ANYWAY. I will probably be able to manage to put the new Secret Life up tomorrow, unless you'd like me to just call it a day and wait until next weekend.
Meanwhile, I have been putting myself through a chronological refresher course of The History of Nineteenth-Century Vampire Literature. I've read a lot of it, but decided to read it in order, because you start to see subsequent works steal from the previous ones and build on them--"Carmilla" from "Christabel," Varney from Lord Ruthven, Stoker from EVERYONE. (Did you know that Stoker almost completely ripped off an anonymous short story called "The Mysterious Stranger"? Because, seriously, the only thing he didn't steal was Woislaw's giant, Hellboy-esque golden fist. And since Woislaw does not pound the vampire into the ground with it, that of all things could have stood some improvement, woe.) (Interesting side note: Stoker doesn't steal Franziska's personality for Lucy. But Hamilton Deane's play adaptation--which later became the Frank Langella Dracula--does. Franziska doesn't actually say "I love to be frightened," but the sentiment is there, and she is all over Anonymous's visiting vampire. It's so weird.)
So having worked through everything else--well. I didn't get Paul Féval's three vampire novels, because the online texts are in the original French, and my French isn't really good enough anymore to cope with that. You can actually get the English translations on Amazon, but I don't know that I want to put down money on something like that sight unseen. Maybe later. Because how can you not go for something called Vampire City, starring Ann Radcliffe, Fearless Vampire Hunter? And it was written in 1867! It's not one of those tiresome trendy mashups! Yeah. Maybe I do have to read this.
Anyway. Having read or reread the shorter pre-Dracula works (and there are a few post-Dracula things I'm going read/reread as well. I'll post my syllabus, as it were, at some point), I decided to tackle the Moby Dick of vampire literature: a 667,000-word behemoth of a penny dreadful called Varney the Vampire. There's an abridged version you can read, but I will not, because I am going to go hard or go home. So I pasted each of the three volumes into a Word document so I could bold whatever I thought was notable. Yeah. I'm on page 376 of 485. Of volume one. Of three. We are looking at a smidge less than 1500 pages of document here. This is the dedication to research that you will find in the novel-writing department of Cleolinda Industries.
I was expecting it to be hilariously melodramatic--which it is, at times; mostly, though, it's just hilariously quaint. It begins with a passage I have quoted before, from the last time I tried to read it (and wandered away, glassy-eyed)--The girl has swooned, and the vampire is at his hideous repast!--which, quite honestly, may be the most awesome thing I have read or will read this year.
Then it just got silly.
@cleolinda: Reading Varney the Vampire, which is amazing. "Do you think--it could possibly be--A VAMPYRE?" "NO! TO BELIEVE WOULD DRIVE ME MAD!"
@cleolinda: Next day, [Flora's brother] runs into some random guy: "So what's this about your sister getting bit by a vampire?"
@cleolinda: "No? Seriously, the whole town's talking about it. You sure? Like fang marks and everything--" "MAD, I TELL YOU!!"
There's a Stubborn Skeptic in the book named Mr. Chillingworth--three years before The Scarlet Letter, mind you--that the
@cleolinda: "Doctor, she was bit by a vampire." "Oh, nonsense." "No, we're really pretty sure she was." "I totally was!"
@cleolinda: Also, apparently vampires are now native to Norway. A moose bit his sister?
In every single other vampire story I've seen, vampire legends are attributed to 1) Hungary and 2) Germany and/or Austria, in that order, sometimes also throwing in 3) Greece and 4) various sundry Eastern European countries. This is the first time I've seen anyone go, "Duh, you know, from Norway."
@cleolinda: "Look! We killed it! The moonlight is reviving it!" "I've killed it again!' "DUMBASS, IT'S JUST GETTING UP AGAIN."
Oh my God, this actually happens. The thing is, sunlight is a complete non-factor for the nineteenth-century vampire; it's an invention of twentieth-century movies. (Seriously, starting with Nosferatu in--1922?) Instead--and Varney picks this up from Polidori's "The Vampyre"--vampires are most associated with moonlight, which revives them. They generally have to scamper off at sunrise back to their coffins... but then you'll see them strolling around in full daylight later on. I don't even know. In fact, Varney meets up with Flora's brother for a duel early in the morning (more on that later). Carmilla (thirty years after Varney) has to hoof it back to her coffin every sunrise--but she then shows back up at Laura's ancestral home every day at... one in the afternoon. I don't know if it's just dawn-to-noon that irks mid-century vampires or what. And even Dracula? Walks around in the middle of the day, though he is "weaker." And you can't even depend on Stoker, because he changes the rules any time he feels like it--the vampire brides can't get up until sunset, Mina's safe from Dracula during the day, wait no there he is, etc. What I'm saying is, you can't give anybody shit over their vampires not following "the rules." Not even sparklepires. You can say a particular writer's rules are crappy, but there is no one, consistent set of Vampire Rules, not even among the classics.
The only thing that made me laugh harder than the idea of vampire-killing/reviving for five minutes straight was Varney's attempted escape a couple of chapters before:
They looked in the direction he indicated. At the end of this vista was the wall of the garden. At that point it was full twelve feet in height, and as they looked, they saw the hideous, monstrous form they had traced from the chamber of their sister, making frantic efforts to clear the obstacle.
They saw it bound from the ground to the top of the wall, which it very nearly reached, and then each time it fell back again into the garden with such a dull, heavy sound, that the earth seemed to shake again with the concussion. They trembled -- well indeed they might, and for some minutes they watched the figure making its fruitless efforts to leave the place.
I don't know why Varney can't get over the wall. All I know is, I nearly died laughing at the image of this poor vampire desperately trying to jump over it, perhaps with a sad little grunt, and then falling on its ass... over and over and over.
@cleolinda: An entire chapter on matches. "I forgot the matches!" "Oh, but I have matches!" "So do I!" "The matches I forgot were by far inferior!"
Why hello there, Writer Paid by the Word!
@cleolinda: "She might bite us all, and we should be a whole ship's crew o' wamphigaers. There would be a confounded go!" I don't even know, y'all.
Flora's beloved's uncle shows up at some point, and he is a Cantankerous Comedy Uncle--an elderly, cuss-happy admiral who totes around a salty tar of a servant/BFF. This is one Jack Pringle (who becomes extremely useful in the kitchen after all the servants flee and the Bannerworths can't get anyone else to work at the Hall for love or money). Jack and Admiral Bell's constant bromance-bickering nearly capsizes (har) the story at several points; I can't decide if I love them or hate them. I will say, however, that I lose it every time Jack mentions the "wamphigher."
("Gentlemen! We can rewamp him! Higher! Stronger! Faster!")
@cleolinda: "So I should say it would be a dreadful thing for your nephew to marry into a family which was liable to the visitations of a vampyre."
@hokuton_punch: @cleolinda That sounds like Wodehouse. "JEEVES HELP I'M ENGAGED TO A LADY WITH A HISTORY OF VAMPIRES"
@cleolinda: Deuced confoundedly dreadful, I daresay. *monocle*
@cleolinda: "Hi." "THE VAMPYRE!!!!" "Flora, don't be rude."
@Maudelynn: @cleolinda oh that part... and "hey you look like that dude that is supposed to have died a long time ago!!"
@cleolinda: @Maudelynn I love how Varney's response to almost every accusation is, like, "Honestly, dear sir, I am really insulted now."
The smartest thing Varney does is to take all accusations of vampiring in a bored, snotty kind of stride, which doesn't convince anyone, but it makes them feel really self-conscious about trying to kill him. Flora and her brother just go around feverishly gasping, "THE VAMPYRE! IT IS HIM! SERIOUSLY, IT IS HIM! THE VAMPYRE! THE VAMPYRE!!!" while everyone else (minus Mr. Chillingworth) is like, "Yes, I know, but let's not be hasty about this."
@cleolinda: "Look, the vampire wants your ancestral home, and he's not leaving till he gets it, so you might as well rent it to him."
I just--I don't even know what to say, you guys. I'm used to stories where Someone Who Knows About Vampires comes in, tells the afflicted family what's what, and then they go sneak up on the vampire's tomb and destroy him. I seriously do not understand why the Bannerworths keep trying to bargain with this guy. The whole town thinks he's a vampire! Later they form a mob and chase him through the village! They're not going to blame you for jumping the guy!
@cleolinda: Now they're arguing about the most honorable way to duel the vampire. Charles has decided on "alone, at midnight, not telling anyone."
I kept hoping Varney would eat Charles (Flora's Beloved), because Charles, at this point, officially reveals himself to be Too Dumb to Live.
Also: WHY ARE WE HONORABLY DUELING THE VAMPIRE? IT'S A VAMPIRE!
This is, by the way, only the first duel Bannerworth and Friends attempt. Charles goes "missing," which is not as satisfying as "eaten" but I suppose is better than nothing. I stopped tweeting at this point because 1) I was afraid I was really annoying people and 2) I was laughing too hard. Because, umpteen chapters later, Flora's brother Henry decides that he must also have satisfaction. As does Admiral Bell, Charles' uncle. But, you see, this is 1847, and there are rules for this kind of thing. They each go to Varney to challenge him, and he won't fight them... unless they send their seconds to arrange the duel, as is proper. So Henry sends Mr. Chillingworth and Admiral Bell sends Jack.
Jack rang loudly at the gate; there seemed, if one might judge by his countenance, a something on his mind, that Jack was, almost another man. The gate was opened by the servant, who inquired what he wanted there.
The servant frowned, and was about to say something uncivil to Jack, who looked at him very hard, and then said, --
"Oh, may be you don't know him, or won't know him by that name: I wants to see Sir Francis Varney."
This is pretty much when Jack became my favorite character in the whole thing. Wait, no--this is when:
"No, sir, don't let him do that. A wamphigher, sir, ain't no good opponent to anybody. I never seed one afore, but it strikes me as the best way to settle him, would be to shut him up in some little bit of a cabin, and then smoke him with brimstone, sir."
But do they listen to Jack Pringle? No, they do not. Instead, they get into an argument because now Varney doesn't have a second, and Henry and the Admiral's seconds can't put their honor on the line if the duel is improperly arranged. Because... something. So then they decide that Henry will go first and the Admiral will be Varney's second, and then the Admiral will duel Varney, and... something. I don't know. Apparently we stopped caring about seconds after that. And then there's a bit of business where Mrs. Bannerworth's live-in friend ("friend") Mr. Marchdale says he will be Henry's second and Chillingworth should step down because he has more to live for, and Chillingworth can just be the attending surgeon, but Admiral Bell hates Marchdale because Marchdale impugned Charles' honor and KILL THE VAMPIRE, HE IS SITTING RIGHT THERE, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?
And then Chillingworth goes and blows the whole thing:
In a moment of thoughtlessness and confidence he told his wife. Yes, this really clever man, from whom one would not have expected such a piece of horrible indiscretion, actually told his wife all about the vampyre.
Which results in the entire town finding out that yes, Sir Francis IS a vampire, and so they grab their pitchforks and their torches (well, technically, their "flails, scythes, sickles, bludgeons") and they storm the dueling field and chase Varney--who turns and runs for his unlife--into the woods. And Henry, Marchdale, Jack and the Admiral are just standing there watching this. "Look at him go!" And then they see Varney pelting out of the woods, the mob catching up to him, and OUR HEROES DECIDE THAT THEY HAVE TO HELP VARNEY ESCAPE, BECAUSE OTHERWISE IT JUST ISN'T SPORTING.
God, I hope he eats every last one of them.