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The Beetle (1897)

de Richard Marsh

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The Beetle(1897) tells the story of a fantastical creature, "born of neither god nor man," with supernatural and hypnotic powers, who stalks British politician Paul Lessingham through fin de siècleLondon in search of vengeance for the defilement of a sacred tomb in Egypt. In imitation of various popular fiction genres of the late nineteenth century, Marsh unfolds a tale of terror, late imperial fears, and the "return of the repressed," through which the crisis of late imperial Englishness is revealed. This Broadview edition includes a critical introduction and a rich selection of historical documents that situate the novel within the contexts of fin de siècleLondon, England's interest and involvement in Egypt, the emergence of the New Woman, and contemporary theories of mesmerism and animal magnetism.… (més)
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» Mira també 30 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 19 (següent | mostra-les totes)
I see from another site I've been 'reading' this for at least 3 years on and off. It was worth the effort to finish it at last. The ending was a little bit lacklustre if I'm honest, and kind of petered out rather than ending with a gasp or a bang, but nevertheless it wasn't bad all things considered. ( )
  SFGale | Mar 23, 2021 |
As he came on, something entered into me, and forced itself from between my lips, so that I said, in a low, hissing voice, which I vow was never mine, “THE BEETLE!”
***
Paul Lessingham! Beware! THE BEETLE!


Poisoned Pen Press is an American publisher of (primarily) crime and detection novels, including the US editions of the highly successful British Library Crime Classics series which is resurrecting many forgotten classics of the Golden Age of crime fiction. Poisoned Pen has recently embarked on a new project which promises to be just as exciting Together with the Horror Writers Association, it is launching The Haunted Library of Horror Classics, a collection of classic horror novels presented in new editions, with commentaries and notes to introduce the contemporary reader to the historical and cultural context of the featured works.

One of the first publications in the series is The Beetle by Richard Bernard Heldmann, better known by his pen-name Richard Marsh. The novel was originally issued as “The Beetle: A Mystery” in 1897. This was the same year which saw the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and it may come as a surprise that The Beetle initially outsold Stoker’s cult vampire novel, going into no less than 15 editions before the Great War. Like Dracula, Marsh imagines a supernatural entity unleashed in Victorian London, except that the monster here is no vampire, but an entity rather more difficult to pin down: a “Nameless Thing” which, although vaguely bearing the features of a hideous man, scarcely seems to be human and, if it is, is of indeterminate sex. This Being, which calls itself one of the “Children of Isis”, and I therefore, presumably, of Egyptian origin, appears to have mesmeric powers and the magical ability to turn into a beetle – or rather THE BEETLE. Indeed, the characters who come across this infernal monster tend to lose their composure as soon as they hear the said two words, which Marsh generally expresses in GARISH CAPITAL LETTERS whenever they appear in the text. Although it is not clear how THE eponymous BEETLE ended up in Kensington, it seems that the main purposes of its City sojourn is to haunt one Paul Lessingham, an upcoming politician who, in younger days, made the fatal mistake of visiting a dubious Egyptian establishment, ending up a prisoner of an ancient esoteric cult. Lessingham’s past has caught up with him with a vengeance and threatens to put his and his fiancée’s life in mortal danger.

As is common in many Gothic and sensation novels of the era, each one of The Beetle’s four “books” features a different first-person narrator. In “The House with the Open Window”, unemployed clerk Robert Holt seeks shelter in a seemingly abandoned house, only to fall under the mesmeric powers of the Egyptian fiend. In “The Haunted Man”, the story is taken up by eccentric, hyperactive inventor Sydney Atherton, an acquaintance of Lessingham and his rival in love. The object of their attention is Miss Marjorie Lindon, who seems to be the most wanted young woman in London and is also being pursued by the monster him/her/itself. Marjorie is also the narrator of the third Book: “The Terror by Night and the Terror by Day”. The novel ends with notes “extracted from the Case-Book of the Hon. Augustus Champnell, Confidential Agent”, a Sherlock-Holmes-like figure who tries to bring his detective skills to bear on the lurid mystery of THE BEETLE and leads a feverish hunt all over London for the elusive Egyptian insectoid.

This edition opens with a rather convoluted warning that THE BEETLE and novels of its ilk might “exemplify ideas that are no longer current, attitudes and behaviours that are no longer tolerated, standards that are no longer judged valid”. You don’t say so! Like most examples of “Egyptian Gothic”, Marsh’s novel relies for its effect on racist and xenophobic fears, much as first and second-wave Gothic was often decidedly prejudiced against Southern Europeans and Roman Catholics. Knowing the cultural context helps one to turn a blind eye on ideas which are past their sell-by date. Even so, the constant references to “that Arab” and “diabolical Asiatic” and the idea that the civilised Western world is under threat from a creature hailing from the “dirty streets and evil smells” of Egypt starts to become jarring. And, frankly, the very thought that an ancient cult favours as choice cuts for human sacrifice, not just “white women” but, more specifically, fine examples of English maidenhood, is frankly ludicrous.

Marsh’s attitudes to women and the working classes are not much better. In that respect, however, the narrative has several redeeming features, not least the strong character of Marjorie Lindon (so much more than just a demure “damsel in distress) and the fact that he lampoons all sectors of society (the farcical figure of Marjorie’s politician father is a case in point).

This brings me to another aspect of Marsh’s novel which might be puzzling to a modern reader. Horrific though it is, THE BEETLE has an underlying comedic streak, which is particularly evident in Atherton’s narrative segment. This ambivalence might not be to everyone’s taste and, to be honest, I found that the changes in tone dampened the more horrific aspects of the novel and sometimes hovered towards self-parody. To a generation used to explicit horror or, on the other hand, to subtly unsettling psychological thrills, THE BEETLE might seem like a madcap roller-coaster ride.

There’s no doubt however that at its best, as in Holt’s encounter with the fiend, or the final, thrilling chapters, THE BEETLE still packs a punch and is a worthy addition to The Horror Library. This edition features an introduction by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, together with biographical details about Richard Marsh (including the fact that he is the grandfather of Robert Aickman, celebrated author of ‘weird fiction’), questions for discussion and suggestions for further “horrific reading”. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Mar 5, 2021 |
I read this novel for a class and while I liked the horror and different perspectives from each character, this text is so widely orientalist that it was very difficult to enjoy. I'm frustated at the lost potential of this story which I think would be wildly improved if one removed all the racist sentiment, but kept the inner story.
  booms | Jan 24, 2021 |
First published in 1897, The Beetle is a strange little mystery adventure story. I mistakenly went into it thinking it was a horror or dark fiction tale. And while I guess it could be considered horror, only the very first portion was the least bit scary.

A blend of Isis worship, mystery, Keystone Cop chases, hypnosis, politics, humor and romance, it's difficult to categorize The Beetle. It is well written-it's just all over the place. Even though it wasn't horror, I did enjoy this book-uneven though it was, but I only recommend it to those that think this description sounds interesting. I don't regret reading it, but in all honesty? I'm glad that it's over.

( )
  Charrlygirl | Mar 22, 2020 |
More horror than mystery, but I don't have that category. An ancient Egyptian follower of Isis comes to England to get revenge on Paul Lessingham, a politician. ( )
  LindaLeeJacobs | Feb 15, 2020 |
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Richard Marshautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Davies, David StuartIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Wolfreys, JulianEditorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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The Beetle(1897) tells the story of a fantastical creature, "born of neither god nor man," with supernatural and hypnotic powers, who stalks British politician Paul Lessingham through fin de siècleLondon in search of vengeance for the defilement of a sacred tomb in Egypt. In imitation of various popular fiction genres of the late nineteenth century, Marsh unfolds a tale of terror, late imperial fears, and the "return of the repressed," through which the crisis of late imperial Englishness is revealed. This Broadview edition includes a critical introduction and a rich selection of historical documents that situate the novel within the contexts of fin de siècleLondon, England's interest and involvement in Egypt, the emergence of the New Woman, and contemporary theories of mesmerism and animal magnetism.

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