Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chapter 10: In Which Flora Didn't Kill the Vampire Because It's a F***ing Vampire

 Man, it's been a long time since I posted. Sorry about that. I blame my husband for introducing me to Diablo.

Previously in Varney the Vampire: The vampire returns. Flora shoots him and then runs away, but is caught by some unidentified person. Could it be the vampire?

Don't worry; it's just her fiancé, Charles! You know, the one we met in Chapter 6? Bet you didn't see that coming. And by "that," I mean JMR remembering a character's name from three chapters ago.

So, the boys are shocked to return from their little there's no such thing as a vampire hunting adventure to discover that the vampire has attacked again. Man, there's no way anyone could have seen that coming.
Such a strange scene as that small room now exhibited had never been equalled in Bannerworth Hall. There was young Mr. Holland, of whom mention has already been made, as the affianced lover of Flora, supporting her fainting form. There was Henry doing equal service to his mother; and on the floor lay the two pistols, and one of the candles which had been upset in the confusion: while the terrified attitudes of George and Mr. Marchdale at the window completed the strange-looking picture.
Flora awakes and, upon recognizing Charles:
She burst into a hysterical flood of tears, and clung to him like some terrified child to its only friend in the whole wide world.
"Oh, my dear friends," cried Charles Holland, "do not deceive me; has Flora been ill?"
"We have all been ill," said George.
This exchange, like so many in Varney the Vampire, is bizarre on several levels. First, I must note that JMR manages to give Flora realistic emotional reactions and very human characteristics here (although he does slip into bathos), something which has only shown up at a few points in the story so far. (The one that sticks in my mind is the scene where Henry stays up guarding Flora at the end of Chapter 4.)

But then Charles's reaction—to be fair, at this point he has no idea what is going on, and his confusion is one of the few things that JMR almost gets right in the dialogue—Charles's reaction is to ignore Flora's unspoken cry for support and to ask The Boys what's wrong with her, rather than talking to her?

And then George's reaction is to pull attention away from Flora—you know, the one who actually got attacked by a vampire—and make it All About the Boys, like so much of the rest of the story is already?

As with the last post, I find it difficult to pick stuff like this apart too much. Sometimes it's hard to tell what's the bad writing, what's a product of the time and what's just plain sexism.

Anyway, the prize for the stupidest line of dialogue in the chapter goes to Marchdale:

"You -- you hit it with the bullet?" interposed Mr. Marchdale. "Perhaps you killed it?"
Yes, Marchdale, she killed it. That's why it got up and left after Henry shot it in the garden. And why it got up and left when you shot it in the light of the full moon. And why it wasn't in its coffin.


Anyway, Charles is still confused, not in the least because Flora is now raving about how they have to break up because she's been cursed by the vampire's visit, so Henry takes Charles away to explain everything to him. I rather like him so far; like Flora, he seems more human than the other characters. Perhaps he can inject some sanity in the situation.
(By the way: I automatically read/write chapter titles and previous chapter recaps in the voice of Yami from Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series. Maybe that's just me.)
Chapter 11: In Which the Blogger Returns after a Long Hiatus


  1. Some fun comments! JMR was writing 10 other penny dreadfuls while writing Varney... so yes, some of teh details are sketchy at best. (Plus, there were other writers contributing to Varney as well..) As for sexism... Rymer is pretty ahead of his fellow writers- Flora is remarkably brave and at times, independent. Stick with the book- T. Prest takes over writing the tale at chapter 93. But when Rymer returns to end the serial, the writing and plot line is the best ever- !!!
    C. Herr

  2. "Bet you didn't see that coming. And by "that," I mean JMR remembering a character's name from three chapters ago."

    LOL! Yeah, at times this reads like it should be adapted for film in the same style as CLUE! Hmmmm...Tim Curry as Marchdale. That is a funny image!

  3. I have read "Varney" in its entirety twice and have been closely studying the text for two years. In order to fairly evaluate this work, it must be judged within the parameters of the penny dreadful format. Yes, it is long, but it is a serial publication, not a novel. The work most likely did not have a constant readership, so Rymer can be forgiven a certain amount of repetitiveness -- especially since he could not have foreseen the work's immense popularity and thus found himself forced to lengthen it far beyond its intended scope. Penny dreadful writers wrote, first and foremost, for profit, so it is only natural that they padded their work as a matter of personal survival. There were no editors, either. Whatever came out of the ends of the writers' pens went directly to print. Since dreadfuls were printed as they were written, there was no way for an author to go back and correct any errors in fact or timeline. Given all of these limitations and the fact that Rymer had up to ten storylines going at one time, I think it is amazing that "Varney" is as good as it is.

    I, therefore, find it wearying that scholars can do no better than to constantly take potshots at "Varney." This is the easy way out and requires little thought or effort. An honest study of "Varney" will reveal much that modern scholars have completely missed. Rymer, unfortunately, was more clever than his critics. Most of his genius has been completely overlooked because scholars would rather make fun of his magnum opus than truly study it. This work must be read more than once and studied in great detail in order to tease out its secrets. And secrets there are -- in abundance.

    -- J. L. Stevenson

  4. Mr. Stevenson, I for one do not dispute that VARNEY is better than it should be, all things considered. In truth (for example) it pioneered the "Reluctant Vampire" as well as other elements that have now become standards (almost cliches) of the genre. It also contains some genuine surprises along the way, which still make sense given what we know of the characters.

    But at the same time, let us recall its sometimes-amazing weaknesses. The author of this blog has undertaken a very large task, with her satisfaction and whatever feedback she might receive as her only certain reward. Her reactions to the text are sincere, often well-taken (and nice to read because she's noticed a few things I did not--a trend that will almost certainly continue). She has not dismissed this book but she offers her own perfectly valid reaction, coupled with some interesting insights and not a few words of praise.

    This is a blog I regularly check for updates and linked from my own blog.

  5. Any idea when Chapter 11 will be posted?

  6. I am hoping to get to it very soon! Sorry for the long wait; things have been slightly hectic lately. I will make up for it!