Alvan, George Meredith's fictitious name for Ferdinand Lassalle, is more beautiful, more godlike than Clotilde had dared to dream. Leipzig: B. Tauchnitz, 1881. Meredith, therefore, is concerned, not with the pure spirit of love, but with the human passion that degrades it, that brings lovers to misery and, in extreme cases, to self-destruction. Meredith sees nothing wrong in that; but, as a Comic poet, he cannot condone the deception that Clotilde practises on herself and on the world at large. The 'black thing' is Meredith's poetically Victorian phrase for the vilest epithet that may be applied to a flirt. With consummate psychology Meredith draws the growing hybris of Alvan. Meredith's novel is based on fact. It was published in 1880, and it follows closely the events that led up to the death of Ferdinand Lassalle in 1864. It is essential to realise that The Tragic Comedians is not merely an illustration of Meredith's theory of the Comic Spirit.