ahina. Cahina was created by Leo Charles Dessar and appears in A Royal Enchantress (1900). Dessar (1847-1924) is something of a mystery; I’ve been unable to find any information about him apart from his birth and death dates. Cahina (or, alternatively, “Kahena” or “Kahina”) was a real person, a Queen of the Berbers in the 7th and 8th Century C.E. who fought against the Muslim invasion. Gibbons wrote about her in Volume 2, Chapter 514 of his The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (you can read it online if you like). Dessar was struck by Gibbons’ paragraph: “the meager account of this beautiful Prophetess-Queen of the Berbers was inspiring, yet irritating: it suggested so much, yet told so little.” From this Dessar spun out a very entertaining historical fantasy.
A Royal Enchantress is about Cahina, a Queen of the Berbers of North Africa in 697 C.E. She is descended of Jewish, Berber, and Greek/Byzantine forebears, but was taken from her mother, the Queen, when young and raised by the high priest Askalon. Within a few years Cahina had mastered the lore of the priests and even grasped the Higher Mysteries. When the King dies Cahina becomes the Queen of the Berbers, who at this time lived in a glorious city. Cahina out-maneuvers Askalon, who lusts after her, and endures a loveless marriage with another monarch for the sake of her kingdom. Eventually, however, she finds love (in the form of Cornelius, a handsome Greek soldier) and happiness (the birth of her son). But nothing lasts forever, and when the Muslim armies invade her country Cahina’s armies defeat the invaders in one battle but fail to capture the Muslim’s leader, Hassan. Cahina, sure that the Muslims will return in greater numbers, convinces her followers to raze their own cities and farmland and bury their treasures, on the grounds that with no city to loot and no treasures to find, the Muslims won’t be interested and will leave them alone. (I know, I know–not the brightest move. And yet there it is in Gibbons. Historical fact, rather than bad writing on Dessar’s part. Go figure). But the self-destruction of the Berbers’ city fails to stop the Muslims, who return, destroy the Berber armies, capture Cahina, and behead her after she refuses to convert to Islam.
I came to A Royal Enchantress after reading Cooper, which as you might imagine meant that I was all a-tingle with delight. (You have no idea how much I loathed Last of the Mohicans. Not even my entry on Hawkeye can aptly describe my hatred for that book). But the appropriate comparison for A Royal Enchantress is really Salammbô. Dessar doesn’t take things quite so far as Flaubert did. Dessar’s creation is exotic without being decadent. Dessar’s not the stylist that Flaubert is, of course, and Dessar does not layer on the endless amount historically accurate detail that Flaubert did or try to be impressionistic, as Flaubert was. But Dessar also does not create a first-this-happened-and-then-that-happened history-in-motion novel, the way that Flaubert did. A Royal Enchantress is more of a classic heroic fantasy, with the beautiful heroine (Cahina), the handsome hero (Cornelius), and the dastardly villain (first Askalon and then Hassan, the leader of the Muslim armies). A Royal Enchantress is colorful, has a brisk pace, and has a good (though not overwhelming in the Flaubert fashion) amount of historical detail. The dialogue is faux-Shakespearean (“Examine for me this part of the manuscript, and if thou canst unfold the mysteries there hidden, I will grant thee any gift thou dost desire”) but is not clumsily written and actually flows rather well. The characterization is concise, and sufficient space is given to the characters’ interior lives that they gain a decent amount of depth–decent for a historical fantasy written in 1900, anyhow. Dessar does not shy away from the cruelty and horrors of the time, either; there are flayings and sacrifices to Moloch accompanying the feats of arms and knightly duels. Dessar does not, however, engage in the casual anti-Semitism of so many other Victorian novelists, and (most unusually) he makes an effort to treat Muslims fairly.
Cahina herself is a vividly drawn, larger-than-life personality. She’s clearly influenced to some degree from H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha (who will, of course, make her way on to these pages sooner or later), but Dessar is a skillful enough writer to make her more than yet another She lift. Cahina is somewhat haughty, but is religious (a devout worshiper of the Phoenician and Egyptian gods) and chaste; Dessar spends a good deal of time exploring her childhood and adolescence so that the reader sees why Cahina can be haughty. She’s not just intelligent but clever, out-witting her enemies as queen and lying to her people to get them to do what is best for the kingdom. She is indeed a prophetess, being given visions (from her “guardian angel”) of faraway events, the past, and the future. The downside to this is that she receives her visions while possessed (perhaps by that same guardian angel) and while possessed she does things she sometimes regrets later, like ordering the destruction of the Berber kingdom. Besides the power of prophecy, she has very strong animal magnetism, can cause visions among others, and can control others’ minds.
A Royal Enchantress is not on the level of the true classics of the Victorian age, but it’s excellent entertainment nonetheless.
aptain Bantam. Captain Bantam was created by William Wood, a writer I know nothing about. Bantam appeared in The Popular Magazine in five stories from 1904-1905. Captain Bantam is one of several sea captain heroes, like Captain Kettle, Commander McTurk (see below) and Wolf Larsen, who were prominent in the popular culture of Britain and America during the turn of the century. Bantam is an acerbic, scowling, hard man who runs his ship hard and his crew harder. His ship, the Dione, is old and balky, but he manages to make it go. In his five stories, which are all linked, he sets out for Africa to seize land there and establish a kingdom of his own; if there are natives on the land, so much the worse for them. (As one critic put it, the Captain Bantam stories have little to do with seamanship and a lot to do with colonialism) Bantam is backed in this by a London syndicate and is determined not to be stopped. (While he is not a genocidalist, he is fixated on his goals: land, power, and a pension for himself) When the Dione is stopped by a British destroyer patrol, Bantam lies his way out of the predicament (hardly fitting behavior for a British gentleman). When he finally finds a suitable kingdom for himself, in an area something like the Congo, he trades with the king of the land: the Dione for the kingdom, the king being allowed to take the country's treasury with him. But the king drowns as he flees the area, and a British military expedition takes control of the land. They throw Bantam a sop, however, and appoint him "Commissioner" of the territory. Bantam scowls but accepts this title, even though he has no training for it, as it will pay him the pension he so longs for.
aptain Black. Captain Black appeared in The Iron Pirate: A Plain Tale of Strange Happenings on the Sea (1893) and its sequel Captain Black (1911), both written by Sir Max Pemberton (1863-1950). Pemberton was a writer (over 60 novels) and editor (of Chums and Cassell's Magazine) and then director of Northcliffe Newspapers, being knighted for various good works in 1928. He also founded the London School of Journalism.
The Iron Pirate is about Captain Black, a short man with a long beard who is habitually given to wearing black clothes and smoking cigars. Black is a pirate; he commands a rough lot of men and is cruel towards those who disobey him or who make mistakes. His crew follow him through fear, which he is cunning and resourceful enough to continually exploit for his own ends.
Black, as I said, is a pirate. He started out getting rich on a copper mine in Michigan, but after the death of his son he turned bitter and misanthropic and decided to rob and sink everything he could get his hands on. He used his wealth to build a special, one-of-a-kind ship, and used it to rule the seas. The ship, which is never given a title in The Iron Pirate, is made of "phosphor-bronze," a special kind of super-tough metal that shines and gleams like gold. The ship, capable of great speed, is driven by gas and is a "great, well-armed cruiser" filled with cannon and machine guns.
Black sails under two flags: one Chilean (much to the surprise of the Chilean government, who have no connection with Black) and one black (and what other flag should a pirate sail under?). After he captures a ship he loots it and then sinks it; those on the ship he takes to his hidden port in Greenland, where they are forced to work to death in Black's coal mines.
At the end of the novel Black is cornered by a European fleet and his ship sunk, and in angry despair he drowns himself. Apparently, in the sequel (which I hope was more entertainingly-written than The Iron Pirate) he returns with a Nautilus-like submarine.
aptain Chlamyl. Captain Chlamyl appeared in Across the Zodiac. A Story of Adventure (1893), which was written by Edwin Pallander, an author I know little about apart from his travelogue The Log of an Island Wanderer. Notes of Travel in the Eastern Pacific (1901) and his collaboration with Ellsworth Douglass, he of Dr. Ginocchio Gyves.
Captain Chlamyl, like Across the Zodiac itself, is heavily indebted to Jules Verne. Briefly, Captain Chlamyl is a brilliant scientist and inventor and a bad man, embodying most of Nemo's bad qualities--the megalomania, the contempt for ordinary man--and none of his good ones. Thanks to Vincent Mollet I can now confirm that, contrary to what I said before, Chlamyl is based on Prince Schamyl/Chlamyl, one of the rebels against the Russian conquest of the Caucasus during the nineteenth century. And Stanislaw Bocian added that "He is still very famous in those parts, as witnessed by continuing popularty of his name. Shamil Basayev, one of more known Chechen commanders, is named after him."
Chlamyl is the inventor of the Astrolabe, a wondrous Nautilus/Albatross-like ship capable of interplanetary travel. (It is powered by a gravity-nullifying "gyroscope") Three rather colourless scientists are observing an active volcano in Iceland from a balloon drift too close to the volcano and are on the verge of falling into the crater when they are rescued by Chlamyl, who takes the trio along with him rather than depositing them safely back with more civilised folk. The Astrolabe is on its maiden voyage, and it visits the moon, which has the remains of a civilisation on it but is long dead, and Saturn, where they find primitive life and a still-developing world. Unfortunately, Chlamyl, a brutal and arrogant man, mistreats his crew, which leads to a mutiny. A "gas explosion" disables the Astrolabe and it drifts, powerless, towards the sun. Fortunately for all concerned (except the reader) Chlamyl et al are saved by the gravitational tug of Venus, which swings them around. They then land on a comet and ride it back to Earth.
There's really not that much of interest in Across the Zodiac, which is of interest only to those who feel like reading third-rate imitations of Verne.
Mr. Peter Bayly wrote in with the following:
E.P. was the nom-de-plume of my grandfather Lancelot Francis Sanderson Bayly, born 16 Oct. 1869 in County Tipperary and died 4 Dec.1952. He was of independent means and a keen botanist, biologist and musician. I have never read Across the Zodiac but my copy of "Micro-Man" [see the Dr. Geoffrey Hassler entry for Mr. Bayly's comments on Micro-Man--Jess] has the usual excerpts from press reviews which are much more favourable than yours. I suspect some of this is down to chauvinism as most of the reviews compare him with Verne; e.g. " Since Jules Verne's 'Voyage to the Moon' nothing so powerful or so fascinating in the way of pseudo-scientific romance has appeared as the volume now being commented on; the novel of the French writer is at the absolute zero of imagination compared with the gorgeous and ofttimes lurid fancy of 'Across the Zodiac'." - North British Daily Mail. I have to concede that Verne's books have stood the test of time better than E.P.'s but "Micro-Man" is still worth reading.
aptain Mors. On this page I used to have an extensive selection of information on Captain Mors, Der Luftpirat. Captain Mors, for those of you new here, was the hero in Der Luftpirat und Sein Lenkbares Luftschiff, a German dime novel published from 1908-1911. Captain Mors was a masked hero who fought for good on Earth and in space. But this page is already fairly lengthy and takes a while to download, and the Captain Mors entry was long and had a number of images, making this page entirely too large and slow in loading. So in the interest of saving space on this site as well as decreasing download time for this page in particular, I've moved all the information on Captain Mors and Der Luftpirat und Sein Lenkbares Luftschiff to my Captain Mors Page. On that site I have as much information on Der Luftpirat as there is available in English as well as, hey hey, e-texts of three of Kapitan Mors' adventures, including his first appearance. Plus, of course, the cover illustrations and scans that I previously had here. Give it a try, won't you?
aptain Nemo (I). Captain Nemo was created by Jules Verne and appeared in Vingt Mille Lieues Sous Les Mers (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, 1869-1870) and L’Ile Mystérieuse (The Mysterious Island, 1875). Verne is one of the fathers of modern science fiction and is responsible for several of the characters on this site.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea begins with a series of sightings of a mysterious sea creature which is blamed for sinking several ships. An American warship is dispatched to hunt it down and kill it, and Pierre Aronnax, a noted Professor at the Museum of Paris, is invited along. He is accompanied by his servant Conseil. The creature is found and fired upon, only to have it strike the ship, throwing Aronnax, Conseil, and the French-Canadian whaler Ned Land (who was also on the ship) overboard. The trio is rescued. They don’t know their rescuers name at first, but it quickly becomes clear that they have been rescued by Captain Nemo and are on the Nautilus, Nemo’s wonderful submarine. Unfortunately, Nemo is a misanthrope who has foresworn human society, and the trio are not so much guests on the Nautilus as they are prisoners. Months pass as the trio are held on the sub. For Aronnax, this is not an imposition, but rather a pleasure, for Nemo is usually good company as well as a man who delights in showing Aronnax the splendors of the sea. Conseil is content to accompany Aronnax wherever he go. Land, however, grows restive, being uninterested in fish except as things to be caught and eaten.
Nemo’s pleasant side is more often on display, but occasionally his misanthropic side comes to the fore. Aronnax doesn’t find Nemo’s vendetta against the hated cachalots, sperm whales, particularly reprehensible, but when the Nautilus sinks a warship Aronnax is more offended. Nemo, meanwhile, declines from his initially not unfriendly mood into one of melancholy and despair. Over the course of the novel he loses two sailors and kills many with his submarine, and eventually it is too much for him. Eventually the Nautilus, aimlessly drifting, makes its way into the Maelstrom off of the coast of Norway, and Aronnax, Conseil, and Land barely escape. Twenty Thousand Leagues ends with Aronnax and the reader not knowing what the final fate of Nemo and the Nautilus was.
In The Mysterious Island Nemo returns, but only at the end of the novel. Most of the novel concerns Cyrus Smith and a group of men stranded on a lonely island in the Pacific. They are helped by a mysterious benefactor who at the end of the novel is revealed to be Captain Nemo. (They recognise him because they’ve read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea). Nemo, in Mysterious Island, is not the misanthrope of Leagues, but rather a repentant old man, dying in a marooned Nautilus. At the end of the novel Nemo has died and the Nautilus is scuttled.
In a way, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea is typical Verne. There is the scrupulous attention to achievable, realizable science and careful extrapolation from known science and scientific principles. Verne is concerned with the probable and the possible, as opposed to Wells, who uses science as a tool for his message. So the Nautilus is as close to real a Verne could make it, with the exception of the source of its power, which Verne explains with a hand-waving reference to a different sort of electricity than normal: "'Professor,' said Captain Nemo, 'my electricity is not everybody's and that is all that you will permit me to say about it.'"
There is the careful attention (or, less kindly, the pedantic obsession) with details and facts, so that Leagues is full of facts about the sea. Unfortunately, Verne lets his obsession overwhelm his storytelling sense, so that what might have been a fluidly told story is constantly interrupted, sometimes for pages on end, with lists of animals and plants which Aronnax sees. Dialogue all too often is used for infodumps, so that Verne can unload whopping great heaps of information on the reader. Characters lecture each other at length, and while the information therein establishes verisimilitude and shows that Verne did his homework it's all too often uninteresting to the reader as well as interrupting the pace of the novel.
There are Verne's favored themes of travel and the sea. Verne had long been interested in the sea--a Verne family story, possibly apocryphal, had him trying to run away as an eleven year old and enlist as a cabin boy on a ship bound for the Indies, but being caught at the last moment--and he returns to it in a number of his novels. World travel, something much more exotic and interesting and unusual to readers of his day than to ours, is similarly an interest (see the Phileas Fogg entry for more on this) and it is one indulged here, with Nemo taking the Nautilus around the world and to the South Pole.
And then there is Nemo's misanthropy. There is a general critical consensus that the darkening of Verne's personal outlook--he underwent a series of personal tragedies in 1886, including an attempt on his life by a nephew, the deaths of his mother and his good friend and publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel, and the crippling of his leg, all of which left him more cynical and depressed--is reflected in the increased misanthropy of his protagonists. While this is true to a certain degree, especially with regard to the change in character of Robur, such isn't the case with Nemo. In Leagues Nemo is a misanthrope, but by the time of Mysterious Island he has reformed and become benevolent. And his misanthropy and recovery both take place before the 1886 events which affected Verne.
No, Nemo's misanthropy comes from the Romantic tradition. Verne intended Nemo to be a Romantic great man, genius, and anti-Hero. The Romantics saw the defiance of society as indication of genius, of a man unrestrained by the degrading shackles of society. The ostracized Romantic genius is unappreciated, his talent unvalued, and his intellectual and spiritual values rejected by the soulless materialistic society which does not appreciate his naturally superior talents. Axel is one of the foremost figures in this mode, and Nemo is a conscious successor to it. However, Nemo (like, let’s be frank, many of the Romantics, fictional and real) is not immune to hypocrisy. He criticizes Aronnax and those who have pursued him, and yet he has been sinking ships–hardly the act of a man who truly wants to be left alone. Nemo proudly claims that “I am not what you call a civilized man! I have broken with society entirely, for reasons which I alone have the right to assess. I therefore do not obey its laws, and I advise you never to allude to them before me again!” Nemo seems to think that this and this alone renders him immune to the judgment of society, despite his sinking ships and funding revolutions. To modern readers, the flaw in his thinking is obvious, and not particularly salutary. Likewise, his desire to “live–live in the bosom of the waters! Only there can one have independence! There I recognize no masters! There I am free!” is at odds with his interaction with the surface world and with his stated desire to help oppressed peoples. He can’t be, in essence, a patron to rebels and remain free from the world.
This hypocrisy extends to Nemo’s respect for nature. He does, indeed, value the world beneath the sea and sees it as superior to the world above the sea, but he’s no pacifist, and he is quite happy to slaughter every cachalot he finds. Like the Romantic heroes, his values and judgment are superior to all others, and so he takes action based on them, without thinking about consequences. The cachalots are a part of the natural food chain; killing them seriously imbalances the population of the sea. To Nemo this point does not occur; all he sees are the defenseless whales and the predatory cachalots.
Nemo is so far gone in his rejection of the surface world that he will not even eat food produced on it: “For a long time I have renounced the food of the earth, and I am never ill now...I never use the meat of land animals.” This extends even to the clothing he and his crew wear.
Nemo does have hypocrisy, and even some viciousness, as in his sinking of the warship, but Aronnax does mention his “kindness” on several occasions. It’s all part of the Romantic Great Man syndrome. Nemo is capable of remorseless killing--well, remorseless while he's doing it, although he clearly feels remorse afterward--but he weeps for his dying sailor.
Nemo, really, is much the most interesting thing about Twenty Thousand Leagues. The public image of Nemo has been greatly shaped by the film portrayals of the character, most especially the James Mason version. What isn’t widely remembered (if it was ever known to begin with) is that the Nemo of Twenty Thousand Leagues is not the same Nemo of Mysterious Island.
Verne originally intended Nemo to be a wealthy Polish count whose daughters had been raped and whose wife and father were killed by the Russians during the 1863 Polish insurrection. However, Russia had proved to be a very lucrative market for Verne’s stories, and Pierre-Jules Hetzel, Verne’s publisher legitimately feared that Czar Alexander II would ban Twenty Thousand Leagues if it portrayed Nemo as a Polish nationalist. Verne reached a compromise with Hetzel and kept Nemo’s ethnicity nebulous. In Twenty Thousand Leagues Nemo is described in this way
The second unknown man deserves a more detailed description. A disciple of Gratiolet or Engel could read his open physiognomy. I immediately recognised his dominating qualites: his confidence, for he held his head nobly on an arc fromed by the line of his shoulders, and his black eyes looked at me with a cold assurance; his calm, for his skin, pale rather than colored, exhibited the quietness of his blood; his energy, which was seen in the quick contraction of his muscles; and finally his courage, for his great respiration implied a big heart.The image of Nemo which accompanied this passage in the first edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues was drawn by Alphonse de Neuville, and clearly shows Nemo to be a white man. Also, Nemo says that “I studied in London, Paris and New York when I still lived on land,” a course of instruction only a wealthy member of the European nobility could or would have taken. (“Nemo,” of course, is not his real name. In Latin “nemo” means “no man” or “nobody.” In calling himself this “Nemo” is being coy as well as indulging in the alienation and isolation so beloved of the Romantic anti-hero.) However, when Verne wrote The Mysterious Island from 1871-1873 he changed that. The Nemo of Island is an Indian, driven to misanthropy by British injustice. Verne, in The Mysterious Island, describes Nemo’s origin in this way:
I judged that this man could be trusted, for his close looks and his calm seemed to reflect deep thoughts, and that the homogeneity of expressions in the gestures of the body and face, following an observation of his physiognomy, resulted an inscrutable frankness.
I felt myself involuntarily reassured in his presence, and this augured well for our interview.
This person had thirty-five or fifty years, I was unable to judge more closely. He was tall, with a wide forehead, a straight nose, a clearly drawn mouth, magnificent teeth, fine hands, a lengthy and eminent body...all of which seemed worthy to serve such a high and fascinated soul. This man formed certainly the most admirable type that I had ever met.
Captain Nemo was an Indian, Prince Dakkar, the son of a rajah of the then independent territory of Bundelkund and a nephew of the Indian hero, Tippu-Sahib. His father sent him to Europe when he was ten years old so that he would receive a thorough education and with the secret hope that he would fight one day with equal arms against those whom he considered to be the oppressors of his country....In 1857, the great Sepoy revolt erupted. Prince Dakkar was its soul. He organized the immense upheaval. He put his talents and his riches to the service of this cause. He sacrificed himself; he fought in the front lines; he risked his life like the humblest of those heroes who had risen up to free their country; he was wounded ten times in twenty battles but could not find death when the last soldiers of the fight for independence fell under English bullets.
Bundelkhand–Verne wrote “Bundelkund” in error–was, during the British rule, located in the eastern section of the Central India Agency. Today it is a part of Madhya Pradesh, in north central India.
“Tippu-Sahib” is Tipu Sultan (1753-1799), one of India’s more interesting figures. Tipu, the Sultan of Mysore, was a vocal supporter of the principles of the American and French Revolution while also owning a mechanical tiger which he used to torture his enemies. He was also the first man known to use rockets in war. Tipu Sultan was the son of Haidar Ali (1721-1782), who took the throne of Mysore in 1761, fought the British in the First Mysore War (1766-1769), and forced them to sign a treaty of mutual assistance. Haidar Ali received no support from the British in his own war with the Marathas, another powerful Indian ethnic group, and so allied himself with France and attacked the British in the Carnatic in 1780 in the Second Mysore War. Haidar Ali was killed in 1782 and Tipu Sultan was forced to make peace with the British in 1783 when French aid to Mysore ceased. In 1789 Tipu Sultan attacked the city of Travancore, starting the Third Mysore War, but he was defeated in 1792 by Lord Cornwallis. In 1799 Tipu, deep in correspondence and negotiation with the French, refused to cooperate with the British Governor General, Richard Wellesley, in his efforts to suppress French influence in India. The British sent two armies into Mysore and drove Tipu into Seringapatam, his capital, and took it by storm. Tipu died, bravely fighting in a breach in the walls.
Further complicating matters is the quotation in Chapter Three of Part Two of Twenty Thousand Leagues. After Nemo has saved the Indian pearl diver, Aronnax points out to Nemo that his heart was not entirely crushed by his past:
When I made this observation to him, he answered in a slightly moved tone, “That Indian, sir, is an inhabitant of an oppressed country; and I am still, and shall be, to my last breath, from that country!”Now, obviously this is meant to be read in a more general sense, but in light of the revelations of Mysterious Island the line is a curious one, if not a complete foreshadow.
Besides Nemo’s ethnicity and personal history there are other inconsistencies and contradictions between Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island. Leagues is set between 1867 and 1868, while Island begins in 1865 and ends in 1867, although in Island Nemo claims to have been living on Lincoln Island for ten years. Similarly, the racial make-up of the crew of the Nautilus changes from mixed in Leagues, with their own unique language, to Indian in Island.
Twenty Thousand Leagues is, as mentioned, typical Verne. In some ways it is typical Verne taken to extremes–the lists of facts are longer, the lectures are more detailed, the central character more interesting, and the science as grounded but more extrapolated than in his other works. The novel lags somewhat until Nemo appears, and although he is the clear center of the novel Verne spends a great deal of time on Aronnax, Ned Land, and the flora and fauna of the sea, so that the personality of Nemo, that which is truly compelling about the novel, is seen much more briefly than, for example, lectures on the science of the Nautilus. This is unfortunate, as it dilutes the power of the novel. Verne’s interests are likely not to be the same as the reader’s, which makes the novel less interesting than it should be. Too, the style of the dialogue is somewhat formal and dated, which is an inevitable byproduct of the novel’s age but which also lessens the power of the novel. Exchanges like this:
“Professor,” said Captain Nemo, “my electricity is not everybody’s and that is all that you will permit me to say about it.”contain marvellous ideas, to be certain, but delivered in a stilted and stiff manner, which detracts from the reader’s enjoyment. This is, again, an inevitable part of the novel’s age, which is unfortunate, since what Verne wrote about was very impressive to his audience. Similarly, the speed of the Nautilus (20 miles per hour) and the sheer distance the Nautilus covers in the course of the novel (20,000 leagues or roughly 60,000 miles) are interesting to modern audiences who are jaded by the ease and speed of air flight.
“I shall not insist, sir, and I shall be satisfied with being astonished by such a result. I have only one question, which, nonetheless, you will not answer if it is indiscreet. The elements which you use to produce this marvelous agent must be depleted quickly. Zinc, for example, how do you replace it, as you no longer have any communication with land?”
“Your question will be answered,” replied the captain. “First I shall tell you that in the depths of the sea there exist zinc, iron, silver, and gold mines whose exploitation would certainly be practicable. But I have borrowed nothing from these earthly metals, for I wished to find the means of producing my electricity only in the sea itself.”
Finally, one thing not usually remembered about Nemo is that, much as he is a scientist and engineer, he is also a passionate artist. (This is, again, part of the Romantic genius). Nemo is a skilled and emotional organ player, to the point where he loses himself, “plunged in a musical ecstasy.” And as an artist he is concerned with the aesthetics of the Nautilus as much as its engines and technical aspects. The insides of the Nautilus are beautiful, from its silverware to the internal aesthetics of the ship.
Although Verne was at pains to establish that the Nautilus was as close to possible as is possible, he could not rely on then-achievable science to power it. When Verne wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues, electricity was known about as a potential power source, but it was not used for home lighting until 1882. To ascribe what the Nautilus is capable of to electricity was an act of science fiction for Verne, but (ever careful, and I think knowing that even electricity could not explain the Nautilus) Verne establishes that his electricity is somewhat different from everybody else’s.
The Nautilus is long and cigar-shaped, armored. Its exterior can be electrified, as it is when the Papuans attack. In addition to the Nautilus, Nemo also has special diving suits with nine or ten hours’ worth of stored air and special guns whose bullets are electric batteries.
As an aside, it should be noted that Verne, for decades, suffered from translators who were either incompetent, venal, malicious, or all three, with the result that much of his work, especially Leagues, was presented to the English-speaking public in horrible forms. Huge amounts of text was deleted or altered, dialogue was changed (especially anti-English comments, by--surprise, surprise--English translators), and the flow of the novel was butchered. Modern readers wishing to see what Verne truly meant to write should read the Emanuel J. Mickel The Complete Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, a new and full translation of the novel with an excellent introduction and good annotations.
aptain Nemo (II). Captain Nemo II first appeared in Bracebridge Hemyng's "Dick Lightheart; or, the Scapegrace at Sea," which appeared in Young Men of Great Britain in 1873, and then the next year as The Scapegrace at Sea. (There is a very good account of the following, and the complex publication history of Captain Nemo II & Captain Vindex (see below), at the Prince and the Pauper site)
Dick Lightheart is a typical, and tiresome, square-jawed two-fisted self-righteous Victorian adventurer, a young man full of his own moral superiority and willing to shove it down everybody else's throats. (He's also a racist, which is quite typical of much of the young man's adventure fiction of the time) He is on the Indiana when they find the survivor of an encounter with a "sea monster." The ship goes after it, but when they find it only bonehead Lightheart and his chums are willing to try to kill it; the rest of the crew has more sense than that. Sure enough, when they do try to harpoon it, the monster sinks the Indiana (how many deaths on your conscience now, Dick Lightheart?) and Lightheart and his boys are sent into the water, where they are rescued, after a time, by the sea monster, which turns out to be...a submarine.
Is any of this sounding familiar yet?
Sure enough, Dick and his posse are brought into the submarine (which is called the Enigma) and made the guests/prisoners of its chief, Captain Nemo. Like the Verne character, he is a moody misanthrope, and as in the Verne novel, the Hemyng story features an underwater burial, an attempted escape to a cannibal-filled island, a visit to a giant pearl that only Nemo knows about, a trip through a submarine tunnel, and an attack by a giant squid.
The crew of the Enigma use special rifles to hunt and kill undersea creatures, and Hemyng's Captain Nemo is a Confederate veteran whose fiancée, convinced that he was dead, married someone else. For this "Nemo" (née Harold Duggan) swears vengeance, sinking ships and acting much as the Verne Nemo does.
Dick Lightheart and his chums eventually escape, thanks to the Enigma suffering from mechanical difficulties. Unfortunately for the reader, our escape is not so easy; we'll carry the memory of the ripoff of Verne with us for a long, long time. Shame on you, Bracebridge Hemyng! Shame!
Biographical information on Hemyng can be found below, in the Jack Harkaway entry. For further information on Bracebridge's plagiarism, see the article "Jules Verne, Bracebridge Hemyng, and Edward Stratemeyer: A Case of Nineteenth-Century Plagiarism" at the Prince and the Pauper site.
aptain Malachi Sturgis. Captain Malachi Sturgis was created by J. Weldon Cobb and appeared in his "A Wonder Worker; or, the Search for the Splendid City," which first appeared in Golden Hours from June 23 to August 25 1894. Information on Cobb is given in the Young Edison entry. Captain Sturgis is an American Naval officer who also happens to be a very gifted inventor. He takes a fancy to Rex Ralston, a working boy who is the target of a Byzantine and uninteresting disinheritance plot, and hires him to help build a flying machine. Sturgis is building the machine to discover a Lost City of the Aztecs that has reportedly survived for centuries, hidden somewhere in Sinaloa. The aircraft is roughly saucer-shaped and is propelled by a one-cylinder engine that powers propellers; the engine itself is fuelled by "glyco-pyrelium," a super-explosive. The saucer crashes, injuring Rex, and the group is forced to head into Sinaloa on the ground, in Sturgis' land-rover, which is armored, powered by electricity, and shaped like a small building. They forge on, passing by and over thugs, crooks, swindlers, and bad Americans and Mexicans, only to find that the hidden city doesn't exist. The rest of the plot is inconsequential, as is "A Wonder Worker" itself.
aptain Vindex. Captain Vindex first appeared in "The Wizard of the Deep; or, the Search for the Million Dollar Pearl" (1895) by "Theodore Edison," which was a pseudonym for Edward Stratemeyer. Stratemeyer (1862-1930) is one of the most widely-read authors of all time, although his name may not be recognizable to many. He wrote widely, but his main claim to fame is the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which he founded in 1904 to turn his story ideas into full-fledged novels. Through the Syndicate Stratemeyer created the Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Tom Swift. Although there is some doubt as to whether Stratemeyer himself was responsible for "The Wizard of the Deep" (1895)--one critic attributes it to "Roy Rockwood," a Stratemeyer pseudonym, but rejects that it was Stratemeyer's work--he owned the rights to the story and is at least partially responsible for the plagiarism.
As with Captain Nemo II (see his entry above), Captain Vindex is a plagiarism from Jules Verne. (For a very well-done description of this theft, and Hemyng's theft from Verne, read the article "Jules Verne, Bracebridge Hemyng, and Edward Stratemeyer: A Case of Nineteenth-Century Plagiarism" at the Prince and the Pauper site) While Stratemeyer (or whoever wrote "Wizard of the Deep") may not have read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, "The Wizard of the Deep" is an overt swipe from "Dick Lightheart at Sea."
In "The Wizard of the Deep" the first 38 pages are an unacknowledged reprint of "The Schoolboy Cadets; or, Fun and Mystery at Washington Hall," (1896), a story Stratemeyer had written earlier. After that, however, the schoolboy cadets--Mont Folsom, Carl Barnaby, and John "Stump" Stumpton--are taken on-board a ship (the Comet) that is sunk by a submarine (the Searcher) that is piloted by a mad, misanthropic Captain (Captain Vindex).
"The Wizard of the Deep" differs in a few ways from "Dick Lightheart;" the story is thinned down, Vindex's background is not explained, although he is stated to be an American, and Vindex's crew are Africans. After the Searcher emerges from the tunnel into the Mediterranean Sea, the trio of "heroes" escape from the submarine, which then explodes off the coast of Cyprus while trying to recapture them, killing (presumably) everyone on-board, including Vindex.
Hemyng's story, involving Captain Nemo II is not a word-for-word plagiarism of Verne, copying the essential adventure story elements; Stratemeyer's story is a direct rip-off, with only the names being changed. Stratemeyer was not the first to steal from Hemyng--Frank Leslie and then Frank Tousey both stole it. But Stratemeyer's theft is the most blatant and inexcusable.
aresco, Dr. Dr. Caresco was created by André Couvreur and appeared in Le Mal Nécessaire (The Necessary Evil, 1899) and Caresco Surhomme (1904). Couvreur (1863-1944) was a French doctor and author who wrote a number of fantastic/science fictional books. I'm unfortunately restricted from accessing his other books, and there's very little critical work on him; what follows is taken mostly from Jean-Marc Lofficier's outstanding French Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Pulp Fiction.
Dr. Caresco was the one of the first modern mad scientists, anticipating Dr. Cornelius Kramm as well as a number of other characters not only in French genre fiction but in international genre fiction. I unfortunately can't tell you what happens in Le Mal Nécessaire, but Caresco Surhomme I do have a little information on. Caresco rules the island of Eucrasia, an island whose inhabitants are changed by surgery to better do their jobs; the captain of the plane which brings "guests" to Eucrasia is a limbless trunk with telescopic vision--the better to help him fly, you see. The island itself is in the shape of a human body. The natives of Eucrasia are addicted to various sensual pleasures, but submit (for the most part) to Dr. Caresco's rule, for fear that he will castrate them or worse.
Caresco is brilliant as well as mad. Making use of Omnium, a mysterious and unexplained power source, Caresco creates scientific prodigies: a machine capable of stripping the years from a person and reversing the aging process, a very fast underground train system, food pills, Omnium-powered diving suits, and so on. But Caresco is mad as well as brilliant, given to things like collecting the spleens of all those he operates on, and eventually he dies, Eucrasia being blown up by a volcano.
armichael, Nasmyth. Nasmyth Carmichael was created by John Munro and appeared in A Trip to Venus (1897). Munro was a British engineer and professor of mechanical engineering at Bristol who wrote two short stories, one of which was later incorporated into A Trip to Venus. Carmichael is a maverick American physicist and inventor who discovers an ambiguously-described "new force" (Carmichael refuses to describe how or where he discovered it) which is capable of providing almost unlimited energy. Naturally, he decides to travel into space. The Vernean method of shooting a ship out of a giant cannon is rejected as being insufficient for his needs--not enough muzzle velocity. So he designs a ship similar to a submarine, although larger, heavier, and boxier, and takes it into the solar system, along with his beautiful daughter Miss Carmichael (no first name for father or daughter is ever provided), Professor Gazen, an astronomer, and the nameless narrator. They go to Venus, which they discover has an atmosphere, vegetation, seas and people surprisingly similar to Earth; the Venutians are "a fine race, tall, handsome, and of white complexion" (that last somehow being important). They are peaceful, serene, and strict vegetarians, with a simply-learned language and an advanced culture, and they live on an idyllic planet on which disease, pain, crime and sin are virtually unknown, and the average age is 100-150. The narrator falls in love with Alumion, the most beautiful of the Venutians and their priestess, and the pair marry, but Gazen and the others carry him off, and they move on to Mercury, which also has a breathable atmosphere, but despite the presence of predatory animals, including a creature similar to a dragon, there is no intelligent life. At the end of the book the group has returned to Earth, with the narrator swearing to go back to Venus and live with his Alumion. A Trip to Venus isn't particularly notable or memorable for its literary qualities, but it does contain some discussion of multistage rockets, space stations, the use of parachutes in planetary landings, and multigeneration space travel, although none of these concepts are used in the plot itself.
armilla. Carmilla was created by J. Sheridan Le Fanu and appeared in “Carmilla,” which first appeared in The Dark Blue (Dec 1871 to March 1872) and then was included in Le Fanu’s In A Glass Darkly (1872) collection. Le Fanu (1814-1873) was a noted Irish poet and author of short horror stories; he wrote widely, but it is "Carmilla,” along with “Green Tea” (see the Dr. Hesselius entry) for which he is best known.
“Carmilla” is set in Styria, an Austrian province along the Hungarian border. The story's narrator, Laura, lives there in a castle with her father and a few servants. When Laura is only six years old she has a terrifying experience; one night a woman appears in her bedroom and proceeds to slip under the covers with Laura and begins caressing her. Laura falls asleep and then is awakened “by a sensation as if two needles ran into my breast very deep at the same moment.” Laura screams, and the woman slips under the bed, but when the room is searched she is nowhere to be found. The nurses and maids believe Laura, however, because the space in the bed where the woman lay is still warm. Years pass and the woman does not reappear, but Laura does not forget about her and does not forget what she looked like. One day when Laura is nineteen her father tells her about the death of the daughter of her father’s friend General Spielsdorf. General Spielsdorf is vague about the details, but it is clear there was something untoward about it. That night there is a carriage accident near the castle, and one of the passengers, a young woman named Carmilla, is deemed by her mother to be too ill to continue on the trip. Laura’s father agrees, somewhat regretting his impulsiveness.
Laura instantly recognizes Carmilla as the woman who preyed on her as a child, but as Carmilla immediately tells Laura about a strange dream she had eleven years before in which similar events occurred, Laura’s concerns are dissuaded. Carmilla is strange and will not discuss her past, but she is not unfriendly, and very passionate about Laura, and the two quickly become close friends, with Carmilla very snuggly and kissy and caressing on Laura. They are close for a while, but strange events begin to occur. Some old family portraits are being cleaned, and when the 1698 portrait of Mircalla, Countess Karnstein is revealed, everyone notices that Carmilla is a dead ringer (my choice of words here is quite deliberate) for the Countess. (Carmilla’s response is that she, like Laura, is descended from the Karnsteins, which strikes those listening as at least plausible–which, I admit, it struck me as being, too). Carmilla’s health and mood fluctuate in strange ways. A series of unpleasant and possibly unnatural deaths occurs among the peasants in the countryside around Laura’s castle. And, finally, Laura’s health declines, as she suffers nocturnal attacks from something which is sometimes a cat and sometimes shaped like a woman. These attacks leave Laura increasingly languorous and dreamy and pale and weak.
Then General Spielsdorf arrives. (Remember him?) He tells Laura and her father about the wasting illness of his ward, who he thought of as his daughter, and how this illness, coincided with the entrance into his life and that of his daughter of a mysterious young woman named Millarca. The General’s ward claimed the illness came from nocturnal attacks on her by a specter which sometimes looked like Millarca and sometimes a beast. A doctor the General consulted was certain that his ward’s condition was due to a vampire, and the General waited in the dying girl’s room and caught the vampire, who was Millarca, about to feed on the girl. The General tried to kill her but she was too quick for him and escaped, and the General’s ward died shortly thereafter.
The General has come to the castle of Laura’s father because the grave of the vampire who is descended from the Karnsteins, is nearby. They go to the ruined chapel of the Karnsteins and see Carmilla herself entering it. The General recognizes her as his Millarca and attacks her, but she overpowers him and she escapes from him again. But the General, Laura, Laura’s father, and the General’s old friend Baron Vordenburg, go to the Chapel of the Karnsteins and open up the grave of the Countess Mircalla. Carmilla is inside, floating in seven inches of blood. Carmilla is staked, her head is cut off, her body burned, and the ashes are thrown into a river, and so Carmilla dies.
“Carmilla” has to be looked at in two ways: in its innate quality and in its literary/historical significance. Taking the former first--it’s a very entertaining story. Le Fanu was of course a very talented and skillful writer of horror stories; one only has to read “Green Tea” or the superbly disturbing “Schalken the Painter” (see the Minheer Vanderhausen entry for more on that gem) to recognize that. The story is very readable, almost compellingly so, and the mystery of what Carmilla is and how everything will be resolved holds up well even when you know Carmilla’s secret and even the end of the story. Le Fanu doesn’t put in the elisions that made “Schalken the Painter” so marvelously unsettling; “Carmilla” is in the form of a more traditional folktale-like story, with the moral status quo being asserted by story’s end through the saving of the innocent (Laura) and the destruction of the monster (Carmilla). But Le Fanu does a fine job of scene setting, in the picturesque descriptions of the Styrian environment and in the dreamlike atmosphere in which Carmilla attacks Laura. Le Fanu’s vampires are distinctive (see below for more on that). Le Fanu also doesn’t explore the psychological aspects of Laura’s victimization the way he did in “Green Tea” with Mr. Jennings, but his characterization is generally solid in “Carmilla.”
Finally, the erotic atmosphere of the story is quite something. The lesbianism in “Carmilla” is too blatant to be a subtext; Le Fanu’s audience was shocked by how relatively explicit he was in making women, not men, the locus of Carmilla’s desires. The lesbianism of the story is not located in Carmilla’s predilection for biting her victim’s breasts, but rather in her attraction to women, in her kisses and caresses on them, in her holding their hands and cuddling with them and seeming to fall genuinely in love with them and acting like many young Victorian women did, when they formed the passionate “romantic friendships.” That, and not the biting of the breasts, is what was shocking to Le Fanu’s audience–his taking a somewhat common piece of real life behavior and overtly sexualizing it. He does so strongly, so that “Carmilla” is quite sexually charged at times.
“Carmilla” was the first vampire story with a lesbian theme. “Carmilla” is significant as a story on several levels. It wasn’t the first vampire story to emphasize the sexual aspects of the vampire’s feeding; that would be the toothsome Clarimonde (who was also the first modern female vampire). But “Carmilla” was the best written of the English language vampire stories of the 19th century (yes, even better than Dracula, but not as good as Clarimonde–but Clarimonde was written in French, not English). Carmilla was also very influential on Dracula, who of course set the mold for vampires for decades afterwards. Among the things Bram Stoker took from Carmilla was the Eastern European setting, an undead Countess (from “Dracula’s Guest,” the deleted first chapter of Dracula), the figure of the knowledgeable and knowing vampire hunter (Van Helsing seems to have been largely based on Dr. Hesselius), and many of Carmilla’s powers, including her superhuman strength, her ability to change shape, and her sleeping in a coffin.
Carmilla is interestingly different as a vampire, or at least will be to those unfamiliar with pre-Dracula vampires. She has superhuman strength, and can change her shape into that of a cat, just like Dracula. Like the fictional Dracula (but unlike the movie Dracula and succeeding vampires) she can move about during the day and is killed by decapitation, not just by the stake through the heart. Unlike Dracula her powers do not seem to be limited by daylight. She can feed on a victim without turning them into a vampire. Her teeth are long and needle-like, not short and pointed. She does not need to constantly feed. She has none of the pallor of later vampires; she can leave her grave without displacing the dirt above it; and she is limited to arrangements of her name, from Millarca to Mircalla to Carmilla. As a person she is in some ways quite Victorian, engaging in a “romantic friendship” with Laura. Carmilla is beautiful, of course. She’s languid in motion but not in speech or thought. She varies in mood, sometimes being quite chatty and sometimes assuming quite melancholy expressions. She is proud and quite aware of her bloodline. And she is very, very passionate, about Laura and about life itself (“there is no such word as indifference in my apathetic nature”).
“Carmilla” is a very entertaining and historically important and influential story, and if it doesn’t reach the sublime heights of “Schalken the Painter” it is still far, far above average.
The e-text of the story.
arne, Simon. Guy Boothby (1867-1905), an Australian by birth but an Englishman by adoption, was a prolific writer, with more than 50 titles to his name. Two of his other characters included here are Pharos the Egyptian and Dr. Nikola. Still another was Simon Carne. Those who've read Carne's adventures know that he's a far more interesting, clever, and resourceful character than the smug and insufferable A.J. Raffles; interestingly enough, Carne's first appearance, "A Prince of Swindlers," was in Pearson's Magazine in 1897, predating Raffles by two years' time and arousing suspicions as to who exactly copied who. But Carne is forgotten, despite his superiority, and that of Boothby's work, to Raffles and Hornung's.
That's a literary battle long-lost, though, and the matter at hand is Simon Carne. Carne is a "gentleman burglar," suave, impeccably dressed, eternally unruffled, and capable of burgling and stealing anything from anybody. If you're familiar with Raffles, think of him, only better in every way (Carne's butler, Belton, is a vast improvement over the unspeakable, craven Bunny). If not...Carne is known, respected, and liked in British High Society, famous as a bon vivant and gentleman. What only a scant handful of people know is that Carne is also a second-story man--a thief and burglar. He's also a good disguise man, and successfully carries out the deception of posing as the brilliant detective Klimo while using his guise as a cover for a crime. While charmingly amoral in many ways, Carne is still a patriot, and has on occasion performed services for the Crown. His only collection was The Viceroy's Protege; or, A Prince of Swindlers (1903).
arpi, Medea da. Medea da Carpi was created by “Vernon Lee” and appeared in “Amour Dure: Passage from the Diary of Spiridion Trepka” (Hauntings, 1890). “Vernon Lee” was the pseudonym of Violet Paget (1865-1935), a brilliant writer of supernatural fiction. She may not be well known, but among the cognoscenti hers is a name to conjure with. “Amour Dure” is a classic, recently named by Michael Dirda of the Washington Post as his favorite uncanny story of them all. Having just finished it for the first time, I can certainly see why it is so highly ranked.
Spiridion Trepka is a Polish scholar sent to Urbania, in Italy, to write a history of the city. He finds it dull, though scenic, and the natives tedious, and he is repelled by the women, although his only “friend” (who he doesn’t really like), the son of the Vice-Prefect, urges a love affair on him. (Spiridion is only 24, and what 24 year old should be without a love affair?) His visions of Italy as it was are crushed by its current fallen state. In fact, the only thing that really holds his interest is the story of Medea da Carpi, the Duchess of Stimigliano Orsini and then the wife of Duke Guidalfonso II or Urbania. From 1568 to 1582, starting as a 12 year old and then dying as a twenty seven year old, she used lovers and husband to gain power and then had them murdered, or did the killing herself, to rid herself of them. She was beautiful and manipulative and so frightening that Duke Robert, the priest who finally defeated her, had her strangled by two infanticides and refused to allow her to be shriven before she died, for fear that she would seduce the priest who would grant her penitence. Duke Robert was so afraid of her, in fact, that after he died he had an image of his soul attached to his statue so that the spirit of Medea could not haunt him and he could sleep peacefully until Judgment Day. Spiridion becomes very interested in Medea, looking for portraits of her and then reading letters by her, and his interest becomes fascination and then his fascination becomes an obsession. He begins to see her life from her point of view, and sympathetically, and he begins to sing songs to her. And then he begins to see her, first in his home, in a mirror, standing behind him (it turned out to be a painting of her on the opposite wall, a painting he could not recall seeing before), then in person. He receives a note, you see, telling him to meet “a person who knows the interest you bear her” in a church, and he goes and sees her, but she slips away before he can speak to her. He discovers that the church has been abandoned for months, but he doesn’t care, and he keeps returning to the church, and sees her more frequently, until finally he receives a letter from her, telling him to destroy the statue of Duke Robert, and when he does that, “that night she whom thou lovest will come to reward thy fidelity.” Spiridion destroys the statue, despite the opposition of the ghosts of Medea’s former lovers, and then waits for Medea to arrive. The end note to the story mentions that his body has been found; he died of a stab wound to the heart, just as some of Medea’s former lovers had.
“Amour Dure” is really quite good. The reader knows what Spiridion’s fate is going to be, but Paget sketches his descent into obsession so skillfully that it doesn’t seem predictable, but rather logical and inevitable. There’s a psychological plausibility to Spiridion’s fall that is often missing from similar stories. And Paget combines an intimate knowledge of Italian history–she was a noted cultural historian of Italy, her adopted country–with descriptions pitched toward sight, sound, smell and touch, so that “Amour Dure” comes off as a very tactile and even lushly described story. It’s compelling reading, with a quite convincing narrative voice and striking images, and the story of Medea, though fictional, reads as if it was taken straight from a story of the Borgias.
Medea da Carpi is one of the immortal femmes fatale. Her beauty is such that she can seemingly seduce any male, physically and/or emotionally, and her heart is a cold, adamantine thing. By age 23 she was a widow thrice over, two husbands dying from stab wounds to the heart and the third perishing suddenly and under mysterious circumstances, with Medea forbidding all access to the chamber in which his body lay. Even after she was defeated by Duke Robert and imprisoned her power over men did not diminish, and she convinced two other men to try to kill Duke Robert. Her description is summed up by Spiridion thusly:
A curious, at first rather conventional, artificial-looking sort of beauty, voluptuous yet cold, which, the more it is contemplated, the more it troubles and haunts the mind. Round the lady’s neck is a gold chain with little gold lozenges at intervals, on which is engraved the posy or pun...”Amour Dure–Dure Amour”...love that lasts, cruel love–yes indeed, when one thinks of the fidelity and fate of her lovers.In life she may not have been supernatural, but after death she was, between her haunting and possession of Spiridion and the reaction when he destroys Duke Robert’s image, thus robbing his soul of its protection from Medea’s wrath: “the moon was suddenly veiled; a great wind arose, howling down the square; it seemed to me that the earth shook.”
“Amour Dure” is a story that well-deserves the title of “classic” and belongs on any short list of the best horror stories of the 19th century.
arter, Nick. On this site I used to have an extensive amount of information on Nick Carter. No, not the Backstreet Boy, nor the "Killmaster" whose published adventures have polluted the shelves of bookstores for a generation. The Nick Carter I wrote/write about is the original Nick Carter, the one true Nick Carter, was created in 1886 by Ormond G. Smith and John Russell Coryell and went on to be the most published detective character in American literature (and second only to Dixon Hawke in total overall appearances).
However, this page is rather long and takes a while--too long--to download. And I keep finding new material to add to the Nick Carter entry. So I've moved the information from here to a new page, my Nick Carter Page. I've got all the original information from this entry on that page as well as a number of images. So why not go there and take a look?
avor, Professor. Professor Cavor was created by H.G. Wells and appeared in The First Men in the Moon, which first appeared simultaneously in Cosmopolitan magazine in New York (November 1900-June 1901) and The Strand in London (November 1900-August 1901) before being published as a novel in 1901. Wells wrote a novel about some Martians and another novel about a Doctor named "Moreau," but I don't really know that much about him.
The First Men in the Moon is about the first trip to the moon. The narrator, Mr. Bedford, is a bit of a scoundrel, a failed businessman who goes to Lympne, on the Channel, to write a play and, he thinks, get rich quickly. There he meets the eccentric scientist Professor Cavor, and after an initially brusque meeting (Bedford, easily annoyed, vents his spleen at Cavor for the latter's eccentricities) the two warm to each other and become friends. Cavor tells Bedford about his plans to discover a substance which will be "opaque...to all forms of radiant energy," meaning that it will cancel out gravity itself. Cavor experiments, and eventually discovers a metallic alloy which when combined with helium and allowed to cool does just that. Cavor is exultant, but it is Bedford who sees the monetary possibilities for the new element "cavorite." The next step, for Cavor, is to go to the moon in a sphere covered in cavorite, and somewhat reluctantly Bedford accompanies him. The trip to the moon is uneventful, but once there they discover that the moon has a very strange, alien landscape, with strange, fast-growing and fast-dying plants, as well as very strange aliens. Bedford and Cavor are temporarily taken prisoner by the "Selenites" or "Mooneys," but after being marched beneath the moon's surface and then through a part of the Selenite's underground world they fight their way free. They flee, pursued by the Selenites, and do some exploring before making their way to the moon's surface. They split up, trying to find their ship (which they'd earlier lost), and Bedford finds it. He returns to look for Cavor but finds evidence that the Selenites had taken him. Bedford then makes it back to the ship and pilots it home, undergoing an out-of-body experience on the way. He lands the ship in the waters off the coast of England, but thanks to the carelessness of a child the sphere is propelled back into space, leaving Bedford with only the gold he took from the moon. Some months later an Italian astronomer begins receiving signals from Cavor, who had been captured but not killed by the Selenites. Over the space of several weeks Cavor transmits 16 messages, describing the Selenites' segmented, insect-like civilization and his meeting with the Selenites' leader, the Grand Lunar, in which the Grand Lunar quizzes Cavor about humanity and human civilization. The last message from Cavor is broken up, but implies that the Grand Lunar has revealed himself to be malign after all.
The First Men in the Moon is seen as the last of Wells' great "scientific romances," but in my view it is a much lesser work compared to War of the Worlds and Island of Dr. Moreau. Which is not to say it's bad, because it's not. It's rather entertaining, and not without positive qualities. But the satire of First Men is lighter in tone and less pointed than the messages of WotW and Moreau, and the themes are dealt with less seriously. First Men is a satire, to be certain, of imperialism and capitalism; Bedford comes off as an awful ass, greedy, exploitive, ignorant and heartless, and Cavor's justifications for human vilenesses like war are self-evidently absurd. But Bedford and Cavor are straw men for Wells; he sets them up to be ridiculous and then knocks them down. It makes for decent but not particularly sharp satire.
Even lesser Wells, though, is entertaining. First Men is very fast-moving, with a lot of light humor absent from WotW and Moreau. The science is, if not plausible, at least respectable. Wells took some pains to make sure that First Men was not scientifically implausible, and so First Men is much closer to real (for the most part) than WotW or Moreau are. Things like zero-gravity space flight and the low gravity on the moon are used, and without the overt pedantry of Jules Verne. The moon is suitably strange, and the Selenites are distinctly alien in appearance and personality without being at all absurd. The physical description of the moon and of the Selenites' caverns are well done. And the comedy of Bedford and Cavor, who as explorers and conquerors of the moon lose their ship, get hepped up on moon mushrooms, leap about carelessly, act in a quarrelsome and disagreeable manner to each other, and even use broken English on the Selenites ("'Me look 'im,' he said, "me think 'im very much. Yes") is amusing.
Cavor himself is stereotypical absent-minded professor. He gets so lost in thought as he walks about that he's unaware he's making strange noises or performing the same movements day after day. He is so wrapped up in his experimental and scientific pursuits that the idea of profiting from his discoveries never occurs to him. He values knowledge so highly that he is in denial about the Selenites and the Grand Lunar until the end of the novel, and justifies many of their more distasteful and dystopian habits. In person, well: "He was a short, round-bodied, thin-legged little man, with a jerky quality in his motions; he had seen fit to clothe his extraordinary mind in a cricket cap, an overcoat, and cycling knickerbockers and stockings." But as a scientist he's brilliant, discovering cavorite and successfully creating and piloting a ship to the moon.
The First Men in the Moon isn't a classic, but it's a more than agreeable way to pass a few hours.
ayley, Lois Lois Cayley is the enormously entertaining creation of Grant Allen, who you can read more about in the Colonel Clay (see below) entry. Cayley first appeared in a series of stories in Strand Magazine which were later collected in Miss Cayley's Adventures (1898). Cayley is Girton girl who, being virtually penniless after graduation, decides to wander off into London and see what adventures life will bring her. She overhears a Cantankerous Old Lady complaining about the maid service she's gotten, and the dilemma she's facing on her upcoming trip to the Continent (always bad news, that; Europe is full of foreigners). Cayley instantly volunteers herself for the role, and after facing the C.O.L. down, and discovering that she was friends with Cayley's father, wins the job. Shortly thereafter she saves the C.O.L.'s jewels from being stolen by an untrustworthy foreigner (something of a tautology, that, eh wot?), winning her a recommendation that gets her further jobs as a governess and bringing her into further adventures and eventually marriage.
What's so charming about Cayley is the style with which Allen has written her, and the stories she appears in. Allen is funny; not smile-quietly-to-yourself funny, but genuinely witty and epigrammatical, with some legitimately laugh-out-loud moments. His humor is wry and entertaining, and Cayley is a capable, smart, witty (that word again) young women whose adventures I'd gladly read more of.
E-texts! Who'd'a thunk it? Once again, we have the wonderful folks at Gaslight to thank for it.
- New Crimes
An excellent essay (indeed, one would expect no less) by Chris Willis on "Grant Allen's Detectives-Heroines." (I stole the image at the right of Lois Cayley from her site)
entenarian. The Centenarian was created by Honoré de Balzac and appeared in in Le Centenaire, ou les Deux Beringheld (The Centenarian, or the Two Beringhelds, 1822). Balzac (1799-1850) you should already know about: one of the greatest of French writers of the 19th or any other century as well as a great character. Allan H. Pasco, in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, puts it well:
Had Balzac been a less masterful novelist, the disreputably profligate fraud in him might have overwhelmed his artistry. Still, the other Balzac, the artist, is tainted by his well-earned reputation for what has been called artistic license or dishonesty. And though, like a cowbird, he left at least one and possibly three children in the nests of others, he took away with him knowledge, insights, images and stories that later took their places in La Comédie humaine (1842-1846, 1848, 1855; translated as La Comédie humaine [The Human Comedy], 1895-1900). Balzac's life regularly fertilized his fiction; however, his literary reputation would benefit if he lacked a biography. The view of his masterpiece, La Comédie humaine, has been seriously undermined by his irresponsibility, his casual attitude toward debts and contracts, his crass arrivisme, his naiveté about his purchases and investments, and perhaps even by his ridiculous appearance. On the one hand, he was a born sucker, the answer to many an antique dealer's dreams, the solution to some shaky business deals. On the other he was the nemesis of mistresses and relatives with money. He was indiscriminate in those he exploited. His first mistress, Mme Laure de Berny, loved him tenderly; his mother preferred her adulterous offspring to him; and Balzac impoverished the first and significantly reduced the fortune of the other. At his death he left his wife of five months with mountains of debts. The thought of what he could have done with credit cards defies the imagination.The Centenarian is set in the Napoleonic era ("181...") and is about General Tullius Beringheld, a French general of an ancient and noble family. Tullius, serving in Napoleon's Army, encounters a strange old man whose knowledge of healing is unmatched but who also kills a young girl. Tullius investigates further and hears stories about the old man, all of which involve him healing the sick but killing others. Tullius eventually discovers that the old man, the Centenarian, is a relative
The Centenarian is one of Balzac's apprentice works and has none
of his commitment to be the "secretary of the age," to show society as
a whole. This is one of his melodramatic, plot-driven novels, with all
the over-writing that entails. Too, it's largely a late Gothic, and so
has all the trademarks/cliches of the late Gothics: moonlit wanderings,
a story told by a witch, a portrait with moving eyes, catacombs, ruins,
degenerate aristocracy, a scheming priest, and a Wandering Jew figure in
the Centenarian. So the novel is entertaining enough but hardly good.The roman-à-tiroirs (linked stories-within-the-story) structure, used in Melmoth the Wanderer and The Necromancer (see the Volkert entry) among other places, tells the stories Balzac wants to tell, but at the cost of interrupting the narrative momentum. It's enjoyable, The Centenarian, but more of historical than literary value.
The Centarian himself is Count Maxime Beringheld-Sculdans. The Beringhelds, whose ancestral castle is in the Alps, are an ancient family but are prey to "moral decadence." The Sculdans are a cadet branch of the Beringhelds founded by the first Count Maxime. The Centenarian is his son, the second Count Maxime. He was born in 1470 and as a young man devoted himself to the sciences. He "lived in close contact with all the famous scientists of his time, and in the course of his life visited India and China; he participated in the discovery of the New World, circumnavigated the globe, and lived from 1470 until 1572, when he disappeared, the very day of the Saint-Bartholomew-Day Massacre." At some point during his life he befriended the second-to-last Rosicrucian and won from him the secret of the elixir of life. (The Centenarian describes himself as "the last Rosicrucian"). The Centenarian, thinking carefully about his new powers (for the elixir grants him many), uses his immortality to save the lives of great men. He wanders the Earth righting wrongs, saving the good and killing the wicked, and manipulating kings and countries. Napoleon himself hints that it was the Centarian who put him in power. The Centenarian is known and respected around the world, not just in France. In his travels he searches out the old and knowledgeable of every country, speaking to them in their languages, gathering rare plants and simples from them as well as animal and vegetable curiosities. In the Indian Himalayas there are monks who worship him.
The Centarian's purpose is not just to travel and put his hand-picked rulers in power, however. His two main goals are to heal the sick and dying and to protect the Beringhelds. The Beringheld family has a legend that the Centenarian visited them one last time before he disappeared in 1572 and that he prophesied that his "race" would only perish when a "mountain" falls on the Beringhelds on a "plain." (A nice Macbeth homage, but one that surprisingly doesn't come to pass). Since that time he is reputed to have used his magic powers to protect the Beringhelds, and that any time misfortune threatens a member of the Beringheld family, his "spirit" will appear to protect them.
This legend is true. The enemies of the Beringhelds are kidnaped by the Centenarian and drained of life. One such was "the best swordsman of his day," due to fight a duel with one of the Counts, but on the morning of the duel the man was nowhere to be found. And when Tullius' life is in danger, as it is in Egypt, by the Pyramids, when he and his men are surrounded by Mamelukes, the Centenarian appears, healing the wounds of all 800 of Tullius' men as well as Tullius himself.
The Centenarian looks like a walking corpse. His "huge hoary head" reeks
of the tomb, and there is "no skin at all" on his dull, gray skull. He
is very tall, balding with white hair on the back of his head, and his
body and carriage hint at "extreme decrepitude." He has bony arms out of
proportion with his barrel chest, massive legs, and broad shoulders; the
arms are "huge bones covered only with the barest layer of flesh." He has
no belly at all. He has black, sunken eyesockets, "from deep within them
a mere residue of light, a spark of pure flame, animated two dark eyes
which slowly moved about in sockets too big for them." In all other parts
of the eyes "the pulse of life had vanished completely." After the Centenarian
has fed off of a living being, the flames of his eyes are bright; when
he is wearied, they are dim. Likewise, when he has fed he moves confidently
and powerfully, but at other times he walks very slowly, with a "stiff
and solemn" gait. Even when he hasn't fed,
however, he is powerful. He can survive hanging, he has superhuman strength, and he can perform mystic movements over the sick and "draw forth" their illnesses. Usually he uses various "healing balms" and "elixirs" to cure the sick, but at other times he uses his personal power. He claims that "the world of spirits is at my beck and call." His gaze can terrify, paralyze, or kill, he has a powerful animal magnetism, he can read minds when he chooses, and he can teleport himself or others
without moving. He has a magic lantern which allows him to spy on others from great distances and he can lift great weights with the power of his mind. And along with his healing balms he has other alchemical arts, including a white powder which he uses to disintegrate the evidence of his victims.
The Centenarian's headquarters are in the crypts beneath the Louvre; his quarters there are lushly accoutered with all manner of historical curiosity, including pieces of wood from Joan of Arc's stake, the last stone of the Bastille, Cromwell's Bible, Christopher Columbus' map, Cardinal Richelieu's pen, and Pope Sixtus the Fifth's ring. In his headquarters he keeps a giant bronze bell which he uses to suck the life out of his victims. By stealing their "vital fluids" he regains his strength. He "eats no earthly fare;" it is only the life force of others which sustains him.
On the whole the Centenarian's not a bad guy, for a vampire. He lives up to his end of the bargains he strikes; he will heal the sick if he is provided with a live body to feed on. If the family members of those he heals do not give him a live body, then they must give up themselves to him. The Centenarian always succeeds in healing those men and women. He is not happy about being a vampire, and in fact is rather sad and weary about his state, but he does what he has to to live. And he is very dedicated to protecting his family. Yes, he preys on the innocent, but don't we all have minor peccadillos?
harity Joe. Joe was created by George Emmett, one of the more prolific authors of penny dreadfuls and boys' adventure fiction. Charity Joe appeared in Charity Joe, or From street boy to Lord Mayor, a 22-part serial published in 1870. Charity Joe is part of the British rags-to-riches tradition, specifically that which shows a penniless street urching clawing his way to the top--or, more realistically, getting a decent job that would allow him (never her) to live in something approaching a middle class lifestyle. Ragged Dick (see below) is one of the best-drawn examples of this, with a fairly realistic conclusion. Charity Joe takes a different tack, doing away with the boring (to its intended audience) day-to-day life on the streets and instead providing a large dose of sensationalism.
Charity Joe does not remember his father, and his mother died when he was very young. Since then he has been living on the street, running with a pack of street arabs. He's nicknamed "Charity Joe" because he refuses to accept charity from anyone; the rest of his gang have nicknames like "Turkey Jack," "Gobbling Frank," and "Sam Sneaky," all based on their personalities and characteristics. Joe, despite his poverty, is a moral and upright character (think Horatio Alger's creations), a smudge-faced saint who vows to earn his way no matter what. He has faith (which he repeats--many times) that hard work and good character will help him overcome his poor situation.
Now, in a more intellectually and morally honest work, the possibility of failure and a lifetime of poverty, despair, hunger and crime might be admitted. Indeed, the life of the Victorian street arabs was almost unbelievably grim, even tragic, with tens of thousands of potentially useful lives wasted because of a merciless social and economic system. But Charity Joe takes place in the world of popular Victorian fiction, where realism is a secondary priority to entertainment; the reading public, poor children and teenagers for the most part, did not want to read about the sad realities of their own lives. They wanted sensation and a happy ending, or at least one that confirmed their morals and biases.
Which is why Charity Joe succeeds so spectacularly. One of his gang dies of consumption; another, "Slim Jim," drowns when he goes into the sewers during a storm and is caught and dragged under by a fast-flowing current. Charity Joe escapes the streets unharmed. The lure of crime is ever-present, and the rest of the gang eventually succumbs to it, running errands and performing burglaries for a Fagin-like character named Cold Johnson. Charity Joe, moral to the end, refuses, although this strains his friendships with the rest of the gang and alienates him from them. Interaction with women and the upper class is limited for the rest of the gang, although there is a hint of the others taking up with prostitutes their own age. (At least, it was only a hint to me, but I think that the contemporary audience would have snapped to it much more quickly than I and would have found it much more obvious than I did) Charity Joe saves Eleanor Whittingham from a mugging (and perhaps worse), fighting off six "Chinamen" who drag Eleanor into an alleyway. Eleanor and Charity Joe strike up a friendship which eventually becomes a marriage. (Oops, there I go, spoiling the ending of the book for you)
And, naturally, Charity Joe finds that his hard work is rewarded. He begins by selling rags, metal, clothes, and anything he can scavenge from the street or junkpiles or, most often, from the tunnels and sewers beneath London. (There's an exciting scene where Charity Joe is almost swept out to sea, in the same storm that kills Slim Jim) Joe scrimps and saves the money he makes and then uses it to strike a deal with a fruit merchant, and so begins selling fresh fruit and apples. It's at this point that Charity Joe saves Eleanor, and she begins buying from him and having her friends and family do the same. This helps him make enough money to buy some clothes and take some lessons on reading and writing, and when Eleanor's father has an opening in his office, he offers it to Joe, who impressed him with his diligence, honesty, and refusal to ask for or take charity.
This is where Ragged Dick stopped, because Horatio Alger was more honest with his audience; an office job is in all likelihood as far, realistically speaking, as a street arab could go. But Emmett, for whatever reason, went farther, and in the space of a few years Charity Joe has worked his way up the business and, pushed on by Eleanor's father, won the Mayorship.
Site Master's Note: I have, in the past, relied upon the contributions of a few other people to put together this site, and some of these people sent along entire entries, such as this one. I have suspected for a while now that some of these entries were, to put it kindly, somewhat embellished. Now, thanks to Justin Gilbert and the good people of the Bloods and Dime Novels mailing list, I've begun to find out which entries were created from whole cloth, rather than accurately reported to me. I'm not very happy about this, you understand.
Thanks to Michael Holmes, I can provide information on the real Charity Joe, rather than the fake one mentioned above. To quote Michael:
CHARITY JOE; OR, FROM STREET BOY TO LORD MAYOR
By George Emmett
One Shilling edition in coloured paper wrapper comprising ten weekly penny parts.
Published by Hogarth House, London c.1885
The author was an ex-cavalry officer who is reputed to have taken part in the famous charge at Balaclava. He was proprietor of the firm of Hogarth House, Bouverie St, Fleet St. This was a family business and along with his three brothers and one sister they ran a successful firm from the early 1860s to the late 1880s before finally fading away to relative obscurity.harrington, John. John Charrington was created by E. Nesbit and appeared in “John Charrington’s Wedding” (Grim Tales, 1893). Nesbit (1858-1924) is best known as a writer of children’s fantasies, but she also penned some tales of the supernatural, including “Man-Sized in Marble” (see the Knights in Marble entry). “John Charrington’s Wedding” is a predictable return-from-the-dead story, but not the less enjoyable for being predictable.
The story opens with a flourish of the pen by the enthusiastic and offbeat Emmett. Quoting Dr. Johnson's assertion that "No book was ever written but something, however small, may be learned from it" he follows with a dismissal of the present day publishing scene ( i.e. c.1885 )
"....when literary bookmakers spring up like mushrooms.....with as much experience of the work before them as the not-to-be-despised-fungi." This is the first of several literary digs at 'lower' literature, which were no doubt aimed at the Emmett's competitors, but it's interesting to see such remarks coming from an author who seemed to be viewing cheap fiction from some moral high ground. In fact Victorian society of the time would undoubtedly have slapped the label 'penny dreadful' on this work, regardless of its redeeming message.
The tale begins with the sixteen year old Charity Joe working as clerk to Mr. Sivins, a surly collector's agent, who for reasons unknown removed Joe from the workhouse some years earlier. The board of the workhouse in their infinite wisdom had given him the euphonious appelation 'Joseph Chudleigh Cholmondeley' which the other children shortened to 'Joe Chummy.' In his new situation as boy clerk to Sivins's loan shark business he is known to the street boys as 'Charity Joe.'
The 'disaffected heir' storyline ( de rigeur in these tales ) is hinted at early on: "He had a dim recollection of being happy, and of a lady he called mother..." We learn that Sivins had initially farmed the boy out to a drunken shoemaker, but after five years of beatings this wretch finally dies and thus Joe is once again under the charge of Mr.Sivins. He is permitted to adopt his deceased master's dog, Toby.
After trying to place him in several lowly jobs, all of which Joe is expelled from for either mischief or fighting, 'Old Siv' is compelled to take him back under his own employment. We learn that 'Joe and Toby soon became a terror to the juvenile population around St. George's Market.."
One fine evening, contrary to the express orders of Sivins, Joe is tempted from his desk by a game of duck in the street outside. A broken window and a tussle with a copper prompt Sivins to place the "spirited lad" in the hands of the skiving Mr.Dothem at his skinflint starvation school, Baream Hall. If you think this sounds a little like Oliver Twist meets Nicholas Nickleby you're on the right track.
In the course of introducing us to the daughters of Mr. Dothem, Emmett gets an opportunity to fire a few more shots at prevailing cheap literature, albeit with fictitious titles:
" Sylvia Dothem was a lady of about thirty....she like to read about lovers whose oozing passion flowed out of their finger ends.....and she received large doses...for week by week she read The Family Trumpeter and The London Jowler.
Her sister Deborah was a somewhat stout maiden of twenty seven summers...she was also romantic, but the disease was in a stronger form. She contributed to the weekly serials, but her choice was the London Roarer and the Bow Chimes.
She liked a little sensation with her novels; such as an amiable daughter having poisoned her mother, bolts with the cashbox, and someone else is taken up for the murder etc etc. "
Within a few days at the school Joe and Toby first dethrone the school bully and his cronies ( "Now look here, short jacket" said Boggins " You've put your legs too far through your trousers this morning"........"Bounce is very good" said Joe "but it don't sell here" ) ; then raid the overstocked larder of the Dothem family and distribute the food to the emaciated boys. After a riot in which the boys get revenge on their tyrannical schoolmaster, Joe and his new found friend, Tommy Nimblejaws, take to the road to begin their adventures.
On their journey along the country roads the author tackles the contemporary issue of children ( supposedly ) being led astray by 'pernicious' literature. A bizarre conversation follows in which Charity Joe acts as the mouthpiece for the goody-goody Victorian parent. The passage is too lenghty to quote in full but these lines give an idea of the message :
" I wish these were the days of highwaymen, Joe"
"Do you? What for?"
"Why we'd do the same as the young chap I used to read about in penny numbers"....
"What became of him?" Joe asked " he was hanged of course?"
"No, he wasn't. The king made him a knight or a duke or something..."
"Well Tommy, I didn't think you were such a fool as to spend your money on such rubbish"
"Rubbish?" Tommy repeated "Why it's all true."
"Not a word" Joe said " I took a number or two of the 'Red-Nosed Pirate, or, the Highwayman of the Bounding Ocean'.....it was no good, only a pack of lies and rubbish; and the highwaymen you used to read about were all sneaking cut-throats, and used to have to hide away in all sorts of dirty holes and corners, and they were always caught and hanged by the neck at Tyburn...."
"Well..." said Tommy "I won't read any more; there's plenty of good books to be had for a penny."
In a country village the boys meet with a former friend of Joe's, Bill Adler, who has a little sideshow which tours the provincial towns. The boys and the dog join up with Bill and the story then runs along fairly predictable lines. Several encounters with a rich lady and her grumpy father, 'the General', set up what seems destined to be the predictable ending, but surprisingly Emmet switches track and goes for a highly unusual rebuff to convention.
The three comrades and their dog, after numerous adventures, eventually manage to scrape together enough money to open a little shop in one of the poorest quarters of London. Joe falls for a dishy young seamstress and wins her mother's favour by rescuing them from eviction by his old boss Sivins.
In his quest to learn his background Joe marches into the London home of the old general and demands to know his connection to the family. The obvious disaffected heir story unfolds, and his inheritance is offered by the family if he'll leave behind his street life and become a young gentleman. This is the twist which Emmet must be commended for including, for Joe rejects the offer of wealth and position with a fiery speech which can be summarised with one nice line:
"Good society and you may be jiggered!"
Joe returns to his comrades and through hard work becomes employed by a bullion merchant whose business he eventually inherits. His elevation to Lord Mayor occurs on the last page suggesting the plot may have been concluded before its time ( a suggestion of Joe going to sea is dispelled some pages earlier by an old seaman relating a genuinely horrific and factual sounding account of a flogging 'around the fleet' ).
"Ring down the curtain please, for this is the end of the story of Charity Joe, who from a Street boy became Lord Mayor".
In the small English town of Brixham all the young men are in love with May Forster. Few more so than John Charrington, but he’s more persistent than the others, and he has the added knack that what he wants, usually have a “queer way of coming to pass.” So when May agrees to marry John, the nameless narrator is surprised and even doubts May’s affection for John, but the narrator accidentally sees May looking at John, her face transformed with love, and the narrator quickly ceases doubting. The narrator also hears John say, “My dear, my dear, I believe I should come back from the dead if you wanted me,” something the narrator does not remark upon (but that modern readers are likely to). Two days before the wedding the narrator has to go to London on business, and finds May and John on the train as well. John has to visit a dying friend, but May doesn’t want him to go; she was a bad feeling about the trip. John’s laughs her premonitory feelings off, however, and goes. But he does tell her that he will return, no matter what: “Alive or dead I mean to be married on Thursday!” Charrington stays an extra day, but when the wedding day arrives he still has not returned. The train he should have traveled on does not contain him, and the narrator becomes convinced that something happened. He returns to the church, to find that Charrington has already entered–looking worse than he ever did in his life, according to the gardener, and not acknowledging anyone. The narrator has arrived when the wedding is over, but he is in time to see the party leave the church, and Charrington does indeed look bad–dusty, disheveled, and with a black mark above his eyebrow. May looks extremely pale, and the bell ringers do not sound the wedding peal, but rather the passing bells. All is silent as the bridal pair enter their carriage and leave, and it is only after their departure that the wedding party angrily speaks, May’s father furious that a drunken man married his daughter. When the carriage arrives at the Forster home, Charrington is gone, and May has fainted, her blonde hair gone white and her beautiful face “white and drawn with agony and horror, bearing such a look of terror as I have never seen before except in dreams.” A telegraph boy then arrives with a note that Charrington was thrown from a dogcart at half past one that afternoon and died on the spot. The wedding took place at half past three.... May never awakened and was buried a few days later.
“John Charrington’s Wedding” has none of the surprises of the cleverer sort of ghost story, but it is still entertaining. It’s got a brisk pace and the modern-seeming 1890s-style smart dialogue and is quite the opposite the padded, turgid Bulwer-Lytton style. Nesbit compensates for the predictability of the story’s outcome by letting the suspense of what exactly is going to happen mount. Nesbit doesn’t go for the cruelty of “Knights in Marble,” but she isn’t kindly, either.
Charrington was smug in life, assured that he’d always get what he want. And we might assume that he really did love May Forster, even if his words seem to smack more of conceit than of affection. But there was no love in his return from the dead; he did so out of pride, because he intended to keep his word and show the world that he was reliable. In doing so frightened the life out of May. Hardly the act of a loving husband, wouldn’t you say?
hief of Police. The Chief (no other name given) was created by Alexander M. Reynolds and appeared in "The Mystery of Djara Singh," which appeared in the Overland Monthly v30 n179, November 1897. Alexander M. Reynolds apparently lived in the American West, for the Overland Monthly was a Californian magazine, and Reynolds is credited with a few other stories in the Overland Monthly and with co-authoring an 1894 street map of Seattle, but other than that there's no information available on him. (My assumption is that Reynolds was a part of the Old San Francisco Science-Fantasy Movement, along with Robert Duncan Vampire Bomb Milne and a few others). This is unfortunate, since "The Mystery of Djara Singh" is surprisingly entertaining as well as an early example of the Occult Detective genre.
I've written about a few O.D.s on this site and on my Pulp Heroes site, of course: John Bell, Dr. Silence, Carnacki, and some others. What is interesting about the Chief of Police is that he appeared in 1897, before Bell and before Flaxman Low, who was the first true Occult Detective. The Chief is not a recurring character, which is the easiest way to separate him from someone like Bell or Low or Carnacki, but Reynolds clearly has the concept of a mystery investigation involving the occult in his head in "The Mystery of Djara Singh."
The story actually has the feel of a 1920s story to me, being surprisingly free of excessive verbiage and taking a more modern and less Victorian attitude towards its subject; there's no talk of Buddhism and spirit worlds, as you might get with a Victorian mystic character like Ozmar. It's about Djara Singh, a Thibetan (sic) Prince who visits New York City and becomes a sensation, touted and wined and dined and living very well at the best New York hotel. At the same time several banks in the city are burgled of large amounts of money under mysterious and quite improbable circumstances--grays of cold coins vanishing in front of witnesses and the like. Professor W. K. Miriam, the "professor of Oriental Philosophies in Columbia College," visits the Chief of Police of N.Y.C. and tells him that he, Miriam, had spent time in India investigating psychic phenomena "among the mysterious religious sects of the highlands of that country," and that he had seen men separate their spirits from their bodies and telekinetically manipulate matter, and "if there are men who possess the extraordinary faculty described, would not the commission of such crimes be to them a very simple matter?"
The Chief is initially dubious but agrees for politeness' sake to investigate the matter. He wires Scotland Yard and the Police Commissioner of Calcutta, asking for information on Djara Singh and for robberies committed by Singh while he was in London. Calcutta wires back, informing him that Singh was "formerly priest among mysterious religious sect in Haujab. Reported deposed account irregularities." Scotland Yard responds to the wire by telling the Chief that there were a few mysterious bank robberies, quite similar to those in NYC, while Singh was in NYC.
The Chief mulls this over and after another bank robbery decides that he needs to do something, so he goes to "a professional spiritualist and fortune teller, an alleged Italian, who went by the imposing name of Rienzi Di Colonna. He was a most unmitigated scoundrel, as the Chief had had occasion to know in the course of his professional duties." After a "singularly frank, honest conversation" about Djara Singh, Colonna agrees to be hired to spy on Djara Singh; Colonna, you see, though a crook and scoundrel, is also learned about astral projection and various psychic abilities, and can do what the Chief asks. However, Colonna warns the Chief that Singh "may also have powers that will make my mission an uncertain and perhaps dangerous undertaking, and one liable to end in unknown disasters."
Well, sure 'nuff, ten days later Colonna is dead; his spirit left his body to spy on Singh and never returned, and his body died of unknown causes. Singh immediately leaves NYC. Ten weeks later the Chief receives a letter from "Tokio" (sic) telling him that
The writer, while he cannot but admire the boldness of an experiment so much in advance of your civilization, must presume to doubt its wisdom, and to suggest that before conclusions are again tried with unknown forces, it would be well to know something of the strength of those you seek to oppose, and of the power with which it is intended to overthrow them.The Chief is left not knowing what to think, but
the chief of police is studying occult philosophy and speculating upon the advisability of introducing into the police department a corps of trained spiritualists.It's hard to call "The Mystery of Djara Singh" sparse in style, but it's told in a matter-of-fact and almost droll tone, which is a pleasing difference to the paid-by-the-word verbiage of the dime novel detectives and the Victorian posturing of so many contemporary British detectives, including the sainted Holmes himself. I think the impression of drollness I'm left with from the story is greater than what's actually there, but it's significant (to me, anyhow) that I'm left with that impression at all.
Mystery of Djara Singh"
From the Making of America site, which is a very nice resource indeed.
hild Adventurers. These characters are included here not because of their experiences with the fantastic and sinister, but because their particular adventuresome natures or because they are exceptional in some way. Not that Yr. Humble Scribe would ever impute ill-motives or sad ends to such worthy creations, but given the state of Victorian England the following might well have gone astray and ended in a gutter, poorhouse, or (sad to say) in a life of crime, despite their auspicious beginnnings. (i.e., it's just possible that some of the following children's stories didn't end as I say they did).
Bastables. Introduced in E. Nesbitt's The Story of Treasure Seekers (1899) and brought back in The Wouldbegoods (1901) and The New Treasure Seekers (1904), the Bastables are a group of five British exceptional children: Dora, Oswald, Dickie, Alice, Noel and H.O. The failure of their father's business led them to decide to become treasure-seekers; as Oswald (the narrator of The Story of the Treasure Seekers) puts it, "It is always what you do to restore the fallen fortunes of your House." After various exploits and attempts at gaining money for the family they succeed, albeit not in the manner in which they intended, and they move to the Moat House in Sussex. Oswald is bright--"much cleverer than some people"--and immodest about his brain, as well as continually puzzled by the unplanned results of his actions. Although he changes as the books progress, and he gains more sympathy for his sister Dora, he still has the potential to turn into a man to whom the ends really do justify the means, and who is intelligent enough to achieve those ends. Dora, 14 when the stories begin, is the de facto mother for the group (her mother's last wish was that she should take care of the children); she has a spirit of mischief but is forced to "talk like the good elder sister in books." Freed of the constraints of her siblings, however, by marriage or simply adulthood, it's quite possible that Dora would have tried to have real adult adventures. Alice is 10, and a tomboy; though emotional, she enjoys playing with the boys and holds her own in street fights; she is clearly an Unwomanly Shrew in the making, and perhaps even a feminist (no!). Noel is sickly and without much strength, but uses his advanced intelligence to help his brothers and sisters. He is afraid of dark tunnels and the police, and faints during crises, but reads widely and in advance of his age, and writes poetry. (That last obviously indicates that he is destined to follow the accursed likes of Byron and Swinburne, performing depraved deeds too shocking to be included here). H. O. (Horace Octavious) is the youngest of the children, sometimes left out of the adventures because of his age (8). He is willing to manipulate the others on that basis, demanding to be excluded from chores because of his age, and is enterprising and desirous of becoming wealthy. He even tries to get free transportation to Rome and become a clown. (One daren't speculate what will become of such a person as that). Dickie is poorly defined; he is the second in command to Oswald, sensible and always wanting, in Oswald's words, "everything exactly settled." He, undoubtedly, will join the Army end up shooting the Heathen Hindoos in the Punjab. (Any connection with the work of anyone named Moorcock is surely coincidental).
Benny. Benny, the younger brother of Froggy (see his entry below) was introduced in "Mrs. G. Castle Smith"'s Froggy's Little Brother (1875). Benny, like his brother, lived in a comfortless attic in Shoreditch, but after their parents died they were forced to rely on Froggy's earnings. Benny is sick, frail, and confined to the attic, unable to help his brother make any money. Benny truly loves his brother, as Froggy does Benny, and so their family unit remains secure. Benny amuses himself in the attic, trying to harness a cat and making a friend of a mouse. He lovingly teases Froggy and voices aloud his desires in a memorable fashion. Unfortunately, Benny is sick, and he dies, dreaming on his deathbed of a visitation of angels. Of course, this was in all likelihood the Happy Ending that Mrs. Smith tacked on because of societal pressure; the real-life ending would no doubt have had Benny entering the world of crime as a child if and when he ever healed and descending into a pit of opium-abuse and time-passing with Loose Women, or using his imagination and personality to climb his way up the ladder of London crime.
Blair, Murtagh and Winnie. This pair was introduced in Flora M. Shaw's Castle Blair (1878). Both grew up in India but for reasons of health were sent to live with their reclusive uncle in Ireland in the 1870s, along with their older sister Rosie and the two youngest children, Bobbo and Ellie. Their uncle pays little mind to them, and they run wild around their uncle's house and the village near the house, ignoring their putative tutor and shocking their cousin Adrienne (who is just barely grown up and not at all able to control the Blairs, despite her best efforts). Rosie, almost thirteen, feels guilt at their style of life, but Murtagh and Winnie, blithely conscienceless children, lead the younger two on long treks into the countryside, growing increasingly dirty and ragged and inspiring and inspiring jealousy from the local children. Their uncle's agent, Mr. Plunkett, attempts to bring them under control, and in response the Blairs grow increasingly mischievous, passionate, unruly and headstrong, despite the reasonableness of Plunkett's attitude.
The Blairs, with their new-found love for the Irish countryside and their lack of parental control, would undoubtedly grow up to follow their own beliefs and reject conventional authority. As the events of Castle Blair occur in Ireland, what happens afterwards would in all likelihood involve the Blairs joining the Fenian Brotherhood, becoming involved in the dynamiting campaign of the 1880s, and then dying, guns in hand, as they are shot down by the British troops.
Brown, Tom. Introduced in Thomas Hughes' Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857) and returned in Tom Brown at Oxford (1861). Tom Brown can be seen as moving from what the schoolboy was (mischievous, idle, and prone to cheating) to what the writers and audience wished he would be. He goes to his new school Rugby remembering what his father told him--to be "a brave, truth-telling English gentleman." Tom begins by getting himself knocked out in a vicious rugby match, thereby attracting the positive attention of the house captain. He also attracts the emnity of the dormitory bully Flashman (the very same who later appeared in George Macdonald Fraser's Flashman series), who torments him in various ways. Brown becomes popular with the other students because of his athletic prowess and because he finally takes a stand against Flashman, who demands that Brown and his chum East serve as his fags. (Flashman is finally brought low and expelled from school by the Demon Drink) Brown evolves from a relatively wild child to a mature and responsible senior with the help of Arthur, a younger boy, who presses him to give up cribbing and renew his nightly prayers. By the time Brown graduates he boasts that he is one who "never bullied a little boy, or turned his back on a big one."
This type of bluff and hearty personality is exactly the type to lead Her Majesty's Army into combat in all the various realms and dominions of the Empire. Brown undoubtedly became a Brigadier in the Army, leading it to a glorious slaughter somewhere in the rocky peaks of Afghanistan, losing his entire regiment or battalion and himself being subjected to unspeakable violations by the local chieftains (in response for Brown's own mistreatment of the local women and his encouraging his men to do the same) before being roasted alive.
Carr, Katy. Introduced in Sarah Chauncey Woolsey's What Katy Did (1872) and appeared in What Katy Did At School (1873) and What Katy Did Next (1886). Katy, that misbehaving wench, is an object lesson in behavior and consequences. Katy is the eldest of six children, but in an inversion of the usual dynamic in that she is the most uncontrollable of the six and the greatest strain on her guardian, Aunt Izzie. Not that the rest of the children are that well-behaved, either; Clover, the pretty one, is demure and obedient, and Elsie is eager to please, idealising Katy, but Joanna is a rambunctious five-year-old who prefers the name "Johnnie," Phil is a lively four-year-old, and Dorrie is a fat, greedy brat. Katy is the worst of the lot, however, a twelve-year-old who acts like she is considerably younger, continually snubbing poor Elsie, telling lies, ordering the other children about in games and in general creating chaos and not understanding why what she does brings about punishments for her and the others.
Vengeance is done when Katy disobeys orders and clambers on board a swing she has been ordered not to play on. The swing is defective and she is thrown from it, resulting in a spinal injury that confines her to a bed or wheelchair for the next four years. Her cousin Helen, who has been confined to a wheelchair for years, helps Katy endure the "School of Pain" that constitutes her therapy--this, despite, Katy always having taken Helen for granted. Still, Kathy endures enough suffering over those four years that her heedless selfishness is beaten out of her, and when she can walk again she is wise and capable and mature beyond her years, taking over the family after Aunt Izzie dies. The next two books detail her virtuous, patient, forbearing, milquetoasty dull "adventures" in boarding school and Europe.
As horrible as she was before the accident, she is boring afterwards, and so it comes as some relief to learn that Katy was gunned down on her wedding night, as she was removing her dress, by Elsie, as revenge for all the slights that Katy paid her while they were younger. Elsie then seduced Katy's now-free husband and the pair ran away to Europe, becoming the people later known as "Henry Miller" and "Anais Nin." But that, as they say, is another story...
Christie was introduced in Mrs. O.F. Walton's Christie's Old Organ (1875). Christie is a London waif who likes to linger outside the attic in the poor lodging house in which he lives to listen to the barrel-organ as old Treffy plays it. Treffy plays it to console himself--he's lonely--and Christie likes listening to it because his mother had sung "Home, sweet home" to him just before she died. Treffy becomes too old and frail to go out into the streets and make any money, and so Christie takes over for him. Through his new job he meets Mabel and Charlie, two children from the suburbs, and they persuade him to visit the mission hall. There he learns about Heaven, Hell, and Christ Our Saviour And Lord, and Christie persuades Treffy to hope as he lies dying. But, of course, someone like Christie, who learned about the hard life of the streets and the immediacy of wants and needs, would enter the ministry as the best way to get ahead in life, and would then skim money off the top and seduce rich widows, all as a way to protect himself from ever being poor and hungry again. He would end his days rich, fat, and quite corrupt, his early ideals forgotten.
Crewe, Sara. Young, innocent, determined Sara appeared in Frances Hodgson Burnett's Sara Crewe (1888). Sara lives with her beloved widower father in India until she is seven and is sent, for health reasons, to Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Young Ladies in London. Although this devastates her, she talks to her doll Emily and is granted great privileges by Miss Minchin, who sucks up to her because of her father's wealth and position. For four years Sara is well-treated by Miss Minchin; Sara is not fooled by the deceitful and sycophantic Miss Minchin, but she benefits from the lessons. Then her father loses his money through a friend's incompetence and dies a broken man. Miss Minchin offers to keep Sara around, but only to teach the younger children and to serve as the school drudge. Sara is relegated to the Seminary's attic and kept cold, lonely and hungry, putting up with the insults and abuse of Miss Minchin and the other servants in the school. Finally the reclusive gentleman next door, told of Sara's predicament by his Indian servant, reveals himself; he is a friend of Captain Crewe who regained Crewe's lost fortune and has been looking for Sara. He gives Sara her father's money, and Sara ends the book triumphant, Miss Minchin cast down and exposed for the opportunistic hypocrite that she is.
Alas, Sara deserved better than what happened to her after the book ended. She has a lively imagination, is plucky and smart, loyal to Ermengarde and Becky, her only friends, and is warm and generous. To marry a foolish and vain (albeit handsome) man and lose her fortune to him, and then have to endure years of miserable marriage, only to finally end it by strangling him, and then go on the run...it's more than Sara deserved.
Cyril, Anthea, Robert and Jane. This quartet of venturesome poppets appeared in Edith Nesbit's Five Children and It (1902), The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904), and The Story of the Amulet (1906). The four are in a gravel-pit near their Camden Town nursery, digging a tunnel in the hopes of reaching Australia, when they unearth a Psammead, a sand-fairy. The Psammead, a grumpy and ill-favored sort, is bound to grant their wishes, regardless of how ill-advised or hasty they are; if they want to be "as beautiful as the day" or get gold coins or to be large enough to beat the baker's boy (a bully), the Psammead grants them their wishes...and they all regret them, sooner or later. Eventually the Psammead is released by the children (not without a great deal of mixed feelings on their part) and allowed to go back to sleep. That is not the end for them, however, and they end up gaining a magic carpet and a newly-hatched Phoenix, as well as going to a Pacific island, uncovering buried pirate's treasure, and discovering 199 Persian cats in their house. Cyril is the leader of the four, and accepts whatever happens, no matter how fantastic, with a practical interest. Anthea cares for all of the other children, and is conscientious about taking care of them and especially their infant brother "the Lamb," who does not accompany the four on their adventures. Robert is rambunctuous and moody, continually claiming the "prerogative of his sex" to the detriment of his sisters. Jane is the youngest of the four and acts it, sometimes afraid of the unknown, sometimes resentful of needing and getting help from her older siblings, and sometimes showing insight to help the others. All four are enterprising and scornful of the conventionally orthodox or moral. They are loyal to each other and generally interested in honesty and justice.
With a description like that, and access to a "sand-fairy," it is clear what the quartet's fate would be: death by internecine quarrel as they became teenagers, each using the Psammead to try to kill the other three so that he or she alone could enjoy its power.
Errol, Cedric. Cedric is better known by the title of the book he appeared in: Little Lord Fauntleroy, originally serialised in St. Nicholas in 1885 by Frances Hodgson Burnett. When Cedric's father died he set himself to take care of his mother; she encouraged his interest in other people. This brought him other friends, and he did not suffer from the quiet life he'd been living in New York before that. When he discovered that his grandfather was the Earl of Dorincourt, and that he was to go to England to live with the Earl, he was shocked (it was against his democratic nature to be a toff); the revelation that his parents had quarrelled, and that his mother was not to follow him to Dorincourt Castle, upset him further, although his mother made sure to explain matters clearly enough to him so that he would not be unreasonable towards the Earl. The Earl was a tyrannical monster, but Cedric showed courage, charm, and courtesy to him, and those traits and his honesty won the heart of the Earl and brought the whole family together. The general view of Cedric as a priggish effete femme is incorrect, and not borne out by the text itself. Cedric is open and honest, self-reliant and commonsensical, and believes in the best of everyone. He is, basically, likeable.
Of course, money and adolescence would undoubtedly have changed all that, as he discovered that he could get what he wanted, and do what he wanted to people, because he was rich. Undoubtedly he ended up being a younger version of the Earl, a tyrant abhorred by all those in his village because of the horrible way he used people.
Froggy, the older brother of Benny (see above), was introduced in "Mrs. G. Castle Smith"'s Froggy's Little Brother (1875). He is a "street arab," one of the numerous unfortunates who scrounged about the streets of London during the Victorian era because of poverty. (Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable defines the phrase as "Children of the houseless poor; street urchins. So called from the nomadic habits of the Arabs who had no fixed abode.") His real name was Tommy, but he "was so often cold, and croaked sometimes when he had a cough," and so his father nicknamed him "Froggy." (Thanks, Dad) He and his brother Benny were adopted by a family in Shoreditch, where they lived in a sparse and uncomfortable attic. Their parents were poor but honest and God-fearing and raised Froggy and Benny to be the same. But then Mother died of sickness and Father was killed in an accident, and the eleven-year-old Froggy is forced to take on the responsibility of making money and providing food for both himself and the ailing and weak Benny. Froggy swept crossings for pence and tried to resist joining Mac and Dandy, two young ne'er-do-wells, after discovering that they were picking pockets for a living. Froggy is "innocent, but wise beyond his years," as one critic puts it, and tries hard to be brave and independent; he dearly loves Benny and tries his best to care for him. (He was clearly created to tug at the heart-strings of readers unaware of the horrendous conditions of the slums of London) After Benny dies Froggy is taken to a Children's Home, and the novel ends with Froggy informally adopting Billy, a pathetic waif much like Benny. What Froggy's future surely held, however, is not mentioned: The Demon Rum, given in to temptation and theft, loose women, and a lengthy sentence in a prison colony.
Jessica. Poor Jessica was introduced in Hesba Stretton's Jessica's Last Prayer (1882). Jessica is a thin, ragged, homeless child who lingers around a coffee stall set up mornings near one of London's railway bridges. Daniel runs the stall as a charity for the poor on their way to work, and he feels sorry enough for Jessica that he begins giving her coffee and bread one morning a week. Jessica is encouraged by Daniel's charity, which isn't overwhelming or particularly sympathetic but is consistent, and follows him to the church in which he works as an usher. He warns her that the church is for "ladies and gentlemen" only, but she goes in anyhow and becomes fascinated by the organ and by Winnie and Jane, the two pretty daughters of the minister. The latter two are free of class prejudices and welcome her into the chapel, helping to convert her. She grows ill but bears it with courage and conviction, and her faith helps convert Daniel, who has been charitable only to attract the attention of his social betters. Still, it was a shame for Jessica to die, and then for Daniel to catch consumption, spread it to Winnie and Jane, and then set fire to the church in an accident. A real shame, that.
Leslie, Olga. Olga, introduced in "Mrs. Elisabeth Anne Hart"'s The Runaway (1872), is the daughter of a Scottish colonel stationed in India. At age 13 she is in a school where the suet pudding has "black-beetle's babies scattered through it, which you had to make believe were Smyrna currants." She feels that nobody likes her there, so she runs away. Fortunately for her, she quickly runs into Clarice Clavering, a 15-year-old who feels that life in the 1870s is quite dull, especially for a woman who longs for the days when "heroic deeds were the daily food of happy men and women." Clarice is at first fascinated with Olga, but it soon becomes apparent that Olga is naturally foolhardy and volatile; Clarice hides Olga in her father's mansion, but Olga seems to want to be discovered, continually venturing out from her hiding place in the attic and playing jokes and engaging in extravagant play-acting. Clarice soon finds that it's more comfortable to dream about hiding a runaway than to actually do it, and she suffers from having to lie to her father and her governess, who deserves better. Eventually Olga, only a very little the wiser for her flight, returns to her school. The two girls do care for each other, and the tale is told with a certain droll wit about it, so it's no surprise that the two should enter a Sapphic relationship later in life. It is a shame, however, that Olga, pathological liar and fantasist that she is, should so badly embroider her past that Clarice is forced to break up with her and seek refuge in the arms of a local noblewoman. Olga's fate remains unknown.
Little Colonel. Lloyd Sherman, the monster of Llodystown, was introduced in Annie Fellows Johnson's The Little Colonel (1895) and appeared in several other books following at more-or-less regular intervals. Lloyd is five years old when her mother takes her to Lloydstown in Kentucky, where her widower grandfather lives. Lloyd is not aware of this, however. The Old Colonel is a sad man, worn down by the deaht of his son in the Civil War and the heartbreak of losing his daughter, who had the temerity to marry a Yankee (not that!). He naturally disowned her for it, but is still sad. As the books go by Lloyd brings him back to happiness and a reconciliation with her mother while she goes to school, entertains her friends in the Old Colonel's mansion, flirts with the local boys and men, and finally marries someone who had seemed, through the earlier books, to be only a friend of the family.
Lloyd becomes increasingly colorless as the books go by. Initially she is a terror; of herself she says, "Oh, I'm got such a vile tempah, an' I stamps my foot when I gets mad, an' gets all red in the face. An' I hollahs at folks, an' looks jus' zis way," she says, and she pouts sullenly, looking "as if a thunderstorm had passed over" her face. When she grows older, she wants to "ease the burden of the world," and so loses her individuality and becomes just another Southern Belle.
Southern Belles are insufferable, of course, a combination of smugness and self-pity rarely found outside of junior high, and those bleating about the South's humiliation in the Civil War are particularly aggravating. Which is why Lloyd's fate--her husband forced her to work in a high-priced brothel until she was finally forced to shoot him and go on the run--is particularly fitting.
Marchant, Geraldine Le. Geraldine appeared in Mrs. Molesworth's The Carved Lions (1855). Geraldine and her brother Haddon love it when their mother goes to Mr. Cranston's furniture shop, for then they can play with the two life-sized wooden lions. Haddon loves to ride them while Geraldine imagines that they are princes under a spell. When Geraldine is 9 her father takes a position in South America and Geraldine and Haddon are sent to Miss Ledbury's, a boarding school. This, of course, is a bad thing; the governess is cold and dull and the other girls misbehaving and snobbish. Geraldine is homesick, and her only comfort, the kind Miss Fenmore, soon leaves for another position, Geraldine is left without hope. Driven to desperation by her loneliness, she runs away, and wanders through the cold wet dark night to Mr. Cranston's shop. She has a wonderful dream about finding her mother again and being free of the misery of Miss Ledbury's, but takes ill from being out in the cold and the wet. The Cranstons take care of her, and are kind and loving to her, and so she is free in reality as well as in her dream of the awful school. Geraldine tells this story as an adult, looking back on herself and shaking her head at her own faults, her pride and reserved nature. Geraldine does not mention what that experience drove her to--working as a high-priced spy and assassin for the British Secret Service, loving and leaving dozens of men before they can do the same to her.
Montgomery, Ellen. She was introduced in Elizabeth Wetherell's The Wide Wide World (1850). Ellen is a 9-year-old who is sent away from her father's New York City house, which she loves, to the farm of her father's half-sister, Miss Fortune Emerson. Ellen is refined and sensitive, and so Aunt Fortune came as a complete shock; Fortune is tart and ungentle, harshly upbraiding Ellen for her manners (Ellen has too many for Aunt Fortune's liking) and lack of domestic skills (which exasperates Aunt Fortuen beyond forebearance; Aunt Fortune sees domesticity as beyond godliness, for a woman); Ellen takes Aunt Fortune's tirades and insults as a reflection on her beloved mother, something even more hurtful to Ellen. The neighboring farmer, Abraham Van Brunt, is rough-hewn and initially frightening to Ellen, but the two become close and he helps divert the worst of Aunt Fortune's rants. Ellen also befriends Alice Humphreys, who helps teach Ellen "book learning" (which Aunt Fortune despises) and Christianity (which Aunt Fortune pays no attention to). Aunt Fortune withholds the letters Ellen's mother sends to Ellen and then the news of her death, which when revealed to Ellen crushes her, as does her father's death at sea. Ellen is forced to spend time with her mother's family in Scotland, but eventually returns to America, where her heart has always been, and she forgives Aunt Fortune.
However, despite the wholly unnatural humility and obedience that Ellen perpetually shows to Aunt Fortune, and the calm way she accepts Aunt Fortune's emotional cruelty and abuse, no child spending time in such a household would grow up normal. By the time of the Diamond Jubilee Ellen would have married a rich older man who would then have died under mysterious circumstances. Ellen would have spent her younger years as a very pricy demi-mondaine, amassed a fortune, and then married up the social scale, quickly disposing of her husband and then enjoying a life of leisure--not free of scandal by any means, but she would finally have achieved the money she no doubt dreamed of as a child.
Procter, Hugh. This poor tormented soul appeared in Harriet Martineau's The Crofton Boys (1841). Hugh is eight years old and restless; he's so looking forward to following his brother Philip to the Crofton school that he does not concentrate on his lessons. He eventually does concentrate and gets sent to Crofton when he is nine, before he is fully prepared for the move. Which explains why, while on the coach to school, Hugh tells the man sitting next to him everything that Philip has told him about Crofton. Unfortunately for Hugh, the man is a master as the school, and he maliciously repeats everything Hugh has told him to everyone else. Hugh is stuck with the nickname Prater the Second, and Philip is then given the name Prater the First, which Phil, understandably, resents. Hugh quickly becomes miserable and homesick, with Phil refusing to make things easy for him. Hugh worries that his youth, childish ways, and long hair will lead the other boys to call him a "Betty," the ultimate insult, and he begins to walk in his sleep. He eventually gets hold of himself, helped by friends his own age at the school, but he remains self-absorbed and conceited.
Then, as is so often the case in stories like this, Hugh is made to suffer. His foot is smashed in an accident and has to be amputated. His mother encourages him not to use his "infirmity" as an excuse, and when he returns to Crompton he begins to mature into a sensible boy, albeit not without the occasional relapse into self-pity and resentment.
But someone like Hugh is not destined to have a happy life, not with the scars of childhood teasing and a missing foot, and Hugh...well, it's not easy to say, but he eventually let his resentments overwhelm him, and he began taking it out on women, especially street-walkers, before he was finally caught and set to Australia.
Ragged Dick. Ragged Dick was intrduced in Horatio Alger's "Ragged Dick," one of a number of stories published in Student and Schoolmate in 1866 and then later collected in Ragged Dick (1867). Ragged Dick is a bootblack, and a very likeable one. He's cheerful, businesslike, diligent, and energetic, and his sticktoitiveness won him more customers on the streets of New York than his competitors. He is unashamed of his poverty, cheerful, upbeat and honest, has a certain native wit, and is liked by everyone. He wears a torn coat which he claims belonged to George Washington ("and it got torn some, 'cause he fit so hard"). Although illiterate and homeless, Dick is trustworthy, and he is one day introduced by a gentleman to Frank, the gentleman's nephew, who Dick squires around the city. Dick finds himself wanting to do better for himself, and he begins saving for an education, rather than squandering it. He befriends Fosdick, an orphan who was once well-educated, and Fosdick becomes his tutor. Dick becomes schooled by Fosdick, and through hard work, determination, honesty and intelligence works his way up to an office job (ecstasy!) with good prospects.
One would think that such a lad would have a bright future in front of him. And yet, it's not that shocking, if one considers it, that Dick began slaying young men, some decades later, in imitation of the Jack the Ripper murders. Unable to reconcile his Uranian urges with his position as an assistant to the mayor, he had to sublimate them and finally act on them.
Rollitt was introduced in Talbot Baines Reed's The Cock House at Fellsgarth (1893). Rollitt is a lonely, solitary pupil at the Fellsgarth School; although he has worked his way up to the Sixth Form in only three years, he has no friends at School; he hardly ever speaks, and when he does he says "either what was unexpected or disagreeable." When people come to visit him they are told to get out. He spends no money and is seen, by the other boys, as being either mean or poor. But he is nonetheless a celebrity, partly because of the mystery about him and partly because of his strength; he has "an arm like an oak branch, and a back as broad as the door." He eventually makes one friend, Fisher 2, a new boy who helps Rollitt at a time when Rollitt, fishing on the river, is in danger. This leads to Rollitt heroically rescuing Fisher 2 on the dangerous Hawk's Pike, a feat which gain Rollitt more fame at the school but which Rollitt shrugs off because he is embarassed to have others know that he values Fisher's friendship. Then money disappears from the school and Rollitt is suspected; he simply disappears.
The sad truth is that Rollitt is the son of a common builder who goes to Fellsgarth at the request of two ladies who are old friends with Rollitt's mother. Rollitt is all-too-aware that he's no gentleman, and he suffers through public school as an alienated scion of the working class, his only real pleasure escaping to a ruined local tower with his Horace and a supply of biscuits.
Rollitt's eventual fate is unknown.
Sawyer, Tom, and Finn, Huck. The exploits of this pair are (or should be) familiar; gallivanting about St. Petersburg, Missouri, and up and down the Mississippi River during the 1840s, helping a runaway slave and acting as witnesses in a murder trial. One is the son of the town drunkard (and a very rough sort, at that--not for Pap the genteel alcoholism of the Victorian dandy), the other a mischievous roleplayer and trickster. Suffice it to say that, once they escape childhood, their pranks and feats will not be so charming, nor will society excuse them so willingly. It might be easier to speak of Tom Sawyer first; his destiny is obviously to be that of a confidence man and shyster, perhaps successfully (gaining wealth on a riverboat, perhaps, and marrying a well-heeled Soiled Dove) or perhaps not successfully (operating a medicine wagon on the frontier until the cowtown rubes he swindles finally string him up). Huck…Huck will face a rougher future. As always intolerant of society's unreasonable strictures, he will continue to set out for the frontier, ever more Westward…but the frontier ends, as it always does. After he reaches that end, he could head north, to Canada, his desire to be away from society flowering into full-fledged misanthropy, or he could head back to the places he's been through and decide to help others, freeing slaves and becoming good and quick with his guns. He would undoubtedly end his days as a sheriff in a small Western town, friendly with the local tribes and benignly contemptuous of the citizens of the town, who have no idea of the sacrifices made for them or of the evils that their own society does.
Scrope, Helen. Introduced in Frances Crompton's The Gentle Heritage (1893), Helen is the second of five children, each well-delineated. The oldest, Patricia, is overbearing; Bobby is argumentative; Annis is "tiresome as tiresome can be with crying over everything;" and Paul, the youngest, is stubborn and given to making up stories, so that everyone disbelieves him. The five are united in their dislike for Nurse, who is a "very cross person." They also are together in their enjoyment of the stories started by Maria the nursery-maid and which they carry on embroidering themselves, stories about the Man-under-the-bed and about Bogy. Then Paul begins telling the others that he has actually seen Bogy. Paul is punished by Nurse for telling "untruths," and the others do not initially believe him. Then they see that Paul was telling the truth and that he did see Bogy--or, rather, someone he thinks is Bogy. This "Bogy" is actually a gentleman who has moved in next door, a distinguished naturalist blinded and maimed in an accident. The five children grow to know and love him and finally come to understand what "nobility" truly is.
Which is why it was all the more unfortunate that the "naturalist" really was the Bogy, one of the awful Fey Folk, and that one dark night he lured them into his basement and ate them all.
Stalky, M'Turk and Beetle. This trio appeared in Rudyard Kipling's Stalky and Co. (1899). These three hellions are the horror of their school ("the College"). They came up together and have formed a five-year alliance; as a unit they have a well-earned reputation for putting up a united front and being impervious to argument, force, or public opinion. They care nothing for the future or for such puny goals as grades; they are only concerned with enjoying their freedom, waging guerrilla warfare against their school, and being "stalky" and ingenious whenever possible. This leads to a wide variety of pranks, some violent and painful, and some amusing, even today (they manage to get the hated school sergeant and the intolerably orthodox housemaster mistaken for poachers by a landowner while the trio run free on his estate). Stalky is the plotter and schemer of the trio, the smart one who continually proclaims that he is a "great man." M'Turk, the heir to an Irish estate, deals with public relations, never letting his self-possession slip and devastating critics with his silent scorn. Beetle is a book-lover who provides quotations for every occasion. They are blunt, disputatious, resolutely ignorant of their own true feelings, and loath to tolerate hypocrisy in any form.
Kipling meant the trio to be children as they really are, as opposed to the unreal school children of earlier books. He succeeded...but this only means that the trio would grow up to be men as they really were. Beetle would undoubtedly become an Oxbridge don, notorious for his poor treatment of students, especially those similar to his childhood self. M'Turk would involve himself in the Irish Question, most likely dying in the Easter Uprising, a gun in both hands. And Stalky would either be sent up for some financial flim-flam or marry into the Royal Family and entertain the press with his exploits.
Sir Toady Lion. Sir Toady Lion, aka Arthur George Picton Smith, appeared in S.R. Crockett's The Surprising Adventures of Sir Toady Lion (1897) and Sir Toady Crusoe (1905). Arthur took the name "Sir Toady Lion" because it was the closest that the five-year-old could come to pronouncing the name of his hero, Richard Coeur de Lion. Sir Toady is a blond-haired tot with "burly contours and hale Jolly-Miller countenance." The "women-folk" find him "enchanting," which is more than can be said for the others in his life, or in truth the reader. To call his behavior tiresome, irritating, or demanding is to put it nicely. Sir Toady is in fact a monster. He's soldier mad, and when his older brother (who finds Toady a trial) organises a campaign against the boys in the local village, who claim possession of a local ruined castle, Toady demands the "Victowya Cross" before the action has begun. When told that he should love his neighbor he responds by complaining that "ain't never nobody killed dead in the New Testament." He does rescue his pet lamb, stolen by the other boys in the village, but he does so through stealth, guile, and determination, traits that will surely serve him well in later life. In the second book, with his brother gone to boarding school, Toady is free of any restraining influence and runs wild, leading Dinky, an Australian boy, to the seashore in search of Dinky's sister Sammy. Toady brazenly questions everyone he meets, thinking he can trust them because "long as `tis`nt money, you can trust most anyone. Lots o' people as looks bad--isn't." Toady feels that there are two kinds of people: 'My-People' who 'just does wot I likes' and 'Not-my-People,' whom he pays no attention to.
Despite the heady appreciation and worshipfulness that everyone (including the author) showers on Sir Toady, he is a nightmarish child. With his supreme confidence in his own abilities to tell right from wrong, it's possible that he approached the wrong person and ended up being killed, his body found in a sewage pipe sans head, but it's more likely that this Bad Seed grew up to be a Bad Man, perhaps ordering tens of thousands of good honest workingmen to their slaughter at Ypres or the Somme, just for laughs, or possibly becoming a serial rapist.
Tom. The young chimney-sweep Tom was introduced in Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies. A Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby (1863). Tom, a child of impoverished background, accompanies his master Grimes to Harthover Hall, where they are to clean the chimneys. Tom loses his way in the branching chimneys and comes down not in a main hall but in a clean white bedroom. Tom accidentally looks in a mirror and sees "a little ugly, black, ragged figure, with bleared eyes and grinning white teeth;" he realises for the first time that he is dirty--filthy, even. The little girl in the room's bed is clean, and Tom sees her as an angel, but she sees him as a devil and begins screaming for help. Her nurse comes running, and Tom leaps from the room's window, runs from a crowd of pursuers, makes his way down the dangerous Lewthwaite Crag, briefly hides out at the village school for girls, and then makes his way to the river. Filled with a longing to clean himself, he jumps in and is turned into a "water-baby." In this form he follows the river down to the sea and goes to school for the first time, where he is taught by two teachers, one stern and one loving. He spends many happy and playful days in the Blessed Isle of St. Brendan but is finally sent to a strange, cold, desolate land. In this land he sees Grimes imprisoned in a chimney. Tom, good soul that he is, begs to be allowed to help Grimes, and Mother Carey, the immobile powerful fairy who is acting as his guide, releases Grimes and sends Tom back to the real world, where he instantly befriends Ellie, the little girl from Harthover, who Tom has dreamed about and who, in her own searching for the strange chimney sweep, has proven to be a very determined little girl.
Although Kingsley wrote the book to tell his own son about the ideas of "redemption through punishment" and about justice and Christianity, another message of the book is clear to the modern reader. The Fey of the Seelie Court do not do things out of the goodness of their hearts--they have neither hearts nor goodness, nor do they let humans enter the Land of Faerie and then return to the waking world without a price. Perhaps poor Tom, beset by dreams of the uncanny pleasures of faerie fruit (that insidious growth that so tormented Lud-in-the-Hills, as Ms. Mirlees documented), finally left his young bride Ellie and returned to the sea as a "water-baby." Or, more likely, Tom was left in human society as a sleeper agent, to wreak harm for reasons known only to Titania and Oberon. Whatever the reason, Tom, should you see him, is best avoided, or dealt with harshly and with cold iron.
Tyler, Toby. Introduced in James Otis Kaler's Toby Tyler (1881), Toby Tyler is actually a pseudonym, what "the fellers" call him. He himself has no idea what his real name is, who his true (biological) parents are, or why he lives with his Uncle Daniel. All he knows is that Uncle Daniel is quite strict with him; Daniel is a deacon who is a firm believer in spoiling the rod, rather than the child, and who continually complains that Toby eats four times as much as he earns with his daily chores. When the circus comes to town Toby bolts at the chance to run away and join it. Unfortunately, he discovers that his new master at the circus, Job Lord, is far more strict than Daniel ever was and gives Toby far less food--a devastating thing to Toby, who loves food above all else. Job is not just strict, but brutal and cruel, bullying and beating his boys, of whom Toby is the latest in a long line. The others ran away as soon as they were able, and Toby would have done the same, but Job finds Toby the most useful of all those young boys who thought running away and joining the circus would be glamorous, and so Job watches Toby quite closely. But Toby's looks help him meet new friends; he has a "round head covered with short red hair," a face "as speckled as any turkey's egg" with freckles, and a generally "thoroughly good-natured look," and these, and his confiding manner and general courageousness and good nature, help him to befriend Ben the Driver and Mr. and Mrs. Treat, the Fat Woman and her skeletal spouse. Toby also makes friends with Ella the child equestrienne and "Mr. Stubbs" the chimpanzee. Eventually they help him run away, and he returns to Uncle Daniel, who he knows--and has always known--deserved better than to have Toby abandon him. Toby returns realising that he had done wrong.
Yes, Toby Tyler has a happy ending, but no child exposed to the horror that is the circus ever truly escapes from it. The taint of the circus, its soul-draining desperation, the evil that is a clown, the vileness that is a greasepaint disguise, the ever-present abuse of the circus animals under the guise of "training"--these are things that never go away. Toby, if he was unfortunate enough not to escape from or outgrow his nightmares, would commit suicide. If he did...well, the future is unlimited for one who has mastered the evil within them and is willing to use it to get ahead. Perhaps Toby would control his own gang of street arabs; perhaps he would kill Uncle Daniel and use the money to run a brothel; or perhaps Toby would head to the Far East and become rich selling opium to the Chinese.
Williams, Eric. Young Eric, he of the unfortunate end, was introduced in Frederic W. Farrar's Eric, or Little by Little (1858). Eric is very, very excited about going to school, but once there he attracts the unwelcome and hostile attentions of Barker, the school bully, who hates him because of "the new boy's striking contrast with his own imperfections." Eric's first term at the school is made miserable by Barker until one of Eric's friends stands up for him. Unfortunately, this, as well as the friendship of one of the senior boys, makes Eric popular with a bad group of seniors, separating him from his good friends of his own age. Eric becomes drunk with his own popularity and, once in a position to do something about the corruption in the school, fails to take any action. He becomes inured to foul language and cheating, and is exposed to (and possibly engages in) various implied perversions. He takes an attractive junior under his wing, someone who is already an "accomplished malefactor," and they begin drinking, smoking and neglecting their schoolwork (no! not that!). Eric's downfall is corrected for a time when he saves one of his old friends from drowning, but the two good teachers in the school upbraid Eric for his poor behavior, which serves only to make him more reckless. He finally arrives drunk to the evening prayers, and for this unforgivable sin he is put on notice of expulsion. For a short time he acts well, but then he is wrongly suspected of having stolen money and is blackmailed by the junior he adopted, and Eric runs away from school, becoming a cabin boy on a merchant ship and enduring a horrifying voyage. He dies, repentant at the end.
Woolcott, Bunty. Bunty was introduced in E. Turner's Seven Little Australians (1894) and came back in The Family at Misrule (1895). He is, as the title indicates, an Australian, and a particularly sorry example of that breed; fat, lazy, grubby, with a pronounced streak of cowardice, Bunty continually lies to get out of trouble with his father, who is a dim, unperceptive, choleric Army colonel. As is the way of such things, Bunty's father is more concerned with broken windows and stolen food than why Bunty acts this way, and Bunty is often harshly punished, receiving verbal abuse and floggings. Bunty, graceless and sullen, only communicates with his sister Poppet, and when he is accused of stealing money at school he runs away to Sydney and begins doing menial work. Of course, the thief is eventually caught and Bunty returns home to a happier household. But Colonel Woolcott is not the type to change suddenly, and Bunty is without a doubt headed for an unhappy childhood and adolescence, culminating in his deportation to a penal colony for various Unspeakable Acts.
hinese Heroes. China has a long tradition of heroic fiction, based in large part on the stories of the early heroic "gallants," or knights (I'm going to use the two terms interchangeably). As early as the Pre-Qin period and the Western and Eastern Han dynasties (pre-221 BCE to 220 CE) the Commentaries and Annals have anecdotes about legendary Chinese heroes. The word xia, or "gallant" or "knightly," first appeared circa 300 B.C.E., and stories about the heroic knights were features of the Han, Wei, Six, Tang, Song, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties. The later part of the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911) saw a sudden outpouring of wuxia xiaoshuo (novels of knights-errant), but more interestingly respectable literary circles began paying attention to the genre and developed three different schools of gallant fiction: gallant fiction about legal cases, gallant fiction about chivalry and romance, and gallant fiction about skilled swordsmen. Most of the wuxia xiaoshuo, from the latter school, are about fighting men, the knights errant, who are good with sword, spear, staff and fist, and who triumph despite the huge odds against them.
Sanxia wuyi (translated variously as The Three Heroes and Five Gallants and The Three Valiant and Five Righeous Men), published in 1879, is a good example of gallant fiction about legal cases. The novel is anonymously written, but is essentially a stenographic transcription of a story told by the performer Shih Yü-k'un, The first half of Sanxia wuyi is about Zhan Zhao, a fearsome swordsman from the South ("the Knight-errant of the South"), who works for the moral, upright, and righteous Judge Bao Zheng (which I've also seen written as "Pao Cheng" and "Pao Kung") and fights against the evil official Pang Taishi. The second half of the novel is about five knights, Ouyang Chun (the "Earth-penetrating Rat," for his expertise in tunnels and mines), Bai Yutang ("the Beautiful-furred Rat," for his physical handsomeness), Lu Fang ("the Heaven-piercing Rat," for his ability to climb tall masts), Jiang Ping (the "River-churning Rat," for his skill at swimming and diving), and Ai Hu (the "Mountain-boring rat," who is an adept spelunker and underground explorer), who are so impressed by Judge Bao that they agree to serve under him. They all move to help another upright official, Yan Chasan, one of Bao's surrogates, to wipe out the evil Prince Xiangyang. Each of the five knights has their own distinct personality, with Bai Yutang, for example, being very proud, ruthless, self-absorbed, and needy for success and public acclaim.
Judge Bao, for his part, is a character who has appeared in a wide range of stories, being based on a real judge who flourished under the Emperor Jên Tsung and who died in 1062 CE. Judge Bao is, as Vincent Starrett describes him, "a magistrate of wide renown and rectitude, with power at once to investigate, to judge and, ultimately to punish." He has enormous integrity, being thoroughly immune to bribes (no small thing, in feudal China, where at various times all officials were corrupt) and so very popular with the lower classes. He is quite grave, rarely smiling and seeming to lack any sense of humor, and is respected even in Hell; he has a magic pillow on which he would lay his head and communicate with the underworld, and during the Ming dynasty stories showed him actually entering Hell to get his information. He is a cunning and astute detective and is capable of subterfuge and even torture if it will gain him the confession he needed to punish the guilty. After A. Conan Doyle was translated into Chinese, in 1896, Sherlock Holmes became identified in the Chinese public's mind with Holmes. Judge Bao even has a Watson, his childhood friend Bao Xing. But Sherlock Holmes was much more of a Chinese "amateur ideal" than Bao was, for Bao had none of the hobbies and distractions that the ideal member of the Chinese gentry--and Holmes--had. Judge Bao was interested only in justice.
Seven Swordsmen and Thirteen Gallants was written by Tang Yunzhou and published in 180 chapters in 1894. It is one of the best of the gallant swordsmen stories and is a precursor for the swordsman fantasy stories that emerged during the years of the Republic, from 1912-1949. The story is about Xu Minggao, Yi Zhimei, and other righteous heroes who kill tyrants and help the poor and oppressed of China. When the evil Prince of Ning rebels the knights unite under the leadership of good officials and help put down the rebellion. This novel verges on to the fantastic, with the kngihts being able to control the weather, summon rain and wind, and spread beans which will turn into soldiers.
hing-Ching. Ching-Ching, a Chinese teenage detective in England, was the creation of E. Harcourt Burrage, who is described in some detail in the Broad Arrow Jack entry. He starred in the popular magazine Ching-Ching's Own, which ran from 1888-1893, but his first appearance was in a penny dreadful novel, "Handsome Harry of the Fighting Belvedere," in The Boys' Standard in 1876. (See the Handsome Harry entry in the Boy Heroes section). The dreadfuls he appeared in after "Handsome Harry of the Fighting Belvedere" were: "Cheerful-Daring-Wonderful Ching-Ching," (again in The Boys' Standard), "Wonderful Ching-Ching" (in Boy's Leisure Hour in 1885); Cheerful Ching-Ching (1886); Daring Ching-Ching (1886), which was the sequel to Cheerful Ching-Ching and which proved to be very popular, winning Ching-Ching and Burrage a large readership among adults as well as boys in England; Wonder Ching-Ching. His further adventures (1886); Young Ching-Ching (1890); Young Ching at school; or, Grand old times for the slapcrashers (1890); and Ching Ching on the Trail: A new style of detective story (1895). I've been unable to find a copy of any of his adventures to read. One secondary source describes him as "a sort of juvenile Charlie Chan," while another says he is "not so much sinister as sinuously enterprising and wickedly clever." There is some textual confusion over his name; most often he is called "Ching-Ching" or "Ching Ching," but occasionally he is referred to as "Chin Chin," as in the illustration above. I've gone with "Ching-Ching" because that is the name I've found most often. Likewise, although most of the secondary sources I've consulted say that Ching-Ching was a teenager, there is the occasional illustration (like the one above) or comment that seem to say that Ching-Ching was an adult. I'm working on getting more information about Ching-Ching, and when I have it I'll pass it along.
One critic describes Ching-Ching as a "spinner of yarns...and an adept magician" who initially (in the "Handsome Harry" stories) functions as the comic relief in the stories. Another secondary source gives still more information on Ching-Ching:
There was no malice, but a great deal of cunning, in Ching-Ching. His antecedents were vague and the wily youth told many improbable tales of his early days and illustrious forbears in Pekin. (sic) He spoke in a pidgin dialect which to the modern reader is rather trying, and must have been still more trying to the proof-reader. Ching-Ching was a fellow of infinite resource and inextinguishable cheerfulness. He would tackle a rogue on the highroad with the same insouciance as he sought to tackle that secret society, based on South America, which was in the happy position of being able to give orders to the Nihilists in Russia, the Socialists in Germany and the Communists in France (the date of this story was 1881).Another critic says this of Ching-Ching:
Burrage's series of Ching-Ching tales in penny magazines and part-books had as hero a wily young Chinese lad who hailed originally from Peking but was now at home in any part of the world, tackling members of Tongs, crooks, spies, and sundry other rascals with equal aplomb and with the bland cheerfulness expected of Oriental heroes along with the diabolical cruelty associated with Chinese villains.hingatok. The redoubtable Chingatok is the title character in R.M. Ballantyne's The Giant of the North (1882). Ballantyne (1825-1894) was a British author who wrote over 80 books, almost all of them directed at Victorian youth, who loved his work; more information on him is available here. Chingatok is an "Eskimo of the Arctic regions." I know that the proper term is Inuit, but the book calls them "Eskimos," so that's the term I'm going to use. Apologies to anyone who is offended by this. As for being a "giant," he is not a figure of a fairy tale, but rather...well, I'll let Ballantyne tell it:
Ching-Ching spoke the pidgin dialect spoken by all Orientals in the fiction of the time, which has continued, more or less in the same vein, ever since, and is still sometimes poken by British people addressing waiters in Chinese restaurants. To young readers with scant knowledge of any language other than their own, Ching-Ching's was fascinating and they tried it out on each other. "Drinkee for drunkee, velly goodlers." "You comee with me. We both have what foreign devils call a highee spree time. Me likee you velly much for friendlers."
Chingatok was a real man of moderate size--not more than seven feet two in his sealskin boots--with a lithe, handsome figure, immense chest and shoulders, a gentle disposition, and a fine, though flattish countenance, which was sometimes grave with thought, at other times rippling with fun....when he was merely a big boy--that is, bigger than the largest man of his tribe--he went out with the other braves to hunt and fish, and signalised himself by the reckless manner in which he would attack the polar bear single-handed; but when he reached his full height and breadth he gave up reckless acts, restrained his tendency to display his great strength, and became unusually modest and thoughtful, even pensive, for an Eskimo.As tends to happen in such stories, Chingatok grows up to become a young man well-respected by the other "Eskimos" so that he is not the official chief of his tribe, but is treated that way. He and his tribe live in northern Greenland, along the coast, and make a living in the usual Inuit...'scuse me, "Eskimo" fashion, but hunting and fishing. Chingatok is very affectionate to his mother, his father being entirely absent, and to his wife and children (who only appear near the end of the novel).
One day a group of British explorers appear; Captain Vance is piloting the Whitebear in a quest to find the North Pole. Accompanying him are a hardy crew of sailors, including Vance's friends Leo and Alf, Vance's son Benjy (one of the single most insufferable children/teenage characters I've ever had the displeasure to run across in any literary genre), and their servant "Butterball." Butterball is a freed slave, and a stereotype--not a wholly negative one (that would be Frycollin, in Verne's The Clipper of the Clouds), but still repugnant. The Whitebear runs aground after being trapped in an iceflow, and most of the crew decides to return home. Chingatok helps Vance et al. struggle forward and eventually reach the Pole after the requisite adventures and mishaps (polar bears, icebergs, "hyperborean" wild swans, walrusses the size of a small elephant), using enormous kites as sails for their small rubber lifeboats.
The Giant of the North is an interesting book in several ways. Ballantyne does a decent job of sketching Chingatok's character; although in some ways he is childlike--Ballantyne portrays all of the "Eskmos" in that way, which is par for the course for Victorian boys' literature--Chingatok is very thoughtful and even philosophical, as well as being a generally good person. (And a fierce fighter and hunter, naturally) The "Eskimos," as I said, are shown to be childlike and innocent in many ways, but in some ways they are superior to the Europeans, something that Ballantyne stresses on more than one occasion; Ballantyne includes comments like
Thus did Amalatok resolve to go to war for "worse than Nort Pole--for nothing"--It may not be inappropriate here to point out that Eskimo savages are sometimes equalled, if not surpassed, in this respect, by civilised and even Christian nations.and
"The insult," said Grabantak, "could only be washed out in blood!"Captain Vance is shown as being very egalitarian and fair to Chingatok, who he treats with as much respect as any Victorian boys' literature figure would be capable of treating a non-White. Vance is far too sympathetic to Benjy, however, who is given to sadistic "pranks" like firing the Whitebear's cannons just to frighten the "Eskimos," and who will undoubtedly grow up to be one of those figures which history records as having given orders for his soldiers to slaughter women and children. On the whole, though, The Giant of the North is much better than it could have been.
Strange, that simple savages of the far north should hold to that ridiculous doctrine. We had imagined that it was confined entirely to those further south, whose minds have been more or less warped by civilised usage.
hristian. Christian was created by Clemence Housman and appeared in “The Were-Wolf” (Atalanta, Oct. 1890-Sept. 1891). Housman (1861-1955) was a member of the Houseman family, the sister of the playwright Laurence Housman and the poet and classicist A.E. Housman. Clemence herself was an illustrator and sometime writer of fiction; in later life she became a social activist. “The Were-Wolf” is a sadly neglected classic and is one of the best werewolf stories ever written.
Somewhere in Scandinavia night has fallen, and the farm workers are crowded inside the great farm hall, working hard on all the various tasks which need accomplishing. Only little Rol and old Trella are exempted from work. Outside the wind rages, foretelling a storm. Then “a sound outside the door–the sound of a child’s voice, a child’s hands. ‘Open, open; let me in!’ piped the little voice from low down, lower than the handle, and the latch rattled as though a tiptoe child reached up to it, and soft small knocks were struck.” But when the door is opened, no one is standing there, and the great hound Tyr howls. Sweyn, most perfectly formed of men, goes outside to look, not believing that his ears could have deceived him, but sees no one and says that it must have been the wind. No one inside believes him, and they become more frightened when it happens again, in the voice of an old man, then in the voice of a young man. Both times Sweyn opens the door and looks and sees nothing. The third time it happens Sweyn opens the door and a beautiful, fair-haired woman clad all in white furs walks into the hall. Tyr leaps to attack her, and she moves to brain the dog with a small axe she carries, but Sweyn catches Tyr and chains him. The woman introduces herself as “White Fell” and says that she is a traveler on her way to meet distant kindred. Sweyn is immediately attracted to her, and she charms everyone in the hall.
Meanwhile Sweyn’s twin brother Christian, a great hunter and the fastest man in the land, has been out bear hunting and is on his way home. He notices the tracks of a great wolf–only one, the lone wolf, the deadliest of its kind--and begins following them. They lead toward the hall, and Christian grows anxious–but they stop at the door of the hall. Fearful, he enters the hall and takes in everything with a glance. He knows what White Fell is, and wants to warn his brother immediately, but Sweyn is so taken with White Fell that he either does not see or ignores Christian’s signals to him, and so finally Christian goes to see Tyr. Tyr, “as piteous and indignant as a dumb beast can be,” greets him, and they comfort each other. Christian sees that White Fell is about to eat with the rest of the family, and so Christian refuses to break bread. Christian finally gets his chance to talk to Sweyn, but Sweyn first laughs away Christian’s words and then insultingly and angrily dismisses them. Sweyn even taunts Christian by telling him to
confide in old Trella. Out of her stores of wisdom, if her memory holds good, she can instruct you in the orthodox manner of tackling a Were-Wolf. If I remember airght, you should watch the suspected person till midnight, when the beast’s form must be resumed, and retained ever after if a human eye sees the change; or, better still, sprinkle hands and feet with holy water, which is certain death. Oh! never fear, but old Trella will be equal to the occasion.Christian does not let Sweyn’s words or warnings provoke him, and at midnight Christian creeps into the guest-chamber where White Fell is staying. It’s empty, and the window is open. The next morning her absence is discovered and everyone, including Sweyn, is upset by it. Sweyn still disdains Christian’s warnings.
Rol disappears, and Sweyn scorns Christian’s words. White Fell returns some weeks later, and Sweyn is ever more taken with her, and everyone in the hall is happy to see her. Everyone except Christian, who knows that White Fell was responsible for Rol’s death. So Christian decides to get some holy water and prove that she is a werewolf by dousing her in it. The nearest church is three leagues away, and so he runs there and back in under two hours. When he returns, he finds that White Fell has sung a song which has enchanted even old Trella, and that White Fell has kissed Trella, just as she kissed Rol. Christian lets Tyr loose, and White Fell, seeing this, cries “The signal horn! Hark, I must go!” As she’s going through the door Christian throws the flask of holy water at her, but she puts the door between them and the flask shatters harmlessly. Sweyn attacks Christian, and their mother is forced to separate them. Christian is depressed at his failure and at the abuse Sweyn heaps on him.
Then Trella disappears, and everyone hears Christian’s frantic cry, “Rol she kissed; Trella she kissed!” and everyone begins to suspect White Fell. Everyone but Sweyn, who is in denial about it and is furious with Christian for accusing her. One night Christian is lured away from the hall by a false message from Sweyn, and when he returns he sees Sweyn and White Fell kissing. White Fell slips away and Sweyn confronts Christian. Christian voices his alarm, but Sweyn, deliberately misconstruing it, attacks him: “Mad fool! Win for yourself a woman to kiss. Leave mine without question. Such an one as I should desire to kiss is such an one as shall never allow a kiss to you.” Christian pleads with him, one final time, trying to save him from the werewolf, and Sweyn attacks him. This time Christian is desperate and allows himself to use his boar spear to knock Sweyn down. Christian then runs after White Fell, and so the great race between them begins. He pursues her for hours, over rough terrain and through heavy snow. At one point she strikes him with her axe, breaking his right arm. He still chases after her, her superhuman speed matched by his superhuman exertion and his will that she should not kill Sweyn. A pack of wolves begins chasing them but falls back in fear on catching her scent. As midnight draws close, bad things begin to happen:
The clear stars before him took to shuddering, and he knew why: they shuddered at sight of what was behind him. He had never divined before that strange things hid themselves from men under pretence of being snow-clad mounds or swaying trees; but now they came slipping out from their harmless covers to follow him, and mock at his impotence to make a kindred Thing resolve to truer form. He knew the air behind him was thronged; he heard the hum of innumerable murmurings together; but his eyes could never catch them, they were too swift and nimble. Yet he knew they were there, because, on a backward glance, he saw the snow mounds surge as they grovelled flatlings out of sight; he saw the trees reel as they screwed themselves rigid past recognition among the boughs.Finally it is almost midnight, and she is preparing to outpace him so that she can change without being seen. He put forth one last great effort and dashes in front of her, and they struggle a final time. He grabs her with his one good hand and holds on to her, even gripping her tunic with his teeth, even after she twice brings her axe down on the back of his neck.
She changes in front of his dying eyes. And because his intent is a good and innocent one, his blood kills her: “...no holy water could be more holy, more potent to destroy an evil thing than the lifeblood of a pure heart poured out for another in free willing devotion.” He dies, glad that he has saved his brother.
Sweyn, infuriated with Christian, follows his tracks the next day. When he finds White Fell’s tracks, he envisions a crazed Christian chasing White Fell, and is fearful for her and so filled with hate that he is ready to kill Christian. But what Sweyn finally finds is Christian’s body, frozen solid, and the equally frozen body of a great white wolf, and so Sweyn knows that he was wrong and that Christian is right. And Sweyn carried Christian’s body all the way back to the hall, “and he knew surely that to him Christian had been as Christ, and had suffered and died to save him from his sins.”
“The Were-Wolf” is an outstanding piece of work. Housman tells the story in the pseudo-Norse folktale mode which William Morris popularized with A Tale of the House of Wolfings and The Story of the Glittering Plain (both of which will eventually be seen here). But Housman shows more psychological insight and perception than Morris does–or, rather, Housman brings a consciousness of such things to the folktale, something Morris chose not to do. So “The Were-Wolf” has the folklorish and mythic trappings, the rural Scandinavian setting and the presence of magic in the world cheek-by-jowl with a primitive Christianity, but Housman adds to these some excellent characterisation and dialogue which is less eccentrically archaic than in Morris. “The Were-Wolf” reads like a folktale, but Housman’s more modern approach adds to it, so that the end result is not a folktale marred by anachronistic trappings, but rather an updated and modernised folktale. The depth of characterisation is modern, and Housman adds a few moments of genuine horror which would be absent in folktales. Both Christian and Sweyn are given depth, and Housman spends time inside each of their heads, so that their motivations and emotions and personalities are quite realistic, and the pair are recognizable to us. (It must be conceded, though, that White Fell is not given this treatment and is only two-dimensional). And the horror in the story, as seen in the quote above, is unexpected (odd, for a werewolf story, but this is a folktale featuring a werewolf rather than a werewolf story in folktale form, and so we are lulled into not expecting scary stuff) and adds a pleasurable chill.
Housman’s treatment of faith is notable. Sweyn’s skepticism is shown to be wrong and Christian’s faith to be right, but Housman does not take the cheap and easy route of anti-intellectualism. Skepticism itself is not mocked, and it is Christian’s will and personality and intellect and innate goodness which allow him to triumph. The form of Christianity seen here is historically accurate; there is a church which Christian goes to to get the holy water, but the Church is missing, and the relationship between man and God is one-to-one and not mediated by the Church–which is an accurate reflection of medieval Scandinavian Christianity.
Finally, Housman’s pacing is excellent. Her descriptions and scene-setting, from the wintry, rural environment to Christian’s mental torment, are equally so.
Christian himself is a good man. He’s Sweyn’s twin, but less perfectly formed, with flaws that render him less handsome. He is not as confident in himself or as socially assured, and so he lets the cocksure Sweyn be the leader and he the adoring follower. He loves his brother so much that he defers to him and accepts abuse long past the point others would, and he finally sacrifices himself to save Sweyn’s life. Christian is a very good hunter and tracker and the fastest man in the land. He’s also a good Christian, full of faith.
“The Were-Wolf” is really quite good, and the race between Christian and White Fell is the equal of Dick Turpin’s.
hristian, John. Christian, John. John Christian was created by A.T. Quiller-Couch and appeared in "The Roll Call of the Deep" (The Idler, June 1895). Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944) was a British poet, novelist, and critic, known in his writing as Q. Quiller-Couch was prolific, but “Roll Call” is perhaps his most anthologized story. I haven’t read enough Q to judge whether it “Roll Call” is among his best, but it’s pretty damn good.
In 1809 an awful storm blows up along the coast of England, and during the night of the storm two ships are wrecked, the Primrose and the Despatch. The locals on the coast swarm out to the shores, to rescue any survivors and get what salvage they can before the preventive men arrive. They find only a few survivors, a few cavalrymen from the Despatch, including one trumpeter, and a drummer boy from the Primrose. The trumpeter is only a little wounded by the wreck, but he’s not right in the head. The drummer boy is feverish but eventually recovers. The two are housed at a coastal village while they recuperate, and they eventually meet, and though there is an initial dislike between them, based on service rivalry, they soon become friends, and spend a summer rowing out to the rocks where the Primrose and Despatch sank and playing for the dead, the drummer his tattoo and the trumpeter his calls. At summer’s end the drummer boy has to rejoin the Marines, and he and the trumpeter say their farewells. Five years pass and the hurt in the trumpeter’s head spreads to the rest of his body, and he spends his time dozing and feeble, preparing for the end. But the drummer boy appears one night and asks the trumpeter to accompany him one last time out on to the water: “...I’d fain see the Marines again...and you, you shall call once more for the Queen’s Own.” The drummer boy has a bullet wound by his breast bone, but he does not acknowledge it. The pair go out one more time, rowed out by the man who has been taking care of the trumpeter, and the two play for the dead:
And the trumpeter...put his trumpet to his mouth and sounded the reveille. The music of it was like rivers running...and the drummer took his sticks and beat a tattoo, there by the edge of the reef; and the music of it was like a rolling chariot....and while the drum beat, and my father held his breath, there came up out of the sea and the darkness a troop of many men, horse and foot, and formed up among the graves; and others rose out of the graves and formed up–drowned Marines with bleached faces, and pale Hussars, riding their horses, all lean and shadowy.The trumpeter and the drummer go ashore, and the trumpeter calls the roll, and each man comes forward and confesses his sins, but each “died as a man ought,” and is content to be with his fellows. So, too, are the drummer and trumpeter, and when the roll is done they walk into the darkness and join their comrades. The trumpeter’s body is still on the shore, but he is dead. Later, news comes that the drummer died in action in France that very night.
“The Roll Call of the Reef” deals with themes that are more uncommon than common in 19th century ghost stories: fidelity, brotherhood, and the love soldiers have for each other. It is to Q’s credit that he succeeds in making the reader feel some of these emotions via the story. “Roll Call” succeeds on several levels. Q creates a very convincing seaside milieu–the scene-setting is excellent. Q creates character well; in relatively few sentences the trumpeter and the drummer come to life. Q tells a good story, with memorable imagery and some well-crafted lines. And Q manages to evoke emotions and make the end of the story touching. Well-written and effective is not an easy combination to achieve, but Q did, and “Roll Call” makes me want to read more by him, perhaps the Ash-Tree collection The Horror on the Stair.
John Christian is the drummer, a boy when rescued from the sea and a man when he returns to the trumpeter. John is also a Marine, and proud of it, and if they are insulted, even by a strapping 6'2" cavalry trumpeter, John will respond in kind, or with his fists. John is a military man, despite his young age, and enjoys hearing about campaigns and is proud to take part in them. He’s brave, beating his tattoo on a sinking ship so that his fellow Marines can die like British soldiers ought to. And he is faithful to his brothers in arms; not even death stops him from rejoining his drowned comrades.
“The Roll Call of the Reef” is justifiably famous.
hrysis. Chrysis was created by Pierre Louÿs and appeared in Aphrodite: Mours Antiques (Aphrodite: Ancient Manners, 1895). Louÿs (1870-1925) was a minor French writer, connected with Mallarmé, Gide, Valéry, and Debussy, among others. He wrote a number works of erotica which argued for a Greek view of morality and erotics and against the Christian view. He’s best remembered for Aphrodite, whose reputation and notoriety has lasted even to the modern day. The novel is an eye-opener, and is a memorable piece of exotic and erotic romanticism–a sort of lesser Salammbô, but with lots of sex.
Aphrodite is about Chrysis, the most beautiful and desired courtesan of Alexandria. She has had many lovers/customers/patrons, but none have touched her, and she feels a certain contempt for the men who fall in love with her. But one day she meets Demetrious, the exquisitely handsome sculptor and lover of the Queen. Demetrious has tired of the Queen, and despite all the women of Alexandria lusting after him, he does not involve himself with any of them. But when he meets Chrysis he falls in love with her, and asks her to go home with him. She refuses him, on the grounds that she’ll be just another conquest to him. She asks him to prove himself to her, by bringing her three gifts: a silver mirror owned by a rival courtesan; an ivory comb owned by the wife of the High Priest, who Chrysis dislikes; and the necklace of pearls hanging around the neck of the statue of Aphrodite in the Temple of Aphrodite-Astarte. Demetrious objects to this, and visits the Temple and has sex with one of the temple prostitutes, an eleven-year-old, but he is taken with Chrysis, and the sex with the ten year old does not sate his desire for Chrysis, and so steals the mirror, kills the wife of the High Priest (who gives herself to Chrysis willingly, so strongly does she lust after him), and then steals the necklace of pearls from the statue. The theft of the mirror is discovered, causing an orgy to turn ugly and the slave who was due to be freed during the orgy to be crucified. The body of the wife of the High Priest is discovered, and soon after that the theft of the necklace of pearls is discovered, and so the prostitutes of the city are frightened that the gods will forsake them. Meanwhile Demetrious has a dream in which he and Chrysis have perfect, joyous sex. When Chrysis and Demetrious meet up again he gives her the three objects she asked for and she avows her complete love for him, the first real love she’s felt for a man, but he coldly spurns her, telling her that after the dream he had, the reality would be unsatisfying. She begs him to take her, and he tells her that if she wears all three objects in front of the crowd of prostitutes, he will see her again. She does and is condemned to death by drinking hemlock. He sees her again but is very unkind to her, and so she gladly dies and is buried by her friends.
Aphrodite is unlike any other work I’ve read for this site. Louÿs wrote it as a rebuke of Christian sexual morality and a proclamation of the superiority of the sexual mores of the ancients, both the Greeks and the Egyptians. But rather than simply writing pornography, Louÿs wrote his paean to sex in the form of a historical romance. So the novel lacks the explicitness (and the ugly morality) of de Sade’s Justine, and is considerably spicier than Salammbô. But Louÿs does take some of the same approach to his subject matter as Flaubert, so there is a similar amount of historical detail and the same savage, romantic portrayal of the ancients, written in the same lush style. Aphrodite is a sensual novel in terms of the sex but also in terms of the appeal Louÿs’ descriptions make to the senses. The characterization is solid and the dialogue entertaining.
The main theme of the novel is carnality, and although the Alexandria of the novel can be described as decadent that term has certain pejorative overtones which Louÿs would undoubtedly disagree with. He approved of the world he portrayed. Modern readers, however, might look askance at it. Or not, depending on how you feel about a novel which includes, in varying degrees of detail: deflowering, lesbianism, genital shaving, rape, lesbian marriage rites, a lesbian threesome, sex toys, sex with an eleven year old temple prostitute (entirely willing on her part), Qabbalic fortune telling, induced abortion, tiny penis jokes, an orgy which begins with food and ends with a woman taking on three or more men at once, a woman masturbating in public, a crucifixion, and a thirteen year old Cleopatra describing her orgasms and making sure her lover doesn’t cheat on her by imprisoning him. Aphrodite is quite something, and until (if) I read something like “Lady Pokingham” or any of the other serials from The Pearl, it will be far and away the most sexually graphic work included here.
Chrysis is a proud minx, fully aware of how beautiful she is, proud of her sexual skills and her way with men, too independent to be tied down to any one man, and scornful of those who fall in love with her. Her demand of Demetrious comes from pride, or hubris, and it is that which leads to her downfall. She is compassionate to her fellow prostitutes, however, and shares her lives and her bed with several of them, and loves a few of them as much as she can love anyone.
hurkin, Vasilii. Churkin, though based on a real person, was created by Nikolai Ivanovic Pastukhov (1822-1911), a Russian writer, editor, and journalist who was prolific and very popular. (He was also a rightist and a rather venomous anti-Semite). Churkin appeared in "The Bandit Churkin," a very long serial which appeared in Moskovskii listok from 1882 to 1885. The real Vasilii Churkin was a brutal thug, but the fictional Churkin was a swashbuckling, charismatic anti-hero and bandit generally liked by the peasants (except for his victims) and hated by the bourgeoisie and aristocrats. Churkin is also bloodthirsty and crude, but that had no effect on his popularity, and perhaps increased it. Churkin is also extremely strong, being described as "solidly built, broad shouldered, and as quick in his movements as a tiger." Churkin was originally a dye factory worker but, greedy, he passed on his already good salary and began stealing from the factory. He was fired for this and moved on to crime, beginning and small and finally commanding dozens of men and stealing on a grand scale.
Churkin's first episode began with the words "Muscovites have undoubtedly heard of the celebrated bandit Vasilii Chukin, who in his time spread panicky fear with his daring raids, brigandage, and robbery against the inhabitants of the district of Bogorodsk and the neighboring districts of Vladimir, Riazan, and other provinces." As the novel progresses Churkin, his brutish friend Osip, and Churkin's band adventure from Bogorodsk, in Moscow Province, to western Siberia and then back again. He murders and steals and is eventually killed by...well, it's a oak branch in his home forest. It fell on his head, and he died from it. Hardly the stuff of heroes--but that wasn't Pastukhov's fault. His creation became so popular with ordinary people that they began idealizing him, with "Churkin" becoming the most popular nickname for stray dogs and with children wanting to play bandits rather than knights. The Tsar himself, as well as the upper classes, were appalled by this, and after Pastukhov was harshly punished in a libel case Prince V.A. Dolgorukov, the governor general of St. Petersburg, told Pastukhov that he had one issue in which to kill off Churkin. Or else. (Well, Dolgorukov said he'd close the newspaper if Pastukhov didn't snuff Churkin, but there was a further unspoken "or else" in there).
igarette. Cigarette, one of the true immortals of literature, was created by Ouida and appeared in Under Two Flags (1867). For three decades Ouida, neé Marie Louise de la Remée (1839-1908), was renowned and respected as one of the most successful and effective popular writers in Britain, drawing praise from the likes of Edward Bulwer-Lytton and even Henry James, but by the 1890s the vogue for her work had passed and she died penniless.
Before that point, however, she wrote forty-four novels and collections of stories, the best-remembered of which is Under Two Flags. Under Two Flags is the archetypal "French Foreign Legion Novel;" although P.C. Wren's Beau Geste (1924) is the novel that everyone remembers and has heard of, Under Two Flags predated it by over fifty years and was enormously influential both at the time and afterwards. Although Wren, to my knowledge, never admitted being influenced by Ouida, Under Two Flags was still being read by schoolboys when Wren was a child. More importantly, virtually all the important aspects of Beau Geste are to be found in Under Two Flags.
(Although it should be said that Under Two Flags is not about the French Foreign Legion, but rather about the Chasseurs d’Afrique, a light cavalry troop founded in 1831 to hunt and kill mounted Algerian Arab insurgents. The Legion were the scum of Europe; the Chasseurs were noble gentlemen).
Under Two Flags is about Bertie Cecil, a young British noble who is a member of the First Life Guards. Bertie’s life is ever so tiresome, don’t you know; his languid personality is just so strained by the sheer effort of being Bertie (or “Beauty,” as his friends and admirers call him). The horse races, the hunting, the being the darling of the fast and first sets, it’s all such a bother. Bertie is popular and handsome, admired by his male friends and the object of universal female admiration. His life is nearly perfect except for two difficulties: he has next to no money, and to live properly (i.e., with the best of everything) and to gamble as a man should merely worsens his debts; and his younger brother Berkeley has a bad gambling problem and worse debts. Bertie eventually loses all he has on a horse race–he staked everything on his beloved Forest King, but one of Bertie’s enemies, a welsher who Bertie humiliated, drugged Forest King so that he ran badly–and almost simultaneously discovers that Berkeley forged Bertie’s name on a bill. Bertie could reveal that he did not sign the bill, but he could only do so by revealing that at the time the bill was forged he was with the Countess Guenevere, a married woman. Bertie won’t allow himself to ruin the good (ha) name of Guenevere, and so flees, accepting disgrace for himself in the place of Guenevere and Berkeley. Bertie goes to Algeria and joins the Chasseurs d’Afrique. Twelve years pass in which he establishes himself as one of the Chasseurs' best soldiers. Then he meets the delightful gamine Cigarette, the darling of the Chasseurs. And then he endures deprivation, hardship, wounds, the combat deaths of friends, the death of his father while he himself is far away from his family, and the brutality of his commander, Châteauroy, until Cigarette sacrifices herself for Bertie–she’s fallen in love with Bertie, although he does not reciprocate–and Berkeley, shamed by Cigarette, reveals that it was he, not Bertie, who signed the bill. Bertie is restored to his title, he marries the Princess Venetia Corona, who he fell in love with while in Africa, and Bertie and Venetia live Happily Ever After.
Under Two Flags is not well-written; I suppose, strictly speaking, it's not even a good book. It's too long by about a third. Ouida repeats herself; too many of her descriptions are long lists of items, sensations, or names, designed to let the reader know how well acquainted Ouida is with the done things of the fast set, and Ouida seems to think that if one example or sentence clause is good, four or five will automatically be better. Everyone talks too much, in great rambling speeches or monologues; Cigarette's dying farewell stretches across five pages. Ouida's characters are in many ways cartoons, so that Bertie is quite unrealistically noble, the Princess Venetia is the epitome of aristocratic breeding and kindness, Rake (Bertie's servant) is the perfect example of a slavishly devoted underling, and Cigarette is the very definition of brio. Ouida works out her daddy issues through Bertie, so that everyone in Under Two Flags worships Bertie, as does Ouida herself and as Ouida worshipped her father, and Cigarette, Ouida's Mary Sue character (explained at length here and here), proves her great love to Bertie just as Ouida wanted to but never could to her own father, who abandoned her. Bertie's affected languor is no pose--it's a reflection of the done behavior of upper class young British men, especially military officers, of the early and mid-19th century (thanks to John Sutherland I can tell you that examples of this can be seen in works from Childe Harold to Mrs. Gore's Cecil to G.A. Lawrence's Guy Livingstone)--but it's deucedly annoying. There's a strain of anti-Semitism in the novel. Ouida's class biases are overt; Bertie, and those of his class, are innately superior, so that not only do the lower classes worship them (and are happy to do so) simply for being themselves, but their mere presence begins to reform even the most brutish and criminal men. And--
The list goes on. And yet in a very real sense these flaws not only don't matter but are beside the point. Under Two Flags is an immensely successful bad novel. "Successful" not just financially--for it was a bestseller many times over, although poor Ouida was not enriched by it (her publisher bought all the rights from her)--but also historically--as mentioned, the genre of the French Foreign Legion story begins here--and most importantly emotionally. You will be annoyed by Under Two Flags. Ouida's stylistic failings will irritate you. You'll react negatively to Bertie simply because he's so much the subject of Ouida's hero worship. But damned if it won't affect you. If you let yourself be drawn into it, accept that the book is not well-written, set aside your critical faculties and simply let yourself enjoy the novel as melodramatic romance, you will be rewarded with a compelling and sometimes moving experience. The emotion evoked in Under Two Flags is not of the exquisite, refined variety; Ouida could not write in the Henry James mode, and didn’t try. But Ouida succeeds at the over-the-top moments and the melodramatic emotion, premier among them Cigarette saving Bertie by throwing herself in front of his firing squad, arriving at the last moment to do so after having ridden all night at breakneck speeds across the desert and even having surrendered herself to a band of Arabs, telling them they can do with her what they want if they will only carry a message to the firing squad--only to have the Arabs, touched by her willing martyrdom, send her on her way, complete with a fresh horse. The cumulative weight of the characterization of Bertie and Cigarette--and for all her other faults Ouida does a good job of vividly drawing their characters (they may be irritating, but they are memorable)--almost irresistably leads us to sympathize with them. And even with the unrealities of Bertie and Cigarette and their more annoying traits, we still identify with them, and see their goodness and, yes, nobility (of spirit rather than breeding), and wish them well, and so are moved by Bertie's sacrifice (which, when you come right down to it, is rather noble of him) and the miseries and sorrows he must endure.
But it's Cigarette this entry is about, and although Bertie eventually wins our sympathies Cigarette gains our affection almost immediately. She's a sort of camp follower for the Chasseurs. But she's no whore; rather, she is the mascot and mother figure to the Chasseurs. She is 17 during the events of Under Two Flags. Her mother was a camp follower, her father a soldier unknown to her. Cigarette was an infant during the 1848 unrest, sitting on the barriers and laughing as La Marseilles was sung and the bullets flew. After that she wandered to Africa with her mother, and then, after her death, Cigarette attached herself to the Chausseurs. She is a patriot for France, devoted not to the government or the upper classes but to the people, to the soldiers, and to the country itself, and when she wins the Cross of the Legion of Honour, for gallantry on the battlefield, it is the crowning moment of her life and something she has dreamed about from when she as very young.
She is, of course, attractive:
She was very pretty, audaciously pretty, though her skin was burned to a bright sunny brown, and her hair was cut as short as a boy's and her face had not one regular feature in it. But then--regularity! who wanted it, who would have thought the most pure classic type a change for the better, with those dark, dancing challenging eyes; with that arch, brilliant, kitten-like face, so sunny, so mignon, and those scarlet lips like a bud of camellia that were never so handsome as when a cigarette was between them.Her personality, though, is the really attractive thing about her:
She would eat a succulent duck, thinking it all the spicier because it had been a soldier's 'loot'; she would wear the gold plunder off dead Arabs' dress, and never have a pang of conscience with it; she would dance all night long, when she had a chance, like a little Bacchante; she would shoot a man, if need be, with all the nonchalance in the world. She had had a thousand lovers, from handsome Marquises of the Guides to tawny black-browed scoundrels in the Zouaves, and she had never loved anything, except the roll of the pas de charge, and the sight of her own arch defiant face, with its scarlet lips and its short jetty hair, when she saw it by chance in some burnished cuirass, that served her for a mirror.Cigarette is beloved of the Chausseurs, feared and respected by the Arabs, a "swearing, killing, fighting, laughing, dancing bastard heroine," and a woman who can ride like a cavalryman, drink like a Zouave, and fight like a Chausseur. She has more dynamism and sheer liveliness than any four characters on this site. She rocks.
Under Two Flags is not Art. It has many faults. But you'll come to ignore them and enjoy the novel, and you'll come to love Cigarette.
lare, Lord. Lord Clare was created by M. Mcdonnell Bodkin and appeared in The Rebels (1899). Bodkin (1849-1933) was the creator of Dora Myrl, and I have some information on him there. The Rebels is an entertaining historical romance flawed by a bad authorial decision.
The Rebels is, as its subtitle says, “a romance of Ireland in 1798.” The Irish are being savagely oppressed by the British occupiers and so are in a state of violent unrest, although outright rebellion has not yet occurred. But Lord Clare, newly arrived in Dublin, is determined to pacify the natives: “I’ll make these Irish savages as tame as cats before I’m done with them.” Lord Clare makes this announcement at a dinner in Dublin Castle, and it causes no little disagreement. Several of the Irish (and one or two English) nobles and M.P.s vehemently disagree with him, seeing that the persecutions and barbarities of the occupying British troops have provoked and maddened the Irish people. Lord Clare sneers at those who disagree with them, accusing them of cowardice, sympathy with the rebels, and disloyalty to the Crown, and Lord Camden, the Lord-Lieutenant, placidly agrees with Lord Clare. The dinner ends with bitter feelings on both sides, although most of those present side with Lord Clare and chat among themselves, in the reception afterward, about the wickedness of the “papists and rebels.” After the dinner Lord Clare’s under-secretary, the bland, crafty Cooke, brings to Clare a spy, Thomas Reynolds, who had been a part of the “conspiracy” to rebel against the British but who favored peaceful change and was horrified at the “revolution, massacre, and anarchy” which the group aimed at. He is proud of his honor but allows himself to be bought in exchange for telling Lord Clare where the conspiracy’s ringleaders will meet. One only is not on the list, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Reynolds’ dearest friend and patron and a man Lord Clare particularly wants to catch. Reynolds had told Fitzgerald not to attend, but he reverses himself and sends Fitzgerald a letter telling him that he is needed there. Fitzgerald and his friend Maurice Blake arrive in time to see the other members of the conspiracy arrested. He makes it home and sees his wife, but Reynolds leads the troops to Fitzgerald’s house, and so Fitzgerald is forced to flee, escaping through the troops while wearing his wife’s clothes. Reynolds acts stupidly and tries to bribe Fitzgerald’s maid into betraying Fitzgerald’s new hiding place, which only lets the rebellion know that Reynolds is a spy. Clare and Cooke plot to find Lord Edward, and after eluding the British for some time and moving from safe house to safe house Fitzgerald is finally taken. He is treated badly in prison and dies of the injuries he incurred during his capture. Blake and his friend Christy Culkin escape into the countryside and see all the horrors which the British troops have inflicted on the Irish peasantry. Blake and Culkin take part in the general uprising. Afer one battle with the British Blake is captured, but Culkin engineers his escape. They meet up with Blake’s wife and Lord Edward’s wife and son, and they go west, meeting up with the French troops who have landed to support the uprising. The Irish and French clash with the British and beat them, but the defeated troops rampage across the countryside and capture Blake’s wife. Blake’s wife eventually escapes, and Blake, his wife, Culkin, and Lord Edward’s wife and son board an American ship and set sail for America.
The first half of The Rebels is much the better half. Lord Clare and Lord Edward are both colorfully drawn, and the pursuit of Lord Edward is enjoyable historical romance fun. But Bodkin kills Lord Edward off on page 181, leaving 177 pages of Culkin and Blake, and the latter pair simply aren’t as enjoyable to read about. There’s an element of high spirits to Lord Edward, a liveliness and wit, which Culkin and Blake lack, and the absence of Lord Edward and Lord Clare reduces the level of fun in the novel. The emphasis of the story changes, from Edward to Blake and Culkin, and so of course Lord Clare disappears; what replaces him is Bodkin’s central concern in the novel, decrying the British treatment of the Irish, and that’s a serious subject, treated very seriously by Bodkin, with a resulting decrease of fun.
More damaging, though, is Bodkin’s approach to the British occupation of Ireland. The Question is of course a contentious one, only marginally less so today than it was in 1798, when the novel is set, or in 1899, when Bodkin wrote it. To those intimately involved in it, whether by blood or by friendship, it’s impossible to remain neutral on the issue of the British in Ireland. (Disclosure time, in case it matters to you: although adopted, I’m probably at least half-Irish and grew up outside of Boston). Bodkin, an Irish Nationalist M.P., had strong feelings on the matter, and apparently wrote The Rebels to persuade his readers of the rightness of the Irish cause. Unfortunately, as is usually the case with didactic literature, The Rebels doesn’t make a good argument, but only annoys. Bodkin stacks the deck against the British, portraying them as unrelievedly wicked, raping, torturing, and murdering without compassion or mercy, even trapping pet dogs inside of burning houses. Lord Clare is no better, being an evil caricature rather than something resembling a real person. The Rebels isn’t quite as poisonous in its pro-Irish, anti-British bigotry as Gogol was in Taras Bulba, and most modern readers probably won’t feel quite as soiled when they finish The Rebels as they will when they finish Taras Bulba...actually, that may not be true. British readers might feel equally or more soiled. It’s probably going to depend on how the reader feels about The Question.
You might come away from the preceding with the impression that The Rebels is awful. It’s not–well, not entirely. Large parts of it are quick-moving, well-told, vivid, and enjoyable. Lord Clare is an entertaining villain, quite enjoyable in his evil awfulness. Lord Edward is similarly fun; he’s a traditional historical romance hero, honorable, witty, tricky, patriotic, a good swordsman and a good father. But even while reading the good parts, like the pursuit of Edward, the modern reader will still be aware of the underlying hatred (which, on reflection, is not too strong a word) of The Rebels.
Lord Edward is a good hero, and I was tempted to make him the subject of this entry, but Lord Clare is a better villain. He’s quite despicable, almost cartoonishly vile. He intensely hates the Irish, and his loyalty to the Crown is genuine. He’s proud, ruthless and cruel toward the Irish, rude toward those he disagrees with, and quite willing to allow British troops great latitude in quelling the rebellion, which translates into allowing the troops to do anything they want to the Irish people. He’s willing to stop at nothing to crush the rebellion. He doesn’t twist his mustache and cackle in a sinister manner, but otherwise he’s a fun bad guy.
lare, Virginia. Virginia Clare was created by J.H. Shorthouse and appeared in Sir Percival; A Story of the Past and of the Present (1886). Shorthouse (1834-1903) was a British chemist and author; his fame during the 19th century was primarily for the historical romance John Inglesant: A Romance (1881).
Sir Percival is essentially a love triangle, set in the future (1920). The principals are: Constance Lisle, the story's narrator, a good woman of a proper family background; Percival Massareen, a friend of Constance's family; and Virginia Clare, the bad-girl niece of a duke who is friends with Constance's parents. The novel begins with Constance, so that we learn about her situation and personality. She's clever, gentle, kind, religious, and sad, in her late twenties and still unmarried. (She's very likable and appealing; it's a shame Shorthouse did not treat her better). Percival enters her life as a guest of her parents, staying for a few months at their house. He's initially awkward around her, socially and emotionally, but they gradually become friends, and Constance begins to fall in love with him, almost without being aware of it. Then Virginia arrives, and Percival is instantly smitten with her. Constance immediately sees this, and graciously steps aside, allowing the two to fall in love and acting as a friend to them both. They have a short period of happiness together before an epidemic sweeps across England and kills Virginia. Percival is heartbroken but eventually recovers. He later proposes to Cnstance, but she turns him down, seeing that he still loves and will always love Virginia. He goes to Africa and dies there, winning the Victoria's Cross in the process, which he sends to Constance in a letter (in which he also tells her of his love for her) before he dies.
Virginia Clare is a beautiful, outspoken agnostic who describes herself as a "petroleuse" and says, "I am the sworn enemy of everything that is old. That I detest the social system which is the curse of civilization. That I wish to subvert and destroy it all." She is, in her own words, a "Socialist," though by today's definition we'd call her a communist. She's contemptuous of Christianity and religion and looks down on believers with amused condescension.
When Sir Percival is mentioned (which isn't often) it's usually grouped with other novels about anarchists. But despite Virginia Clare's beliefs Sir Percival is a novel about religion rather an anarchism. Shorthouse wrote about religious matters, with John Inglesant being about the contemporary conflicts within the High Church, and Sir Percival seems to have been meant in part as a religious response to anarchism. Virginia Clare is something of a satire of the New Woman, being naive and stridently doctrinaire in her beliefs; contrasted to Constance, Virginia comes off as unlikable, and neither she nor her beliefs are portrayed as being credible. Too, in Percival's family there's a story of his grandfather having been spoken to by God during an epidemic; the implication is that the plague which kills Virginia is just like the epidemic in the story and so is divinely caused. Finally, Constance is sad at having sacrificed her love for Percival for his relationship with Virginia, she is comforted by her own faith. It's the latter which makes Sir Percival a rather sad novel; the reader is meant to be reassured by Constance's faith, and see her decision as a noble one, but Constance is a very likable character (much better than Percival deserves), and modern readers (well, me, anyhow) will probably see her decision as a sad one.
larimonde. Clarimonde was created by Théophile Gautier and appeared in “La Morte Amoureuse” (translated variously as “The Dead Love” or “Clarimonde,” 1836). I have some information on Gautier in the Cleopatra entry below. “La Morte Amoureuse” is, like “One of Cleopatra’s Nights,” viewed as a classic of the weird, and like “One of Cleopatra’s Nights” it completely deserves the title.
“La Morte Amoureuse” is about the double life of Romuald. He is a young man, only 24, whose entire life has been spent in a “prolonged novitiate,” so that he has never stepped beyond the walls of his college and seminary, and his only goal in life, the highest ideal he aspires to, is become a priest. He is wholly ignorant of women, his only exposure to them being his twice yearly visit by his aged mother. Both his devotion to becoming a priest and his ignorance of women changes during his ordination as a priest, when he notices, in the crowd in the church, an extraordinarily beautiful woman. She makes him an offer with her eyes: “If thou wilt be mine, I shall make thee happier than God Himself in His paradise. The angels themselves will be jealous of thee.” Despite his complete willingness to say yes, he somehow resists and is ordained as a priest. As the woman leaves the church she tells him, “Unhappy man! Unhappy man! What hast thou done?” On his way back to his cell Romuald is given a note reading, “Clarimonde. At the Concini Palace,” and this sends him into transports of love and ecstasy, but there is no way he can leave his cell undetected and make it to the tryst. Then the Abbé Serapion, who has been watching Romuald, tells him that he is likely under attack by the Evil Spirit and that he should pray for the strength to resist. He does, and makes it through the night. The next morning Romuald leaves for his new curacy. On the way out of the city he notices one tower in particular and asks the Abbé about it. He is told that it is the palace which Prince Concini has given to the courtesan Clarimonde, and that “Awful things are done there.”
Romuald takes up his new position and does it well for a year, but he is unhappy, finding “a great aridness” in his new life. A year after assuming his new job he is summoned to the death bed, in a neighboring castle, of a noble lady, who turns out to be Clarimonde. Romuald arrives after she dies, but he stays to pray for her soul. He is bewitched, looking on her dead body, and he weeps, “bathing her cheeks with the warm dew of my tears,” and finally, before departing, he cannot resist one last farewell kiss on her lips.
She responds by coming to life and embracing him and saying, “What ailed thee, dearest? I waited so long for three that I am dead; but we are now betrothed; I can see thee and visit thee. Adieu, Romuald, adieu! I love thee. That is all I wished to tell thee, and I give thee back the life which thy kiss for a moment recalled. We shall soon meet again.” He responds to this by passing out and waking up back in his chambers, having been unconscious for three days. The Abbé Serapion visits as Romuald recuperates and tells him of Clarimonde’s death:
The great courtesan Clarimonde died a few days ago, at the close of an orgie (sic) which lasted eight days and eight nights. It was something infernally splendid. The abominations of the banquets of Belshazzar and Cleopatra were reenacted there...there have always been very strange stories told of this Clarimonde, and all her lovers came to a violent or miserable end. They used to say that she was a ghoul, a female vampire; but I believe she was none other than Beelzebub himself.Serapion also advises Romuald to be wary, as “Satan’s claws are long, and tombs are not always true to their trust.”
Soon after Romuald resumes his duties, Clarimonde appears in his chamber, looking beautiful, and tells him,
I have kept thee long in waiting, dear Romuald, and it must have seemed to thee that I had forgotten thee. But I come from afar off, very far off, and from a land whence no other has ever yet returned. There is neither sun nor moon in that land whence I come; all is but space and shadow; there is neither road nor pathway; no earth for the foot, no air for the wing; and nevertheless behold me here, for Love is stronger than Death and must conquer him in the end. Oh what sad faces and fearful things I have seen on my way hither! What difficulty my soul, returned to earth through the power of will alone, has had in finding its body and reinstating itself therein! What terrible efforts I had to make ere I could lift the ponderous slab with which they had covered me! See, the palms of my poor hands are all bruised! Kiss them, sweet love that they may be healed!He is smitten with her more than ever, and goes with her, when she offers, to be her lover, to live with her the high life in Venice. From that point forward he lives two lives. By day he is Romuald, priest in a rural area. By night, when he goes to sleep, he lives the life of Clarimonde’s titled gentleman lover, Il Signor Romualdo. “At one moment I believed myself a priest who dreamed nightly that he was a gentleman, at another that I was a gentleman who dreamed he was a priest.”
Romuald thoroughly enjoys his nocturnal life, gradually becoming more Il Signor and less the Father. But Clarimonde’s health weakens and she is close to death (again) when, one morning, Romuald accidentally pricks his finger. Clarimonde leaps on the wound and sucks it and is revitalized, her pale weakness gone. This troubles Romuald, and the next time he sleeps he sees Abbé Serapion, who warns him, “Not content with losing your soul, you now desire also to lose your body. Wretched young man, into how terrible a plight have you fallen!” Romuald ignores this warning, but one night he sees Clarimonde emptying a powder into his wine. He empties it when she isn’t looking and then pretends to fall asleep. She draws a pin from her hair and pricks his arm and says, “One drop, only one drop! One ruby at the end of my needle...since thou lovest me yet, I must not die!...Ah, poor love! His beautiful blood, so brightly purple, I must drink it. Sleep, my only treasure! Sleep, my god, my child! I will do thee no harm; I will only take of thy life what I must to keep my own from being forever extinguished. But that I love thee so much, I could well resolve to have other lovers whose veins I could drain; but since I have known thee all other men have become hateful to me...” She then drinks a few drops of her blood–only a few drops, though.
Romuald is immediately convinced that the Abbé was right about Clarimonde, but Romuald is so wretched that he does nothing until the Abbé tells him that the most extreme measures must be taken. Romuald is miserable and ready to have one of his two selves die, and so he accompanies the Abbé to Clarimonde’s tomb, where they dig up her grave and sprinkle holy water on her corpse. She disintegrates. That night he sees her one last time and says, “Wert thou not happy? And what harm had I ever done thee that thou shouldst violate my poor tomb, and lay bare the miseries of my nothingness? All communication between our souls and our bodies is henceforth forever broken. Adieu! Thou wilt yet regret me!” And forever after he does just that.
I won’t do this often, but just this once I have to quote the inimitable rbadac, who strikes exactly the right note:
No, Romuald, don't take that damn Abbe to Clarimonde's grave !! All she wants is a little splash of blood now and then, and she love you long time, like twenty mistresses !! Don't let that old sourpuss throw holy water on her--D'OH !!“La Morte Amoureuse” is another of Gautier’s classics. The storytelling style isn’t as lush and ornate as in “One of Cleopatra’s Nights,” but it is still nicely descriptive, still wonderfully visual, and still quite sensual, both in terms of creating impressions on the readers’ senses as well as in terms of eroticism. The story, so marvelously imagined and told, is charged with sex and desire, but not in a dangerous or unnatural way, despite Clarimonde’s undead status. This is a horror story, obviously, but it is a love story much more than a tale of terror. Clarimonde truly loves Romuald, as is clear from her speech to his supposedly slumbering body, and Romuald loves her back. They are lovers, not carnal bedmates. Which makes the ending so much more bitter than sweet. Romuald knows he did wrong, knows that his love was much more important than his calling.
Okay, I admit it. I'm not qualified to critique this story. I just don't have the right attitude. Gautier is so good at delineating the voluptuousness of that babe Clarimonde that the whole 'avert thine eyes' argument pales to insignificance. I'm going with the Swinburne verses written as memorial to Gautier's death, and which can be found in One of Cleopatra's Nights (Worthington; New York, 1882) from whence this story comes:The love that caught strange light from death's own eyesSalvation is a poor substitute for ecstasy.
And filled death's lips with fiery words and sighs
And half asleep, let feed from veins of his
Her close red warm snake's mouth, Egyptian-wise
And that great night of love more strange than this
When she that made the whole world's bale and bliss
Made king of the whole world's desire a slave
And killed him in mid-kingdom with a kiss.
“La Morte Amoureuse” is mystifyingly left out of some histories of the vampire, just as Paul Féval’s Vampire City (see the Selene entry) is. “La Morte Amoureuse” is an interesting and early take on the vampire myth. Keep in mind its publication date: 1836. That’s almost 40 years before Carmilla, 60 years before Dracula, a decade before Varney the Vampyre, and only 17 years after Lord Ruthven. So “La Morte Amoureuse” shows some ways in which the vampire myth might have gone. Being a vampire does not automatically make Clarimonde evil; it’s clear that the Abbé is being a misogynistic butthead in his condemnations of her. There really is little of evil in her; she deceives Romuald, true, but it is a small deception, and done out of love. Vampirism, in “La Morte Amoureuse,” is as much an affliction as it is anything else. It gives Clarimonde some supernatural powers, but it also makes her dependent on blood, which she is obviously unhappy about.
Clarimonde is rather appealing, if you leave aside the vampirism part, and even that’s kind of a weird fetish turn-on. (Did I just type that out loud?) She is passionately in love with Romuald, so much so that she fought through death itself to come back to him. She’s beautiful, but also seems kind and even sweet at times. She’s faithful to Romuald. And, yes, she is a vampire, able to (possibly) bewitch with a look and rise from her grave and live for an unnaturally long time thanks to a few drops of blood. But giving those would be a small price for her love, don’t you think?
larke, Micah. Micah Clarke was created by A. Conan Doyle and appeared in Micah Clarke (1888). Doyle was, of course, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and if you don’t know about him, what are you doing here? Micah Clarke is a historical adventure set during Monmouth’s Rebellion. Micah Clarke is the son of a Puritan father and a Catholic mother, living in Havant (near Portsmouth) in 1685. When the Duke of Monmouth arrives in England determined to seize the English throne from King James II and make the monarchy Protestant once again, Micah is persuaded by his father and his own restiveness (for Micah’s 21, and living in Havant has come to bore him) to join the rebellion. Over the following weeks Micah makes several friends, including the likable soldier of fortune Decimus Saxon and the valiant courtier Sir Gervas, and has a number of adventures, including hellbent rides by night across the English countryside, fights with bloodhounds, a pitched battle at Sedgmoor, a courier mission for the Duke, imprisonment, and duels and drinking and all the other kinds of fun that a young man might have in a civil war-torn England. (No wenching, though–Micah’s far too good of a boy for that sort of thing).
In looking over the criticism of Micah Clarke I was interested to see that, unusually, I like the better of a book than the critics do. (Usually it’s the other way around). The criticisms leveled against Micah Clarke are that the period diction & archaic language mar the reader’s enjoyment, that certain descriptive scenes slow the novel down, and that modern audiences will be ignorant of the historical background of the novel and so will lack interest in the novel’s events. I found the period diction entertaining rather than tedious (I have to wonder what those critics would say about Rob Roy) and the archaic language used sparingly, but enough to convey a sense of verisimilitude. Some of the descriptive scenes did run a little long, but the book still moved fairly quickly. And I thought Doyle did a good job of providing context and explanation for the historical background of the novel.
I rather enjoyed Micah Clarke, all things considered. The novel’s long but generally didn’t lag, it had an acceptable mix of character bits, action, and the picaresque. It dealt honestly with the religious aspect of life in 17th century England and was fair toward people of every creed. (Doyle is markedly even handed in condemning fanatics of every stripe). Doyle shows a careful eye for human nature while maintaining a genial good humor (something unusual in a lot of historical novels and something generally missing from the Holmes stories). Characters are drawn with flaws and virtues, so that even hard men, like Micah’s father, are shown to be good as well as bad, and weak men, like the Duke of Monmouth, are considered kindly. But Doyle also deals with the realities of war and of soldiers, so that there are deaths and broken friendships along with battlefield heroics. The novel is historically accurate, the infodumps are skillfully phrased and unobtrusive, and the dialogue has a nice amount of epigrams. Micah Clarke is not in the first rank of historical romances, but it’s a good companion for a grey Sunday afternoon.
Micah Clarke himself is a strong young giant, very tall and very burly. He’s friendly and has a good heart, believing that there are good people of every faith. (Not something common among the Puritans, you may be assured). He’s unskilled at arms but a vigorous and not unskillful fighter nonetheless, and he has luck in his companions, meeting Decimus Saxon by chance and accompanying him into the inner council of the Duke of Monmouth himself.
leopatra. This version of Cleopatra was created by Théophile Gautier and appeared in “Une Nuit de Cléopâtre” (One of Cleopatra’s Nights, 1838). Gautier (1811-1872) was a French poet, novelist, and critic, and was one of the major figures in French letters for almost fifty years. “One of Cleopatra’s Nights” is seen as a classic of the weird, and although it’s more of a vignette than a story, it more than merits the phrase “classic.”
Cleopatra is bored, bored, bored. She is tired of all her old games, tired of her former lovers (so tired–tired of being awone–tired of men coming and going and going and coming, and always too soon!) (the preceding strange interlude was brought to you by the Canonize Lilli von Schtupp Foundation), and most of all, tired of Egypt: “This Egypt crushed, annihilates me; this sky with its implacable azure is sadder than the deep night of Erebus...from the inflamed pupil of that sky of bronze no tear has ever yet fallen upon the desolation of this land; it is only a vast covering for a tomb–the dome of a necropolis.” The empty, dead nature of Egypt haunts her. Worse, she is alone and loveless, and unsure if anyone really loves her: “Can a queen...ever know whether it is her face or her diadem that is loved?” Meanwhile Meïamoun, a strange and passionate young man, a skilled hunter who is utterly in love with Cleopatra, even though he is merely a hunter of a poor family. But he dares, after much planning, to get close enough to her fire an arrow into her room, an arrow on which is written, “I love you!” Cleopatra is intrigued by this, for none of those who she might be expected to love truly care for her. When Meïamoun gets caught spying on Cleopatra as she bathes, he is not executed by her, but instead taken by her for a lover. His time with her is short, however, for that very night, after a truly magnificent orgy (non-sexual) which lasts all night and through until dawn, he prepares to take poison–“it is daybreak, it is the hour when happy dreams take flight.” At that moment the officers of Mark Antony arrive, and rather than stop Meïamoun from committing suicide she allows him to do so and then runs to greet Mark Antony.
“One of Cleopatra’s Nights” isn’t really supernatural–that is, there’s nothing supernatural about the events of the story. But I’m including it here because of the atmosphere of the novel, which has heavy overtones of horror. I’m also including it here because it’s really good.
Gautier is one of those rare writers who produced supernatural and adventure stories while still retaining the respect of the Academie; in addition to the horror stories I’ve included here, Gautier also wrote Le Capitaine Fracasse (1853), one of the best known and best loved works of French adventure fiction, and a book which will be included here in a few months. After reading “Cleopatra’s Nights,” I understand why. (I should say that I read the Lafcadio Hearn translation, which has the reputation of being a translation more faithful to Gautier’s intent and spirit than to his words themselves). Gautier’s style is superb. “Cleopatra’s Nights” is written in a very lush manner which recalled to me the sensory overload of Salammbô; it’s very vivid, with colorful imagery which is evocative and quite sensual. “Cleopatra’s Nights” is not a story of plot, but rather of feeling, designed to be impressionistic (that is, to create sensual impressions in the minds of the readers), and it succeeds wonderfully at that.
Another aspect of the story which is very effective is its evocation of an Egypt which is haunted by the “stairways built only for the limbs of Titans,” by the “bandage-swathed myriads,” a county “where the only perfume you can respire is the acrid odor of the naphtha and bitumen which boil in the caldrons (sic) of the embalmers, where the very flooring of your chamber sounds hollow because the corridors of the hypogea and the mortuary pits extend even under your alcove.” Gautier’s description of Egypt, in the mouth of Cleopatra, becomes Lovecraftian in its phrasing:
...this land is truly an awful land; all things in it are gloomy, enigmatic, incomprehensible. Imagination has produced in it only monstrous chimeras and monuments immeasurable; this architecture and this art fill me with fear; those colossi, whose stone-entangled limbs compel them to remain eternally sitting with their hands upon their knees, weary me with their stupid immobility; they trouble my eyes and my horizon.We know, from his Supernatural Horror in Literature, that Lovecraft was a fan of Gautier and “Cleopatra’s Nights;” passages like this make me wonder how influenced HPL was by Gautier. These horrific notes are only struck early in the story, when Cleopatra is sounding her plaint about her life and before Meïamoun appears, but they are memorable.
Cleopatra herself is interesting: selfish, bored, beautiful, as likely to test a new poison on a slave or to drink pearls dissolved as to wish for a true lover; made so weary by a bad night’s sleep that she can barely stand to be helped by her handmaiden into the baths; a jaded aesthete and gourmand who finds satisfaction only in the most extreme of banquets; a coquette who takes Meïamoun as a lover for a whim, to transform dream into reality for once, but who as quickly abandons him for Mark Antony. This Cleopatra could never be played by Elizabeth Taylor; properly she would be played by Clara Bow or Theda Bara.
oll Dhu. Coll Dhu was created by Rosa Mulholland and appeared in “Not To Be Taken At Bed-Time” (All The Year Round, Christmas Number, 1865). Mulholland is the creator of Lewis Hurly; I have some information on her there. “Not To Be Taken At Bed-Time” is a dark story about love and obsession. In the mountains of Connemara, in Ireland, a sullen stranger known as “Coll Dhu,” or “Black Coll,” appeared and built the “Devil’s Inn,” so called because no traveler ever slept beneath its roof nor friend ever dined there. He stalked the wilds and after a time people began to forget about him. Until one day Colonel Blake, the “new lord of the soil,” came to visit, and rebuilt the old manor house, and moved there with his daughter Evleen. During one hunt Colonel Blake was lost in the mountains and was rescued by Coll Dhu, who informed the Colonel that “your father suggested to my father to stake his estates at the gaming-table. They were staked, and the tempter won. Both are dead; but you and I live, and I have sworn to injure you.” The Colonel takes this threat in good humor, and insists that Coll Dhu return to the manor house and take part in Evleen’s birthday party. Coll Dhu reluctantly accompanies the Colonel to the house, but when he sees Evleen he is instantly smitten with her, and forgets all his resentments, “a Samson shorn of his strength.” But when he declares his love for her she scorns him: “Your presence is like something evil to me. Love me?–your looks poison me.” Coll Dhu leaves and wanders the mountains, but while resting at a cabin hears about a local witch, Pexie na Pishrogie, who makes burragh-bos, or love charms made from the skin of a corpse. Coll Dhu pays Pexie to make a burragh-bos for him, and then pays her to put it around her neck. Pexie tells Coll Dhu that the burragh-bos will make its Evleen love him regardless of her hate for him–love him, “or the colleen dhas go wild mad afore wan hour.” Evleen goes mad, and drags him and her over a cliff.
The following may be a idiosyncratic reaction on my part, but: I’m find
myself surprised, unusually often, at how several of the the mid-century
Victorian horror writers resolved their stories. Writers like Rosa Mulholland
and Amelia Edwards and Fitz-James O’Brien have a far harsher edge and less
sentimental appraoch to their stories. The universe of their stories is
one in which bad things happen for no good reason, sometimes to good people,
stories end with anti-closure, and these endings, if bittersweet, are more
bitter than sweet. There’s nothing cozy about these stories, and sentimentality
is absent or twisted. Comforting, traditional narrative structures, in
which good triumphs, evil is punished, plot questions are answered, and
the status quo is reasserted by story’s end, are often absent.
“Not To Be Taken At Bed-Time” is in that mode. Coll Dhu, made desperate by love, hires a witch to craft a magical charm which will make a woman fall in love with him. Instead it drives her, the victim, mad, and she dies killing him. Not much comfort to be found there.
“Not To Be Taken At Bed-Time” isn’t exactly horrifying. It’s heavy in Gaelic and Gaelic lore, which in addition to creating a distancing effect so deadly to horror stories (hard to be frightened when you’re thinking about a story, rather than living it) gives “Not To Be Taken” the feel of folklore. It’s certainly effective on that level. Mulholland, an Irish patriot, has the Gaelic vocabulary and diction down, and the characterization of Coll Dhu is brief but effective. So while not scary, “Not To Be Taken” is a very entertaining, if dark, story.
Coll Dhu is the bad guy, to be sure, but his almost sympathetic. His mother’s heart was broken by his father’s gambling and the tempting of Colonel Blake’s father, and Coll Dhu has vowed for a long time to punish Colonel Blake. And yet he meets Evleen and all his resolutions are gone, and he lets himself be tempted into doing a bad thing, all for love–and he is punished for it.
ollier, Old Cap. Old Cap Collier, one of the most celebrated fictional detectives of the 19th century, was the creation of W. I. James, an author I've been unable to find out much about; he wrote a good number of dime novels, and of course the stories of Old Cap Collier and the Old Cap Collier Library (1883-1899), but apart from that, nothing. In all likelihood he was just a house name for Munro Publishers' efforts. (This just in: T.C. Harbaugh, 1849-1924, a noted dime novelist, may have been the creator of Cap).
Collier was introduced in "Old Cap Collier, Chief of Detectives; or, 'Piping' the New Haven Mystery," in Old Cap Collier Library #1, 9 April 1883, and was more or less immediately popular, eventually appearing in 34 issues (Gary Hoppenstand says 40, J. Randolph Cox says 34; I have to go with Cox) of his own title as the detective and subject of the story. After that he was somewhat relegated to being the narrator of the story, in which role he worked for the remaining 821 issues of Old Cap Collier Library, all the way to "The Cruise of the Alvaredo; or, Tracking the Smugglers to their Lair," the final issue. While Old Cap wasn't the subject of the story in the rest of those issues--forgettable characters like "Lightning Grip" and "Pink West, the Baltimore Detective," and "the Parisian Detective in New York" and "the Young Vidocq" were--by virtue of his authorship he remained equated in the public mind with fictional, dime novel detectives.
The intention of Harbaugh, in first writing Cap, is somewhat disputed. Some critics have said that Cap was intended to be a comic/burlesque detective, an attempt by Harbaugh to make a character distinct from the other detectives of the time. This gimmick didn't work, however, and the initial Old Cap Collier stories were unpopular, and so as time and issues went by Old Cap rather quickly became smarter, stronger, more courageous and more superhuman, and much more like the other Avenging Detectives of the time, like Old King Brady. J. Randolph Cox, on the other hand, says "the melodramatic style of the first story has made some critics suggest that he was intended at the outset to be a comic figure, but this seems unlikely." Cox is the greatest living expert on dime novels, so I tend to believe him.
Old Cap, like Old Sleuth, is actually a young man, but he finds it advantageous to dress up as an elderly investigator. Old Cap, at his best, is a master of disguise, capable of looking like anyone, from a "fat Dutchman" to an organ grinder. He has extraordinary strength, being capable of holding a burly thug over his head with one hand and of throwing men 30 feet with ease. He's a "whirlwind of fists" in a fight. Interestingly, Old Cap is not only not a teetotaller, as many of the early dime novel heroes were, but he smokes and drinks. A lot. Not only that, but he gambles. (No!) Cap is not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but if you need a tough detective, you should call on him.
olonel Clay. Colonel Clay was introduced in An African Millionaire: Episodes in the Life of the Illustrious Colonel Clay (1897) and was created by Grant Allen. Charles Grant Blairfindie Allen (1848-1899) was a British author, philosopher and scientist who is remembered for two works: The Woman Who Did (1895), which shocked London with its frank discussion of sex, and An African Millionaire, a collection of stories which introduced the concept of the rogue hero into short crime fiction. Oddly enough, An African Millionaire is not told from Clay's point of view, nor is Clay even given many speaking lines--not as Clay, anyhow; he's a master of disguise, and the only time we see Clay speaking is when he is in one of his disguises. Clay would seem to be a cheerfully amoral rogue and thief who, for various reasons, has it in for Sir Charles Vandrift, the "African Millionaire" of the book's title, who Clay has chosen to be his personal victim. Vandrift knows about Colonel Clay--he meets with the Chief Commissary of the French Police, who briefs him on Clay--and is on the watch for him (Vandrift is almost paranoid about being swindled out of his money, a paranoia unfounded at first but increasingly justified as the stories go by and Clay does him out of money over and over and over again), but the Colonel is so good at disguising himself that Sir Charles is continually fooled. Clay poses as a number of characters, including a Scottish parson and a Mexican seer, and finagles Clay out of much money. His technique is nothing so crude as second-story work; Clay leaves Raffles far behind in terms of style. Clay allows Vandrift to swindle himself; when Clay poses as a parson he allows Vandrift's greed to get the better of him, so that Vandrift thinks he is swindling the parson, when in the end Clay fools Vandrift and steals diamonds (which were taken from the Tippoo Sultan's palace by Vandrift's grandfather, thereby providing a possible link to Captain Nemo) and bank notes from Vandrift. We never learn very much about Colonel Clay, but he is described as having an "india rubber face" which he can "mould...like clay in the hands of a potter." Clay is called, by the French, "le Colonel Caoutchouc." Clay is loved by two women, one the maid to Sir Charles' sister, who helps Clay by working as a spy within Charles' household. Alas, the stories end with Colonel Clay being detected by accident, and although he skillfully conducts his own defense, the evidence against him is too overwhelming, and he is convicted and sentenced to fourteen years' hard labor. (Sir Charles' greed, however, is revealed as well, and he is destined to spend his days scorned by Society).
The Colonel Clay stories are interesting and enjoyable, if not exactly immortal; Allen does not reach the sublime heights of his Lois Cayley (see above) stories, but the puzzle of who Clay is posing as, and how he will fool the watchful Vandrift, keep the reader's attention.
E-texts! More bounty from Gaslight!
ommander McTurk. McTurk was created by C.J. Cutcliffe W. Hyne, the creator of Captain Kettle (see above). McTurk appeared in the nine-story serial "The Trials of Commander McTurk," which ran in The Popular Magazine from September 1905 to May 1906. McTurk is very similar to Captain Kettle in personality, if not the particulars. Like Kettle, McTurk is a powerful, vivid personality, fast to anger and unmoveable in his opinions. He is tall, strong, with "a red wrinkled face and a red, wrinkled temper." McTurk is an American and a patriot; as an officer of the Navy he undertakes missions for the country, no matter how sensitive or dangerous. In one story he went into the depths of Africa to secure an alliance for the American government with the "Sultana" of an inland nation; he succeeded at this, triumphing over a sea tornado (don't ask), bloodthirsty natives, and being forced to swing through the jungle ala Tarzan (several years before that worthy began his work).
ompanions of the Iron League. The Companions of the Iron League were introduced in Companions of the Iron League, which was published in either 1885 or 1886 (the copy I saw was quite faded and the date was almost illegible) by an unknown author. The Companions are Cedric, Vincent, Daniel, and Jack, four boys at the Haywood School somewhere outside of London. They meet in their first year and become fast friends, despite their time being spent fagging for insufferable older boys. Then Daniel's father, a prominent ship-builder, disappears, and although the police get involved Daniel (understandably) feels they aren't doing enough. So he starts nosing around his father's papers (his mother is absent through most of the story) and discovers that his father not only knows and is friends with the fathers of Cedric, Vincent and Jack, who also happen to be shipbuilders and designers, but that the four were the "Iron League," whose purpose is to design and build the most advanced battleship possible, so that England will maintain its naval supremacy.
When Daniel tells his three friends about this Cedric, the brain of the quartet, instantly suspects that foreign subversives are at work. He's right; after lengthy investigation, including a "harrowing" trek through Limehouse (how dare those non-English ruin a perfectly good borough of London? With their opium and their foreign ways--how dare they?) (that's the spirit if not the words of Companions), the four discover that Russian spies, housed in a safe house near the Embassy, are responsible for kidnapping Daniel's father and are torturing him for the information and plans for the super-battleship. The four, using their wiles and strength, help Daniel's father escape and then led the police right to the house, breaking up the Russian spy ring and saving England's future. Hurrah!
The novel ends with the implication that there will be more adventures for the Iron League and their juvenile Companions ("I really am very proud of you, Daniel, and who is to say but that in the future we may not have need of you and your friends again?"), but none were forthcoming.
ompanions of the Silver Dagger. The Companions of the Silver Dagger were introduced in The Companions of the Silver Dagger; or, Seven Against Thieves, which appeared sometime in the 1870s and was written by the same unknown author who wrote Spring-Heeled Jack. The Companions are John, Rory, Reginald, Jonathan, Winston, Cyril, and Jack, and while gallivanting about one summer's day they uncover a silver dagger of Roman design. (Winston, the brains of the group, instantly identifies it as such because of the "unique handle") They swear a vow on the Silver Dagger (which they all hold as they make the vow) that if ever some danger should assert itself or some criminal threaten any of them, they would all drop what they are doing and rush to help the threatened member. Sure enough, some years later John's house is burgled and threatening notes are left. John is by a now a respected young Member of Parliament, but he passes up police protection and calls on his old friends, sending the Silver Dagger around to each of them (the pre-arranged way of signalling that one of them needs help). When they get the Silver Dagger they all drop what they are doing and rush to his help, and after a long and complicated series of adventures, involving an evil Chinese secret society, Continental anarchists, and an evil baronet scheming to take John's wife and holdings away from him, they succeed in righting all the wrongs threatening John. Each puts their various skills to work--Cyril's scientific knowledge, Reginald's army connections, Rory's ship and crew, etc etc.
osmorama. The Cosmorama was created by Vladimir Odoevsky and appeared in “The Cosmorama,” which first appeared in Pestrye skazki s krasyym sloytsom (Variegated Tales, 1833). Vladimir Fyodorovich Odoevsky (1804-1869) is not well-known outside of Russia, but among the Gothic-conscious literati he is regarded as the master of Russian Gothic stories, with his Russian Nightsand Variegated Tales being seen as exemplars of the Gothic short story form.
“The Cosmorama” is about…well, I’ll let Neil Cornwell tell it:
(it is) as full a gamut of occult and Gothic paraphernalia as may be encountered in any work of Russian romanticism: the walking dead, crime and torture, amorous intrigue, second sight, supernatural arson, and spontaneous human combustion.The Cosmorama itself is a box of unknown origin in which Vladimir “Valodia” Petrovich, a Byronic hero, can see visions of his future self. In these visions he is rapturous, enjoying a combination of physical and spirital love. Valodia eventually learns how to use the Cosmorama to focus on individual things of beauty, the Blakean “heaven in a wild flower” and “the world in a grain of sand.”
This being a Gothic, however, such a gift does not come without a price; as Valodia’s friend Doctor Bin says, “Oh, you ill-starred fortunate! You—you can see everything—everything without the covering, without the astral shroud.” (That’s a statement quite Lovecraftian in nature, I think). Through the use of the Cosmorama Valodia ends up in passionate affairs with two women, Sophia (good-but-persecuted) and the Countess Eliza (the femme fatale). Valodia is so filled with lust that he cannot be satisfied with just one woman.
In some ambiguous way Valodia’s desires for the Eliza leads to the death of her dissolute husband, an event which the Cosmorama had foreshadowed. After that the Gothic machinery grinds into high gear, and the dead Count strokes the Countess’ hair as she sleeps, Valodia discovers a “living link” binding him to the Count, the Count confronts Valodia and the Countess at the opera, the Count interrupts a tryst by setting himself on fire, thus killing the Countess, and Valodia is forced to live out his days in anguish, in a remote village in a dense forest far away from civilization.
ossack Chief's Daughter. The Cossack Chief’s Daughter was created by Nikolai Gogol and appeared in “Viy,” from Mirgorod (1835). I discuss Gogol in the Taras Bulba entry. “Viy” (or “The Viy,” which is another title by which the story is known) is about a young seminary student and philosopher, Khoma Brut, who with two of his fellow students takes a wrong turn while walking home during the holidays. The trio end up in a cottage far out in the country, where the old woman who owns the farmstead lets them in only reluctantly. Khoma wakes up in the middle of the night to find the old woman walking toward him with her arms outstretched. He tries to run away from her, but his arms and legs won’t work. She hops on to his back and makes him carry her like a horse. He races across the landscape at superhuman speeds, feeling horrible but with a strange combination of emotions and feelings surging through him. He finally begins to remember some of the exorcisms against spirits he knows, and they bring him some relief and finally enable him to free himself of her. Khoma begins beating the old woman and thrashes her almost to death, but when the dawn breaks she turns into a young beauty, and he, unnerved, runs back to Kiev and promptly forgets about the whole thing. Then he begins to hear about a rich Cossack chief’s daughter who was found beaten almost to death. This makes him feel uneasy, although he can’t explain why. (Khoma’s not too bright). Then he is told by the rector of the seminary that the dying daughter is asking for the prayers at her deathbed and for three days after her death to be read by Khoma Brut himself. He waffles but finally accepts, arriving after the daughter has died. When he meets the chief, the Cossack quizzes Khoma about why the daughter sent for him; Khoma’s answers, which boil down to “You got me,” don’t satisfy him, but the Cossack wants to obey his daughter’s last wishes and so has Khoma perform the prayers. Khoma goes to see the dead woman and realizes that she is the witch he killed. He says the prayers for her and then watches the burial. He talks with the local Cossacks, all of whom tell him about the evil acts she performed when she was alive. Then he goes in to begin the first night’s prayers. She rises from her coffin and walks right for him, but he draws a protective circle around him and reads various prayers and incantations, and so she cannot get to him, even though her coffin itself flies through the air around him. But, like the witch, the coffin can’t break through the circle, and so when the cock crows the dawn in, Khoma is safe. The next evening the same thing happens, but worse; the witch growls dreadful words at him and nameless, monstrous things try to break through into the church. Finally the cock crows again, and he is safe, although he is exhausted and his hair has gone white. Khoma tries to flee but is caught by one of the Cossack chief’s men and escorted back to the church. The final night is a repetition of the previous two nights, but the monsters break through into the church, and they summon the horrible Viy, who sics the monsters on Khoma (the protective circle blinds them to his presence). They kill Khoma.
“Viy” (Gogol: “a colossal creation of folk imagination...the chief of the gnomes, whose eyelids reach to the ground”) is less objectionable than Taras Bulba or “A Terrible Vengeance” (see the Petro’s Descendant entry); it has less of the bigotry (though the same amount of misogyny) that poisoned Taras Bulba and a less nihilistic worldview than “A Terrible Vengeance.” It’s not as dark as “A Terrible Vengeance,” either, although it’s hardly a light and jocular story. “Viy” is Gogol’s attempt at a Russian “folk legend,” which he claims “is a popular legend. I did not wish to change it in any way and tell it almost as simply as I heard it.” This isn’t true, of course, but makes for an amusing spin. “Viy” is competently told, with a faithful recreation of the language of Russian folktales. Of particular note are the erotically charged ride of the witch on top of Khoma and the finale, which fulfills the horror that the previous two nights have implied while also upping the scale of the forces of evil Khoma faces. On the whole, though, “Viy” is an interesting but not exceptional story.
The Cossack chief’s daughter is a witch, capable of changing her shape, to become an old woman, of hypnotizing men and riding on their backs until they are drained of their life force and die. She’s beautiful but deadly, and quite merciless; in one case she drank a baby’s blood and then killed the baby’s mother. And after death she is vengeful, doing her best to kill Khoma.
osta, Salome da. Salome da Costa was created by Amelia B. Edwards and appeared in “The Story of Salome” (Storm-Bound, Tinsley’s Christmas Annual, 1872). I discuss Edwards in the Phantom Coach entry.
“The Story of Salome” is about Harcourt Blunt, who is doing the Grand Tour of Europe with his friend Coventry Turnour. In Venice Coventry sees a lovely Jewish woman in a Oriental merchandise shop in the Merceria, and Coventry, being the type who falls in love easily and often, is smitten with her. Blunt goes with him to the shop and is forced to agree with Coventry that the woman, whose name he discovers is Salome, is beautiful. But Blunt discourages Coventry from pursuing the match, and within a week’s time Coventry agrees with him. The pair continue the tour and then separate in Greece, with Blunt continuing on to the East. A year later Blunt is back in Venice, doing some sketching. He recalls Salome and goes looking for her. The shop in the Merceria is gone, and Blunt, who doesn’t even know Salome’s last name, decides to give up looking for her. He goes to the Jewish cemetery to do some sketches, and finds a newer cemetery beyond that, and in that cemetery he sees Salome, in her mourning clothes, sitting next to a grave. They exchange glances, but Blunt is too intimidated by her beauty to say anything, and so he leaves. He burns with the desire to see her again and wants to know more about her, especially whose grave she was visiting, so he returns to the graveyard and takes a rubbing of the gravestone (which is in Hebrew, which Blunt can’t read) and sends it to a learned professor friend of his.
But his friend the professor is a pokey correspondent, and Blunt is on fire to see Salome again, and so he returns to the cemetery once more, and there he sees her. They exchange glances again, and her expression is “so strange and piteous,” but he lacks the nerve to say anything to her, and so he leaves without speaking. He goes back to the cemetery the following day and, screwing his courage to the sticking point, strikes up a conversation with her. She points out the headstone and says, “A Christian soul lies there...laid in earth without one Christian prayer-with Hebrew rites-in a Hebrew sanctuary. Will you, stranger, perform an act of piety towards the dead?” He agrees, and goes to find a clergyman and a stonecutter. Finding a clergyman is easy enough, and so portions of the Christian burial service are read over the grave. But no stonecutter will do the task of carving a grave in the headstone, as the Jews of Venice are now rich and powerful and such an act would offend them as well as being sacrilege and illegal. Blunt does the job himself, but she does not come to the cemetery that night. On returning to his hotel he discovers a letter from his friend the professor. The letter says that the headstone is for one Salome da Costa, who died the previous autumn. Confused, Blunt visits the chief rabbi of Venice, who gently breaks it to Blunt that there is no other Salome da Costa in Venice. Blunt wonders if Salome was a secret Christian, a question that troubles the rabbi but which the rabbi admits may have been the case. And so Blunt knows why Salome was so beautiful and why she had “that look of dumb entreaty in her eyes–that tone of strange remoteness in her voice.” He returns to Venice, year after year, hoping to see her, but he never does, and is sure that their place of meeting “will not be here.”
“The Story of Salome” is not a fear-inducing ghost story. I don’t think Edwards wrote those or intended to. Some describe “Salome” as a love story, but there’s no love affair to speak of. Blunt falls for the ghost of Salome, but how does she feel about him? Grateful for showing her true faith to the world and so freeing her ghost, surely, but there’s no evidence that she is in love with him, and in life she was cold to him. “Salome” is more in the genre of gentle or at least unthreatening ghost stories, similar to Edwards’ “Phantom Coach” and “The Four-Fifteen Express” (see the John Dwerrihouse entry). Terror isn’t Edwards’ intention with “Salome;” resolving a loose end is. So there’s a kind of sentiment here that is lacking in the harder and more frightening ghost story. I didn’t find “Salome” particularly moving–Salome herself is too vague as a character for me to be moved by her plight (if such it was)–but there is a definite skill in the writing of the story. Edwards puts her personal knowledge of Venice to good use here, nicely recreating the city. In general I liked this better than either “Coach” or “Express.”
As a side note, the premise of “Salome” might be seen as anti-Semitic. As a non-Jew my standing on the issue of what is or isn’t anti-Semitic is, perhaps, less valid than that of a Jew, but I didn’t find “Salome” anti-Semitic. Yes, Salome’s father is described as a “Shylock,” but the Jewish characters are treated as individuals, and not as interchangeable members of a single class, and none of them speak in the anti-Semitic patois some Victorian authors applied to Jewish characters.
Salome da Costa, in life, was lovely, and a good daughter. But she wasn’t a good Jew, cherishing “some secret doubt” about the faith of her birth and wanting to be buried a Christian. After her death she could not rest quietly buried beneath Jewish rites in a Jewish cemetery, and so she haunted Harcourt Blunt until he could have her properly put to rest. As a ghost she is stunningly beautiful, hauntingly so, and wears her mourning black.
ourtenay, Rose. Rose Courtenay was created by Milton Danvers and appeared in at The Detective's Honeymoon; or The Doctor of the 'Pinjarrah' (1894), The Mysterious Disappearance of a Bride; or Who Was She? (1895), and The Fatal Finger Mark, Rose Courtenay's First Case (1895). Danvers, the creator of Robert Spicer, was a British writer about whom little is known.
Rose Courtenay is the “principal lady agent” of Robert Spicer. She was actually the first employee of Spicer’s London detective agency, and he holds her in high regard, seeing her as a kindred spirit. She didn’t begin wanting to be a detective, however. She was a governess whose mistress was charged with murder, and although the famous Spicer was called in to solve the case Rose took it upon herself to solve the case, not trusting Spicer. (Rose was an orphan, taken in as a child by her mistress’ family, and her mistress treated Rose like a sister, so it was only natural that Rose would want to do the job herself). Rose succeeds, of course, and in fact does such a good job that Spicer offers her a job working for him, something which she eventually accepts. In The Detective’s Honeymoon and The Mysterious Disappearance of a Bride she was one of Spicer’s agents, rather than the central character; her only turn as the heroine of a novel was in The Fatal Finger Mark.
Rose is in many ways a typical Victorian female detective. She is young, good looking, and has “a most charming manner.” She speaks in a straightforward manner, although she is deferential to Spicer; she treats men respectfully but is not at all interested in romance, and so is not at all susceptible to flattery, a trait which commended itself to Spicer. Better still, she is well educated, a good observer, capable of wit in her analysis of people, uses deduction in analyzing evidence and crime scenes, and always considers the weaknesses in her own theories. It is this last trait, and her “logical intelligence,” which most catches Spicer’s attention.
Milton Danvers’ mysteries are typical late Victorian mysteries, with average narration, heavy on the dialogue and light on the suspense. Although Rose has a few good moves, for the most part she is a bystander, even in her own novel. In that most damning of critical phrases, they are of historical interest only.
ourtney, Julius. Julius Courtney was introduced in J. Maclaren Cobben's Master of His Fate (1890). Courtney is something of an oddball for this list: an attempt by Cobben at writing a sympathetic sociopath.
Cobben (or perhaps Cobban--I've seen it spelled both ways) was a Scottish writer and novelist, and although relatively popular in his day (1849-1903) he is mostly forgotten about today. He wrote several mystery stories and novels, the most notable of which was The King of Andaman, about the hopes and fears of Scots working men and women.
Master of His Fate first appeared as a serial in Blackwood's Magazine. It's about Julius Courtney, a
dark man, tall and well built, with clear brown eyes. His black hair (which was not cropped short, as is the fashion) had a lustrous softness, and at the same time an elastic bushiness, which nothing but the finest-tempered health can give; and his complexion, though tanned by exposure, had yet much of the smoothness of youth, save where the razor had passed upon his beard.(Much of the text is like this; Cobben takes an almost worshipful approach to Courtney, who--as we shall see--does not at all deserve it. The revelation of what Courtney really is does not come as a surprise, but it does clash a bit with the loving and doting descriptions of Courtney's all-around wonderfulness)
Courtney is an energy vampire (although that phrase is never used). That is, by exerting his mesmeric ability, which seems to be a combination of raw animal magnetism (which makes him very attractive to actual animals) and very powerful and almost instantaneous hypnotism, he gets people to sit still long enough for him to lay his hands on them, which drains the "spirit of life" from them. Although Cobben (via Courtney) wraps a good deal of verbiage around this idea, he's never quite exact about it, which I suppose is only to be expected. A sample of his style on this:
The spirit of life is electric and elective, and it is 'imponderable:' it can neither be weighed nor measured! It flows and thrills in the nerves of men and women, animals and plants, throughout the whole of Nature! It connects the whole round of the Cosmos by one glowing, teasing, agonising principle of being, and makes us and beasts and trees and flowers all kindred!etc etc etc. Courtney is dependent on this "spirit of life" for his existence; if a few days go by without his having fed off of another's life energies, he becames aged, haggard, energyless and worn. After he has fed he becames his usual lively and handsome self. Those he feeds on, however, are put into a sort of coma, and when they finally come out of it are stupefied, energyless, and suffering from amnesia. (Dr. Lefevre, the putative hero of the book, figures out how to revive them--feeding them electricity, and then later a part of his own life force via a partially-severed nerve) To his credit, Courtney does not entirely drain other people during the events of the novel, but only enough for him to retain his youthfulness; he leaves them unconscious but still alive, and makes sure that his victims are then taken to a hospital (in one case he leaves a card around the neck of one of his victims; the card reads "I am not dead; take me to a hospital").
Near the end of the novel Courtney himself describes how he saw other people when he was a child and young man (decades ago in Spain):
Let me try to state the fact as it appears to me looking back: I was for myself the one consciousness, the one person in the world, all else--trees, beasts, men and women, and what not--being the medium in which, and on which, I lived. I conceived of nothing around me but as existing to please, to amuse, to delight me, and if anything showed itself contrary to these ends, I simply avoided it. What I wished to do I did; what I wished to have I had;--and nothing else.That is, in a way, a very simple and direct definition of a sociopath. I'm not sure whether Cobben meant for this or not, but whatever sympathy he had attempted to build for Courtney dissipates at that moment, with the implication, made more emphatically a bit later in the novel, that Courtney had not always been so scrupulous about leaving his victims alive.
But, of course, Courtney falls in love with the young sister of one of Dr. Lefevre's friends, she falls in love with him, her love makes him feel pity for his victims and disgust for himself, and at the end of the novel he drowns himself.
Master of His Fate isn't exactly a good novel, but it does have some points of interest.
rusoe Jack. Crusoe Jack was created by George Emmett, the author of Charity Joe (see above). Crusoe Jack appeared in Crusoe Jack, the king of the thousand islands, a 38-part serial that was published in 1870. Crusoe really is the king of a thousand islands--because he killed his enemies to get there. Crusoe Jack is an unabashed tribute to imperialism, a poison pill made more bitter by time and changed social conditions. While this dreadful would undoubtedly have been extremely entertaining to the Victorian readership, to modern eyes Crusoe Jack is morally revolting.
Briefly, because I haven't the stomach to go into more detail--the sacrifices I have made for you, chere hypocrite lecteur, you will never know--Crusoe Jack is a street arab who as a "young man" (which we can suppose to be 18-30, perhaps?) is arrested for burglary and sent to Australia. A horrible storm blows the ship far off course, and it runs aground on a reef. Jack swims to the nearest island and discovers that he is the only survivor. He sets about exploring his new island and discovers that it is abandoned. Because Jack had, at some point in the past, managed to acquire a copy of Robinson Crusoe, he knows a little bit about what to do, and begins salvaging things from the ship's wreckage, including clothes, some books (including a Bible), and a sword. After living on the island for a few weeks and surviving an attack by a rabid falcon (don't ask), he gets bored and lonely and decides to go west. He puts together a raft with what's left of the ship and sails west, discovering another island and starting the first of many conquests.
What happens in that issue of the serial is a template for the next two dozen episodes. Jack discovers a tribe on the next island over. They are barbaric savages, and Jack is forced to fight and kill several of them, including their chief, to civilise them. After they acclaim him their king, he converts them to Christianity by killing their own high priest/witch doctor and ramming the Bible down their throat; naturally, they are overjoyed to receive The Word Of God, and quickly become true Christians, happy and content to be ruled over by the white man.
Sometimes the particulars vary--there are cannibal tribes and one tribe made up of pacifists (Jack cures them of that soon enough)--and sometimes there are events to spice up the narrative--shark attacks, horrible storms, wars between tribes--but the generalities remain the same. At the end of the novel Jack is the king of the "thousand islands" (really not more than a hundred or two) and ruler of what must be at least tens of thousands of South Pacific natives. It's at that point that he is finally rescued; a British warship happens on him and its Captain, astonished at the sight of a white man ruling over so many brown subjects, agrees to take Jack home. Jack is presented to the Queen, who gives him a royal pardon in exchange for his "good works" over the natives. Jack returns in triumph to his islands and an arrangement is made for regular visits by British ships and citizens, with a real school being opened up to further "civilise" the natives.
Yes, Crusoe Jack is as appalling as it sounds.
uff, Sergeant. Sergeant Cuff was created by Wilkie Collins and appeared in The Moonstone, which was serialized in All The Year Round (4 Jan-8 Aug 1868) before being published as a novel later that year. Collins (1824-1889), an English novelist and opium addict, wrote both mysteries and Gothic novels, including his most famous work, The Woman in White (see the Count Fosco entry). Unlike many mid-level novelists of his era, Collins is still well thought of today, although most people are only familiar with The Moonstone and The Woman in White. His good reputation is well deserved, because both are very enjoyable novels. The Moonstone is more than that: it’s historically significant within the mystery genre.
The Moonstone is about a special, huge yellow diamond, a sacred gem known as "the Moonstone" to Hindus. Its history is bloody, having been taken by force by "conquering Mohammedans" from the forehead of a statue of the Moon-God in a Brahmin shrine. Vishnu had commanded that three Brahmin priests must always watch the Moonstone and that disaster would descend upon any mortal who laid hands on the gem. It had been stolen six hundred years before and ended up in the possession of "Tippoo, Sultan of Seringapatam." And then, in 1799, the British sacked Seringapatam, and John Herncastle, a disreputable British adventurer, took the Moonstone by murdering one of the keeper priests. His cousin sees the aftermath of the murder and shuns Herncastle, eventually writing an account of the murder and Herncastle's theft of the Moonstone and sending the account to his family, who casts Herncastle out. Herncastle keeps the Moonstone and, aware of the Moonstone's legend and the unfortunate fates many of those who've previously have owned it have met, puts it into a vault. He also lets the Brahmins know that if he were killed the Moonstone will be sent to Amsterdam and broken up into several smaller gems. When Herncastle dies, he leaves the stone to his niece, Rachel Verinder. Franklin Blake, Rachel's cousin, returns home after many years wandering in Europe and brings the stone, which is to be given to Rachel on her 18th birthday, to the Verinder's estate, cleverly outwitting the Brahmins and so surviving the trip. Franklin puts the Moonstone in a bank vault, and so the three Brahmins, who have recently appeared near the Verinder's estate in the guise of wandering jugglers. Franklin and Rachel fall in love, and although she entertains a flirtation with a guest at the estate, the noted charity worker Godfrey Ablewhite, it's clear that the two of them are going to be together, and she turns down Godfrey’s proposal of marriage.
Unfortunately, on the night of Rachel's birthday party, several things go wrong. The Hindu "jugglers" appear on the scene and make things tense. Conversation over dinner goes badly. Franklin quarrels–genially, of course–with the local doctor, Dr. Candy. And the following morning a very upset Rachel announces that the Moonstone has been stolen. Franklin immediately begins trying to find the diamond, but this only upsets Rachel further. The local police are summoned, but their methods only upset the staff. The three Brahmins are arrested, but they have alibis for the time of the crime. Finally the famous Sergeant Cuff of Scotland Yard is sent for. He immediately analyzes a vital clue, some smeared paint on a door frame, in such a way that the local police are shown to be fools, and his questions clearly unnerve one of the servant girls, Rosanna Spearman, who has a horrible and hopeless crush on Franklin. Rachel is markedly uncooperative, going so far as to stymie Cuff’s investigations by not allowing her wardrobe to be searched. Cuff is finally forced to drop the investigation, although he makes it clear to everyone that he suspects Rachel of having stolen the Moonstone and used poor Rosanna, a reformed thief, as her patsy. Rosanna then commits suicide, throwing herself into quicksand. She leaves a letter for Franklin with a friend, but Franklin, heartbroken at Rachel’s ongoing and mysteriously frigid treatment of him, has left the country before the letter is found.
Rachel leaves for London, her reputation sullied due to Sergeant Cuff’s suspicions, and soon becomes engaged to Godfrey Ablewhite. But the family lawyer for the Verinders, Mr. Bruff, learns that Godfrey had enquired about the terms of Rachel’s will before again asking for her hand in marriage. Rachel, correctly seeing Ablewhite as a humbug and fortune seeker, breaks off the engagement. Later that year Franklin returns to England and visits the Verinder estate, where he finds out about the letter. In it, Rosanna wrote that she was sure that Franklin was guilty and that she had hid his nightgown, which was smeared with the paint from Rachel’s doorframe. Franklin meets with Mr. Bruff and tells him everything, and so Mr. Bruff arranges a surprise meeting between Rachel and Franklin. Rachel is angry at the ruse but still clearly loves Franklin, and she tearfully confesses that she actually saw Franklin steal the gem. Franklin is shocked at this, and on Bruff’s advice returns to the Verinder estate to try to reconstruct what might have happened. There he meets Ezra Jennings, Dr. Candy’s assistant. Ezra and Franklin become friends, and Ezra eventually tells Franklin that Dr. Candy that on the night of the theft Dr. Candy had, as a jokey revenge on Franklin for insulting the medical arts, given Franklin a dose of opium to cure his insomnia. Jennings suggests giving Franklin the same dose again, to see if he would repeat the same actions and attempt to steal the Moonstone again.
Franklin jumps at the chance, and he and Jennings recreate the crime, with Franklin reliving the night. Bruff and Rachel hide and watch Franklin, and so both are, finally, convinced of his innocence. They begin trying to find out what happened to the Moonstone, and they convince Sergeant Cuff to come out of retirement to solve the case. Several plot complications later, Godfrey Ablewhite is revealed to have stolen the Moonstone. He dies, murdered by the Brahmins, who return the Moonstone to its rightful place, on the forehead of the Hindu idol. Franklin and Rachel, meanwhile, get married and have a child, and those who deserve it live happily ever after.
The Moonstone deserves to be appreciated in two different ways, for its inherent qualities and for its significance to the mystery genre.
I'll take the latter first. T.S. Eliot said, famously for his time, that "The Moonstone is the first, longest, and best of English detective novels." It's nice to see someone like Eliot lavishing praise on Wilkie Collins, whose place in the canon is far less secure than Eliot's. (Eliot described Collins himself as "Charles Dickens without the genius"). But, alas, Eliot, like so many other writers and critics who've quoted and echoed his opinion, doesn't have it quite right. The Moonstone lies in the same position as Night and Morning (see the M. Favart entry) and Susan Hopley: as a mystery/sensation novel with a detective character. One of the basic features of the detective novel is the detective as the protagonist, rather than as a secondary character, which is how Favart appears in Night and Morning and how Cuff appears in The Moonstone. There's certainly a crime at the heart of The Moonstone, which is another of the basic features of the detective novel, but Rachel Verinder and Franklin Blake, not Sergeant Cuff, are the main characters.
So The Moonstone is a mystery, not a detective novel. Its importance as a mystery novel, to the mystery genre, lies in its quality, in the figure of Cuff himself, and in what the novel gave to the genre. The Moonstone is far and away the best written mystery novel to appear to that time, and is in my view the best written mystery novel of the 19th century. (Yes, even better than The Woman in White, contrary to what I wrote in the Count Fosco entry). Purely as a mystery it has some flaws–see below–but its quality as a novel is quite high. This was significant to the mystery genre because it demonstrated that mystery novels could be well written and successful. It established credibility, to some small degree, for the genre, so that writers like Eliot and Henry James would not completely snub the genre and its writers. It was quite popular, nearly as much so as The Woman in White, and so brought positive attention, from both the public and other writers, to the still nascent genre of the mystery novel. As Dickens did in Bleak House, Collins made the setting of The Moonstone recognizable to the middle class, which was a change from the casebook mystery fiction of the time and which made the novel more palatable to respectable middle class households.
Moreover, The Moonstone contributed to the development of the Great Detective figure, as seen most famously and familiarly in Sherlock Holmes and his many lesser iterations. The first Great Detective was François Eugène Vidocq (see the William Dow entry for more on Vidocq), and the most influential was Chevalier Dupin, but as I've pointed out in other entries on this site, like Monsieur Vautrin, Hawkshaw, and the Maximilien Heller entry, there were a number of characters who contributed to the Great Detective character type. Cuff is not a major variation on the Great Detective type. He has an omniscient manner, like Dupin, and he is both cryptic and identifiably human, like Inspector Bucket. What he contributes to the Great Detective character type is the humanizing quirk, in Cuff’s case a great affection for roses. But the popularity of The Moonstone, and in particular Collins’ influence on Doyle, mean that Cuff is more significant as a character, even with his similarity to Dupin and Bucket, than some of his lesser-known predecessors. So the chronology of major 19th century detective character might run like so: Dupin-Bucket-Cuff-Holmes. This is the usual progression as given in most critical works on the history of detective fiction, and it ignores many minor detective characters, from Susan Hopley to M. Favart to Inspector Cutting to William Dow. One of the purposes of this site is to bring attention to these overlooked and forgotten characters. But it must be conceded, even by folks like me who reflexively want to play the iconoclast to Sherlock Holmes and A.J. Raffles, that the Big Four are the most important, and Cuff is undoubtedly one of the Four.
Finally, Collins helped popularize several tropes of detective fiction, including the clever city detective confronting hapless country police, the notion of multiple, plausible suspects, the idea that the detective should know only as much as the reader does, the summary of the crime before the gathered suspects, the use of multiple accounts to piece together the truth, the amateur who finds a clue that the professional misses, and the reenactment of a crime to solve the mystery were all either introduced or popularized by Collins.
I mentioned that The Moonstone deserves appreciation for its inherent qualities. These qualities are several. Like The Woman in White, The Moonstone is above all readable and entertaining. Collins does an excellent job of balancing the elements of mystery fiction–motive, means, and opportunity, the detective and the solving of the crime–with the elements of mainstream fiction–characterization, dialogue, plot, and attention to social issues–with the end result being a novel that excels both as fiction and as mystery. The plot is suitably complex, and as he does in The Woman in White Collins injects a certain arch humor and wit into The Moonstone. The character of Gabriel Betteridge, the servant to the Verinders who narrates the first quarter of the story, is idiosyncratic and amusing, especially in his consultation, I Ching-like, of Robinson Crusoe, and Miss Clack, the religious fanatic who narrates another section of the story, has struck many over the decades as funny. (The amount of humor I derive from blinkered religious fanatics like Clack has diminished as the Bush regime has progressed, but that’s probably just me). Collins also puts in a moment of actual creepiness, in Rosanna’s description of the Shivering Sands. Collins’ characterization is excellent, both of the major characters–Franklin is far more vital than Walter, in The Woman in White–and of the minor ones–the woeful, soulful Ezra Jennings, whose bodily agonies, necessitating ever-increasing doses of opium, were taken from Collins’ personal experiences with gout. And Collins manages to portray and evoke emotion without belaboring moments or through the use of over obvious rhetoric.
The Moonstone is not entirely without flaws. The view of India and the Hindus is dated, and might be uncharitably described as racist, but it’s not mean-spirited, and certainly nowhere near the poison of Trilby (see the Svengali entry). Too, Collins’ treatment of the class system, of the assumptions of the Verinders about social status and position and the proper place of servants and the lower classes, is unreconstructed. One couldn’t expect more out of Collins, for he was a product of his time and place, and in other respects he was socially progressive, esp. in his portrayal of the helplessness of married women. But in terms of class Collins was conservative. Finally, Collins doesn’t exactly play fair with the reader. All of the suspects are presented to the reader, true, and Collins takes pains to include clues to the solution, but the actual solution–opium-induced sleepwalking!?!?–strains credulity. You won’t mind, of course, since the mystery is properly mystifying and the solution and the guilty party and hard to guess, but from an objective standpoint some of Collins’ moves are cheating.
Cuff is the "finest police detective in England," so well-known that he is called in from London to solve the case of the Moonstone. His appearance does not inspire confidence in those who first meet him. He is described as a
grizzled, elderly man, so miserably lean that he looked as if he had not got an ounce of flesh on his bones in any part of him. He was dressed all in decent black, with a white cravat around his neck. His face was as sharp as a hatchet, and the skin of it was as yellow and dry and withered as an autumn leaf. His eyes, of a steely light grey, had a very disconcerting trick when they encountered your eyes as if they expected something more from you than you were aware of yourself. His walk was soft, his voice was melancholy, his long lanky fingers were hooked like claws. He might have been a parson, or an undertaker, or anything else you like, except what he really was.
Cuff isn’t brilliant–his solution to the Moonstone’s theft, though logical, is incorrect–but he’s quite clever. His manner, reticent and mysterious, lend him an intimidating air, and his sly, roundabout way of questioning suspects and investigating the crime, as well as his perseverance, and his hard-working and methodical nature make up for what his intellect lacks. He has a gloomy, almost cynical outlook on life, and can be petty, as in his treatment of the (admittedly incompetent) local police. His overriding interest is roses, and when preoccupied he whistles "The Last Rose of Summer."
usack, Miss. Miss Cusack was created by L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace and appeared in four stories published in The Harmsworth Magazine in 1899 & 1900, beginning with "Mr. Bovey's Unexpected Will" (Harmsworth, April 1899). Information on Meade & Eustace is given elsewhere on this site.
Miss Florence Cusack is one of the most typical of the post-Holmes female detectives. The influence of Holmes (who will, never fear, appear on this site sooner or later) on succeeding detectives is an obvious one, and needs little explication from me. But what is not widely considered is the effect of the Holmes stories on the female detectives. Most people, of course, don't know much about female detectives during the Victorian era, so it's not surprising they don't consider how Doyle's stories affected the female detectives. A quick glance at the post-Holmes female detectives shows that, unsurprisingly, the Holmes dynamic was replicated among female detectives. Miss Cusack was one of those who followed the Holmes model. Naturally, the stories aren't as good as the Holmes stories, since Meade & Eustace aren't as good as A. Conan Doyle was, but they are entertaining, and despite her few appearances Cusack is worth making note of.
Miss Cusack is a beautiful, well-dressed, wealthy independent sleuth. Her origin is never really described; she hints that she does this because she's "under a promise, which I must fulfill," but this hint is never followed up. She's also got something of Holmes' ennui, finding detecting attracting because "the life is fraught with the very deepest interest." When a case really interests her it gets "the old desire going to the point of madness," and she doesn't sleep for days on end. This does have a negative effect on her, of course. She is subject to "periodical and very acute nervous attacks," and she develops a "strange and nervous automatism" of clenching and unclenching her fingers. It is this which sends her to Dr. Lonsdale, who doesn't seem to really treat her physical maladies but who becomes her friend and then her Watson (as well as the narrator of her stories). Lonsdale doesn't live with Cusack, of course, nor does he become her lover or husband. He's just a friend who, when summond by her, runs to her assistance. She, for her part, likes Lonsdale, although as with Holmes there's a sort of genial contempt from her toward Lonsdale.
She is very capable and successful as a detective. Like Holmes, she's highly respected by Scotland Yard, who are quite pleased to follow her orders and who even call her in for special cases which they can't solve themselves. She's quite businesslike about solving crimes, although she avoids the dreaded "mannish" tag by being friendly and feminine, albeit not sweet. She is quite clearly the lead, though, and Lonsdale is quite clearly the follower and assistant. (Were I of the right mind-set, I'd produce a paper analysing the sexual politics of the Miss Cusack stories. Cusack leads, Lonsdale follows; Cusack commands, Lonsdale obeys; Cusack is sharp, Lonsdale meekly takes it; Cusack brooks no dissent, Lonsdale is rather passive--on and on and on. An interesting if not particularly complex role reversal going on here). Cusack is a good detective; she's well aware of the ways of criminals, such as leaving coded messages in personal ads. She knows their psyches, and is up on infamous individuals as well as groups of them. She knows the tricks of swindlers, gamblers, and the criminals of the Continent.
Her detecting methods are fairly straightforward: the use of disguises, a certain amount of luck, the inspection of crime scenes, the asking of questions to the right people, and the proper application of her not-inconsiderable ingenuity. She's quite good at figuring out the clever tricks and dodges of criminals--and Meade & Eustace come up with some nice story twists, including stolen gold cast as balls, repainted, and hung outside an apartment window, a specific aftershave used to tip off horse gamblers in a swindle, and valerian used to train a cat in order to illegally get stock tips. When there's heavy lifting to be done, or when she might be in danger, she brings along police detectives in disguise, to protect her and to do the actual arresting.
Cusack is very much a detective of the upper classes, taking on cases which involve the upper classes. No street crimes for Miss Cusack; no, she gets involved in stock tip swindling. She has a considerable amount of sang-froid, but can be impatient and occasionally sharp with people, including Lonsdale. But she's also warm and generous to her friends, and goes out of her way to help them when they're in trouble.
The stories are in the typical Meade/Eustace style: short, briskly told, and usually clever in conception if not execution. Interestingly, Meade and Eustace seem to have played a bit silly with the dates; the first story is dated in 1894, when Lonsdale first meets Cusack, but the fourth story is dated in 1892, when Lonsdale says he hasn't heard from her for a while.
utting, Inspector John. Inspector John Cutting was created by Richard Blackmore and appeared in Clara Vaughan (1864). Richard Blackmore (1825-1900) is best remembered today (when he's remembered at all) for Lorna Doone (see the John Ridd entry), but he wrote a number of other novels as well as short stories and poems Clara Vaughan was Blackmore's first novel. Something not generally known, however–well, who's kidding who, darn few folks know or care about Richard Doddridge Blackmore, and even those of us who've read Lorna Doone couldn't tell you Blackmore's name. But Blackmore does deserve mention, as his Inspector Cutting is one of the earliest fictional detectives in British literature, possibly predating even Inspector Bucket.
The observant reader will object that Bleak House was published in 1853, seemingly predating Clara Vaughan by some years. But Blackmore stated that he wrote the manuscript for Clara Vaughan sometime around 1852 or 1853. It is quite possible that Blackmore based Inspector Cutting on Inspector Charles Frederick Field, a real-life policeman who Dickens wrote about first as a journalist, in "On Duty With Inspector Field" (1851), and then as an author, turning Field into Inspector Bucket. So as far as I'm concerned Inspectors Cutting and Bucket are coevals.
Inspector Cutting is a veteran of the London police force, described by his niece as
My Uncle John, a very high class man, first-rate, first-rate, Miss Vaughan, has been for ever so long in the detective police. There's nothing he don't know of what goes on in London, from the rats as comes up from the drain-pipes to the Queen getting up on her throne. A wonderful man he is.Cutting himself is described by Blackmore thusly:
An elderly man, but active looking and wiry, with nothing remarkable in his features, except the clear cast of his forehead and the firm set of his mouth. But the quick intelligence that shot from his eyes made it seem a waste of time to finish telling him anything. For this reason, polite though he was, it became unpleasant to talk to him....The story of Clara Vaughan involves Clara's attempt to find the murderers of her father and avenge herself upon them, to "right her father's death" in her own words. Inspector Cutting only appears for a short period. He questions Clara about her father's death, investigates, takes her to Whitechapel to identify a suspect, and discovers that the murderers are Italians and so he can't arrest them, after which he is mentioned no more in the novel. He does make an impression in that short time, however. Cutting is smart, unlike Inspector Bucket. If it's true that both Blackmore and Dickens based their characters on Inspector Field, then Dickens either did Field wrong or Blackmore made Field look a good deal more intelligent than he was. If Bucket was a prototypical policemen, then Field was a prototypical detective--more intelligent, more clever, and a better all-around detective than Bucket.
Cutting is, as mentioned, smart. He's also highly-placed; his niece mentions that he's under a lot of pressure, "with all them state secrets upon him." He's no great observer of social proprieties, telling Clara that he doesn't think much of women since they lack "precision." (He changes his mind with regard to Clara, since she delivers the details of her father's murder with the "precision" which Cutting is sure women lack, and because she shows "pluck," a trait he values, during their trip to Whitechapel). He's cynical and thinks poorly of the upper classes: "they ought to be better, and on the whole are not so," and "I would rather have a good drunken navvy than a lord to take to the station." He's physically vital despite his age: he "could walk when needful like a cat." He's very good at disguise, fooling Clara when he changes for their trip to Whitechapel. And as a detective he's quite competent, good at examining evidence and deducing information from it, good at questioning suspects and getting "information received;" after grilling Clara on her father's death, he disappears into the city for several days, only to return with solid leads on her father's murderers.
Cutting wasn't as influential as Bucket, but purely as a detective he's better than Bucket was.
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