragic hero--smart, cunning, attractive, passionate, vengeful, secret. He is the man with a past shrouded in darkness darker than night itself; his quest to uncover Pilate's question is one that not only transports us into Victorian England but puts on a moral play for all sinners and saints to contemplate. With a colorful cast of characters that, by the end of the book, you will feel as if they were old friends or enemies The Meaning of Night charms us and captivates us. It strings us along vital piece to vital piece always wanting more until the book finalizes itself in a awe-inspiring, page turning climax of deceit, downfall, and danger. This is a must read for any lover of thrill, mystery, murder, or good literature--this is sure to become a classic! Michael Cox does a brilliant job of sewing fact and fiction, history and fantasy, truth and light into his freshman novel--The Meaning of Night. It will leave you with the question, Pilate's Question. Make sure you read every inch of text on the book, they can only give you a more vivid image or greater insight into the world of our hero(?) and they only provide a more mysterious and mystical sense to the book that is sure to please. A definite favourite!
Professor_Polymath More than 1 year ago
Michael Cox has written a brilliant novel. Very descriptive, a vast array of emotions thoroughly displayed, and a plot that is very captivating (as well as believable). He captures the settings of each location immaculately, and personifies each character with splendid realism. Although this is written as fiction, it would not strike me odd were it to be true.

My only criticisms are: there are few "true" surprises throughout the story and there are two or three chapters that I was unengaged in. However, neither of these critiques are strong enough to lower the book's rating to four stars. It truly is a wonderfully written novel, and I am eager to read the sequel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had it all!! Deceit, betrayal, hearts broken and love too. If your looking for a big juicy book that has everything then THE MEANING OF NIGHT is it!!! i couldn't put it down. A victorian mystery that's laced with fiction and facts. Curl up for the night and indulge, be prepared to be transported back in time.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
'After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper.' Who could stop reading after such an opening sentence? Cox's monumental novel is subtitled 'A Confession,' could it be that is taken care of on page 1? Not quite. 'The Meaning Of Night' is a labyrinthian journey through mid 19th century England, from the dank brothel lined streets of London to the elegance of Evenwood, a luxurious country home. The story is told ala Dickens, rich with Victorian language and copious footnotes. Our narrator is Edward Glyver who well remembers that the first word he ever heard used to describe him was 'resourceful.' He is that and more. As a youngster he was the victim of a plot executed by Phoebus Rainsford Daunt, a fellow schoolboy. Edward was dismissed and sent home. However, we're reminded that 'revenge has a long memory ' in this case, some two decades. As the tale evolves, both Edward and Phoebus are rivals again. Following the death of Edward's mother he has reason to believe that his parentage is not what he thought it to be. Lord Tansor, master of Evenwood, is childless and has yet to choose an heir. Could that heir be Edward? This is a prize that Phoebus also pursues - not with honor we might add as he's both poet and shyster. Lord Tansor's cousin, the mysterious and beautiful Emily Carteret, is also a prize that both men would win. 'The Meaning of Night' is a weighty read (700 pages) and a virtuoso accomplishment by the author. Those who appreciate Victorian thrillers will find pleasure in every sentence. Highly recommended. - Gail Cooke
Sheila2813 More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading it; this was one of the best books I have ever read. Complex characters, great story line, unpredicatable, I could not put it down. I was dissapointed however to find out that this is the only book the author has ever written. Would definitely like to read more of his work.
Asphyxiate More than 1 year ago
After reading the first page, I found it impossible not to buy the book. At certain points, the building was a bit slow but I tend to enjoy that elaborate detail. I wouldn't so much suggest this book for the light reader, but definitely for those who have an interest in this type of literature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this novel. It is very interesting. The characters are so realistic, at times, I forgot I was reading a fiction novel. The author gives in depth detail and description throughout the book. It became a bit lengthy at times, but still a wonderful read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could have possibly been shorter, but was a good story. I had trouble putting it down!
RachelLeighV More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite novels (along with the sequel). A thinker's book with a twist! Enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I chanced upon this book and I highly recommend this to all readers. It is so fascinating and I was sorry when I came to complete this thoroughly compelling read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kudos to Michael Cox! A master of his craft. I am only halfway through the book and I'm captivated and intrigued. The style of writing is impeccable. I can't wait to find out what happens at the end, although I'm in no hurry because the book is that good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you have read this, I would also suggest listening to the audio book. It is absolutely captivating! I even had to sit in my car a couple of times to see how things would turn out. If Mr. Cox has a sequel to this I really can't wait.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1854 London, Edward Glyver knows he needs to train before he conducts his assassination of Phoebus Daunt, the man who destroyed his life starting with the humiliation of being ejected from school to where he is at now, as a loser in a law factotum. To insure success, Edward kills the red-haired stranger before dining on oyster and pondering how easy the homicide was.----------------- However, his moment of euphoria turns ugly when he thinks of what Daunt has done to him and that he recently learned of his rightful inheritance stolen from him. He feels strongly that once Daunt is dead, he will gain all that he deserves starting with his inheritance, societal accolades and the lovely Emily Carteret. Yet somehow someone has seen his rehearsal. E.G. knows he must dispose of this insidious individual trying to take the little he owns and slowing down his quest to murder his real adversary.--------------------- This is a fascinating ¿confession¿ told for the most part by the seemingly deranged E.G. The story line grips the audience from the onset when the lead character nonchalantly confesses that he has just killed a man for purposes of practice so that the reader senses of how insane E.G. really isis. The story line never falters until the anticipated confrontation that will turn readers into fans of Michael Cox. Readers who want something different in their historical thrillers will need to read Mr. Cox¿s eerie ¿biographical¿ Victorian first hand account of a maniac on the loose in London.----------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book first, because it was recommended by B&N and secondly, because it was highly recommended in reviews. I have to admit, the story is good and keeps you guessing. But, it just takes him sooo long to get there. I struggled through the first third of the book, started getting into the second third of the book and really enjoyed the last third. If I had not suggested this for book club, I'm not sure I would have stuck with it. I'm glad I did...because it does end well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. I went to the beach on vacation and opened the book and sat there for two days reading it. The story was great, the deceit done to Mr. Glyver was awful, I wanted to get into the book and take care of Mr. Daunt myself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I listened to this book on CD and it was phenominal. It transported me back to the Victorian time along with the narrator and I anxiously lived his tale along with him. Well-written and worth the time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an absolutley fantastic book. I can't wait for the sequel. Great character development.
joelb831 More than 1 year ago
Nicely written, great character development and love the old feel that it gives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book, written in the same style as Drood by Dan Simmons. Gothic, 18th century London, fog, mystery, has all the great stuff. I was anxious while reading it to see how it would all end! However (and I will try not to spoil it) I was not happy with the ending. I thought I had the plot all figured out, and at the end I was left feeling unsatisfied. I don't feel like the book wrapped up enough of the storyline. But in all, it was a great read. I would definitely recommend it if you like Sherlock Holmes and all the great British detective stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What an entertaing read. Outstanding.
terrbearTW More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because it sounded intriguing. Those of us who are Gothic fans are always looking for something new and this keeps it promise until the last few chapters when I started flipping through the pages randomly to get to the ending, because at some point I realized that the heroine was a fiend and that the hero was doomed from the get go. Steeped in all the things that make a Gothic novel great, keeps you guessing until you want to scream, like all these things, then go for it. It is just too long and gets almost tedious in the end.
hobokenky More than 1 year ago
This is a great book, if you like historical fiction, this is the book for you.