Monday, October 25, 2010

Chapter 57: In Which I Suddenly Enjoy Waiting for the Vampire

In the previous chapter, we finally got back to the Bannerworths just as they finally moved out of their house. Chapter 57 (THE LONELY WATCH, AND THE ADVENTURE IN THE DESERTED HOUSE.) begins with a nice melodramatic description about the night:
It was one of those nights to produce melancholy reflections -- a night on which a man would be apt to review his past life, and to look into the hidden recesses of his soul to see if conscience could make a coward of him in the loneliness and stillness that breathed around.
It goes on like that for a while until we get to the personified Bannerworth Hall, which is getting all emo because the Bannerworths deserted it:
It seemed as if twenty years of continued occupation could not have produced such an effect upon the ancient edifice as had those few hours of neglect and desertion.
All this leading up to Admiral Bell and Dr. Chillingworth sitting in Flora's room with weapons, waiting for the vampire's return. Why they think the vampire is going to return that night other than the plot saying so, I'm not sure, but I'm not about to argue too much when it appears that something exciting might be about to happen.

By the way, here's exactly what I mean about the Admiral being funny when he's playing off someone:
"... as to our efforts being crowned with success, why, I'll give you a toast, doctor, 'may the morning's reflection provide for the evening's amusement.'"

"Ha! ha!" said Chillingworth, faintly; "I'd rather not drink any more, and you seem, admiral, to have transposed the toast in some way. I believe it runs, 'may the evening's amusement bear the morning's reflection.'"

"Transpose the devil!" said the admiral; "what do I care how it runs? I gave you my toast, and as to that you mention, it's another one altogether, and a sneaking, shore-going one too: but why don't you drink?"
It turns out the Admiral has set a trap, locking up all the windows except for one, under which he's placed some precariously balanced crockery.

Naturally, there's a cat scare right after he says this, by which I mean a cat knocks over the crockery. But I actually really like that bit. It actually builds the suspense, rather than JMR saying something is going to happen and either a) making it happen immediately or b) making it happen ten chapters later after we've forgotten about it entirely.

They find the cat, put out the light, and hear a whistle from the garden, and with that cliffhanger I'm actually looking forward to reading the next chapter.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Digression: The Vampyre Site

Working on an actual post for before I go to bed tonight. In the meantime, check out my new site, The Vampyre Site! There are already a bunch of articles and short stories about vampires, as well as resources about everyone's favorite vampire opera, Der Vampyr. (Okay, so there aren't that many vampire operas to pick from.)

I noticed a while ago that none of the online versions of Varney the Vampire contain all of the illustrations (and few even have a couple), so I'm working on scanning those in to add to the website, plus some more stories & resources that I have to add in the meantime.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chapter 56: In Which the Bannerworths Finally Leave

So, the previous chapter had no sign of Varney, just some more irrelevant filler. At least Chapter 56 (THE DEPARTURE OF THE BANNERWORTHS FROM THE HALL. -- THE NEW ABODE. -- JACK PRINGLE, PILOT.) marks the return of the characters we know and love occasionally tolerate: the Bannerworths & co.

The Bannerworths have finally decided to leave the hall instead of holding another drawn-out meeting about it, the Admiral having convinced them it was a good idea way back in Chapter I'm-not-looking-up-a-link-right-now.

Henry says to the Admiral: "here we are, trusting implicitly to you"; and for some reason the phrasing of that line just strikes me as funny. I know the awkwardness is just classic JMR dialogue, but it sort of has the feel of overeagerness, a shifty-eyed "of course I trust you; I haven't left some kind of sinister surprise for you when we leave."

Or maybe it's just me. It'd never happen, in any case.

The Admiral reassures Henry that he can defend himself against the vampire, and reassures Flora that she will at long last be away from her attacker. The Bannerworths (and Jack, who is accompanying them as comic relief) say farewell to the Admiral (and Dr. Chillingworth).

With the separation of Jack from the Admiral, JMR seems to be trying out a new running gag wherein Jack says something in sailor slang and the others stare blankly. Actually I can't tell if it's a running gag yet and not just a one-off, but from the way it was abruptly shoehorned into the beginning of the chapter ("Oh, it's a seaman's report. I know what he means; it's quicker and plainer than the land lingo, to my ears, and Jack can't talk any other, you see," says the Admiral) and then appears towards the end, that's what it feels like.

It's not funny for the same reason that a lot of JMR's attempts at humor aren't funny (see also: the last chapter): because they don't involve interaction. The Admiral and Jack are funny when they interact with each other. The Admiral is funny when he interacts with other people. Jack is a little too forced for me to find him funny most of the time, but he's funny when there's an actual interaction, and not just him saying something that's supposed to be funny and no one else really understanding it.

At any rate, the Bannerworths reach their destination uneventfully, and we've got to wait until the next Sunday post (which shall hopefully not be on Wednesday again) to find out what happens after the big cliffhanger at the end of this chapter: why can't the Bannerworths enter the garden yet????

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chapter 55: In Which the Mob Stumbles Around in the Dark Because It's Funny, I Guess

So this week's Wednesday post is on Friday. Don't judge me.

Previously in Varney the Vampire, the mob watch Varney's house burn and presume (or, perhaps, hope) that he's dead. In Chapter 55 (Chapter LV. THE RETURN OF THE MOB AND MILITARY TO THE TOWN. -- THE MADNESS OF THE MOB. -- THE GROCER'S REVENGE.) is, I suppose, a coda to the overly-long episode of the mob attacking Varney.

The mob leaves the house after the fire burns out (excuse me, after "the termination of the conflagration," because it has more syllables). They go back to the village and, since burning down Varney's house was clearly not enough excitement for one night, decide that they're still bored and play practical jokes on each other.

It occurred to me as I finished this chapter that it was full of accidental suspense. For example, some guys decide it would be great fun to see who can jump over a muddy ditch. Some of them jump in and turn into ginormous drama queens about how now they're wet and muddy and are clearly going to die. Having seen a few horror movies, my first thought was that Varney must have been hiding in the mud at the bottom of the ditch and they were going to discover them/he was going to attack them.

Same thing in the middle of the scene where some guy decides to get revenge on some other guy by throwing pitch at him. As he's trying to figure out how to scrape pitch off some pickets, he reaches down and "found he had inserted his hand into something soft." Surely this must be something to draw us back to the main plot, right? But no, it's just a pail of pitch, and there are some more unfunny antics to finish up the irrelevant chapter.

Chapter 56: In Which the Bannerworths Finally Leave

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chapter 54: In Which Varney Obviously Isn't Dead -- He's the Title Character

Sorry about the lack of posting last Sunday; I was sick all last week and so devoted myself to work that doesn't take a whole lot of attention, like reformatting old books or waiting an hour for my old POS laptop to start up.

In the previous chapter, the mob set Varney's house on fire. Chapter 54 (THE BURNING OF VARNEY'S HOUSE. -- A NIGHT SCENE. -- POPULAR SUPERSTITION.) begins with the sergeant reporting back to his superior officer about the fire. The superior officer sends him back for information, presumably so that JMR can repeat the whole thing about Varney supposedly dying in the fire for the benefit of readers who came in late.

The man who reports the summary of previous events to the sergeant starts out as kind of a smartass but gradually becomes helpful, offering to report to the superior officer himself. But he mentions that Varney is a vampire and suddenly no one will take him seriously.

Meanwhile, the mob continues to watch the fire well into the night, afraid to venture into the dark in case the vampire is still alive and ready to attack. I actually rather like the last bit of the chapter, so I'll quote it in its entirety to increase this post's word count:
The hours passed away, and the house that had been that morning a noble and well-furnished mansion, was now a smouldering heap of ruins. The flames had become somewhat subdued, and there was now more smoke than flames.

The fire had exhausted itself. There was now no more material that could serve it for fuel, and the flames began to become gradually enough subdued.

Suddenly there was a rush, and then a bright flame shot upward for an instant, so bright and so strong, that it threw a flash of light over the country for miles; but it it was only momentary, and it subsided.

The roof, which had been built strong enough to resist almost anything, after being burning for a considerable time, suddenly gave way, and came in with a tremendous crash, and then all was for a moment darkness.

After this the fire might be said to be subdued, it having burned itself out; and the flames that could now be seen were but the result of so much charred wood, that would probably smoulder away for a day or two, if left to itself to do so. A dense mass of smoke arose from the ruins, and blackened the atmosphere around, and told the spectators the work was done.
Since I'm getting frustrated with short chapters/chapters with not much to say about them and want to get through this book a bit faster, Wednesday posting shall (hopefully!) resume this week. Stay tuned!