Varney the Vampire

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Varney the Vampire

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1naimahaviland
nov. 1, 2011, 9:26pm

Hi there,

I'm currently reading Varney the Vampire, a novel written around 1845 by Thomas Preskett. The first page is an absolute feast of description: quivering, terrified, lovely maiden-cowering-before-evil-fiend. It's almost comic bookish in its effect -- which, I think is good, considering it's the written word instead of a graphic novel. Way to hook your audience, Mr. Preskett. My next emotion was anger at Bram Stoker, because it seems he ripped off a lot of details for Dracula. Now, the novel is starting to feel long and drawn out. Maybe I owe Stoker an apology for my earlier temper; Dracula has better pacing. Has anyone read Varney? What were your impressions of it?

2housefulofpaper
nov. 2, 2011, 4:43pm

I read Varney, the Vampyre fairly recently. I had been looking out for a copy after reading a few choice excerpts collected in one or two anthologies.

The edition of the book I have credits James Malcolm Rymer as the author. The introduction explains that Rymer and Preskett both worked for the publisher Edward Lloyd. No author was credited on initial publication.

The serial was published in instalments over a period of just over two years. I read it over several months during lunch hours at work - I think I'd struggle to read it in a more concentrated way, and in a shorter period of time, as if it were a novel.

Very little of the book is in the full-on gothic style of the opening, and Varney, as the villain of the piece, is used rather sparingly to begin with. It's evident that the story is being made up as Rymer (or Preskett) goes along - plot threads are dropped, past events revised; at several points it seems that there will be a 'reveal' that Varney isn't even a real vampire (the author also seems uncertain exactly how evil to make him: supernaturally evil creature, casual murderer, noble outcast in Byronic mould...)

That said, we do follow the same group of characters through the twists and turns of a plot involving lost fortunes, young lovers, incarcerations for several hundred pages, and then: reboot. New cast of characters, new plot rumbles into motion. And then, a couple of hundred pages on, again.

I think it's more of a warning than a spoiler to say this happens several times, with the new scenes reducing in length until they become more like 'episodes in the life of Varney'. Finally, at the end, there is a sense of the author making an extra effort to produce one final story to bring the serial to a conclusion. Even here, though, the reader hoping for all the threads to be pulled together will be disappointed. For example, we are presented with at least three different and inconsistent 'origin stories' for Varney before the end.

That said, I'm glad I read it. The writing is often absurdly melodramatic but also strangely lyrical. I felt I was being given a glimpse into the world of Victorian stage melodrama as much as a stage in the history of the novel. It is of course, once you've read it, an obviously huge influence on Dracula. But the lasting impression I got, as the story moved into its disconnected and sometimes contradictory later episodes, and Varney's character changed with them, was that this was a precurser to Dracula, alright - but Christopher Lee's Dracula of the Hammer Films cycle.



3LolaWalser
nov. 2, 2011, 4:53pm



I had the first volume of the Dover reprint of Varney, started reading it, gave it away when I couldn't find affordable second volume. (In the meantime, the whole text was put on Project Gutenberg.)

Christopher Lee's Dracula of the Hammer Films cycle.

*fangirl noises*

Sounds good!

4naimahaviland
nov. 2, 2011, 7:46pm

Wonderful input. Thanks! Now that I have some heads-up, I know what attitude to have as I approach this long read. Houseofpaper, the way you describe it puts me in mind of the original Dark Shadows, which I have always found so lovable because of its flaws. (Fangirl noises from me on that one!) Yay, there is much rejoicing!

5destiny13
nov. 13, 2012, 11:58am

wow nice story

6frahealee
oct. 29, 2018, 1:07pm

Glad to read this sooner than later. It is slotted in but I love a Dark Shadows mindset!

7frahealee
Editat: feb. 14, 2019, 12:30pm

I found this one ridiculously easy to read, albeit seemingly endless. It was animated, with several chapters 'performed' by online audiobook readers, which might have helped or hurt its cause, according to individual opinion. It was refreshing to get five or six chapters completed in under an hour, which spurred me on. It was my first experience with a penny dreadful. =D

It couldn't help but feel repetitive after awhile, and it was often difficult to keep the characters straight, with their experiences overlapping. Some chapters gave me deja vu, like I'd read them before. The changing environment made it a surprise any time an earlier personality showed up out of the blue. It often used broad comedy and unlikely situations to mix things up, but all in all it was less daunting than anticipated. I am glad to have nipped this one in the bud.

February, somehow, became vampire month, in all its blood-red pale skin glory. Love is in the eye of the beholder!