Friday, November 6, 2009

Chapter 8: In Which (Spoiler Warning!) the Tomb is Empty

Previously in Varney the Vampire: Flora is badass, but her brothers are stupid.

In a comment to the post on Chapter 7, Zahir Blue made the point that the nighttime visit to the supposed vampire's tomb has two purposes. First, they don't want anyone to know they're breaking in. This is a fairly reasonable explanation, one which becomes more clear later in Chapter 7; if this is their main concern, however, "We should go at night because it's dark anyway" should never have come up, except to bolster Mr. Rymer's word count.

The other reason will, I hope, be made clear in the next few chapters—it was necessary to make a future plot point possible. Rather than excusing the fact that they're visiting a vampire's lair at night, this piece of information confounds the problem. Writers, take note: if the most compelling reason for anything happening in a story is "because the plot requires it," you've got some serious editing to do.

But enough of Chapter 7; we're on to Chapter 8 (THE COFFIN. -- THE ABSENCE OF THE DEAD. -- THE MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCE, AND THE CONSTERNATION OF GEORGE.). Normally I hate it when the chapter titles give away everything, but in Varney the Vampire whether or not the chapter titles actually correspond to events in the chapter is kind of a crapshoot. (Also, we already knew the coffin would be empty. And so would they, if they stopped being idiots.)

So, they stand around in the vault for a while being curious until Henry says:
"This is a time for action, George," he said, "and not for romantic thought. Let us proceed."
If only he could do that every time.

So they search around for the coffin, and this line just made me laugh:
Of course, the more recent and fresh-looking coffins they did not examine, because they could not have anything to do with the object of that melancholy visit.
They eventually find the right coffin, except that it's inscribed with "Marmaduke Bannerworth, Yeoman. 1640," not Runnagate Bannerworth, as the ancestor is called in Chapter 3. (It's not the worst of the book's continuity errors; according to Wikipedia, the author forgets that George exists after Chapter 36.)

But never mind all that; the point is that the coffin is, predictably, empty. There's a bit more of a dramatic to-do; you can tell by the fact that Chillingworth uses the word "damned" (which is, according to nineteenth-century sensibilities, bleeped out) while insisting that vampires can't exist and there must be a scientific explanation.

They leave, somewhat dejected in the knowledge that they'll have to remove their fingers from their ears and stop humming sooner or later. Henry even starts getting emo on us; when asked if they should replace the broken window, he replies:
"Oh, it matters not -- it matters not," said Henry, listlessly; "nothing matters now. I care not what becomes of me -- am getting weary of a life which now must be one of misery and dread."
Chillingworth reassures Henry that he can stand up against the vampire (which may or may not exist), and then there's this odd bit about religion:
"But, Mr. Chillingworth, I cannot and will not renounce the sublime truths of Scripture. They may be incomprehensible; they may be inconsistent; and some of them may look ridiculous; but still they are sacred and sublime, and I will not renounce them although my reason may not accord with them, because they are the laws of Heaven."
No wonder this powerful argument silenced Mr. Chillingworth, who was one of those characters in society who hold most dreadful opinions, and who would destroy religious beliefs, and all the different sects of the world, if they could, and endeavour to introduce instead some horrible system of human reason and profound philosophy.
But how soon the religious man silences his opponent; and let it not be supposed that, because his opponent says no more upon the subject, he does so because he is disgusted with the stupidity of the other; no, it is because he is completely beaten, and has nothing more to say.

This almost brings me back to the stealth parody theory I mentioned back in Chapter 5 (and by the way, I believe I have found the book after several weeks of searching: The Vampire's Bedside Companion, by Peter Underwood—but I have not received it in the mail yet, so I cannot be certain).

Chapter 9: In Which Flora is Badass (But JMR Kind of Screws It Up)


  1. I continue to enjoy each of these postings so very much! I've even sent the URL of your blog to some others.

    Um...don't want to give anything away, but I wasn't maintaining the nighttime visit is because the plot demands it, but that the plot later explains it--at least to some extent. There is a reason in character for this event to take place.

    Me, I hardly think a vampire named Marmaduke is any more frightening than one named Runnegate...

  2. I wasn't maintaining the nighttime visit is because the plot demands it, but that the plot later explains it--at least to some extent.

    Fair enough. I have just received my copy of Varney the Vampire (ed. Curt Herr) in the mail (it is the size of a science textbook!), and hope to read ahead a bit more before I make my next post. (I haven't been reading ahead because my eyes have trouble focusing on large amounts of text on a computer screen, and the free online copy was all I had to guide me before.)

    Thank you for the links! If you would ever be interested in making a guest post (if you have a favorite chapter or something), please let me know; I'd love to have you.

  3. Thanks for the offer! I'll consider it, but right now my focus vis-a-vis VARNEY is re-editing and re-writing.

  4. Is "Yeoman" supposed to be another name or some kind of Title? It seems to me a weird word to read on a 17th Century English tombstone.