June 17, 2009 at 1:52 pm (Classical Vampire Literature, Vampires around the World) (, )

The next classic vampire story is Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, There is much similarity between this novella and Dracula like Gothic atmosphere and writing style, the isolated castle in distant foreign lands, in this case Styria in Austria. The innocent young heroine who suffers from a mysterious illness and who must be save from the evil fiend. Why there is even another poor innocent, who despite best efforts is lost to the fiend like Lucy. Enter the smart older professor/vampire hunter, who knows the secret and leads a band during the daylight to find the crypt and destroy the creature in the traditional way, with stake, decapitation, and burning.

The major difference is that the vampire is female.

Carmilla was part of a collection of Le Fanu’s short stories published In a Glass Darkly in 1872, over 20 years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It is clear Bram Stoker was strongly influenced by it, although there is no concrete proof.

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was born to a wealthy family in Ireland. He went to Temple University and studied for the bar, but turned to writing. Le Fanu’s best-known works include Uncle Silas (1864), a suspense story, and The House by the Churchyard (1863), a murder mystery. He is called by some the father of the modern ghost story, because his stories turned away from the Gothic’s emphasis on external sources of terror and toward the effects of terror, creating the psychological thriller. He was one of the most popular Victorian authors, but his popularity did not last much past his death.

He can’t be called a vampire author. Carmilla appears to be his only vampire novel, but it became one of the most influential.

Next week more about Carmilla.



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Varney the Vampyre – Part 3

June 10, 2009 at 1:20 am (Classical Vampire Literature, Vampires around the World) (, )

A search of the Internet often takes you to strange and interesting sites. In my research on Varney the Vampire I came across reference to the book in VICTORIAN SUICIDE: MAD CRIMES AND SAD HISTORIES by Barbara T. Gates. This book is reprinted as part of VictorianWeb.Org

The author devotes a chapter to Varney the Vampyre, pointing out that the Victorians found themselves fascinated by monsters such as Frankstein’s creature because it expressed a part of themselves that they repressed.

“Frankenstein’s monster gradually evolves an immoral interior to match his hideous frame and eventually builds his own blazing funeral pyre to consume his own desolate life. This kind of fantasy took hold in the Victorian era, when propriety and self-denial masked a powerful sense of alienation and estrangement … Displaced fears of suicide were relocated in the realm of fantasy where ghoulish other selves became perpetrators of suicide.”

During the Victorian era, the idea of suicide was repugnant, one did one’s duty, one lived lives of propriety. According Barbara Gates, Varney the Vampyre provided the middle class a look into the forbidden, especially the idea of suicide. Varney disgruntled with his immortal existence, seeks to end it by jumping from a ship, where there is little chance of his body being recovered, but it is. His body is placed in a boneyard, when moonlight falls upon it,  he is immediately revived. He later jumps into an active volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, thus ending the story. Barbara Gates points out the similarities to a literary poem of the time, “Empedocles on Etna” by Matthew Arnold (1822–88), where the hero also commits suicide by jumping into a volcano.

Like Empedocles, then, Varney became a surrogate Victorian, another self. Capable of endless resuscitation as Empedocles is of endless reincarnation, Varney fulfills the Victorian yearning for immortality. Guilty of selfishness and blood-letting, he deserves the Victorian punishment of death. Whatever the order of his being, however, Varney seems not to have had the right to take his own life.

Unlike Empedocles, Varney is a distorted, fantastical self, free from most human constraints. Through him working-class Victorians could experience the forbidden, just as Arnold’s more refined readers could through Empedocles. When Varney’s tedium vitae becomes unendurable, the vampire determines to destroy himself.

I suspect that the choice of a volcano had little to do with exploring the issue of suicide in a way that could be accepted by society, as much as a convenient way to end the series, for which interest had dwindled or which writers no longer wanted write. If you have an immortal character that can be killed but is revived by the touch of moonlight, there is very few ways in which to definitely kill off the main character. Conan Arthur Doyle discovered the same difficulties trying to kill off Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls.

I think the popularity of Varney the Vampire during the Victorian period is for the same reason that Angel or Buffy captured our attention. A good story with lots of action, although Varney wasn’t as good looking as Angel.

To read T. Gates discussion of Varney,

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Vaney the Vampyre – Part 2

June 3, 2009 at 1:10 am (Classical Vampire Literature, Vampires around the World) (, )

Synopsis: Flora Bannersworth is attacked in her own room in the middle of the night, and although her attacker is seemingly shot dead, the body is nowhere to be found. The discovery of two small bite marks on Flora’s neck leads Mr Marchdale, an old friend of the family, to the conclusion that she was bitten by a vampire. While Flora recovers, her brother Henry and Mr Marchdale begin their hunt for the vampire. Their suspicions soon fall on the mysterious Sir Francis Varney, who has just bought an old abbey near Bannersworth Hall, and who bears an uncanny resemblance to Marmaduke Bannersworth, a long-dead ancestor of the family. (Summary by Annika Feilbach)

Here is how the story begins:

Varney Chapter 1

Varney Chapter 1



A Romance.


—-“How graves give up their dead, And how the night air hideous grows With shrieks!”


The solemn tones of an old cathedral clock have announced midnight — the air is thick and heavy — a strange, death like stillness pervades all nature. Like the ominous calm which precedes some more than usually terrific outbreak of the elements, they seem to have paused even in their ordinary fluctuations, to gather a terrific strength for the great effort. A faint peal of thunder now comes from far off. Like a signal gun for the battle of the winds to begin, it appeared to awaken them from their lethargy, and one awful, warring hurricane swept over a whole city, producing more devastation in the four or five minutes it lasted, than would a half century of ordinary phenomena.

It was as if some giant had blown upon some toy town, and scattered many of the buildings before the hot blast of his terrific breath; for as suddenly as that blast of wind had come did it cease, and all was as still and calm as before.

To read the complete text there are several places including Humphrey Lui loving tribute to Varney, which includes the complete text and graphics.

The University of Virginia Library

If you would like to hear what it is like read aloud check out Librivox

Leslie Ormandy has prepared an abridged version, bringing the story up-to-date with more modern language as well as a study guide.

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Varney the Vampyre (Part 1)

May 27, 2009 at 1:29 am (Classical Vampire Literature, Vampires around the World) (, )

Varney The Vampyre

Varney The Vampyre

VARNEY THE VAMPYRE or The Feast of Blood is considered the first vampire novel written in English. It was published as a serial novel or as they were then called a Penny Dreadful. Varney began in 1845 and ran for two years and 109 installments, 220 chapters in all.

Penny Dreadfuls, also called Penny Bloods and Blood and Thunders, were 8 page booklets that sold for a penny. At a time when the price of books were beyond the common man, Penny Dreadfuls filled the insatiable hunger of the masses. They were the soap operas of the day. You could compare Varney to Dark Shadows, each episode packed with excitement and adventure and romance.

There is a question about who actually authored Varney since Penny Dreadful authors were rarely identified, but authorship is generally credited to Thomas Preskett Prest or James Malcolm Rymer. Both men were part of Publisher Edward Lloyd’s stable of writers. Prest and Rymer were among Lloyd’s best and most prolific writers. Each was capable of working on as many as ten serial novels at one time. Though it will probably never be determined with any certainty, Rymer is thought to be the actual author.

Varney is very much a product of its times, a gothic novel filled with the dark nights, romantic castles, hauntings that were so popular at the time. It was also written as a serial novel, so it is more episodic than a story with a complex plot and storyline. This is because if the story’s popularity declined, an author might be told to end a story with the next week’s episode. Varney is a classical read, much like the books Frankenstein or even Dracula, which bear little resemblance to the vision we have of either book based on the movies.

Varney may not be great literature but it is fun to read.

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Lord Ruthven

May 11, 2009 at 1:33 am (Classical Vampire Literature, Vampires around the World) (, , )

Also at that gathering at the Villa Diodati, near Geneva, Switzerland was one Dr. John Polidori. Something about Lord Byron’s story intrigued him, and Polidori took the fragment and turned it into The Vampyre.

He borrowed the older gentleman and an innocent young man traveling together and the mysterious death and the oath to hold it secret. Perhaps Polidori saw himself in the role of the young man, Aubrey, for he was Lord Byron’s young traveling companion. Critics and historians assume that the older gentleman, Lord Ruthven, was a intentionally modeled after Lord Byron.

The Vampyre was published in The New Monthly Magazine in April 1, 1819 and was originally credited to the more famous Lord Byron.

I found The Vampyre long winded and overwritten as many stories of that period, with a frustratingly helpless hero. The character of Lord Ruthven is interesting as revealed through the eyes of the young man. Lord Ruthen enjoys seeing the innocent ruined and the evil rewarded. He is charitable to those who lust, while refusing those who are in true need, taking pleasure at winning a fortune from a family man who can’t afford to lose and yet losing that same fortune to a wastrel, denying the woman of easy virtue to seduce the virgin. I’ve come across very few such villains. The young man finally sees the truth of Lord Ruthven and leaves him behind to travel to Greece.

Here the young man becomes enamored with a beautiful young girl. She warns him of traveling at night because of vampires. He disbelieves and runs into a vampire and in the process loses his love to the vampire’s bite. He himself is badly injured. Lord Ruthven appears to nurse him back to health. They travel on and are attacked by bandits. Lord Ruthven gravely injured. The young man swears an oath to the dying man not to reveal his death for a year and a day with the hint that something terrible will happen because of this promise.

Critics talk about The Vampire as a turning point, where the figure of the vampire changes from that of a monster crawling from the grave, into suave and sophisticated nobleman welcomed in the drawing rooms of society. A romantic figure and a seducer of young women. Following his introduction, Lord Ruthven appears in several novels and plays until after Dracula, in 1897, when his popularity faded. Critics agree that Lord Ruthven is the prototype for all that followed, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula and even Anne Rice’s Lestat.

Lord Ruthven doesn’t act like a vampire. He doesn’t have the usual vampire characteristics. It is only at the end of the story that he is named so.

While I wouldn’t call The Vampire a good vampire novel, it is rather unique, one of the few in which the evil vampire wins.

If you would like to read the story, visit

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Enter the Count, Sorry Enter Lord Bryon

May 10, 2009 at 1:17 am (Classical Vampire Literature, Vampires around the World) (, )

A story is told of a gathering in 1816 at the Villa Diodati, near Geneva, Switzerland, of a group of writers and poets. Among the guests were Mary Shelly and Lord Byron. Lord Byron suggested as a party game that the guests make up ghost stories. Mary Shelly wrote the first draft of what later became the horror classic Frankenstein.

Lord Byron started a story about of a young man enamored by an older, mysterious gentleman, Darvell. They become traveling companions, traveling through Europe to the Middle East, arriving at last in Smyrna. Over the journey the man’s health fails, but he insists on taking one more journey into the wilderness.

“We had passed halfway towards the remains of Ephesus, leaving behind us the more fertile environs of Smyrna, and were entering upon that wild and tenantless tract through the marshes and defiles which lead to the few huts yet lingering over the broken columns of Diana-the roofless walls of expelled Christianity, and the still more recent but complete desolation of abandoned mosques~when the sudden and rapid illness of my companion obliged us to halt at a Turkish cemetery, the turbaned tombstones of which were the sole indication that human life had ever been a sojourner in this wilderness.”

Here Darvell collapses and as he lies dying he asks his companion to promise to hide his death from everyone and to take his ring and

‘On the ninth day of the month, at noon precisely (what month you please, but this must be the day), you must fling this ring into the salt springs which run into the Bay of Eleusis; the day after, at the same hour, you must repair to the ruins of the temple of Ceres, and wait one hour.’

After a puzzling bit about a stork holding a snake, Darvell dies and is buried.

It reads like every other bad first draft, way too much information, taking too long to get to the story. There are a couple of great lines though, like

“Where there is mystery, it is generally supposed that there must also be evil: I know not how this may be, but in him there certainly was the one, though I could not ascertain the extent of the other-and felt loth, as far as regarded himself, to believe in its existence.”

Where this story would have gone, who knows, for Lord Bryon never finished it.

So where are the vampires, you might wonder?

Where indeed.

Wait, they are coming tomorrow.

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Wake Not the Dead

May 9, 2009 at 1:22 am (Classical Vampire Literature, Vampires around the World) (, )

“Wake Not the Dead” is a good warning, unfortunately or maybe
fortunately, one that we vampire authors have not heeded.

Wake Not The Dead was written by Johann Ludwig Tieck about 1800.
It is considered the first vampire story, although not the first English vampire story. That honor goes to John Polidori’s The Vampyre, because Wake Not The Dead wasn’t translated into English until 1823.  It can  be considered the first modern vampire romance. It is about a man who loves his dead wife so much he has a necromancer return her to life, only to discover she has become a vampire.

I read Leslie Ormandy’s updated version of the tale and was indeed impressed by the modern quality of the storyline. Walter so loved his first wife and mourns her passing that even his new wife and family cannot ease his pain. A necromancer brings her back to life, despite his warnings “Wake
Not the Dead.” She is even more beautiful than before, and it seems at first to be everything he hoped for. But this is not a romance but a horror story and a cautionary tale so over time things change.

Although Teick never actually calls her a vampire, she drinks blood, avoids sunlight, and seems to possess a power to hypnotize her victims. All the classic traits we associate with vampires.

I find it interesting at even this earliest stage, the vampire has become an erotic creature bound up with our deepest and darkest fantasies.

If you would like to read Leslie Ormandy’s updated version or the original English version, visit Simply

Tomorrow we’ll explore the first English vampire story.

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Der Vampir

May 8, 2009 at 1:00 am (Classical Vampire Literature, Vampires around the World) (, , )

We tend to think that Bram Stoker’s Dracula, published in 1897,
was the first vampire story. It wasn’t!

What is generally considered the first fictional work is a poem
The Vampire or Der Vampir by Heinrich August Ossenfelder, published in 1748.

I’m sure that it is a better poem if read in the original language, but here is an English translation.

“Der Vampir”
by: Heinrich August Ossenfelder

My dear young maiden clingeth
Unbending, fast and firm
To all the long-held teaching
Of a mother ever true;
As in vampires unmortal
Folk on the Theyse’s portal *
Heyduck-like do believe. **
But my Christine thou dost dally,
And wilt my loving parry
Till I myself avenging
To a vampire’s health a-drinking
Him toast in pale tockay. ***

And as softly thou art sleeping
To thee shall I come creeping
And thy life’s blood drain away.
And so shalt thou be trembling
For thus shall I be kissing
And death’s threshold thou’ it be crossing
With fear, in my cold arms.
And last shall I thee question
Compared to such instruction
What are a mother’s charms?

* Theyse (Tisza): it is the second biggest river in Hungary —
the biggest is the Danube.

** Heyduck: a semimilitary official of seventeenth and eighteenth
century Hungary.

*** Tokay: a well known type of Hungarian wine.

If you are finding it as confusing as I did, perhaps reading Leslie Ormandy’s explanation of the poem would be helpful.

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The Original Source

May 7, 2009 at 1:56 am (Classical Vampire Literature, Vampires around the World) (, )

People have been writing about vampires for centuries. The first
written records were eyewitness accounts of vampire infestations.
The first use of the word vampire or vampyre to appear in the
English papers was in 1732 in a report of the story of Arnold

Arnold Paole, or Arnont Paule was a Serbian peasant who
reportedly became a vampire after his death in 1726 and caused
four deaths in his village. The villagers exhumed the bodies,
staked and burned them. Five years later, 10 more people
died in a short period of time. When the villagers asked for
help, the Austrian government sent two military doctors, Glaser
and Flückinger, to investigate the case. The outbreak was blamed
on two women who mentioned having contact
with vampires, one had eaten meat supposedly killed by the previous vampires and the other had used vampire blood to protect herself from vampires.

The Austrian officials eventually dug up the bodies of the
victims and reported finding bodies that didn’t seem to have
decomposed, with fresh blood at their mouths, that groaned when
staked. They staked and burned the victims.

Their reports were later widely published. Along with a
similar report of another Serbian Peter Plogojowitz, who
supposedly killed nine villagers in 1725.

You can find an English version of the reports at and

Today we understand the signs that the superstitious thought as
proof of vampirism were merely part of the natural decomposition
process. But the reports were taken as concrete proof that
vampires actually existed and fear spread across Europe to

The image of the vampire was a dark, ruddy complexion, long hair
and nails, wearing a shroud, coming from the grave to attack
those nearest and dearest. Throughout the 18th century, when
there were unexplained multiple deaths, fear of vampires like
fear of witches started episodes of mass hysteria.

It was not long before writers began using the terrifying images
of the blood thirsty vampire.

Tomorrow, the first vampire stories.

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