Of course we can identify with his inward struggles as he plays the roles that circumstances and his wits allow him. What I love about Shellabarger are his dialogues.
I've enjoyed following Richard Morandi as he struggles to make himself into a gentleman of fashion. What I love about Shellabarger are his dialogues.
The story was a little more stilted than some of the other novels I later read by Schellabarger, but as I said, the characters were so engaging and the themes so well drawn that I was very engaged and promptly read all of Shellabarger's other books.
Like all great historical fiction, the story exemplifies a theme that is emblematic of it's epoch: in this case, the disarray of morality and Religion, leaving the titular 'Lord Vanity' as the true governing force of the age.
It's 1753, and we meet young Richard Morandi, an actor and sometimes instrumentalist. Richard is performing at an exclusive Venetian palace, and his eye is caught by a lovely young lady named Maritza. He is drawn into being the one professional actor in an amateur play performed by the aristocrats. Richard is not executed for murder; instead, he is sentenced to life in the galleys as a slave. As an actor, Richard is used to playing a role. In his various adventures, Richard isn't really himself, but a man in costume. Lord Vanity is an old-fashioned novel. It's not for everyone, but for those who like a well-written novel with a strong theme, Lord Vanity fits the bill.
Shellabargers decorative tale follows young Richard Morandi as he transforms from an unknown artist and actor to an aristocratic gentleman immersed in the world of European fashion. Most notably, each subsequent country through which Richard travels symbolizes the different stages of Richards growth from a young, naive pauper of Venice, to a distinguished man of fashion, and at last to the unassuming and unaffected migrant to America. Under the influences of his mother, who is not ashamed of her status in society, and Maritza Venier, the unconventional, honest, and unpretentious young woman with whom Richard falls in love, Richard remains grounded and humble. However, if Richard agrees to play the part of a young noble under the guidance of his prestigious father, Lord Marny, Richard could put his good acting to use and be introduced to the glittery society of the fashionable. Following his military endeavors in Canada, Richard then finds himself in France, the seat of the lavish riches, arrogance, and hubris of the fashionable. At the pinnacle of vanity, Richard once again must stake his life in acting a part in order to fool Frances authorities. This shattering of Richards life goal, born in Venice and cultivated to a perfection while traveling through England, Canada, and France, is our heros redemption. Following Richards final rejection of the fashionable Old Worlds artifice, it seems only sensible that he and Maritza will begin a new life in the New World (America).
AKA: John Esteven Peter Loring Samuel Shellabarger was an American educator and author of both scholarly works and best-selling historical novels. They had four children, but the two boys died: one as an infant and the other serving in World War II.