The Last Man: A Post-Apocalyptic Opera

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By Catherine Redford

Regular readers of this blog will know that one of my major research interests is Romantic literature that depicts the Last Man on earth following an apocalyptic event – I have previously written about John Martin’s watercolour of 1832 © Laing Art Gallery

John Martin’s oil painting of 1849 © Walker Art Gallery
The Christian outlook of Campbell’s poem is even more apparent in another picture of the Last Man that was based on this text: J. M. W. Turner’s ‘The Last Man’ (1837). In this painting, the Last Man is a tower of strength and faith, kneeling – just in case you missed those comparisons with Christ(!) – in front of a huge, glowing cross.

J. M. W. Turner’s ‘The Last Man’ (1837) © National Gallery of Scotland

Campbell’s poem, however, didn’t just inspire the art world. In 1826, an operatic scene based on Campbell’s text and set to music by William H. Callcott was performed to rave reviews. The Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review commended the composer’s choice of poem, observing that the composition ‘is really a work in which genius shews [sic] forth’. Other publications recommended the …read more