aba, Hajji. Hajji Baba was created by James Morier and appeared in Hajji Baba of Ispahan (1824) and Hajji Baba in England (1827). James Morier (1780-1849) was a British diplomat and adventurer who spent substantial time in Persia and desired to write something in the Persian style. Hajji Baba of Ispahan was, like The Almanac (see the Orbasan entry), written in the years before the Grimm Brothers had produced their best work, and so the author looking to write a fairy tale had as a primary model The Arabian Nights. And that's what Hajji Baba of Ispahan is: an updated version of The Arabian Nights, set in Persia and environs ("in the land of the lion and the sun") in the first decades of the 19th century. Hajji Baba is written with a certain archness and no small amount of humor, and between that and the richness of Morier's imagination (and, no doubt, the sketches he added to Hajji Baba, for Morier was an artist of some ability) the work was very attractive to a number of people. It's fair to say that it was a sensation almost immediately. It went through two editions in one year, it was highly praised by a number of critics, including Sir Walter Scott, Hajji Baba clubs formed (and lasted for decades), it was reprinted in a number of languages, and over a century later it was still being reprinted and receiving encomiums from people like Christopher Morley. Interestingly, the English viewed Hajji Baba as a satire of the Persian character, while the Persians (some of whom saw it as a centuries-old work only recently translated into English) saw it as a straight psychological analysis of their character.
Hajji Baba is a combination of Arabian Nights-style fantasy and the novel of the picaresque. Hajji Baba is a charming rogue, someone who began life as a barber/surgeon but whose wanderlust and desire for money led him to leave home on a caravan when he was only sixteen. But the course of roguery doth ne'er run smooth, and he was almost immediately captured by a band of Turcoman bandits. Hajji Baba then lets himself be captured by a shahzadeh (prince) and is taken to Meshed, where he becomes a water carrier. Hajji Baba sprains his back carrying water (his boastfulness leads him to take on far too much weight, including that of his main rival), and so he becomes an itinerant vender of smoke. But he cuts his tobacco with dung once too often and is caught by the Mohtesib ("the Mohtesib is an officer who perambulates the city, and examines weights and measures, and qualities of provisions") and bastinadoed for his fraud. So Hajji Baba becomes a dervish, telling colorful stories and shaking down listeners for money (he stops in mid-story, just when things are getting good, and asks for donations in exchange for his continuing). He then becomes a doctor to the Shah of Persia, a position he loses due to an imprudent love affair.
And so on and so forth, for hundreds of pages, through colorful stories and attractive boasts and genial swindles and painless mendacity and jovial hypocrisy and maidens fair and wry observations at the foibles of the mighty and the poor. Hajji Baba is a light-hearted thief and scoundrel, never doing anyone any real harm (well, except for the loss of a few ducats or tomauns), falling in and out of love, and generally having a fine old time of it. Hajji Baba is great fun and a more-than-adequate substitute for The Arabian Nights.
alfour, David. David Balfour was created by Robert Louis Stevenson and appeared in Kidnapped; or, The Lad with the Silver Button, which appeared in Young Folks Paper in 1886 before being published as Kidnapped, Being the Memoirs of the Adventures of David Balfour in the Year 1751. Stevenson wrote a less successful sequel, Catriona (1893, published in the United States as David Balfour). Stevenson was the author of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Black Arrow, and several other enduring books; he was largely responsible for the flourishing of the "Age of Storytellers."
Kidnapped is about David Balfour, a young Scotsman in his teenage years. David’s father dies and leaves David only a letter which will introduce David to his Uncle Ebenezer. David happily travels to the house of Shaw, his ancestral home. But Uncle Ebenezer does not welcome David’s presence, and after a short, uneasy stay Ebenezer arranges for David to be kidnapped, taken on board the Covenant by its captain, Hoseason, and its crew, and held there. The Covenant is bound for the Carolinas, where David is to be sold into indentured slavery. David initially has a hard time on the Covenant, but the longer he is on board the ship the kinder the crew is to him. But one day, off the coast of England, the Covenant runs down a small boat and cuts it in two. Only one of the boat’s crew is saved, Alan Breck Stewart, a Scots Jacobite and soldier of fortune. Captain Hoseason pretends to agree to put Alan ashore, but this is a ruse–Hoseason and the crew plan to rob Alan and kill him–and David, on hearing the Captain plan Alan’s death, reveals the plot to Alan. Alan and David fight off the Captain and crew, killing several, and when the Covenant runs ashore (the crew, decimated, is not sufficient to pilot it) Alan and David are cast ashore. They are initially separated but soon reunited. Unfortunately an enemy of Alan’s is murdered, literally in front of David, and Alan and David are blamed for the murder. Through the course of the novel Alan and David are hunted across Scotland, usually through areas controlled by the enemies of David’s clan. The pair suffer privation and misery before finally reaching safety. They manage to contact Mr. Rankeillor, a lawyer friendly to David’s family friend, the Reverend Campbell, and with Rankeillor’s help they confront Ebenezer and force him (through a neat trick) to give David the share of his inheritance he is rightly due.
(In Catriona Stevenson returned to the murder case, resolving it, seeing Alan to France, and marrying off Alan to Catriona Drummond, the grand-daughter of Rob Roy).
It is highly regrettable that the vagaries of librarianship and publishing have put Kidnapped in the category of Young Adult fiction, and so convinced generations of readers that Kidnapped is therefore not to be considered as seriously as, for example, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This is in part the result of Stevenson’s dedication, that he “has in this new avatar no more desperate purpose than to steal some young gentleman's attention from his Ovid, carry him awhile into the Highlands and the last century, and pack him to bed with some engaging images to mingle with his dreams.” In part this is also the result of the novel’s plot, whose concerns the gatekeepers of culture have always looked down upon. Stevenson certainly considered the novel seriously, and after reading it (for just the first time! What was I doing with my life?) I have to conclude that Kidnapped is most definitely a novel for adults as well as (and perhaps rather than) children.
It’s not that I have any particular contempt for novels for children. The Lance of Kanana was a children’s novel, and I loved that. It’s just that Kidnapped deals with more serious matters, in a more serious manner, than most 19th century novels for children and young adults did. Kidnapped has a high level of realism, of characterisation, description, and action, which young adult novels lack, and there’s a real harshness, even brutality, which YA authors usually refrain from describing.
The realism of Kidnapped is very well-done. All of the characters, from David and Alan down, are recognizable and human, neither unrealistically perfect nor cartoonishly vile. David has his pettiness, Alan his vanity, while Captain Hoseason is good to his men and Uncle Ebenezer as generous a host as his neuroses about money allows him to be. The dialogue is conversational and, again, recognizable, and while Stevenson (that Scots patriot) puts in a fair amount of Scots dialect and slang, in almost every case the meaning of the Scots word is understandable from its context. Similarly, while Scottish history is important to the story, you don’t need to know any of it to enjoy Kidnapped; Stevenson does a good job of providing context for the novel’s backdrop and characters. (As a sidenote, if you do go looking for a copy of Kidnapped, be sure to read the Barry Menikoff edition, which uses Stevenson’s original text for Kidnapped, has an excellent set of annotations and a very useful glossary). The action–fights, escapes, and the like–seem like things that might actually happen, as opposed to the fun but unrealistic exploits of something like The Three Musketeers. Most important (to me, anyhow) is the hardships which David and Alan endure. There’s little of the picaresque in Kidnapped, and indeed, the novel might be read as a rebuke to it. David and Alan suffer from starvation, are usually cold and wet, fall sick, and endure the many other anti-romantic but very realistic things that men hunted across the Scots highlands during the bad time of year would have to endure. Their lives are hard, not easy, which is as it should be.
The tone and pace of the novel are perfect. There’s a near-constant pressure on David and Alan, and RLS never lets up nor gives the characters or the reader much time to pause and reflect on the situation. We feel the danger on them. Likewise, RLS’ use of emotion is understated, rather than overblown, with the result that its appearance is more keenly felt; the argument between David and Alan, which almost breaks their friendship, is painful to read.
Stevenson’s use of the language is precise; there’s a sparseness to it which suits the story perfectly. In a novel in which most of the text is spent on characters being hunted, over-done descriptions of the environment, or prolix dialogues, would not only be out of place but would hurt the tone of the novel–something RLS doubtless knew, which is why he avoided them. Instead, the language is stripped-down, to better service the story. People often come away from Kidnapped with vivid memories of the Scottish landscape, but the truth is that Stevenson spends relatively little time actually describing the landscape, instead relying on impressionistic descriptions which convey the meaning RLS intended without wasting time or space. And the humor of the novel–and there is some–is wit and irony rather than awkward jokes or scenes designed to make us laugh. In a novel like Kidnapped, this is a wise and welcome choice, for it doesn’t spoil the tone but further enhances it.
I mentioned the novel’s brutality earlier. It has its share of it. We see the very real and very sad effects that violence and drunkenness have. Stevenson does not understate the effects of either or downplay their consequences. And with certain characters, like the ship’s boy Ransome, the brutality leads to a sad end. RLS invests these characters with pathos.
David Balfour is a very realistic (there’s that word again) young man. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and is brave enough, but he’s young and inexperienced about life, so that he’s willing to fight, but killing haunts him, and the sad fate of Ransome grips David and won’t let go. But David does not lack courage, and he stands by Alan through some very hard times. David is modest but self-assured, and is very pleasant company.
Kidnapped is a classic. Read it.
arnes, Mr. Mister Barnes was created by Archibald Clavering Gunter and appeared in Mr. Barnes of New York (1888) and Mr. Barnes, American (1906). Gunter (1847-1907), a failed engineer, chemist, playwright and stockbroker, succeeded as the author of almost 40 books, and was responsible for the popularity of Ernest Thayer's "Casey at the Bat," but he is best remembered (when he's remembered at all) for Mr. Barnes of New York, one of the real literary success stories of the 19th century. The book was rejected by every major publisher, so Gunter decided to publish it himself. It became the best-selling book in American history, to that point, selling more than a million copies in America alone and being pirated in Europe by six different publishers at once.
So who is Mister Barnes? He's a world-weary 28 year old New Yorker, of a wealthy family, orphaned and with far too much money to work. (He trained once to become a doctor but for eccentric reasons refused to take the diploma). He dresses well, almost ostentatiously, and makes the initial impression of being a dude and a ninny, but he's clever and tough instead. He travels widely, hunting and slaughtering animals in every environment and on every continent, and is a crack shot. He despises the "snaring canary birds" of society and prefers killing game to meeting women.
Mr. Barnes of New York, though with a promising premise, isn't nearly as interesting as it might be. The novel is chiefly concerned with Barnes' adventures around Europe, wooing and winning his lady love.
arnes & Mitchel. Jack Barnes & Leroy Mitchel were created by Rodriguez Ottolengui and appeared in An Artist in Crime (1892), several short stories in The Idler in 1895 (later collected in The Final Proof, 1898), and The Crime of the Century (1896). Ottolengui (1861-1937) was an eminent dentist and amateur writer of mysteries. The Barnes and Mitchel stories are quite straightforward mysteries, undistinguished in style, with workmanlike prose, basic crimes, and generic mystery plots. (There’s also the occasional ugly racism and anti-Semitism). If not for Hugh Greene including two of Ottolengui’s stories in one of his “Rivals of Sherlock Holmes” anthologies, the Barnes & Mitchel stories would likely be totally forgotten, and too obscure even for me to include. Sadly, Greene mentions one interesting-sounding story, involving Mitchel killing the Missing Link, which he found too poorly written to include in the anthology–a shame, that, since the idea at least sounds more interesting that the Barnes & Mitchel stories he included.
Barnes is the owner of a small detective agency, and is fairly well regarded, if not famous. He employs a few men under him. Barnes is careful, and if he has doubts about one of his clients he has one of his men follow the client. Barnes even has his office building rigged so that he can surreptitiously alert one of his employees. Barnes is an intelligent detective and has a decent array of tricks, including disguises and a sign system worked out with his employees, with which to catch criminals. He is also observant in the Holmesian fashion, although he’s not given to unseemly displays the way Holmes was. Barnes and his men are good detectives and seemingly good men, but they don’t let minor scruples get in the way of solving a crime; Barnes is willing to pick a suspect’s pocket to get evidence, and one of Barnes’ men is willing to bribe telegraph operators to get information.
Mitchel is a rich amateur who likes to solve crimes and likes trying to fool Barnes even better. Mitchel styles himself “the champion detective baffler,” and will go to some lengths to pull a gag on Barnes. The two actually have a good relationship, despite their teasing of each other; it’s clear they are friends. Mitchel has some talent at detection, is good at disguises, and, like Barnes, is not bothered by many scruples; in one story he buys a corpse from a doctor and uses it to fake his own death.
arr, Gideon. Gideon Barr was created by Harry Blyth and appeared in several stories in Pluck, beginning with “The Hidden Hand” (Pluck #9, 19 January 1895). Blyth was the creator of Sexton Blake and of Roland Dare. Barr was clearly Blyth’s attempt to create another Sexton Blake-like detective character, in the hopes that he’d have another success, but would this time retain the rights to the character. Blyth was no more successful with Gideon Barr than he was with Sexton Blake, unfortunately, and although Barr appeared in a few sequels to “The Hidden Hand,” the stories were no more exciting than Blyth’s early Blake stories.
Gideon Barr is “the famous detective” whose “noble bearing in the fearful Welsh mining disaster” earned him great praise. Barr was the detective who “subdued and banished the criminal conspiracy, the Black Vultures.” He is a standard late Victorian story paper detective, quite similar to Blake albeit without a French partner: square-jawed, smart, patriotic, brave, a good fighter, a wily foe, etc etc etc. He is a “tall, lithe man with flaxen hair and strong blue eyes” whose office and flat is in Bayard’s Inn in Holborn. In his first appearance he duels with “Amos Floyd,” the genius Romany evildoer, and Floyd’s smarter and eviller brother, “Cyril Frell,” a “mountain Italian.” In that story he helps Colonel Bellairs. In Barr’s second appearance, “Brought to Justice” (Pluck #18), Colonel Bellairs recommends a client to Barr. In that story Barr, with the help of “his friend Franz Shultz, the Jew detective (sic) of Antwerp,” brings to justice “the notorious forger and coldblooded assassin” Gaspard Redmayne.
The Barr stories are not really notable in any way. The character of Franz Shultz is stereotypical, but it is clear that Blyth intended the character to be positive.
arthelemy, Captain Robert. Captain Robert Barthelemey (the fictional one) was created by Mór Jókai and appeared in A Kaloz Kiraly (The Corsair King, 1901). Jókai (1825-1904), who is already on this site for Ichor (an entry for which I’ve searched lo, these past several years for information to add to and yet still, even today, have found nothing more–very frustrating, that), was a major Hungarian novelist and politician, one of the greatest of the 19th century. The Corsair King is one of the relatively few novels by Jókai which has been translated into English and so will have to represent his work on this site. Which is somewhat unfortunate, I think, because either Jókai is ill-served by his translator, The Corsair King isn’t Jókai’s best work, or Jókai himself is not the equal of the writers of the Weyman School.
The Corsair King is about Captain Robert Barthelemy, a pirate whose real-life exploits inspired Rafael Sabatini and Jeffrey Farnol as well as Jókai. The Corsair King follows the career of Barthelemy from the beginnings of his rise to greatness to the apex of his success and then his eventual fall. Barthelemy did not intend, at first, to become a pirate. He went to sea to earn money as a humble sailor, to feed his mother and grandmother and to provide for his fiancee, all three of whom live in a poor section of “Hayti.” (The Corsair King takes place in the years just before, during, and after the slave revolt). Barthelemy did well as a sailor but was on a ship attacked by pirates. The entire crew, save Barthelemy, was killed, but he fought well enough and carried himself defiantly enough that the pirate captain wanted him to join the pirates. Barthelemy was hesitant, but after seeing “honest” sailors flee from the pirates (rather than fighting them) he was persuaded to join them, but only under a new name. This way his family and fiancee would never learn what he has been doing–and they never do.
The Corsair King begins with Barthelemy’s pirates attacking a ship and the pirate captain being killed during the attack. Barthelemy, who is very popular with the crew, is elected captain, and he leads the pirates on a series of daring and very profitable raids. Barthelemy’s dilemma, through all of this, is that he can’t give his family and fiancee the money he wins as a pirate, because he cannot bear to give them money won by bloodshed. Then the slaves on Haiti revolt, and Barthelemy’s home is burned down, and when Barthelemy investigates he finds no sign of his family and fiancee, leading him to think that they were slaughtered. Barthelemy becomes cruel and cold after this, no longer showing mercy to his victims (unless they’re women, who he continues to treat well) and being especially vicious toward blacks. Eventually Barthelemy and his crew become internationally infamous and are hunted by the navies of many nations, and he is killed during an attack–but only after learning that his family and fiancee, thinking him dead, had relocated to Dublin, and his fiancee had married someone else.
The Corsair King is a short novel–191 pages of very large type in my small L.C. Page & Co. edition. Jókai packs a lot of incident into those pages. Unfortunately, this rate of speed is achieved at the cost of characterization and emotional involvement. Although some of the scenes, such as when St. Elmo’s Fire leaps across the masts of Barthelemy’s ship, are vividly drawn, too many fall into the this-happened-and-then-this-happened-and-then-this happened style of storytelling. For a few moments Jókai strains for affect, but generally this is a novel of shallow characterization and empty incident. Although Jókai does not spare the blood and death of the pirates’ life, and even has some stranded pirates seriously consider cannibalism, the novel puts forth a romanticized version of piracy, with Barthelemy being hopelessly and unrealistically noble and the life of the pirates rather jolly, albeit cruel, and not at all the desperate and psychotic thing it was in real life.
Barthelemy is a slender young man with sparkling eyes and long curls. He is kind to women, a good fighter, calm under pressure, and generally rather honorable. Before his family and fiancee disappear he is quite kind to those he captures and fair to his crew. After his family and fiancee disappear Barthelemy changes and has no mercy for anyone except women. Barthelemy believes, before the disappearance of his family, in the code of “the heroes of the free sea,” and acts like it. After, he is cold and murderous.
axter, Jennie. Jennie Baxter was created by Robert Barr and appeared in Jennie Baxter, Journalist (1899). Barr (1850-1912) was a noted humorist, author, and co-publisher of The Idler. He was also the creator of Eugene Valmont. Jennie Baxter, Journalist isn't one of Barr's better-known works, and it's fair to call it a minor effort, but it's still entertaining. (Barr would have had to work hard not to be entertaining). Jennie is a "handsome young woman," a beautiful, very well-dressed blonde who is, when the novel begins, a journalist who writes articles on fashion and the social elite for the ladies' weeklies of London. She has higher ambitions than that, however, and desperately wants to be a salaried reporter for the Daily Bugle newspaper. The editor of the Bugle has no time (or respect) for female reporters and gives her the brush-off. She retaliates by breaking a story in another paper about a crooked city official. This sways the editor enough to hire her.
From there Jennie begins getting involved in fairly substantial matters. She solves a diamond robbery, and in the process makes a fool of noted detective "Cadbury Taylor." Jennie involves herself in politics and averts a near war between England and Austria by having tea with a bunch of gossiping Viennese nobility and publicizing the information she learns. She meets the abrasive, elderly Austrian scientist/inventor, Professor Carl Siegfried, and learns about his new super-explosive disintegrator ray. (It was the cause of the near war, and Siegfried ends up destroying the ray himself). She befriends Princess von Steinheimer, an American heiress and wife of an Austrian prince, and then impersonates the Princess at a high society ball in order to get information on the gathering for the Bugle. At the ball she meets a young man, Lord Donal Stirling of the Diplomatic Service, and they fall in love and eventually, after a few plot complications, marry.
Jennie is a pert, sensible, quite independent young woman and New Woman. She likes meddling, playing the matchmaker, hobnobbing with socialites and the "elite of the earth," and such-like. She's got a keen mind for incongruities, which helps her solve the crime that Cadbury Taylor is unable to solve. Taylor is quite clearly Sherlock Holmes, and Barr, through Jennie Baxter, treats Taylor as harshly as he did his earlier Holmes analogue, Sherlaw Kombs.
Jennie Baxter, Journalist is, as I said, a minor effort, but not without worth.
eautiful White Devil. The Beautiful White Devil was created by Guy Boothby and appeared in The Beautiful White Devil (1896). Boothby (1867-1905), a prolific Australian writer, is already on this site for Simon Carne and Doctor Nikola. The Beautiful White Devil is the story of how George de Normanville, an English doctor, meets and falls in love with Allie Dunbar. De Normanville is traveling in Hong Kong when he hears stories about “The Beautiful White Devil,” a white woman who acts as a pirate on the seas of the Far East. The stories tell of her daring, her cunning, her successes–she preys on the rich and the ruling class, both English and native–and her ruthlessness, for in at least one case the crew of one ship she captured ended up mostly dead. De Normanville is intrigued by this story when he is approached by a Chinese man and asked if he, de Normanville, would be willing, for a thousand pounds, to make a covert mission to help an island plagued with small pox. De Normanville is interested enough to agree to this and after a midnight meeting with the Chinese man, Walworth, is brought onboard a junk. On the way to the meeting the crew of the junk attack Walworth and de Normanville, who defend themselves but are injured in the process. De Normanville recovers and is met by (wait for it) the Beautiful White Devil, who is his employer. She lives on a secluded Pacific island inhabited by a large native population, and the natives are suffering from an outbreak of smallpox–she was being honest in hiring him, rather than luring him to be kidnaped and ransomed as she has done with other men. De Normanville does his best to help the natives, discovering while doing so that the Beautiful White Devil, whose real name is Alie Dunbar, is actually a very nice, intelligent, and kindly person who rules over the natives as a very benign (though firm when needed) queen. Alie’s father was unjustly treated by a member of Her Royal Highness’ Navy and was forced into a life of piracy, and after he died Alie took up the practice. Alie is not a wicked person, however, and only preys on those who can afford to lose their money and those who deserve to be punished. De Normanville falls in love with Alie, and she with him, and the rest of the novel concerns their adventures together, as he helps her kidnap and punish evil men, one of whom flogged three natives to death and talked smack about Alie, and so she kidnaps him and gives him twenty four stripes, six for each native and six for not respecting her. De Normanville leaves her for a year’s time, at her request, but they are reunited in London. She is recognised by one of her victims and arrested, but De Normanville and Walworth free her from custody and they sail away. De Normanville and Alie are married in Madeira and live Happily Ever After on her island.
The Beautiful White Devil is a mildly diverting story of a female naval Robin Hood and how she finds love. Boothby has an adequate narrative style, one or two interesting ideas, and some nice descriptive passages, but for the most part The Beautiful White Devil is only a competent love story and not much more. There is very little action, a great deal of only passable dialogue, and a dull main narrator. Of note are really only two things: Walworth, and the Beautiful White Devil.
Walworth enters the story as a portly Chinese man speaking in the painful-to-read pidgin English all too common to stories from this era. After making sure that de Normanville is trustworthy, he drops his act and begins speaking perfect English–a revelation which, you may be assured, is ever so welcome, after dozens of novels which seem to assume that no Chinese man or woman can ever speak good English. Walworth turns out to be an assistant and friend to Alie, quite devoted to her, quite reliable, and quite capable. He’s very clever, very calm in a crisis, quite a good shot, an expert at disguise, and far more capable in a crisis than de Normanville. Although his attitude toward Alie smacks too much of a servant/master relationship, he is a surprisingly non-racist character.
The Beautiful White Devil is, as mentioned, a pirate. She always dresses in white, hence her name. She’s very much an English lady of the upper middle classes, quite proper in her behavior and very educated in her tastes in architecture, decorating, and literature. (De Normanville waxes rhapsodic about her yacht and her island house and how nicely decorated and appointed they are). Although her acts as a pirate are, of course, unseemly for a lady, in all other ways she is quite respectable. Her motivation for what she does is partly financial but mostly to rob the undeserving and help the unfortunate; she usually gives at least half of what she steals to the poor, both on her island and around the Far East. As a pirate her modus operandi is to socialize with the upper classes of Society, whether in Hong Kong, Ceylon, or other British colonies, become friendly with her target, convince them to go sailing with her, and then kidnap them while at sea. She’s very good at this, being good company, very wily, and quite good at disguise. (At one point she even fools de Normanville). She also is very good at seeing the true motivations of people and at detecting those who would play her false or betray her. She’s a good idea woman, clever at hatching schemes and in executing them as well as, for example, designing her yacht so that its looks can quickly and easily be altered. Her crew is very loyal to her, as are the natives on the island, and she to them, although she can be a strict and even lethal disciplinarian if the circumstances call for it. She treats the natives well, but her attitude is replete with the patronizing racism of British colonialism, caring for the natives but at the same time acting and believing as if they are children. In the person of the Devil Boothby plays out the racist fantasy of the white man (woman, in her case) ruling completely over a group of childlike natives.
The Beautiful White Devil, as mentioned, is only mildly diverting, but it does have one or two interesting aspects.
eetle. The Beetle was created by “Richard Marsh” and appeared in The Beetle (1897). “Richard Marsh” was the pseudonym of Richard Bernard Heldmann (1857-1915), a prolific writer about whom relatively little is known today. Heldmann, the grandfather of noted horror writer Robert Aickman, was a journalist and wrote a number of novels and short stories on a wide range of subjects, from horror to a Second Coming novel to a series of mystery short stories about Judith Lee.
What Marsh is likely to be remembered for (despite well-done books like the Ash-Tree Press edition of Marsh’s short stories) is The Beetle, however. There is a possibly apocryphal anecdote that Marsh and Bram Stoker had a wager that each man would write a supernatural novel within a certain amount of time, and that Stoker took several years to produce Dracula and Marsh turned out The Beetle in the space of a few weeks. Dracula was only a modest success at the time, while The Beetle was a smash hit, undergoing fifteen reprintings in sixteen years. (Marsh never wrote anything else which measured up to The Beetle, while Dracula has become an iconic work of Victoriana, which just goes to show how fleeting literary fame can be).
The Beetle is about four characters: The Beetle, Sidney Atherton, Paul Lessingham, and Marjorie Lindon. Sidney Atherton is a successful young chemist/inventor who is in love with Marjorie Lindon. Marjorie, the daughter of a wealthy magnate, has been Sidney’s friend from childhood, but she does not love him and receives the announcement of his love for her rather too lightly and callously. She is in love with Paul Lessingham, a young up-and-coming statesman and somewhat Radical M.P. Paul is in love with her, and they are engaged to be married, despite the objection of Marjorie’s choleric, Blimpish father. But Paul has a secret from his past, and The Beetle is about how it returns to haunt him.
In his youth Paul traveled to Egypt, and foolishly decided to wander through the native section of Cairo. He was drawn to a café by the spellbinding singing and playing of a young woman. Unfortunately, while listening to her and speaking with her Lessingham is either hypnotized or drugged, and then is taken to an underground temple of Isis. There he is kept for a space of months as the sex toy (implied, but clear none the less) of the young woman, who is a priestess of Isis. During that time he remains drugged or hypnotized and so is helpless to stop the “orgies of nameless horrors” which he sees, including human sacrifices, usually of Englishwoman after they have been subjected “to every variety of outrage of which even the minds of demons could conceive.” After one such sacrifice the hold over Lessingham slips and he strangles the woman and escapes. When he strangles her, she turns into a monstrous beetle, “a huge, writhing creation of some wild nightmare.” As is later revealed, members of the Children of Isis sect can turn into beetles after they die.
Twenty years later, Paul is forced to deal with the consequences of his murder of his Dom, for the woman he strangled comes to England and attempts to exact revenge on him. The woman, the titular Beetle, hypnotizes a homeless man and forces him to steal some of Paul’s letters to Marjorie. After various plot complications the Beetle kidnaps Marjorie, obviously intending to take her back to Egypt to be a part of the orgies of nameless horrors, and a chase ensues, with Atherton and Lessingham in pursuit. After more complications the train the Beetle and the mesmerized Marjorie are on crashes, killing the Beetle and injuring Marjorie. She eventually recovers and marries Lessingham, and Atherton marries a girl who loves him, and the temple of the Children of Isis is found and destroyed.
The Beetle, sad to say, is a very uneven work. The opening chapters, in which the homeless man, Thomas Holt, is subjected to the Beetle’s mind control and forced to burgle Lessingham’s office, are compelling reading. Told in the first person, the scenes have a real sense of helpless terror and fear of a nameless, evil unknown, and the reader quite sympathizes with poor Holt. Moreover, Marsh does not just content himself with creating a feel of atmospheric evil but actually creates a quite transgressive (for the time) scene. Holt attempts to break into the Beetle’s house to get out of the rain. The Beetle uses her mind control/hypnosis to take complete control of Holt’s body. The Beetle then changes into one of her alternate forms, a large (perhaps foot long) beetle, and crawls over Holt, up his legs, over his loins, across his chest and then on to his face, where it probes his chin and mouth, all of which are well described in Holt’s impressionistic, first-person narrative. The Beetle then changes back into her default shape, that of a hideously ugly androgyne, who Holt takes to be a man. The Beetle then forces Holt to strip naked, while she watches, smiles “a satyr’s smile,” and compliments the whiteness of Holt’s skin. A little time later the Beetle fingers and prods Holt’s paralyzed body, “as if I had been some beast ready for the butcher’s stall,” and then touches every part of his face, and then kisses Holt. Throughout this scene, Holt and the reader believe that the Beetle is a man. These scenes are sexually transgressive, which is something that most of Marsh’s contemporaries did not or would not have written, and are notable and nicely disquieting.
But Marsh then switches the narration to Atherton and then Marjorie, and the momentum and atmosphere of the Holt chapters disappears and is replaced by a great deal of dialogue. A great deal of dialogue. Marsh, in the middle sections of The Beetle, is quite prolix, and while always readable the later sections are only partially successful in recapturing the novel’s early atmosphere of fear and horror. Worse still is the dialogue and characterization of Marjorie, Lessingham, and Atherton. Marsh’s dialogue is realistic and quite readable, and his characterization is fine, but all three characters are quite unsympathetic–aggressively so in the case of Marjorie, whose treatment of Atherton is cruel and who is one of the most unlikable characters (and not in a fun way) I’ve run across in the writing of this site. Atherton is filled with jealousy of Lessingham and is a petty, small man, and Lessingham is a glib, dishonest prig. All three are unpleasantly self-righteous, and the reader will be excused from rooting for the Beetle.
As might be expected, given the novel’s premise, Marsh’s treatment of the Egyptians and of those of “negro blood” is more than a little racist. The ugliness is rather brief, however, and appears in passing rather than as something Marsh dwells upon.
The Beetle is a priestess of Isis and a member of the Children of Isis. She’s evil, given to human sacrifice, and thinks nothing of having other people commit vile acts for her. Her taste for revenge is mighty. She has many powers, including mesmerism/hypnosis, mind control, and possibly telepathy. And she has many forms, sometimes an old man, sometimes a woman, sometimes a sinister androgyne, and sometimes the monstrous beetle.
It’s a real shame about the latter three quarters of The Beetle, because for the first nine chapters the book is excellent horror fiction.
The e-text of the book.
eggarwoman. The Beggarwoman was created by Heinrich von Kleist and appeared in “Das Bettelweib von Locarno” (The Beggarwoman of Locarno, Berliner Abendblätter, 1810). Von Kleist (1777-1811), a poet, dramatist, and novelist, and is an important figure in the German Romantic movement.
There used to be a castle near Locarno, at the foot of the Alps in northern Italy. Today it is just ruins, but years ago it was a magnificent structure owned by a Marquis. One day a sick old woman came begging at the door of the castle, and the mistress of the house, taking pity on her, made a bed of straw for her. When the Marquis returned from hunting he was in a bad mood, and when he found the old woman in the room he told her to move from the corner in which she lay to a place behind the stove. As the woman got up she slipped on the polished floor; the fall so badly injured her spine that she was only able to rise again with an immense effort, and she died, groaning and sighing, as soon as she lay down behind the stove. Years later, after wars and bad harvests had reduced the Marquis’ fortune, a knight came to the castle, interested in buying it. But when the knight stayed in the unoccupied room where the old woman had died, he had a bad experience and told the Marquis and his wife that the room was haunted: “something invisible to the eye, he said, had got up from the corner with a rustling sound, as if from a bed of straw, quite audibly crossed the room with slow and feeble steps, and collapsed, groaning and sighing, behind the stove.” The knight stayed the rest of the night in a chair in the Marquis’ bedroom and left the following morning. Others heard of this incident and refused to consider buying the castle, and soon enough even the servants in the castle whispered that a ghost walked the room at midnight. The Marquis stayed the night in the room and heard the same noises that the knight had. The next evening the Marquis and his wife and a faithful servant decided to stay in the room together, to find the source of the noise. They took a watchdog with them. They heard the noise at midnight, as usual; the dog backed away as if something was walking toward it, the Marquise fled from the room, and the Marquis grabbed his sword and slashed the air in all directions, shouting “Who’s there?” The Marquise took a coach from the castle, and on her way to town say the castle go up in flames. The Marquis, “maddened with terror, had caught up a candle and, weary of his life, set fire to every corner of the place.” The Marquis died in the fire, and the castle was ruined. “Even today his white bones, which the country people gathered together, rest in the corner of the room from which he had ordered the beggarwoman of Locarno to get up.”
“The Beggarwoman of Locarno” is in some ways a very standard and straightforward ghost story and tale of supernatural vengeance; the Beggarwoman, treated badly by the Marquis, haunts him and drives him mad. But the story was beloved by E.T.A. Hoffmann (creator of Doctor Coppellius) and thought well of by Thomas Mann, and is interesting not just for the droll and understated way in which Kleist tells the story but also for the underlying morality of the story. Most stories of supernatural revenge have roughly balanced moral scales; that is, the punishment generally fits the crime. This isn’t always the case; the revenge in Braddon’s “Eveline’s Visitant” (see the Andre de Brissac entry) is hardly fitting. Usually, though, it is. In the case of “Locarno,” however, it is not, and in fact is wildly disproportionate. The Marquis was rude and disrespectful for her, but her death was an accident. Her response, as a ghost, was to hound him (after some years’ passing, admittedly) to insanity and death. That seems to me to be a bit...extreme.
The Beggarwoman was poor and old, and could only get around with the help of a crutch. She surely did not deserve rude treatment, but rather the pity the Marquise showed her. In death, however, the beggarwoman had no pity for the Marquis, although the Marquise, likely because of her kindness to the Beggarwoman, was allowed to live.
ell, John. John Bell was created by L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace and appeared in a number of stories, first appearing in Cassell's and eventually collected in A Master of Mysteries in 1898. Meade and Eustace, of course, are better known for their mystery/thriller/adventure/suspense/sensation stories, including Madame Sara. Bell is notable as one of the earliest of the "occult detectives," similar to Flaxman Low and Lord Syfret and others of that class. But unlike Flaxman Low et al Bell never encountered a genuinely supernatural case. That's the largest difference between Bell and nearly all other occult detectives: Bell is a ghost breaker. In his own words:
It so happened that the circumstances of fate allowed me to follow my own bent in the choice of a profession. From my earliest youth the weird, the mysterious had an irresistible fascination for me. Having private means, I resolved to follow my unique inclinations, and I am now well known to all my friends as a professional exposer of ghosts, and one who can clear away the mysteries of most haunted houses.Bell doesn't believe in the supernatural, and in fact is quite certain that thefts and murders which involve the "supernatural" are caused by men, not spirits or god. Bell's right, of course. Every case he investigates turns out to be a hoax, created by evil-minded men to seem supernatural so that the weak-minded and suspicious will ascribe the crime to the supernatural and not investigate too closely. This is the case until Bell is summoned. Each time he investigates he uncovers the guilty parties and sees that justice is done. (Now you know where Scooby Doo came from, eh?)
Bell is a youngish man in his thirties, well-respected by his friends if not by society at large. (He says that his job is expensive and thankless and exposes him to ridicule and danger; society apparently thinks just fine of superstitious people but not so well of those who try to prove superstitions false). (Which is actually a sensible bit of realism on Meade's and Eustace's part, now that I think of it). He is called in professionally to investigate cases and to confirm that foul play, not occult interference, has been done. In this respect he's as much a consulting detective as Sherlock Holmes or Martin Hewitt. Bell uses the same tactics which they do to investigate his cases: close examination of crime scenes, disguises to fool criminals, questioning witnesses, and the proper application of education and cynicism. He's called in by the upper classes, rather than the public at large.
His cases vary from a room that kills to family curses to a diamond-stealing ghost to a talking statue of Siva, and in every case a bad man, rather than a bad spirit, is behind the crime. The stories are told in a straightforward and unadorned narration, and are moderately entertaining.
ertram, Maud. Maud Bertram was created by Mary Louisa Molesworth and appeared in "The Story of the Rippling Train" (Longman's Magazine, Oct. 1887). Molesworth (1839-1921) was a British author of children's stories and ghost stories; she's on this site for The Tapestry Room (see the Dudu entry). "The Story of the Rippling Train" is about Paul Marischal, who is prompted by his niece Nina to tell an actual ghost story; the guests at a weekend retreat are in need of entertainment, and the idea of a ghost story prompts the response, "You never see the person who saw or heard or felt the ghost. It is always somebody's sister or cousin, or friend's friend," so Nina asks Uncle Paul to tell his story. He was, as a young man, taken with his beautiful friend Maud Bertram, but she had many admirers, and he did not feel it right to press a suit. They were friends for a time, but then she married and went to India, and they drifted out of touch, and for several years he did not think of her. And then one night in the library of his town he saw a "wavy something...gliding, rippling in, gradually" assuming the hazy figure of a woman--Maud. Maud looked at him with a "terrible, unspeakable sadness in her face, which, even though I felt no fear, seemed to freeze me with a kind of unutterable pity." After a brief time the vision of Maud disappeared, and as Paul had no way to contact Maud--he didn't remember her married name--he could only jot down the date. And, of course, he later discovered that she had died on that date after being caught in a fire which had disfigured the right side of her face. Paul said, "It was the left side of her face only that the wraith of my poor friend had allowed me to see."
Mrs. Molesworth is now well regarded by connoisseurs of Victorian ghost stories, and "The Story of the Rippling Train" is told with undeniable skill, in a nice, late-Victorian conversational way, but the utter predictability of the plot somewhat ruined my enjoyment of the story. The rippling effect is nicely visual, and there's an echo of real emotion in the story, but "The Story of the Rippling Train" doesn't scare--Mrs. Molesworth was too genteel for that--and doesn't stir emotion. But perhaps there are other, better ghost stories by her I should be reading?
ess, Baltimore. Bess was created by Edward Wheeler (of no small dime novel fame) and appeared in three dime novels, "Rosebud Rob; or, Nugget Ned, the Knight of the Gulch" (which also starred Bel Helene) "Idyl, the Girl Miner; or, Rosebud Rob on hand," and "Photograph Phil, the Boy Sleuth; or, Rosebud Rob's Reappearance," which appeared in Beadle's Half-Dime Library, v4, n82, 83, and 84, respectively.
Now, while I have avoided most of the characters from the Western/frontier dime novels, I just couldn't pass up Baltimore Bess, for reasons that should quickly become apparent. So bear with me.
Pauline Grey is a "gentle, womanly, tender" Easterner who at 18 is mistreated by a "miscreant lover." Her heart is initially broken, but "then she grew changed--was no longer herself, but a wild, reckless harum-scarum girl." Pauline leaves her kid sister Jennie behind and goes "out into the world" to find her "deserting lover." She does this by putting on men's clothing and becoming a detective, "Baltimore Bess." In fact, she becomes a very successful detective, a member of the trio of Rosebud Rob and "noted Eastern detective" George Pearsons. She does more than just dress in men's clothing, however. She acts like a man, drinking, smoking, swearing, frequenting bars (as a customer), fighting, shooting, and even...well...she refers to herself as a man.
No, seriously, she says, in "Rosebud Rob," to her friend Persimmon Bill, that "Never yet heerd of a quarrel 'twixt two men, yet, whar thar warn't a woman in it. Thet's ther confounded difficulty o'hevin' 'em luxuriatin' in this glorious country, Bill--they're allus gettin' us sterner sex inter trouble. Why warn't all the women born men like you and I, Bill?"
But "Bess" isn't just a butch member of the Odd Girls And Twilight Lovers Associationtm. She actually has those feelings for men, too, and in the final story she falls for Rosebud Rob, and, unable to have him, throws herself into a quarrel, gets knifed, and dies in his arms. Of course, the lesbian or bisexual has to die--this is 19th century literature I'm describing, non-WASP-heteros couldn't possibly be allowed to survive and live happily ever after. But for a while she's quite something.
evis. Bevis was created by Richard Jefferies and appeared in Wood Magic (1881) and Bevis (1882). Jefferies (1848-1887) was a British writer and naturalist, well-known during the Victorian era and the early decades of this century for his children's books (Wood Magic and Bevis, among others) and his work meant for more mature audiences, like his post-apocalyptic After London (1885).
Jefferies clearly intended Bevis to be the same character in both books, despite Wood Magic and Bevis being quite different in tone. Bevis is a realistically-drawn portrait of two young boys, Bevis and his best friend Mark, exploring the Wiltshire Downs in the early 1880s and having various adventures: swimming, making rafts and building a hut, and in most ways doing what young boys of that time and place did in the countryside. Bevis is a very real boy (around 8 or 9 or 10), impatient, energetic, imaginative, and very resourceful, as well as being aggressive and a bit of a bully to Mark; he does have great love for his father, though, and this partially redeems the character. Bevis is a classic of Victorian children's literature, and for good reason.
Wood Magic, however, is quite different. It is Bevis’ predecessor and features a younger Bevis. What makes it substantially different from Bevis is the tone and content. Wood Magic is an animal fable in which Bevis, only 5 or 6, has the ability to talk to animals and plants, who are intelligent and talk to him and each other. The book is a somewhat sequential group of stories about Bevis speaking with the local animals and becoming involved with their social and political struggles within the hierarchy of their "animal kingdom."
Jefferies has a very deft hand at describing nature and pastoral scenes, and Wood Magic, being at least partially autobiographical, is full of very vivid, almost poetical images. The animals in the novel are concisely drawn in personality without being imbued with too much sentimentality or anthropomorphism. Jefferies does not sugarcoat the ruthlessness of nature; Wood Magic very much illustrates Tennyson’s line about “nature, red in tooth and claw.” Bevis himself is as impatient, energetic, and imaginative as is in Bevis, but he is also very much a young child--in the words of J.M. Barrie, Bevis in Wood Magic is "gay, cruel, and heartless."
Four chapters of Bevis: The Story of a Boy can be found here.
lack Angel. The Black Angel was created by William S. Hayward and appeared in three books, The Black Angel (1863), The Star of the South (1864), and The Rebel Privateer (1870). Hayward was the creator of Victor Volans, but unfortunately in the intervening years (!) (I've been at this for longer than I realize, sometimes) since I first put Volans' entry down I haven't been able to find a circulating copy of The Cloud King, so I haven't been able to add more information about Volans. I have found a little bit more about Hayward, though. His birth and death dates are still unknown, but he was a Brit who wrote a number of travelogues and juvenile adventure novels.
And, judging by the Black Angel trilogy, he was one of the British citizens who was pulling for the South during the American Civil War. Now, I'm from Boston, originally, and grew up with all the biases a scion of Boston Brahmins can have towards the South. I've since unlearned many of them--I've married a woman from Arkansas and am currently living and working in Texas--but I still retain the quaint and possibly provincial prejudice towards the antebellum South, and feel, in my own small-minded way, that the good guys won that war. This is why I found it hard to read The Black Angel. Hayward goes out of his way to paint the Yankees as cruel and thoroughly unscrupulous beasts and the South as full of heroic, dashing young men who are accompanied by their faithful slaves. (That's not the word Hayward uses, however; his terms for the slaves begin with Ds and Ns). The putative hero of the Black Angel trilogy is Darcy Leigh, a proud Lieutenant in the Navy who secedes when his native Virginia does and joins the fight against the Union. The Black Angel is Coralie St. Casse, a beautiful Southron girl who hates all Yankees (one attempted to take liberties with her once, and then another killed her father in a duel). Together, on the stolen sloop Spitfire, they fight against Yankees, with Coralie actually firing guns and funding and raising her own regiment.
They lose, in the end, and a good thing, too.
lack Arrow. The Black Arrow was created by Robert Louis Stevenson and appeared in The Black Arrow (1888). Stevenson should be familiar to you, and if he's not, you shouldn't be reading this page, you should be hying you hence to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Kidnapped or Treasure Island. Stevenson, with H. Rider Haggard, is largely responsible for modern adventure fiction, Kidnapped and Treasure Island (along with King Solomon's Mines) having inspired an entire generation of adventure writers.
The Black Arrow is the story of cruel Sir Daniel Brackley, a vile nobleman with no thought as to the fortunes of the poor (except as how they can pay him rent), Dick Shelton (whose noble father Sir Daniel killed and who Sir Daniel made his ward, in view of getting Dick's estates), and the Black Arrow organization, a group of fifty peasants, ruffians, murderers, thieves, and simple folk who have been oppressed by Sir Daniel, by the wicked old archer Nick Appleyard, by Daniel's right-hand man Bennet Hatch, and by the pastor Sir Oliver Oates. The Black Arrow group takes to the woods and wages guerrilla war on Sir Daniel's men, feathering them with black arrows. They are led by Ellis Duckworth, a good man who hates what Sir Daniel has done to the people under him, and Ellis' goal is to kill all four. Appleyard is the first to die, and on the arrow which kills him is tied a note which reads, in part:
I had four blak arrows under my belt,Dick, though initially favoring Sir Daniel (who he believes to be a good man unfairly maligned), eventually joins up with the Black Arrows and leads operations against Sir Daniel. He meets and falls in love with Joanne Foxham, the daughter of a noble and a woman kidnaped by Sir Daniel. After a few operations the war of the Roses comes to Tunstall hamlet, with Richard Crookback, a.k.a. Richard of Gloucester, a.k.a. the future Richard III, leading the Yorkists against the Lancastrians. Dick joins up with Crookback's forces, gains Crookback's favor (as much through the similar name as through Dick's feats at arms), learns a hard lesson about the "glory" of warfare, frees Joanne, loses Crookback's favor (the ferocious Crookback will abide no one gainsaying him, and Dick dares to do just that) (the Richard Crookback of The Black Arrow is formidable: quite capable at arms, a keen general, merciless toward his enemy and generous toward his troops, and cruel. Very cruel), meets up with Sir Daniel and spares his life (which is then taken by Ellis Duckworth, Sir Daniel's quietus delivered by the trademark black arrow), and finally marries Joanne and lives happily ever after with her.
Four for the greefs that I have felt,
Four for the nomber of ill menne
That have opressid me now and then.
lack Dwarf. The Black Dwarf was created by Sir Walter Scott and appeared in The Black Dwarf (1816). I'm surprised to note that the only entries I have from Scott, so far, are Meg Merrilies and Rob Roy. But, trust me, soon enough I'll get to Ivanhoe and Waverley, and so Scott will enjoy his due place here.
Scott is best known as the creator, for all intents, of the genre of historical fiction. He had predecessors and a few parallel developers, but essentially the form is his doing. What is not as well known is that Scott not only injected Gothic touches in several of his novels, including Kenilworth, but also wrote a few Gothics. The Black Dwarf is one of those.
The Black Dwarf is about Sir Edward Manley (or Mauley), a British nobleman of honored lineage and position. Unfortunately, Sir Edward is deformed, a four-foot-tall dwarf of striking ugliness. For this he is mistreated and distrusted by the rest of humanity and deprived of the estates which are his due. Disgusted with himself, his family, and with all human society, Sir Edward takes to the wilds of Northumbria, makes a home for himself in a cave surrounded by enormous boulders, and occasionally ventures out to help those who need him. The Northumbrians are afraid of him, not knowing his background, and they dub him "Canny Elshie the Black Dwarf," a figure of dread. He's really not such a bad fellow, despite his looks and superhuman strength; he has the soul of a poet and longs for love, but of course none is forthcoming. The plot of The Black Dwarf is about the help Sir Edward gives to Isabella Vere and Grace Armstrong, and the revelation of his identity (though not the restitution of his estates). At the end of the story Sir Edward kisses Isabella goodbye and disappears.
Interestingly, the theme of the gentle, sweet-natured monster who is distrusted by the world and treated badly because of his appearance is also one that shows up in Frankenstein, while the theme of the noble dwarf unjustly deprived of his lands and forced to live incognito as a vigilante is one that appears in two of Percy B. St. John's Dwarf penny dreadfuls, The Blue Dwarf (1861) and Black Bess, or the Knight of the Road (1861-1865). The character of Sapathwa (see the Blue Dwarf entry below) is quite similar to that of Sir Edward.
lack Reaper. The Black Reaper was created by Bernard Capes and appeared in “The Black Reaper” (At a Winter’s Fire, 1899). Capes (1854-1918) was the creator of The Vanishing House.
“The Black Reaper” is set in a remote English farming village in 1665. The narrator describes how he and his friends in the village were hypocrites, worshiping Christ with their mouths and not their hearts, and how their vicar was neither listened to nor respected. They were “a community of roysterers and scoffers, impious and abominable.” But the plague broke out in London, and then a new man arrived in Anathoth, perhaps an old colleague of the vicar’s, perhaps a wandering Dissenter, but either way a righteous preacher and a scourge against the village, telling all that they were sinners. That August the land was overrun with infected men and women fleeing from London, and one afternoon, when the men of the village were gathered around a dry well, the preacher appeared and told them “Behold, ye that have not obeyed nor inclined your ear, but have walked every one in the imagination of his evil heart! Saith the Lord, ‘I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto Me, I will not hearken unto them’” and other such joyful noises. The preacher even tells the villagers that the Lord of Hosts is going to bring evil upon them, that their hour is nigh, and that they shall “be mowed down like ripe corn.” The villagers–not the narrator–rush him, and despite one of the children telling the men not to hurt him, and despite the preacher’s saying “I spare the little children!” the villagers shove the preacher down the well and cover it up with rocks. The narrator feels guilty about this and is carrying his daughter Margery on his shoulders to the corn field for the reaping when they see a man, “sprung out of the earth, as it seemed,” had begun reaping the corn. The face of the reaper cannot be seen, and “he reaped swiftly and steadily, swinging like a pendulum; but, though the sheaves fell to him right and left, no swish of the scythe came to us, nor any sound but the beating of our own hearts.” The narrator and the villagers are convinced that the reaper is the minister come back for vengeance. The narrator then realizes that Margery is sleeping in the path of the reaper. The narrator rescues Margery and runs away from the reaper, but the other villagers aren’t so lucky: every time the reaper gathers up a sheaf, one of the villagers falls dead. They try firing the field, but as the fire dies out those who set the corn aflame burn. The reaper, finished with the smaller, upper part of the field, starts toward the larger part of the corn field, and the villagers know that if he makes it to that part of the field, they’ll all die. The vicar tries to stop the reaper, and he hesitates for a moment, then puts his hand, gently, on the vicar’s head, and the vicar sinks into the corn and disappears from sight. But before the reaper can go into the field the narrator remembers what the Dissenter had said, and has the villagers line their children up in front of the reaper. The reaper cannot find a space between them, and will not harm the children, and so leaves, waving his hand once, his face “radiant and beautiful as an angel’s.”
“The Black Reaper” is better than Capes’ “An Eddy on the Floor” and not quite as good as “The Vanishing House,” but it’s still quite good. The story’s largest flaw is the narrator’s voice, which uses difficult and antiquated vocabulary and phrasing and stands as an impediment to the story’s enjoyment. Which isn’t to say that “The Black Reaper” isn’t enjoyable. It is, very much so. It’s just that the voice Capes chose to use makes reading the story work, which it shouldn’t be. “The Black Reaper” is also slow in getting started, another flaw it shares with “An Eddy on the Floor.” But the ending makes up for it. The story has a clever resolution and some quite creepy moments, and although the story is slow to start, Capes does use that period to establish a nice, ominous mood.
The Black Reaper in life was a hard, unsympathetic man, very much in the joyless and merciless mode of 17th century English Dissenters. He wasn’t entirely cruel, however, for although he was willing to condemn the adults of Anathoth to death, he knew that the hearts of its children were innocent and so was willing to spare them. And in death that’s just what he did.
lake, Lieutenant Edward. Lt. Edward Blake, arguably better known as "Blake of the Rattlesnake," appeared in Blake of the "Rattlesnake" or the Man Who Saved England. A Story of Torpedo Warfare in 189- (1895), by Fred T. Jane. Jane, of course, was the author of the Violet Flame, and rather an interesting chap. Blake of the "Rattlesnake" is a future war novel, a genre I've usually avoided on this site (for a variety of reasons, none of which would particularly interest you, I'm sure), but it's set in the very near future, only a year or two from the present. (Well, Jane's present, but you know what I mean)
Blake is a somewhat standard action hero, called by one critic "a sanitized Nelson." He, like Jane himself, is on the conservative side, showing an elitist and anti-populist point of view, opposed to capitalism, bankers, the City, and the workers. The armed forces, especially the Navy, is all. He is extremely (one might say excessively) patriotic, concerned with his duty and with Great Britain triumphing over all those heathen foreigners, especially those demmed French and Russians.
There are four sequences in the novel. The first involves Blake losing his torpedo boat and capturing a French torpedo boat. The second is about Blake, Lieutenant Bouverie (the narrator of the stories and Blake's friend), and the newly-christened Rattlesnake leading three smaller torpedo boats against the French; he defeats a French cruiser, leads an English press gang (something he dislikes but does out of duty), and takes part in a raid on Cherbourg, although he loses the Rattlesnake to French torpedoes in the process. In the third episode Blake, now the Captain of a destroyer (also named the Rattlesnake), leads his ship into the Baltic, which is now the theater of war. The Brits and Blake raid Kronstadt, but they are trapped in the harbor by the French and Russian battleships, and the Rattlesnake is one of the few ships to escape. Blake makes his way to the island of Arran, where he lands and establishes martial law. He mines the harbor and makes Arran into a secret base where the British navy can reassemble. When that is done (after his wishing aloud that he could shell the coal miners of Arran, who have the temerity to go on strike and thereby deprive the Navy of coal), he leads the British flotilla out to the Solent, where they crush the French and Russian fleets. Blake dies in this final engagement, sailing a dynamite-packed ship into the heart of the enemy fleet and blowing it, and them, up.
lake, Sexton. I used to have, on this page, an extensive--exhaustive, I'd like to think--entry on Sexton Blake. Sexton Blake, for those of you not in the know, was the long-running detective created in 1893 in the pages of The Halfpenny Marvel by "Hal Meredith" (possibly Harry Blyth). Blake appeared in a number of magazines, movies, novels and radio shows from 1893 through 1968. He's perhaps the third-most published character after Nick Carter and Dixon Hawke.
However, as with my Cs page, which used to have entries on Nick Carter and Captain Mors, this page was much too long and took too long to download when it had all my Sexton Blake information on it, and so I thought it was time to shift the Sexton Blake entry to its own site. So--for information on Blake, go to my Sexton Blake Page. It's the biggest and just about only site on Sexton Blake on the Internet, and I think it's got a lot of interesting material. Give it a try, won't you?
lue Cap. Blue Cap the Bushranger was created by James Skipp Borlase and appeared in Blue Cap the Bushranger, or, the Australian Dick Turpin. Blue Cap was first published in The Boys' Standard in 1875 or 1876 and was reprinted as a pamphlet in (perhaps) 1878 and then in The Boys' Leisure Hour in 1885. Borlase was the author of James Brooke, and I have information on Borlase there.
There was a real Blue Cap, one Robert Cotterall (or "Cottrell" or "Cotterell"). You can read about him thanks to The Web Archive's indexed version of the defunct Whiskers Hill site. You can read about bushrangers in general at the quite interesting Bushranger Site. (A "bushranger" was the Australian equivalent of the English highwayman). Cotterall was called "blue cap" because he suffered from chronic opthalmitis and always wore a blue cap or eyeshade to protect his eyes.
The fictional Blue Cap, however, is quite different from the real thing as well as from other fictional highwaymen, like Dick Turpin. Most fictional highwaymen are misunderstood heroes or noble outlaws (one can see the confluence of the English Robin Hood tradition and the German räuberroman tradition, for more on which see the Rinaldo Rinaldini entry). Blue Cap is unashamedly a villain, and a rather brutal one at that. In fact, he's one of the most nakedly wicked characters I've yet come across while researching this site.
Blue Cap the Bushranger is about Norton, a convicted murderer who escapes from a prison ship while on its way to the prison island of Van Dieman's Land. He arrives on shore, kills two of three members of a gang, persuades the third to join with him on a crime spree, and then begins an eventful career of robbery and murder. After a brief but bloody spree, he disappears, reappears some time later as Billy-the-Bull and tries to live life as a cattleman. He is dragged back into crime by two old acquaintances, however, and being arrested and escaping again he disappears into the bush. His body is not found until years afterward. The heroic watchman who twice helped put a stop to his crimes goes on to have a successful life, becoming Chief Inspector of Police for the colony.
Blue Cap the Bushranger is not one of the better-told penny dreadfuls, although Borlase's knowledge of the Australian environment is displayed in some nicely concise descriptions. But overall the story has the flaws of the penny dreadful style: continual movement and action, stiff and lifeless prose, forward momentum with only the slightest pauses for scene-setting or characterisation, and the ubiquitous one-line paragraph:
He saw him clap a hand to his side, and blood spout out from between his fingers.Etc etc etc.
He then quitted his tree, and with many oaths staggered over to the trunk of the one in whose branches Frank was concealed.
The next instant he perceived him.
Their eyes met.
Frank fired two shots at him and missed each time.
Then his foe's barrel covered him.
The over-riding characteristic of Blue Cap, however, is its bloodthirstyness. Blue Cap is one penny dreadful that deserves the title "penny blood." Borlase has a body count of at least two dozen, with Blue Cap himself being responsible for at least half those deaths, including the execution of women and children. There are also attacks by the aborigines (about whom Borlase uses the N-word with abandon), an inn where travelers are murdered and thrown into a cellar full of red ants (which then pick the bones clean), and corpses discovered wrapped in death grips with the snakes which killed them. Blue Cap is a violent, brutal penny blood, which I'm sure thrilled and titillated its audience.
Blue Cap himself is grimly, gleefully violent, a committed criminal. He is well-aware of his state:
Well, I'll try and control my instincts in future, Dick, on my word I will. But I do love smashing people up, there's no gainsaying it. A fellow once as felt my bumps, said I'd the organs of combativeness and destructiveness and that they was a growing very large; and do you know, I 'spect he was about right.....He knows his life expectancy is short and is determined to enjoy himself (via violent crime) while he lives. So steals and murders, and if he doesn't get away with rape it's not for lack of trying; on two occasions he tries to kidnap women (in one case a teenaged girl) and force them to become "Mrs. Blue Cap," with all the horrors that title would entail. When the women resist, he kills them. Blue Cap is physically ugly, quite remarkably so, and morally as bad. He has no compunctions about kicking old women, and he's quite happy to execute his prisoners in cold blood. His nickname comes from the cap he wears, of blue cloth adorned with the crimson and blue feathers of a mountain macaw. Blue Cap is very tough, being shot in the thigh and shoulder in the course of the story, losing his right thumb and two other fingers, and having numerous horses shot out from under him. He's not particularly intelligent, but he is cunning, successfully impersonating a Chinese servant at one point and fooling the policemen who are hunting for him.
Blue Cap the Bushranger is not a good dreadful. Blue Cap himself has an undeniable vigor, but his initial reign of criminal terror is all too short, and the characters which take over the narrative after he disappears are not nearly as interesting. Too, the racist depiction of the Chinese and the native Australians is off-putting, to say the least. And while the continual crime and violence and perils (floods, brushfires, stampedes) are initially engaging, it all-too-quickly palls. After finishing Blue Cap I felt a need to read some Jane Austen.
lue Dwarf. Sapathwa, a.k.a. the “Blue Dwarf,” appeared in two separate penny dreadfuls: The Blue Dwarf. A Novel (1860-1), and The Blue Dwarf: A Tale of Love, Mystery and Crime: Introducing Many Startling Incidents in the Life of That Celebrated Highwayman, Dick Turpin (1874-5). He may or may not have been created by Percy Bolingbroke St. John (1819?-1889), a successful short story and penny dreadful author and the editor of various journals.
The story of Sapathwa is interesting, but not nearly so interesting as the very tangled and unclear publication history of the character, so you’ll indulge me if I take a different tack than usual with this entry and give the real life information first and then describe the character.
The Blue Dwarf. A Novel (hereafter Blue Dwarf (1)) was published in 1861 by E. Harrison and was credited to “Lady Esther Hope.” It also spawned two different stage productions in 1862. The Blue Dwarf: A Tale of Love of Love, Mystery and Crime (hereafter Blue Dwarf (2)) was published in 1874-5 by Hogarth House and was credited to Percy B. St. John.
This much is true. But beyond that, we run into difficulties.
The first is that “Lady Esther Hope” may or may not have been St. John’s pseudonym. As with so many other questions about penny dreadful authors, the answer to this will never be known for certain. “Lady Esther Hope” wrote other works besides The Blue Dwarf (1). “Hope” also wrote the anti-Mormon potboiler Jessie, The Mormon’s Daughter (1860-1). Traditionally St. John has been identified as “Hope,” but recent scholars have separated the two.
I tend to agree with those who argue that “Lady Esther Hope” and St. John were two different authors. The relevant pieces of data for the two being different are these:
a) Jessie is unlike St. John’s usual work in content, being filled
with anti-Mormon stereotypes.
b) There is a marked difference in quality between Blue Dwarf (1) and Blue Dwarf (2). The former is much superior to the latter, so much so that they read as if written by different authors.
c) St. John had an interest in frontier Ohio; he wrote Queen of the Woods, or the Shawnee Captives (1868) and The Silent Hunter (1869), both novels with an Ohio setting. But Jessie is based in part on Orvilla Belisle’s Mormonism Unveiled, or a History of Mormonism (1855), and “Hope” could have taken any information on frontier Ohio and the Mormon from Mormonism Unveiled.
d) St. John was aware of the work of “Hope;” he reprinted “her” Jessie in 1861, when he was the editor of the London Herald. If St. John was “Hope,” then his bringing back the Blue Dwarf, an obscure character from a obscure dreadful over a decade old, is explained by his personal stake in the character. But even if St. John was not “Hope,” it’s clear that he knew of her work. If St. John was not “Hope,” his use of Sapathwa can be explained by his desire to make use of a character he liked or who at least intrigued him.
There are several differences between Blue Dwarf (1) and Blue Dwarf (2). (1) was published by E. Harrison, (2) by Hogarth House. St. John changed the character of Sapathwa in (2) as well as altering the plot. But the basic premise–blue-colored dwarf is robbed of his inheritance–remains the same. St. John essentially lifted the figure of Sapathwa from (1). We might reasonably assume that St. John was looking for an interesting story to tell about Dick Turpin and decided to incorporate Sapathwa into the story in the same way that post-Rookwood writers (see the Turpin entry for more on this) made use of the Ride to York, which Ainsworth created. The reason St. John wanted to tell a Dick Turpin story is that Turpin had been the star of Edward Viles’ Black Bess, or the Knight of the Road (1861-1865), an enormously popular serial.
The second problem is that there are not only differences between Blue Dwarf (1) and Blue Dwarf (2), but that Blue Dwarf (1) was reprinted in 1875 (the same year Blue Dwarf (2) was published) but was altered and abridged, coming to a much more abrupt halt than the original version of Blue Dwarf (1). (I will call this altered edition Blue Dwarf (3)). Steve Holland, who I owe much in this entry to, speculates that Thomas Taylor, the publisher of (3), had some connection with Taylor & Greening, the printers of (1). One obvious reason for this reprinting would have been to cash in on the popularity of Blue Dwarf (2). (3) might have been abridged due to the different style of writing in (1)–the audience of 1875 might have found “Hope”’s writing style old-fashioned and slow-moving–and due to the difference in portrayals of Sapathwa (see below). Disenchanted with (3), fans of Turpin might have stopped buying it, and the publisher would have altered the ending so that it finished much more quickly.
The third problem is that, over the years, different writers have described the content of the various Blue Dwarfs in varying ways that are, at times, contradictory. Some of these writers most likely had not read the original stories and were instead relying on secondary material, but some of these writers had read the originals, which makes the contradictions all the more problematic.
The final problem is caused by Montague Summers. Over the years a great deal of confusion has been caused by Summers’ identification, in Gothic Bibliography (1941), of Blue Dwarf (1) as the "original 'Gentleman George' edition.” As with so much else about the Blue Dwarfs, the true answer to this may never be known, but I have one possible answer for this. The Dick Turpin-like character in Blue Dwarf (1) is named “Captain George.” I believe that Summers was conflating “Captain George” with the “Gentleman George” who appears in Black Bess as well as James Skipp Borlase’s Gentleman George, the King of the Road (The Boy’s Standard, 1875-6).
I have read Blue Dwarf (1), and so can provide accurate details on that, at least.
The Blue Dwarf. A Novel is very much in the mode of the Gothics, as were many of the penny dreadfuls published in the 1860s. Sir Edgar Blakesley is forced to go to sea to make his fortune, due to his cruel and rapacious stepfather, who refuses to give Edgar his inheritance. But before Edgar can get there he is stabbed in the back by his evil foster brother Dick, who inherits the father’s fortune and takes Edgar’s identity. (They’re nearly twins, you see). Most of the story involves Edgar’s struggle to regain his rightful fortune and defeat the schemes of the vile Dick. Napoleon himself is brought into the story before justice is done and evil defeated.
Sapathwa, the Blue Dwarf, enters this story as something of a wild card, interjecting himself into Edgar’s struggle with Dick. Sapathwa’s motives are not initially clear, but eventually his story is revealed. Sapathwa is actually Sir John Stewart Blakesley, Sir Edgar’s brother. The first wife of Sir William Blakesley, their father, gave birth to Sapathwa in Malaysia, where his mother raised him. But an attack by the “savage” Dyaks killed Sapathwa’s mother, and so Sapathwa returned to England to claim his heritage. On finding out that Sir Edgar had been cheated out of the Blakesley fortune, Sapathwa began helping him and plotting against Dick. In this Sapathwa is helped by the highwayman Captain George and by a gang of Romany, who he commands and who call him “Prince.” To them he is known as “Goldy Gordon.”
Sapathwa, despite his appearance, is actually a good person. Although he is feared by everyone in the English countryside, he never gives them cause to–it’s just his ugliness that sets off people. But he is a good and honorable man, articulate and a good friend. He’s smart, too; he doesn’t get personally involved in the Edgar/Dick struggle, but rather plots and uses others for muscle and to carry out his version of vigilante justice. He’s four feet high with short legs, ape-like arms, a hideous face, red eyes, filed teeth, skin that is equal parts jet black and indigo, and quite shaggy hair. At the end of the story he retires to a country estate to live happily ever after.
The Blue Dwarf (1) is actually an entertaining read. “Lady Esther Hope” did not rely upon the one line dialogue exchanges and stilted dialogue which so pad out many dreadfuls. Although Blue Dwarf (1) is hardly great literature, it is enjoyable. It has some very nice illustrations and is filled with songs, Romany patter, and Thieves Cant, complete with footnotes explaining them. The only real downside is the Jewish moneylender characters, which are anti-Semitic as can be.
The Blue Dwarf (2) is quite different. (I should note that I’m relying on secondary sources for the following description, as I haven’t read the work in question. On my next trip to the British Library, in mid-March, I’ll remedy that). Blue Dwarf (2) involves Dick Turpin, Tom King, Sixteen String Jack Rann, and the rest of the Turpin menagerie, setting, and story. Unlike Blue Dwarf (1), which takes place during the Napoleonic years, Blue Dwarf (2) takes place a century earlier, during Turpin’s time. The secondary sources, in speaking of Blue Dwarf (2), are contradictory.:
- Turpin, Sapathwa, et al go to America as well as England. They are comrades in arms. Sapathwa lives happily ever after.
- Sapathwa is an evil creature who manipulates Turpin et al. They are enemies. Sapathwa’s plan is to avenge himself on his younger brother, who has stolen his inheritance. Sapathwa dies at Turpin’s hands.
- Sapathwa dies in the Berlin Cathedral, clutching the coffin of “Miriam Blakesley.”
Complicating this is Blue Dwarf (3), which changed the ending to Blue Dwarf (1). Until I’ve read Blue Dwarfs (2) and (3) I’ll be unable to resolve this.
lueskin. Blueskin, this particular version, was created by Edward Viles, or possibly James Malcolm Rymer, and appeared in Blueskin: A Romance of the Last Century (1866-7). Viles (1842-1906) was, of course, the author of Black Bess, one of the two definitive Dick Turpin novels, as well as The Black Highwayman, wherein Captain Hawk appeared. Rymer was the author of Varney the Vampyre.
There was a real Blueskin, Joseph Blake (?-1724), an associate of Jack Sheppard (1702-1724), the infamous thief and subject of numerous penny dreadfuls. (Curiously, I seem never to have gotten around to doing an entry for Sheppard, an oversight I’ll correct in the next couple of months). The fictional Blueskin appeared alongside the fictional Jack Sheppard in various penny dreadfuls, beginning with Harrison Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard (1839). Blueskin even appeared in Percival Wolfe’s Red Ralph (1866), a penny dreadful which dragged in characters from John Gay’s A Beggar’s Opera (1728) and Ainsworth’s Rookwood (1834) in a sort of uber-crossover of the gentlemen highwaymen of Dick Turpin’s time.
Blueskin is essentially a huge (1259 pages) Jack Sheppard/Jonathan Wild adventure, although Blueskin is the main character. Blueskin is Joe Blake, an immensely strong and powerful man. At the beginning of the story he is a retired thief working for the notorious Jonathan Wild, the evil thief-taker and crime lord. Blake got his name because earlier in his life, during a crime, a gunpowder bomb had exploded too near his head, coating half his face with a half-blue, half-purple tint. A young Jack Sheppard, not yet entered into his life of crime, approaches Blake for help; Blake was a friend of Tom Sheppard, Jack’s father, and Blake knew Jack when he was young. Blake helps Jack enter Wild’s service, hunting out “Jacobite plots” while enriching themselves. One thing leads to another, as it usually does in these sorts of penny dreadfuls, and Sheppard and Blake go on the run from Wild. A long–very long–duel ensues between them. Wild’s villainy is eventually discovered and he is hanged, and Sheppard and Blake escape to France and live on the wealth of a friendly heiress. (This is historically incorrect; both Sheppard and Blake were executed as thieves).
Blueskin is a typical penny dreadful, one of the Black Bess/Black Highwayman trilogy. It is far too long, not particularly well written, and of only marginal interest.
Bobbs, Faraday. A female newspaper correspondent whose six adventures appeared in The Popular Magazine in 1906. I've been unable to get to their stories so far, but hope to read them sometime within the next few months. More information will appear here on her at that time.
ossu, Le. Le Bossu was created by Paul Féval (1816-1875) and appeared in Le Bossu (The Hunchback), which began life as a feuilleton serial but was published (quite successfully) as a book in 1857. (Slightly more information about Féval is available at the Les Habits Noirs entry). Le Bossu is actually Henri Lagardère, a heroic orphan. He grew up with circus performers and learned acrobatics and fencing from them. He wants to learn more, however, and in 1699 he befriends the Duke of Nevers. Lagardère wants to learn the special, deadly sword thrust which the Duke has mastered, and after the pair have become friends the Duke teaches him the stroke as well as makes him his bodyguard. Unfortunately, Nevers' cousin, Gonzague, is jealous of Nevers and his sweetheart, Blanche de Caylus, and Gonzague sends assassins to kill the Duke, Lagardère, and Blanche. Gonzague himself stabs the Duke in the back, killing him. Before the Duke dies he gives his infant daughter, Aurore, to Lagardère, asking him to avenge him. Lagardère barely escapes from Gonzague along with the Aurore, and the pair join a troupe of traveling Italian performers.
Sixteen years later Gonzague rules the Rue Quincampoix, an early version of the stock exchange. He is assisted in this by a hunchback. Lagardère and Aurore, now grown into a spunky, beautiful young woman who believes that Lagardère is her father, begin to take revenge on the murderer of the Duke. Lagardère does this by impersonating the hunchback, Le Bossu. In the guise of the hunchback he haunts Paris, gradually working his way up to kill Gonzague.
Lagardère's pet phrase, one he uses to promise vengeance on his enemies, is "If you don't come to Lagardère, Lagardère will come to you!"
Jean-Marc Lofficier was kind enough to send along a list of sequels to Le Bossu which were written by Paul Féval fils:
“Roger Malvin’s Burial” purports to be an incident from the years of Indian warfare, after the 1725 battle known as “Lovell’s Fight.” Roger Malvin and Reuben Bourne are two of the survivors of the battle and flee through the woods from the Indians. Both are wounded, but Malvin’s wounds are far worse than Bourne’s. Malvin’s, in fact, are mortal, and he tells Reuben to leave him behind. Reuben, who views Roger as his father, is much loath to do so, and the two go back and forth about it. Reuben wants to stay with Roger until he dies, but Roger finally convinces Reuben to go, telling Reuben that he, Roger, might survive until Reuben returns with help, and that Reuben owes it to Roger’s daughter Dorcas to return home safely. Reuben promises to return and properly bury Roger’s body. He means it, too, and ties a bloodstained handkerchief to a sapling as a sign. He even vows “by the blood that stained it that he would return, either to save his companion’s life or to lay his body in the grave.” But Reuben is so wounded that he passes out before he reaches home. He is found by a group of men sent out to find survivors of the battle. They bring him home, but it is several days before he recovers, and when he does he is too guilt stricken to admit to Dorcas “that his selfish love of life had hurried him away before her father’s fate was decided.” Reuben does not tell her that Roger was still alive, and when she asks him if he dug Roger’s grave Reuben lies and says he did what he could. Dorcas tells her friends about Reuben’s “courage” and “fidelity,” and everyone deems him more than worthy to ask for her hand. A few months later they are wed; “during the marriage ceremony the bride was covered with blushes, but the bridegroom’s face was pale.”
Reuben is tormented by his own moral cowardice, but “pride, the fear of losing her affection, the dread of universal scorn, forbade him to rectify this falsehood.” Years go by and he does not tell Dorcas the truth, but he continues to be dogged by “a haunting and torturing fancy that his father-in-law was yet sitting at the foot of the rock, on the withered forest leaves, alive, and awaiting his pledged assistance.” He didn’t know where in the forest he left Roger, it was too late to ask for help from friends, and his own superstitious fear bar him from going alone. “There was, however, a continual impulse, a voice audible only to himself, commanding him to go forth and redeem his vow; and he had a strange impression that, were he to make the trial, he would be led straight to Malvin’s bones. But year after year that summons, unheard but felt, was disobeyed. His one secret thought became like a chain binding down his spirit and like a serpent gnawing into his heart; and he was transformed into a sad and downcast yet irritable man.” Things don’t go well for Reuben and Dorcas, and their fortunes decline despite having a wonderful son, Cyrus. But poverty eventually forces them to leave the settlement, and so they set out into the woods. The route Reuben sets for himself is not the one he keeps, and despite his best efforts he marches farther and farther “into a region of which savage beasts and savage men were as yet the sole possessors.” On the fifth day of their trek they stop in a forested hollow; it’s the twelfth of May, a day that reminds Reuben of something–of what he doesn’t remember until Dorcas reminds him that it was 18 years ago that Roger Malvin died. Reuben and Cyrus both go hunting, and Reuben realizes that he’s in the area where he left Roger. Reuben hear something moving in the undergrowth and shoots it, and sees that whatever he it is in a “thick covert of bushes” which “would have hidden Roger Malvin had he still been sitting there.” Roger also notices that “the sapling to which he had bound the bloodstained symbol of his vow had increased and strengthened into an oak, far indeed from its maturity, but with no mean spread of shadowy branches...the middle and lower branches were in luxuriant life...but a blight had apparently stricken the upper part of the oak, and the very topmost bough was withered, sapless, and utterly dead.”
Reuben discovers that it was his son he killed, and he brings Cyrus home to his wife. Reuben finally admits to Dorcas that he never buried Roger. She faints. “At that moment the withered topmost bough of the oak loosened itself in the stilly air, and fell in soft, light fragments upon the rock...then Reuben’s heart was stricken, and the tears gushed out like water from a rock.”
“Roger Malvin’s Burial” isn’t exactly a Gothic, although it is about the past haunting and spoiling the future. And it’s not exactly a supernatural horror story, although there is that bit with the cursed oak tree. It’s more of a mundane horror story in which the horror and the tragedy comes from a momentary weakness blighting an entire life. Reuben may not be an Everyman, but his failing, his emotional cowardice, is one that should be recognizable to many people. Hawthorne does a good job of describing the New England and of getting us into Reuben’s head and seeing his pain and regret. The story lacks the sardonic remove of “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” and the layered themes of “Rappaccini’s Daughter” (see the Dr. Rappaccini entry), and is more direct in its message.
Reuben Bourne was a good man, once. He didn’t want to leave Roger Malvin to die alone. It took much persuasion and a lie on Roger’s part to get him to leave. But Reuben, like many of us, had his flaws, and his was cowardice–not physical cowardice, but emotional cowardice, the fear of society and his loved one knowing that he wasn’t as brave as he’d made himself out to be. And that flaw ruined his life, his wife, and his son’s.
oy Heroes. There were, as you might imagine, a significant number of lead characters in dime novels and penny dreadfuls who were, for lack of a better terms, "boy heroes." That is, like Frank Reade and Jack Wright, they were youthful (some were boys and some were teenagers), the protagonists of their assorted stories, and (in proper dime novel fashion) square-jawed and two-fisted and out-sizedly heroic. While so far I've put most of these heroic youths in either the Western Heroes or Detectives sections, or given them their own entries, I've come to the conclusion that there are enough characters like Cliff Faraday or Thaddeus Fergus who deserve inclusion here but not a full-blown entry of their own that I should begin a separate section just for them. I'm only putting dime novel and penny dreadful boy heroes in this category. Heroic children from more mainstream literature appear in the Child Adventurers entry.
Sam Briggs was created by Richard Marsh, who also created The Beetle and Judith Lee. Briggs appeared in The Strand in the 1890s and 1900s. He was a solicitor's office boy who appeared in humorous stories and had light-hearted adventures.rady, Old King. One of the earlier recurring characters, Old King Brady first appeared in "Old King Brady, the Detective," in The New York Detective Library #154 (14 November 1885); he went on to appear in Boys of New York, Secret Service, and Happy Days. Brady was written by "A New York Detective," which was the pseudonym for Francis Worcester Doughty (?-1917), a well-known author on works about archaeology and numismatics, as well as a number of dime novels. James "Old King" Brady ("Young King" Brady was his son; the pair teamed up on a number of adventures after the turn of the century) was a tall, strapping man of Australian descent (although the texts themselves are contradictory on this point, sometimes saying that he's Irish) (I'm unaware of any specific origin) who became famous as the New York Detective. Brady is not confined to New York City, however, he ranges across the United States, being particularly active (and yet somehow out of place) in the Old West, going up against the James Brothers or Billy the Kid.
Cliff Faraday was created by Weldon J. Cobb and appeared in Army & Navy Weekly, Half-Holiday, and True Blue from 1897 to 1899. He was a cadet at Annapolis, originally from Hartford (CT), who gains glory and advancement in the Spanish-American War. He is helped by Vic Rollins, a former rival, "Nanny" Gote, the "smallest plebe in the Academy," Trolley the Japanese student, and Grat Wallace.
Thaddeus Fergus, along with his friends Oliver Wade and Simon "Simple Simon" van Twiller, appeared in the Red Raven Library in 1905. Thaddeus, Oliver, and Simon are natives of New York City in the 17th century who want to win fame and fortune and set out to capture the pirate Captain Kidd to fulfill their desires. They end up being captured and serving under Kidd and his ruthless lieutenant, the "Dragon," on Kidd's ship, the Red Raven. After the trio end up escaping from Kidd and helping in his capture they set out to capture Sir Henry Morgan, and eventually do so after various piratical adventures.
Handsome Harry was created by E. Harcourt Burrage and appeared in The Boys' Standard in 1876. Handsome Harry is actually Harry Marshton, an outcast and the son of Sir Henry Marshton. (Sir Henry turns out to be Captain Brockton, a pirate who was driven to a life of crime and piracy through the evil acts of a dastard) Harry is the captain of the Belvedere and sails it around the world, having adventures in Africa, Spain, Russia and England. The Belvedere is actually owned by the Spanish Don Baptista Salvo, whose daughter Juanita (Harry's future bride) is on the Belvedere with Harry and the rest of the crew: Tom True, the first mate, William Grunt, the boatswain, Samson, the stereotypical African seaman, and Eddard Cutten, the peg-legged seadog. After capturing the Rattlesnake, a pirate ship, they take on board Ching-Ching. Wackiness, as they say, ensues.
John L., Jr. This character, obviously meant to cash in on the public's familiarity with prize-fighter John L. Sullivan, was created by Alfred B. Tozer and appeared in New York 5 Cent Library from 1892 to 1893. John Lawrence is a newsboy in New York's Bowery. He discovers that he stands to inherit scads of money from his biological father, but then has his inheritance taken away from him by the evil attorneys Hall and Means. So John takes up prize-fighting to pay for his lawyers. John is trained by the "Pacific Champion" and backed by his friends from the street and begins boxing and winning. He eventually becomes a champion and wins back his inheritance.
Paul Jones was created by John DeMorgan and appeared in Paul Jones Weekly in 1905 and 1906. Based (loosely) on the life of the historical Ameican naval officer and hero, John Paul Jones, Paul Jones is a heroic and valiant naval officer who serves on various ships during the American revolution. He is a Virginian and is two-fistedly heroic on both land and sea.
Jack Lightfoot, boy athlete, was created by John Whitson and Frederick Davis and appeared in All-Sports Library from 1905 to 1906. Jack is the best athlete at Cranford High School. He would have attended prestigious Cranford Academy, only the evil Professor Sanderson, Cranford's Principal, kept him out. Jack went to Cranford High, instead, and began standing out as a several-sport athlete, bringing pride to his mother and sister Daisy (father John is missing until late in the series). Jack is notable for his lack of confidence in himself--a rarity in the dime novels--and his numerous, quite human, faults. He eventually enters Seagirt Academy and is on his way to Harvard at the series' end. His girlfriends are Kate Strawn and then Kitty Percival, and his best friends are his cousin Tom Lightfoot (the bookworm), Phil Kirtland, Ned Skeen, Nat "Gnat" Kimball, Lafe Lampton, Jerry Mulligan, and Jube Marlin.
Mark Mallory was created by Upton Sinclair (!) and appeared in Army & Navy Weekly and Half-Holiday from 1897 to 1898. Mallory is a native of Denham's Gulch, Colorado, and is on at trip East for his boss when he meets a group of West Point cadets. He likes what he sees of the cadets and of West Point, they think he's a candidate for admission, and soon enough he becomes a cadet at the Point. He has various adventures.
Frank Manley was created by Harrie Hancock and appeared in Young Athlete's Weekly & Frank Manley's Weekly from 1905 to 1906. He's a 17-year old student at Dr. Holbrook's academy in Woodstock, the upright supporter of his widowed mother, and the idol of the other boys in the school and especially in the Woodstock Junior Athletic Club (aka the "Up-and-at-'em Boys"). Frank is a studly athlete, expert in...all of them, pretty much. He is friends with Hal Spofford and Joe Prescott, is the mentor of Jack Winston (the smallest boy in the Club), and is on good terms with "Inow Sato," the Japanese student in the Club who is so adept at "Jiu-Jitsu" that he can bring people back to life with it. No, really.
Steve Manley was created by Frederick W. Davis and appeared in Shield Weekly in 1901. He's an orphan in "Pittsburg" working at a glass works when he begins reading some detective stories. This inspires him enough to begin fighting crime on his own. He joins the police force and wins his detective badge, becoming one of Chief of Detectives Roger O'Mara's men.
Lt. Hal Maynard was created by several writers, including Upton Sinclair, and appeared in Starry Flag Weekly from 1898 to 1899. He was a boy hero who fights for America in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, enrolling in West Point only near the end of the series. Maynard works undercover in Cuba, doing things like scouting fortifications, stealing the identity and i.d. of Spanish secret agents, saving women from the Spanish soldiers, spying on troop maneuvers, and such-like. He owns his own ship, the Racer.
Motor Matt was created by Donald Grayson and appeared in Motor Stories in 1909. Matt "Motor Matt" King is a boy genius of mechanics who travels around the world, exploring, adventuring, and in generally committing feats of derring-do. He uses motorcycles, cars, airplanes and submarines of his own design. He is accompanied by the Chub McReady (young), Welcome Perkins (one-legged), Carl Pretzel (German), and Dick Ferral (Canadian).
Will Prentiss appeared in Blue and Gray Weekly from 1904 to 1905. He was the son of "Colonel Jeff Prentiss," of Richmond, Virginia and a member of Jeff Davis' staff. Will is a simple student at Fairdale College in New York at the beginning of the war. He goes from New York to Virginia, forms a group called the "Virginia Grays," and enlists. He has various adventures but is forced, in the last issue, to surrender, and settles in Virginia at the war's end.
Phil Rushington appeared in Do and Dare from 1900 to 1901. He was an orphan, living with his Uncle and guardian James Rushington and going to school at Springvale Academy in upstate New York. He has various adventures while touring with a vaudeville company. At series' end his uncle dies and he inherits a small fortune. He is helped by his best friend Walter Arkwright and his girlfriend Dora Warren.
Dick Slater appeared in Liberty Boys of '76 from 1901 to 1912, in over 600 stories. He's a boy hero of the American Revolution. After his father Hiram was killed by Tory sympathizers, Dick, then 18, cries vengeance and joins the American rebels. He kills the man who murdered his father and then forms his own militia group, with himself as Captain. They find George Washington, gaining members and numbering over 100, and pledge themselves to Washington's service. They go on to have various missions, always successful, fighting not just the British but various Indians and nasty renegades. Dick's best friend Bob Estabrook, who is in love with Dick's sister Edith and whose sister Alice is Dick's girlfriend.
Jack Standfast was created by Horace Paine and appeared in 58 stories in Boys' Best Weekly from 1909 to 1910. He was a hero who attended Garland College and was an adventurous stalwart who was good at sports as well as making his way in the wilderness. He was helped by Harry Chester, his best friend, Storm P. "Stormy Petrel" Jones, the trouble-maker of the group, Villum Hoofnagle, the German boy from Milwaukee, Tyrus Langworthy, the Kentuckian, and Alec McIntyre, the Canadian. Jack's girlfriend is Helen Meyer, and his arch-enemy is Henry Stevens, who also attends Garland U. Jack's catch-phrase is "the law of the square deal," which he wholeheartedly believes in.
Phil and Ralph Stirling appeared in Red, White and Blue from 1896 to 1897 and then in Adventure Weekly from 1897 to 1898. In their first run the Stirlings were cousins who fought in the Civil War, Ralph (from the mountains of northwestern Maryland) for the South and Phil (from Pine Grove, Pennsylvania) for the North. Ralph joins the Confederate Navy and Phil joins the Union Cavalry; they do this so that won't ever have to meet in battle. Besides their front-line battle, they also perform various acts of espionage. They keep up with each other by reading the newspaper accounts.
In their second series, set just after the end of the Civil War, the Stirlings were commissioned by Secretary of War Stanton, to act as "free lances" in China, helping General Ki-Yo against the Tai-ping rebels and thereby serving the interests of the U.S. government. The Stirlings did so, helped by Jupiter Napoleon Jones (the African-American), Tim McCarthy (the Irishman), Claymore Bruce and Job Jinks. Flora Spencer, of Eurasian background, acts as the love interest and the villain is John Ashley, the evil English arms merchant.
Ted Strong appeared in 175 issues of Rough Rider Weekly from 1904 to 1907. The "King of the Wild West," he was a cowboy hero who served as a sergeant in Col. Theodore Roosevelt's cavalry during the Spanish-American War before returning to the "Black Hills of North Dakota" (sic, needless to say) to take care of the ranch left to him by his grandfather. Ted does, defeating the efforts of the evil lawyer Rossiter to take the ranch, its land, and the gold upon it from Ted. Ted then gathers a group of friends around him, dubs them the "Rough Riders," and goes on a series of adventures, both on the Black Mountain Ranch and across the frontier, from Oregon to Mexico. Ted's friends include Kit Summers (quick and wiry), Ben Tremont (the giant blond former college athlete), Jack Slate (the drawling Bostonian fop) (didn't you know that all of us from Boston drawl and are fops?), Thaddeus Perkins (the "human beanpole"), Doc Fenton (he's the group doctor, and quite good at it, too), Josiah Durkin (short, porky, and a would-be thespian), and Carl Schwartz (the German stereotype). Ted even teamed up with Nick Carter once.
The Three Chums were created by S.A.D. Cox and appeared in 60 stories in Three Chums from 1899 to 1900. The Three Chums were Ben Bright, Dorothy Dare, and Tom True, three chums who attended Raymond's Academy in Bronxton, in upstate New York. Ben is the leader of the three, stalwart, true, and brave. Tom is "true as steel," the best chum anyone could hope to have and good in a fight; he's also more level-headed and cautious. Dorothy is "a beautiful winsome lass of some seventeen years" is modest, has a great singing voice, and accompanies the boys on a number of adventures, often getting kidnaped and requiring rescuing but on the odd occasion doing the same for the boys. They have various adventures in and around Bronxton before graduating from Raymond's Academy and attending Columbia (Dorothy goes to Barnard College). They travel around the US and the world and even join the Olympics in Greece. By series' end Ben has married Dorothy and Tom marries Dorothy's best friend, Mamie Blair.
Union Dick appeared in Five Cent Weekly in 1883; he was a "Yankee Spy" who fought against the Confederacy.
Tom Wright appeared in 70 stories in Comrade from 1900 to 1901. He's a college graduate and son of a retired banker who goes to work for the C. and M. Railroad in Chicago and has various do-gooding adventures while working his way up through the ranks of the railway, going from station agent to division superintendent. He eventually starts working in cattle country. His sweeties are variously Ruth Gibson and Edith Hollister, and his friends are Harry Penfield, Jabez Stebbins, and Fred Farley.
Yankee Doodle appeared in Yankee Doodle for fourteen stories during 1898. He's actually Phil Freeman, an 18-year-old drummer boy for a New York regiment during the Spanish-American War. Naturally, he earns acclaim for various acts of bravery both on the battlefield and behind enemy lines. His best friends are Joe Bailey, a fife player, and Pedro, an aging Cuban.
Young Glory was created by Walter Fenton Mott and appeared in 19 stories in Young Glory in 1898. He's Jack Lee, a 16-year-old sailor fighting for the Americans during the Spanish-American War. He serves under Captain James "Fighting Jim" Perry on the Indiana and gains glory and fame for acts of bravery on various ships, both fighting and sinking, and for his work behind enemy lines, in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Spain. His arch-enemy is Jose Castro, the most infamous of the Spanish spies.
Young Klondike was created by Francis Doughty and appeared in 39 stories in Young Klondike from 1898 to 1899. He's actually Ned Golden, a former employee of a New York city notion house who set out for the Klondike to make his fortune. He is accompanied by three figures. The first is his friend Dick Luckey, who was fired by a New York brokerage firm and fell in with Ned. The second is a mysterious detective known as the Great Unknown; the Great Unknown is on the trail of a mysterious, unnamed suspect, but what he really is is comic relief. The last member of the quartet is Edith Welton, a plucky young lass who headed West to find her real father. The four have various adventures finding gold and fighting Indians and thieves.
Young Wide Awake appeared in Wide Awake Weekly for 96 stories, from 1907 to 1908. He's actually Dick Halstead, a 17-year-old native of Belmont (state not specified) who is the Captain of Washington One, the boys' fire fighting company of Belmont. He gains his nickname for his alertness during his first fire. He is assisted in the company by his friends Joe Darrell, Terry Rourke, Hal Norton, Sam Bangs, and Ted Lester; when the series comes to an end, with all the fires fought and the bad guys defeated, Dick cedes captaincy of the company to George Anderson, goes to college, graduates, becomes a civil engineer, and marries his long-time love Kitty Lester, with everybody Living Happily Ever After.
Unfortunately, as is often the case with dime novel characters, Old King Brady is not a well-defined or three-dimensional character. He is strong, and good with his fists and his guns, is not unjust in his decisions, and is quite persistent. The one real wrinkle to be found in his personality is that, when he ventures to the "Frontier" in pursuit of the James Boys, in "Old King Brady and the James Boys in Missouri" (1889), he is unable to capture the James Boys because of his own inability to comprehend the ethical codes of the West; he accords primacy to right and wrong, where those in the West (according to the story) "give singular importance to courage and manhood," which the James Boys embody and which is why those in the West won't help Brady capture the James Boys. (On other occasions--King went after the James Brothers 31 times--King was somewhat more successful in capturing the James Boys, although they never stayed caught). King does, sometimes, display a "mystic" or "intuitive" gift for finding out the true criminals and helping the innocent. He is also (quite normally for this time and place and genre) loyal to the "honest workingman" while hostile towards "radicals." He is not, however, a master of disguise, like Old Cap Collier or Old Sleuth or Nick Carter or any of King Brady's other rivals.
In time he fathers Young King Brady, his son Harry, who grows (suspiciously quickly) into a strapping young lad and joins his father in the Brady Bureau, "of Union Square, New York City." They look alike, except for the difference in age, and when not in disguise (Young King Brady has all of Old King's abilities, down to the extraordinary strength) they dress similarly, in black fedoras, Prince Albert coats and freshly-pressed trousers. (In King's first story he was a "tall, distinguished old gentleman of striking appearance and peculiar dress...a long blue coat with brass buttons, an old-fashioned stock and stand-up collar, and a big white hat with an extraordinarily broad brim." Another story had Old King Brady meeting another son, Dr. Horace Brady, but by the next story Dr. Horace had disappeared. Old King Brady is also assisted by a member of his detective agency: Alice, a very attractive amnesiac whose life Old King saved. Old King then helped her regain her memory, reunite with her father, and brought her on-board his agency. Young King and Alice became quite interested in each other, though it was never explicitly stated that they married.
rainerd, Johnny. Johnny Brainerd was the creation of Edward S. Ellis, and despite Brainerd's and Ellis' lone appearance here they deserve pride of place, for they are both responsible for creating the Edisonade genre which was so dominant in dime literature for several decades.
Edward S. Ellis was a New Jersey teacher and principal. He was also a very successful writer--so successful that he gave up on education to become a full-time writer, a very risky career move in the early 1870s. Although the preponderance of his work was histories and historical biographies (like The Life of Davy Crockett (1884) and Thomas Jefferson (1898), which can be found here at the Project Gutenberg archive), he also wrote a number of dime novels. By far his most successful (over the long-run) was "The Huge Hunter, or the Steam Man of the Prairies," which first appeared in Irwin P. Beadle's American Novels #45 (August, 1868) before being turned into a novel and reprinted many times over.
Johnny Brainerd, as is so often the case in popular literature, set the stereotype of the Edisonade inventor but was superior to the imitations which followed. He is not the too-perfect, upright White White White prig that the Frank Reade, Jrs and the Tom Edison Jrs. were; Johnny Brainerd, Edisonade though he is, is a bit closer to someone that might conceivably exist.
Johnny Brainerd is a small, hunch-backed dwarf, the teenaged son of a widow whose only means of support are the patents that his dead father, an ingenious mechanic, had secured. As a bright-eyed child in St. Louis he was continually inventing things--wonderful toys, miniature steam boats and locomotives that were perfect and operational in every way, a clock that kept perfect time, a working telegraph, and so on. All of these he created MacGyver-style, using only a jackknife, hammer and chisel.
But he ran out of things to invent, and complained to his mother, who suggested that he build "a man that shall go by steam." This idea gripped wee Johnny, and he spent "several weeks in thought" before beginning to construct it. After a series of false starts he managed to make the Steam Man--which is not an android but merely an engine in the shape of a man.
Brainerd is, in personality, a very nice guy (if you overlook the killing of the Indians, I mean). "When he went to school, he was a general favorite with teachers and pupils. The former loved him for his sweetness and disposition and his remarkable proficiency in all studies, while the latter based their affection chiefly upon the fact that he never refused to assist any of them at their tasks, while with the pocket-knife which be carried he constructed toys, which were their delight."
The description of the Steam Man given in the text is as follows:
It was about ten feet in hight [sic], measuring to the top of the "stove-pipe hat," which was fashioned after the common order of felt coverings, with a broad brim, all painted a shiny black. The face was made of iron, painted a black color, with a pair of fearful eyes, and a tremendous grinning mouth. A whistle-like contrivance was made to answer for the nose. The steam chest proper and boiler, were where the chest in a human being is generally supposed to be, extending also into a large knapsack arrangement over the shoulders and back. A pair of arms, like projections, held the shafts, and the broad flat feet were covered with sharp spikes, as though he were the monarch of base-ball [sic] players. The legs were quite long, and the step was natural, except when running, at which time, the bolt uprightness in the figure showed differed from a human being.It tows behind it a wagon (also specially designed by Johnny, the wagon is durable, with heavy springs and a canvas covering) in which Johnny Brainerd and any passengers ride and which carries the wood to feed the Steam Man. Obviously the weakness of the S.M. is that, as a steam-engine, it has to be continually fed or it will run out of steam. And it moves jerkily at first. But once it builds up a full head of steam it's capable of moving 30 miles an hour (no small feat, that, given the time and place in which it's operating) and gliding "almost as smoothly as if running a railroad." It lacks a front lamp, but it does have a locomotive whistle which is very useful in frightening away the "savages."
In the knapsack were the valves, buy which the steam or water was examined. In front was a painted imitation of a vest, in which a door opened to receive the fuel, which, together with the water, was carried in the wagon, a pipe running along the shaft and connecting with the boiler.
The lines which the driver held controlled the course of the steam man; thus, by pulling the strap on the right, a deflection was caused which turned it in that direction, and the same acted on the other side. A small rod, which ran along the right shaft, let out or shut off the steam, as was desired, while a cord, running along the left, controlled the whistle at the nose.
The legs of this extraordinary mechanism were fully a yard apart, so as to avoid the danger of its upsetting, and at the same time, there was given more room for the play of the delicate machinery within. Long, sharp, spike-like projections adorned the soles of the immense foot, so that there was little danger of its slipping, while the length of the legs showed that, under favorable circumstances, the steam man must be capable of very great speed.
Little Johnny, sweet-faced and bright-eyed despite his deformities, takes up with the "strong, hardy, bronzed trapper" Baldy Bicknell, the "Huge Hunter" of the story's title, and the pair head west to go hunting for gold and scaring the "injins."
They use the Steam Man to frighten off and escape from the "red-skins" (who of course are too primitive to know what the invention of a White Man would do and so are frightened away). Brainerd also tries to frighten off a buffalo, but it charges and hits the SM, though it doesn't "materially injure" the machine. He also kills a bear (typically for an Edisonade, joyfully despoiling the wilderness).
"With the large amount of money realized from his western trip, Johnny Brainerd is educating himself at one the best schools in the country. When be shall have completed his course, it is his intention to construct another steam man, capable of more wonderful performances than the first." He has also, earlier in the novel, mentioned possibly making "steam horses" in the future--similar, perhaps, to Jack Wright's electric deer?
The Huge Hunter is not a good novel, even by the standards of the time, being full of ethnic stereotyping. But it deserves to be remembered, as does Brainerd, because of its influence on the popular literature of the time.
A real-life Steam Man.
rett, Dixon. Dixon Brett was one of the more notable and longer-running characters of the Aldine magazines. However, despite a number of references to him in various sources, certain key bits of information about Brett are missing. It's not known who created him or even when he first appeared. E.S. Turner, in his wonderful Boys Will Be Boys, claims that Brett was an experienced sleuth when Sexton Blake was a neophyte, and that Brett had already cracked many a case by the mid-1890s. The obvious implication here is that Brett was created in the early 1890s or perhaps late 1880s in one of the Aldine papers. However, there's no proof of this, and no one has any evidence on Brett appearing in the 1890s at all. (I did write to Mr. Turner and got a very nice note in response, but unfortunately his notes from Boys Will Be Boys are long gone). Thanks to Steve Holland I can tell you that Brett's appearances in Tip Top Tales were from at least 1910, and that his appearances in the Diamond Library were from at least 1911, but I can't give you any more information on dates than that, nor on story titles. We know that he appeared in Cheerful Adventure Library: First Series, which ran for 27 issues from May 1911 through November 1911, and we know that he appeared in Aldine Detective Tales: Second Series from its beginning, which ran for 28 issues from February 1922 through March 1923, and he definitely appeared in Dixon Brett's Detective Library, which ran for 28 issues from October 1926 through November 1927. But I don't know when his one novel, Dixon Brett, Detective, appeared--mid-1920s, I think--or any of the other magazines he might have appeared in.
But E.S. Turner is a good, reliable source, and without a solid piece of evidence to contradict him I won't say anything. So I'm going to make the assumption that Dixon Brett debuted in the Aldine Detective Tales: First Series, which appeared in 1889 (preceding Blake by four years) and ran for 348 issues through 1906. Assuming that Brett's debut was within a year or two after the Aldine Detective Tales began, that would give him a run of two to three years' stories before Blake began and support Turner's statement. It is a fact that Brett appeared in Aldine Detective Tales years later, circa 1900, so it may be that Aldine Detective Tales, rather than Aldine Cheerful Library (1894-1911) or Aldine Half-Holiday (1892-1910) or Aldine "Life & Adventure" Library (1891-1893) or Aldine O'er Land and Sea Library (1890-1905), was the magazine that gave birth to Dixon Brett.
Like Sexton Blake and Nelson Lee and Dixon Hawke, Dixon Brett took on a variety of enemies and villains, often anarchists and often exotic. Brett was a "scientific sleuth," who made use of the most recent scientific advances, like Roëntgen rays, to solve crimes. His laboratory was up-to-date and filled with the most advanced instruments, which often came in very useful while hunting down criminals and figuring how just how a murder victim had been killed, or just what kind of seed had been left at the scene of a crime.
Brett was tall and handsome, with grey hair and a distinguished face; his eyes "glowed a cat-like green" when he was excited. Brett was, naturally, a very good detective as well as being a stout fighter and crack shot with the revolver. His home was an expansive flat in Lincoln's Inn on Gray's Inn Road in London; when Brett was not actively roaring around England, he lounged around his chambers, wearing a loose (but expensive) dressing grown, sitting in a deep chair and smoking an "evil-smelling briar" or "igniting a choice weed." When Brett is on the case, however, he wears "immaculate evening dress" under a fur-lined overcoat.
Brett's two assistants were Pat Malone and Bill Slook. Malone was the Number One assistant, the more adult of the pair and, although a hot-tempered Irishman (as the name would indicate, to a late Victorian-era audience), more level-headed and more useful to Brett, as well as being much more capable in a fight. Slook is "a freak," in that he looks only sixteen, even though he is actually 32 years old. His appearance is even more remarkable when you consider that Brett rescued Slook from a life of degradation in an opium den, a lifestyle hardly conducive to youthful looks. Slook decided that there were advantages to be had in "combining the face and form of a boy with the age and ripe experience of a fully-grown man," and put Slook to work for him. Unfortunately for Brett, Slook's role was most often that of Robin, The Boy Hostage. When Slook was not being kidnapped and held hostage by Brett's enemies, he was staggering into Brett's flat, poisoned or tortured.
Brett had two big advantages over his enemies and many of his rivals. The first was the Night Hawk, Brett's Mercedes racer. It is a powerful machine which outmatched everything thrown against it and which thrived despite Brett's hard treatment of it. Brett's second advantage is his group of friends, who are specialists (the most advanced in the world in their respective fields, of course) and who are willing to drop everything to help old Dixon. One, a Dr. Yoshimaro, greets Brett with "Welcome, O Friend of ten thousand virtues," to which Brett responds with
Greeting, O faithful son of ten million illustrious ancestors! The sight of thy radiant countenance, beside which the sun at noon is even as a dishonourable farthing candle, has healed me of all things. O Yoshimaro, the wise, beside whom the Sacred Owl of Wisdom is a babbling and absurd idiot!(You get the idea).
Brett's adventures were on the wilder side. Poisons were always exotic and unknown, deaths were typically over-the-top--so much so that one could be forgiven for thinking that one had stumbled upon a Victorian-era The Abominable Dr. Phibes Rises Again--and the means of death extreme--everything from liquid air to heat rays. And, naturally, Brett's enemies were similarly extreme. Although he never had quite the Rogues Gallery of Blake or Lee, his opponents were still respectably evil. There were, of course, the run-of-the-mill anarchists, gangsters, corrupt industrialists, nihilists, and the like, but there were also figures like Fan Chu Fang for Brett to deal with. Fan Chu Fang, the Wizard Mandarin, terrorised London for weeks until Brett put an end to his evil plans. Fang was "a veritable archangel of evil," an agent of the Chinese government who successfully raided Buckingham Palace and who used opium and hypnotism to bring low his enemies. Besides Fan Chu Fang, there was the Crocodile and his gang, apaches in Paris, the London Hawks, the Seven, the League of the Dragon, and the Red Venus Gang. There was the Crime King, head of all the criminals in London. There were the "Baker's Dozen," a team-up of thirteen of the foulest crooks imaginable. There was the Tiger of Paris, a rather lethal apache. And there was the Black Eagle, a cunning gentleman thief.
It's hard to say that Brett was an immortal, but like Blake, Lee, and Hawke he was very long lived and successful.
retwyche, Lady. Lady Bretwyche was created by Frances E. Millett Notley and appeared in Red Riding Hood (1883). Notley (1820-?) was a British writer and editor who wrote several mostly anonymous stories and novels; her most successful was the romance/murder mystery Olive Varcoe. Red Riding Hood is one of the lesser Anarchist novels of the 1880s, a less successful love story than Sir Percival (see the Virginia Clare entry) and a less successful novel of Anarchy than When All Men Starve (see the Mr. Lampooner entry). Red Riding Hood is a well written but dull love story about Lady Bretwyche, who is a young grandmother With A Past. She had formerly been a Nihilist, acting the spy and agent for them. That was all when she was younger, however, when she was an “adventuress of low birth, of evil antecedents,” when she could fairly be described as "satanic" and a "fiend." She betrayed the Nihilists to save herself, and went to live genteely in England and raise a family. Her lover, Lord Enderby, is not sympathetic to the Nihilists–he used to be one before realizing what they really were and leaving them–and her past causes friction between them. She eventually gives herself up to the police to save Enderby.
Lady Bretwyche is a young and very attractive grandmother, “remarkable in stature, beauty and grace.” She’s witty and cynical.
rissac, Andre de. Andre de Brissac was created by Miss Braddon and appeared in “Eveline’s Visitant” (from Ralph the Bailiff, 1862). Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835-1915) was the creator of Joseph Peters, and I have some information on her there. “Eveline’s Visitant” is a story of cruel revenge, and if it’s not a conte cruel it’s still quite unkind.
In the time of Philip of Orleans Hector, the narrator of “Eveline’s Visitant,” is a rough soldier of poor attainments who is beguiled by a woman, a “beautiful viper,” into quarreling with his first cousin André de Brissac. André is a handsome man, “the favourite of Fortune, the favourite of women,” but he has done Hector a wrong, and during the quarrel Hector strikes him, scarring his “fair womanish face.” This leads to a fight in which Hector mortally wounds André. Before André dies, however, he lays a curse on Hector, that “I will come to you when your life seems brightest. I will come to you and all that you hold fairest and dearest. My ghostly hand shall drop a poison in your cup of joy...it is my will to haunt you when I am dead.” André’s death makes Hector a rich man, and he goes to his newly-acquired château at Puy Verdun, but all the peasants of the local village avoid him, and he lives a dour, unhappy life alone. Eventually he desires to return to Paris, and it is there he meets Eveline Duchalet, a sweet young innocent who falls in love with him, and eventually he returns the emotion. They marry and return to Puy Verdun and are happy for three months, until she begins seeing, during her daily walks around the park and woods of the estate, a man, looking at her. He is handsome and dressed in an old-fashioned manner, and he has a scar on his face. He visits Eveline every day, and she begins to waste away, physically and then emotionally. Hector never sees her, but Eveline always does, and the man appears to her even in Switzerland, where Hector brings her to escape. Eventually Eveline dies, though not before confessing to Hector that the man’s visits changed her, took away the joys that she felt until she felt “no pleasure save in the sight of that pale face with the red brand upon it.” When she dies, “at the very last she told me, sobbing and affrighted, that he was by her side.”
Cheerful, eh? “Eveline’s Visitant” is a straightforward story of ghostly revenge. It’s not frightening–but then, I doubt Braddon meant it to be. It works on the level of the ghostly revenge story. Braddon’s style, with its lack of histrionics, plausible emotions, and ordinary narration enlightened by some nice visual images, works well in making the story memorable. But did Eveline really deserve this? No. Even Hector did not, since the first insult (implicitly, anyhow) was André’s, not Hector’s.
André is handsome and successful, both as a soldier and with women. But he’s also very proud, and when Hector scars him with a blow André is mortally offended. He is so offended, in fact, and so proud, that when he dies in a fair fight–that’s André’s own damn fault, remember–he can’t let it go, and simply must curse Hector. With the end result that poor Eveline is haunted to death. André’s a bastard.
road Arrow Jack. Broad Arrow Jack was created by E. Harcourt Burrage and appeared in the penny dreadful The Boys' Standard in 1866. Burrage (1839-1916) was one of the most prolific penny dreadful authors of the 19th century and was popularly known as "the boy's Charles Dickens." He wrote hundreds of serials for various journals, and was noted for being a staunch opponent of corporal punishment for schoolchildren; none of the boys in his stories were ever beaten by their masters. Burrage was better regarded by the press than most of the other boy's novels authors, being seen as someone who "carefully avoided all that tends to immorality," a statement rarely heard with regards to other authors of penny dreadfuls. Broad Arrow Jack is actually John Ashleigh, a young Englishman who was emigrating to Australia when their ship ran aground. Ashleigh and his father and brother were the only survivors. Once ashore they were captured by a band of robbers who were commanded by the notorious outlaw The Ogre, and when Jack refuses to kowtow to The Ogre he is branded on the back with a broad arrow, the traditional symbol of British authority. (The illustrations of Broad Arrow Jack show Jack parading around without a shirt on. Every illustration shows this). Jack's father and brother are killed by The Ogre and his gang, and Jack embarks on a campaign of revenge (against The Ogre and his foul crew) and robbery (against upper crust society); Jack turns into a Robin Hood-like character, preying on the undeserving rich and helping the unjustly put-upon poor. After the usual series of reversals, adventures, escapes and duels with criminals, thugs, and evil noblemen with names like Caliban, Wobbler, Conky and the sinister Pigeon (so-called for his evil trained birds) Jack ends his days as Sir John Ashleigh, married to an aristocrat and living in Rockholme Castle, somewhere in England.
rocket, Jack. Brocket was created by Arthur C. Doyle and appeared in "Selecting a Ghost," which appeared in London Society in 1883. Brocket isn't exactly an occult detective, although "Selecting a Ghost" somewhat requires him to be. He's more like a hustler, doing a little of this and a little of that to make money. To quote the narrator,
He was a rakish, clever young fellow, who had tried his hand at many things, but wanted perseverance to succeed at any. He was, at that time, in chambers in London, professing to be a general agent, and really living, to a great extent, upon his wits.Brocket, the cousin of the narrator's wife, does little services for (among others) the narrator, Silas "Argetine" D'Odd, and charges commissions for them. What's interesting, and the reason that he's here, is that D'Odd, feeling that his feudal mansion deserves a ghost of its own--the brutish prole Jorrocks of next-door Havistock Farm has a ghost of his own, and how could D'Odd do without one under those circumstances?--hires Brocket to find a ghost for him. Brocket instantly goes to his files, skims through his ledge, and produces a list of firms that will acquire and identify ghosts, as well as ones that supply mediums and love potions to the nobility and gentry, ones that carry out seances, and so on. (Of course, the person that Brocket eventually hires turns out to be a thief who robs D'Odd of several valuables, and the procession of ghosts that D'Odd sees are done for farce, as job applicants, but Brocket himself is interesting)
rooke, James. James Brooke was created by James Skipp Borlase and appeared in over a dozen short stories, originally published in the Australian Journal and collected in The Night Fossickers and Other Australian Tales of Peril and Adventure (1867). Borlase is an interesting man, much more so than his characters. He was a failed solicitor and a failed husband who became a writer out of desperation. He wrote widely, including a great deal of material for boys’ magazines like Boys’ Leisure Hour under the pseudonym of “J.J.G. Bradley,” but was also a plagiarist; substantial elements of several of his James Brooke stories were lifted from William Burrows (see below) stories.
The Brooke stories are detective stories set in Australia during the early years of its settlement by the British. Borlase’s debt to the Burrows author is obvious in the stories, from the mid-period (1850s) colonial Australia setting to the historical elements, including the titular night fossickers (scoundrels who do nothing by day but raid the tents and holes of successful miners under cover of night). But the Burrows stories were adventure stories with some crime and detection content. The Brooke stories are more clearly detective stories–casebook stories, to be exact. Casebook detective stories were precursors to police procedurals, and were fictionalized but realistic looks, with a significant amount of accurate detail, at contemporary police work.
Brooke is a detective in Melbourne. He was a “detective police officer” in England but left for reasons of conscience and decided to begin a new practice in Australia. When he arrived the police were quite ineffective, but after capturing the feared bushranger “Dick the Devil” Brooke organized a troop of twenty mounted officers who were quite successful at hunting down criminals. Brooke and his men worked for a pittance but could and did enrich themselves on the rewards for individual criminals. Brooke’s methods are straightforward: observation of evidence, searching for motive, basic deductions, and playing the probabilities in searching for a criminal. Brooke goes undercover when necessary. He’s not infallible, and is as capable of being fooled by his prey as any real detective. Brooke does not have the liberty of other casebook detectives, like Waters and Tom Fox, instead living a life much closer to the military than civilian, including living in barracks and being a part of a very military organization.
The stories are basic casebook, but like the Burrows stories they give the modern reader an interesting glimpse at the life and customs of Australia 150 years ago. Unfortunately, this includes the racism of that time; the native Australians are described in quite derogatory terms. This also includes a surprising amount of bloodshed. Even if the stories are fictionalized in favor of sensation for the reader’s sake, the general impression the reader gets is of a Wild West milieu, with brutality and bloodshed being quite common. This is true as much in Melbourne as it is in the gold fields, both areas which Brooke, a part of the mounted police, is called upon to police. So the stories are equal parts adventure fiction, with Brooke and his friends shooting it out with angry gold miners, and detective fiction. They are readable but no more, lacking much in the way of characterization, memorable dialogue, or even life.
Finally, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a series of stories set in the gold fields of Victoria (Australia) from 1879-1885. Doyle is usually said to have drawn on the work of Bret Harte in the writing of these stories. But some writers, including Stephen Knight and the redoubtable Michael Grost, see an influence on Doyle of the Australian casebook writers, including Mary Fortune (of the Mark Sinclair stories) and Borlase. Grost, in his Arthur Conan Doyle and Australian Casebook Fiction articles, argues for this–convincingly, in my view–and even sees a possible influence on Sherlock Holmes of Brooke’s personality. I’m a little dubious about the latter claim, simply because Brooke is so one-dimensional.
rooke, Loveday. C.L. Pirkis created Loveday Brooke. Pirkis (1839-1910) was a writer of some minor note during the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s, producing 14 novels and numerous short stories; after 1894 she gave up writing fiction and began campaigning for animal rights, founding (with her husband) the National Canine Defence League. Pirkis remains best known for Loveday Brooke, whose first appearances were in The Ludgate Monthly in 1893 and whose stories were collected the following year in The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective. In some ways the Loveday Brooke stories are of great interest to the modern reader; the plots are never less than interesting, the style readable (in a Victorian sort of way), Loveday Brooke's position (as an employee of a "well-known detective agency in Lynch Court, Fleet Street," reporting to a male boss) and relationship with her boss, and her exploits themselves are of interest for what they say and don't say about societal conventions and what was and was not acceptable to Victorian society. Too, Loveday Brooke's background is interesting for some of the same reasons. Rendered bankrupt and friendless "by a jerk of Fortune's wheel," Loveday Brooke "chose for herself a career that had cut her off sharply from her former associates and her position in society." After five or six years of drudging "patiently in the lower walks of her profession," she ended up, by chance, aiding Ebenezer Dyer, the head of a detective agency. He was quickly impressed with her and began giving her steady work "that brought increase of pay and of reputation alike to him and to Loveday." She's neither beautiful nor ugly, and her dress is "invariably black, and...almost Quaker-like in its neat primness." She is a dutiful employee of her firm, has great common sense and an inordinate shrewdness.
And yet Loveday Brooke is not a likable character; she is uptight and something of a prig in the classic (now stereotyped) Victorian manner. Oh, she is always calm and capable, and a very thorough and efficient detective, but one receives the feeling, reading the stories, of a basically unsympathetic character, despite her occasional displays of compassion. Which is why the Loveday Brooke stories, for all their quality, are not nearly as enjoyable a read as some of the other, more poorly-written ones.
Brooke: The 'Lady Detective' As Career Woman
An insightful essay on Ms. Brooke from Chris Willis' Women Detectives site
of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective
Two e-texted stories, from our wonderful friends at Gaslight.
rown, Goodman. Goodman Brown was created by Nathaniel Hawthorne and appeared in “Young Goodman Brown” (New England Magazine, April 1835). Hawthorne (1804-1864) was the creator of Dr. Heidegger, and I have information on him there. “Young Goodman Brown” is a dark masterpiece of savage nihilism. Goodman Brown has an appointment in the forest, so he kisses his new wife Faith goodbye and sets out at sunset from Salem village. His wife is troubled by this journey, whose reason she knows nothing of, and Brown himself is not happy about it, but it has to be done, “and after this one night I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.” So off he walks, and soon enough he meets his “man:” “the figure of a man, in grave and decent attire,” looking around fifty years old and bearing a staff with the “likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent.” The two walk into the forest. While they go, Brown voices reluctance to walk any farther, saying that his father would never have done this, nor his grandfather, and that he comes from a long line of “honest men and good Christians.” The other “man” says, “Well said, Goodman Brown! I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; and that’s no trifle to say. I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem; and it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philip’s war. They were my good friends, both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and returned merrily after midnight. I would fain be friends with you for their sake.” Goodman Brown marvels that he never heard such a thing, especially since “the least rumor of the sort would have them driven from New England. We are a people of prayer, and good works to boot, and abide no such wickedness. The other “man” responds, “Wickedness or not, I have a very general acquaintance here in New England. The deacons of many a church have drunk the communion wine with me; the selectmen of divers towns make me their chairman; and a majority of the Great and General court are firm supports of my interest. The governor and I, too–But these are state secrets.” And on it goes, with the pair meeting people who Brown thinks highly of, only to have his illusions pierced by the other “man.” The night culminates in a Black Sabbath populated by so many faces Brown thought highly of–including Faith. Brown passes out before he and Faith are given the baptism of evil. When Brown awakens, it is still night, and he is in the middle of the forest, all alone. He returns to Salem a bewildered man, and from that point forward his marriage is poisoned, and he dies sad and embittered, “for his dying hour was gloom.”
“Young Goodman Brown” is one of those classics most of us had to read in either high school or college or both and never return to as adults. That is a shame, since it’s only as adults that we can properly admire the bleak assault on human society that is the story. Hawthorne leaves open the possibility that it’s all a dream, that Brown simply suffered through a horrendous nightmare and never recovered from it, but the message of the story is clear, and a very dark message it is, too, one that does not depend on the existence of the supernatural: we’re all foul hypocrites. The vision of humanity in “Young Goodman Brown” is that the masks we all wear cover up the worst sins we ever suspected of others and ourselves. Hawthorne singles out the Puritans and uses them as the vehicle for this criticism, but the moral equally applies across cultures and time; Hawthorne was as much commenting on the Salem of his own time as on the Salem of his ancestors’. It’s almost harrowing, the story, and it is unrelenting and merciless. Hawthorne’s version of Satan as a rather genial father figure is one Hawthorne had used before, in “My Kinsman, Major Molineux,” but here the outcome of the night-time journey is negative and destructive, unlike the ultimately positive outcome of “Major Molineux.”
Goodman Brown undergoes a harrowing night time journey, one that John Clute describes as the “Into The Woods” trip, in which the traveler’s personality is permanently altered by the journey. He began as a faithful Puritan, in love with his wife and greatly troubled by his errand, which he kept trying to put off. But Brown was weak and listened to the devil, and became a gloomy, depressed, and dour man. The moral of the story? Don’t go into the woods at night, kids!
rown Dog. The Brown Dog was created by “Theo Gift” and appeared in “Dog or Demon?” (Not for the Night-Time, 1867). “Theo Gift” was the pseudonym of Theodora Havers Boulger (1847-1923), a British short story writer and novelist, best known for her domestic drama Pretty Miss Bellew (1875). “Dog or Demon?” is one of those rare horror stories in which the predictable denouement takes place, but it is the epilogue which becomes frightening.
Captain Glennie is a good officer of the Army, who leaves service after the marriage of his wife Lily. But late in her pregnancy he accepts an invitation from his friend Lord Kilmoyle to go to Ireland and help Kilmoyle evict from a cottage a particularly obstreperous tenant who has refused to pay rent for the past year, and only a modicum of rent the previous three years. The tenant won’t leave the cottage, no matter what Glennie and Kilmoyle say to him; the man just sits in the cottage, big brown dog at his feet, and points a gun at Glennie and Kilmoyle. Finally the latter are forced to seal the man inside the cottage and smoke him out by setting a fire in the cottage. The man stumbles out, coughing and half suffocated, and so Glennie and Kilmoyle are triumphant–but the man’s dog is tied up in a pigsty near the house, and the pigsty catches fire during the eviction and dies. The tenant is livid and calls down a curse on Glennie and Kilmoyle. As Glennie is returning home–he’s gotten a letter from Lily, who is nervous about him, especially because Glennie told her about the raid–they run over the carcass of the dog, and pass the dog’s companion, the tenant, sitting by the side of the road, wailing. Soon after Glennie returns home, Lily gives birth, and the pair are happy. But then Lily starts hearing the soft pad-pad-pad of dog’s feet, and seeing a big black dog moving around the gardens of the house. Glennie decides to take her to the country–she’s had a shock, poor dear, and needs a change of location–and they get an Irish girl to nurse their child. But the nurse turns out to be the granddaughter of the tenant, and she quits, and the dog ventures into the house.... It ends badly, with the baby’s throat torn open, Lily driven insane with fear of the dog and then dead, and Glennie having shot himself after shooting Lily: “I have seen it! It was there! On her! Better this than a madhouse! There is no other escape.”
The premise of “Dog or Demon?” is a familiar one to readers with even a small experience of horror stories: the Vengeful Pet. So there’s little mystery or suspense for modern readers in what happens to Glennie and Lily’s child, although Boulger tells the story efficiently. But it’s what happens after the baby is killed that makes the story worth reading. Before the baby’s death Boulger only provides hints about the dog and alludes to its haunting the family. After the baby’s death Lily begins describing it more openly, and Glennie, who has been saying that it was all Lily’s delusion, begins seeing a shadow moving outside the house, and hearing “the sound of soft, unshod feet going pit, pat, pit, pat upon the stairs as they retreated downwards.” It’s in this last section that Boulger’s descriptions become pleasantly scary. And then the finale, with Glennie getting his comeuppance. Lily and the child didn’t deserve to die, but the callous way in which Glennie and Kilmoyle evict the tenant (the callousness is historically accurate; British landlords were usually far from gentle in treating their Irish tenants) and treat the death of the tenant’s canine companion wins them the reader’s antipathy.
We don’t get a sense of the dog’s personality before it dies. It’s just a big brown dog, attempting to protect its human companion. After it dies, however, it becomes vengeful, a big, black, burned and unmerciful hound of hell.
ucket, Inspector. Inspector Bucket was created by Charles Dickens and appeared in Bleak House (1852-1853). If you don’t know who Dickens was, you shouldn't be reading this, you should be catching up on your Little Big books, or perhaps reading Make Way For Ducklings; Dickens was the greatest of the British Victorian novelists, and every literate person should have read at least two of his works. Bleak House is a great and hugely entertaining novel, vastly entertaining, and although Bleak House is not a mystery the character of Inspector Bucket is the first significant detective in English literature.
Bleak House is about two things (you understand that in this entry more than most others I’m horribly castrating the novel’s plot with this summary; Bleak House is such a sprawling novel that any summary leaves out far too much): the lawsuit Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce, a never-ending lawsuit of several generations’ standing, and Esther Summerson, a poor woman who endures a loveless childhood in the “care” of a cold and unsympathetic godmother. Esther never knew her mother, who her godmother told her was wicked and had deserted her: “Your mother, Esther, is your disgrace, and you were hers.” When she is Esther is fourteen her godmother dies, and she is taken into the care of John Jarndyce, one of the many descendants of the original Jarndyces. Mr. Jarndyce brings Esther to his country mansion, Bleak House, to be the companion of his cousins Ada and Richard, who are Esther’s age. All three become fast friends, and Esther is happy for the first time in her life.
Meanwhile Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock, a well-to-do couple in Lincolnshire become involved in Jarndyce and Jarndyce when their lawyer, the formidable Tulkinghorn, shows Lady Dedlock a document whose handwriting causes Lady Dedlock to faint. Tulkinghorn is intrigued and traces the document to a copier, who is dead of an opium overdose when Tulkinghorn finds him. Esther acquires an admirer, whose proposal of marriage she declines, and another friend, Allan Woodcourt, a young doctor, who testifies at the copier’s inquest. A winding trail of evidence leads back to Lady Dedlock, who, it is revealed, had fallen in love, years before, with one Captain Hawdon, the dead copier. They had a child, Esther, but Lady Dedlock’s sister, angry at her sister’s disgrace, had taken the infant Esther away from Lady Dedlock, told her the baby was dead, and moved to another part of the country, to raise the girl herself.
Richard Carstone, who is part of the Jarndyce case, becomes obsessed with the suit. He abandons all efforts to establish a career and devotes himself to solving the case, even though it is clear to everyone, especially Ada, with whom he is in love, that believing in Jarndyce v Jarndyce is a false hope. Richard’s obsession leads to a separation (all Richard’s fault) with Mr. Jarndyce, who really does wish Richard only the best, and Ada marries Richard so that Richard can use her money to pay off the debts he incurs. Esther falls badly ill with smallpox, and when she recovers Lady Dedlock reveals herself to Esther as her mother. The illness, however, disfigures Esther, but this doesn’t prevent Mr. Jarndyce from proposing to her. She happily accepts. (As a sidebar, Esther can’t be more than 16 or 17 at this point, and Jarndyce is at least 60, but their engagement doesn’t strike anyone in the novel as icky, despite the revulsion that modern readers are likely to feel). Tulkinghorn, who is subtly blackmailing Lady Dedlock, is murdered, and the indomitable Inspector Bucket begins pursuing his murderer. After an innocent man is arrested, and Lady Dedlock’s secret is revealed to her husband, Bucket grabs the real perp, a French maid who had tried to blackmail Tulkinghorn, had been threatened with jail by him, and then murdered him. But Lady Dedlock, who has been dreading the revelation of her awful secret to the husband who had always loved her and treated her well, runs away from her home and is found frozen to death at the gate of the churchyard where Captain Hawdon was buried.
Among Krook’s effects is found Jarndyce’s final will, which resolves the entire suit. Richard and Ada are declared the heirs, but the suit has gone on so long that the entire fortune has been eaten up by the court costs. This shock destroys Richard’s health, and he dies soon after the declaration, so that Mr. Jarndyce is left to take care of Ada and their son. Jarndyce realizes that Esther feels gratitude and great affection for him, not love, and that her true love is Allan Woodcourt, and so he releases her from their agreement, and she marries Allan, and they live Happily Ever After
Dickens’ intent in writing Bleak House was to savage the British legal system for its retarded backwardness, its almost malicious slowness, and its horrible, self-serving maze of laws, which served the lawyers and their bank accounts far more than it served those unfortunate enough to become involved in a suit. Dickens succeeded in that; no modern reader of Bleak House can react to its portrayal of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, that “scarecrow of a suit,” without feeling contempt for such an awful legal system and some small measure of satisfaction that, even with their flaws, modern, civilized legal systems are not nearly so ghastly:
Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least, but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable young people have married into it; innumerable old people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce without knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds with the suit. The little plaintiff or defendant who was promised a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce and Jarndyce should be settled has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away into the other world. Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grandmothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and gone out; the legion of bills in the suit have been transformed into mere bills of mortality; there are not three Jarndyces left upon the earth perhaps since old Tom Jarndyce in despair blew his brains out at a coffee-house in Chancery Lane; but Jarndyce and Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court, perennially hopeless....The preceding shows the dangers of trying to provide excerpts from Dickens. It’s hard to know when to stop. He can be so enormously entertaining in his use of language that you want to keep going and include it all. The preceding is a good example of some of what makes Dickens so good. The use of the mot juste, the memorable image heaped on top of memorable image, the wisdom regarding human character, the sometimes dark humor–it’s all there. There’s more than that to Dickens, of course. He has a multitude of virtues as a novelist, so that it’s clear, on reading Bleak House, why he is called the greatest of the Victorian novelists. His only fault, really, and this is a subjective, mood-driven judgment, is that he goes on at too great a length, but the cast of Bleak House is large, and a great deal happens, and, I should be honest, I’ve got a lot to read for the Victoriana book and I’m feeling pressure and, well, enjoyable as Dickens is, reading all 800+ pages of Bleak House took up a lot of time.
How many people out of the suit Jarndyce and Jarndyce has stretched forth its unwholesome hand to spoil and corrupt would be a very wide question. From the master upon whose impaling files reams of dusty warrants in Jarndyce and Jarndyce have grimly writhed into many shapes, down to the copying-clerk in the Six Clerks' Office who has copied his tens of thousands of Chancery folio-pages under that eternal heading, no man's nature has been made better by it. In trickery, evasion, procrastination, spoliation, botheration, under false pretences of all sorts, there are influences that can never come to good. The very solicitors' boys who have kept the wretched suitors at bay, by protesting time out of mind that Mr. Chizzle, Mizzle, or otherwise was particularly engaged and had appointments until dinner, may have got an extra moral twist and shuffle into themselves out of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The receiver in the cause has acquired a goodly sum of money by it but has acquired too a distrust of his own mother and a contempt for his own kind. Chizzle, Mizzle, and otherwise have lapsed into a habit of vaguely promising themselves that they will look into that outstanding little matter and see what can be done for Drizzle--who was not well used--when Jarndyce and Jarndyce shall be got out of the office. Shirking and sharking in all their many varieties have been sown broadcast by the ill-fated cause; and even those who have contemplated its history from the outermost circle of such evil have been insensibly tempted into a loose way of letting bad things alone to take their own bad course, and a loose belief that if the world go wrong it was in some off-hand manner never meant to go right.
Anyhow. Dickens is splendid. He can make you laugh out loud–no small thing for a book 150+ years old. His descriptions are generally marvelous, so that places–Chesney Wold and London itself–become characters. His names–“Caddy Jellyby,” “Mrs. Pardiggle,” “Mr. Turveydrop”–are so wonderfully idiosyncratic and singular that his very name has been adopted for use as a descriptive; “Dickensian” says much as an adjective. He splendidly succeeds in creating an entire society, with members of the highest and lowest classes, so that the entire world of Bleak House feels real in a way that few other fictional worlds are. Dickens has vivid, colorful characterization, although his people are more exaggerated and caricaturish than Balzac’s (see the Monsieur Vautrin entry for more on Balzac). Like Balzac, though, Dickens is particularly good with portraying women in a realistic fashion.
Dickens displays a great amount of empathy for victims, too. The plight of the poor in London is harrowingly shown at times, so that although, as Oscar Wilde had it, “one must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing,” only those without a heart altogether will read the death of Jo, a poor street sweeper boy, in Bleak House without feeling pity and sadness. One of the usual criticisms of Dickens is that he practices emotional manipulation and is too sentimental, that, as Aldous Huxley wrote, “whenever in writing he becomes emotional, he ceases instantly to use his intelligence.” There are certainly moments in Bleak House when Dickens’ gush of almost saccharine sweetness can seem to be too much. But far more often he is “sentimental” in writing about the desperation and crushingly difficult lives of his poor characters, of the hopelessness of the victims of the British legal system and the wasted lives of those entangled in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, for the damage done to children whose activist parents care far more about those who live far away than about their own families. The longer death scenes in Bleak House are manipulative attempts to wring tears from the reader, but there are many more moments when Dickens writes about those done wrong by society, and in those moments Dickens is more economical, much less didactic, and very, very effective–and not at all lacking intelligence
In one regard Dickens is not sentimental at all. There is comedy and laughter to be gotten from Bleak House, but there is a lot of sadness, as well. Dickens shows no hesitation in killing off characters, from significant ones, like Richard Carstone and Lady Dedlock, to minor ones, like the death of the baby of the homeless woman Jenny and the deaths of the parents of Charley, who becomes Esther’s assistant. Dickens’ purpose may have been to arouse emotions and manipulate the reader, but he also shows a fitting hardness. The world of Bleak House is a hard one, and Dickens does not soften the blows, from the painful unhappiness of the Jellyby family and the Jellyby marriage to the gruesome spontaneous combustion scene of the junk dealer Krook to Esther’s disfigurement. Some of the most damaging characters are, quite realistically, not villains but simply self-centered, like the monstrously selfish Mr. Skimpole. And hypocritical and heartless activists like Mrs. Jellyby and Mrs. Pardiggle, and vain, empty evangelicals like Mr. Chadband, are given a well deserved back of the hand by Dickens.
Most of the characters in Bleak House are well drawn and three dimensional, but they are flawed as well, befitting the corrupt and unhappy society they live in. The two exceptions to this are Esther, narrator of much of the novel, and Mr. Jarndyce, Esther’s guardian. Some critics and readers have found Esther sweet to the point of being insipid, but I can’t agree with this. Esther is just a very good, very kind person. She’s very attractive: sensible, self-sacrificing, wise and modest, kind, gentle and good-hearted. She’s not insipid, and she’s not stupid. She merely keeps her wit and emotion sly, and usually to herself. Jarndyce is Esther’s match, the very soul of generosity and kindness (although his romantic feelings for Esther, who is nearly 40 years his junior, are much ickier to modern readers than they would have been to Dickens’ contemporaries). I think it is Esther’s attractiveness as a character that makes her half of the story more absorbing and compelling than the other half; although the reader will be very interested in how Bleak House turns out, what will be of greater concern to the reader is what happens to Esther, and if and how she lives Happily Ever After.
But this entry is about Bucket rather than Esther (who is the most attractive female character I’ve run across since Marian Halcombe in The Woman in White (see the Count Fosco entry for more on the divine Marian). I said, at the start of this entry, that Bucket was the first significant detective in English literature. (The Chevalier Dupin preceded Bucket, but Dupin was created by the American Poe). This is not to say that there weren’t detectives before Bucket. As I’ve tried to show on this site, there were, quite a few, ranging from amateurs like Susan Hopley to Vidocq-influenced professionals like M. Favart and Monsieur Vautrin to more nebulous detectives like the husband of L____. Dickens didn’t create the police detective character when he wrote Bleak House. But just as Balzac, through his stature as much as his literary talent, made Vautrin influential on later French detective characters, so too did Dickens, through his position as much as the innate quality of Bucket, make Bucket the prototype for the fictional police detective for many years. Sergeant Cuff was memorable, but the true influence on English mystery literature was Bucket’s.
Inspector Bucket is, in his own way, rather formidable. He may be the quintessential “What’s all this, then?” policeman, but he’s also very competent. He’s not colorful or dramatic, but he is very hardworking (not least because there is reward money involved in his cases; as with the casebook detectives, like James M’Govan, Bucket works for rewards and tips as well as his pay) and extremely, extremely tenacious. It’s the latter trait more than any other which leads to his success. He is stolid, honest, and very genial; his manner toward those he arrest is always very polite and kind, and he makes a point of not shaming those he arrests, even allowing one man to have a nice dinner with his family before breaking the news that he is to be arrested. His very geniality and politeness actually hide his intentions and capabilities, so that he becomes more formidable over time.
Bucket’s not brilliant, but he is intelligent, and his preferred tactic, hard work, is a very effective one for the cases he takes on. He does have on advantage, which is also his main quirk as well as a nice piece of writing by Dickens: his forefinger, which almost has a life of its own:
Mr. Bucket and his fat forefinger are much in consultation together under existing circumstances. When Mr. Bucket has a matter of this pressing interest under his consideration, the fat forefinger seems to rise, to the dignity of a familiar demon. He puts it to his ears, and it whispers information; he puts it to his lips, and it enjoins him to secrecy; he rubs it over his nose, and it sharpens his scent; he shakes it before a guilty man, and it charms him to his destruction. The Augurs of the Detective Temple invariably predict that when Mr. Bucket and that finger are in much conference, a terrible avenger will be heard of before long.And when, in Bleak House, he needs assistance in keeping track of Hortense, the murderous French maid, Bucket enlists the help of his wife, Mrs. Bucket, who kept a close watch on Hortense and “acted it up glorious!”
Otherwise mildly studious in his observation of human nature, on the whole a benignant philosopher not disposed to be severe upon the follies of mankind, Mr. Bucket pervades a vast number of houses and strolls about an infinity of streets, to outward appearance rather languishing for want of an object. He is in the friendliest condition towards his species and will drink with most of them. He is free with his money, affable in his manners, innocent in his conversation--but through the placid stream of his life there glides an under-current of forefinger.
Bucket is thoroughly average looking; he is stout, middle-aged, with a plump, honest, friendly face. He wears a hat and carries a stick, and has a mourning ring on his little finger.
ulba, Taras. Taras Bulba was created by Nikolai Gogol and appeared in Taras Bulba (1839). Nikolai Vasil'evich Gogol (1809-1852) was one of the giants of 19th century Russian literature, the father of Russian prose realism and the author of Dead Souls, which is often called "Russia's first great novel." Taras Bulba came in the mid-period of Gogol's artistic career, and although it is not one of his greater works it (with Dead Souls) is one for which he is most known. It also helped spawn the Cossack Novel genre.
For all of that, though, it's an unpleasant read. Not "unpleasant" in the sense of being shoddily written, although it's far from Gogol's best work. "Unpleasant" in the sense of creating an unpleasant reading experience, of licking a lollipop and finding sandpaper hidden inside it. It is a work of submerged (and not-so-submerged) uglinesses.
Part of the problem is the prose style. Gogol was trying to create a prose epic about the Dnieper Cossacks and their vanished way of life. His approach was to use a combination of traditional declamatory epic language, ala "The Song of Roland," with a more realistic diction & prose style. The resulting union is awkward and not particularly pleasing to the eye or ear:
Cossacks! Cossacks! abandon not the flower of your army! By now Kukubenko was surrounded; only seven men were left of the Nezamaikovsky unit, and by now they were overpowered; already their chief's garments were stained with blood. Taras himself, seeing his plight, hastened to his assistance. But the Cossacks were too late: a lance had stabbed him to the heart before the enemy surrounding him were driven off. Slowly he sank into the arms of the Cossacks who supported him, and the young blood spurted out in a stream like precious wine brought in a glass vessel from the cellar by careless servants who slip at the entrance and shatter the costly flagon, the win spilling upon the ground; and the master, running up, clutches his head in despair, since he has kept it for the best moment of his life, so that, if God should grant in his old age a meeting with the comrades of his youth, they might celebrate together those old other days when men made merry otherwise and better...Kukubenko looked around and said: "I thank God that it is my lot to die before your eyes, comrades! May men better than we live after us, and may Russia, beloved of Christ, flourish forever...!" And his young soul fled. The angels received it in their arms and bore it to heaven. It will be good for him there. "Sit at my right, Kukubenko!" Christ will say to him, "thou hast not betrayed thy comrades; thou hast wrought no deed of dishonor; thou hast forsaken no man in trouble; thou hast guarded and saved My Church."The problem, of course, could be the translator, but I tend to think that the blame lies with Gogol himself.
This passage shows Gogol’s tendency to strain after effect, to attempt to arouse emotion and pathos and patriotism and religious fervor in the reader. Gogol’s style is not up to this task (although as a jaded 21st century American I’m hardly the target audience) and the net effect is instead of a shrill and strident screed.
The greater problem with Taras Bulba is the content. Taras Bulba is an ugly, morally vile story. It is a love song to the Cossacks, designed to justify their atrocities. It presents the message that the Cossacks are “Christ’s army” and that whatever they do is not just countenanced by God but is in fact glorious. There are extra-textual problems with this, naturally: the Cossacks were butchers, not chevaliers sans peur et sans reproche. But history is not Gogol’s strength. Although he tried to make Taras Bulba a stirring piece of history he got his facts wrong. Even taken at the story’s own terms, though, Gogol utterly fails to convince. The Cossacks kill enemy soldiers but also slaughter civilians, raping (by implication) women and killing children. The Cossacks bully merchants and those weaker than they, and Gogol describes this as their “high spirits.” Gogol is so enchanted with the Cossacks that he seemingly cannot bear to admit that they have any flaws, and so drags in the approval of God to justify their atrocities. Interestingly, a number of writers in the past two decades have questioned Gogol’s sexuality, seeing him as a deeply repressed homosexual. The idolization of the Cossacks might support that, Gogol’s description of their manliness and virility being suspiciously adoring.
Taras Bulba is a story of unrestrained id and machismo, of masculinity taken to a cartoonishly grotesque degree. Gogol delights in the acts of men and treats his women badly. Taras’ wife is mocked for her love of and worrying about her sons, and the other female character is the woman who lures Taras’ son Andrei to side of the Poles. Taras himself muses on how women make men weak. Although Gogol displays a momentary sympathy for the Taras’ wife, it quickly becomes apparent that these are a cruel joke meant to make the reader laugh at the wife rather than empathize with her.
There is also the anti-Semitism of the story, with the Jews being portrayed as oppressive, avaricious, usurious money-lenders and “parasites.” And there’s no small amount of anti-Catholicism.
It’s certainly possible that Gogol was being ironic, but Taras Bulba is written such fervor and unblinking wonderment at the glory of the Cossacks that one can only conclude that irony was not Gogol’s goal.
I suppose I should actually describe the story’s plot, shouldn’t I? Taras Bulba is an older Cossack who is restive at too much peace, and so goes off to war with the other Dnieper Cossacks as well as his two sons, Andrei and Ostap. Unfortunately, it goes badly. Andrei is seduced by a Polish woman and ends up fighting against the Cossacks, and Taras himself kills Andrei. Ostap is captured by the Poles and burnt at the stake. For this act Taras leads the entire Cossack nation to war on the Poles. The Poles are defeated, but Taras is eventually captured by the Poles and killed.
Taras Bulba is an unlikable bastard, Taras Bulba is a book of vile darkness, and Gogol should have been ashamed of himself for writing this. Or so sez I.
urrell, Mr. Mr. Burrell was created by Guy Boothby and appeared in The Mystery of the Clasped Hands (1901) and A Millionaire's Love Story (1901). Boothby (1867-1905), who is here for the Beautiful White Devil, Simon Carne and Dr. Nikola entries, was a prolific Australian writer who is best known for Dr. Nikola. Mr. Jacob Burrell is a private detective, "the cleverest man of his kind in England." His cases tend to be on the harsher side; in his first case a woman was murdered and her severed hands were sent to a man as a "wedding present." Burrell is
a tall, stout man, perhaps fifty years of age...his face was large, red, clean shaven, and very pleasant to look upon. The width of his shoulders was enormous, and suggestive of herculean strength. He was dressed in a suit of check tweeds, and wore a spotted bird's eye neckcloth under a low collar. Taken altogether, his appearance was that of a prospective farmer or horse dealer....Burrell's in many ways a typical non-Holmes Victorian detective. He has a special arrangement with one law firm, which has worked out well for both them and him. His investigation style consists of closely questioning witness and potential suspects, taking notes on the crime during questioning, investigating the crime scene, and inductive reasoning based on what he finds. He also familiarizes himself with the suspects as well as their histories and their world. (The usual investigating style for fictional detectives, in other words). He's rather genial in conversation, confident and discussing his experiences without being vain or cocky (see: Sherlock Holmes); he notably inspires confidence in those who hire him. He's also imperturbable, regardless of how anxious his clients get or how angry criminals facing him get. One quirk he has is that when he needs to think he sits down and looks through his stamp album: "it seems to help me to concentrate my attention, you see. Perhaps it's the magnifying-glass that does it." He likes being a detective but finds that it's usually monotonous; when asked about disguises he smiles and says, "You've probably seen the Ticket-of-Leave Man, sir." (See the Hawkshaw entry for more on that). He's not infallible; he even tells stories about having been fooled by particularly clever criminals.
urrows, William. William Burrows--and, alas, it's not William S. Burrows, for very merry would a Victorian Naked Lunch be--was created by "William Burrows" and appeared in Adventures of a Mounted Trooper in the Australian Constabulary (1859). The real author of Adventures is not known; "William Burrows" was a pseudonym. Considering the content of Adventures, however, we can suppose that he (if he was not, in fact, a she) was either a native Australian or a settler there, for the book contains a great deal of information about Australia. Adventures is most likely the first work of detective fiction in Australia; it was plagiarized by James Borlase (see James Brooke, above) and Mary Fortune (see Mark Sinclair). Adventures is in part a travelogue of Australia, with a great deal of information about the natives, flora and fauna that would have been exciting and new to non-Australians in 1859, and in part a casebook crime thriller about Burrows' adventures among the Australians and the Chinese in Oz and Hong Kong. Burrows and his fellow policemen fight against conspiring and violent miners, against bushrangers, forgers, murderers, and (of course) opium-smoking Chinese mutineers. Burrows is an Englishman who is bored with England and goes to Australia following a gold strike there. He has some initial luck but is then swindled out of his grub stake and so is forced to look for work. He ends up joining the mounted police in 1852 and begins fighting crime. Most of Adventures of a Mounted Trooper is concerned with Burrows' adventures outside of the force, however; he is only with the police for a relatively short time. He is involved in a couple of case and then leaves the force to mine for gold and to go to China, which is where he encounters the opium-smoking Chinese pirates/mutineers. While on the force he is involved in a murder case among the native Australians, which gives him the opportunity to describe at length native culture and how murder is committed among the natives. As a detective Burrows barely deserves the name. His "investigations" are quite basic and involve no deduction, and the crimes he faces are hardly mysteries. Burrows follows the obvious clues and catches the obvious suspects, who inevitably turn out to have been the men and women who committed the crimes.
One can't call Adventures of a Mounted Trooper a mystery or even casebook literature, and William Burrows is hardly a detective. (He's more of a policeman, but he does no real solving of mysteries). Still, Adventures of a Mounted Trooper is interesting for its look at early Australian culture and as the source for Borlase's and Fortune's later mystery fiction.
urton, Mr. Mr. Burton was created by "Seeley Regester" and appeared in The Dead Letter (1876). "Seeley Regester" was actually the pseudonym of Mrs. Metta Victoria Fuller Victor (1831-1885), an American writer of poetry, romance, cookbooks, humor, adventure, and mystery novels. She was also, thanks to The Dead Letter, the first American woman to write a detective novel. Yes, she predated even Anna Katharine Miss Amelia Butterworth Green, and so deserves mention here, if only for that fact alone.
However, The Dead Letter is actually worth reading. It's not Art, not great fiction, and the villain is obvious from early on, but the book held my attention, did not rely too much on the clichés of 19th century mystery writing (coincidence, sentiment, and obviousness, as Michelle Slung has noted), and occasionally has quite vivid scenes.
Mr. Burton, for his part, is an interesting precursor to Sherlock Holmes. He is capable of interesting and well-thought-out deductions, is well-schooled in many areas of crime solving, and is an expert at "chirography," or handwriting analysis. It's this latter skill that allows him to figure out many things about the villain. Burton had formerly been a "forwarding-merchant," but had lost much in a warehouse fire. Burton investigated the fire, discovered that it was arson, and succeeded in bringing the arsonists to court. (He lost, due to legal corruption). The experience revealed to him that he had a knack for investigation and detection, and so he became a private investigator, working for the "secret detective-police," although unlike many of his successors he did not accept money for his jobs. To quote from the book:
The more he called into play the peculiar faculties of his mind, which made him so successful a hunter on the paths of the guilty, the more marvelous became their development. He was like an Indian on the trail of his enemy--the bent grass, the broken twig, the evanescent dew--which, to the uninitiated, were "trifles light as air," to him were "proofs strong as Holy Writ.More interestingly, his daughter has clairvoyant abilities, and he says, on one occasion, that "the most terrible antagonist he had yet encountered had been a woman--that her will was a match for his own..."
In this work he was actuated by no pernicious motives. Upright and humane, with a generous heart which pitied the innocent injured, his conscience would allow him no rest if he permitted crime, which he could see walking where others could not, to flourish unmolested in the sunshine made for better uses.
a large man, of middle age, with a florid face and sandy hair...with nothing to mark him from a thousand other men of similar appearance, unless it was the expression of his small, blue-gray eyes, whose glance, when I happened to encounter it, seemed not to be looking at me but into me.Seely Regester
utterworth, Amelia. Amelia Butterworth was created by Anna Katherine Green and appeared in That Affair Next Door (1897), Lost Man’s Lane (1898), and The Circular Study (1900). Green (1846-1935) was not the first American female author of mysteries or of female detectives, but her The Leavenworth Case, an Ebenezer Gryce mystery, was a best seller, and Green, the most financially successful of the 19th century female mystery authors, is known as “the Mother of Detective Fiction.”
The novels in which Butterworth appears are not about her. Strictly speaking, they are Ebenezer Gryce mysteries. Butterworth is only a secondary character in the series, an assistant to Gryce. But Butterworth does narrate That Affair Next Door and Lost Man’s Lane and is a central character in The Circular Study. More importantly, she is a detective in each novel. Butterworth is not a professional detective like Gryce. She does not even accept money for her investigations. Butterworth is used by Gryce as his agent, but what she really is is an amateur sleuth, and an early and prominent example of the elderly female sleuth. This minor character type has a long and distinguished history, beginning (arguably) with Mme de Scudéry and continuing through Miss Marple and Hildegarde Withers and up to Jessica Fletcher. Butterworth wasn’t the first of that type; that was de Scudéry, although Butterworth is far more of a crime solver than de Scudéry was. But Butterworth was the most influential version of the character. Just as Green’s Violet Strange was an influence on Nancy Drew, so too was Butterworth an influence on the characters following her. Although the Butterworth stories, like the Gryce stories, have not aged well, they were very popular in their time, and other mystery writers read them and were influenced by them.
The Butterworth novels are no different from the Gryce novels in which she does not appear. They are intelligently written, making use of then-innovative criminal justice elements such as ballistics, multi-media (everything from diagrams to hand-written letters to diary entries), and dull, uninteresting, and lifeless. There is a certain humor in the stories (and a reference to Tom Richmond), but for the most part they are well constructed and boring.
Butterworth herself is more interesting, if not enjoyable. She is in many ways as actively unpleasant to read as Hercule Poirot, and like Poirot was intended to be enjoyable. She is a spinster living in Manhattan, of a good family and well known and respected socially. She is inquisitive (or, if you like, a busybody), vain, disagreeable, waspish, aristocratic in her statements and actions toward others, and concerned with respectability, order, and standards. But she is also devoted to seeing that justice is done. She is a good detective, being observant, smart, and very clever in her deductions. She respects and likes Gryce, and he she, but the reader is likely only to respect her rather than like her.
A. Abällino to Axel
B. Hajji Baba to Amelia Butterworth
C. Cahina to Inspector John Cutting
D. The Damned Thing to Dyson
E. Robert Easterley to Pedro Arbuez d'Espila
F. Fantomas to the Fulgurator
G. "G" to Dr. Ginochio Gyves
H. Les Habits Noir to the Hypnotist
I-J. Ichor to Rob Joslyn
K. Kai Lung to Kreuzgang.
L. Lady Detectives to Arsène Lupin
M. Madame Koluchy to Dora Myrl
N. Nameless Child to Alice Nutter
O. Jack O'Halloran to Ozmar the Mystic
P. Pan to Psammead
Q. Dr. Jack Quartz to Quong Lung
R. A.J. Raffles to Lord Ruthven
S. Mr. Sabin to Count Szémioth
T-U. Adrian Temple to Undine
V. Vaila to Vril
W. Hilda Wade to Wung-Ti
X-Y. Xipéhuz to Yuki-onna
Z. Zaleski to Zoe