antômas. Fantômas, the Lord of Terror, the Genius of Evil, was created by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain in a series of stories that appeared in a monthly in 1911; they were later gathered together in Fantômas (1911), with numerous sequels appearing: Juve against Fantômas (1911), The Killer Corpse (1911), The Secret Agent (1911), and 34 more.
I've included him here because, like Captain Mors, Fantômas is, to me, a Victorian creation in spirit if not in fact. And he's just too good a character to leave off this list.
Pierre Souvestre (1874-1914) was a former lawyer who, when his legal business failed, turned to writing automotive journalism to support himself. Marcel Allain (1885-1969) was Souvestre's secretary. They worked together writing articles for a variety of magazines, including detective stories set in the world of auto racing and the theater. Arthème Fayard, a successful publisher of what would later be dubbed pulp fiction, hired them to write a series of fantastic novels--and so Fantômas was born.
Fantômas is a crime boss--the crime boss--in pre-WW1 Paris. He is in charge of a vast army of "apaches" (street thugs) and has spies and hirelings everywhere. He himself is a master of disguise and carries out burglaries and murders with abandon and aplomb. More importantly/vividly, his crimes are both appalling and carried out with imagination and verve. Which is not to approve of them, but Fantômas, ruthless and merciless though he is, has a certain audacity and an outrageous style--"spectacularly gruesome," in the words of one critic--that sets him apart from most other villains. He crashes passenger trains and blows up steamships, all to eliminate a single witness. He sends a cab hurtling through the Paris streets, its coachman a wide-eyed corpse. He puts a rebellious henchman in a large bell in place of its clapper, and when the time comes to ring the hour the man's blood, along with his stolen gems, rain down on the public. Fantômas' masked henchmen crash a city bus into a bank in order to gain access to the vault. Fantômas replaces the perfume in the dispensers of a department store with sulfuric acid; he releases plague-carrying rats onto a passenger liner; he places a victim face-up in a guillotine, so that the man can watch his own execution. Fantômas poisons a man so that he can take up with his wife. Fantômas wages war on bourgeois French society, but one gets the feeling that he commits these horrible deeds for the sheer joy of it.
Fantômas is stalked by two men: Inspector Juve of the Sûreté, who is the only policeman who even suspects the extent of Fantômas' power and who is monomaniacal in his pursuit of Fantômas; and Jérôme Fandor, a journalist who may be Fantômas' son. Fantômas is aided by Hélène, his daughter, an opium-smoking woman who dresses in men's clothing and wears a death's-head tattoo (a classic bad girl born decades too early).
The Fantômas novels were very popular with the French public, acting as an accompaniment to the enthusiasm for the Grand Guignol. The demand was such that Souvestre and Allain wrote a Fantômas novel a month for 32 straight months, a feat of output rarely matched.
Jean-Marc Lofficier's very good, illustrated site on the Genius of Evil.
Fantomas Lives! may be the only Fantômas site on the Web. But even if there are others, I'm certain it's the best and most thorough of them. The first place to go to for information on the Lord of Terror, and the last.
An interesting short essay on Fantômas and melodrama.
ather Darcy. Father Darcy was created by Anne Marsh-Caldwell and appeared in Father Darcy (1846). Marsh-Caldwell (1791-1874) wrote almost two dozen novels, some of which were rather popular. Father Darcy is about England during the late 16th and early 17th centuries and the conflict between Catholics and Protestants which culminated in the attempt by Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators to blow up Parliament. The central characters are nearly all Catholic, and Marsh-Caldwell follows their lives and how they are affected by and react to the anti-Catholic laws which were present under Queen Elizabeth and King James and the anti-Catholic sentiment of the English people. There is Robert Catesby, a young man of great energy and exuberant spirits and beloved by all who know him. At the beginning of Father Darcy he is very much in love with Grace de Vaux and is a good man, albeit too wild and rambunctious. But Grace turns him down in such a way as to permanently embitter him, and the increasingly hostile and anti-Catholic environment of England poisons his spirit, so that by the end of the novel he has conceived of the plot to explode Parliament (murdering, it must be said, not just Protestants but many Catholics at the same time), been the lead conspirator, and has become a bitter, hard, merciless and joyless man. Grace de Vaux is ethereally beautiful and a devout Catholic. So devout, in fact, that she can’t allow herself to love Robert Catesby, or anyone, since worldly attractions will take her away from her relationship with the Church and with Christ. Grace becomes a nun. But when a priest she idolizes is executed by the government, and for completely unjust reasons, Grace is devastated. She loses her innocent sweetness and becomes embittered (that word again) (it so aptly describes what happens to many of the characters) toward Protestant England; she becomes a nun, her beauty withered, whose devotion leaves no room for joy or human feelings. She becomes the assistant to Father Darcy, although she knows nothing of the conspiracy, and ends up founding convents overseas.
There is Evelyn Mulsho, the daughter of a moderate Catholic who was faithful to the Crown during the Armada days and who “had revolted at the childish bigotry and barbarous cruelties of Queen Mary’s reign.” Evelyn is Catholic, like her father, and is a good, sweet woman with an abhorrence of the violence so common to the time and to which her friends eventually resort. Evelyn, at least, survives the novel without anything bad happening to her personality. However, she has the misfortune of marrying Everard Digby, a decent and gentle man whose spirits are continually darkened by the injustices Catholics are forced to suffer, until he is in a state of fury, at which point he joins the conspiracy. He does not tell his wife this, however, and she discovers what is going on only after the conspiracy has failed and Everard is fleeing for his life. And there is Eleanor Digby, Everard’s sister, who is beautiful, like Evelyn and Grace, but who wastes her beauty and life pining for Robert Catesby and waiting on him when he visits the Digbys.
And then there’s Father Darcy, more on whom below.
In commenting on Father Darcy I’m encountering the same difficulties I found in evaluating Westward Ho! (see the Amyas Leigh entry) and Taras Bulba: the underlying message of the story, the preferred inscribed narrative, is fundamentally ugly, and is at odds with the quality of the story itself. The problem for me is that the anti-Catholicism of Father Darcy provokes a visceral distaste for the novel, and I have to set that aside and attempt to evaluate Father Darcy as objectively as possible. Sometimes, as with Westward Ho!, I’m successful. Sometimes, as with Taras Bulba, I’m not so successful. I’ll try to overcome my revulsion at Caldwell’s bigotry and be even-handed.
I’ll get the ugliness out of the way first. This is an anti-Catholic novel, and unlike Westward Ho! Caldwell’s bigotry increases in frequency and venom as the novel goes on, until she is outright gloating over the defeat of the Catholics at the end of the novel. Although Caldwell does include the occasional aside about the common barbarities of the time and about the injustices which Protestants inflicted on innocent Catholics, she spends far more time discussing how Catholicism ruins lives and talking about Catholicism as an “erring religion.” Caldwell buys into the concept of Jesuit conspiracy and portrays Father Darcy and the Jesuits as the real cause of the Earl of Essex’s rebellion; Father Darcy decides that Queen Bess cannot be killed by assassins, so he must strike at her in another way, through her heart, and since the Earl of Essex is her favorite, his downfall will break her heart.
The Essex/Southampton “conspiracy” is a good example of another of Father Darcy’s flaws: its altered/inaccurate history. (Whether this is a flaw or not depends on your perspective, I suppose. I realize that, qua Ebert, one reads books for the same reason one watches movies: for emotional truths rather than historical ones. But I still prefer that the history in the books I read is as close to factually accurate as possible). Caldwell changes a fair amount of the historical facts to fit the thesis of her story, so that it is the Jesuits who are behind Essex’s rebellion, rather than Essex’s pride and foolishness. Caldwell likewise changes the personalities of several of the main characters, including Robert Catesby and, most importantly, Father Darcy himself, who in real life was not nearly such a bad guy as Caldwell makes him out to be. Caldwell does not pretend to be telling objective history, of course, and is quite open about the fact that she is taking sides; she is for Good Queen Bess and the English Protestants and against King James and the Catholic Church.
I’ve no way of knowing how deliberate Caldwell was in changing history. Was it unconscious, and the final result the way she thought history must have gone? Or was it willful, the act of a propagandist? Got me. But the changes in history extend to the portrayal of Elizabethan England itself, which is presented as a nearly idyllic time. Caldwell doesn’t apply this kind of romanticization to the Elizabethans themselves; her characterization is relatively realistic, albeit too floridly written, and she is willing to concede flaws in all the characters, even Elizabeth herself.
Romanticization aside, Caldwell does have a firm grasp on the clothing, scenery, and practices of the era, and even if her focus is almost solely on the privileged classes she effectively conveys the sense of what life might have been like, in a material sense, for those living at that time. She also occasionally describes the image and idea of what England or London was like in the 16th century, and what life was like in England during the 16th century, and then compares it to England and life in England during the 19th century–always to the detriment of the modern day. (More of Caldwell’s romanticization of the past).
Caldwell’s dialogue is...well, “cod-Shakespeare” is perhaps too rough, but she’s sometimes too free with statements like, “Dost thou understand, Grace, this heart?” Generally the dialogue is of an older and more formally structured style, as is the narration, so that we get sentences like
And she had, perhaps, taken refuge in the endeavour to render herself insensible to the dreadful subject, and thus to preserve the equilibrium of her too excitable mind; but such a resource against the stings of regret, it may be of remorse, infallibly tends to harden the character.So while the book is not badly written, it can sometimes be slow going, at least for a modern reader.
Father Darcy has another drawback, although this one is as much the product of the current, decayed educational system as it is Caldwell’s choice. She begins matters in media res and provides next to no context for the historical situation or figures. Her assumption was that the reader would already know who, for example, the Earl of Essex was and what the significance of Robert’s last name being “Catesby” was. Unfortunately, the modern American reader is not likely to be so familiar with the details of the Guy Fawkes plot that she or he recognizes the name “Robert Catesby” on reading it, and I wonder how much of Father Darcy the modern British reader will know without having to look up the names and events.
I’m spending too much time on the novel’s negatives, I suppose. Despite its flaws, it’s actually fairly interesting. Caldwell’s characterization is usually solid, and she does a good job of showing how someone like Robert could change from being benign, albeit far too energetic and spirited, to malign. Caldwell also has an interesting and credible exploration of the nature of faith during the Elizabethan era, especially regarding Grace’s bitterness at God allowing the priest she idolized to die.
Father Darcy is a villain who while not an immortal on the level of Fantômas or Father Rodin is still quite memorable. Father Darcy’s real name is Henry Garnet, but he goes by “Father Darcy” to most of the characters in the book, so that’s the name I will be using for him. In Father Darcy he is the head of the Jesuits in England and the man behind many of the Catholic plots which bedevil first Queen Elizabeth and then King James. He is a schemer, an “arch-intriguer,” and a man with a virulent, religious hatred for Queen Elizabeth and for all Protestants. He is middle-aged, well-dressed (when he’s not disguised), mild-looking, and almost effeminate of manner. He is “a little too much embonpoint perhaps to be perfectly handsome, and his countenance might have seemed to some too soft and languid; it carried a certain appearance of indolence, and of a negligent and indifferent temper.” That’s all a pose, however, for underneath that he is quite formidable. The author compares him to a serpent, and his smooth, insinuating, and sardonic manner conceal a sharp mind and a ruthless attitude. He’s quite willing to use his young charges–Robert et al–to advance his aims, and to manipulate their ambitions and romances to achieve his ends. He is a Catholic ideologue, very arrogant and very opposed to reason (as opposed to faith), but the author makes clear that he cares much more about temporal power than about the spiritual ideals of the Church. He is such a ends-justify-the-means, triumph-at-all costs person that when King James begins passing very restrictive anti-Catholic laws Darcy is actually happy, since laws accomodating the Church faithful would make them less likely to eventually revolt and overthrow the Protestant government. Darcy is a master casuist, and uses his rhetorical skills to good end in confusing and misleading his young charges and in persuading them to do things they know to be wrong. He’s not particularly brave and is very much a behind-the-scenes personality.
Father Darcy is extremely hard to come by now, but if you ever get the chance to buy or borrow a copy, do. Despite its flaws it is a good historical romance.
ather Rodin. Father Rodin was created by Eugène Sue and appeared in Le Juif Errant (The Wandering Jew, 1844-1845). Sue (1804-1857) was during his lifetime a giant of French letters, "le roi du roman populaire" (the king of the popular novel), a more successful novelist than even Dumas père and Honoré de Balzac. He wrote prolifically, sold wildly, and was perhaps the best known man of letters in France by the time of his death. And in a further indication of the fickleness of literary reputations, by 1910 Sue was nearly completely forgotten about. That's finally changed, and the critical opinion of Sue is again ascending.
Le Juif Errant--and I already have an entry for the titular character; see the (rudimentary; I'll attempt to expand it sometime soon) Ahasuerus entry below, in the French Heroes section--is about...well, I could do a plot summary, but my attempt wouldn't be nearly as good as Thomas Disch's, so I'll let him do it for me:
The Wandering Jew has got, as the form demands, everything: an heiress falsely accused of madness and incarcerated in a lunatic asylum; a destitute hunchbacked seamstress of the highest moral character hopelessly in love with a blacksmith (who is a patriotic poet on the side); bloodthirsty panthers, telepathic twins, debauchery, murder, suicide, duels, supernatural manifestations, blazing passions, wild mobs, a plague of cholera, scenes in Java and the Arctic, the two best Reading-of-the-Will scenes that ever were, and towering over all these attractions, the nastiest crew of villains ever brought together in one book, presided over by the fiendish, the insidious, the wholly diabolic Jesuit priest and arch-hypocrite, Pere Rodin, who is hell-bent on becoming the next Pope.Now tell me that the preceding doesn't make you want to read the book.
What's even better is that The Wandering Jew, if anything, surpasses Disch's description of it. It does indeed have everything, and more of everything than he mentioned: Thuggees, shipwrecks, murders, a paranoid, anti-Catholic, anti-Jesuit author (Sue seems really to have believed that the Jesuits were plotting to take over the world), polemics on behalf of the proletariat, malicious aging doxies, pathos, lovers fooled by made-up duplicates, and main characters dying left and right--Sue was not at all afraid to kill his or the audience's darlings. A recitation of the events of The Wandering Jew might well provoke a listener to incredulous laughter, as it did my wife, but in the context of the book the laughter is delighted; one laughs with Sue, reading the book, rather than at him.
And then there's Father Rodin. In purely literary terms, he's an interesting deviation from the prevailing trends of the day. Rather than make him a Gothic Hero-Villain (see the Arbaces entry and the "Archetypes" piece in my Heroes and Monsters for more on this) or a Byronic "Man of Feeling," Sue hearkened back to the figure looming over all later master villains: Milton's Satan. Father Rodin is quite worthy of being compared to Milton's creation. Milton's Satan is a Promethean rebel endowed with grandeur and even heroism. Father Rodin is heroic in his evil (he will stop at nothing to become the next Pope), his schemes (which stretch across decades and continents), his cunning (you really have to read The Wandering Jew to appreciate just how devious Rodin is), his ruthlessness, and his willingness to send a dying enemy off with a sneer and an insult. Rodin, as Disch says, really does tower over the novel, and is a bad guy for the ages.
aust. Faust was created by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and appeared in Faust (1773-1831). Goethe (1749-1832) you know about, if you're at all literate: the greatest of German writers, the writer so significant that the Romantic Period in Germany is known as "the Age of Goethe." Goethe was a poet, a novelist, a dramatist, a critic and theorist of literature and art, and even a scientist. There's no comparable figure in English letters. Goethe was The Man, and essentially remains so. Faust is regarded as Goethe's greatest work and now, thanks to a good translation, I can say that I see its virtues.
Faust begins in Heaven, where three of the archangels are singing the praises of God. Mephistopheles appears and is less encouraging about mankind. God brings up Faust and tells Mephistopheles that Faust will continue to serve Him no matter what. Mephistopheles gets God to agree to a wager: that M. can get Faust to stray from the path of righteousness. M., knowing that Faust is miserable, thinks he can succeed in tempting Faust. Faust is actually deeply dissatisfied with his life. He has acquired as much knowledge as he can, but realizes that in the scope of the universe he is meaningless. Faust goes walking among the commoners with his student Wagner, and during the walk Faust tells Wagner about the conflict in his soul, about his clashing desires for earthly matters and for his desire to understand and embrace higher truths which, while he is earth-bound, he can never experience. Faust wants to learn the meaning of existence. Mephistopheles, seeing that Faust is vulnerable, appears to him as a black poodle, which Faust takes home. Mephistopheles reveals himself to Faust, but the latter is unimpressed and is not tempted by Mephistopheles' arguments. Mephistopheles leaves, but when he returns Faust is more receptive to his words, realizing that he has nothing to show for all his philosophical struggles. Faust is more interested in enjoying his life, and so when Mephistopheles tempts him with sensual pleasures, Faust partially gives in. He doesn't sell his soul outright, however. What he agrees to is a wager with Mephistopheles: that if he, Faust, could ever declare himself, in the midst of pleasures, to be at peace, or if Mephistopheles could ever make Faust self-satisfied through flattery, or if Faust should ever experience a moment so sublime that he wants it to last forever, then Mephistopheles can have Faust.
Mephistopheles and Faust begin by going to a local tavern and drinking with some college boys. This does not sway Faust, so Mephistopheles decides to use women. Mephistopheles brings Faust to an old witch, who brews him a potion which makes him young again. Back in the city Faust encounters the beautiful and innocent maiden Margaret (or Gretchen, depending on what version and translation you are using). Faust is smitten. Mephistopheles tries to woo her by magically giving her chests of jewels, but these gifts go awry. (Margaret's mother keeps finding them and giving them to the Church). Faust meets up with Margaret and chats with her, instead, and she falls for him back. They love, and she gives herself to him. But one night, when Margaret is waiting for Faust to visit, her brother Valentine, who knows about her affair with Faust, waits outside Margaret’s house for Faust. Faust arrives, Valentine and he quarrel, and Faust runs Valentine through with his sword. Valentine dies, but not before calling Margaret a slut.
Mephistopheles and Faust flee the city for the mountains, and Mephistopheles shows Faust more scenes of debauchery. Back in the city, Margaret kills her child by Faust and is imprisoned for her crime, sentenced to death. Faust resists Mephistopheles' temptations, encouraged by the thought of Margaret, and Mephistopheles' plan, that Faust would want the moment of the fulfillment of his love for Margaret to last forever, is foiled. Though knowing that human love can't satisfy him, Faust still feels sorry for Margaret, and returns to see her. She refuses to leave jail and flee with Faust and Mephistopheles, and although she is judged guilty by her jailors she is judged innocent by God and is saved.
That ends Part 1 of Faust, which was written from 1773 to 1801. Part 1 is substantially different from Part 2, which was written over the last 30 years of Goethe's life, and so different that some editions of Faust only include Part 1. Part 2 has the long Classic Antiquity section, in which Faust and Mephistopheles, after creating the spirit Homunculus, travel to ancient Greece. There Faust romances Helen of Troy. Faust falls in love with Helen, but ultimately he realizes that his enjoyment of her is, like the rest of his experiences, transitory, thus foiling Mephistopheles' plans yet again. Faust returns to his homeland, deciding that he now must achieve something physical, something useful to humanity. He foregoes his magical powers so that he can accomplish his goals with only the abilities nature granted to him. Faust takes over a large strip of swamp land and makes it habitable, letting thousands of people live and flourish there. At the end of his life, an old and blind man, Faust sees (so to speak) that he has made a good land for many peoples, and wishes for that moment of realization to linger forever, thus letting Mephistopheles claim his soul–but because Mephistopheles' wager with the Almighty was that Faust wouldn't stray from the path of righteousness, God takes Faust's soul up to Heaven. (The moral of the story is never bet against God).
It's a fair assessment, I think, to say that Faust, like many other Great Works Of Literature (by which, of course, I mean the canon) is more esteemed by critics than read by the hoi polloi (by which, of course, I mean people like me). And many and long are the praises sung for Faust, and if you ask most critics they will acknowledge its greatness. But even within the critical community there are...not dissenters, exactly, but brave men and women who will admit that English translations of Faust don't do it justice, that they are boring and worse, and that the poetry of Goethe's language is lost in translation. And when I first tried to read Faust, a month or so back, I found myself not just in agreement with those men and women (Susan Sontag is among them–she's not a woman I generally have much use for, but I can't deny her intelligence, and in this case her perspicacity) but demeaned in my own eyes, for Faust bested me.
Now, however, thanks to the Howard Brenton translation of Faust, I'm able to testify to the greatness of Faust. Mind, I'd tried three translations of Faust before this, and everyone not only left me cold but failed in every way, as far as I could tell, to convey what was special about it. It wasn't an unreasonable deduction, on my part, to conclude that the fault lay not within Faust or the translators but myself. But Brenton changed my mind for me. It really was the translators' fault! (You've no idea how relieved this makes me). Brenton, a noted playwright, was commissioned to condense the original Faust into a six hour production for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1995. What he did instead was have the play translated literally, "deliberately void of any literary value but linguistically accurate," and then "take courage, and a six-month-long deep breath, and to try to write Goethe's great play/poem in my own language." And, praise be, it worked. Now we, the intelligent reading masses, have a Faust which we can understand and appreciate as Goethe deserves. So I can recommend Brenton's translation without reservation.
In fact, Brenton's is the only translation of Faust I'd recommend. Faust presents something of a special dilemma for translators. It is a poem written over 200 years ago by a talented poet in German for Germans. So translators have to overcome not just the ordinary problems presented in translating foreign language material, but also the more difficult problems of making the language understandable to a modern audience while at the same time capturing the poetry and texture of Goethe's language. In the previous version of this entry, the one I wrote before reading Brenton's Faust, that "the translations of Faust which I read did not succeed in either task, and I have doubts that, as far as Faust is concerned, those problems can ever be solved." The traditional dilemma for translators is being faithful to the original language while also expressing the spirit of the work. The non-Brenton translators generally tried to balance the two while also trying to recapitulate the beauty of Goethe's language. It didn't work, and the reason for that is that faithfulness to the original language will not capture the music of Goethe. This may be true for other authors, but it is manifestly not true for Goethe. What is called for, at least in the case of Faust, is a poet who is more concerned with the essence of Faust than with a literal translation. That's what Brenton did, and he succeeded wonderfully.
Brenton restores the flow of the dialogue, the humor, and the moments of wit. Brenton includes vivid, striking imagery and memorable turns of phrase, which may or may not be literal translations of Goethe but which certainly express Goethe’s intention. Earlier translations had a disjointed feel; Brenton’s does not. The dialogue and characterization are compressed in the theatrical rather than novelistic way, so that what glimpses we get of Faust’s interior life come from his dialogue, and Goethe conveys the characterization of Faust and the others through dialogue. It’s an unnatural construction, especially when you’re used to reading novels and short stories, and it can be off-putting. This is a natural drawback of reading plays rather than watching them–so much of what we enjoy from a play comes from the performance and the interpretation individual actors put on the words they say–but Faust is deliberately written to be unperformable. Brenton made it performable, and wrote the dialogue and monologues so that we get a far greater view of Faust’s and Mephistopheles’ personalities.
All of which is to say that, yes, indeed, read Brenton’s translation of Faust. In Brenton’s hands Faust becomes an interesting and even involving read, with scenes which, on stage at least, would be striking. There are aspects of Faust which the critics appreciate but which leave me, as the intelligent amateur, cold: the way that Goethe contrasts Neo-Platonism and Romanticism, the alchemical and religious symbolism, the use of the themes of sexual temptation and the Eternal Feminine. I can admire those aspects of Faust, but they don’t add to my enjoyment of it. The wording of the text is colloquial in places, which purists undoubtedly will complain of but which admittedly make the poem easier to enjoy. I generally believe that rewording older works so that they can be enjoyed by the current generation of readers is a mistake, but when it comes to Faust previous, more faithful translations simply didn’t work. This is the only way to make Faust enjoyable.
Faust himself is not at all what the reader will expect, with or without a knowledge of the Faust legend. Those of you who have read various literary takes on Faust will find that Goethe’s Faust is not a doomed, defiant genius or madman in the Victor Frankenstein mold. Those of you not familiar with the Faust legend except in the vaguest of way will be surprised at how uninteresting Faust himself is. He’s much less full of life than Mephistopheles, much less involving, and the modern reader is likely to find him, finally, rather tedious. In part this is due to the passing of time. Goethe’s concerns, as voiced through Faust, spoke to his contemporary audience: the quest for transcendent knowledge, the desire for immanence, the striving to overcome the limitations of human knowledge, the dissatisfaction with life as it is and the yearning for a higher kind of life–all of these resonated with Goethe’s audience and made his reputation. But the modern reader isn’t likely to emotionally identify with these feelings, and in fact will likely see them as essentially juvenile, the sentiments of a teenager and college freshman rather than an adult. If that makes us coarse, jaded, and finally deadened to matters of the spirit, then so be it, but most of us went through this period of questioning years ago and settled it to our own satisfaction. To read Faust endlessly wrangle with these questions grows tired quickly.
avart, M. M. Favart was created by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton and in Night and Morning (1841). Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) is on this site for several entries, including Arbaces and Zanoni. Although the man's reputation among literary scholars is not particularly high, even with the reevaluation which he's undergone over the past couple of decades, his widespread presence here is an indication of the man's ability. I'll be writing about this at length in Argosy next year, after the manuscript for The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana is handed in but before the book has been published, but, briefly: Bulwer-Lytton was significant as a historical novelist (The Last Days of Pompeii), wrote some early mysteries which, it can be argued, were influential on Poe (Pelham and Night and Morning), wrote an occult novel which was influential both on succeeding writers and on real-life occultists (Zanoni), and wrote a significant work of early science fiction (The Coming Race). Bulwer-Lytton had his flaws as a writer, god knows, but in terms of literary influence and significance, distinguishing yourself in four genres is worthy of no small amount of respect.
Night and Morning is about the Beauforts. Philip Beaufort is the nephew of a sour but rich man who disapproves of marrying beneath one's class but winks at minor peccadillos like supporting mistresses. So Philip does not dare reveal to his uncle that he has married Catherine Morton, the daughter of a tradesman. Philip is in love with her, even though she has just turned 16 (I know times were different then, but...ew!), and she loves him, and so they married in haste, with only one witness. Philip then put her up in a cottage in a rural town and has her represent herself to the world by her maiden name. Yes, even after she bears him two sons, Philip and Sydney. Philip asks this of her (and remember that this is 1841, when being an unmarried mother was cause for a great deal of shame) because his uncle is not long for the world, and once he dies Philip will inherit his money and then reveal to the world that Catherine is his legal wife. Unfortunately, Philip dies in a horse-riding accident after his uncle dies but before he can claim his title, and no proof of the marriage can be discovered: the parson who married them is dead, the church register has disappeared, and the sole witness to the wedding has moved to Australia. The rest of Night and the Morning is the decades-long struggle of Philip to prove his parents' marriage (for after Philip, Sr.'s death Catherine is a social outcast and eventually dies hungry) and find happiness for himself and for Sidney, from whom he is separated twice, once for a space of a few months and then later for nearly two decades.
Night and Morning is, fair to say, an uneven book. It is hampered somewhat by Bulwer-Lytton's style, which is heavy-handed, too reliant on narratorial moralizing and pontificating, and too full of sheer bad writing. (To quote Edgar Allan Poe, "His mere English is grossly defective -- turgid, involved, and ungrammatical. There is scarcely a page of "Night and Morning" upon which a school-boy could not detect at least half a dozen instances of faulty construction"). Night and Morning is over-stuffed with plot twists; this is a book packed to overflowing with incident and story intricacies. The flaws and virtues of the characters are too often over-exaggerated, so that Catherine is saintly and the villains of the novel almost cartoonishly vile. And Bulwer-Lytton indulges his liking for melodramatic straining-for-affect to the utmost.
But Night and Morning, while not particularly good, is not unentertaining. The melodrama yanks at the heart-strings, but in an agreeable fashion; the characterization is unsubtle, but after a while we start to identify with the characters and sympathize with them. (It's a very simple lesson for writers: make your characters flawed but with good hearts, heap injustices on their heads, and the readers will love you for it). There are the occasional smart exchanges and good one-liners and aphorisms; even Bulwer-Lytton could occasionally produce wit. One of the characters, Lord Lilburne, is sardonic, very intelligent, rotten to the core of his black heart, addicted to physical pleasures (and you know what that means in a Victorian context), takes pleasure from hurting the feelings of others, and is generally good company for the reader, if not the other characters. (He's too evil to be a charming scoundrel, so what shall we call him--an entertaining villain?) And while the story is more than a little complex, Bulwer-Lytton plays fair with the readers; he brings in several surprises and many many plot twists, but the reader can never say that the complications are unwarranted or unrealistic. ("Unrealistic" in the context of the time, of course. Night and Morning has secret compartments, rooftop chases, and men dying nobly of consumption, but they aren't, y'know, hard to believe).
But the reason I'm including Night and Morning here is Favart. You'll note the publication date of Night and Morning: 1841. In April of that year Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" was published in Graham Magazine. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" introduced C. Auguste Dupin and is generally seen as the start of the genre of detective fiction. This perception is inaccurate, and this site (and later on the book which will emerge from this site) will contain examples of Dupin's predecessors, characters like Mme. De Scudéry and Susan Hopley. Favart is another one of those. I don't think a case can be made that Poe read Night and Morning before he composed "Rue Morgue;" Poe's review of Night and Morning appeared in the same issue of Graham Magazine in which "Rue Morgue" did, and I doubt Poe had enough time to read Night and Morning, finish it, write the review, and then conceive of and write "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." But reading Poe's review, it's clear that he's primarily struck by two things after reading Night and Morning: Bulwer-Lytton's fitting of the tone of the story to "the fluctuations of his narrative," and Bulwer-Lytton's command of plot, what Poe calls "that in which no part can be displaced without ruin to the whole." Nearly everything and everyone in Night and Morning is related in some way to the story of Philip Beaufort, so that even minor characters have their part to play and are, at least briefly, important. This latter aspect of Night and Morning could not have influenced Poe's writing of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," but the precision of plotting did, I think, affect the writing of the two later Dupin stories, "The Mystery of Marie Roget" and "The Purloined Letter."
Night and Morning has been called "the first detective novel in English." That's a reach. Susan Hopley is much more of a detective novel, and Favart himself only appears for a few pages. But the character of Favart is still significant. Dupin was the father of the Great Detective character, of which Sherlock Holmes is the most distinguished and memorable example. Favart is not a Great Detective, and was not influential on Dupin. But he is an early example of the police detective, and he is honest, which distinguishes him from Eugène François Vidocq and establishes Favart as a predecessor to Inspector John Cutting and Inspector Bucket. Given how widely Bulwer-Lytton was read during his lifetime, I don't think it unfair to say that R.D. Blackmore and Charles Dickens were at the least aware of Night and Morning and Favart, if not consciously influenced by him.
M. Favart is "a little, thin, neatly-dressed" man who is "one of the most renowned chiefs of the great Parisian police, -- a man worthy to be the contemporary of the illustrious Vidocq." Favart has a soft, mild voice which belies his fearless personality. He is a former counterfeiter, a faux monnoyer, who like Vidocq reformed and joined the police force. Because of that, perhaps, he has no fear of thieves and murderers and in fact "awed them with his very eye," but he had also "been known to have been kicked downstairs by his wife, and when he was drawn into the grand army, he deserted the eve of his first battle." But as a policeman his "most vigilant acuteness" his "most indefatiable research" are assets to his success. In Night and Morning he prevents a rich woman from marrying a swindler posing as a Polish emigre. Later he enters a den of counterfeiters in disguise, to trap and arrest them. Unfortunately, the leader of the gang, Philip Beaufort's friend Gawtrey, recognizes Favart and strangles him.
I wouldn't read Night and Morning simply for Favart; he plays too minor a role. But as entertaining melodrama, Night and Morning is certainly worth finding.
Poe's review--too expansive and somewhat circumlocutious but still insightful--of Night and Morning.
earnot, Fred. Fearnot was created by Harvey Shackleford (1841-1906) and appeared in over 730 stories, beginning with "Fred Fearnot; or, School Days at Avon," in the Dec. 9, 1898 issue of Work & Win and appearing in that magazine until December of 1912. Shackleford was prolific dime novel writer who wrote in almost every genre and under a range of pseudonyms.
Fearnot, in the hierarchy of dime novel boy heroes, is in the second rank, below the Jack Harkaways but above the Tom Floremalls (see below). He's a teenager (at least, at the beginning of his series, he is) who makes his way from Avon Academy to Yale University, having adventures all the way with the help of his friend Terry Olcott and Terry's sister Evelyn. (Evelyn and Fred are eventually engaged) To quote J. Randolph Cox,
Fred is modest and unassuming and actually finds being considered a hero and being admired by girls to be a nuisance. While he begins his adventures as a student, the majority of the stories take him away from school. His talents are numerous: he possesses an 'enterprising spirit, business audacity and genius for organization.' In addition, he has a lively sense of humor and is not above playing practical jokes on his friends; his skill at ventriloquism turns every horse into a talking marvel.As for his adventures, they're about what you'd expect: he does everything from rescuing widows to stopping kidnapers to doing well at Wall Street.
There was, for the Wold Newtonians among you, a 1928 story, "Frank Merriwell vs. Fred Fearnot," set at Fred's wedding to Evelyn, which starred a number of dime novel characters.
Fearnot: Dime Novels
Short treatments and brief bibliographic information on H.K. Shackleford, as well as images of a number of Work & Win covers and the e-text of one Fearnot story.
The e-texts for two Fred Fearnot stories.
elician, Madame. Madame Felician was created by “Wirt Gerrare” and appeared in Rufin’s Legacy: A Theosophical Romance (1892). “Wirt Gerrare” was the pseudonym of the British writer William Oliver Greener (1862-1946), a novelist and authority on firearms. Rufin’s Legacy is a book I’ve waited six years to read, in part because the premise intrigued me but mostly because the book is just so damn rare. (One copy anywhere in the US or UK, and that in the British Library). It’s entertaining enough, and while not worth the wait is still better than average.
Englishman Will Glynn is in Russia visiting his friend Rufin Petrovich when Rufin asks Will, a.k.a. “Vasily Vasilyevitch,” to run an errand for him: when next Will is in London, bring a letter to one Caradoc Morgan. Rufin excuses himself to get the letter. Will waits for him, and waits, and finally goes looking for Rufin. Will finds Rufin, freshly shot dead. Will runs to the window of Rufin’s apartment and sees a woman in a domino and mask walking away from the apartment building. Will is upset, naturally, and so searches Rufin’s apartment for any evidence of the killer; as far as Will knew, Rufin had no enemies, and so the murder is quite mystifying to him. Will finds a hidden folio of Rufin’s papers, and isn’t sure what to make of them but figures that they were what the murderer was looking for and so keeps it with him. Will also finds a strange letter written by Rufin to a Xenia Alexevna Agamaloff, who Will doesn’t know, and so he looks her up. She is not unhappy that Rufin was killed–quite the opposite, which surprises and upsets Will. She explains that she is a revolutionary (but not a Nihilist), and that Rufin was a member of the secret police, and so his death is a good thing as far as she is concerned. But she wants the folio, and Will is unwilling to give it to her. (The fact that Xenia is a member of something called “The Society for the Committing of Motiveless Murders” has something to do with Will’s reluctance to help her). But Xenia’s willing to forgive him that, because her enemy is the same woman who murdered Rufin, and so is Will’s enemy: Madame Felician, a sort of freelance agent for the Russian secret police who killed Rufin for her own personal reasons rather than to help Russia. Xenia hates Madame Felician and wants to free Russia of Felician’s influence, and Will agrees to help her so as to avenge Rufin.
Will and Xenia work together in fighting Madame Felician’s plans. After various plot complications and actions by Will and Xenia Madame Felician is arrested. But she is soon released, Rufin’s folio is stolen out of the bank vault in which Will stored it, and Will, pursuing Madame Felician by train, is psychically attacked (in a very creepy scene) by Madame Felician. Luckily for Will, he meets a nameless man (who may be Greener’s Me character) who is a powerful mesmerist and who teaches Will how to resist mesmerism and psychic attacks. Madame Felician’s agents kidnap Will’s fiancee, Frida, back in England, and so Will has another reason to want to stop Felician. Xenia is captured by Felician’s agents, but Will frees her and Frida. Felician disappears, but the pair figure out where she is going and chase her by train across Poland and Germany. Felician disappears again, but the two, now knowing that Felician’s plans involve gaining political and mundane power for herself, read the German papers, figure out Felician’s new identity in Berlin, and foil her plot there. Felician decamps to London and Will and Xenia follow her there. In London Will hears the name “Caradoc Morgan” and remembers that Rufin wanted him to carry a letter to Morgan, back before Felician killed Rufin. So Will goes to see Morgan, who turns out to be a mesmerist, a Theosophist, and rather sinister. Will and Xenia, trying to capture Felician, fall into a trap instead, and the pair are left to starve to death, rather painfully. They are rescued, though, and the joust between Will and Xenia and Felician continues. Will discovers that Morgan is Felician’s ally and then finds Xenia dead of an apparent suicide. Will knows, however, that Felician used her psychic powers to possess Xenia and make her kill herself. Will tries to trap Felician, but she’s too clever for him and flees England. Will chases her and corners her, but she takes poison and commits suicide. Frida, however, dies as well, from the lingering effects of what Felician did to her when she was Felician’s prisoner. And then Morgan dies, but Will discovers that he can move his consciousness from body to body and so isn’t really dead, and Will’s left with the possibility that Madame Felician, like Morgan, is still alive, only in the body of another. And there the novel ends.
Rufin’s Legacy is a standard late Victorian adventure novel. The fantastic aspects of the novel, the psychic and mesmeric powers which Felician and Morgan wield, are given a Theosophical justification, but the actual use of Theosophy in the novel is not overwhelming and is easily skimmed through. The characterization is slightly more than perfunctory, and the dialogue readable enough. Greener maintains a decent pace, and if the tone is too lackluster to properly match Will’s perils at least Greener shows a suitable hardheartedness in disposing of characters as well as taking the logic of the psychic powers as far as they will go. What is notable about the book is the imagery–Greener’s descriptive abilities are better than average–and the occasional moment of horror, which are well done by Greener. Greener also lets Xenia make some good points about English manipulativeness and ruthlessness; while Greener is not kind, via Xenia, about Russian men, he’s more unkind about the tendencies of Englishmen and English foreign policy.
Madame Felician is quite formidable. She’s English, and goes by several names (“Madame Felician” is just one of many pseudonyms). In the English theater community she’s known as “Mme. Greville.” She’s dark and good-looking, but over 40 and “past her meridian.” She is quite ruthless and vengeful and enjoys torturing her enemies. She’s proud, calling Will a “presumptuous pigmy” for daring to oppose her plans. The Russian police think she works for them, and when the whim strikes her she puts her powers in their service, but what she is really doing is using them to gain worldly power and money for herself. She has several men working for her, all of whom are willing to kidnap and murder for her. She’s an outstanding toxicologist, who uses her psychic powers to create drugs that can “change people so that they can feel pain even after death.” (That’s a pretty chilling concept, isn’t it?) She is very knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects, has “great strength of will,” is an “unequaled mesmerist,” has hypnotism, telepathy, can “annihilate the will-power of (her) subjects,” and can use people, including the unwilling, as her psychic horse, riding them/possessing them and making them do whatever she wants.
elina de Cambure. Felina de Cambure was created by Frédéric Soulié and appeared in La Comtesse de Monrion (English translation, The She-Tiger of Paris: Containing a history of the life and adventures of a celebrated French lady of fashion, under the name of Felina de Cambure, 1840). Soulié (1800-1847) was a French writer, and a prolific one, whose output was mainly romans-feilletons; he’s best known from Les Mémoires du Diable (1837-8), a work I’m trying to get more information on.
The She-Tiger of Paris is the moderately entertaining (in the penny dreadful way) story of Victor Amab, a noted painter, and Felina de Cambure, the bad girl who falls for him. Victor’s paintings are successful, but he needs money to live, and so he works as a clerk at the shop of the Thore family. Julia Villon also works there, and Julia and Victor are attracted to each other. But one day Felina sends Victor a note telling him how much she admires his work and asking for a rendezvous with him. Victor isn’t interested, so he gives Charles Villon, Julia’s brother, Felina’s note, and Charles goes to the rendezvous and pretends to be Victor. Charles falls for Felina, but she discovers that Charles is Charles, rather than Victor, and she, understandably offended, swears vengeance on the Villons and Victor. Felina investigates and finds out about Julia, Charles, and the shop, and especially the shop’s money problems, and so she arrranges for a large amount of money in the shop to be hidden. This causes unhappiness for Julia. Charles doesn’t return home one morning after a night of gambling and drinking, and so Victor and Julia worry about him. And then Felina’s brother, Count Gustave de Monrion, challenges Victor to a duel. Victor goes to visit Count Monrion, to see why he is challenging Victor to a duel, and while at Monrion’s mansion finally meets Felina.
Felina uses her beauty to string Victor along and keep several assignations with her. He finally falls in love with her, and then she rejects him. Meanwhile, she orders Count Monrion to seduce Julia, and she torments Charles, who she has captured. From there things get worse for Victor and the Villons, but at the end of the 27th part of The She-Tiger Charles is free, Victor and Julia engaged to be married, and both Count Monrion and Felina are dead, the latter killed by God while being arrested. (No, really–literally struck dead by God).
The She-Tiger of Paris is an entertaining trifle. Soulié (or whoever wrote it) seems to have intended it slightly more seriously, however, for much time is spent moralizing over the fallen morals of modern women, who are of course negatively affected by vulgar and cruel men. The morals of modern youth are also decried, and the authors waste several dead trees with “philosophical” blather about the nature of true love. Those sections are worth skipping over, of course.
Felina herself is enjoyable enough, but she’s more a Woman Wronged than a Femme Fatale. (More’s the pity). She’s described by the author as “unbridled lasciviousness,” but her actions–wanting to meet Victor alone, late at night, in her apartment–won’t strike the modern reader as particularly shocking. The modern reader is, in fact, far more likely to sympathize with her than with Victor or Charles, whose actions toward her–showing her note to Charles and then the latter impersonating the former at a tryst–are shameful. She’s justifiably angry at them both, although of course the lengths to which she goes to gain her revenge are wrong. She’s proud, and angry with herself for being a woman, for fainting so easily, and for being too physically weak to kill Victor herself. (She does challenge him to a duel, however, which he of course cannot accept). When cornered, though, she’s quite capable of killing with dagger or gun, which suggests to the reader that she should have used them on Victor and Charles rather than using Monrion as a catspaw. Felina is beautiful, with black hair, pale skin, and ivory hands, but she keeps herself veiled most of the time.
errars, Francis. Francis Ferrars was created by "Lawrence Lynch," the pseudonym of Emma Murdock Van Deventer, and appeared in Shadowed by Three (1879) and The Last Stroke (1897). van Deventer (1861-1937) was an American writer of mysteries, one of the early American women to write mysteries. (Not one of the better ones, however; the estimable Michael Grost describes her Against Odds as "a tenth rate piece of hack work," which is harsh but accurate). Francis Ferrars is a British detective who is goes to Chicago in pursuit of a murderer in Shadowed by Three and had moved to that city by the time of The Last Stroke. He is very well known, both in the U.K. and the U.S.; he's called "the first and best of English detectives" by an American detective. In Shadowed by Three he is a Scotland Yard detective who hires out to private clients; in The Last Stroke he has a private practice. In pursuit of a case he will go to any lengths to catch his man; in one case he disappeared for several months, traveling through every country in Europe looking for a murderess before finally tracking her to Chicago. As a detective he is ruthless; he will break and enter to get evidence, threaten servants with physical harm to make them cooperate, and will steal physical evidence from criminals' homes, all to help his case. He regularly uses disguises and will lie, quite easily and well, in order to gain the confidence of his enemies. He's a hard man, pleasant to his friends but lacking much in the way of a conscience while on a case. He's proud of his reputation and his successes, and will take responsibility for his own errors but refuses to take the blame for the mistakes of others. He "may be twenty-five or thirty-five, or even older; you cannot guess his age by his face. It is smooth-shaven and slightly florid; the eyes are not large, and of a blue-grey colour; they are introspective, inscrutable eyes, and--sometimes--they are keen and restless." His face is "strong but not handsome," and sometimes he wears an expression of "unutterable weariness and profound melancholy." He is "below medium height, broad shouldered and thoroughly English in build."
erry, Lady. Lady Ferry was created by Sarah Orne Jewett and appeared in “Lady Ferry” (Old Friends and New, 1879). Jewett (1849-1909) is a mysteriously underrated writer whose work is of the highest caliber, and “Lady Ferry” is among her best.
The narrator of “Lady Ferry” tells a story of her youth, when her parents had to go on a long sea voyage and she was sent to stay with her father’s elderly cousin Matthew and his wife Agnes in a rural section of Maine. Before she goes the narrator hears her parents discussing “madam,” who lives at the ferry and has been there, unchanged, for a long time, at least since the narrator’s father was a boy. The narrator’s father, in fact, muses aloud that Madam, despite her advanced age, will never die, something he finds quite sad: “She ‘had not changed’ since my father was a boy: ‘it was horrible to have one’s life endless in this world!’” The narrator is interested, and when she visits Matthew and Agnes and their servant Deborah she is made welcome and told of Madam. Madam is “Lady Ferry,” an elderly woman who has lived in the same house with Matthew since anyone can remember. The narrator enjoys exploring the house and chatting with Agnes, and it is quite by accident that she encounters Lady Ferry, in the garden. The narrator finds that Lady Ferry is not so frightening as she thought, and in fact is rather pleasant to talk to, but she also talks about historical figures as if she had been their contemporaries. Lady Ferry seems to have forgotten that Queen Elizabeth is dead, and when the narrator says, “Why, every one must die...there is a funeral somewhere every day, I suppose,” Lady Ferry responds, sadly, “Every one but me, every one but me, and I am alone.” Later, Agnes tells the narrator not to mind what Lady Ferry says, and never disagree with her: “it hurts and annoys her, and she soon forgets her strange fancies.” Martha, the maid, tells the narrator that Lady Ferry is something of a local legend, that there are stories that she will never die and that she used to wander about many many years ago. The narrator grows to accept Lady Ferry’s presence in the household, although she does sometimes think of legends of the Flying Dutchman, the Wandering Jew, and Peter Rugg, the missing man. The narrator misses her parents, but becomes comfortable at the house. She calls again on Lady Ferry, who told Agnes that she liked the narrator, something quite out of character for Lady Ferry. When the narrator sees Lady Ferry again Lady Ferry talks sadly about how her funeral will be tomorrow, “at last,” something the narrator takes seriously. Lady Ferry shows the narrator a little jewel case, quite worn, and the narrator kisses Lady Ferry’s face, something Lady Ferry is softly delighted with. The next day there is no funeral, and things are the same as they ever were.
After this the narrator visits Lady Ferry quite often, and Lady Ferry is often possessed by the idea that her funeral is very soon. One day a middle aged gentleman visits, and Lady Ferry greets him with pleasure, calling him “Captain Jack McAllister,” his grandfather’s name, and asking after the ship Captain Jack piloted. Lady Ferry, while she asks after the grandfather, is youthful and even gay, but when she is told that Captain Jack was lost at sea seventy years ago, the light goes out of her eyes and she looks sorrowful, hunted, and old. She leaves, and the narrator goes after her and finds her in the garden, where “I was not surprised to hear her say that they had killed the Queen of France, poor Marie Antoinette! She had known her well her in her childhood, before she was a queen at all.” The narrator one day looks through cousin Matthew’s library and finds a old, dusty, odd-shaped little book, a journal which tells stories about the Indians and about the town of Boston. One of the stories is about Mistress Honor Warburton, “who was cursed, and doomed to live in this world forever.” The narrator naturally thinks of Lady Ferry, but she loses the book before she can read to the end of the story to find out what happened to Mistress Warburton. Then, one night, the narrator has what she thinks is a dream, a very real-feeling dream, in which a party is being thrown in Lady Ferry’s rooms. A harpsichord is playing, and several couples wheel through a slow, stately dance. All the guests are dressed well; Lady Ferry is dressed in a brocade gown with a “tall quaint cap, and a high lace frill at her throat, whiter than any lace I had ever seen.” Lady Ferry bids the guests farewell and watches them row their boats across the river, and the narrator returns to bed, in her dream. The next morning Matthew mentions that two of the boats were carried off by the tide, and the narrator finds, in the grass of the garden, a silver knee-buckle, which must have been dropped by one of Lady Ferry’s “ghostly guests.” Then, a day or two later, Lady Ferry visits Martha’s grandmother, and her grandson says that the night before he saw Lady Ferry “in that dark place along by the Noroway pines...she went by me, and I was near scared to death. She looked fearful tall–towered way up above me. Her face was all lit up with blue light, and her feet didn’t touch the ground. She wasn’t taking steps, she wasn’t walking, but movin’ along like a sail-boat before the wind.” Eventually the narrator has to leave, and she says a sad farewell to Lady Ferry. The narrator doesn’t return to the house for many years. One time, in Amsterdam, in a bookshop, she finds a copy of the book she’d lost at the house, and she reads the full story of Mistress Honor Warburton, who returned to Boston but disappeared again. “She endeavoured to disguise herself, and would not stay long in one place if she feared that her story was known, and that she was recognized. One Mr. Fleming, a man of good standing and repute, and an officer of Her Majesty Queen Anne, had sworn to Mr. Thomas Highward that his father, a person of great age, had once seen Mistress Warburton in his youth; that she then bore another name, but had the same appearance.” When the narrator does return to the house it is owned by someone else, Matthew, Agnes and Martha being long dead. The narrator looks for, and finds, Lady Ferry’s grave. The narrator asks the ferryman about Lady Ferry, and he tells her that “she had lived to be very ancient, but she was dead.”
David D. Anderson, in The Dictionary of Literary Biography, says of her, “Although not included among major American writers, Sarah Orne Jewett ranks high among those who have drawn upon the people, places, and culture of nineteenth-century New England for the substance of their work, and many of her "sketches," as she called her short stories, are representative of American regional writing at its best.” This is surely damning with faint praise, for the quality of her work is at least on par with Henry James’, if not the superior of his work. There. I said it, and I’d say it again. “Lady Ferry” may or may not be her masterpiece, but either way it’s really freaking good, and in fact may be perfect.
(I realize that I have invoked James’ name on a couple of occasions–here, and while writing about “The Yellow Wallpaper”–and each time to James’ detriment, but the truth is that James’ work has been the source of a minor industry in academia, which usually scorns genre work, including supernatural/horror stories, but in the case of James and “The Turn of the Screw” (see the Governess entry) academia has given its imprimatur. This, despite the manifest superiority of stories such as “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “Lady Ferry.” For those of us who are honest in our literary enthusiasms, and not motivated by snobbery, intellectual insecurity, or a simple need to publish rather than perish, craven and ill-informed judgments about James versus other writers can be infuriating).
Jewett is simply an excellent writer. “Lady Ferry” is evocative and sad; Jewett does a splendid job of fostering maintaining the mood, and she wonderfully delivers a sense of Lady Ferry’s tragedy, of outliving her friends and contemporaries and becoming a Wandering Jew/Ancient Mariner character, tied of life and humored rather than respected by those who know her. Jewett does a great job of conjuring up the feel of rural Maine of mid-19th century. Her descriptions can be beautiful, and her characterisation, nicely delivered via understatement and dialogue, is excellent. She has a wonderfully naturalistic touch, especially in the dialogue, so that the recreation of rural life feels perfect. The ambiguity behind the story is comparable to that of “The Turn of the Screw,” but rather than use the ambiguity of a possibly unreliable narrator as a way to show how clever she is (yes, Mr. James, I’m looking at you) Jewett presents her ambiguity through a reliable and honest narrator, and leaves the reader with a sense not of aggravation (once again, Mr. James, I am looking at you) but of mystery and magic. The difference between James and Jewett is that James seemingly wanted to play a game with the reader, perhaps at the reader’s expense, while Jewett wanted to evoke emotions in the reader. Both writers were successful, but Jewett’s was the nobler goal.
It’s never entirely clear what Lady Ferry is. She may simply be a kindly old woman who is slipping toward Alzheimer’s or senile dementia. It’s possible that the stories about her are wrong–hardly an impossibility given how rumors spread in rural areas–and that she is only an old woman who has outlived her friends and is basically waiting to die. But it’s also possible, and in fact more likely, that there is something quite uncanny about her, that she is Mistress Honor Warburton, “who was cursed, and doomed to live in this world forever” and that she has been alive for so long that her mind can no continually differentiate between past and present. If so, then the grave seen at the end of the novel may not be filled with anything more than dirt, and she was forced to move on.
iddler. The Fiddler was created by Villiers de l’Isle-Adam and appeared in “Les Brigands” (The Brigands, Contes Cruels, 1883). Villiers (1838-1889) was a master of the Symbolist movement, though a financial failure in his lifetime; I probably have more on him in the Axël entry.
“The Brigands” is a short, pointed harsh societal critique. The two sub-prefectures of Pibrac and Nayrac are linked by one road. They live together “in a perfect unison of manners, occupations, and opinions,” the middle class enjoying “both the general esteem and its own.” All of this is disrupted one October night when the old fiddler of Nayrac robs the churchwarden of Pibrac as the warden is walking along the road between the two towns. The fiddler stands in shadow as he does this and uses a peremptory tone of voice, and the warden, not recognizing him in his fear, pays up. But when he returns to Pibrac his assailants have grown to become a gang of thieves rampaging across the south of France. The citizens of Nayrac and Pibrac, good solid burghers all, encourage these rumors, despite having investigated and heard the truth of the matter from the warden. But the citizens of both towns keep this secret to themselves. The next month the citizen landowners of Nayrac set off to collect the rent from their farmer tenants, putting on a brave face for their wives as they do so. They collect their money and by dusk are returning home. They’re a bit nervous, however, since they’ve heard that a real gang of bandits has formed, and their trek home is through a spooky-looking forest. When they are confronted by another group of men–the landowners of Pibrac, out collecting their rents from their farmers–and a gun accidentally goes off, each side panics and begins shooting. The resulting bloodbath kills all but one of the men, and he accidentally blows his own brains out in his eagerness to reload. The real brigands, playing cards in a shack a few miles away, are initially afraid that the gunfire means that a posse has been formed to come after them, but the fiddler figures out the truth soon enough, and so he leads his men to the site to help the wounded. They are aghast to find everyone dead, and the fiddler tells them to quickly loot the bodies and flee for the border, since “they are going to prove that this was our doing....”
Although “The Brigands” appeared in Contes Cruels, it’s not exactly a conte cruel, one of those stories which highlights the meaningless of man’s place in the universe and the cruelty of fate. (A more typical conte cruel is “The Torture of Hope,” more on which is in the Pedro Arbuez d’Espila entry). “The Brigands” is, though, typical of most of the stories in Contes Cruels, in which Villiers displays a venomous antipathy to the values of contemporary French society, from capitalism to democracy to the bourgeoisie to science. Villiers’ target in “The Brigands” is the middle class. In scarcely concealed words of contempt Villiers describes them as smug, cowardly, and merciless, prefacing the fiddler’s “they are going to prove that this was our doing....” with “he pointed to the corpses, adding, with a shudder, this absurd but electrifying remark, born, no doubt, of a profound experience and lifelong knowledge of the vitality and honour of the Third Estate.” Villiers says, as the landowners set out to collect their rents, “The middle classes like good living and straight dealing. But when it comes to honesty, there is no touching them: they are upright to the point of hanging a child for the sake of an apple.” Villier’s middle class are ruled by greed, self-interest, lies and bravado.
The bandits, conversely, are shown to be relatively innocent; Villiers describes them as “half a dozen poor devils who were guilty, at the very most, of having scrounged a few crusts of bread, a few pieces of bacon, or a few sous here and there,” and they are meekly playing cards when the shooting begins. After the shooting ends they go to help the wounded, a more generous act than any the landowners show, and they are appalled at what they see.
“The Brigands” isn’t subtle, but it is a satisfying venting of spleen at the lumpenbourgeoisie.
The fiddler isn’t a bad man, just poor, which is why he robbed the churchwarden of Pibrac to begin with. But he robbed him only with his voice, rather than using weapons. The wily old rogue is smart, though, in figuring out what the shooting meant, and wise in anticipating what the Third Estate’s reaction to the slaughter will be.
idenas, Lucius Sergius. Lucius Sergius Fidenas was created by Duffield Osborne and appeared in The Lion’s Brood (1901). Samuel Duffield Osborne (1858-1917) wrote widely, on subjects from gems to Roman history to historical romances. It was the latter for which he was known in his lifetime, being compared to H. Rider Haggard and Jules Verne. The Lion’s Brood is a colorful historical romance closer to the style of Robert E. Howard than Stanley Weyman.
The setting is Rome at the time of Hannibal’s war. The city is reeling from the defeats which the Carthaginian has inflicted on the Roman armies. Spirits are low. And the patrician Lucius Sergius Fidenas and his friend Caius Manlius Torquatus watch as the people of the city grow angry with the patricians who they feel have led the city and its armies into disasters. The spirit of riot is close. For Lucius, the situation is particularly distressing. He is in love with Marcia Torquatus, the sister of Caius, but she does not return his love. She teases and taunts him, mocking him for having previously been carried wounded off the field of battle (and so dishonoring himself). She knows he cares for her, and she toys with his emotions, not allowing her father to give her in marriage to Lucius. When she is alone she acts more honestly and shows that she does care about Lucius, but to him she is only cruel and scornful. When a new co-dictator is elected, and new legions are formed, Sergius enlists, keeping himself away from the cruel Marcia. Before he marches off, however, she sends for him, and tells him, in a half-malicious way, that she dreamt of him the night before, lying in a field of battle with a javelin through him. She tells him this to warn him of the omen, and he is overjoyed that she cared enough about him to warn him. He presses her for some sign that she cares about him–he’s about to march off to war, after all–and she tells him that she will marry him “when Orcus sends back the dead from Acheron.” (Yes, she’s that mean).
He marches with the legions, and they eventually come within striking range of Hannibal, but difficulties develop. One of the co-dictators, Quintus Fabius Maximus, wants to fight a war of attrition against the Carthaginians and their allies, to wear them out in skirmishes and cut off their foragers and reduce their supplies. The other co-dictator, Marcus Minutius Rufus, feels this is cowardly and wants to engage the Carthaginians as soon as possible. The men support Marcus’ position, but Fabius is the general (Marcus is the master of horse), and so his orders are obeyed. Lucius is unhappy with Fabius’ tactics but trusts his general, and Fabius rewards his faithfulness with an assignment to take a group of men and follow Hannibal’s men and cut off his stragglers, but not to engage any large group of the enemy. This proves to be difficult, since the Carthaginians despoil the land and slaughter the innocent natives. Lucius follows the Carthaginians for a long time, until he comes across a band of Numidians, the allies of the Carthaginians, burning a farm. This is too much for Lucius, and he sends his men after the enemy. The cut up the Numidians, but Lucius, goaded by another Roman officer, launches another attack on a group of Numidians, who trap the Romans and massacre them. Only Sergius and his friend Marcus Decius, who served with him before, escape, though both are wounded, and they return to the Roman camp. Sergius is sent back to Rome in shame for having disobeyed orders.
Time passes, and he recovers, but Varro, the evil praetor and the son of a butcher–his ignoble birth means much to the patrician Lucius–is elected consul, which overjoys the mob and depresses the patricians. Lucius sees Marcia again, but their meeting goes poorly. Varro levies more new legions, and Sergius accompanies them, but Varro’s foolishness and bad military decision leads the legions into the massacre of Cannæ, and Lucius is struck down in the battle, although he fights valiantly to the end. Some time later Marcia goes to the Carthaginian camp in Capua. Her heart is broken from Lucius’ death and Caius’, and with the defeat of the legions there is no hope for Rome, unless the Carthaginian armies delay until the onset of winter, when they will make camp and not set out until spring. By spring the city will have raised and trained new legions, but there is no way Hannibal will wait that long. Marcia, however, sees a way to make him wait. She goes to Capua to make Hannibal fall in love with her, for she is beautiful and knows that she can make herself alluring to even such a devoted general as Hannibal. Once she has him entranced with her, she reasons, she can make him delay until the winter. To do this she will have to marry him, but she is willing to suffer the shame of this (and implicitly the shame of having sex with him) if it will save Rome.
Hannibal does notice her, but it is Iddilcar, the priest of Baal-Melkarth, who falls for her. Iddilcar discovers her plot, but he is so smitten with her that he agrees to do it, if only she will be his. She loathes the distasteful priest, but she gives in to him–but she will only be his after the Carthaginian armies have been delayed. Iddilcar dutifully alters the messages of the Melkarth so that the Carthaginians are stuck in Capua. Just before winter arrives, however, Hannibal and the other generals have become sufficiently suspicious of Iddilcar that he is forced to flee the city. Marcia, being the honorable patrician’s daughter, agrees to go with him, since he did live up to his end of the bargain. But just before they are to leave his new slave attacks and kills him. The new slave is Lucius, who was wounded at Cannæ but recovered and was taken as a slave. The pair express their love for each other, and Marcia agrees to be Lucius’ wife, for Orcus has, after all, sent back the dead, in a manner of speaking. They escape from Capua and elude their pursuers for long enough to reach Rome. As they do the first flakes of snow begin to drop, and they know that winter has arrived, and Hannibal will be forced to set up winter quarters.
I described The Lion’s Brood as being more like Robert E. Howard’s work than Stanley Weyman’s. This isn’t a bad thing, believe it or not. Osborne is a very good writer, and if he does not have the economy, subtlety, or wit of Weyman, his work has a number of other virtues. Osborne is a good stylist, apt if not epigrammatic, and his descriptions are often vivid. The recreation of Rome and the Romans and the Carthaginians is colorful and accurate; everything from culture to society to the details of day to day life is presented accurately but not in such a way as to flaunt Osborne’s learning. The pace of The Lion’s Brood is neither too leisurely nor too rapid, and there’s a good balance between action scenes and characterisation. The battle scenes are quite well done, especially Cannæ, and Osborne deliberately shows the blood and pain of violence. Osborne has some manly dialogue–he doesn’t have Weyman’s faculty for wit, but still gets off some good lines–and honor is a central concern for his characters, but no reader of The Lion’s Blood would get the idea that war was a lark. The novel is prejudiced against the Carthaginians and the lower classes of Roman, and the idea that the patricians are innately superior may somewhat jar the modern reader’s sensibilities, and some knowledge of Roman culture, if not history, will help the reader better enjoy the novel, but that shouldn’t take away from the great enjoyment to be had in The Lion’s Brood.
Lucius Sergius Fidenas is a noble and even princely patrician, descended from a friend of Aeneas himself. He is the last of the Fidenas gens, however, and being carried unconscious off the field of battle dishonored him in the eyes of the Romans. He’s a good man, within his limitations. He has contempt for the mob but good to the other patricians. He’s honorable and willing to die in battle for the glory of Rome as well as to erase the stain of dishonor caused by his battlefield actions. He’s clever, coming up with a crafty ruse to escape from an angry mob, but not too smart in the ways of women, being unable to see how and why Marcia treats him.
The Lion’s Brood is excellent popular entertainment. It is not a masterpiece, lacking the subtler aspects of true Art, but it’s hugely entertaining nonetheless.
ionguala, Ethelind. Ethelind Fionguala was created by Julian Hawthorne and appeared in “Ken’s Mystery” (Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, v67 n402, November 1883). Hawthorne (1846-1934) was the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne and was a journalist, and writer of a wide range of material, from occult stories to critical work. “Ken’s Mystery” is a pre-Dracula vampire story, and is interestingly different from most of the other vampire stories which appeared before Stoker.
“Ken’s Mystery” is about the narrator’s friend Keningale, or “Ken,” an upper class American who went to Europe to “study abroad” and came back graver, broodier, and not at all the lighthearted man-about-town that he had left as. The narrator, an old friend of Ken, decides to visit Ken and share a pipe and a cup with him. In Ken’s lodgings he finds several very interesting sketches of a striking woman, and the banjo which the narrator had given Ken before he left. The banjo, however, is unaccountably aged, looking as if it was two centuries’ old rather than two years. The narrator is quite puzzled by this, and Ken, troubled by his memories and the date (it’s Halloween), finally opens up about his experience. Ken had visited Ireland, and gone to a remote, decrepit town in County Cork on the coast. He was delighted with the beautiful landscape, and he struck up a friendship with some of the soldiers in the fort overlooking the town. One night one of the soldiers warned him to “mind your eye, now, going back, my dear boy...’tis a spooky place, that graveyard, and you’ll likely as meet the black woman there as anywhere else.” Some time later, at Ken’s farewell dinner, the fort’s surgeon, a man with a wealth of folklore at his command, tells Ken the story behind one particular house in town. Many years before Ethelind Fionguala (“which being interpreted signified ‘the white-shouldered’”) had been stolen away on her wedding night by a band of vampires. Before she could be consumed, however, a local man happened upon the band and shot them, and the man brought Ethelind to his house. Ken enjoys the story but doesn’t have the chance to pursue it. When he leaves the dinner, Ken is drunk, and he quickly finds himself walking on a path he does not recognize, among an unfamiliar landscape. He hears female laughter behind him, but sees no one. Eventually he finds himself approaching a graveyard, and sees, leaning on one of the gravestones, a woman wearing a long, hooded cloak. They strike up a conversation, she flirtatious and teasing and he curious and responsive. She calls herself “Elsie” and asks him to play something on his banjo for her, and she does. She warns him when he’s about to step into a deep ravine, but when he turns to thank her she’s gone. He continues on his way and is soon in the town, and, wanting to see her again, goes to the house where Ethelind used to live. He stands outside a window and plays a slow love song, and she appears in the window and throws him a key. He goes inside, and she leads him through the darkened house into a lushly furnished room which is, however, unlit by any fire and quite cold. There is a dinner laid out for him, and she invites him to eat, but she won’t: “You are the only nourishment I want. This wine is thin and cold. Give me wine as red as your blood and as warm, and I will drain a goblet to the dregs.” She is cold, physically, her lips especially so, but he is taken with her, and they continue their flirtation. She tells him that the ring on her finger “is the ring you gave me when you loved me first. It is the ring of the Kern–the fairy ring, and I am your Ethelind–Ethelind Fionguala.” He only says, “So be it.” He stays in the room and plays for her, and as he grows colder she becomes increasingly bright and lively. He finally passes out on her shoulder, and awakens in the ruins of a house:
“Well, that is all I have to tell. My health was seriously impaired; all the blood seemed to have drawn out of my veins; I was pale and haggard, and the chill–ah, that chill,” murmured Keningale, drawing near to the fire, and spreading out his hands to catch the warmth–“I shall never get over it; I shall carry it to my grave.”“Ken’s Mystery” is generally seen as Hawthorne’s best short story, and it is very entertaining. It feels more Edwardian than Victorian, having a sleek, clean narrative style, complete with light badinage between the narrator and Ken, and a wealthy American protagonist touring Europe, both being attributes of these kinds of stories in the Edward slicks. In that respect “Ken’s Mystery” is ahead of its time; one would never guess that this story was written before, say, Mrs. Molesworth’s “The Story of the Rippling Train” (see the Maud Bertram entry). “Ken’s Mystery” doesn’t really add much to vampire lore; the figure of Ethelind represents no advance on previous vampires, and the story doesn’t contribute anything to the iconography or folklore of the vampire. But Julian Hawthorne and Bram Stoker were best friends, and it’s entirely possible–likely, even–that Stoker read “Ken’s Mystery” and that Dracula was influenced by Hawthorne’s work. The folklore of the two stories are quite different, but the erotic element of the female vampires in Dracula has some similarity to the erotic feel and the mounting anticipation of seduction–her by him and him by her–at the end of “Ken’s Mystery.”
Ethelind Fionguala is...well, who knows what she was, originally, before the vampires took her? Now, she’s flirtatious, teasing, pretty, and mocking. She’s not evil, though; she seems driven by her needs but also by her emotions rather than by a need to do evil. She leaves Ken living, if chilled, and responds to his emotions and sudden desire for her with what seems to be a genuine desire of her own.
ledermausse. The Fledermausse was created by Erckmann-Chatrian and appeared in “The Invisible Eye” (Temple Bar, December 1870). Emile Erckmann (1822-1899) and Alexandre Chatrian (1826-1890) were the creators of the Spider of Guyana, and I have more information on them there.
“The Invisible Eye” is a neat little tale of detection and horror. Mr. Christian, a poor painter, is forced to lodge in the roof of an old house in Nuremberg. From the corner of his garret he has a magnificent view of the town, and he sits and watches the people and animals and generally enjoys himself. He notices that not far from his window is the Inn Boeuf-Gras, an old tavern quite popular with the locals. Across the street from the Inn is an equally ancient house which reproduces the carvings on the Inn’s exterior. But where the Inn is popular, the house is somber and silent and dreary. It is inhabited by one person, an old woman with small green eyes, a long thin nose, a withered smile, and a truly hideous glance, who Christian almost immediately dislikes. Christian is told that she’s called “Fledermausse” (bat) by the people of Nuremberg, and that she has the evil eye. One night Christian sees a man hanging from the cross-beam of the sign of the Inn, and he also sees the Fledermausse looking at the dead man “with an air of diabolic satisfaction.” Christian discovers that the man is the third person to have hanged themselves after staying in the Green Room in the Inn Boeuf-Gras. Christian is immediately convinced that the Fledermausse is behind it all and vows to bring her to justice, but he has no idea how she accomplishes the murders, and so he begins spying on her, following her during the day and watching her house from his room at night. Several weeks later, when a peasant from Nassau occupies the Green Room, Christian watches the Fledermausse closely and sees her handling a mannequin dressed like the previous hanging victim. Later that day, Christian watches the Fledermausse dress the mannequin in the same clothes as the peasant from Nassau and then hang the mannequin from a beam of her shed. Christian is struck and appalled by this, realizing that she is using “the strange and subtle enticement of example” to force those in the Green Room to kill themselves. Christian is resolute in wanting to stop the Fledermausse, so he goes shopping and buys a mannequin and a set of clothes identical to the Fledermausse’s outfit. Christian then stays in the Green Room, the traveler having left in a rage once he heard about the Green Room’s history. That night Christian dresses himself and the mannequin to match the Fledermausse. Christian pulls aside the curtain to his room and sees, in the room in the Fledermausse’s house directly opposite the Green Room, the mannequin of the peasant from Nassau hanging from a beam. The Fledermausse comes to the window, and Christian begins imitating her movements. There is a struggle of wills, Christian trying to take control of the Fledermausse and the Fledermausse trying to break free, but Christian beats her and hangs the mannequin, forcing her to hang herself. And that’s the last “suicide” to take place near the Inn Boeuf-Gras.
“The Invisible Eye” isn’t a classic of horror fiction. Erckmann-Chatrian tell the story in a relatively straightforward fashion, and their only attempt at creating atmosphere is through the rather high-pitched narration of Christian. But as a combination of detection and horror, it’s quite entertaining. If the atmosphere is lacking and there’s nothing really scary about the story, it’s still an interesting idea well executed, and the poetic justice of its ending is well suited to the story.
The Fledermausse is a sly, cunning, evil old woman. In public she acts frail and trembling and frightened, but when she thinks no one watches her, she is gleeful and energetic. Why she has such a dislike for those who stay in the Green Room, “The Invisible Eye” does not answer. Perhaps she does what she does only from sadism. But as a magic-using murderer, she’s quite effective, reasons aside.
Flint, Henry. Flint was introduced in The Disintegrator; a Romance of Modern Science (1891), written by Arthur Morgan and Charles R. Brown, about whom no information can be found. Flint is a hermit scientist who conducted a series of experiments on vibrations as a way to transmit and disintegrate matter; it also works at "disintegrating and then reintegrating" people. Unfortunately, during the course of his experiments Flint disintegrated his friend, whose ghost wanders around telling his sad story. Even more regrettably, bodies can be reintegrated, but the spirit, once detached from the body, cannot be reunited with it unless it is present at the moment of reintegration--and the soul of Flint's friend wasn't present when his body was reintegrated. So the ghost of Flint's friend wanders around, bothering his girlfriend and foiling the plots of an evil stockbroker (Flint and the girlfriend are in communication with the ghost via the machine, which can communicate with the "spirit world"), and eventually goes on to Heaven, and Flint returns to his lab.
loremall, Tom. The persistent and unshakable Tom Floremall was introduced in Tom Floremall's Schooldays, which as best I can tell was published in either 1859 or 1860 in a 23-part serial in Boys of England. Floremall returned in Tom Floremall in Search of his Father, was was published in a 36-part serial in 1877 in Boys of England. I have not been able to find an author attribution for either dreadful. Floremall was in many ways typical of a certain strain of the boys' adventure fiction. Tom is an orphan (or so he thinks) attending school in London. The first book is full of his attempts to do well in school, make friends, overcome the evil bully Thresher, help the school win on the sports field, and in general do Tom Brown-style things. The second book has to do with his discovery that his father is not in fact dead (poor Mother's gone, though) and Tom's attempt to discover where his father is. As is usual for such books, his father, John, is a nobleman held prisoner in Spain (hence the attempt by the Spaniard in the picture to run Tom through with his stiletto). Tom manages to rescue John, who is restored to his ancestral holdings. The pair embrace, the story ends, etc etc etc. Tom is quite persistent, but otherwise has little to set him apart from the Tom Browns of the literature.
ogg, Phileas. Phileas Fogg was created by Jules Verne and appeared in Le Tour du Monde en Quatre-Vingts Jours (Around the World in Eighty Days, 1873). Verne, well, what else is there to say? The man invented science fiction (along with H.G. Wells, of course). Presumably if you're here you know at least a little about him. And Around the World in Eighty Days is one of his works which everyone knows about, one of the classics read even now by teenagers. But, like The Three Musketeers, Around the World in Eighty Days is not a work most of us have read as adults. And, like The Three Musketeers, it holds up quite well when read as an adult.
The plot is relatively simple. Phileas Fogg, a respected member of the Reform Club of London. Fogg's past is mysterious, and he is not sociable, except over the whist table. But he is knowledgeable about a wide range of things and a ready contributor to the club's coffers. One day over whist he is challenged over his assertion that the world can be traversed in eighty days, even taking into account various misfortunes. He offers to back up his statement with a £20,000 wager, which is reluctantly accepted by his three partners. Fogg then says that "the Dover train leaves at eight-forty-five" and that he will be back in the Club at eight-forty-five in exactly eighty days. Fogg then goes home, has his servant Passepartout pack a bag, and then the pair are off. Their travels take them across Europe, through the Suez Canal, across the Indian Ocean, across India, through China, Japan, and then across America and the Atlantic, arriving at the Reform Club with scant seconds to spare. They take trains, ships, and wind-sledges, Fogg even going so far as to buy a ship from its captain so that he can burn its upper levels to produce enough steam to get him across the Atlantic in time. Various difficulties present themselves, and Fogg, through a combination of persistence and ingenuity, overcomes them all. At story's end Fogg and an Indian woman he has rescued (well, Passepartout was the immediate source of rescue) are married and living Happily Ever After.
Around the World is interesting to me on a few levels. First, it's clearly not science fiction, and is a handy reminder that Verne had a greater range than he is generally given credit for. It's an adventure story, with no extrapolations of scientific principles at all. That was, clearly, the point for Verne. He was writing a story about what was achievable in 1873, not what would might be possible in a decade's time. What is lost on the modern reader is that travelling around the world in the 1870s was no small feat, and to do it in only eighty days would have been staggering. And yet Verne takes great pains to demonstrate that it was quite possible. Verne is a precisionist, a list-maker, someone who puts great gobs of detail into his work to prove a point or to support a contention. So his exacting descriptions of how Fogg gets from one place to another, and how fast a particular ship or train is, are meant to support an otherwise incredible (in the literal sense) notion. To a modern reader not considering the mindset of the 1873 reader, this excessive amount of detail can sometimes cause the "oh get on with it already" reaction. But the 1873 reader, I'm sure, would have found it quite convincing.
Phileas Fogg is an interesting character, quite eccentric and yet convincing. Obsessed with timeliness and chronological accuracy, utterly uninterested in the scenery he passes through, addicted to whist (although only for its competitive aspects, not for the money he wins at it), Fogg is a cold man not given to emotional demonstrations or outbursts. Or idle chatter of much any kind. But he's extremely persistent, very driven, and rather clever at getting what he wants. And as is seen in the finale to Around the World, he's not entirely lacking in emotion.
Around the World in Eighty Days is not High Art, nor even a demonstration of extrapolation and Byronic obsession as the Robur novels are. But it's a good read nonetheless.
orrester, Jr., Andrew. Andrew Forrester, Jr. was the hero of The Revelations of a Private Detective (1863) and Secret Service or Recollections of a City Detective (1864). Both books are written by "Andrew Forrester," about whom nothing is known. (It's not even known for certain if "Andrew Forrester" was a pen-name or not). Michael Grost has an excellent essay on Forrester which I highly recommend. I can't do better than Grost has when it comes to historical context of Forrester and the Casebook tradition, but I can give you the basics about Andrew Forrester Jr. So read the following and if you're still curious go over to Grost's essay.
Forrester is the narrator of his stories, and sometimes stories about other characters are told by him, without him getting involved at all. But there are several stories in which he is the main character as well as the narrator. He provides relatively little background information on himself. He mentions a wife and child, and says with some pride that he is called in when "ordinary means and common detectives fail." Like several of the other early detectives (Francis Ferrars, for one), he works for the police but will take jobs on the side from private clients for the reward money. Which is not to say that Forrester isn't devoted to seeing justice done--he is. He is simply very conscious of money, sometimes to the extent of being willing to take money in exchange for keeping silent about a crime. (This isn't as mercenary as it sounds; the pride and face of a lord were at stake, and revealing the crime would only have shamed the nobleman. But it's still indicative of Forrester's attitude that he was willing to accept money to be quiet about the crime, rather than selflessly going along with the lord's suggestion).
As a detective his methods are straightforward but intelligent. He questions suspects and witnesses, closely examines crime scenes for clues and evidence, draws conclusions in an intelligent manner, and when necessary calls in scientific experts for help. In a touch of pulpishness, one of Forrester's friends is a "peculiar mathematical genius" who can break any cypher and is an expert at solving puzzles. He often advises the police on crimes, and is responsible for helping Forrester solve a particularly difficult case. Forrester works with a higher class of people than Tom Fox or James M'Govan; Forrester's clients are lawyers and members of the aristocracy. The criminals Forrester deals with--gold-digging women, crooked lawyers, kleptomaniac lords and their thieving children--are also from a higher class than Fox or M'Govan dealt with. But like them, Forrester is aware of the harsher elements of life, and alludes to prostitutes and other unfortunate realities in his stories.
osco, Count. Count Fosco was created by Wilkie Collins and appeared The Woman in White (in parts in All The Year Round, 26 November 1859-25 August 1860, and then as a novel in 1860). Collins (1824-1889) was the creator of Sergeant Cuff and I probably have more information on Collins there. The Woman in White is a book I dreaded beginning, as my memories of The Moonstone are not kind ones. (I’m due to reread it and am now hopeful that my impression of the novel will change). But after a sluggish opening The Woman in White shapes up to become a quite readable and entertaining mystery/suspense novel.
Walter Hartright, a drawing master gains a job (through the help of his friend Professor Pesca) teaching drawing to Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie, the nieces of the wealthy but difficult Frederick Fairlie. On his way to Limmeridge House, the home of the Fairlies, Walter runs into a woman, dressed in white, wandering around the countryside and talking quite peculiarly. Walter helps her get to London, and she tells him various things, mentioning that she had once gone to school with Laura Fairlie. The woman leaves, and soon after two men arrive looking for the woman, who has escaped from an asylum. Walter does not help them and makes his way to Limmeridge House. He meets Marian, who though ugly in appearance is witty and charming. Walter meets Laura, who is beautiful, the physical double of the woman in white, and the heiress of Limmeridge House. And Walter meets Mr. Fairlie, who is hugely selfish and irritable. Walter and Marian become friends, and when he tells her about his encounter with the woman in white she does some research and discovers that the woman in white must have been Anne Catherick, who Mrs. Fairlie helped for a time because of Anne’s resemblance to Laura.
Walter, Marian and Laura have a fine time for several months, but Walter eventually falls in love with Laura, which Laura and Marian both see. Marian takes Walter aside and tells him he must leave; he’s acted the perfect gentleman, but she’s engaged to someone else, and his presence is endangering that engagement. Laura’s father, on his deathbed, had asked her to marry Sir Percival Glyde, and she agreed, and now Walter is putting that arrangement in peril, because she is falling in love with him. Walter agrees and departs, but not before running into Anne Catherick, the woman in white, again. She is cleaning Mrs. Fairlie’s grave and admits that she wants to stop Laura’s marriage to Sir Percival. Marian agrees that she will demand an explanation from Sir Percival. Walter leaves and Sir Percival arrives. He says that Anne Catherick was the daughter of a woman in his family’s service and that Anne had been in need of medical attention, which her mother had agreed to. A follow-up letter supported this, and so Sir Percival presses his suit. Marian doesn’t take to him, and but she can’t delay the wedding, and once Mr. Fairlie has agreed to Sir Percival’s demands for a prenuptial agreement promising Sir Percival all of Laura’s money if Laura dies first Laura and Sir Percival marry and leave for Italy. When they return, six months later, Laura is very unhappy, and Sir Percival isn’t much happier. Marian moves in with them, as does Count Fosco, a huge, self-assured Italian who is Sir Percival’s friend, and the Count’s wife, who is Laura’s aunt. Marian distrusts the Foscos and deeply distrusts and dislikes Sir Percival, and she discovers that Count Fosco and Sir Percival are plotting to take Laura’s money away from her.
Laura meets Anne Catherick one day and learns that Sir Percival has a secret involving Anne Catherick and her mother. But Count Fosco chases Anne away before she can say what it is, and when Sir Percival hears that Anne is in the neighborhood he becomes alarmed and tries to find her. He tries to lock Marian and Laura in their rooms, and he plots with Count Fosco about killing Laura and taking her money. Marian overhears them plotting, but she exposes herself to the rain in doing so and catches a fever. Laura also takes ill. When Laura recovers she is told that Marian has left for London. When Laura goes to London she is met by Count Fosco. Laura is given drugs, declared insane, dressed in Anne Catherick’s old clothes, and put into the same asylum which Anne Catherick had escaped from. Sir Percival finds Anne Catherick and plans to kill her, because she is the physical double of Laura and can be buried under Laura’s name. Anne is ill anyhow and dies of natural causes; when she dies it is announced that Laura has died. Marian, who was not moved to London but only to another room in the house, recovers from her long illness and is told that Laura is dead.
From that point forward Marian, Laura, and Walter have a long and difficult struggle to find each other, survive the machinations of Count Fosco, and prove that Laura isn’t dead and is entitled to her money. Eventually good triumphs over evil; Sir Percival dies in a fire of his own making, Count Fosco is revealed to the secret society he betrayed, which forces him to flee to Paris, where he is murdered, and Walter and Laura marry and have a child, and Marian stays with them as their dear friend.
The Woman in White has gotten a lot of run over the decades as “the greatest mystery of the 19th century” and sentiments to that effect. Whether or not you agree with that assessment depends on how you evaluate mystery fiction. Purely as a mystery, The Woman in White is good but not excellent. Doyle and Poe wrote better mysteries–that is, presentations of crime and explorations of how and why the crime is solved. But as a novel The Woman in White is very good, and better than any other 19th century mystery novel. Most 19th century mysteries sacrifice depth of characterization for exploration of the circumstances of the crime, and sacrifice the author’s take on contemporary (and non-mystery) issues for a concentration on the criminal, the detective/crime-solver, and the victims of the crime. And those who attempt to make their mysteries into proper novels usually lack the ambition to address contemporary issues and lack the talent to carry it off in good fashion. Bulwer-Lytton, in Night and Morning (see the M. Favart entry), may have tried to write more than just a mystery, but he lacked the talent to make it as readable as The Woman in White. (Bulwer-Lytton had his talents, but creating commercially readable text was not one of them).
Collins was of course the author of The Moonstone, in which Sergeant Cuff appeared, and so he knew something about writing mysteries. But his concerns in The Woman in White are clearly greater than the mere writing of a mystery. Collins quite effectively demonstrates how helpless Laura is, once she has married the scoundrel Percival, and equally effectively shows how much of an impediment the law could be to those seeking justice. The Woman in White is a criticism of the strictures of marriage and the law as much as it is a mystery.
I’ve mentioned how readable The Woman in White is. The first 30 pages of the novel are tedious and long-winded, with the appearance of the titular character being melodramatic rather than dramatic and betraying concerns that will strike the modern reader as extremely dated; the idea that the Woman in White has escaped from an asylum doesn’t fill the modern reader with nearly the horror that it would have Wilkie’s contemporary readers. But once Marian Halcombe is introduced, the pace of the novel picks up, and once the plot of Walter’s frustrated love for Laura begins in earnest, the novel reaches a high pitch of entertainment and readability. Walter and Laura are not particularly interesting as the hero and heroine; Walter is well-meaning but quite ordinary, and Laura is a depressingly colorless milktoast of a character. (Collins may have meant Walter and Laura to be satires of the traditional romantic leads; if so, he played up the uninteresting aspects of such characters without making his satires particularly biting or amusing). But Collins does succeed in giving their dilemma some emotional weight. More importantly, Collins’ characterization of his secondary characters is as vivid and interesting as Walter and Laura are dull and uninteresting. Walter’s friend Professor Pesca is amusing, Mr. Fairlie is memorably crotchety, self-centered, and neurasthenic, Count Fosco is hugely amusing, and Marian Halcombe is very, very attractive. Marian is a good woman and has all the vitality, personality, and charm which Laura lacks. I’d almost say that Marian is far too alive for this novel and deserves better than to remain a spinster aunt to Walter and Laura’s children (my preference would have been for her to have run off with Count Fosco, and if I were still practicing the japery which shows up in the Child Adventurers entries, that’s exactly how I’d have written this entry) (that, and given Jane Austen’s Mr. Knightly a post-Emma career as a fighter against Cthulhuoid monstrosities–now you know, Dear Reader, the twisted thoughts which bubble in my brain), except that many of the other characters are as alive as Marian is, and that it is clear that Collins’ real affection was for Marian and for Fosco, and that Walter and Laura were the hero and heroine because the form demanded they be. By the novel’s end the reader can only echo Fosco’s admiration for Marian’s capabilities, and regret that Marian was Fosco’s opponent rather than his partner.
Collins has a great skill at establishing characterization through dialogue and monologue. His physical descriptions are equally as vivid, and while little of the dialogue or descriptions in The Woman in White are exactly quotable, they work marvelously in the context of the novel. The plot is suitably complex, even if some of the mysteries (why Laura looks so much like Anne Catherick, for example) are not difficult to solve, Fosco’s plotting is suitably devious, and the modern reader is likely to be struck by the Victorian manners at play in Walter’s early interactions with Laura and Marian. Some Victorian novels have characters who could, with little adjustment, appear in a modern novel. Collins’ characters read like they were created 150 years ago–which they were. Collins uses a variety of narrations, from Marian’s diary entries to Walter’s accounts to the testimony of Count Fosco’s cook, which hearkens back to the Gothics and anticipates the shifting perspectives in modern mystery stories. Finally, Collins provides a brilliant and even unnerving violation when Marian’s narration, in her diary, ends, and Count Fosco writes his own entry in Marian’s diary. The reader has become so used to reading Marian’s private thoughts that the appearance of Count Fosco’s words in Marian’s diary is almost as shocking to the reader as they were to Marian herself, when she later read Fosco’s words.
Fosco’s identity as an Italian is due to Collins’ thought that “the crime is too ingenious for an English villain.” Collins was also, consciously or not, making use of the tradition in English popular culture to make villains into extracultural Others, often Italian. Dating back to Elizabethan and Jacobean tragedies, this tendency appears often in British Gothics: Manfred in The Castle of Otranto was Italian, Signor Montoni in The Mysteries of Udolpho was Italian, Father Schedoni was Italian, and Victoria de Loredani was Italian. Vathek was Arabian, and Ambrosio was Spanish. Fosco was just the latest version of this, and the last major one before the ethnic background of master villains became English, as with Professor Moriarty (I will get around to giving the good Professor his own entry here sooner or later), and Asian, as in the Yellow Peril characters.
Fosco’s Italianness is not the only Gothic element in The Woman in White. The novel has a number of Gothic attributes, from the confinements of women in a country house to male marital tyranny to the multiple narrators to the threatened woman to the family secrets haunting the present to the resourceful heroine. In many ways The Woman in White is an updated and much better written Gothic.
Count Isidor Ottavio Baldassare Fosco is a marvelously wicked Falstaffian character. Physically he is quite fat, with glittering grey eyes, the face of Napoleon, a graceful physicality despite his immense size, and a generally benevolent expression. The character trait most often remembered about him are his pet mice, which he keeps in a wire pagoda of his own design and which he lets run in and out of his waistcoat; he loves them, not as a vivisector but as a pet owner, and kisses their furry heads and calls them by pet names. (As a owner of pet rodents I can only approve of such behavior, of course). He keeps other animals, however: a cockatoo and two canaries, all of which love him and which he dotes upon. He’s even good at dealing with supposedly untamable dogs. Fosco is able to converse knowledgeably on any subject, speaks English like a native (despite being Italian), is quite literate, a good amateur physician, chemist, and mesmerist, a gourmand and a glutton, and very fond of colorful waistcoats. His written narration, like his dialogue, is an endless stream of charming and amusing banter filled with great good humor and wit as well as sharp irony. He admires Marian as much as the reader does, seeing in her a worthy opponent for himself and an estimable woman in her own right.
He’s also the villain of The Woman in White. He’s a spy, sent to England in 1850 “charged with a delicate political mission from abroad.” He’s a traitor to an Italian secret society, to boot. He’s both intelligent and canny, manipulative, a subtle plotter, suitably ruthless (except when his esteem and respect for Marian lead him to treat her softly rather than with the mercilessness which she merits), and capable of murder if necessary. He is the first major obese villain in suspense/crime fiction, a body type later to become common but (in Collins’ words) “in opposition to the recognized type of villain.”
Interestingly, Collins chose to make Fosco’s relationship with his wife not the stereotypical one of the heartless brute and the saintly, long-suffering victim, but rather of partners and equals. Fosco says, of his wife, that his wife’s marriage obligations are “unreservedly to love, honour, and obey” her husband that is what his wife has done. It’s clear, though, that Countess Fosco was a willing partner and co-plotter with Fosco not because it was her marital duty but because she wanted to and enjoyed it. It’s equally clear that Count Fosco valued her and respected her–which is an interesting move on Collins’ part and one that adds to the enjoyment of The Woman in White.
our Just Men. The Four Just Men were introduced in Edgar Wallace's The Four Just Men (1905), and appeared in five sequels over the next 23 years. Wallace (1875-1932) was an immensely popular and prolific author of detective and thriller fiction, turning out 173 books and 17 plays in his lifetime, few of which are particularly good, but almost all of which sold quite well for him. The Four Just Men was Wallace's first mystery and the only one on which he lost money; he staged a contest offering a £500 reward for the reader who could solve the final mystery of the novel, which was not exceptionally difficult to solve and led to huge losses for both Wallace and his publisher.
The Four Just Men is actually mislabeled; there are only three "Just Men," the fourth having died before the novel begins and his replacement turning out to be a venal man lacking nerve and backbone. The premise is that the three Just Men pursue and punish, with death, those bad men who will not be touched by the authorities. As one of them says,
...we kill for justice, which lifts us out of the ruck of professional slayers. When we see an unjust man oppressing his fellows; when we see an evil thing done against the good God...and against man--and know that by the laws of man this evil-doer may escape punishment--we punish.Their previous history includes the killings of thieves, embezzlers, grafters, murderers, regicides, a poet-philosopher (for "corrupting the youth of the world with his reasoning"), a rapist priest, corrupt Presidents of South American republics, and those who are "notorious evil livers." In The Four Just Men they are aligned against Sir Philip Ramon, the British Foreign Secretary. Sir Ramon is poised to push through Parliament the Aliens Political Offences Bill, which if passed into law will force a Spanish resistance leader to leave England, and thus rob him of the safety which Britain's laws bring him. The Four, with their keen sense of justice, cannot allow that to happen, and so they send notes to Sir Ramon calmly threatening him with death if the Bill is passed. Sir Ramon is coldly resolute, seeing his duty to England as being more important than his life, and so he ignores the death threats. He receives several of them predicting when the Just Men will kill him, the London police do their best to protect Sir Ramon, and yet he is killed just when the Just Men said he would die. The novel ends with the three Just Men (the fourth, not being worthy of the other Just Men and having attempted to betray them, is killed) leaving London, satisfied with their work.
The Four Just Men are Leon Gonsalez, George Manfred, and Poiccart. Their backgrounds are unknown to the police. Gonsalez has light blue eyes and "restless hands;" he is the more intellectual and analytic of the three. Poiccart is grave, "heavy, saturnine, and suspicious." Manfred has a "grey shot beard" and a monocle and is the more passionate of the trio; he is "cynical, smiling, and sarcastic." They are all well-educated men of leisure, with expensive tastes in food, drink, cigars and other luxuries and with bank accounts to finance their lifestyle. They are laconic, sardonically amused, and witty when not on the job; when involved in planning the deaths of an "unjust man" they become cold
There was neither exultation nor remorse in their expressions--only a curious something that creeps into the set face of the judge as he pronounces the dread sentence of the law.They are very good at what they do. They are so good at disguise and imitation that they fool everyone, from a police Inspector's men and servants to Sir Ramon himself. They plan their assassinations out carefully, leaving little to chance, but are smart and resourceful enough to adjust to calamity when necessary. They are well-versed in poisons and are skillful fighters, besting a renowned swordsman (one of their targets) in a duel. They are all well-educated and speak a number of European languages. They are relatively moral in their judgments; they do not do anything that will kill bystanders, which is why they do not use bombs. And they're extremely clever, killing several well-guarded targets and escaping not just unharmed, but unseen.
As was the case with Guy Boothby and Dr. Nikola, Wallace was unable to let his antiheroes remain on the wrong side of the law, and in the sequels he reformed them, so that in the final novel, Against the Just Men (1928), they concentrate on catching criminals and are respectable enough to qualify for the protection of Scotland Yard. Which is why those adventures, while having some interest to the reader (Wallace, even on his worst day, knew how to tell an interesting story, construct an intriguing puzzle, and build up the suspense), aren't nearly as much fun as the self-righteous and violent do-gooding of The Four Just Men.
(They don't belong here, I suppose, The Four Just Men appearing after Victoria's death and being Edwardian in tone rather than Victorian, but they're fun and, well, I just wanted to include them)
A good medium-length treatment of Wallace.
ox, Tom. Tom Fox was created by "Tom Fox" and appeared in Tom Fox; or, The Revelations of a Detective (1860). "Tom Fox" was the pseudonym of John Bennett (?-1888), a London publisher of small books and magazines and a minor writer of popular fiction. Bennett wrote what was called "curb literature," aimed not at middle-class readers but at the working class, with some of his work being on the racy side (for mid-Victorian-era England, anyhow).
Tom Fox is a London police detective and one of the earliest of the proto-hardboiled detectives, predating James M'Govan by 15 years. The character of the British detective varied across the 19th century, from the Dupin- and Holmes-influenced Great Detectives (like Inspector Cutting and Sexton Blake) to more realistic portrayals (like Sergeant Cuff and Dick Donovan). One of the more interesting character types for modern readers to encounter is the proto-hardboiled detective, the ancestor of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. The 19th century roots of the hardboiled detective character have not been given a great deal of critical attention, as far as I've discovered; even the usually insightful (which is understating it--I'm quite in awe of this man) Michael Grost, in his Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection, slights this line of inquiry, instead spending time on the 19th century proto-police procedurals. This lack of inquiry is at least somewhat understandable, as the hardboiled detective is traditionally an American character, and so the specific roots of the hardboiled detective lie in dime novels, among characters like Old King Brady and Nick Carter, rather than in British fiction. And the proto-hardboileds, especially in British mystery fiction, usually appear in proto-police procedurals, so it's understandable for critics to focus on the police procedural aspects of the stories rather than the hardboiled features of the detective characters.
And yet, and yet...the more I read stories with these characters, the more I see the seeds of the hardboiled attitude. From Waters to Tom Fox to James M'Govan, there is a continuity of attitudes that we today identify with the hardboiled detectives. These attitudes change over time, somewhat, and the stories become more aware of the tragic realities of street-level life during the Victorian era, or at least express this awareness more explicitly, but they are there in Waters and are more evident in M'Govan. Coming up with a definition of "hardboiled" is a notoriously fruitless pursuit; over on Rara-Avis the topic appears with regularity, and with equal regularity attempts at a coherent definition fail. At the same time, though, nearly everyone knows hardboiled when they see it, not unlike obscenity. There are the mean streets down which the detective must go, the only light of goodness (however dim and tarnished) in an otherwise heartless world. There is corruption, both on the street and in "society." There is the detective's code of honor, which cannot be bought and is never sold. And there is violence, directed at the detective and coming from him.
The British proto-hardboileds approach these attitudes and often embody them. Not completely, of course, because no matter how hardboiled the characters are they never overcome their essentially Victorian origins and (more importantly) could never break through the Victorian proprieties of what could and could not be published, so that even as hard a native of the mean streets as Tom Fox could never match the relative explicitness of Philip Marlowe. But Tom Fox et al come close.
Tom Fox is a police detective. His stories are purportedly biographical, written by a real detective, which was a common enough trick in 19th century detective fiction but is something I have a hard time believing every really fooled anyone. (I mean, honestly, could anyone truly have believed that the Nick Carter stories were true?). Fox works in London but does venture outside of the city when a case calls for it. He's been doing the job for a number of years; his own statements vary the number from 15 to 20. He was born in Houndsditch, a borough on the eastern fringe of London which during the Victorian years was the Jewish quarter of the city, but he's not Jewish. In his own words, "let him not wrongly infer that therefore I was a son of Moses. The only thing Jewish about me was my cunning and my love of 'de monish.'" (This is, unfortunately, the first but not the last moment of anti-Semitism in Tom Fox). When he was young he was a "cute lad," loving gambling and drink, watching much and saying little. But eventually he grew up and went right, joining the force and becoming a detective. Fox makes the distinction between being a "peeler," a street cop, and a detective. Being a detective requires attributes that the average street cop lacks: education, ingenuity, and the ability to adopt disguises and play characters, all things which (in Fox's view) the average street policeman lacks but which he has in abundance. Because he is a detective, he does not have to walk a beat, but rather can be more selective in the cases he takes. Like Andrew Forrester, Jr. and Dick Donovan and many of the other Victorian detectives, Fox does not seem to get much (if any) of a salary for his work and instead survives on the rewards for the criminals which he catches. Adding to his income are the tips he accepts from individuals to "quicken my ingenuity" and the commissions he receives from clients to trace individuals and solve particular crimes.
As a detective he's basic. He's a "night-hawk," getting up at 4 in the afternoon and conducting his investigations at night. Usually he assumes a persona, crafts a disguise to match, and then lives among the criminal class, in the areas of the city where the criminals live, and gets to know them that way. Inevitably he finds his man through tips and favors from other criminals, who think that he, in disguise, is one of them. He questions suspects and sometimes examines crime scenes. He also traces stolen money by their serial numbers. He sketches criminals in his spare time, to better study and recognize the physiognomies of bad men and women. And many of the criminals he deals with are stupid, which helps him. The criminals are varied, ranging from simple murderers to burglars to seducers (more on that in a minute) to mothers who murder their children.
It's as a person, though, that Tom Fox really stands out. More than any other Victorian detective Fox is conscious of class and sex, and of the roles they play in crime. He tells the story of how he was once reprimanded from the bench for begging for clemency for a child thief who had stolen bread because he was hungry. Fox vowed never to do it again, and didn't, but "I do not hestitate to affirm, after a twenty years' experiene of criminal life, my conviction is that half the crimes may be referred to intemperance--a fourth to poverty--and another fourth to gambling and living beyond the means." Some of his stories quite pointedly tie poverty to thievery, especially among children, and he does what he can to give street children better prospects, and he is quite happy when they have happy endings. But Fox's class consciousness is small compared to his awareness of the ways in which men victimize women, and his sympathy for the victims. Fox is remarkable in the attention he pays to women. He has far more sympathy for burglars than for seducers (here used to mean men who woo women, have sex with them, and then discard them); he describes seducers as "men who lived for nothing but evil" and "the worst specimens of manking." Fox makes a point of describing how upper class men prey on lower class women; Fox moralises about how horrible it is for women to shamelessly walk the streets, but Fox is far more condemnatory of the men who forced them there. Speaking of prostitution, he says:
The causes that conspire to the spread and augmentation of the Social Evil are very many; but it is my firm belief that its chief supply is from the necessitous amongst women--from the over-worked and under-paid. Starvation would try the virtue of the most virtuous. Fourteen hours a day of labour in a crowded gas-lit room; this multiplied by six brings it to 84 hours toil--for FOUR SHILLINGS!...Indignation! reserve it for their employers--the bull-necked Jew and the sleek Gentile--keepers of 'Monster Marts' and other swindling dodges--who have more compassion for the horses they maintain out of this inhuman slavery than for the slaves themselves.Tom Fox is quite unlike the detective stories aimed at the middle and upper classes. There is a world of distance from the stories of Dorcas Dene to Tom Fox. Tom Fox is frank and racy (relatively speaking), dealing much with seducers and fallen women. Bennett actually uses the word "prostitute" to describe streetwalkers, and while he's not the first in British literature to use that term it was by no means common in detective fiction. Some of the stories are almost entirely narrations of other people's stories, rather than Fox describing what he did to solve a case. There is, as mentioned, some anti-Semitism, and there is also a strain of anti-French sentiment; Fox works among immigrants and clearly does not think much of them. Tom Fox is one of the proto-police procedurals mentioned above; it's very detail-oriented and is a strong narration of the life of a detective. Finally, Tom Fox has a large number of line drawings, supposedly by Tom Fox, of the men and women he deals with. While the drawings of Jews are anti-Semitic, many of the other drawings give a nice glimpse into the street life Fox describes. The drawings are caricaturish and even cartoonish, but they are still entertaining.
Tom Fox isn't Art, but it is a very readable book, and a small press publisher could do worse than to reprint it. It is a very interesting early detective novel.
rankenstein. Frankenstein was created by Mary Shelley and appeared in Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) was the daughter of William Godwin (philosopher and author of Caleb Williams) and Mary Wollstonecraft (early feminist and author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women). Shelley was also the wife of the great poet and rotter Percy Bysshe Shelley. And, famously, Mary Shelley was a part of the story-telling contest in Switzerland between Mary and Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidori. During the contest Polidori produced The Vampyre (see the Lord Ruthven entry). Shelley produced Frankenstein, one of the most influential science fiction novels of all time.
The plot of Frankenstein is surely familiar to most people these days, whether through reading the novel or watching the various film versions of the novel. Victor Frankenstein is an Italian who as a young man is very bright but relatively unschooled, being exposed to the likes of Cornelius Agribba, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus. When he attends university at Ingolstadt he comes under the sway of more modern scientists and begins to develop intellectually as well as pursue his own interest: “whence...did the principle of life proceed?” Victor eventually discovers this secret, and then, gripped by an obsession to put his new knowledge to use, spends months preparing to create life. He does, putting together a new man out of corpse parts, but when the Creature awakens Victor finds it so repulsive that he flees from it.
This is a mistake.
The Creature, feeling rejected by Victor, takes this badly. Victor has a nervous breakdown and is gradually nursed back to health over the course of months. The Creature, meanwhile, wanders and encounters humanity on several occasions; he is rejected each time, even by the family he watched in secrecy and grew to love. The Creature finally feels alienated and then hostile to humanity and Victor in particular; he goes in search of Victor, but finding Victor’s younger brother William instead, kills him and then frames the Frankenstein’s servant Justine. The Creature confronts Victor and explains himself. Victor rejects his affections but agrees to create a mate for the Creature s long as it flees from “the neighborhood of man.” The Creature agrees, and Victor then goes to the Orkneys to duplicate the creation of the Creature. At the last, however, Victor balks and destroys the mate for the Creature. The Creature sees this and is outraged that Victor broke his word and promises misery and despair for Victor. The Creature then kills Victor’s friend Henri and Victor’s bride Elizabeth on their wedding night.
What follows is a lengthy pursuit which ends in the Arctic, with Victor dying and the monster, wretched and sorry at the last, “borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.”
More than any other book I’ve covered on this site, Frankenstein is grossly misunderstood by the public. This is mostly due to the movies, whose faithfulness of the book is at best casual and at worst capricious. The movie portrayal of the Creature is almost always of an inarticulate, childlike brute, rather than the sophisticated and thoughtful being of the book. But that is one of several aspects of Shelley’s creation which most people misunderstand.
For one, most people misunderstand who the monster of the novel is. Whether Shelley intended this or not, for most modern readers it is a fact that Victor is the monster, not the Creature. The Creature, as I’ll show, is the product of cruelty and abuse, while Victor is simply a weak, bad person.
Too, most people assume that Frankenstein is a horror novel. This is part of the problem of classification which Frankenstein suffers from. The movie versions of the novel are horror movies, but the novel itself has quite different concerns. It’s been famously called, by Brian Aldiss among others, the first science fiction novel, but Shelley keeps the actual science to a minimum. We never learn, for example, just how Victor found the secret of life. Victor is simply a scientist, and that is meant to explain everything, in the way that scientists of the pulps were Scientists practising Sciencetm. What Frankenstein really is, is a Gothic (see below for more on this), and a late-period one full of a didactic morality which earlier Gothics like Zofloya (see the Victoria de Loredani entry) lack.
This morality is a third popular misunderstanding. The lesson of the novel is not to avoid meddling in things humans were not meant to know, but rather to embrace one’s creation rather than reject it. It is Victor’s rejection of the Creature and his cruelty toward it which produce the Fury-like monster of vengeance. The Creature wants to be accepted and loved by Victor, but he is too selfish to embrace his creation, and that is what produces such misery later on.
The novel itself is not great, or even classic. Shelley was only 21 when she wrote Frankenstein, her first novel, and her inexperience as a writer shows. Frankenstein is rather dull in the early goings, and when Shelley pays attention to Victor rather than the Creature the novel drags. The Creature is the center of the novel. Without him, the reader’s interest flags. There’s only so much of Victor’s over-wrought emotions, delicate, high-strung, neurasthenic disposition, and breast-beating shrieking the modern reader can take, after all. The novel has other flaws as well. Minor characters appear and disappear as needed, the Creature always seems to find exactly what it needs, Shelley assumes there is wood for a funeral pyre in the Arctic, and the Creature seems to have an uncanny ability to track Victor no matter where he goes. Shelley’s style is immature and overwrought, and character don’t so much speak as declaim. And so on.
But these flaws don’t negate the power of the novel’s ideas, nor render them, or the Creature, any less interesting.
An additional aspect of the novel which is not so much misunderstood as unknown is the tie between the Creature and the myth of the Yellow Peril. As I wrote in “Yellow Perils” (one of the essays in Heroes and Monsters, and assigned reading at a course at Cal State Northridge) (you can only guess my glee at something I wrote being on an assigned reading list somewhere), the Creature is an early example of the Yellow Peril stereotype. The stereotype in question is of an evil Asian mastermind who schemes to conquer and/or destroy the West. To quote myself (gads, I love being able to write that):
The popularity of the Gothic rapidly diminished after 1820, replaced by the newly popular genre of historical romances, and by the mid-century the Gothic genre was essentially extinct. Before it expired, however, the Gothic genre produced another non-white villain, one who was not just a murderous plotter but who was designed to remind readers of the Asian threat: the Monster of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). The story and the Monster are well known today, but what is generally forgotten about the Monster is that he is not Caucasian. Victor Frankenstein describes him in this way:Although Mary Shelley’s linkage of the Monster with the Mongols has diminished in the public imagination with the passing of time, the association was a deliberate one on Mary Shelley’s part, and the Monster’s role as a precursor to the Yellow Peril, cannot be understated. The Monster was the first image of a Mongol in popular culture which portrayed an Asian not as a small figure but as a large one. The image of a large, dangerous Asian remained in British and American popular culture, becoming one of the motifs of the Yellow Peril.His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful!–Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips.The Monster, even before being given life, is yellow. His creator, by contrast, is specifically described as lying “white and cold in death.” In the revised 1831 edition of Frankenstein, the only illustrated edition of the novel which we know Shelley to have seen, the Monster’s yellow skin is highlighted in the novel’s Frontispiece.
The Monster’s ethnic coding goes beyond his skin color. The reader’s first exposure in Frankenstein to the Monster occurs when Robert Walton and his crew, looking for a passage to China through the Arctic Circle, come across the Monster trapped on an ice floe. The next morning Walton rescues Victor Frankenstein, who is described as “not, as the other traveller seemed to be, a savage inhabitant of some undiscovered island, but an European.” Shelley twice explicitly describes the Monster as not European and not Caucasian. Moreover, the Monster is found by Walton in an island north of the “wilds of Tartary and Russia” where Frankenstein has pursued him.
To the 19th century readers of Frankenstein, a yellow-skinned, clean-shaven man with long black hair and dun-colored eyes who crosses the steppes of Russia and Tartary would be instantly recognizable as a Mongolian. Mary Shelley was friends with William Lawrence, a vocal proponent of the theory of distinct human races, each with different moral characteristics, and Frankenstein shows a knowledge of then-current scientific thinking about the various human races. By 1815, thanks to science writers like William Lawrence and to travel writers like John Barrow, the image of Mongols as a separate race, yellow skinned, black haired, and beardless, was well established in both the scientific mind as well as the popular one. Likewise, the Mongols’ reputation as barbaric, destructive, and innately violent continued to linger in the West, centuries after the last Mongol invasion. This stereotype was recapitulated in Frankenstein when the Monster savagely murders Victor Frankenstein’s younger brother William, Victor’s friend Henry Clerval, and Victor’s fianceé Justine.
Frankenstein is a Gothic, as mentioned. The novel has the dysfunctional family, the Oedipal conflict between father (Victor) and son (the Creature), the hints of late night hauntings of graveyards and other forbidden places, and the confrontation between an innocent maiden (Elizabeth) and a monster (the Creature). Frankenstein, though appearing late in the genre’s life, contributed two things to the Gothic: the mad scientist, in the role of Victor, and the scientist’s laboratory, which replaces the storm-swept castle as the location of evil acts. Too, a good deal of the novel’s overblown rhetoric is straight from the Gothic tradition:
These thoughts supported my spirits, while I pursued my undertaking with unremitted ardour. My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement. Sometimes, on the very brink of certainty, I failed; yet still I clung to the hope which the next day or the next hour might realize. One secret which I alone possessed was the hope to which I had dedicated myself; and the moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding places. Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay? My limbs now tremble, and my eyes swim with remembrance; but then a restless, and almost frantic impulse, urged me forward; I seemed to hav elost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit. It was indeed but a passing trance, that only made me feel with renewed acuteness so soon as, the unnatural stimulus ceasing to operate, I had returned to my old habits. I collected bones from charnel houses; and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame. In a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase, I kept my workshop of filthy creation; my eyeballs were starting from their sockets in attending to the details of my employment. The dissecting room and the slaughter-house furnished many of my materials; and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation, whilst, still urged on by an eagerness which perpetually increased, I brought my work near to a conclusion.And:
“You have destroyed the work which you began; what is it that you intend? Do you dare to break your promise? I have endured toil and misery; I left Switzerland with you; I crept along the shores of the Rhine, among its willow islands, and over the summits of its hills. I have dwelt many months in the heaths of England, and among the deserts of Scotland. I have endured incalculable fatigue, and cold, and hunger; do you dare destroy my hopes?”Victor himself is a bit of a weak reed. He has a habit of fleeing when things get tense. When the Creature reaches out to him, just after being “born,” Victor runs. When Victor returns to his room, accompanied by Henri Clerval, and finds the Creature gone, Victor falls into a “nervous fever” and suffers a nervous breakdown. Victor flees from the courtroom during the trial of Elizabeth’s maid Justine. Later, after hearing of Henri’s death, Victor slips into a fever for two months, and after recovering from that develops a laudanum habit. He’s very high strung, and while for Shelley this was an indication of his Sensibility, to the modern reader it makes Victor appear weak.
“Begone! I do break my promise; never will I create another like yourself, equal in deformity and wickedness.”
“Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have power; you believe yourself mierable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master;–obey!”
On the one hand he is capable of kindness to and friendship with Robert Walton. But much of the novel is an account of Frankenstein’s reprehensible actions and personality. His statements about Elizabeth are filled with condescension, and his thoughtless behavior toward her is no better. His reaction to discovering the secret of life is hubristic (“Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of life into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me”). He is massively self-absorbed; his feelings are the only ones that care to him. He never once considers the morality of his actions. He is filled with self-pity. And worst of all is his treatment of the Creature. When it is created it reaches out, childlike, to Victor, only to have him reject it and flee. On hearing of William’s murder Victor is instantly convinced (without any proof whatsoever) that the Creature is responsible. (That he is correct in this assumption is beside the point). Later, the Creature pleads for kindness from Victor, calling him “my natural lord and king” and begging for “justice” and “clemency and affection.” Victor responds with abuse and hatred. Victor’s detestation of the Creature is, at least initially, wholly unearned; Victor reacts badly to it because it is ugly, and only because it is ugly, never considering its feelings. Even when the Creature vows to quit mankind altogether, if only Victor will create a mate for him–and Victor has no reason to believe the Creature would lie or not live up to his vow–Victor refuses to help him. The core of Frankenstein is not about Man meddling in matters s/he should not. The core of Frankenstein is about a cruel and abusive father passing on the lesson of heartlessness to his son and then being punished by him.
As for the Creature, he is, like Victor, a mix of good and bad. His fall is much more tragic than Victor’s however. Victor’s conceit, thoughtless ambition, and basic cruelty (for that’s what his rejection of the “infant” Creature is) lead him to his end. The Creature began as a tabula rasa, an innocent being of goodness, delighting in nature; Victor could have taught him to become an adult and knowingly choose the right thing to do. Even after the murder of William the Creature offered himself to Victor. But Victor has only rejection and hatred for the Creature, so the Creature reciprocates it, murdering those Victor cares for and then harrying him across the world to his death. But the Creature retains a sense of pathos, and one of the scenes from Frankenstein which lingers in the memory is the lonely Creature watching the family he comes to love through the windows of their cottage, observing the love they have for each other, a love he lacks. (That latter point is important; the Creature’s lack of a mate–in other words, his sexual frustration–is much of what drives him, and why Victor’s destruction of his mate so outrages him).
The Creature, like Victor, is very intelligent, a voracious autodidact and an eloquent conversationalist. He is very strong, capable of surviving any sort of weather on fruits and vegetables (he’s a vegetarian), and is very resourceful. But life, and Victor’s cruelty, turn him selfish, so that he makes Victor as miserable as he is.
rench Heroes. As with the Boy Heroes and Detectives sections, among others, this section is meant to include all the various heroes and villains of one genre--French literature of the Victorian era, in this case--which I don't include elsewhere, in their own entries. I'd rather give these heroes their own entries, of course. But with the French characters I face two difficulties: not only do I have to locate the texts in question--no small thing with many of these works--but almost all of them were never translated into English, or were only translated once or twice, back in the 1900s.
All of this is by way of saying that the following is likely to be relatively skimpy, compared to most of my entries, and that I'm relying heavily on the work of Jean-Marc Lofficier, in his magisterial French Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Pulp Fiction, and on his excellent web page, for the information given here. If you know anything else about these characters, please write me and tell me about it.
Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus is the Wandering Jew, who of course is a centuries-old (and, I should note, anti-Semitic) Christian myth. The Wandering Jew in this case, however, is the one seen in Eugène Sue's Le Juif Errant (The Wandering Jew, 1844-1845). Sue's Ahasuerus is a hero, a noble Jew who is cursed to wander eternally, atoning (*gak*) for his failure to recognise Jesus as the Messiah. In the novel he spends the centuries combatting an international network of wicked Jesuits; in this he is assisted by his sister and female counterpart Herodias, who is also doomed to eternal travel. (The Marxist interpretation of the novel has Ahasuerus standing in for the downtrodden workers and Herodias standing for downtrodden womenhood). The central villain is Father Rodin (see his entry above), a Jesuit who is after Ahasuerus' treasure; Ahasuerus' descendants are summoned to receive the treasure, which has been gathering interest over the centuries.
Joseph Balsamo. Joseph Balsamo, better known as Cagliostro, was a real person, of course, an Italian scam artist, thief, charlatan and fraud active in pre-Revolution France. This Balsamo was created by Alexandre Dumas and appeared in Joseph Balsamo (1846) and Le Collier de la Reine (The Queen's Necklace, 1849). This Balsamo is a Freemason who uses his own hypnotism and the psychic powers of a medium, a young virgin, to lay the groundwork for the downfall of the French Monarchy and the establishment of the Revolution. In the sequel, set ten years later, he is the Count of Cagliostro, and engineers the affair of Queen Marie-Antoinette's necklace.
Cigale. Cigale was created by Paul d'Ivoi (for more on whom see the Lavarède entry) and appeared in Docteur Mystère (1900) and Cigale en Chine (1901). M. Lavarede, of the excellent French adventure literature site, describes Cigale as "a French Gavroche," Gavroche being the heroic and patriotic street urchin of Hugo's Les Miserables. Cigale was also, I believe, an assistant to Dr. Mystery.
Chevalier Draxel. The Chevalier Draxel was created by Étienne-Léon de Lamothe-Langon's Le Diable (The Devil, 1832). I wish I had more information to provide about the Chevalier, since he certainly sounds interesting, but all I have to go on is Jean-Marc Lofficier's description of him: "Also in 1832 Étienne-Léon de Lamothe-Langon introduced the incredibly charming yet wholly corrupt character of the Chevalier Draxel, virtually evil incarnate."
Jean Fanfare. Jean Fanfare was created by Paul d'Ivoi (for more on whom see the Lavarède entry) and appeared in Jean Fanfare (1897), Corsaire Triplex (1898), and as a secondary character in Cigale en Chine (1901) (see the Cigale entry above). Fanfare is described as being similar to Verne's Captain Nemo, with Fanfare's Nautilus being the armor-plated "Karrovarka," an all-terrain vehicle powered by electricity and capable of going over land or under sea (it is air-tight with an oxygen filtration & cleansing machine).
Gwynplaine. Gwynplaine was created by Victor Hugo and appeared in L'Homme Qui Rit (The Man Who Laughs, 1869). Gwynplaine, The Man Who Laughs, was the model for Batman's terrifying enemy, the Joker, and is one of the more memorable characters of 19th century fiction. The book takes place in the 17th century in England, Scotland, and France. Gwynplaine, a young boy, is forced to watch the execution of his father, Lord Clancharlie, a Scots nobleman who rebelled against the cruel reign of King James II. The king, not wishing to foment further unrest, spares Gwynplaine, but not before ordering that his face be carved into a permanent smile. Gwynplaine is then given into a band of Romany, and they raise him. He becomes a popular clown, touring Europe and England, but is eventually discovered and brought to London to have his position restored to him. Unfortunately, this being Hugo, it all ends badly; Gwynplaine is used as a pawn in a royal scheme, and, well, it's all downhill from there.
Mr. Synthesis. Monsieur Synthesis was created by Louis Boussenard and appeared in Les Secrets de Monsieur Synthèse (The Secrets of Mr. Synthesis, 1888) and Dix Mille Ans dans un Bloc de Glace (Ten Thousand Years in an Ice Block, 1889). Mr. Synthesis is a mad scientist who tries to control the evolution of humanity as well as alter the Earth's orbit. Later, in the sequel, he wakes up from a hibernatory sleep of ten thousand years to find an Earth inhabited by the "cerebrals," small men, descended from Africa and China, who have big heads and vast mental powers, including levitation and telekinesis. They have enslaved the few remaining white men and use them for menial labor. Initially the cerebrals distrust Mr. Synthesis, because he's white, like the slaves, but his intellect quickly gains him the respect of the cerebrals. Eventually Mr. Synthesis grows wary of the cerebrals and, seeing that their culture is due to collapse and that humanity will evolve further, he self-hypnotizes himself to death.
Charles le Téméraire. Charles le Téméraire was created by the Vicomte Charles-Victor d'Arlincourt and appeared in Le Solitaire (The Hermit, 1821). The real Charles le Téméraire was the Duke of Burgundy, who led Burgundy during the high point of its power, and who died on Twelfth Eve, 1477. (Please, please, please go read Mary Gentle's Lost Burgundy tetralogy for an outstanding glimpse of Burgundy in this time and place). d'Arlincourt's Téméraire survived the battle which killed him in our world and went on to control the affairs of Europe from a Swiss fortress through to the early 1500s. (As Jean-Marc Lofficier points out, this makes Le Solitaire the first modern conspiracy novel). During this time he is a gloomy hermit lurking in his mountain-top fortress and attempting to expiate his numerous sins, but he cannot resist issuing forth from his keep and wooing the lovely Elodie, the putative heroine of the novel. Elodie is a toothsome bit, to be sure, and le Téméraire cannot resist stealing her hair-ribbons, but Elodie...well, the words of a critic say it best: Elodie is "a tender virgin who can accept the fact that he has killed her father and seduced her cousin, but cannot face love without a wedding ring."
Thibault. Thibault was created by Alexandre Dumas and appeared in Le Meneur de Loups (The Leader of Wolves, 1857). Thibault, a young shoemaker in Dumas' hometown of Villers-Cotterêts, is badly beaten by the gamekeeper of the Lord of Vez for obstructing the Lord's hunting. An enormous wolf then approaches Thibault, walking on two legs and speaking French. Now, this might, I don't know, unnerve you or I, but Thibault's not in a particularly good mood, so instead of fleeing, screaming, he chats with the wolf. The wolf offers a pact: Thibault has only to wish someone ill, and they will instantly be harmed. In exchange Thibault must give a single hair from his head to the wolf for each wish he makes. It doesn't turn out well, as you might have guessed; pacts with the devil rarely do. People die because of Thibault's wishes, his hair turns blood-red, and he becomes the master of the local wolves, who understand and obey him.
ulgurator. Still another creation by the quite singular Jules Verne, the Fulgurator appeared in his Face Au Drapeau (For the Flag) in 1896.
The mad French inventor Thomas Roch has created the "fulgurator," which consists of a flattened disc with a tube in its back that, when filled with a powerful explosive (of Roch's invention as well) and a special detonator (also of his invention); it is a "self-propelled missile" which "regulates its own speed, and accelerates until it reaches its target, thanks to the properties of a certain substance which ignites progressively!"
In other words, Thomas Roch invented the guided missile.
The Fulgurator was, moreover, quite powerful: "when this missile, however it was propelled, exploded, not necessarily by hitting its target but even at a distance of some hundreds of yards away, its effect was so great that anything, were it fortification or warship, within an area of ten thousand square yards, must be annihilated."
Roch was willing to sell his invention to his home country, France. However, Roch was not willing to give any demonstrations or experiments, but instead wanted millions in francs before he would give it to the French government. They refused, seeing him as crazed. His patriotism soured, Roch approached the Germans and British, who likewise turned him down. Roch approached the American government, who wanted to negotiate, but then decided to imprison him in an insane asylum.
Roch is then kidnapped by the notorious Ker Karraje, an infamous pirate of the Western Pacific who, after numerous evil exploits had disappeared--but not before having his own electric-powered submarine built for himself. Karraje plans to use the Fulgurator to reign supreme on the seas, and puts Roch up in his secret island lair, complete with massive underground cavern, in the island of Barcup in the Bermudas.
Karraje's plans are foiled, of course, (but not after two naval cruisers are sunk by the Fulgurator) and Roch dies in the end, but there is the possibility that Karraje escaped...conceivably even with the secrets of the Fulgurator.
For the Flag is not particularly good; although the lead character is neither stiff nor a prig, he is one-dimensional and rather bland, which is why his narration robs the book of the vigour it should have had. Moreover, the narrative style--continually set in the present tense--ends up distracting the reader's attention from the ideas of the novel, which are actually rather interesting.
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