Academic journal article Conradiana

Lord Jim and the Scourge of God

Academic journal article Conradiana

Lord Jim and the Scourge of God

Article excerpt

In chapter 40 of Lord Jim, the unscrupulous ruffian Brown is said to have "an undisguised ruthlessness of purpose, a belief in the righteousness of his will against all mankind which could induce the leader of a horde of wandering cut-throats to call himself proudly the Scourge of God" (317). On the basis of Christopher Marlowe's "Tamburlaine, the Scourge of God, must die" (Tamburlaine the Great, part 2, 5.3.249), Conrad's editors identify this scourge as Tamerlane (1336?-1405). They describe him as the leader of a band of vagrant thieves, who by numerous conquests becomes emperor (366). Conrad is unlikely to have known Tamburlaine the Great. He surely means another conqueror, Attila, king of the Huns (434-53). This is suggested by the OED entry for scourge, which quotes Attila's own Ego sum Attila, flagellum Dei in John Trevisa's fourteenth-century translations ("I am Athila, Goddes scourge"). The assertion "Ego sum Attila, flagellum Dei" seems conclusive. Traditionally, Tamerlane did not call himself proudly the scourge of God, Attila did.

Conrad's "a strange vengeful attitude" towards the past and "a horde of wandering cut-throats" thus surely refers to Attila and his men, not Tamerlane and his armies. …

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