Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chapter 52: In Which Varney Makes a Cameo

Previously in Varney the Vampire: The mob's attack is drawn out about three chapters longer than necessary.

Chapter 52 (THE INTERVIEW BETWEEN THE MOB AND SIR FRNCIS VARNEY. -- THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE. -- THE WINE CELLARS.) begins with what is probably the most egregious padding I've seen so far in Varney the Vampire:
"Hurrah!" shouted the mob below.
"Hurrah!" shouted the mob above....
"Down with the vampyre!" they shouted.
"Down with the vampyre!" shouted they.
Either that or it's an attempt to attract younger readers to the story. "See Dick run. See Jane run. See Dick stake the vampire. Stake, Dick, stake!"

Then the mob comes across Varney, and what can I say about Varney except that I love him.
"Gentlemen," said Sir Francis Varney, rising, with the blandest of smiles, "pray, gentlemen, permit me to inquire the cause of this condescension on your part. The visit is kind."
It's just amazing how subtle he is, how his calmness is so consistently the most threatening thing about him. On the one hand it works because it's a bit crazymaking -- "he's acting so calm and clueless, perhaps he's not a vampire after all and we're just imagining all this" -- and on the other hand it speaks to just how powerful the vampire is -- if you're about to attack someone and he's so confident that he doesn't even try to defend himself, either he's monumentally stupid or you're about to get f***ed.

Of course, Varney's bluffing a little, because rather than face the mob he mysteriously disappears. Which segues nicely into the next few hundred words of padding, which essentially amount to "where did he go?" and "he's a vampire!" repeated ad nauseum.

The really interesting bit in this chapter, however, comes after the mob raid Varney's wine cellar:
"What are you drinking?"
"What wine?"
"Danged if I know," was the reply. "It's wine, I suppose; for I know it ain't beer nor spirits; so it must be wine."
"Are you sure it ain't bottled men's blood?"
"Bottled blood, man! Who knows what a vampyre drinks? It may be his wine. He may feast upon that before he goes to bed of a night, drink anybody's health, and make himself cheerful on bottled blood!"
"Oh, danged! I'm so sick; I wish I hadn't taken the stuff. It may be as you say, neighbour, and then we be cannibals."
"Or vampyres."
"There's a pretty thing to think of."
Vampires disguising their blood as wine -- another vampire trope I had no idea showed up so early. (Any early vampire lit experts know of an earlier fictional appearance? I checked what I knew of but couldn't find one.) The suggestion, of course, causes the mob to become paranoid and dump all the wine.

But was Varney's wine cellar actually filled with blood? We've seen Varney refuse wine in the past, suggesting that he can't consume any food or drink besides blood, so why would he keep so much wine in the house? On the other hand, he has food and drink available when Henry and Marchdale visit, so he must keep it around for guests as well as to keep up appearances.

The main problem, however, is simply that (unless any blood-drinkers in the comments care to correct me on this) blood tastes nothing like wine, so if the mob just thinks the wine tastes a little funny I'm going to chalk that one up to their paranoia. I've seen the "vampire tricks human into drinking blood by pretending it's wine" trope in other vampire fiction, which seems to rely on the nonsensical premise of "if it looks vaguely similar it must taste the same."

People who believe that, remind me never to eat anything you cook.

Chapter 53: In Which The Military Suddenly Doesn't Care About the Mob

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