Reading Group #18 ('The Vampyre')

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Reading Group #18 ('The Vampyre')

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1veilofisis
oct. 1, 2011, 4:23am

See post 23 in thread #17 for details. :)

2pgmcc
oct. 1, 2011, 5:46am

Wonderful. It's all there. The irresistable will of the Vampyre; the polite company of the salon, rife with vice; the coming of age tour of the young gentelman; and, of course, the mark of "The Vampyre". A wonderful story. I really enjoyed it, and I learnt a new word, "mountebank", which I suspected was more raunchy than it actually is before I found it in my dictionary.

Well chosen Jourdain. Thank you!

3alaudacorax
Editat: oct. 2, 2011, 8:41am

Read this last night. Actually, the combination of this and a Chinese takeaway that seemed pretty high on the MSG (gave me one of those 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' hangovers) made for some weird dreams last night - got to stop reading this stuff in the early hours. Anyway, back to the story: just a couple of first thoughts.

Did anyone else get the idea that it started off badly and then got better - or was that just me gradually getting into it? It struck me at first as quite amateurish, but then it seemed to get into its stride and carry me along with it.

I was slightly surprised to find the title character rather repellent, without that 'bad boy' glamour. All that business of the eyes glancing over people without really 'penetrating', plus the descriptions of appearance, gave him a quite corpse-like feel for me. If he was really based on Byron I assume Polidori was getting his own back for being sacked. If he was Byron, presumably Aubrey represented Polidori?

I didn't think Aubrey's sister was very successful: apart from being too good to be true, I didn't get any real sense of her. I thought the Greek girl much more 'real' (did either have a name?) and I mourned her fate a little but didn't really care about the sister. In that sense, I thought the story peaked too early.

ETA - Was there a bit of old-fashioned British racism and 'classism' there? Would contemporary readers have automatically regarded a Greek innkeeper's daughter as of much less import than an aristocratic English woman?

4pgmcc
Editat: oct. 10, 2011, 4:05am

#3...It struck me at first as quite amateurish, but then it seemed to get into its stride

I know what you mean, but I thought it was more to do with when it was written and that it was written in the style that various writers of gothic tales, even up to this very day, try to emulate.

The social setting reminded me of Guy de Maupassant's stories in Paris.

I didn't think Aubrey's sister was very successful:

She did appear to be a bit wimpish and two, if not one, dimensional. A bit too stereotypical of the swooning maid who adores her brother.

ETA - Was there a bit of old-fashioned British racism and 'classism' there? Would contemporary readers have automatically regarded a Greek innkeeper's daughter as of much less import than an aristocratic English woman?

Certainly. How could one contemplate a serious relationship with a foreigner, and one of such lowly origins?

I think the female characters who suffered at the teeth of the Vampyre were merely fodder to the story. However, I felt the other female characters, those appearing in the earlier parts of the story, were used well to poke a jest at the nature and hypocrisy of society at the time, and the vice ridden salon culture.

The female characters were much more like the "ladish" nature that has become fashionable among many women in the past twenty years; i.e. girls taking a more pro-active role in the hunt. :-)

5housefulofpaper
oct. 5, 2011, 7:46am

This is a short read of about 8,000 words, but it packs in a lot of incident. In fact, it almost reads as the synopsis for a novel. It’s hard to tell if this is merely down to the literary style of the time, or if it is because Polidori was not a professional author. Although, that said, when “The Vampyre” was thought to have been written by Lord Byron, Goethe reportedly said it was the best thing Byron had he’d ever written. This suggests that he didn’t see any evidence of amateurishness or weakness in the writing - but then again, I suppose he read it in translation.

The plot mechanisms of imperiled heroines, incarceration, and the suspense of a last-minute rescue (or in this case, the failure to effect a rescue) all put this story squarely in the gothic genre. What’s new, of course, is the synthesis of the disgusting living-dead folkloric vampire (in fact, pretty much the same thing as the modern screen zombie) with the cynical upper-class (indeed “Byronic”) seducer.

I think a big part of the impetus for this story must have been Polidori’s resentment of Byron (and Shelley and party). Apparently Byron’s republican (small “r”), all-men-are-equal political sentiments weren’t always carried through into everyday life. With pgmcc, I read the opening scene as a satire on upper-class society of the time. Regency morals were a lot looser than Victorian morals (or perhaps just less hypocritical - the wealthy and powerful probably always behave badly).

I think I have to disagree with the view that the death of Ianthe indicates any snobbery or discrimination on Polidori’s part. I think she just has to be sacrificed for the sake of the plot, like Mina in Dracula.

Here’s some trivia: Polidori was the uncle of the Rossetti children (Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel and poet Christina, etc.) but of course he died before any of them were born.

And one more: “Ruthven” is pronounced with a short “u” silent “v” - as per Christopher Frayling’s ’90’s documentary series “Nightmare: The Birth of Horror”.

6alaudacorax
oct. 6, 2011, 5:14pm

#5 - The pronunciation of Ruthven seems a bit of a contentious issue. I've found at least four pronunciations online, but the one I like best is 'Riwen', which presumably sounds much the same as 'ruin' - which I think is quite appropriate for our story.

7housefulofpaper
oct. 7, 2011, 5:20am

> 7 Ah - the name reveals the character, in the same way that Lovelace in Clarissa is pronounced "Loveless".

8veilofisis
oct. 9, 2011, 6:40pm

Still need to get around to reading this before we move on. I had three papers due this past Friday AND three shows this weekend and it's been...a hell of a week...

Looking forward to unwinding with this later. I'll be back with thoughts tomorrow or Monday...

9alaudacorax
oct. 9, 2011, 7:02pm

#8 - Burning the candle at how many ends?

10veilofisis
oct. 13, 2011, 9:00pm

Haven't got around to this just yet, but I'm posting a new selection for those of you ready to move on. Poe, again, and my favorite of his works (and one of my favorite pieces of fiction ever, actually): 'The Masque of the Red Death.' New thread is up.

11naimahaviland
oct. 13, 2011, 10:13pm

Just finished The Vampyre. My kindle downloaded version had a short defense of Lord Byron tacked onto the end that was obviously written back then. I find that addition interesting & suppose it was inserted after The Vampyre proved too damning To Byron's image. I thought the sister was weak and I found the narrative itself weak - sort of describing a story rather than immersing the reader in it. But I sure am glad I finally read this precedent-setting story. Good pick! I enjoyed it.

12alaudacorax
oct. 14, 2011, 6:07am

#11 - Fascinating, Naima: I'll try to hunt out that addition - I'll be interested to read it.

Going back to the story, I've been intending (without ever quite managing it) a re-read - I think I was half asleep on the first one. So I'll try to get round to it this weekend and give the story a bit more thought than I've done so far.

13alaudacorax
oct. 21, 2011, 11:56am

I've finally got round to re-reading this. I've also read Byron's 'Fragment of a Novel'.

I have to say that I found the Byron just plain 'better' - much more skillful and polished. And very frustrating in its incompletion. There's no indication in Byron's text that Darvell - his Ruthven - is a vampire or, even, definitely evil. Did Byron ever say that he intended a vampire tale?

I also read, in some academic discussion of the texts (http://www.erudit.org/revue/ron/2005/v/n36-37/011135ar.html), about alleged homosexual subtexts in them (and, also, hints of some sort of homosexual element to the relationship between Byron and Polidori).

I really don't know what to think of this: I'm a little persuaded and a little sceptical.

It doesn't help that, on re-reading, I don't think Aubrey's attraction to Ruthven really works and I thought Polidori was at his best with the depictions of the interaction between Aubrey and Ianthe where he gave me the impression of being on surer ground as if he was really writing from his own feelings. With all that kittenish, playful innocence and virgin (presumably) beauty, Ianthe is an example of a quite common male fantasy, of course - all very heterosexual.

Not that he couldn't have been bisexual, I suppose - but then Polidori is supposed to have become unpopular with Byron and his set partly because of his straight-laced nature. The academics seem to want to catch them both ways - the writer as either seething with repressed homosexual desire or haunted by his homophobia - and probably both.

I can't work out whether the academic is saying that the subtexts are so 'sub' that the writers are totally unaware of them - that they're actually artefacts of culture-wide undercurrents, as it were.

14alaudacorax
set. 16, 2012, 8:18am

Just a thought off the top of my head - and one that I haven't actually done any reading on ("must read some biographies; must read some biographies; must read some biographies ..."):

Is there an interesting parallel between the two relationships - Polidori and Byron, Stoker and Irving?

15housefulofpaper
set. 16, 2012, 9:51am

> 14

Based, not on a scholarly biography, but on Ken Russell's 'Gothic'(!), I'd suggest it would be a compare-and-contrast exercise. In the film (at the start in any event) Polidori is represented as modelling himself on Byron to the extent of trying to rival him.

Stoker, on the other hand, seems to have been all too happy to take a subservient role in his relationship with Irving.

16frahealee
oct. 29, 2018, 12:38pm

Which would you choose to read first, if you have read all three? This or Varney? Having munched on Dracula finally for the first time, I am anxious not to have the spell broken. I have never warmed up to vampire stories, until now.

17pgmcc
oct. 29, 2018, 2:43pm

>16 frahealee: Have you read Carmilla yet?

18frahealee
Editat: oct. 29, 2018, 2:51pm

>17 pgmcc: That too is on my list. I have access to it and can mix it in easily. Should this be read before the other two? Or is it your favourite because Le Fanu wrote it? I wish I could go chronologically but I always prefer to binge by author first, if at all possible. The other Stoker gems like Lair of the White Worm can wait though, until I polish off a few vampires. I saw a Carmilla-themed YouTube movie so I know vaguely what it's about and have read the comments. What order would you pick? To read them, or to rank them?

19pgmcc
oct. 29, 2018, 3:51pm

Carmilla was written before Dracula and it is thought amongst scholars that Carmilla was a key influence on Stoker to write Dracula. One chapter of the original manuscript of Dracula was pulled by the editor as it was feared it could be considered as having been copied from Carmilla.

20frahealee
Editat: oct. 29, 2018, 4:24pm

>19 pgmcc: I like the idea that it takes place in Austria. Did Le Fanu spend time there or did he simply pick a setting he thought might suit the gothic themes he intended to write about? As Shakespeare often used Italy and the peasant locals to express what might get him in trouble in his home setting. =)

I plan to read it as part of In A Glass Darkly in this order; Green Tea (1869), The Familiar (The Watcher, 1851) ), Mr. Justice Harbottle (1872), Carmilla (1872), The Room In The Dragon Volant (1872).

21pgmcc
oct. 29, 2018, 5:44pm

>20 frahealee: I have read Green Tea, The Familiar, and Carmilla.

I do not know if Le Fanu spent any time in Italy.

22frahealee
oct. 29, 2018, 6:10pm

No, I meant Austria. I thought maybe he had been there and set his story in that area, as Mary Shelley did with Frankenstein in Switzerland, etc.

23housefulofpaper
oct. 29, 2018, 6:14pm

>16 frahealee:
Varney, be warned, is an enormously long potboiler of a serial. It was originally issued in weekly instalments.

There are some good vampire-themed anthologies out there. I'll see if I can find the names of some commonly-included stories.

24frahealee
oct. 29, 2018, 6:45pm

Okay, thank you. This story sounds like a cross between The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dracula with the vampire, coming of age, vice and vanity, etc.

This will be my order of preference, for now;

Carmilla
The Vampyre
Varney the Vampire

My most recent ebook/Kobo haul included; Blackwood, Machen, Lovecraft, Mammoth Book of Monsters, World of Cthulhu, DHLawrence, Edith Wharton.

25alaudacorax
oct. 30, 2018, 8:01am

>20 frahealee:

Can't remember my Le Fanu reading, offhand, but I believe Carmilla started off in Ireland and then got transferred for publication reasons.

>18 frahealee:

I don't want to discourage you, but it would be a real stretch to call The Lair of the White Worm a 'gem'. It's probably one of Stoker's worst ...

26frahealee
Editat: feb. 15, 2019, 6:01pm

Oh, that is interesting background. I wonder how frequently that happened.

In my research, many writers seem to base their story in truth with one of the three requirements, either story/plot, setting/place, character/person. They feel in fiction that if one of these is based in truth, the untruth becomes more believable. Might have been Atwood, but unsure. It still blows my mind that Ann Radcliffe could write so profoundly about a place she'd never been. She went to Italy or France, if I recall, but it was after her stories earned enough to let her travel with her husband. She also published a travel guide, which just makes me so happy!

27alaudacorax
Editat: oct. 31, 2018, 3:30pm

>25 alaudacorax:

Actually, The Lair of the White Worm is so bad in places that there's a perverse sort of fun to be had out of reading in it critically.

28frahealee
oct. 30, 2018, 10:09am

Now you have me REALLY curious! =) worm-be-gone … back to bats and ghosts!

29frahealee
Editat: oct. 31, 2018, 4:26am

>23 housefulofpaper:
>24 frahealee:
I appreciate you following up your post with the new thread. Great resource!

>28 frahealee: This comment only meant that I was racing off to watch The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which I mentioned in some other thread, and to dust off my paperback copy of The Bat to read this week. I did finish Dracula and it was wonderful. I will read Carmilla as part of In A Glass Darkly, then move on to The Vampyre. After that, some more CanLit and 2xDickens, then back to The Italian/The Monk/The Beetle. =) Lots of dark fodder lurking to keep me busy!

The only other Stoker stories that I was aware of (besides Dracula), until recently, was The Lair of the White Worm and The Jewel of Seven Stars so I had lined them both up to read eventually.

30frahealee
Editat: feb. 8, 2019, 10:20am

>29 frahealee: Totally forgot to uncover The Bat so I just dug it out to add it to the TBR pile. It won't take long, since it's a cherished reread from my 20s and I watched Vincent Price in the film online late last year.

It sometimes feels like I'm playing a game of chess against myself, moving around the pieces on the board to better suit my 'game'. Whether anyone is looking or not, matters not. =) Btw, I don't play chess. I just like the visual metaphor/simile it conjures. Seems classier than checkers or crokinole. Cribbage doesn't really suit … too much mental arithmetic!

I got through all of those worthy mentions, but not in that order. The worst thing, is that finishing off two by Dickens leads to four more on the list. Italian/Monk/Beetle were all good follow ups to Uncle Silas, as was Melmoth, but they burned me out a bit, all in a row.

The 'worm' is still waiting... sounds like a spring read to me... April showers and all ?!?! teehee

31frahealee
març 4, 2019, 9:30am

Maybe I'm saturated with vampire tales or the gothic genre in general, but I expected more from this story. As a weekend tale written for a party to entertain buddies, it was fine. Reading it after The Turn of the Screw might have set an anti-climactic tone. Neither proved to be what I was expecting, but neither struck me as bad, just mediocre. It might be time to sift others into the mix after finishing The Phantom of the Opera...