chapter  9
12 Pages

Mesmeric Celebrity, Art, and Authorship in Trilby

ByHilary Grimes

In Trilby, the artist gains inspiration and celebrity through accessing mesmeric and hypnotic trance states. Svengali and Trilby use mesmerism to cultivate Trilby's voice, transforming her into 'a world-wide colossal celebrity', and Little Billee's access to trance also grants him the creativity that makes him a 'young celebrity'. Trilby may support upholding existing social systems, but the novel is anxious about the impact some of these systems, like capitalism, might have on art — what happens to the sanctity of art when it is produced for the mass marketplace? That mesmerism and hypnotism put social systems and artistic ideals under threat is the crucial problem in Trilby, one which the novel explores through the art world at the fin de siecle. Certainly Trilby produced a sensation that was beyond his control, influencing numerous imitators, spin-offs and merchandise; the type of low art produced for profit and consumed by the lower classes that George Du Maurier despaired of in Trilby itself.