Friday, October 30, 2009

Chapter 5: In Which They Still Can't Believe It's a Vampire

Previously in Varney the Vampire: It was a vampire. Despite Henry's sloppy and misguided attempts to hide it, everyone knows by morning.

Chapter 5 of Varney the Vampire (THE NIGHT WATCH. -- THE PROPOSAL. -- THE MOONLIGHT. -- THE FEARFUL ADVENTURE.) is, mercifully, shorter than Chapter 4, although not by much. It begins with Henry receiving a letter from Sir Francis Varney - the offer of assistance, no doubt, mentioned and forgotten in Chapter 3.

It turns out that Varney has just purchased the neighboring property, Ratford Abbey. He offers his assistance, but Henry decides to politely reject it, since the Bannerworths are poor and cannot afford new acquaintances.

George decides to stay up with Henry and Marchdale to watch Flora. Marchdale produces a Plot Device which the author he forgot to mention after they fought the vampire: a scrap of old-fashioned coat, smelling of the grave, which he pulled from the vampire the night before. As they watch Flora, they note that the coat resembles the one in the painting of the Bannerworth ancestor who resembles the vampire. These are some detectives, here, not in the least because they are still afraid of proving that it might be a vampire.

They hear footsteps and believe that the vampire has come again, but it is only Chillingworth, who has decided to stay in the garden watching for the vampire. He thinks he heard something, so Henry and Marchdale go to investigate, leaving George to guard Flora with his sword.

(I swear, if this were a television series the internet would be innundated with Bannercest fics before the first episode even aired.)

They find the vampire lying under the trees. The full moon heals him and, as usual, they stand around talking about how they should kill him while he's still weak instead of actually managing to do it. The vampire starts to flee, but Marchdale manages to shoot it, and it falls.

They realize that the moonbeams will keep healing it, but they decide to follow it anyway, since they're anything but genre savvy. (Choice "who talks like that?" quote: "It is conscious of being pursued.") It runs into the woods, and they give up the chase at Chillingworth's request.

But they are finally able to connect the dots: the vampire does not just suspiciously resemble their dead ancestor, but is the ancestor, one who committed suicide nearly a hundred years ago. Henry freaks out yet again.
They still spend a large chunk of dialogue denying vampires; says Marchdale: "I saw a man lying down, and then I saw a man get up; he seemed then to be shot, but whether he was or not he only knows; and then I saw him walk off in a desperate hurry. Beyond that, I saw nothing." I understand that this is human nature, but it's so tedious to read. Give me overly purple descriptions of hailstorms any day.

Marchdale and Henry decide - just in case, or something - to check out the ancestor's vault and make sure he's really dead. There's no way this could possibly go wrong.

As a side note, I read once (I can't recall where, but it was a book called something like The Bedside Companion to Vampires) the theory that Varney the Vampire is a stealth parody by an author who was bitter about the popularity of bad stories and so intentionally wrote a terrible story in order to cash in on the craze and have the last laugh.

From the first two chapters, that theory had me convinced; now that the writing has gotten less hilarious, not anymore. Honestly, it just reads like a decent first draft of a halfway-decent book written by an author who didn't have the time or inclination to edit. Forget modern television series; it's more like modern fanfiction.


  1. Michael, skip back to the Intro for an explanation and link to the full story.

  2. I'm enjoying your commentary, not least because I'm in the process of "re-writing" VARNEY. Keep up the good work!

  3. Thanks, Zahir! I would be interested to see your rewrite. I had been wondering if anyone had ever attempted such a thing, since the story does strike me (at least so far) as something that would be quite enjoyable if only it were edited.

  4. I'm all for the Bannercest shipping.