Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chapter 47: In Which We Encounter an Odd Combination of Fiction and Folklore

Previously in Varney the Vampire: Nothing much happens that we haven't been over before.

Chapter 47 (THE REMOVAL FROM THE HALL. -- THE NIGHT WATCH, AND THE ALARM.) begins with -- of all things! -- an argument between Henry and the Admiral over who gets to keep the furniture when the Bannerworths move out. It's amazing how dull the Admiral can get when thrown into such a context.

Thankfully they're interrupted by Varney's servant, who comes under the pretense of seeing how they are after the "flurry and excitement." It's just so very Varney: a smug reminder -- I'm still here! -- coupled with an underhanded, passive-aggressive "oh, I didn't hurt you, did I?"

To express their displeasure, they take the servant and stick him under the water pump. I guess that's what one did before the invention of toilet bowls.

Anyway, we then return to the mob. There's an interesting bit here when they're trying to figure out how the butcher got out of his coffin:
...nothing was more natural, when anybody died who was capable of becoming a vampyre, than for other vampyres who knew it to dig him up, and lay him out in the cold beams of the moonlight, until he acquired the same sort of vitality they themselves possessed, and joined their horrible fraternity.
So we have the whole moonlight thing again, not just as a healing source but as a necessary step in the process of making a vampire. The importance of moonlight is interesting in and of itself, since it doesn't seem to have a basis in folklore but rather in Polidori's "The Vampyre." Since Varney the Vampyre is one of the earliest pieces of vampire fiction, it illustrates the beginning of vampire stories building on each others' established universes as well as folklore, until the folklore gradually becomes all but forgotten.

(See also the criticisms of Twilight along the lines of "if Meyer had researched vampires she'd know they can't go out in the daylight!" There are many reasonable criticisms of Twilight but "it doesn't follow trends that other authors made up" is hardly one of them. But I digress.)

Then we move to a young man who has recently died of a sudden illness. A woman screams that he is a vampire, because "[his body is] fresher now than on the day on which it died, and there's a colour in its cheeks." (The idea that rosy cheeks indicate a vampire does come from folklore, although the appearance is just a natural part of the decomposition process, as JMR points out a few paragraphs later.)

JMR makes a point to tell us how crazy and delusional she is, and I'll spare you another rant about how the mob are the only ones acting logically based on the universe they're living in and the small amount of information they know.

Chapter 48: In Which a Vampire Finally Gets Staked (Maybe)

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