The following is taken in large part from Jean-Marc Lofficier's superb Les Habits Noir page and his excellent book, French Science Fiction Fantasy, Horror, and Pulp Fiction. In fact, I think it preferable that you go to his page and read his comments and enjoy the images there, and then go and buy and read his book, rather than spend time reading my summary of his efforts.
But if you're not going to do that (and, really, you should), here's what I have to say on the subject.
"Les Habits Noirs" consists of eleven novels: Les Mystères de Londres (The Mysteries of London, 1843-1844), Bel Demonio (Pretty Demon, 1850), Les Compagnons du Silence (The Companions of Silence, 1857), Jean Diable (1862), Les Habits Noirs (The Black Coats, 1863), Coeur d'Acier (Heart of Steel, 1865), La Rue de Jerusalem (Jerusalem Street, 1867), L'Avaleur de Sabres (The Sabre Dancer, 1867), L'Arme Invisible (The Invisible Weapon, 1869), Les Compagnons du Tresor (1870-1872), and La Bande Cadet (1874-1875). The first four books were written independently, and it was only later, after the series proper began with Les Habits Noirs, that Féval began connecting the events of the first four books together and linking them in to the series as a whole.
The series is about a criminal conspiracy called "Les Habits Noirs," or "The Black Coats" (or "The Men in Black") active in Europe across several centuries. They were led by the sinister immortal, Colonel Bozzo-Corona; his lieutenant, the mysterious Monsieur Lecoq, was based on Vidocq, the real-life master criminal who later became the Parisian Prefect of Police. The password of Les Habits Noirs was "Fera-t-il jour demain?" Will there be daylight tomorrow? This meant, will a crime be committed? The response was "It will be daylight from midnight to noon if it is the will of the father."
The series begins, chronologically, in 1625 in Italy, when Francois Vitelli, the heir of Monteleone, is murdered by his cousin Ercole Vitelli, while Francois' son Andrea watches. Andrea disappears, to return, fifteen years later, seeking revenge as Bel Demonio, the leader of a ring of bandits. Then, in 1795, Count Mario de Monteleone forms the Companions of Silence (aka the Iron Knights) as a way to help his less fortunate friends. Unfortunately, the Count is framed and then murdered while in jail. The Companions swear to avenge him, and turn to crime as a way to do so.
Then, seven years later, Prince Coriolani approaches them. He claims to be the bandit leader Bel Demonio, aka Fra Diavolo, posing as Prince Coriolani. He takes control of the Companions, who had suffered a major defeat in Italy in 1800, and begins using them for his own personal vendetta. He is actually the son of Mario de Monteleone, and his target is Johann Spurzeim, now the Chief of the Napolitan Royal Police. He succeeds in gaining vengeance despite the many traps Spurzeim lays for him. Fra Diavolo then rebuilds the Companions into a greater organisation, the Black Coats, working from the Corsican monastery of the Freres de la Merci.
In 1820 Fergus O'Brean, a young Irishman, has his family slaughtered by the British. He vows to repay the butchers of his family, but is arrested after a duel and sent to Australia. Twenty years later the wealthy Marquis de Rio Santo returns and begins killing those responsible for the deaths of the O'Brean family. The Marquis, as you might have guessed, is Fergus O'Brean, and he is also the leader of the Gentleman of the Night, a criminal empire.
In 1825 André Maynotte, an innocent man, is framed by the Black Coats and sent to prison. He escapes and returns, disguised, to prove his innocence and punish the true villains. He succeeds. From 1832 to 1843 Mlle Marguerite Sadoulas, who stole the title of the Countess of Claire, rises to power within the Black Coats. Her rival is "Coeur d'Acier," aka "M. Coeur," aka Roland de Claire, the true heir to the Claire properties and title. Mlle Marguerite is apparently murdered. Between 1832 and 1838 the Black Coats create a double of King Louis XVII and try to steal the fortune of Mathurine Goret of Chapmas.
Between 1835 and 1843 various members of the Black Coats vie for mastery of the organisation, Colonel Bozzo-Corona now being apparently dead. The treasure of Fra Diavolo is located by several of the competitors for the Colonel's role, but the Colonel had set a bomb at the treasure site, and most of the would-be leaders are killed.
From 1840 to 1853 more members of the Black Coats try to take control of the treasure of Fra Diavolo, which is now in control of the Cadet l'Amour, a rival gang. Marguerite Sadoulas returns and attempts to avenge herself on the Claire family again.
In 1852 Saladin, the son of Similor and Echalot, two recurring characters in the series, kidnaps the infant Justine and gives her to Leocadie Samayoux, aka Maman Leo, a performer in a crime circus. Fourteen years later Saladin is the leader of the Black Silk Hats, a rival to the Black Coats. Justine is a member of the Black Silk Hats and is known as "Miss Sapphire." Justine's father, Justin de Vibraye, rescues her and marries her off.
Some time later Fleurette, another girl raised by Maman Leo, is used by Colonel Bozzo as an "invisible weapon" against Remy d'Arx, a young magistrate investigating the Black Coats. Remy falls in love with Fleurette but then discovers that she is actually his sister. Remy dies. Fleurette, Maman Leo, and Echalot move against the Black Coats and force a deal on Colonel Bozzo-Corona, making him save the life of Maurice, Fleurette's love.
Finally, in 1860 Gregory Temple takes on Jean Diable, "John Devil," who is a crime leader and is also Henri de Belcamp, the son of the Countess de Belcamp.
abribah. Habribah was created by Victor Hugo and appeared in Bug-Jargal (1820 as a five-part installment story, 1826 as a novel). Hugo you should already know about; I've used other characters by him, including Quasimodo. Bug-Jargal is about the 1791 revolt of the natives and slaves on Haiti, or "Saint-Domingue" as it was then known. The lead character, d'Auverney, is the nephew of a cruel French plantation owner. D'Auverney becomes involved in the revolt, first fighting against it and then as a hostage of the evil Biassou, a leader of the rebels. D'Auverney sees the cruelty of Biassou toward his white prisoners and his own men, and then discovers that the docile giant Pierrot, who was his uncle's slave, is actually the noble Bug-Jargal, the spiritual leader of the rebels. Bug-Jargal is in love with Marie, D'Auverney's wife, and so he treats D'Auverney well, saving the lives of Marie and D'Auverney. Eventually D'Auverney and Marie escape and Bug-Jargal surrenders himself to the French troops to die.
Bug-Jargal was Hugo's second novel, and is a minor work. I found that it read more quickly than Notre Dame de Paris and that the text wasn't as uninteresting, but that could be a result of a better translator. But the novel isn't as well-written. It's prolix. Hugo takes too long to get to the point of a scene. The characterization is...not perfunctory, exactly, but very shallow. The supposedly great friendship between D'Auverney and Pierrot is completely unconvincing. For all D'Auverney's statements of his feelings, Hugo only tells us what D'Auverney feels, he rarely shows it to us in any form which will affect the reader. (When Marie disappears, for example, the seeming victim of kidnap by Pierrot, the reader only nods somewhat disinterestedly). Hugo does, though, stress the inhumanity of the French slave state in Saint-Domingue as well as the viciousness with which the French--citizens of the Revolution--are willing to put down a group of human fighting for their own liberty. But Hugo is equally clear on the cruelty of the black leaders of the revolt.
Habribah is a half-caste Spanish dwarf who formerly was the slave of D'Auverney's uncle. The uncle treated Habribah as a favored pet, dressing him in motley and using him as a jester. Habribah does not use his position to argue for better treatment of the slaves, but rather urges D'Auverney's uncle on to greater cruelties. He does this, he says, to hasten the revolution. When it finally does come Habribah personally avenges himself on the uncle and then assumes a position along side Biassou as the obi, or voodoo priest, of the revolution. Habribah does not really believe in voodoo, however, but uses pseudo-scientific and pseudo-religious mumbo-jumbo to cow the revolting slaves and maintain his own power and that of Biassou.
adaly. Hadaly is from Eve of the Future by Villiers de-L'Isle Adam. Villiers, of course, was also the author of Axel, at whose entry you can find a more on Villiers. Eve of the Future was first partially published in Le Gallois in 1883, and then fully published in La Vie Moderne in 1884 before being published as a book in 1886. An apocryphal story exists that Eve of the Future was inspired by a real incident in which an English nobleman became fetishistically attached to a wax figure of a woman and eventually committed suicide; an American is supposed to have said that Edison could have animated the figure. Eve of the Future is about Thomas Edison, who Villiers imagines sitting in his Menlo Park digs, waxing philosophic about his life and accomplishments and about human folly. The novel begins on August 1, 1883, and ends on February 17, 1884, but somehow only covers 5 weeks. (This is Villiers, to whom sense was a secondary goal beside the effect of language, and who is more concerned with portraying Edison the myth, the great "magician of science," than with the real person) Edison creates Hadaly, a beautiful, elegant android (or, as she is called in the translation I read, an "andreid.") Hadaly looks human (albeit one wearing an armor-coating), sounds human (graceful, intelligent, and well-educated), and acts human; she is made of "artificial flesh and a metal skeleton, using chemical salts, electric batteries, mercury columns," and other materials. A "double phonograph" provides her voice, and a "pin-cylinder" (a version of a music box mechanism) controls her movement. and drowns, at the end of the book, like a human would, packed in a traveling case on a sinking ship.
Forgive me the curt summary of the book and character; the text is long, over-florid in its description and writing, over-filled with extended monologues and deliberately unreal-sounding dialogue, and layered with symbolism that is too much of its time and place, so that the Decadent and Symbolist issues that so concerned Villiers are of little moment to the current reader. Moreover, Villiers was, I think, too much in love with his own fluency, so that his wordplay and narrative rhythm lose much in translation--and I don't really have the patience or time to wade through the original. Which is a shame, because there is considerable imagination and intelligence behind the crafting of Eve of the Future, and even skill. It's just that they are lost in translation, both linguistically and temporally.
alifax, Dr. Dr. Halifax was created by L.T. Meade and Clifford Halifax, M.D. and appeared in a series of stories published in the Strand Magazine in 1894 and in Stories from the Diary of a Doctor in 1895. Meade is represented on this site by a few characters, including Madame Sara, Madame Koluchy, and Miss Cusack. Halifax was a doctor, but apart from that not much is known of him.
Dr. Halifax, the character, is a medical doctor operating in London and the south of England. In his first appearance he is a physician at a hospital in East London, but as the stories progress he acquires a private practice. He caters to the middle and upper classes, and in the course of his cases encounters crime and criminals. The Dr. Halifax stories are not, however, entirely crime-oriented. They are as much stories of a doctor's life as they are mysteries. Some of them, to be sure, are crime stories, and Dr. Halifax is one of the earliest crime-solving physicians, dealing with blackmailers (in a story which implies--husbands, shield your wives' eyes from this--bigamy, no less!), morally weak hypnotists, and robbers. But several of the stories are more medical in nature, so that one story has a thieving nurse but is really about a woman's morphine addiction, another story features subconscious kleptomania brought on by depression as a result of an unwelcome marital engagement, another story is about a woman in a coma, and so on. Dr. Halifax is a good doctor, and uses his knowledge of medicine to help his patients, but his detecting skills are quite basic, and he does not go beyond the most obvious deductions. Halifax is very Victorian (as are the stories themselves--almost stereotypical 1890s mysteries), and is well-meaning in a patronizing way, especially toward his female patients.
The Dr. Halifax stories are good examples of middle class Victorian attitudes toward women and doctors but are not of much more interest beyond that.
all, Phillip. Phillip Hall first appeared in Robert Duncan Milne's "A New Alchemy," in the July 12 1879 issue of the Argonaut. His next appearance was "Philip Hall's Air Ship," in the October 11, 1879 issue of the Argonaut. He appeared in a sequel, "A Flight to the Pole; or, How Philip Hall Reached the Extremity of the Earth's Axis," which was published in the October 18, 1879 issue of the Argonaut.
For more information on Milne, see the Professor Vehr entry below. Despite the similarity in title to juveniles like Frank Reade and Tom Edison, Jr., the stories are about adults and aimed at them. In "A New Alchemy" the reporter-narrator begins talking with Philip Hall, in San Francisco. hall talks about how he has developed a laboratory technique capable of changing quart into gold. Well, he can make it all the way up to the final step, which continues to elude him. Hall's partner, Hunsdecker, has discovered the secret, but refuses to share it. Hall begins spying on Hunsdecker and sees how the final step is done, but unfortunately there is an explosion which destroys Hunsdecker's laboratory, with Hall himself vanished.
He reappears in "Philip Hall's Air Ship," which in an interesting turn of events would seem to be the first story on record making use of the concept of the helicopter. Hall's aircraft utilizes the rotating blades to hold it aloft--this, four years before Luis Senarens wrote Frank Reade, Jr. and His Air Ship and seven years before Verne's The Clipper of the Clouds. Milne, moreover, gives lengthy and scientifically-plausible explanations on how Philip Hall's airship will work, quite the reverse of Reade's efforts.
Hall, an inventor and businessman, has grown wealthy through his business efforts and decides to invest them in inventions. His first is a "flying aircraft utilizing the helicopter principle." The steam engine is too heavy for this craft, which is boat-like with a covered top, so he devises a kind of internal combustion engine, making use of a stream of gunpowder-filled cartridges whose continual explosions, similar to those of a machine gun, supply the craft with enough power to fly.
The first story ends with the ship taking flight. The sequel describes the voyage of Hall and his terse, hard-bitten friend and fellow voyager Auchincloss into the north. They average 200 mph, land at an Inuit village to exchange whiskey and tobacco for warmer clothing, reach the Pole and return--all in 38 hours.
aller, Captain. Captain Haller was created by T. Mayne Reid and appeared in The Rifle Rangers (1850). Reid (1818-1883) was, for several decades, one of the most prolific and widely-read authors of adventure novels and juveniles in the United States. His work was read by and influential on a wide range of figures, from political leaders (Theodore Roosevelt) to cultural leaders (Lord Baden-Powell) to other writers (Dumas père, Robert Louis Stevenson, R.M. Ballantyne). Although Reid wrote on a number of subjects, he was best known, in his time, for his juvenile novels; along with W.H.G. Kingston (of Peter the Whaler), Reid was primarily responsible for the creation of the genre of adventure stories specifically for boys. There were precursors to Reid and Kingston--specifically Captain Frederick Marryat, whose Masterman Ready will eventually appear either here or in my book--but Reid and Kingston made their (widely-respected) reputations and (sizeable) fortunes by becoming writers of novels aimed at boys, which was not the case with Marryat and other, similar writers, like Johann Wyss (of Swiss Family Robinson fame). Later writers of juveniles aimed at boys were primarily influenced by Reid and Kingston, which is why the former is included here and the latter may yet be.
The Rifle Rangers was not Reid's first novel for juveniles. That was The Desert Home (1851). I have The Rifle Rangers at hand, however, and there's not that much difference between Captain Haller, the hero of The Rifle Rangers, and any of Reid's other protagonists, and so I'm going to use Haller to represent all of Reid's heroes.
The Rifle Rangers is about Captain Haller, an adventure-seeking young American roughneck. In 1846 he is in New Orleans, having travelled all around the American continent ("My foot had passed the summit of the Andes, and climbed the Cordilleras of the Sierra Madre....I had hunted buffaloes with the Pawnee of the Platte, and ostriches upon the Pampas of the Plata....") and run out of places to go and animals and humans to hunt and kill. Lucky for Haller an expedition is forming to venture to Mexico, and so he finagles his way into command of an "independent corps of 'Rifle Rangers.'" They go to Mexico, and that's where the adventure begins. Haller and his men storm Mexican cities, get into gunfights with guerrilleros, fight "Indians," trek through jungle, romance lovely women (who happen to be the daughters of a Spanish don), kill caymans and other vicious animals, and in general have a high old time of it.
Haller himself is one of those romanticized adventurers that a certain type of 19th century writer seemed to love. He's gallant, skillful at arms, for more at ease around men than around women, has lots of time for trappers and soldiers but little for the upper classes or intellectuals, and much happier hunting and killing than thinking. He seems to lack any sort of interior life at all, and while he's genial and cheerful in his own brutish way he's one-dimensional. He's a perfect hero for a boys' book, in other words. For Mayne Reid's part, the book is full of interesting information on Mexico's history and geography and culture, but the information is presented as crude infodumps, rather than integrated into the text. Characterization is vivid but cursory, with characters being types rather than individuals, and despite the overwhelming amount of action the pace of the story is slow. More interesting to me were the touches of the gothic, the revelation of skeletons or mummies, the underground caverns beneath the Don's house, and the "bridge of monkeys."
amilton, Lt. Frederick. Lt. Frederick Hamilton was created by Dr. Gustavus W. Pope and appeared in Romances of the Planets No. 1: Journey to Mars (1894) and its sequel, Romances of the Planets, No. 2: Journey to Venus (1895). Gustavus Pope (?-?), a native of Washington, D.C., wrote widely, with a noted book about Shakespeare to his credit. He also earned the title of Doctor, being a medical physician.
Journey to Mars is notable for being one of two novels which many, the critic Sam Moskowitz among them, see as having influenced Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars books. (The other book is Edwin Arnold’s Lieutenant Gullivar Jones). It will never be known for certain whether Burroughs read Journey to Mars or Lieutenant Gullivar Jones, but the similarities between them are interesting, to say the least.
In Journey to Mars Lt. Frederick Hamilton is serving on the U.S.S. Albatross when it is wrecked in a storm in the Antarctic Ocean. Hamilton is cast away on a deserted, rocky island but manages to save the life of a bizarre-looking stranger. Hamilton then passes out. He awakens three weeks later on a ship to find himself surrounded by red-, yellow-, and blue-skinned men. They communicate with him telepathically, and he discovers that they are Martians, and that they have set up a colony and base at the South Pole. (They got to earth by riding the magnetic currents between the poles of Mars and Earth). The blue-skinned Martians are the “Nilata,” and the yellow-skinned men are the “Arunga.”
After a time the Martians return home, taking Hamilton with them. Once on Mars Hamilton becomes familiar with the planet (much like Earth) and its culture (similar to Earth during the feudal years). The Martians have greatly advanced technology, including crystal globe “Ethervolt cars” which they use to travel from planet to planet. The Ethervolt cars are powered by “Ethervolt, or anti-gravitation batteries, which generate a peculiar Martian force called Maha-Dunamos. This force is so powerful as entirely overcomes the force of gravity...." Later on the Martians develop a Cosmic Motor which allows them to "fly along the magnetic streams” without using their Ethervolt cars. They wear spacesuits made out of crystal and metal and fly individually between the planets. On Mars they have spindle-shaped planes and linear cities built along canals.
Hamilton falls in love with the beautiful, yellow-skinned Princess Suhlamia Angelion, but discovers that Mars’ moons Phobos and Deimos are threatening to fall on to Mars, and so most of the Martian population is going to have to be transported to Earth. (This is why the Martians had set up a base on Earth’s South Pole). Hamilton returns home only to receive a message that his arch-enemy, the dastardly Prince Diavojahr, has taken control of Mars and has kidnaped Suhlamia. Journey to Mars ends with Hamilton preparing to return to Mars and kick some Diavojahr tail. (In the sequel to Journey to Mars, set some time later, Suhlamia is safe and Hamilton and his Martian friends go to Venus and discover a swampy, dinosaur-filled planet).
Hamilton himself is a standard Victorian hero: "splendidly educated...of brilliant intellect and accomplishments, magnificent physique,--handsome as an Apollo,--of noble bearing, elegant manners, and what was far better, he was the soul of honor, and his character without a blemish." Unfortunately, this renders him less than interesting. (Not unlike Journey to Mars itself). The Martians are slightly more interesting. They're beautiful, men and women, and quite advanced, both technologically and physically, with telepathy and mesmerism being some of their abilities. Most of them are kind and good, Diavojahr being the obvious exception.
Pope was trying to be scientifically accurate, making use of scholarly footnotes, but the end result is a crashing bore made worse by the racist portrayal of “John,” Hamilton’s Maori servant.
ammersley, Marcus. Marcus Hammersley starred in Archibald Williams' "The Terrible Submarine," which appeared in the March 1901 issue of Harmsworth's Magazine. Williams (1871-1935) was a British writer and science populariser. Hammersley is a brilliant young British inventor. He and the rest of the world are worried about the effect that the piratical submarine Teredo is having on world shipping; the navies of the world are powerless against it, so advanced is the sub's technology. Hammersley builds his own supersub, the Otter, which is filled with underwater telescopes, sound detection equipment, and very powerful engines. While on a trial run he encounters the Teredo sinking a British liner. Close combat follows, with the damaged Otter escaping and the Teredo, in poorer shape, being caught in the drowning wreck of a liner that it had earlier damaged, with its crew being killed. Later Hammersely visits the Teredo and finds that it was built from his own plans, which were stolen by an Italian friend who went to England under the guise of a student of paleography. "The Terrible Submarine" is of interest only if you're tracing the effect of Verne on other writers.
ans of Iceland. Hans of Iceland was created by Victor Hugo and appeared in Han d’Islande (Hans of the Island, 1823). Hugo, well, he’s the author of Les Miserables (whose hero will appear in these pages within the next couple of months), Notre Dame de Paris (see the Quasimodo entry) L’Homme Qui Rit (see the Gwynplaine entry), and dozens of other books. Hans of Iceland is essentially a love story between Ordener, the son of the viceroy of Norway, and Ethel, the daughter of a former minister to the King. Ethel’s father is in prison on treason charges, and Ethel keeps him company there. Ordener, investigating a murder, goes on a quest to find the dreaded Han d’Islade, a fearsome bandit with a sizable death count. Ethel’s father, meanwhile, is framed, to blame him for a revolt of local miners. Despite plot twists and various complications there’s a happy ending, with Hans setting his prison on fire and either dying in it or ascending into the heavens, Ethel’s father being cleared of wrongdoing, and Ethel and Ordener marrying and producing the counts of Danneskiold.
Hans of Iceland is not one of Hugo’s better works. (I have to say that I’ve now read three Hugos in the space of a couple of years and been underwhelmed by all of them. Bad translators? My own lack of critical discernment? I hope I’ll react better to Les Miserables) The novel was Hugo’s first, and in later years he described it in harsh but accurate terms:
with its disjoined and breathless action, its lack of individuality in character, its barbarous infelicities, its haughty and awkward bearing, its artless intervals of revery, its inharmonious collocation of color, its dry, acrid, unshaded and ungraceful crudeness of style; with all the myriad defects of thoughtless over-action that attend its course....I’m not sure I’d go that far in condemning it, but I will agree that it’s not very good. The prose and dialogue style (“That’s where you deceive yourself, my beneficent and hospitable keeper. My comrade will not have the pleasure of being received in your cheerful six-bedded tavern”) are dated, and while this might be the fault of the translator (my copy of Hans of Iceland is from 1896) I tend to doubt it. While a certain amount of plot convolution is to be expected in a Gothic (which Hans of Iceland certainly is), Hugo stretches and pads the basic story far beyond what is necessary or desirable. The characterization is basic and lacking in depth and Hugo shows a somewhat surprising taste for violence. The history and culture of the time (Norway, 1699) are more than just window dressing, however, and the attitudes of the characters are relatively historically accurate.
Ah, but then there’s Hans. He doesn’t redeem the novel, but he certainly made it occasionally interesting. I love a bad guy who relishes his job, and Hans certainly does that. Hans, the descendant of “Ingolphus, the Exterminator” and the sorceress Thoarka, is dwarf, with a shaggy red beard, shaggy red hair, pointed white teeth, ferocious gray-blue eyes, and long claw-like nails. He wields a sword, a dagger, and a stone axe, and has superhuman strength. His problem is that his son was killed thanks to the deception of his wife, who was the mistress of a soldier of the Munckholm garrison. (The son was begotten when Hans raped a woman, who Hans went on to torment and mock after their adult son’s death). For this Hans swears vengeance on the Munckholm garrison: “The whole regiment shall perish at my hands.” Hans keeps his son’s skull with him as he does this, and drinks blood from it. (Hans of Iceland, at times, leans not so much toward the Gothic as the Grand Guignol). He fires churches, he floods mines, he sends boulders crashing down on villages, he sabotages bridges, he snuffs out coast signals on stormy nights, and he does it all with a murderous glee. It’s a shame Hugo couldn’t come up with a better vehicle for Hans than Hans of Iceland, since in a (much) shorter novel Hans could have been really memorable.
appy Jack. Happy Jack was created by Robert Prowse and appeared in "Happy Jack, the Rover, with `Peter the Great' and `Hannibal,' his two inimitable nigger warriors," a 33-part serial published in the Aldine Life and Adventure Library from 1891-1893. (I apologise for the use of the n-word, but it is in the book's title. I will not use it again, however, for its use except in the service of historical accuracy, as in Huckleberry Finn, is inexcusable).
Robert Prowse clearly meant the serial to be a light-hearted and amusing romp across the Dominion, with the title character and his servants showing up the foibles of adult authority figures and other races and peoples, but the reaction of the enlightened modern reader is revulsion. Happy Jack is as full of prejudice, bigotry, and a not-so-veiled race-oriented contempt as the worst American dime novel or Jules Verne at his worst.
In short, because I lack the stomach and the will to go into too much detail: "Happy Jack" Halsey is a young Englishman, the son of nobility and gripped with wanderlust as he leaves school. His father, a genial and well-meaning sort, gives him money and a birth on a scientific exploration ship. Jack takes along his best friend Tom Warren, Jim Swaby, a skilled sailor, and two black servants, "Peter the Great" and "Hannibal." Swaby is a stereotype of a drunken Irishman, and Peter and Hannibal...well, they're given to dressing like upper-class Englishmen, putting on airs, and saying things like (forgive me), "You jes speak up sharp, and tell me where my young Massa Jack is."
Jack, Swaby, Peter and Hannibal travel around the world, discomfiting obnoxious adults (especially the Captain of the Undaunted, the ship they're on), saving young women in distress, fighting off Chinese pirates (although Hannibal and Peter are negative stereotypes, they are given two positive features--their strength and their skill at fighting), exploring uncharted islands, proving the superiority of the British youth to all others, and so on.
arding, Harry. Harry Harding appeared in "The Silent City; or, the Strange Voyage of the Fata Morgana," which was written by "Fred Thorpe" and which appeared in Golden Hours from July 9 to September 20, 1892. "Thorpe," the pseudonym of Albert Stearns (1851-1932), wrote widely, especially in children's books and dime novels, and was a staff writer for Tousey Publications. Harding is an explorer, inventor and adventurer who makes the Fata Morgana so he can investigate the mysterious city which appears over the Bering Sea. The Fata Morgana is an electricity-powered airship that can fly at high speeds--two hundred miles an hour or more. The ship is armored and equipped with electric machine guns and cannon. Harry and his friends (stereotypical English, Yankee, and African-American servant) set out for the city, and after overcoming various obstacles (crooks, bad weather, cowboy thugs) they find it. The city is called Varsovik and was originally founded by medieval Poles and Russians. Fortunately for Harry and his crew one of the inhabitants of Varsovik is Donaldi, a balloonist from New York City who can translate for them. Varsovik is medieval in culture, custom, and technology, and initially welcoming to Harry et al. However, the king of Varsovik is hostile to them, and when the Yankee refuses to kneel to him Harry and crew are sentenced to death. At the last minute Donaldi shouts out the word "Oresti," which by local custom postpones the execution. Donaldi and Harry and the rest escape to the Fata Morgana and make their way back to America, and there the story ends.
ardinge, Frank. Frank Hardinge appeared in Gordon Stables' Frank Hardinge: from torrid zones to regions of perpetual snow (1898). Stables (1840-1910), a Scottish doctor, was the foremost author of boys' adventure stories, turning out over 100 novels for Boys Own Paper as well as on his own. Hardinge is a typical teenager who falls ill of an unidentified illness that sounds rather a lot like consumption. His parents, naturally concerned about him, decide to send him to live with his aunt and uncle, who own a large ranch in Australia. Hardinge, who is rather a spoiled brat for his young age, takes this decision with ill grace, as he did the illness itself, but he makes the trip, not having much choice in the matter. Once there he finds that life in the Australia is a good bit more exciting than he'd anticipated. One of his main complaints about leaving England was that Australia would be so much more boring than Britain, his friends being left behind in the U.K., but after a short transition period in which Frank makes friends with the children of other ranchers and in which his health improve Frank discovers that his life is now considerably more interesting than it used to be. Over the next two years Frank travels to the interior of Australia and to Antarctica itself, fights pirates and cannibalistic aborigines, dodges horrendous sea storms and volcanic eruptions, and in general has a lot of very exciting adventures. At the end of the novel he returns to England healthier and much the better man for his new-found bravery and courage.
arkaway, Jack. Jack Harkaway was the creation of Bracebridge Hemyng (1829-1904), first appearing in Jack Harkaway's Schooldays (1871). Hemyng, a barrister who decided to fill in the time between his briefs (which were not as numerous as he had hoped) by writing fiction, proved to be successful at it, creating popular serials and penny dreadfuls (as well as reportedly collaborating with Henry Mayhew on London Labour and the London Poor, an act which forgives many of Hemyng's other sins).
His biggest hit was Jack Harkaway, who proved to be so popular that Hemyng continued writing stories about Harkaway, and later his children, until his death, over 30 years later. There are stories of news agents fighting with each other in the street outside the publisher's office in order to be first to get copies of a new Harkaway, so great was the demand by the readers. They were pirated in America, but the publisher then invited Hemyng to move to America, which he did, and was successful enough to be able to afford a "palatial residence" on Staten Island.
Harkaway's attraction to the reader is two-fold. On the one hand, he begins as a young student and grows gradually older as the years go by, so that the reader gets to see Harkaway's life actually progress; in one of the later adventures (Jack Harkaway and His Son's Adventures Round The World (1901)) Harkaway dies, with his son carrying on the tradition. (Harkaway's grandson shows up in Jack Harkaway's Journal for Boys, 1893). This feeling of progression and real life passing by was attractive to the 19th century reader, not yet schooled in the 20th century tradition of fictional characters being caught in the eternal now.
On the other hand, Harkaway--a square-jawed, two-fisted, right-thinking English chap with the usual love of justice and adventure and etc etc etc--has a knack for falling into adventure and then using his wits to get out of them. Harkaway fights The Bad Guys on a global level: in the Old West, in China, in the Transvaal, etc. There is no lack of blood, ruthless villains, deaths in combat, and even torture; the picture is a relatively "normal" event in the Harkaway stories, with Jack running through an impudent Spaniard (the Spanish came in for a surprising amount of rough treatment). So for the reader they got a sense of realism from the character's life and times while also getting their fill of blood and thunder.
The truth is that Harkaway (to this reader's eyes, anyhow) is not a particularly likable character. De gustibus etc etc, of course, but Harkaway's taste for pranks verges on, if not actively crosses over into, sadism. He's self-righteous and a bit of a prig, and while tastes change I find Harkaway no more salutary a role model for kids and teenagers than I do the Dawson's Creek characters.
Anyhow. Jack began as an orphan, of sorts, at the Pomona House School. He gets into fights (wins them, of course), with Hunston, the school bully, who quickly became his preferred nemesis--preferred because Hunston, dastardly scoundrel though he was, was no match for Harkaway. Jack becomes popular with the other students, using his ventriloquism to provoke fights between Mr. Crawcour, Mr. Mole, Mr. Bolivant, Mr. Stonor, and the other instructors at Pomona House. (Oh, ha ha, Jack, very funny) Eventually Jack's pranks lead to a fire at the school, and Jack is forced to leave Pomona House. He goes to sea, but not before one final prank in which he notifies the paper that Mr. Crawcour, Headmaster of Pomona House, has died. (Ha. Ha. What Harkaway needed was a good thrashing, the little sociopath).
Jack had various adventures at sea, meeting up with various chums from school, but eventually he returns home to his beloved Emily. Jack goes off to Oxford and has further adventures. And, well, I could go on, but, really, the ethos of the Jack Harkaway stories is so alien to me, and so contemptible, that I lack the stomach for it. In Jack's world it's okay to torture people as long as they're criminals. Only whites have much value. Jews are grasping and ingrates. Teachers deserve to lose limbs and suffer constant humiliation, because they're teachers, and therefore not human. Anyone who makes a pass at Emily gets tarred, and deserves it. On the whole, the world of Jack Harkaway is one of moral turpitude, jingoism, Victorian bigotry, and relentless, reasonless fawning of Harkaway, who is the hero because the author deemed him so and for no other reason. A moral stench exudes from every page, and the modern reader can only feel befouled from exposure to the Harkaway stories. I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it.
artmann. Hartmann appeared in E. Douglas Fawcett's Hartmann the Anarchist (1893). Fawcett was an English writer of miscellanies. Hartmann the Anarchist isn't a good novel--in fact, it's rather bad--and so I'll give it only as much space as I have to. Hartmann and his group of anarchists are intent on destroying London and killing everyone in it, as a way to make a new and free world (whose freedom will be enforced by his airships) (his intentions are mostly inference on the reader's part, since Hartmann and company want to do this is never explained; they aren't given to speeches about their motivations or aims). Hartmann is an engineer, a "prodigy of intellectual vigour" who tried to kill the German crown prince ten years before the events of the novel; he failed and was presumed killed. He wasn't; instead he had fallen under the influence of the German anarchist Schwartz, who is his "tutor in vice" and who "sowed in him the seeds of total hatred of society."
After Hartmann's return (in which he rescues the colorless narrator) he begins bombing the city and strafing it from his aeronef, which somehow hovers unseen above Hyde Park. Hartmann and his glum band of killers (Hartmann seems to be genuinely well-intentioned, but the other anarchists are simply thugs, no more or less) lay waste to half of London, including Parliament and St. Paul's Cathedral, causing bands of anarchists to rise up and riot across the city. The narrator is allowed to leave; he parachutes into the city and seeks out Hartmann's mother. He finds her dead--killed by Hartmann's bombing--but also discovers her last letter to her son. Stanley, the narrator, returns to the aeronef and gives the letter to Hartmann, who reads it, finds himself and his actions condemned in it, and then blows up his ship with himself in it.
Really, the most interesting and best-characterised thing about Hartmann the Anarchist is the ship. In the time after that and before the novel began, Hartmann invented an extremely hard and light silvery-grey substance out of which he built the airship Attila. The Attila is armed with "infernal machines," the worst and most sophisticated of which is an "electrical eye" which can project death from on high. The Attila is also armed with forcite, a new and very powerful explosive, as well as a form of napalm. It is electrically powered, driven by propellors, and buoyed up by hydrogen balloons.
A colorless and joyless novel with little to recommend it, Hartmann the Anarchist is a must-avoid.
Images from Hartmann
arwood, Henwood. Henwood Harwood was introduced in Howard Haskin's "King of the Air; or, Lost in the Sargasso Sea," which appeared in Brave and the Bold 10 on Feb. 28th, 1903. Haskins was a pseudonym; the real author of King of the Air is unknown. Harwood is an aging inventor who has created a dirigible that is superior to Count Zeppelin's creation; Harwood intends to use it to find buried treasure. He was given a map of a wrecked Spanish galleon by a dying Spaniard during the Spanish-American War. Unfortunately for Henwood, there's a lot of competition for the treasure, and Henwood (what a name) is captured by a pair of faceless villains (not literally faceless, just in terms of their characterisation) and thrown from a dirigible (the bad guys have one, too) while flying over Lake Constance. Luckily for Henwood (I think I'll name my son "Henwood") he is rescued by Dick Henslow and Gid Crossly, two square-jawed, two-fisted, bright young American boys on their way home from Paris. Both join Henwood (doesn't that name just exude sexiness?) and they head off to the Sargasso Sea to find the shipwreck. There are the usual adventures, mishaps, fights with villains, the requisite rescuing of the fair maiden, the defeat of the bad guy, the rescuing of a derelict trapped in a Sargasso shipwreck, and finally the retrieval of the treasure. Strictly a ho-hum affair, is King of the Air.
assler, Dr. Geoffrey. Dr. Geoffrey Hassler was created by “Edwin Pallander” and appeared in The Adventures of a Micro-Man (1902). “Edwin Pallander” was the pseudonym of Lancelot Francis Sanderson Bayly (1869-1952), a botanist, biologist, musician and writer; he created Captain Chlamyl and co-created Dr. Ginochio Gyves. The Adventures of a Micro-Man is an interesting example of an instructional novel dressed up as an adventure story.
Dr. Geoffrey Hassler is a scientist of independent means and decent reputation. But when he announces that he has discovered “Microgen,” a gas which dramatically miniaturizes organic matter, he is doubted and mocked. So he gives a demonstration of Microgen’s’ effectiveness, first shrinking a rose and then reducing Babs, a Persian cat, into a fraction of her normal size. The gas is only temporary, he explains, and after ten days Babs will return to her normal size. The demonstration causes a sensation, and Dr. Hassler’s reputation is made. But due to a quite unfortunate accident Dr. Hassler, his friend, the Reverend Eden, Hassler’s young friend Gerald, and Hassler’s daughter Muriel, who Gerald is engaged to, are all trapped inside the Microgen mechanism, an enormous air-tight diving bell, in Hassler’s house and exposed to the gas. They are all shrunk down, with Gerald going from 5'4" to a quarter of an inch tall. Worse still, because Microgen only acts on organic matter, or matter that was once organic, they find that some of their clothes did not make the transition with them. Because they were standing in different parts of the Microgen chamber when they were exposed to the gas, Muriel is in a separate part of the chamber from the men, and so they go searching for her, despairing of finding her. They eventually find her, but hunger sets in, and they realize that they’re in a difficult situation: no food, no water, and no way to let anyone know that they’ve been diminished, and they’ll have to survive in the miniaturized state for ten days.
The group escapes from the diving bell and makes it outside of Hassler’s house into his garden. But they find that the garden, which to normal eyes is well-tended and placid, is a vast, noisy jungle and house an unimaginably huge “monument.” The garden frightens them, a feeling made worse when a monstrous thing bounds toward them: “a vast whirling body nearly 100' in diameter with a panoply of sharp, bristling antennae. A shining black ball the size of a man’s body composed its centre, and the white arms, toothed like mighty saws, thrashed the ground like flails.” When Hassler realizes that what they’re looking at is only a normal thistledown, they are all relieved, but realize that their perspective truly has changed and so they will have to adjust their thinking. They wander around the “jungle,” enjoying the now-enormous flora, from flowers to simple stalks of grass. But when they begin encountering insects, their fear returns. They see Homalota beetles, which are now the size of grizzly bears; the Homalota don’t bother the four humans, but then another beetle appears and eats a Homalota, and the four realize that they must arm themselves as well as find food. The group arm themselves with clublike plants and find small fruits on various plants; the fruits are edible and delicious and slake their hunger. They move on, beginning to tire, and when they find a walnut shell, which is to them the size of a cathedral, they decide to make it their temporary home. The shell is on the edge of a pond in the garden, and the group makes fire and roasts microscopic lobster-like creatures which they find in the water of the pond. The group marvel at how large and spectacular looking dewdrops are, at their current size.
The group stays at the walnut shell for a time, but Gerald, venturing out to get some water for Muriel, gets attacked by a spider. Gerald fights the spider off and escapes from it by grabbing a part of a thistledown, which pulls him into the air. He is carried across the garden and finally lands on leaf which is on an island in the pond. Gerald is forced to fight with a gnat (which ends up getting eaten by the same spider which Gerald had escaped from) and then falls onto the water of the pond. He doesn’t drown, however; at his size and weight the water is a springy, hard surface which he can walk across. He returns to the walnut shell, fighting off an ant lion on the way. The group survives on their micro-food for a few days longer, and they battle a moth and a mother spider, but Muriel faints–because that’s what girls do, after all–and when the men try to rescue her they are wrapped up by the spider and taken to its nest, high up a stone wall in the garden. The spider leaves them there. They cut their way free of the spider’s webs and then watch the spider, a Lycosa wolf spider, fight a Cinnabarina bee. While the pair battle the group escapes by carefully crawling down the wall. Now on the edge of the pond and a long way from the walnut shell, they are in need of a home, so when they find an abandoned mussel shell, which at their size is enormous, they decide to rest there. Unfortunately the shell isn’t abandoned, the mussel was simply farther back into the shell than they noticed, and it attacks them. They fight off its tongue, but Gerald is trapped inside the shell when it closes. He fights off the tongue and suffers from the mussel’s acidic juices (which is how it digests) while the others chop their way into the mussel. He’s eventually spat out, somewhat the worse for where and his acid-eaten clothes in quite a state.
The group observes what seems to be jellyfish in the pond. Muriel is quite miserable, not enjoying the adventure at all, and Dr. Hassler, though enjoying himself, is not entirely reasonable, either. Gerald, for his part, wants to marry Muriel, and she does, too, but her father is initially unwilling to give his permission. Gerald and Muriel decide that, trapped as they are together and in love as they are, they are ready to get married, and since one of the quartet is the local curate, Reverend Eden, he can informally marry them. The banns won’t be read, but the marriage will count in the eyes of God, and they can perform the formal ceremony when they return. Dr. Hassler is reluctant to agree to this, but eventually gives in, and the marriage ceremony is performed, in a fallen flower. (The marriage isn’t consummated, naturally, since it wasn’t a church marriage, but emotionally Gerald and Muriel now consider themselves a married couple). Then, of course, a storm comes, and the rain floods the garden. The group escapes the rising waters by climbing the garden wall, but on the wall they are attacked by Saldidae (shorebugs). In the middle of the fight they return to their normal size. Unfortunately, Dr. Hassler’s returns is delayed; his age means that he recovers from exposure to Microgen much more slowly than the others. Muriel’s father grumbles over the propriety of her unorthodox wedding, but is soothed when they soon have a proper wedding performed. To commemorate their adventure Muriel and Gerald clip souvenirs from the garden for their wedding album.
If the preceding sounds like something which Isaac Asimov would have written, had he been writing in 1902, that’s because it is. The Adventures of a Micro-Man is a very entertaining (and largely successful) attempt to teach popular science, specifically domestic flora and fauna, via the vehicle of an adventure story: “SEE the wonders of the seemingly ordinary British garden! THRILL to the dangers faced by the plucky group of men and women!” Bayly writes the story in a competent and professional manner, so that it reads easily, even to modern eyes, and neither the characterization nor plot feel at all dated. (The same can’t be said about the characterization, but that’s unavoidable). The ostensible main plot of Micro-Man is the love story between Gerald and Muriel, but it’s clear that Bayly’s heart was in his descriptions of plants and insects, which he describes colorfully and well. The message of the novel is, as the Reverend Eden says, “such is the lot of man when his science oversteps itself.” Bayly does portray being miniaturized as dangerous, but the novel feels more like a lark than a perilous trip; the descriptions of the insects are often as memorable as the one given above of the thistledown, but Bayly is more interested in playing up the marvelous rather than the horrific.
Dr. Hassler is a Professor at the Kensington School of Natural Science. He is a proud man, an intelligent and successful inventor and scientist, but the accident with the Microgen shakes him up. He recovers quickly, however, and is quite taken with the wonders of the microworld. He pays little attention to its dangers. He’s also initially apathetic toward Gerald’s love for his son, and only gradually comes around to accept him as a son-in-law.
The Adventures of a Micro-Man, even with its dated aspects, is both entertaining and instructional, and, if reprinted, would be very popular with a certain kind of intelligent 12- and 13-year-old.
awkeye. Hawkeye was created by James Fennimore Cooper and appeared in Cooper's five "Leatherstocking" novels, including The Last of the Mohicans (1826). Cooper (1789-1851) was one of the major early American writers, although he is known today primarily for Last of the Mohicans.
“Cooper is the greatest artist in the domain of romantic fiction in America.” - Wilkie Collins.
“It seems to me far from right for...Wilkie Collins to deliver opinions on Cooper's literature without having read some of it. It would have been much more decorous to keep silent and let persons talk who have read Cooper. Cooper's art has some defects. In one place in "Deerslayer," and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.” - Mark Twain, “Fennimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.”
It’s something of a cliche by now to invoke Twain’s savaging of Cooper when discussing Cooper or Last of the Mohicans. And Twain’s (deservedly) celebrated essay, as much abuse as it is argument, is hardly the final world on Mohicans, and in fact is hardly a fair evaluation of the novel. But there’s something about Last of the Mohicans that drives one to eye the blades of scissors and muse about what sort of origami one could make from the book's pages, or to ponder if the punishment for desecrating Cooper’s grave would outweigh the sheer satisfaction from paying back Cooper for what he puts the reader through. It’s also a cliche to say about a wretched movie or book that “There’s two/four/eight/twenty-four hours of my life gone that I’m not getting back.” In the case of Mohicans, the saying should be amended to, “There’s my will to live gone that I’m not getting back.”
“Stupefying” is not too strong a word to describe this novel.
Set in 1757, The Last of the Mohicans is about Natty Bumppo, aka “Hawkeye,” and his adventures alongside his friends Chingachgook, a Delaware Mohican, Uncas, Chingachgook’s son, and three Englishmen, Major Duncan Heyward, an officer in the British Army, and Cora and Alice Munro, the daughters of Colonel Munro, the commandant of Fort William Henry. Against a backdrop of the events of the French and Indian War, Hawkeye & Co. battle against the Mingo Indians and the wily, evil Magua. At the end of the story Magua, Cora, and Uncas are all dead, Heyward and Alice engaged to be married, and Chingachgook and Hawkeye are mourning the coming demise of “the wise race of the Mohicans.”
So where do I begin? Well, let me quote Henderson Kincheloe: “It is easy to complain of Cooper’s faulty style, his verbosity, his heavy-handed humor...his improbably actions, the insufficient motivation of his characters, the inconsistency and inaccuracy of his dialogue, yet many readers willingly suspend their disbelief or modify their critical objections in order to enjoy the rush of action which makes up so much of The Last of the Mohicans.” These readers deserve what they get, which is seven hundred pages of fiction nearly devoid of literary virtues.
Cooper is prolix. He has the penny-a-word writer’s inability to get to the point. His descriptions are circumlocutions. His declamatory, speechifying dialogue style lacks all verisimilitude. The story is plot-heavy and obsessed with violence. The characters have no internal life, and the only characterization comes through heavy-handed dialogue. The pace of the novel, which was thought to be almost too fast, is severely hampered by the endless flood of gawdawful dialogue. Many of the conventions of the novel, including the Noble Savage and the pure heroines in need of rescuing, are seriously dated, and while earlier generations found Last of the Mohicans to be Exciting Frontier Actiontm, current readers, with generations of better writers behind them, are (or should be) more discerning. (The claims by critics for Mohicans’ popularity with readers is mystifying and, I think, not particularly accurate any more). Even more damning are the primeval view of race contained in Mohicans. Biology is destiny, for Cooper: any Mingo (Iroquois) is de facto a bad, untrustworthy Mingo. Miscegenation is evil; Cora (descended of a slave) admires (and fears) Magua’s “swarthy lineaments,” and Uncas is attracted to Cora, but they cannot marry outside their own “race,” and so they are killed, leaving Alice to marry Duncan and Hawkeye to flee civiliztion. The Mingos are vile and deserve eradication, while the Mohicans are noble but doomed by destiny, so their mutual destruction at the end of the novel, and by extension the destruction of the American First Nations by the whites, is shown by Cooper to be a good thing.
(I really didn’t like this novel).
Hawkeye is a combination of the Noble Savage–chaste, of noble and kind impulses–and the savage hunter–brutal and lethal in war, the consummate hunter and woodman. He’s very proud, very conscious of the aspects of race (both white and red), and very respectful of Chingachgook.
In conclusion, let me turn once again to Twain:
“In truth, it seems to me that ‘Deerslayer’ is just simply a literary delirium tremens.”
Amen, brother. Amen.
awkshaw. Hawkshaw, one of the first significant fictional detectives, first appeared in the play The Ticket-of-Leave Man (1863), which was written by Tom Taylor (1817-1880). Taylor was a barrister, journalist, and dramatist, who worked as an art critic for The Times and contributed a great deal to amateur theatrics, not least of which were the 80+ plays he wrote.
Hawkshaw is "the Nailer," the "'cutest detective in the force." (That's "'cutest" as in "acutest;" Ticket-of-Leave Man is not a Damon-Pythias production) Hawkshaw is a master detective. He is, naturally, therefore a master of disguise, appearing in several different guises and costumes throughout The Ticket-of-Leave Man in order to fool Dalton, the villain of the piece, and to gather information about the next crime. Hawkshaw is famous, as well; when his name is mentioned, at one point in the play, the response is "Have I the honour to address Mr. Hawkshaw, the detective, the hero of the great gold dust robberies, and the famous Trunk-line transfer forgeries."
Hawkshaw's personality is somewhat standard; he is very persistent--Dalton gave Hawkshaw's partner "a clip on the head with a neddy--a life preserver. He was never his own man afterwards. He left the force on a pension, but he grew sort of paralysed, and then got queer in his head"--and for that Hawkshaw relentlessly pursues Dalton, swearing "I'll hunt him out of all his skins--and my best night's sleep will be the day I've brought Jem Dalton to the dock!" Hawkshaw is clever and a good detective. Better still, Hawkshaw is not merciless; when he sees a convict (the Ticket-of-Leave Man of the play's title) trying to start his life over again, Hawkshaw pretends not to recognise him, thereby allowing the convict to keep his job.
The Ticket-of-Leave Man is not a particularly exciting play; it is melodramatic and filled with nearly-impenetrable Victorian slang. As one critic said, however, it is a role in which a macho actor can even today triumph, and Hawkshaw, as one of the first significant master detectives, deserves mention for his play in literary history.
eath, Lucy. Lucy Heath was created by Mrs. J.H. Riddell and appeared in “A Terrible Vengeance” (Princess Sunshine and Other Stories, 1889). Mrs. J.H. Riddell, née Charlotte Cowan (1832-1906), was a novelist and successful and well-regarded ghost story writer. “A Terrible Vengeance” is a dark little chestnut. One late summer day Paul Murray and Dick Savill are enjoying a time apart on the Thames. Paul, who is hamstrung by a lack of money and his dependence on his grandmother for his yearly allowance, is about to go propose to the woman his grandmother has arranged for him to marry. Both Paul and Dick see, walking by them, a young couple. The young man, who we later find out is Walter Grantley, is of a good family. The young woman, Lucy Heath, is not. She is quite beautiful, but is also a flirt, a tease, and a coquette, and as she walks by Paul and Dick she sends Paul “one arch, piquant, inviting glance, of which many would instantly availed themselves.” Lucy and Walter continue on, and Paul and Dick go their separate ways. That night Paul has an awful nightmare. When he is awakened by his man Davis the pair find a series of wet footprints, as if made by a small foot, all around Paul’s bed. But the footprints quickly disappear. The previous night Lucy did not return home, and Mrs. Heath first quizzes Walter about it (he knows nothing, having dropped her off on a landing after quarreling with her and then breaking up with her) and then goes to see her sister and her brother-in-law, the heartless, smug bourgeois Mr. and Mrs. Pointer. But Lucy hadn’t stayed with them that night, either. Meanwhile Davis, on the train with Paul Murray, notices the wet footprints are following him there, too. Davis talks with Gage, a friend of his who serves a general as his man; the pair speak of supernatural warnings, with Gage jovially speaking of how many families have individual and varied figures which warn of impending death, and Davis drawing his own conclusions about what the wet footprints might be and from whom. Paul is feeling poorly, and so goes to stay with his grandmother. The wet footprints follow him off the train and into his grandmother’s house. Davis decides that whatever the footprints omen, some large change will be in store, and so it is in his own best interests to act the perfect servant, and so he does.
That night Paul has another nightmare, one in which he meets, along the shores a river, a ghostly woman who tells him “So you’ve come at last.” Davis, too, has a dream, one which ends with him hearing the words, “Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me!” Davis wakes up and hears them again, this time coming from Paul’s room. The voice changes to “You won’t? And yet, as we are never to meet again, you might kiss me once, only once more.” Davis then hears the sounds of struggling and Paul’s cry, “Unloose me, tigress, devil!” Davis hurries in and sees Paul and an unseen assailant struggling; Paul throws the phantom off him and then goes limp. Davis hurries to his master and finds that he is fast asleep. The floor of the room is wet, “as though buckets of water had been thrown over it, while the prints of little feet were everywhere.” Lucy’s body is discovered, drowned, and an inquest is held; Grantley is questioned closely, but a witness saw Lucy after Grantley left her, and so Grantley is exonerated. No cause for Lucy’s drowning is determined. Murray and his bride to be, Miss Ketterick, are quickly engaged and the date of the marriage quickly set. The week before the marriage Davis approaches Murray and tells him, “I know all” and hints at a nice settlement in exchange for his continued silence. Murray has no money and gives Davis nothing, not even a written promise. At the wedding itself the wet feet follow Murray and his bride, step by step, up to the altar itself, and though Murray does not notice the feet Davis, the clerk, and the verger do. From that time forward Murray has no peace; the feet follow him everywhere and are with him always. He gets little sleep and feels himself cursed, not just for himself but because his innocent, sweet bride has been dragged into a whirlpool. He leaves her for days on end, wandering in the wilderness, but the feet follow him even there. Finally he goes home to confess all to Mr. Ketterick, but once there he changes his mind and decides to flee to the lone lands beyond the sea, where no one else would have to suffer from his burden. “...even as he so decided, the brightness of the day seemed to be clouded over, warmth was exchanged for a deadly chill, a horror of darkness seemed thrown like a pall over him, and a rushing sound as of many waters filled his ears.” He is found dying, the ground around him “wet and trampled, as though by hundreds of little feet.” Davis gets nothing from Murray’s will and is dismissed without character by Murray’s grandmother.
“A Terrible Vengeance” is a more traditional kind of horror story, rather than the Rosa Mulholland/Amelia Edwards type of a story set in an unsentimental universe where bad things happen to everyone and it raineth down on the just and the unjust alike. By implication–Riddell is quite good at hinting at things rather than spelling them out–Paul Murray murdered Lucy Heath, and so the vengeance visited upon him is deserved. “A Terrible Vengeance” is very well told, with especially good characterization. I didn’t find the reoccurring wet footprints to be frightening, exactly, but they did provide an occasional pleasant chill, as when they kept step with the bride and groom on the way up to the altar. If anything, Riddell’s savage send-up of nearly everyone was the more frightening. Davis is shown to be a mercenary and calculating man, Murray well-meaning but weak, and Lucy a nasty tease. Riddell’s strongest ammunition is saved for Mrs. Heath’s sister and brother-in-law, the Pointers, who are truly ghastly examples of smug, pompous, callous, greedy lumpenbourgeoise.
Lucy is bewitching, to be sure, a maddening, tormenting, flouting tease who drove poor Grantley nearly insane with jealousy and anger when she was alive. She manipulated him and forced him to quarrel with his family and friends on her behalf. She was a vixen and a termagant. In death her vengeance was far more terrible, however. She did some kissing on Murray, as mentioned above, but then didn’t touch him. Just...followed him. Everywhere and for all times, which was punishment enough for Murray–a truly terrible vengeance.
eidegger, Dr. Dr. Heidegger was created by Nathaniel Hawthorne and appeared in “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” (as “The Fountain of Youth,” The Knickerbocker, Jan. 1837). Hawthorne (1804-1864) was of course a major American author of the 19th century, still read for his The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables. It’s often forgotten how good his short stories are, and while “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” is not the masterpiece that “Young Goodman Brown” is, it’s still pretty good.
“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” is about “that very singular man, old Dr. Heidegger,” who invites four of his “venerable” friends to meet him one night. The four are “all melancholy old creatures, who had been unfortunate in life, and whose greatest misfortune it was that they were not long ago in their graves. Mr. Melbourne had been a rice merchant but was reduced through bad investments to poverty. Colonel Killigrew “had wasted his best years, and his health and substance, in the pursuit of sinful pleasures, which had given birth to a brood of pains.” Mr. Gascoigne was a ruined politician who time had made obscure rather than infamous. And the Widow Wycherly...well, she was beautiful when younger, but “for a long while past, she had lived in deep seclusion, on account of certain scandalous stories which had prejudiced the gentry of the town against her.” The three men had been lovers of Wycherly, years ago, but time had rendered their early rivalries null. Heidegger brings the four together to conduct a little experiment. He takes the withered remains of a rose (one which had been given to him by his fiancee, she who had taken one of his own prescriptions and died on the night before the wedding) and places it in a vase filled with water. The rose gradually regains its youth and becomes in full bloom. Heidegger’s four guests are dubious, but he explains that a friend of his sent him water from the Fountain of Youth, and so he is going to give his four friends some of the water. He does, and the four gradually regain their youth. Unfortunately, they do not retain any of the wisdom their years and mistakes had taught them, and they quickly fall into their old ways. The three men fight over Wycherly, and in the fight they knock over the vase with the Water of Youth in it, and they see that the rose has reverted to its aged state, and soon enough so do they. Heidegger is content with his experiment and his advanced years, but the four are not, and they “resolved forthwith to make a pilgrimage to Florida, and quaff at morning, noon, and night, from the Fountain of Youth.”
Those of us with only dim memories of Hawthorne from reading him in high school will be surprised on reading him as adults. The tone and language of his stories is surprisingly modern. There is the occasional touch of the old-fashioned in the stories, as in “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” but even there the construction is more arch and witty than awkward and slow. The content itself is more modern than I would have anticipated; Hawthorne couldn’t be explicit about the sins of the four, but his hints are easy enough to read. There’s also a submerged dark humor, Hawthorne semi-winking at the reader, which adds a sardonic tone to the story. (It makes me wonder how much of an influence Hawthorne was on Ambrose Bierce). Hawthorne may be satirizing the stereotype of the scientist (remember that “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” was written less than twenty years after Frankenstein, and so the figure of the scientist and what science was capable of was still influenced by Shelley), or he may simply be satirizing humanity’s supposed wisdom if given a second chance. Either way, “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” is a cynical and bittersweet story, more bitter than sweet, and a very entertaining one.
Dr. Heidegger is an aging and distinguished doctor and scientist. He’s sometimes thought to be a little beside himself, but he’s no dimmer or more cracked than he ever was, in his study, with its fantastic collection of folios, skeletons, his mirror in which “it was fabled that the spirits of all the doctor’s deceased patients dwelt,” his book of magic, and his portrait of his former lover who fifty years he had killed. He is eccentric, naturally, but in some ways sensible; he declines to sip of the Fountain of Youth, for “having had much trouble in growing old, I am in no hurry to grow young again.” As the experiment shows, this is a wise position to hold.
elene, Bel. Bel was created by Edward Wheeler, a name which should be familiar to you from other entries on this site, and appeared in "Rosebud Rob; or, Nugget Ned, the Knight of the Gulch," which appeared in Beadle's Half-Dime Library v4 n83 (1879). Bel is actually Nelly Austin, formerly a demure, sweet, and modest young flower of the prairies. She had the misfortune to meet up with a "handsome devil in man's shape," who seduced her, robbed her of her virtue, and then killed her father and took her inheritance. Nelly could have crumpled up and faded away, as other, weaker women did. But no such fate for our Nelly. No, no, she swears vengeance. Literally. "I have daily sworn before my God to kill him," she tells her old school friend, Jessie Mapleton, "and I only life to to keep my oath. I shall find him even though he be in the deepest disguise." She trains herself to fight, arms herself with "a pair of revolvers" and "a knife of the truest steel," and goes a-hunting. Across the wide open spaces of the West she hunts her man, losing him, finding him, then losing him again. Over the course of several years she hunts him, until she finally brings him to ground in Deadwood City. Unfortunately, when she confronts him, late one night, he outdraws her and guns her down. But she had a letter on her body which identified her target as a foul murderer and seducer, and Nugget Ned finds the letter and brings the dastard to hemp justice at last.
ellenes. The Hellenes are from G.G.A. Murray's Gobi or Shamo (1889). George Gilbert Aime Murray (1866-1957) was a notable scholar, playwright, popularizer of Hellenism, and passionate liberal. While Gobi or Shamo was an early work, written only a year after leaving Oxford, it reveals a mind witty, cynical, and either well-traveled, well-read, or both. Murray has a good touch at description, and the novel is written with skill and, surprisingly, humor, and is an unexpected good read.
Gobi or Shamo is a Lost Race novel (and for more information on that, go to Jessica Salmonson's Lost Race Checklist Introduction, to her Meditation On Lost Race Literature, or to Lin Carter's Lost Races, Forgotten Cities. In this case the Lost Race are the Hellenes, a group of Greeks who fled to the depths of the Gobi desert. (1889 being a time when Mongolia, for the English public, was literally the ends of the Earth, and wholly unknown) Mavrones, a young English scholar whose soul yearns to discover an unknown historical curiosity or treasure, stumbles upon the possible existence of a lost group of Greeks while perusing the manuscripts in a former Byzantine monastery on the Greek island of Arganthus. Marvrones sets out to track them down, assisted by his friend Quentin Baj ("a man of six feet two, with dark moustaches and a crushing manner, and...further...the possessor of an acer et contemptor animus, with few good-natured weaknesses to spoil the edge of a resolve"). Along with an extremely annoying companion, they set out for Mongolia, and after various adventures (predictably life-threatening, but nonetheless interesting for all of that) they find the Hellenes.
The Hellenes are an advanced race, but it must be admitted that their civilization seems to have little to do with the historical Greeks; despite the obvious research that Murray did for Gobi or Shamo, the Hellenes are not so much Greek-flavoured as a generic Lost Race civilization with surface ties to the Greeks. They have the dress and architecture of the Greeks, but not their society.
The Hellenes are the descendants of Milesians taken prisoner by Darius the Great after the revolt. After five generations of slavery the Milesians fled northward, joined with a group of Ionians also enslaved by Darius, and fled "from the kingdom of the Persians, Northward and Eastward, over the great mountains that lie by the sources of the Indus and Oxus..." They ended up in a remote, mountainous part of Mongolia ("shamo" being the Mongolian term for the "Gobi") and settled there, on top of a steep plateau, driving off the local Sanni tribe and forcing a peace on them.
The Hellenes have an interesting civilisation; they are strict vegetarians, and educate the "lower animals," using dogs as hall-porters and messengers (the dogs are taught to read and to understand spoken Greek). The Hellenes are xenophobic, having formulated laws forbidding non-Hellenes from entering or staying with the Hellenes. They use advanced science based on a light energy, which may or may not be electricity (the text is coy on this point). It can create a lethal force-field; "now we use it chiefly for sending messages, or building large temples, or for such kinds of labour as do not beseem the dignity of man." Of course, because the Hellenes are surrounded by hostile Mongol and Chinese tribes, they also use it for powerful explosive shells.
There are the requisite plot twists and turns and adventures and battles, and eventually Mavrones and his two friends are forced to flee (the following quote, btw, will give a good example of Murray's style):
Perhaps it would seem more friendly if we accompanied Mavrones and Baj in their journey westward, up and down their mountains and ravines, across their torrents and snowy passes, and, most dangerous of all, across the official bridges built by the Tibetan government, making detours to avoid Tudjung and Punukka and evade, if possible, the Episcopal suspicion; till at last we should reach the line of little posts with flapping banners which marks the Southern frontier of Thibet, and feel ourselves safe to travel like peaceable foreigners in the territory of the Rajah of Bhotan. Yet it is a dull and disagreeable journey: the only good reason for undertaking it would be a desire to serve our friends, and I strongly opine they would be better off without us.Gobi or Shamo is rather interesting. Although it is a typical Lost Race novel in some ways, it works well as a travelogue, and Murray neither takes his subject too seriously nor forgets that adventure has to be the core of such novels. As well, he lets a certain dry wit and wry sense of humor shine through at times, which are welcome and rare in a Lost Race story.
eller, Maximilien. Maximilien Heller was written in 1871 (not 1875--thanks to Marc Madouraud for correcting this error) by Henri Cauvain (1847-1899), an Annecy tax inspector who wrote a few other books. What is interesting about Maximilien Heller--and I'm going on secondary information about him, since Maximilien Heller has never been translated into English and I've been unable to obtain a copy to read--is that he reads, in many ways, like a prototype for Sherlock Holmes. Maximilien Heller was, after all, written 16 years before Holmes' first adventure, and yet Maximilien Heller, the hero, is described by one critic this way:
Its eponymous hero, who turns out to be an amateur detective, lives in an indescribably untidy apartment. He is tall, thin and pale, uses opium, is given to sitting in an armchair from morning to night staring at the ceiling, writes innumerable monologues on complicated and obscure subjects, is an expert at disguise and an extraordinarily fine shot. Oh, and his adventure is recounted by his good and loyal friend, who happens to be a doctor.Thanks to Marc Madouraud I can pass on a little more information on Heller. He uses inductive reasoning, has not left his room (before the events of the novel) for two years, and takes on and defeats a brilliant criminal who has committed a locked-room crime.
ereward the Wake. Hereward the Wake was created by the Rev. Charles Kingsley and appeared serially as “Hereward, the Last of the English” in Good Words in 1865 before being published in 1866 as Hereward the Wake, Last of the English. I talk a little about Kingsley (1819-1875) in the Amyas Leigh entry; he was, in his lifetime, a major figure, producing a wide range of works and serving as chaplain to none less than Queen Victoria Herself. Kingsley is known today for The Water Babies and his children’s books, a fact which would undoubtedly have displeased him. The Water Babies and Westward Ho! are likely better known, but Hereward the Wake is Kingsley’s last novel and his best one.
Hereward the Wake is set in the 11th century, in the years before, during, and after the Norman Conquest. Hereward is the son of the Lord of Bourne, a Saxon nobleman of a powerful family. Hereward’s mother is Lady Godiva (yes, that Lady Godiva), and Hereward is as rebellious, spirited, irreligious and rambunctious as Godiva is spiritual and kind, and after a friar complains to Lady Godiva that Hereward and his band of friends robbed him of Church money, Godiva is angry and hurt, for this is just the latest in a series of Hereward’s misdeeds. She confronts him and he freely admits to it, showing no shame. She’s left with no choice but to declare him outlawed, which is what he wants. He leaves his father’s house, accompanied only by Martin Lightfood, who vows to serve him as friend and servant. Hereward then begins his adventuring. In Scotland he slays a giant bear and gains much renown thereby; in doing so he saves the life of a young girl, Alftruda, who he would encounter again. In Cornwall he meets the king and saves the king’s daughter from a bad marriage by killing the would-be groom, a red-bearded giant named Ironhook. This frees the daughter to marry the prince she truly loves, and adds to Hereward’s reputation. Hereward adventures further about the British Isles, gathering about him a troop of men and becoming widely known as a doughty fighter and a canny captain of soldiers.
Hereward and his men, travelling by sea, are wrecked on the Flemish Coast, and Hereward and his men take service under Baldwin of Flanders, defeating the French for him. Hereward falls in love with Torfrida, a beautiful woman who is reputed to be a sorcereress. Torfrida is equally smitten with Hereward, and the two marry and have a daughter. Meanwhile, back in Britain, King Edward dies, Harold succeeds him, and then William of Normandy invades Britain and defeats Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Hereward, unhappy with the thought of the Normans ruling England, decides to visit Bourne. There he finds that the Normans have driven his mother from her home (his father having died previously) and are treating the Saxons badly. Hereward kills the Normans in Bourne and vows that he will go back to Flanders and then return with an army to kill every Norman in England. Hereward puts his mother up in Crowland Abbey, is formally knighted by the monks there, and then returns to Flanders. Unfortunately, many of the English in Britain are confused and disunited, and the leader the Danes sent to aid Hereward is stupid and vain and refuses to listen to Hereward’s advice, getting many of his men killed and badly damaging the hopes of the English. When Hereward and his men and the Danes finally land, they are easily defeated, and the Danes then flee, leaving Hereward to carry on the fight. They stage a brave, lengthy holdout on the island of Ely, but are eventually betrayed by a group of monks.
Hereward and Torfrida and his men live as outlaws in the forests of England, but as time passes and their situation, and that of the English, grows increasingly desperate, they grow unhappy. Torfrida is cold toward Hereward and he commits adultery (either in the flesh or in spirit, it’s never confirmed which), and when she discovers proof of this she goes temporarily mad and then gets herself to the nunnery at Crowland, where she takes care of Lady Godiva and has her marriage to Hereward dissolved. Hereward, bereft of hope and now his wife, gives up and enlists under King William, marrying the bewitching Alftruda, who had loved him for years. Hereward is not happy, however; God’s grace has turned against him, he does not love Alftruda (he is afraid of her but besotted with her looks at the same time), and he has many enemies at the French court. Eventually he is tricked into a duel and imprisoned. He escapes and returns to Alftruda, but his enemies don’t rest, and they surprise him and kill him, although he takes twelve of them with him. When Torfrida hears of his death, she travels to the location where his body is kept, frightens and shames his killers (including Alftruda), and retrieves his body and has it buried in Crowland.
If you’ve read my summary of Westward Ho! (in the Amyas Leigh entry) you’ll get a good idea of what I think of Charles Kingsley: an ideologue storyteller whose sides exist only uneasily with each other. Or at least, that was the impression I had coming away from Westward Ho! Happily (or perhaps not so), his two sides are much more at ease with each other in Hereward the Wake. The statement of Kingsley’s prejudices is not so crushingly blatant, and the integration of those biases into the story is smoother. This isn’t to say, alas, that Kingsley’s beliefs in the racial/ethnic superiority of the British (more broadly, the inhabitants of the British Isles, the Teutons, and the Scandinavians) to Continental Europeans and the religious superiority of Protestantism to the perfidious Catholic Church do not appear in Hereward the Wake, simply that they are far more evenly woven into the book than they were in Westward Ho!
Hereward is a racial epic of the Saxon resistance to the Norman invasion. Kingsley has strong views about the nobility of the Saxon race and the vileness of the Norman (or, as he calls them, “French”) race, and uses the historical personage of Hereward (see Stephen Knight’s introduction to one version of Hereward’s life) and his life as the vehicle by which to express those views. That Kingsley alters the history behind Hereward–toward the end of telling a good story, of course–is one of the novel’s flaws, but as has been said about film, one doesn’t (or shouldn’t) read historical novels for historical accuracy. (When it’s present, it’s a plus, but it’s not a requirement for a good historical novel). Too, Kingsley wrote Hereward at a time when the political and cultural revolutions and turmoil on the Continent left many English feeling insecure, and so Hereward contains a stirring (if very blatant and chauvinistic) call to the English to maintain English culture against external invaders.
So Hereward is very much a didactic novel. But by this point in his life Kingsley was good enough as a novelist to...not sublimate his didacticism, but incorporate it, more or less naturally, into the novel. And to put into the novel enough exciting action so that the reader doesn’t mind the mouthpiece passages.
But is it a good read, you ask? Oh yes, I respond. Despite its length (almost 600 pages in my undated Thomas Nelson and Sons edition), the mouthpiece passages, and the occasional chapter or story which has little to do with the overall plot, Hereward is vigorous (John Sutherland calls it “pugnacious”), full of action-packed scenes, memorable characters, duels, triumphs and defeats; in sum, Hereward the Wake is a fine combination of action and emotion, and a good read. Some adult critics have found and continue to find the battles and duels too numerous and even nauseating, but with that view I flatly disagree.
Kingsley changes the dates and events of Hereward’s life to suit his own ideological ends, but his use of the language of the time, the practices of Saxons and Norman both rich and poor, the very different landscape of Britain during that period–all the historical cultural information (as opposed to the historical events) is spot-on and well deployed. Although Kingsley is almost pedantic in his constant use of footnotes and citations to support and/or justify the history in his story, he is anything but pedantic in his use of language and practices and landscape. Instead the reader gets these through full immersion, so that as the story is read interesting practices are described (always in context and in the flow of the story), interesting, old words are used (but comfortably within the narration), and scenes are described. Kingsley doesn’t make a point of highlighting these things, or seeming to boast about his erudition; they’re simply a part of the text and an effective way to show how different life was at that time.
The dialogue is entertaining. Wit was not one of Kingsley’s strengths, but there are some good one-liners and exchanges, and there is heat and life to the dialogue. Some historical novels have dialogue which is seemingly mouthed by the author's puppets. Much of the dialogue in Hereward the Wake is said by fictional people, rather than characters. The dialogue had to my eyes a certain modern sensibility, despite the more formal cadence and structure and the occasional “thee” and “thou,” so that there are, for example, comments about the quality of one character’s vocal impersonation of another. The dialogue is not used strictly in the service of the story, but rather as evidence of the character of the individuals in the novel.
The modern sensibility is evident in other areas of the novel, and is in fact the cause of one of the novel’s flaws. Kingsley quite clearly wanted to tell an old-style epic in a modern form, to make a myth out of the raw material of history and write it as a novel. But a novel has requirements which an epic cannot meet: characterization beyond one dimension, a consideration of emotion and feeling, a focus on other aspects of life beyond combat and conquest, and the acknowledgment that real life is not as simple or straightforward as an epic poem would have you believe. Kingsley tries to have it both ways, to tell an epic story but to add to it the depth of a novel. He only partially succeeds at this. Hereward has many of the touches of epic and myth, including Hereward’s great size and strength (something Kingsley did with many of his heroes), Martin Lightfoot’s magic axe, Hereward’s magic sword Brainbiter, and Hereward’s magic armor, Hereward’s fight against the bear, the “ogre,” and in battles against great odds, the use of chivalric tropes (Hereward and his allies and enemies are all knights and act as such, including one-on-one duels), the repeated use of Norse songs and poems, in the manner of Norse sagas, the appearance of saints to help or hinder heroes, those same saints acting in very temperamental ways, and the general sweep of the novel, starting with Hereward’s humble beginnings, moving through his resistance to the invaders, and ending with a perhaps literally bewitching Torfrida retrieving his body by facing down and unmanning his murderers.
Kingsley adds to this a number of more modern touches. There are moments which would be out of place in an epic but which quite nicely hint at individuals’ personalities, like the aforementioned compliment about about one character’s skill at impersonation, and an infuriated Hereward literally stamping his feet in rage. Characters’ motivations are reasonable, rather than epic, so that Martin Lightfoot hates his father not because his father is an utter monster, but simply because he treated Martin’s mother badly. Kingsley attempts to treat secondary characters as more than just objects in Hereward’s life; where most epics privilege the position of the hero and do not show concern for the feelings of other characters, Kingsley, in Hereward, spares a moment to discuss the sadness of a princess forced against her will into an arranged marriage, or for a woman who is valued by others only for her beauty and as a bargaining chip in political games. And near the end of the novel the deteriorating relationship between Hereward and Torfrida is treated in a reasonable and non-histrionic way, so that the marriage fails not because of some epic temptation but simply due to realistic and understandable human foibles.
Kingsley spares some time for descriptions of the lives of the underclasses, so that Hereward is about more than just knightly nobles whacking each other with swords. Kingsley romanticizes their lives, somewhat, but allows some hints about the true desperation of the poor during those years. Kingsley does not romanticize the life of an outlaw at all. When Hereward and his followers take to the woods to live the life that Robin Hood will later emulate, they have a good time during the summers, but during the winters it is quite difficult for them, and the longer they live in the wilds the wilder and less civilized they become and the greater the pressure on Hereward’s marriage, and Kingsley explores this at length, unromanticaly and quite convincingly. Finally, Kingsley displays a certain very unmythical cynicism toward human nature, so that even the Danes and Saxons who he is biased in favor of can act knavishly either in person or in crowds.
But Kingsley does not mesh the two kinds of stories, the epic and the modern, completely or smoothly, so that he often seems to privilege the epic style over the modern. The result is that many of the modern touches are isolated. The characterization of Hereward and to a lesser degree Torfrida is well done, but still more would have been welcome. Too many of the secondary characters are one-dimensional, and too much of Hereward’s life occurs without having any effect on him. (That is, a life of reaving would surely harden a person’s soul, but we see none of that in Hereward). In an epic these would not be flaws, but in a modern story they are.
I should stress, in case it’s not entirely clear, that I found Hereward very enjoyable and rather good, for the most part. It has the flaws I mentioned, but on the whole the book is readable and vigorous.
Hereward himself is very memorable. Kingsley’s Hereward is some ways from what is known of the historical Hereward. Kingsley did this to fit his own paradigm of Christianity as well as for dramatic purposes. Hereward isn’t particular tall, but he’s very, very strong. He’s a fierce warrior, capable of and quite willing to take on three or more men at once. He is cocky and not particularly nice, but he does show mercy for the less fortunate and even, occasionally, for his enemies. He is honorable, by his own lights, and willing to esteem an enemy if he deserves it. He is not bloodthirsty, although he styles himself a Berserker. He is brave, not just due to his own innate courage but because he fears being considered soft. He begins by lusting after adventure and a good reputation, wanting nothing more than to be a Viking and a skald, but by the novel’s end he is a tired and broken man, worn out by decades of fighting and living as an outlaw. He is careless of lives in battle, both his own and his enemies. He is superstitious, only lightly believing in God but more strongly believing in the power of witches and curses. (This, Kingsley implies, is a central reason for his eventual downfall) (Interestingly, many critics describe Hereward as a symbol of muscular Christianity, but he himself is not, and spends most of the novel scornful of Christianity. Hereward may be a muscular Christian novel, but Hereward himself is no Christian. He is prone to drinking too much, and when drunk acts in a bad way, boastful and quarrelsome.
Hereward, despite its flaws, is one of the better historical romances of the pre-Weyman School years and is well worth searching out.
ermann, Professor Heinrich. Professor Hermann appeared in Charles Dixon's Fifteen Hundred Miles an Hour (1895). Dixon (1858-1926) was a British and ornithologist who was better known for his non-fiction. In Fifteen Hundred Miles a meteor falls to Earth, and inside the meteor a manuscript is found. The mss. tells the story of Professor Hermann, a German scientist who becomes convinced that outer space is not in fact a vacuum but rather a medium full of especially rarefied atmospheric gases. Because of this, it would be possible to travel through space in a propellor-driven ship, which he and his young friends build. Like so many other "spaceships" of the 1890s, their ship is essentially a nautical ship with propellers powered by electric batteries. They travel to Mars at 1500 mph and find Mars to be quite similar to Earth. The Martians, however, are humanoid but over twice as tall as humans, and they live in a feudal society. They group of humans end up fighting monsters and giants, are taken prisoner and free themselves, and end up falling in love with Martian women. The final manuscript which reaches Earth is a summary of their adventures; they seem not to be interested in returning.
eronhaye, Geoff. The formidable Mr. Heronhaye was created by K. and Hesketh Prichard, for information on whom look at the Flaxman Low entry. "Geoff," as he was called, was the star of a twelve-story serial, "The Fortunes of Geoff," that ran in The Popular Magazine from October 1906 to September 1907. Geoff is a Nietzschean figure, tall, strong, quick, clever, and laden with good looks; he is "grave, handsome, imperturbable, and quite unaware of the attention his good looks won him from" women. He does, however, have one flaw (besides his need to build a fortune): his obsession (the series calls it "love" and "devotion" and other such terms, but the modern reader sees it for what it is) with Miss Gabrielle van Rooven. Ms. van Rooven, a New York socialite of extraordinary beauty, is the subject of a number of portraits, all highly desired and all showing Ms. van Rooven at her best. Geoff is so taken with her that he must, he simply must, have every painting in which she appears. So Geoff does what he can--soldiering for hire--and buys the portraits when he can. Because he is good at what he does, he earns money; because he spends all of his money on the paintings, the remaining available ones become increasingly scarce and increasingly more expensive.
But Geoff never considers this; he has other things on his mind. Geoff works in Central and South America, a soldier for hire, helping whoever will pay him. He is clever, a good fighter, does not shirk from killing, a good tracker and trapper, and is skilled at disguise, and so he usually wins. But sometimes circumstances go against him--in one mission rebels capture him and only the late arrival of the government troops which prevent Geoff's hanging--and sometimes his own sense of honor stops him from doing the expedient thing. When Geoff gives his word, he will keep it or die. Sometimes this prevents him from an easy freedom and forces him into still more dangerous situations.
Eventually, however, despite all the difficulties Geoff has with treacherous rebels and government officials, not to mention the patriotic rebels and honorable government officials, he makes his fortune (taking stolen loot from a pack of thieving rebels) and returns to New York, where he settles down with Ms. van Rooven, happy at last.
esselius, Dr. Dr. Hesselius was created by J. S. Le Fanu and first appeared in “Green Tea” (All The Year Round, 23 Oct-13 Nov 1869) before being used as the link between several rewritten stories in In A Glass Darkly (1872). Le Fanu I cover, briefly, in the Carmilla entry. Dr. Hesselius is mentioned in several of the stories, but usually as the narrator rather than as a character in them. Hesselius plays the largest part in “Green Tea,” and so that is the story I will relate here.
“Green Tea” is about the unfortunate Reverend Mr. Jennings. He is rather too tense and suffers from periodic mental break downs. In particular he has the habit of looking at the carpet as if following the movements of something–something which isn’t there. Dr. Hesselius meets him and eventually gets out of him the problem. Four years ago Jennings had been concentrating hard on a book he was writing and had fallen into the habit of drinking two or three pots a tea every night as he wrote. (This had the unfortunate effect of opening up Jennings’ “inner eye,” although he of course did not know that at the time). One evening, while riding on an omnibus, Jennings noticed “two small circular reflections...of a reddish light,” hovering in the ‘bus. The lights move around the ‘bus, and as Jennings concentrates on them he sees a black outline around them. The outline resolves itself into that of a “small black monkey, pushing its face forward in mimicry to meet mine; those were its eyes, and I now dimly saw its teeth grinning at me.” Nobody else on the bus can see the monkey, however, and when Jennings pushes his umbrella at it, the point of the umbrella goes through the monkey, which quickly begins to terrify Jennings and inspire feelings of loathing and horror. He leaves the bus as soon as he can, but finds that the monkey is following him. Jennings goes to his home and decides to abstain from tea, but on sitting down in his drawing room the monkey enters the room and stands on top of a table and looks at him with its glowing eyes.
For three years’ time this “satanic captivity” continues. Jennings describes his tormentor in this way: “It is a small monkey, perfectly black. It had only one peculiarity–a character of malignity–unfathomable malignity. During the first year it looked sullen and sick. But this character of intense malice and vigilance was always underlying that surly languor.” It is not always with him; it sometimes leaves, first growing uneasy, then angry, then advancing on Jennings, and then finally jumping up the chimney and staying away for at least two weeks, sometimes as long as three months. Jennings sees a noted specialist, Dr. Harley, who is too much of a materialist to see the truth of what is plaguing Jennings, and Harley’s cure is no good. Eventually the monkey begins talking to Jennings, saying the most “dreadful blasphemies” and even urging him to commit awful deeds, like throwing himself a mine shaft. Jennings feels himself helpless and places himself in Hesselius’ hands. Hesselius’ response is to urge him to look on his illness “strictly as one dependent on physical, though subtle physical causes,” and that God Himself had saved him from suicide. Hesselius’ analysis, based on his belief in some of the Swedenborgian precepts set forth earlier in the story, is that the monkey is a spirit escaped from Hell come to haunt, and that Hesselius can eventually dull Jennings’ inner eye so that he will not be able to see the monkey any longer:
I by no means despaired of Mr. Jennings’ case. He had himself remembered and applied, though in quite a mistaken way, the principle which I lay down in my Metaphysical Medicine, and which governs all such cases. I was about to apply it in earnest. I was profoundly interested, and very anxious to see and examine him while the “enemy” was actually present.Hesselius does not tell Jennings this, however, instead just urging him to have faith and to send for him if the monkey returns. Hesselius than leaves to stay at an inn nearby, so that he can attend to Jennings as need be. Hesselius also warns Jennings’ man that Jennings is in a bad way and should be looked in upon frequently. Hesselius is in transit when a note from Jennings arrives for him: “It is here. You had not been an hour gone when it returned. It is speaking. It knows all that has happened. It knows everything–it knows you, and is frantic and atrocious. It reviles. I send you this. It knows every word I have written–I write....” By the time Hesselius makes it back to Jennings’ house, Jennings has cut his own throat. Hesselius attaches a epilogue to the story in the form of a letter to a former patient of his; in the letter he explains how he would have cured Jennings had he had time enough: “You are to remember that I had not even commenced to treat Mr. Jennings’ case. I have not any doubt that I should have cured him perfectly in eighteen months, or possibly it might have extended to two years.”
"Green Tea” is one of the more analyzed and written-about stories, and the analyses generally fall into one of two categories. The first, the religious, has the monkey as a divine punishment for Jennings’ sins. The second, the psychological, has the monkey as the product of a neurosis or schizophrenia. These explanations are overly reductive; there’s no textual evidence that Jennings is a sinner who would deserve such a ghastly punishment, and there’s little in “Green Tea” which indicates that Jennings is anything but shy. What’s worse about these explanations is that they miss the point, or one of them, of Le Fanu’s stories. As in “Schalken the Painter” (see the Minheer Vanderhausen entry), “Green Tea” presents a universe of meaninglessness, lacking in moral redemption, without easy solutions or explanations. To apply a facile interpretations to events in such a world is misguided at best.
“Green Tea” is similar to “Schalken the Painter” in another way. Both have no redeeming lesson, no reassuring moral with which we can comfort ourselves. That’s a part of the horror of the story: that Jennings, who is a good man, is hounded to his death by a disembodied spirit of evil, and for no good reason. Hesselius’ narration and epilogue, in which he serenely dismisses his own mishandling of the case, does not help; he is magnificently callous about Jennings’ emotional agony, and was exactly the wrong sort of person Jennings should have consulted. In fact, the psychological aspect of the story, the piteous torment Jennings undergoes, is far more frightening (to me, at least) than the may-or-may-not-exist monkey. Jennings is a soul in pain, and Hesselius’ unfeeling approach and statement about Jennings’ “hereditary suicidal mania” show him to be the Colonel Blimp of doctors.
Dr. Martin Hesselius is a German physician who is active in England in the early part of the 19th century. He is very well-rounded as a scholar and scientist, being able to knowledgeably discuss a wide range of topics. In particular he is a metaphysical physician, following the ideas of Swedenborg and treating problems involving the effects of the spirits on the flesh; his pet theory, that when the psyche is worn down, whether through too much of a drug (like green tea) or through stress itself, people will see evil spirts. He’s also self-satisfied, unfeeling, and more interested in proving himself right than in really helping others.
"Green Tea” is a well told piece of classic horror, and if its supernatural aspects don’t terrify the psychological ones certainly do.
etman, Joel. Joel Hetman was created by Ambrose Bierce and appeared in “The Moonlit Road” (Can Such Things Be?, 1893) Bierce was the creator of "The Damned Thing," among a few other entries on this site. “The Moonlit Road” is yet another of Bierce’s fine horror stories.
“The Moonlit Road” is a story of murder, ghosts, and regret, told in three parts. The first narrative is by Joel Hetman, Jr., the son of Joel Hetman and his wife Julia. Junior tells the sad story of how he, as a 19-year-old student, received word from his father that his mother had been killed, strangled by an unknown intruder. Junior quit school to stay with his father, whose manner changed from taciturn to dejected. But his father also showed a great apprehension “at any small surprise of the senses.” One night the pair were walking home when Joel, Sr., pointing at the moonlit road, seemed to see something frightful. Junior saw nothing and felt no fear, although he was wrapped head to toe in an icy wind. Joel, Sr. fled, and Junior never heard from or of him again. The second section of “The Moonlit Road” is told by “Caspar Grattan,” who used to be Joel Hetman, Sr. Caspar has lived a life of misery for over twenty years. He has no memory beyond a certain point. He became conscious as an adult, in a forest, but with no memory of his past, and in the years since then has lived a life of sadness. In his memories, “if there is ever sunshine, I do not recall it; if there are birds they do not sing.” He has lived all that time with a sense of guilt, of “terror in punishment of crime,” and has been haunted by one dream, in which he decided to test the faithfulness of the wife he loved and distrusted, and on finding her, he thought, unfaithful to her, strangled her. Beyond that, Caspar has no memories. The third section of “The Moonlit Road” is told by the ghost of Julia Hetman through the medium Bayrolles (who also gave voice to the story of Hoseib Alar Robardin). Julia had gone to bed early but awoke and heard some awful thing moving in the house. Eventually the door to her room opened, and although she hid in the corner, hands found her in the dark and strangled her. Julia doesn’t know who or what killed her. As a ghost tried for a long time to make herself visible to her husband and son. The only night she was successful in doing so, he took fright and fled, and Julia never managed to manifest herself to Joel, Jr.
“The Moonlit Road” has the same cruelly ironic feel and message of Bierce’s other supernatural stories. Unlike “The Damned Thing” and “The Death of Halpin Frayser” (see the Larue entry), however, the tone of the story isn’t sardonic. Bierce stays in character, so that Junior’s narrative is straightforward, Caspar’s wretched, and Julia’s appropriately misty and sad. The tripartite structure of the story works nicely. The reader is forced to work to piece together what happens, but Bierce is such a good storyteller that we don’t mind. Like many of Bierce’s other supernatural stories, “The Moonlit Road” isn’t frightening so much as dark, both in its vision of human nature and in the fates it inflicts on its characters. “The Moonlit Road” isn’t so much nihilistic as willing to let its characters create their own hells and then inhabit them. Along with this is the story’s sadness. Julia is unhappy and lonely as a ghost, Junior has been deprived of both his parents, and Joel Senior has been wretched with guilt for over twenty years. A very sad, very dark story, is “The Moonlit Road.”
Joel Senior is desperately unhappy. He has no happy memories of his life before he awoke in the forest, and since then life has been filled with poverty and pain. He is continually haunted by a dream of a crime which he cannot remember committing but whose guilt he suffers from daily. He ends his account with this:
Yes, I am again in control of myself: "the captain of my soul." But that is not respite; it is another stage and phase of expiation. My penance, constant in degree, is mutable in kind: one of its variants is tranquillity. After all, it is only a life-sentence. "To Hell for life" — that is a foolish penalty: the culprit chooses the duration of his punishment. Today my term expires.
To each and all, the peace that was not mine.
ewitt, Martin. Martin Hewitt was created by Arthur Morrison and appeared in a number of short stories, three collections, and one novel, beginning with “The Lenton Croft Robberies” (The Strand, March 1894). Morrison (1863-1945) was a remarkable and secretive man about whom very little is known. He was born in the slums of London and came from a poor family. He was self-educated, but through natural talent and hard work became one of the leading writers of the Victorian era and a foremost proponent of naturalist fiction, producing two books about the slums of England that stand up well even today. After the turn of the century he abandoned his writing and turned to Asian art, becoming one of the world's leading authorities on the subject.
Morrison's creation Martin Hewitt was seen, during the 1890s, as the main rival to Sherlock Holmes; Hewitt, though never as popular as Holmes, was regarded as the second best detective in English mystery fiction. Naturally, iconoclast that I am, I dearly wanted to run down the icon Holmes in favor of Hewitt. In the earlier version of this entry, I did just that. But now that the time has come to make a more serious and objective (so far as that’s possible) evaluation of the Hewitt stories, I find that the only honest judgment I can make is that Hewitt is markedly inferior to Holmes, the Hewitt stories are not as well written as the Holmes stories, and that Hewitt is definitely not the second best detective of the 1890s.
Purely in terms of the crime plots, the Hewitt stories are more than serviceable, and are indeed in the same league as the Holmes stories. The crimes are appropriately clever and complicated and Hewitt’s solutions suitably intelligent. But it is as stories, as fiction, that the Hewitt stories are weaker than the Doyle stories. The wicked gleam which surely was in Morrison’s eyes when he wrote the Horace Dorrington stories was equally surely absent when he wrote the Martin Hewitt stories. (There are elements of the early Hewitt stories, including the plots and the treatment of the criminals, which read like the first Hewitt stories were run-ups to the Dorrington stories. That being the case, take a pass on Hewitt and proceed straight to Dorrington). The Hewitt stories read as intellectual exercises, and are as missing in joy and life as the driest calculus equation. They lack the fluidity and motion of Doyle. They lack the humor of Doyle. They lack the aphorisms and the memorable dialogue, characters and situations of Doyle. The Hewitt stories are, in fact, rather stiff, uncompelling, and less enjoyable to read than the average Sexton Blake story. (There. I said it. And I’d say it again if I had to).
Hewitt himself is of some limited interest. He was Holmes’ main competition in the 1890s, but he was dissimilar to Holmes only in the particulars, rather than in the general outline. This similarity is why Hewitt has dated much worse, and will be less absorbing to the modern reader, than someone like Prince Zaleski. Hewitt is resolutely late Victorian in his premise, attitudes, and morality, and lacking the humor of Holmes and the style of Shiel, Hewitt is doomed to become that most dreaded of fates for a literary character, Of Historical Interest Only.
Martin Hewitt had, when younger, worked as a clerk for a law firm and was given the “desperate task” of collecting evidence for a hopeless case. Hewitt built up “apparently out of nothing, a smashing weight of irresistible evidence” which won the case. Rather than continue working for the law firm or accepting any of the offers from competing firms, Hewitt decided to go into business for himself, as a private detective. He was, of course, quite successful and became famous for it.
Hewitt does not use any agents or have any assistants in his agency. He works alone, although the role of Watson is carried out by Brett, an otherwise colorless journalist of average intelligence. Hewitt is a detective of the middle and upper classes, and because money is an issue for him–although he takes whatever jobs interest him, even if the monetary reward is small, his enthusiasm is always heightened when there’s a good fee in it for him–he’s quite happy to let competition for his services drive up his fees. Unlike Holmes, he does not reserve particular scorn for the police, instead being content to let them do their job, and if he’s called upon to correct their mistakes, he’s happy to do so, otherwise he’s content to go his own way. Like Holmes, Hewitt feels himself above the law to a certain degree, and prefers to follow his own morality rather than that of the law. And like Holmes, he’s quite aware that he’s smarter than everyone around him, and he’s sometimes keen to remind others, like Brett, of that fact. (Some of Hewitt’s comments to Brett would have taxed the patience of even Watson).
For all that, though, Hewitt isn’t a bad guy. He’s usually quite cordial, and although his clients are always of the middle and upper classes he does not treat the poor and indigent any differently than he does the wealthy. He can be modest about his abilities, and when he’s been fooled by an opponent, as occasionally happens, he freely admits it and credits that opponent. (Hewitt always gets his man or woman, of course). And he’s capable of real generosity; rather than have the truth emerge, with the result of the ruin of a respected and innocent art dealer, Hewitt let the public believe that he had failed to catch a criminal.
Hewitt’s a portly, genial-looking man: “stoutish, clean-shaven...of middle height, and of a cheerful, round countenance.” He occasionally uses disguises, but his face seems not to be as well-known as he is. Hewitt is not given to vocal flights of deduction based on flimsy evidence. Rather, he uses what he calls “common sense and a sharp pair of eyes.” He’s a careful and intelligent observer, of both people and things, and he usually withholds his judgments and theories until as much information as possible has been gathered. His one rule of thumb is “the matter of accumulative probabilities;” if the likelihood of something is high, he takes it as a “practical certainty” and proceeds from there. This method has stood him in good stead. Hewitt is quite willing to go into the field to investigate, and go undercover. He’s a good enough actor to fool criminals, he’s knowledgeable about a wide range of subjects, and his grasp of thieves’ cant is better than most thieves.
Finally, there’s an embarassing bit of racism in “The Affair of the Tortoise” which, while not as bad as H.G. Wells’ anti-Semitism, nonetheless mars the Hewitt stories.
Case of the Ward Lane Tabernacle."
The e-text of a Hewitt case, courtesy of the wonderful folks at the Gaslight site.
e Yufeng. He Yufeng was created by Wen Kang, under the pseudonym of "Yanbei Xianren" and appeared in Ernü ying xiong zhuan (1851-1879). Wen Kang was from a prominent Manchu family and was a local official in Anhui and was appointed imperial agent to Lhasa. Ernü ying xiong zhuan is little known outside of China but is quite popular inside it, having inspired sixteen sequels. (It is, it must be said, quite similar in plot to the seventeenth century novel Haoqiu zhuan). The novel's title has been translated in several ways: The Gallant Maid, The Story of a Hero Boy and Hero Girls, A Tale of Heroes and Lovers, A Tale of Heroic Lovers, and Heroic Sons and Daughters. I'll go with The Gallant Maid, since I like that title best and two English versions of this novel have had that title. I've even seen He Yufeng's name translated as "Shisan Mei," but I've seen it as He Yufeng more often and so am going with that translation.
The Gallant Maid is about He Yufeng (Golden Phoenix or Jade Phoenix) and An Ji. An Ji is the son of the righteous official and Manchu bannerman An Xuehai. An Xuehai is falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned, and An Ji travels a long way to help his father, carrying a large load of silver to ransom him, only to be caught by criminals on the way. He Yufeng had planned to rob him to pay for her mother's funeral expenses but on learning of his filial motivations falls for him and becomes his protector. He Yufeng's own father had been killed by sorcery, years ago. He had been a high official from the Solid Yellow Banner, but his superior had ordered him to marry He Yufeng to his son, who was utterly unworthy of her (she's quite beautiful and very educated, and he is crude and quite below her). He Yufeng's father had refused to do that, so his superior had jailed him on false charges and then killed him via sorcery. He Yufeng, loyal to her father in the proper Confucian way, retreats to a rustic village with her mother and then goes to the underworld and trains herself as a nüxia, or female knight errant, to avenge her father. She's so strong and such a good fighter that all the other outlaws greatly respect and fear her. In the underworld she is known as Shisan Mei, "the Thirteenth Sister." He Yufeng resuces An Ji, defeats the bandits, gives their loot to the poor, and clears An Xuehai. She finds out the name of the official who was responsible for her father's death, but decides not to kill him because he serves the empire and she can't put a vendetta above the affairs of state. When she learns that the official was executed, she tries to commit suicide, feeling that her life's ambition is completed. She's finally convinced by An Xuehai that she can best honor her parents by tending their graves and continuing their line. So she marries An Ji, and unfortunately almost immediately becomes a properly demure & modest wife. Until that point, however, The Gallant Maid had been all about gender inversions, with He Yufeng being typically masculine and the timid, wussy An Ji being stereotypically feminine. He Yufeng so overshadows An Ji that all but three of the sequels to The Gallant Maid focus the events before the marriage.
He Yufeng is one of the quintessential nüxia. She is very brave, an excellent fighter, and can fly, but is also romantic, obedient, highly educated, quite feminine, and embodies all of the best Confucian principles, including piety and loyalty and a stern chivalry. She is not delicate, gobbling her food, being superhumanly strong, talking in a very aggressive way, and being quite willing to kill even when not threatened. She is also very similar to Jen, in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, in that while traveling to avenge her father she disguises herself as a young man. In this guise she is harassed by a gang of thugs, and she uses her powers to thoroughly beat them, destroying an inn in the process. (As I said, quite similar to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).
ighwaymen. The highwaymen was one of the most often used characters in dime novel and penny dreadful fiction, springing from the British bloods of the 18th century and back into the common English folklore.
Captain Hawk appeared in Black Highwayman Novels in 1876. He was your average dashing, heroic and noble highwayman. He has a "fine open countenance and sparkling eyes...a well-knit, muscular, yet lithe and elegant form, which were in the highest degree calculated to challenge the admiration of the fair sex." Riding his black horse Satan, he begins the story by retrieving Dick Turpin's corpse from the grasp of some body snatchers. He then...well, it's the usual exploits and hijinks. He eventually discovers that his enemy is Frederick, the Prince of Wales, and wins his pardon and the love of the fair Beatrice.
Dick Talbot was created by Albert W. Aiken and appeared in Beadle's Dime Library between 1871 and 1889. He goes by a number of names, "Gentleman Dick," "Injun Dick," and "the Ranch King" among them. He's actually Patrick Gwyne, an Easterner who moved West in search of adventure. In the West he became, variously, a gambler, miner, rancher, and road agent. He dresses quite snappily and is described ascool as a bank of snow melting under the shadows of the pines in a mountain canon (sic), wily as a panther, cunning as a fox, a man who knew not what fear was, who never turned his back on a foe, or hesitated to back a friend in a fair fight: quick as lightning on the trigger, spry as a cat with the bowie knife; the best two-handed sparrer that ever set foot in the Reese river valley, and the finest poker-player that ever handled a deck of cards.He has very poor luck with women, most of whom die when he decides to settle down with them. He is assisted, in his wandering, road agent days, by O-wa-he, the Indian otherwise known as "Mud Turtle," and by the scout Joe Bowers. After a crossover with Joe Phenix (see his entry in the Detective Heroes section) when Dick Talbot and Mud Turtle ventured into New York City, Dick bought a ranch near Arivaca, Arizona, along the Mexican border, and wipes out his enemies, finding peace at last.
olmes, Sherlock. Sherlock Holmes was created by A. Conan Doyle and debuted in “A Study in Scarlet” (Beeton’s Christmas Annual, 1887). Doyle (1859-1930) was the creator of a few characters on this site, including Nigel Loring.
When I began writing this site, back in 1998, one of my unspoken rules was that I’d save the most predictable entries for last. (When I say “last,” I don’t mean that I don’t have any more entries to do, but rather that, save for two texts, I’m done with the list of books I’d originally set out to read. I still have around 30 novels and 30 short stories to read before I’m done). That’s why I put off doing a full write-up on Raffles until now, and why the Three Musketeers didn’t appear here until last year. But as the time to write up Holmes grew closer I became somewhat irritated and slightly anxious. My approach to this site has been to read works which the intelligent amateur reader won’t be familiar with or won’t have read for years or decades and then provide commentary and analysis on those works. After all, many people have heard or seen treatments of Lorna Doone, but how many of us have read the book and realized how fine the adventures of John Ridd are?
But everyone’s read Sherlock Holmes stories. He’s one of the most famous characters on Earth. Literally. Doyle’s stories of Holmes have been translated into over fifty languages. Holmes has appeared in more films than any other character. Holmes may well have appeared in more stories than any other character on Earth, although Dixon Hawke is likely a strong second, if not the first. Holmes inspired hundreds of imitations, including the Chinese Fuermohsi of the late 1890s and early 1900s. There are journals devoted to Holmes. There’s no end of academic and popular writing about him. He’s familiar to everyone, even those who haven’t read his stories recently. What on Earth could I say about him that wasn’t utterly redundant?
I’m not sure I’ve answered that question with the following. But it is my reaction to the Holmes stories. I’m not going to describe them, since everyone reading this is quite familiar with them. Instead, I’m going to describe Holmes and add a little analysis of the stories.
No series of stories gets to be as widely read and loved as the Holmes stories without a certain amount of innate quality. They are, indeed, entertaining reads, and many of the puzzles and mysteries are intriguing and even fascinating, as are Holmes’ solutions. But the stories aren’t perfect, as Doyle himself admitted. There are the celebrated inconsistencies–how many wives did Watson have? Where was Watson’s wound? Did Holmes have huge gaps in his education or not? How can the contradictory dates of the stories be reconciled?–which won’t matter to the casual reader but which begin to accumulate while reading the Holmes canon straight through. Inattention to petty details is hardly a critical flaw, but it is a flaw–which, again, Doyle himself admitted. (But then, Doyle cared a lot more about his historical fiction than his mystery fiction, and put far more effort into The White Company and the Brigadier Gerard stories than he did into the Holmes stories).
Nor is Doyle a particularly compelling stylist. The stories are efficiently (if dryly) told, and Doyle’s narrative style improves as the years go by, but the most Doyle achieves is smoothness with the occasional flash of wit. His characters, with a few exceptions–Holmes and Moriarty, among a few others–are cursory sketches, and his dialogue utilitarian. Doyle is better in the short stories than in the novels, but even in the short stories he has an unfortunate tendency to interrupt the story with long explanations by various characters. Those stories told more or less in the present tense, like “The Final Problem,” are easier to read than those which follow the usual Holmes template and have Holmes’ client spend several pages explaining the problem before Holmes takes the case and the story resumes in the present.
I might go so far as to say that the appeal of the stories isn’t so much the fiction as it is what the fiction stands for. A lot of people have written a great deal about the appeal of the Holmes stories, such Edgar W. Smith:
We love the times in which he lived, of course, the half-remembered, half-forgotten times of snug Victorian illusion, of gaslit comfort and contentment, of perfect dignity and grace. And we love the place: the England of those times, fat with the fruits of her achievements, but strong and daring still with the spirit of imperial adventure. But there is more than time and space and the yearning of things gone by to account for what we feel toward Sherlock Holmes. Not only there and then, but here and now, he stands as a symbol, if you please, of all that we are not, but ever would be. We see him as the fine expression of our urge to trample evil and to set aright the wrongs with which the world is plagued. He is Galahad and Socrates, bringing high adventure to our dull existences and calm, judicial logic to our biased minds.This is twaddle, of course, a blatant romanticization of late Victorian London which ignores the darkness of imperial England and the real desperation of much of London’s population during the years of Holmes. The only sane response to “We love the times in which he lived” is “Who’s this ‘We’ then?” But people love their illusions, and Doyle conveys the romantic fantasy version of Victorian London well enough to lure otherwise sensible people in.
The other great appeal of the stories is the Holmesian pose. It was Raymond Chandler, I think, who pointed out that Doyle wasn’t that great a writer and that Sherlock Holmes really consists of attitude and a half-dozen good lines. The Holmesian pose is certainly an attractive one and provides the same type of Ubermensch fantasy figure role model as Superman. What people forget, though, is that the pose changed over time, as did Holmes himself.
Within the community of Holmes fans there is some controversy over the “real” Holmes canon. Generally speaking, though this is by no means universally true, Holmes fans view the pre-death stories as more legitimate than the post-death stories, with some going so far as to say that the Holmes who returned from a seeming grave in “The Empty House” wasn’t the -real- Sherlock Holmes. I’ve limited my reading of the Holmes stories to the pre-death stories: "A Study in Scarlet," "The Sign of the Four," and the stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. I’ve done this because the post-death stories were written after Victoria’s death, which is the rough cut-off point for works appearing on this site. (Also, I think Doyle’s heart just wasn’t in the post-death stories). But even in those 25 stories changes can be seen in both the stories and in Holmes himself.
The stories improve in quality and become smoother reading, as I mentioned above. Holmes himself becomes a warmer and less inhuman person, his negative qualities (which I’ll mention below) softened and his relationship with Watson slightly less abusive. The Holmesian pose in the early stories has a clear element of self-conscious superiority, while the pose in later stories acquires at least a nodding acquaintance with fallibility. Let’s face it, Holmes is an unlikable bastard in the early stories, and he and the Holmesian attitude don’t improve in that way for a number of stories. If you read those early stories, you’ll see what I mean, and marvel at Watson’s restraint at not throttling Holmes while he slept.
Likable or not, the Holmesian character type is a powerful one, both in terms of its appeal to reader and within the stories themselves. Holmes is a powerful character, physically (who can forget his trick with the poker in “The Speckled Band”?), but his knowledge and intellect, and his cutting tongue, dominate all those around him. It shouldn’t be wondered, then, that other mystery writers modeled their own characters on him. Holmes is the Great Detective par excellence. He wasn’t the first, of course; he had predecessors, from C. Auguste Dupin to Maximilien Heller. But Holmes caught the imagination of both the public and other mystery writers, and so it was Holmes and not Dupin who inspired so many imitations and permanently influenced the writing of mystery fiction. What Holmes contributed to the character type was his personal eccentricity and his stress upon logic.
Something that people often forget is that, as I said, Holmes isn’t very likeable, particularly in the early stories. Great Detective, yes, but socially awkward, to say the least, and a difficult person to be friends with, as I’m sure Watson would admit. On some few occasions he does show some warmth and affection for Watson, even if it is of the repressed Victorian style of his goodbye note to Watson in “The Final Problem:” “Pray give my greetings to Mrs. Watson, and believe me to be, my dear fellow, Very sincerely yours, Sherlock Holmes.” (That’s how Holmes says goodbye to his closest friend of over a decade. Repressed, if not smothered altogether). And there are moments when Holmes is genuinely concerned for Watson’s well-being. But there are many more moments of unkindness, of Holmes’ scorn (sometimes not well disguised at all) for Watson’s intellect, and of general rudeness. It’s a complicated relationship, similar to that of any old married couple. I don’t buy into the Holmes-as-repressed-gay-man theory, though. Holmes is above passion and distrusts emotion. That’s the whole point of Holmes, after all. If anything, he’s asexual, with his well-known admiration for Irene Adler being purely intellectual.
Logic is Holmes’ idea and his motivating force. But the other thing that drives him is pride, something Watson, duffer that he is, sees clearly. Holmes is very vain. It’s true that Holmes is an immodest man with much to be immodest about. He has great capabilities, and he’s well aware of all of them. His ego manifests itself in a number of ways. There’s his continual correction of Watson’s mistakes and the many small ways in which Holmes shows Watson up and puts him down. (The more devoted Holmesians among you may object and say that I’m being unfair to Holmes, but if you read those pre-death stories with an eye toward Holmes’ treatment of Watson you’ll see what I mean). There is Holmes’ “modest” (clearly false and quite unconvincing) over his “little” monographs. There is Holmes’ quite unjustified insults about Dupin and Lecoq in “A Study in Scarlet”–base jealousy from an unknown detective toward his more famous betters. And there is Holmes’ pettiness and almost compulsive abusiveness toward Lestrade and the other police. Holmes’ scorn for them isn’t even politely expressed.
Now, Holmes does soften somewhat in the later stories, becoming somewhat more humble, or at least willing to admit to the occasional error. He becomes less harsh in his insults and dismissals of others and more wry. But he never really loses his vanity.
I mentioned his devotion to logic and his abhorrence of emotion. This, plus too great a concentration on scientific experiments–he’s seen continually performing them throughout the stories–undoubtedly stunted his social growth, which is why he’s so socially awkward. He can be startlingly rude if interrupted. He can be very abrupt, disconcertingly so. And he is so far gone in his pursuit of science that he seems to think nothing of beating corpses in a dissecting room just to see how fast the bruises rise, as he does in “A Study in Scarlet.”
All of the preceding might suggest that I think Holmes is a bad person. I don’t, not really. Although there are times when it’s clear that Holmes is a consulting detective for pride’s sake and to sooth and flatter his vanity, there are a number of other moments when we see that he has a passion for justice. Similarly, there are also occasions when, faced with the choice between justice and mercy, Holmes chooses mercy.
But the real key to understanding his character is, I think, his mood swings. It’s a recurring theme in the Holmes stories: Holmes is either languid/lazy or in constant motion. He goes non-stop on cases, and then lapses into sullen, apathetic isolation. His infamous cocaine habit, Watson tells us, is Holmes’ antidote for this. Watson also describes Holmes as having a “Bohemian soul” because of his seeming slothfulness. Now, one could interpret Holmes’ inertia as part of the affected pose of upper class men in Britain in the early and mid 19th century, ala Bertie Cecil in Under Two Flags (see the Cigarette entry) and Raffles. But that doesn’t fit with Holmes’ record in the stories, particularly his cocaine addiction, which would not be done behavior. Michael Holmes, among others, as ascribed Holmes’ mood swings to his cocaine addiction. It’s an interesting argument, to be sure, but I think Michael Holmes has it in reverse. Holmes doesn’t have mood swings because he does coke. He does coke to offset the lows of his mood swings. And he has these lows because he’s a manic depressive.
I’m sure that Doyle didn’t know the phrase. But Holmes’ behavior certainly fits the m-d pattern: the manic, frenzied behavior during the highs, the emptiness and anomie during the lows.
Finally, there is Holmes’ friendship with Watson. E.W. Hornung wrote the Raffles stories as a kind of tribute to Doyle’s Holmes stories, and the Raffles-Bunny Manders partnership is a kind of reflection of the Holmes-Watson partnership. As I wrote in the Raffles entry, though, Hornung’s pair are complements to Doyle’s, rather than reflections. Holmes and Watson are friends, but it is not a standard friendship. Holmes has affection for Watson, certainly, but he also has a kind of contempt for him, and one senses, sometimes, that Holmes only tolerates Watson rather than genuinely enjoys his presences. Holmes does not hold Watson at the same distance that Raffles does to Bunny, but Holmes is much more emotionally distant than Raffles is. But Holmes also treats Watson with more respect than Raffles does Bunny.
Well, for someone who didn’t have much to say about Holmes, I said a lot. I suppose in the book I’ll add more of the normal, boring, cliched stuff about Holmes, but for this site I think I’ll end this now.
opley, Susan. Susan Hopley was created by Catherine Crowe and appeared in Adventures of Susan Hopley, or Circumstantial Evidence (1841). Crowe (1800-1872) is completely forgotten about today, but in her time she was a figure of some repute. Susan Hopley was a best-seller and popular as a play, her The Night Side of Nature (1848), an investigation of psychic phenomena, was well-known and influential, and Crowe herself was a respected figure among the Edinburgh intelligentsia. Charles Dickens himself thought well of her, and of Susan Hopley.
(Now is as good a time as any to point out that I'm hugely indebted, for this entry, to Lucy Sussex and her "The Detective Maidservant: Catherine Crowe's Susan Hopley," which appears in the Brenda Ayres' edited Silent Voices: Forgotten Novels by Victorian Women Writers).
Susan Hopley is about Susan Hopley, the child of a poor family. As children Susan and her brother Andrew are taken into the service of the Leesons, a member of the shabby gentility. The Leeson's son is Harry, and he and Susan and Andrew become friends. After the Leesons die the group are taken in by the Wentworths, Mrs. Leeson's uncle. Harry is due to receive a great fortune from Mr. Wentworth. The rest of the fortune will go to Fanny Wentworth. Fanny is engaged to Walter Gaveston, who a handsome man who excels at manly exercises, like the sports, but who has no great taste for work and in fact is a rotter through and through. Gaveston wants the whole fortune for himself and is willing to do anything to get it. He first tries to drown Harry, but Andrew saves him. Gaveston then murders Mr. Wentworth and Andrew (though Gaveston's culpability is not established until much later) and engineers the disappearance of Mabel Jones, a servant, so that it appears that Andrew murdered Mr. Wentworth for his money and then eloped with Mabel. In addition to this, the will which will give Harry his share of the inheritance vanishes. The rest of the novel concerns the lives of Susan and a large cast of characters and their efforts to find happiness and undue the injustices done to them by others, usually Mr. Gaveston (under assumed names) and Mr. Gaveston's servants (also under assumed names). By the end of the novel several wrongs have been righted, Mr. Gaveston has been shamed, his vileness exposed to the world, (and consequently he commits suicide), and Susan lives happily ever after as Harry Leeson's housekeeper and best friend.
Susan Hopley is overtly a novel of "domestic realism," a story of the lives, frustrations, and triumphs of women, rather than men. And given when it was written, it could hardly have been thought of as anything except a novel of domestic realism. The accurate terminology for Susan Hopley--it is a mystery--hadn't been coined yet. (Well, it had, but at the time it referred to Gothics, not novels of crime and detection. There weren't such things when Susan Hopley was written. Which is my point). In fact, Susan Hopley predates (even if only by a few months) the supposed founding of the genre of detective fiction, Edgar Allan Poe's "Murders in the Rue Rue Morgue" (see the will-eventually-be-substantially-revised Chevalier Dupin entry for more). Poe, as Lucy Sussex points out (and I repeat, I'm enormously her article for this entry, without which wouldn't have been written), could hardly have been unaware of Susan Hopley, which was a near-instant best-seller and was popular with all classes. "Rue Morgue" was published in April 1841, so Poe's story predates the theatrical version of Susan Hopley as well as T.P. Prest's 1841 penny blood Susan Hoply. But given Susan Hopley's popularity Poe must have been at least somewhat familiar with it. So it is not unreasonable to assume that he was in some way influenced by it.
You see why I’m including Susan Hopley on this site. It’s a mystery which predates the acknowledged (or at least commonly thought of) source of detective fiction and which was read, if not influential, on the man who is acknowledged (or at least commonly thought to have) created the genre of detective fiction. Susan Hopley is Important.
Is it good? I’m unsure. It is complex; there’s a large cast of characters, the story takes a number of twists, and Crowe abandons plot threads only to pick them up dozens and in some cases hundreds of pages later. The characterization is acceptable, although there’s a certain stridency in the attempts to arouse feelings and emotions in the reader. Although the novel is about the domestic lives of women Crowe does not really convey a sense, to the modern reader, about what life was like—as, for example, Anne Marsh-Caldwell does in Father Darcy. And on a purely subjective level I didn’t enjoy Crowe’s tendency to construct likeable characters and then inflict bad things on them. (Hardly the statement of a hardened critic, I realize, but I’m as much a reviewer as I am a critic). But there are some moments and revelations which will surprise even experienced readers; early on Susan has a prophetic dream which is surprisingly eerie, and the moment when Mr. Gaveston is going to attempt to cut the throat of Julia, a woman he wronged, is actually shocking—reading it, my reaction was, “No, she (Crowe) isn’t really going to do this, is she?”
Susan Hopley is not a professional detective, of course. (Julie Le Moine, the mother Julia, also investigates a mystery, but she is a lesser character). Susan works as a maid, and while she is a good person who hates injustice her motivations for solving crimes are essentially personal: to clear her family name and to help those she cares about. This does not make her any less of a detective, of course, but it does differentiate her from the professional detectives, like Dupin, who solve crimes they are emotionally disinterested in. Hopley is an amateur detective, similar to Mme. De Scudéry, although Hopley is more intimately connected to the crimes she solves and helps solve than Mme. De Scudéry is. As a detective Susan is very basic, using her innate intelligence, the examination of crime scenes (where Mr. Wentworth was murdered), and discussions with witnesses to solve crimes.
orla. The Horla was created by Guy de Maupassant and appeared in “The Horla.” The publication history of “The Horla” is somewhat complicated; its first appearance was as “Lettre d’un Fou” (Le Gil Blas, 17 February 1885), but “Lettre” is quite dissimilar to the final version of the story. The second version was “Le Horla,” which appeared in Le Gil Blas on 26 October 1886, and the third and final version was “Le Horla,” which appeared in Le Horla 1887. De Maupassant (1850-1893) was one of the great short story writers, of France or any other country. He wrote with an almost brutal realism and an insightful grasp of human psychology; he was sympathetic only to the poor and the outcasts of society.
"The Horla" is one of the great horror short stories of all time. I’m usually a little chary of such pronouncements, because I’m not well-read enough in the field to judge greatests and bests, but it’s hard to imagine horror stories being much better than “The Horla,” and my opinion matches the critics’, so there you go. “The Horla is about a nameless Frenchman whose lovely live near Rouen is disrupted by the appearance of an invisible something. The disruption begins slowly, with the narrator simply feeling slightly ill and of low spirits. As time passes he feels increasingly feverish. But the narrator is bothered far more by the feeling that he is not alone, that there is a someone or something in his presence which he cannot see. At night, the narrator dreams that there is something on his neck, strangling him, but he wakes up to find he is alone. The narrator goes on a trip and returns, “quite cured,” though during the trip he had a disturbing conversation with a monk who pointed out that other creatures on the earth besides men are not impossible, as we do not see the hundred-thousandth part of what exists–the wind knocks down men, but we do not see it. But once back in his house he feels badly again, and his coachman feels poorly, as well–and tells him that “there has been a spell over me” since his departure. The bad feelings intensify, and the at night the narrator feels “somebody leaning on me and sucking my life from between my lips.” The narrator sees physical evidence for the invisible creature’s existence: water-bottles which are mysteriously emptied overnight, food which when set out at night is eaten by the morning, and so on. The narrator leaves for Paris and recovers his health quickly, deciding that he has been “the plaything of my enervated imagination, unless I am really a somnambulist.” But in Paris he hears a frightening story about the power of mesmerism.
On returning again to his home he finds matters worse. Glasses are broken during the night, the narrator sees a rose picked by an invisible hand, and an external mental pressure stopping him from venturing too far from his home. The narrator begins to wonder if he has truly gone mad. The external mental pressure becomes full mind control, so that “somebody orders all my acts, all my movements, all my thoughts.” The narrator gains a momentary escape, but is mentally seized near the railway station and forced to return. And then, most frighteningly, the narrator begins to hear the invisible, alien being’s thoughts and to think them–not always, but often enough so that the narrator knows that he is thinking another’s thoughts, a being which calls itself “the Horla.” The narrator reads a newspaper article about an “epidemic of madness” in Rio de Janeiro, where “the terrified inhabitants are leaving their houses, saying that they are pursued, possessed, dominated like human cattle by invisible, though tangible beings, a species of vampire, which feed on their life while they are asleep.” The narrator concludes that “the reign of man is over” and another race, “he who was feared by primitive man; whom disquieted priests exorcises; whom sorcerers evoked on dark nights,” has come to replace humanity. The narrator thinks about killing the creature, and manages to trap it in his house and then torches the house, but–he is not sure the Horla is dead. “Then–then–I suppose I must kill myself!...”
“The Horla” is superior horror entertainment for a number of reasons. One of the reasons I rate it so highly is that de Maupassant leaves enough ambiguity in the story so that it cannot be said with 100% certainty whether the Horla actually exists or whether the narrator is simply going insane. When de Maupassant wrote “The Horla” he was only five years away from his suicide attempt; he had suffered syphilis from his 20s, and the disease, in his later years, caused increasing mental disorder, which critics have seen reflected in his stories. De Maupassant was obviously not too insane to write, and write well, but his syphilis dementia can be seen in the lunatic intensity of “The Horla,” and an argument can be made that the narrator of the story is mad, not haunted, and that the story is told from the point of view of the Unreliable Narrator, which can be annoying in the hands of the postmoderns but which when properly handled, as in Detour, can add a frisson of creepiness and grue to a story.
(Most interpretations of the story, however–and the one I tend to agree with–see the Horla as an actual vampire, albeit one written before Stoker’s creation cast such a shadow over all conceptions of the vampire).
What makes “The Horla” such a classic is the way in which de Maupassant, through the first person narration and the intense descriptions, creates impressions in the mind of the reader. Needless to say, these impressions are of a splintering mind, of a malign presence which rarely leaves the narrator and invades his consciousness, and of a creeping threat. Few stories are better than “The Horla” at creating a nightmarish atmosphere of both danger and insanity, and few stories do better at chilling those who are not ordinarily frightened by horror fiction.
“The Horla” itself is (if it exists at all) an invisible being, alien to humanity but a native to Earth. It cannot be seen by human eyes, but when interposed between a human and a mirror it blocks the reflection of the human’s body. It can be frightened and perhaps even killed, and when it is frightened its control over human minds wavers, but generally its mental control is so strong that humans cannot break it. The Horla (and it is not clear whether that is the name of the species or simply this individual’s name) consumes milk and water but will not touch wine, bread or strawberries. It seems to live on what it takes from humans, but what that is–health? sanity?–is ambiguous. The Horla isn’t completely malign; it enjoys flowers, reads the narrator’s books, and seems to prey on humanity not through evil intent but simply because we are livestock to them. (So perhaps “The Horla” has a pro-vegetarian message?)
“The Horla” should be on anyone’s list of Ten Best Horror Stories of the 19th Century. It’s that good.
The e-text of the story. From the Litrix Reading Room.
oroscope, Ptolemy. Ptolemy Horoscope was created by Richard Thomson and appeared in several stories in Volume Three of Tales of An Antiquary (1828). Richard Thomson (1794-1865) was for over thirty years was the librarian of the London Institution, an early science popularisation organisation; as a writer he produced several books on British and London history. Tales of an Antiquary are essentially fictionalised retellings of British and London folklore. The stories with Ptolemy Horoscope are some of the more outré stories in the three-volume work, as they include what can only be the Voice Of God.
But I get ahead of myself. In the year 1716 Ptolemy Horoscope is living in Little Britain, the "bibliopolical part of London," where all the booksellers and publishers live. His former landlady says he "tauld the fortunes o' a' the warld, for the people wad be coming in the morn, and in the day-time,a nd in the dark night when naebody could see them." He's an astrologer and interpreter of the stars who serves the public, but because he is so good at what he does and his readings are so accurate, he's consulted by the highest in the land, even the nobility. (It's hinted that he's been a consultant to not just the loftiest members of Parliament and the British royalty but also to foreign dignitaries). But he serves all who come to him, down to the meanest members of society.
Like, say, Dick Turpin, the infamous highwayman. As it turns out Horoscope isn't home when Turpin comes to him for advice, so Horoscope's assistant, Titus Parable, a man greedy for lucre and for the gifts that Horoscope displays, poses as Horoscope. Parable is giving a false prediction when a mysterious, hollow voice predicts Turpin's future. It's a true prediction, of course, and the implication the reader is left with is that G-d Himself spoke at that time, and gives Horoscope advice. In other stories the hollow voice aids Horoscope's predictions, always truly.
owel, Ivor Ap Griffith Ap. Ivor Ap Griffith Ap Howel was created by “Owen Rhoscomyl” and appeared in The Jewel of Ynys Galon (1895). “Owen Rhoscomyl,” aka “Arthur Owen Vaughan,” aka Robert Scourfield Mills (1863-1919) was a Welsh adventurer and author. I haven’t been able to find much about Mills, though he seems an interesting sort. He was a Welsh patriot and wrote both fiction and non-fiction about Wales’ history. (The “adventurer” often attached to his name piques my interest, but I haven’t found any good stories to accompany that label). Mills was a contemporary of the great Stanley Weyman (see the entry on the Vicomte de Saux for more information on Weyman) and was one of the Yellow Nineties authors influenced by him. Mills was the foremost of those authors to choose Wales as his locus of his fictional adventures.
The Jewel of Ynys Galon was Mills’ first book, and a pretty good debut novel it is. (As with Weyman, I’m choosing Jewel as representative of Mills’ work). Set on the coast of Wales in the mid-17th century, it is about Ivor Meyric, a.k.a. Ivor Ap Griffith Ap Howel, and his family and friends in the village of Pwllwen. Ivor’s foster-brother, Will Barry, is one of the two rightful heirs to the Island of Ynys Galon and the Spanish galleon treasure hidden somewhere on the island. Unfortunately, the other rightful heir is Meyric Ddu ap Morgan, a.k.a. Sir Henry Morgan, or Captain Morgan of song, story, and demon rum. Ynys Galon can only be claimed by the owner of the Jewel of Ynys Galon fighting all other claimants, naked (don’t ask me why, that was the deathbed requirement of Ynys Galon’s last king) and armed with swords. Will and Morgan eventually do fight, after the Welsh of Pwllwen have bloodily slaughtered Morgan’s pirates, and Will kills Morgan.
The preceding makes it sound like Will and not Ivor is the real hero of the book, and I have to admit that after reading Jewel I’d agree with that assessment. Ivor is the narrator and main character, but he’s almost a supporting character in his own story, since the plot is about the restoration of the Morgans to Ynys Galon. Ivor is nonetheless an interesting case. He’s heroic and good in a fight (after the main battle with the pirates Ivor earns the name “Ivor-y-Fwyall,” or “Ivor of the Axe,” since he used an axe to kill several pirates). He’s also very immature (not more than 18 or 19, and just thrown out of college for fighting), almost insufferably vain, exceedingly proud, and not a little headstrong. After the first thirty pages the modern reader is predisposed to dislike Ivor, even with his role as the heroic protagonist. But, interestingly and to Mills’ credit, Ivor is not a stereotypical teenager. He loves his father, even reveres him, and what’s better respects him. When Ivor does wrong, he immediately confesses it to his father, who loves him back and forgives him his wrongs (which are the product of impetuous youth rather than a bad spirit). Ivor genuinely respects the elders of his town, and though proud (he repeatedly struts and swaggers through Pwllwen in his finery) he is polite and respectful (that word again) towards his father’s friends and contemporaries and even his father’s tenants. And though Ivor is proud, as mentioned, he isn’t boastful, and would prefer to sing the praises of his father or foster-brother than himself.
Jewel is not a little interesting because of this. It’s got swashbuckling, pirates on the Welsh coast, an immortal, prophesying hag/witch, and enough derring-do to keep me interested, but making Ivor more than a one-dimensional teenager was what really kept me reading.
uman Bat. The Bat first appeared in The Funny Wonder, March 1899. The Bat is John Holloway, a lively young lad whose father is the 17th Baron of Fingall, lord of a sizable Irish estate. However, his rival in Parliament connives with a cousin to swindle Fingall out of his wealth and manor. Holloway is still in school and seemingly cannot do anything to help his father. But he discovers that a special suit he'd been given by his father's butler/valet/batman enables him to glide through the air; the suit is a caped affair made for formal dinners, but with a mask it lets Holloway glide around incognito. Holloway then begins using it to fight for his father; he takes up the identity of the Human Bat so much that he begins hiding out at night in a local cave and sleeping upside down, hanging from the ceiling by his feet. Eventually, of course, Holloway helps his father regain his good name and wealth, as well as stymieing various Chinese smugglers and getting a kiss from the girl who was his best friend growing up. (That's John on the prowl, going after one of the hirelings of the man who swindled Fingall out of his money and land)
umphreys, Fred. Fred Humphreys appeared in Frank Stockton's "The Tricycle of the Future," which was published in the May 1885 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine. Information on Stockton can be found in the War Syndicate entry. Humphreys is another of the boy inventors, along the lines of Frank Reade, Jr., and Jack Wright. He's a lot more humble and childlike, however, and without the hubris of both characters. Young Fred is a bicycle enthusiast, owning one of the first in his town. He's dissatisfied with the size of his bike, however, and it occurs to him that the principle behind the bicycle could be applied to something bigger. So he draws up plans for a two-story bicycle bus. The "tricycle of the future" is powered by two horses, who walk on a treadmill; the tricycle is steered by handlebars in the front of the trike. Humphreys builds the tricycle, and it works well at first, but the horses become excited and begin running, and soon the tricycle is moving too fast. It's at this point that Fred realises he did not build a braking or disengaging device into the tricycle. The trike crashes into the river. Fred and the horses swim ashore, and the story ends with an abashed Fred learning his lesson and agreeing to stick to conventional bicycles.
ur, Ben. Ben Hur was created by Lewis Wallace and appeared in Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880). Wallace (1827-1905) is a more interesting person than the strident Christianity of Ben-Hur might indicate. He was a Major-General in the Union Army during the American Civil War, serving with distinction at Monocacy River in 1864 but making a costly mistake at Shiloh. He helped railroad those alleged to have plotted to kill Lincoln and Henry Wirtz, Camp Commander of Andersonville, the infamous Confederate POW camp. (Which is not to say that the plotters and Wirtz weren’t guilty of what they were charged with, simply that Wallace was interested in vengeance, not justice). He was a failed governor of New Mexico and a Resident-Minister to the court of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, where he became the Sultan’s friend. And Wallace was constitutionally incapable of admitting that he ever made a mistake, so that to the end of his days he blamed Grant for his own errors to Shiloh. Worse,Wallace continued to talk about what a good man the Sultan was even after it became widely known that the Sultan had organized the 1894-1896 Hamidian massacres.
Wallace is in many ways more interesting than Ben-Hur itself. (The tens of thousands of people who read the novel during the 19th century–it was the best selling American novel of the century–and the millions more who’ve read it since then would disagree with me, obviously). Ben-Hur, in case you’ve never read the book or seen the film, is about Ben-Hur, a Jew alive during the Christ’s lifetime. Wallace used the novel as a platform to preach about the glories of Christianity, so that the first eighth of the book is about the lives of Balthasar, Gaspar, and Melchior, the Three Wise Men, and how they find the Christ child. Many pages are spent in lectures by Wallace (through his mouthpiece characters) about how Christianity supercedes Judaism in God’s eyes, the anti-Semitic Supersessionist myth which has created such hatred over the centuries. Wallace writes in a dated style using a formal diction (“By Pallas, thou art beautiful! Beware Apollo mistake thee not for his lost love”), and this has a distancing effect on the reader (at least, it did for me), so that it’s harder than it should be to see the characters as real. To be fair, before Ben Hur gets Christ he’s realistically drawn, and his enmity with the Roman Messala has some real passion to it. But then religion rears its ugly head and spoils the novel. (As with the works of Charles Kingsley, the storyteller in Wallace is at odds with the preacher. But Wallace’s preaching wins out over his storytelling, which is not the case with Kingsley). Too, there’s a straining after effect, with Wallace trying far too hard to evoke emotions. Finally, there’s a general prolixity to Ben-Hur which Wallace’s abilities are insufficient to make interesting.
Ben Hur, as mentioned, is a Jew in the years of Christ’s life. He’s a “prince of the house of Hur” who can trace his bloodline back to David himself. In his early years he doesn’t really know what to do with himself, but after breaking with his childhood friend Messala (who went to Rome a decent enough chap and returned a real rotter) he accidentally drops a tile on the head of a Roman commander. For this Ben Hur is sentenced to life on a galley while his estates are confiscated and his mother and sister condemned to spend life in a leper’s prison. Ben Hur gets bulked up after a few years on a galley and then saves the life of the galley owner. For this the owner adopts Ben Hur as his son, which allows Ben to train at arms, to travel, and to learn how to drive a chariot. Eventually Ben Hur returns to Jerusalem, befriends his father’s servant and his father’s Arab friend, and enters himself into a major chariot race against Messala. Ben Hur wins, crippling Messala and enriching himself in the process. Ben Hur then begins searching for his mother and sister, who meanwhile are let out of prison and suffer for a while as lepers before Christ heals them. They are reunited and become Christians. Christ is crucified, but Ben Hur lives happily ever after with Esther, his wife.
(As a side-note, the 1891 edition of Ben-Hur I read had some very nice black-and-white ink drawings of various things along the borders of every page. Every page, all 800+ of them. And no two of the drawings were the same. The amount of effort which must have gone into this edition is staggering).
urly, Lewis. Lewis Hurly was created by Rosa Mulholland and appeared in "The Haunted Organist of Hurly-Burly," which first appeared in The Haunted Organist of Hurly-Burly (1891). Mulholland (1841-1921) was a writer of horror stories, among other things. She's best known for "Not To Be Taken At Bed-Time," for more on which see the Coll Dhu entry. She also wrote the splendid "The Ghost at the Rath," for more on which see the Madeline, Lady Thunder entry.
"The Haunted Organist of Hurly-Burly" begins with the unfortunate Burlys, a couple brought together in their old age by a common sorrow: their son, dead these twenty years. Then a pretty young Italian woman appears on their doorstep and tells them "It was but last week that the handsome signor, our son, came to my little house, where I have lived teaching music since my English father and my Italian mother and brothers and sisters died and left me so lonely." Lewis often came to see Lisa, the organist, and spurred her on to play for him, until finally he said, "Now you are my betrothed" and told her to go to her parents and play the organ in their house. Unfortunately, this is the same organ that Lewis killed himself playing. As a young man he fell among bad companions, and after a heartless prank at a funeral the father of the deceased cursed Lewis Hurly to all eternity, and told him that he would be forced to play his organ until his fingers "stiffened in death." This Lewis did, expiring in agony. Lisa, despite the best efforts of the Hurleys and Lewis' former betrothed, is trapped in the curse, and suffers Lewis' fate--guided or possessed by the ghost of Lewis himself....
"The Haunted Organist of Hurly-Burly" is not frightening; the masterful approach which Mulholland used to such great effect in "The Ghost at the Rath" is missing here. "The Haunted Organist" is, unfortunately, rather predictable. But it's a very well told predictable story. Mulholland has a lovely, descriptive style with some great imagery, and the unhappy ending of "The Haunted Organist" has a bracing effect. No sentiment here--an active curse and unhappy ending for all involved.
yde, Edward. Edward Hyde and his more civilized alter-ego Dr. Henry Jekyll were created by Robert Louis Stevenson and appeared in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). Stevenson, of course, was one of the major writers of popular fiction in the 19th century, and hardly needs commenting on from me. Likewise, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is sufficiently well-known that a lengthy plot summary is pointless. Most people know the story, whether from having read the book while children or in school or from having seen one of the movie versions: Dr. Henry Jekyll takes a drug of his own devising which turns him into Mr. Edward Hyde. Henry Jekyll is a good man, with a sterling reputation and several close friends. Edward Hyde is an amoral brute who tramples children and kills old men without compunction. The two cannot coexist in the same body for overlong, and eventually Jekyll kills himself to stop Hyde.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is very commonly known. It’s in the Victorian canon by now, and no less than John Fowles wrote that "the fact that every Victorian had two minds ... makes the best guidebook to the age very possibly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Behind its latterday Gothick lies a very profound and epoch-revealing truth." The very phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” has become a cliche. But I think it’s also true that most people have not read the novel as adults, and that they are unfamiliar with some of the specifics of the book. Stevenson’s first version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was criticized by his wife for being “merely a story–a magnificent bit of sensationalism–when it should have been a masterpiece.” Stevenson responded by burning the original manuscript and rewriting it into the form we know, making the allegory of the split personality more explicit. It’s the allegory that draws most of the attention from readers. What’s often overlooked is that the story is quite readable. Stevenson’s style is somewhat stodgy, but he’s got a deft hand at physical description, and his dialogue is at the very least utilitarian, and more than occasionally apt. We never really see Hyde’s perspective, but the wretched nature of Jekyll is fleshed out, giving the novel a psychological element other, similar stories of the time often lacked.
And then there’s the allegory. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde admits of many interpretations: Hyde as the Victorian underclass, Hyde as the repressed Id, Hyde as evolutionary throwback, and even, pace Elaine Showalter, Hyde as Jekyll’s gay side, with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde being “a fable of fin-de-siècle homosexual panic, the discovery and resistance of the homosexual self.” Interpreting the allegory (something that Stevenson, as far as I know, never explicitly did himself) is an almost irresistable game for the critic and an easy mark for any lazy student.
Naturally, I have to take a crack at it. I think the “Hyde is the Victorian underclass” argument is an interesting one but wholly dependent on the political leanings of the critic. It’s interesting, but not supported by the novel any more than any other ideologically-motivated argument. I don’t find the “Hyde as the repressed Id” argument particularly compelling, either. What a lot of people forget is that Hyde is not all rage or unchecked urges. Hyde is like the Monster in Frankenstein in this. People think of the Monster as being mute and stupid (because of the movie portrayals, of course), when the book version of the Monster is actually literate and articulate. People tend to think of Hyde as being all emotion, especially angry, when the truth is that he is not unintelligent, is often civil, and easily controls himself on a few occasions. He can certainly rage and be savage, but when confronted by a crowd or by one of Jekyll’s friends, he’s quite cool.
Showalter’s argument is intriguing but ultimately not convincing. Admittedly the story lacks women entirely, with every character being a bachelor. But to interpret the horror caused by Hyde in a sexual manner is to make a leap in judgment that is not borne out by the text itself. If Hyde is in fact the repressed homosexual side of Jekyll, why is Jekyll so relieved when he stops becoming Hyde? Sometimes an all-male story has homosexual underpinnings. And sometimes a bunch of men is just a bunch of men.
No, I think the “Jekyll and Hyde as parable about evolution” argument is the soundest of them (though not, as I’ll conclude, ultimately the soundest). Consider that Jekyll’s obsession is with something that his friend Lanyon calls “unscientific balderdash,” and that Lanyon and Jekyll have “differed at times on scientific questions.” Consider the physical descriptions of Hyde, the “inexpressible deformity” he exhibits and the “mere animal terror” of his cry, and the “quick light way” in which Hyde walks. Hyde is smaller than Jekyll (not bigger, which is another fact about Jekyll and Hyde which most people forget). Finally, most symbolically, there is the “pious work” which Jekyll held in “great esteem” which Hyde “annotated, in his own hand, with startling blasphemies.”
Under the evolutionary-parable interpretation, Hyde is a brutal evolutionary throwback. Defacing Jekyll’s “pious work” is a blow by evolution against religion. The “quick light way” in which Hyde walks is catlike, and the “scientific questions” which Lanyon and Jekyll differ on are not sexual questions, but scientific–i.e., evolutionary–ones. Hyde’s “deformity” is the face of an earlier version of homo sapiens. Hyde is smaller than Jekyll because most of the primates are smaller than humans.
One could make a longer argument out of this, and if I were still in grad school I would. But ultimately I don’t think this allegory is what Stevenson meant. It’s stated explicitly by Jekyll that Hyde is smaller than he because his sins are “less robust and less developed” than his good side. Hyde’s face is not just ugly or deformed, it inspires instant and vicious loathing, to a supernatural degree. The revulsion Hyde causes is beyond reason; merely looking at him makes one “turn sick and white with the desire to kill him.” The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can be interpreted many ways, but finally it is, I think, a work of horror as much as science fiction. Mr. Hyde is Wrong, in the same way that haunted houses are Wrong. Hyde cannot, finally, be explained by science, but by religion or magic. It may be that Stevenson never intended the allegory of Jekyll and Hyde to fully be plumbed, but rather to retain its mystery, and thereby its power.
ypnotist. This nameless character was created by Ernest R. Suffling and appeared in The Story Hunter, a collection of linked short stories published in 1896. Suffling I know nothing of, apart from the various books he wrote, mostly adventure stories for children; even the dates of his birth and death have so far eluded me. But I have read The Story Hunter, and so while I can't tell you about Suffling himself I can tell you about his hypnotist character.
The Hypnotist, a young English gentlemen of a "small but ample" fixed income, has no wife or friends, but rather lives in a caravan (wagon or van, to us Amurrikens) and travels throughout Britain and Scotland year 'round. His wanderlust suits him, because it gives him freedom and allows him to indulge his favored hobby: hypnotism. He is "reasonably expert" in the field, although by no means a prodigy, and uses it to draw fascinating stories from his guests. These men and women are, of course, willing participants--no mind-control wielder, the narrator. With his gift for hypnotism and his footloose lifestyle, the Hypnotist comes in contact with a wide range of men and women. He meets Dr. Nosidy, a "genius deranged" who bears some resemblace (physically, at least) to Thomas Edison. Nosidy tells him of his discovery of "brain ether," the residue of the human soul, and of how he proved its existence by communicating with a 3000-year-old mummy. The Hypnotist meets a gentleman of means on the Cornwall coast; the gentleman tells the Hypnotist of his encounter, in the Italian Alps, with the Wandering Jew, who turns out to be rather a genial chap, and who helps the gentleman uncover sunken treasure and enrich himself. The Hypnotist encounters an old workman along the coast of Norfolk, and the workman, Billy, tells the Hypnotist about the uncanny resurrection of a sunken English brig. The Hypnotist meets a small, plain man of rubicund appearance, who tells him of his telepathic contact with Friar Bacon, who six hundred years after his death is living, in spirit form, on Mars, with various other "Advancers of the Species." The Hypnotist meets "a well-known artist and author" in Norwich, and the author tells the Hypnotist about the finding of the treasure of Barbe Rouge, "a piratical sea-dog of the eighteenth century." The Hypnotist meets an old gentleman near Birmingham, and the old man tells the Hypnotist about a manuscript containing the biography of a man captured by Robin Hood. The Hypnotist meets an elderly fisherman on the coast of Norfolk, and the fisherman tells the Hypnotist about his meeting with a shipwrecked Wandering Dutchman, and of the Dutchman's killing of his faithless wife, and their later burial at sea. The Hypnotist meets his friend, a monk, north of London, and gets a story of a monk in a painted window come to life. In Aberdeen the Hypnotist meets Old John Beamish, a Jolly Jack Tar, and Beamish tells the Hypnotist about the discovery, on a deserted Arctic island, of a man who put himself in suspended animation in 1773. And the Hypnotist, in North Somersetshire, talks with a farmer and blacksmith who tells him about the Haunted Field, the location where once stood a haunted mansion--and this now-decayed manse really was haunted, something of a surprise to the rationalist Hypnotist.
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