adame Koluchy. Mme. Koluchy, like Madame Sara (see her entry below), was the creation of L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace in The Brotherhood of the Seven Stars (1899). (for information on them see the Madame Sara entry) Madame Koluchy is the head of the Brotherhood of the Seven Kings, a secret society which first established itself in Italy in the 18th century and terrorized the country ever since. In 1894, led by Madame Koluchy, it began to spread to England itself. She is "beautiful" and "a scientist of no mean attainments herself," but evil through and through, responsible for horrible (and unnamed) crimes, and the narrator, Mr. Head, who fell in love with her (as "Katherine") in 1884, fled from her and the Brotherhood to England, to place himself "under the protection of its laws." Then, ten years later, she appears in England under the name of "Madame Koluchy," a worker of wonder cures--"the rage of the season, the great specialist, the great consultant." In this guise she has insinuated herself into London's High Society and is the talk of the town, a trick Meade would use in the Madame Sara stories. When the narrator encounters her again ("a stately woman...a diamond star flashed in her dusky hair. On her neck and arms diamonds also glittered. She had an upright bearing and a regal appearance. Her rosy lips were smiling. The marked intelligence and power of her face could not fail to arrest attention, even in the most casual observer") he knows who she is, and she immediately recognises him--and so the duel begins, Koluchy doing her level best to carry out the goals of the Brotherhood (which seem ill-defined, but they're a Secret Societytm, so you can draw your own conclusions about them), and the plucky, stiff Mr. Head trying to stop her and save various innocent lives, including a young boy and a prize racehorse. She uses scientific devices to achieve her ends, including trying to kill someone by a massive dose of X-rays, an enormous magnet, and a "superoxyhydrogen torch." The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings is a neat little adventure story with an interesting villainess; Koluchy is not on the level of the magnificent Madame Sara, but she's still pretty good. Mr. Head is clearly not her equal, but Meade & Eustace couldn't let her win; still, anyone who would inject an annoying treacly young boy with the Mediterranean fever and let loose tse tse flies on England is someone you just have to admire.
Brotherhood of the Seven Stars
The e-text of the story. From the Gaslight site.
adame Sara. L. T. Meade (1854-1914) was a writer of great production, yet she is mostly forgotten about today. In many cases that's as it should be, for most of her output was mediocre. But in the character of Madame Sara Meade created an immortal. That Mme Sara is overlooked today is more than unfortunate; it's inexcusable.
Madame Sara appeared in six stories: "Madame Sara," "The Blood Red Cross," "The Face of the Abbot," "The Talk of the Town," "The Bloodstone," and "The Teeth of the Wolf." These six stories were published in The Strand magazine in v. 24-25, October 1902 to March 1903. The stories were collected together in The Sorceress of the Strand (1903).
Madame Sara is a femme fatale, but far more than a mere film noir femme fatale. Mme Sara is not just fatale, but fatal. She is an adventuress, a poisoner, a surgeon, and an habitué of high society.
of the Strand
Three e-texts, which you should go read while I come up with the right words to describe Mme Sara.
[More information on Mme. Sara will eventually be forthcoming, Dear Reader. For a long time I was too busy working on my Pulp Heroes site to do Mme. Sara justice, and then the writing of my first book got in the way, and now the writing of the manuscript for The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana has taken up my time. But worry not, before the manuscript is finished, which should be in May or June of 2004, I will return to the Madame Sara entry and devote to it the time and energy which it, and she, deserves--Your Humble Web Master]
aldoror. Maldoror was created by “the Comte du Lautréamont” and appeared in Les Chants de Maldoror (The Lay of Maldoror, 1869). The “Comte du Lautréamont” was the pseudonym of Isidore Lucien Ducasse (1846-1870), a French writer about whom little is known. Ducasse died young, frozen to death in a garret, copies of Maldoror stacked around him. It was only years later that Andre Breton and a few others discovered Maldoror and grabbed the still-available copies of the novel. Breton and then Philippe Soupault issued new editions of the book, and Ducasse/Maldoror were enormously influential on the Surrealists, with Ducasse being seen as the primary 19th century precursor of the Surrealists and Dadaists.
Maldoror is not like the other works on this site. It’s an avant-garde novel made up of prose poems. Maldoror is non-linear and contains not so much a plot as a series of non-sequential episodes and philosophical harangues, and so a recitation of what happens in the novel would be pointless. Maldoror is about a brilliant, disfigured, malcontent outcast, Maldoror, who hates humanity and God and loves evil. Maldoror fantasizes about sadism, violence, and blasphemy, and imagines himself at war against society and against God. Maldoror sees humanity as animals and pretenses to civilization as hypocrisy. Rare displays of compassion–positive feelings and actions are rare in Maldoror’s world–only anger him further, since they go unrewarded and contrast all the more the degraded state of men. And in this world God is cruel, taking hypocritical pleasure from suffering, so that Maldoror’s cruelty is a kind of rebellion–his ultimate dream is to depose God and reign in his place. Maldoror wrestles with an angel and kisses the angel’s cheek with his poisoned tongue, so that the angel becomes a vast, gangrenous wound.
The name “Lautréamont” was taken from Eugène Sue’s historical romance Lautreamont, which features an arrogant, blasphemous hero quite similar to Maldoror.
Maldoror, for all its scabrous intensity, is not a bad or uninteresting read. Ducasse writes energetically. His imagery, even when morally or aesthetically revolting, is vivid. He alternates the speed of his prose to match the theme of what he describes. The text is almost feverish intense, and although much of it revolts it also fascinates. The mind that could create a character which laughs at sailors being eaten by a shark and then swims out to have sex with that shark is not a healthy mind, but also not an unintelligent one. Maldoror is hallucinogenic and surreal in its juxtaposition of images and the transitions between Maldoror’s first-person narration and third-person description of Maldoror, the nonlinearity of the narration.
Maldoror himself is a philosopher, of a sort. He thinks deeply about existence and the roles of the Creator and humanity in it. But his conclusion is that God is hateful, that humanity is contemptible, and that existence is disgusting. But he differs from characters like Kreuzgang in that Maldoror glorifies cruelty, writing rhapsodically about torturing boys and sucking their blood and tears. Maldoror is a more energetic nihilist than Kreuzgang; and Maldoror embraces hate–of man, of society, of God–while Kreuzgang is simply disgusted with everything.
an in the Corner. The Man in the Corner, who is never named and only referred to by this title or as "The Old Man in the Corner," is the creation of Baroness Emmuska Orczy. Orczy (1865-1947) was an Hungarian-English artist, playwright, and author. She is best known now for the Scarlet Pimpernel, but in her day she was as well known for her romantic novels and for her paintings, several of which were hung in the Royal Academy. She created a number of interesting detective characters, including Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk of the Female Department of Scotland Yard and Patrick Mulligan, the lawyer-detective known as "Skin o' My Tooth." But neither of those two worthies is as memorable or important as the Man in the Corner, who first appeared in a series of stories appearing in The Royal Magazine from April to October 1902; these stories were later collected and published as The Old Man in the Corner (1909) and The Case of Miss Elliott (1905) (the confusion of dates is deliberate; the latter was the second book in the sequence, but was published four years before the first book in the sequence. Go figure).
The Man in the Corner is one of the first and remains one of the greatest of the armchair detectives, that class of worthies who do not do any investigative work to solve crimes, but sit comfortably in their armchairs or clubs, solving the crimes simply by deduction & the use of their advanced brains. He is old, pale, thin, and has thinning, light-colored hair. The Man sits in a London tea shop, fiddling with a piece of string and talking to Polly Burton, a young reporter for the Evening Observer. She is always eager for a story or a good tale, and so eggs him on when he says things like "It has often been declared that a murder--a successful murder, I mean--can never be committed single-handed in a busy city, and that on the other hand, once a murder is committed by more than one person, one of the accomplices is sure to betray the other, and that is the reason why comparatively so few crimes remain undetected." When he says something along those lines, as he always does, she instantly contradicts him, thereby irritating him enough to launch him into another story. The Man is bored with ordinary crime, only taking on those cases which are most baffling and which have completely mystified the police; he is interested in a crime only when it "resembles a clever game of chess, with many intricate moves which all tend to one solution." He has some sympathy for the criminal, never actually telling the police about his conclusions and, in at least one story, attributing a murder to "one of the most ingenious men of the age, who will never be caught," the implication being that he himself murdered the (admittedly vile) victim. The Man vain, is shabby, irritable, rude to Polly, generally irritable, condescending towards the police and the public...but he's extremely smart and the stories are clever and well-constructed. Some critics have charged the Man in the Corner stories with being "static," and replacing intuition with deduction; these are not charges that are supported in fact, in my opinion. Orczy's stories involving the Man have been reprinted in various places over the past few decades, and are not that hard to find; you will be well-rewarded if you search them out.
The Man in
A few e-texts. From the Gaslight site.
anfred. Manfred was created by Horace Walpole and appeared in The Castle of Otranto (1764). Walpole (1717-1797) is best known for Otranto, but in his lifetime he did far more than write just the one Gothic; he was a poet, a correspondent of great volume and interest, an M.P. for twenty seven years, and a well respected historian. But, as I said, he’s now best known for The Castle of Otranto, which contrary to my expectations turned out to be rather enjoyable.
Manfred is the Prince of Otranto during the time of the Crusades, and he plans to marry his fifteen-year-old son, Conrad, to Isabella, the daughter of the Marquis of Vicenza. But on his wedding day Conrad is mysterious killed when a huge stone helmet falls on him. Manfred is panicked by this, and when a peasant announces that the helmet is similar to the one on the statue of Prince Alfonso the Good which stands in the Church of St. Nicholas, Manfred reacts badly, blaming the peasant, Theodore, for Conrad’s death. Manfred has Theodore imprisoned and then, that evening, summons Isabella. He tells her that he is going to divorce his wife Hippolita and marry her, since he must have sons. Isabella flees from Manfred, who pursues her; she loses him in the subterranean passages underneath the castle. In the passages she meets Theodore, who helps her escape into the Church of St. Nicholas. Manfred captures Theodore in the tunnels and accuses him of helping Isabella escape. Two of Manfred’s servants rush up and tell Manfred that they’ve seen a giant figure sleeping, then moving, in the castle’s main hall, but when Manfred investigates the giant has disappeared. Father Jerome, of the Church of St. Nicholas, arrives the next morning to tell Manfred that Isabella has taken sanctuary in the altar of the church. Manfred, upset, demands that Father Jerome deliver Isabella to him. Father Jerome refuses, telling Manfred that God’s got Jerome’s back and that God’s posse will whup Manfred’s sorry butt if he messes with Jerome. Jerome also suggests that Theodore might be in love with Isabella. Manfred isn’t happy to hear this and confronts Theodore, who admits to having helped Isabella but claims he had never seen her before their encounter in the tunnels. Manfred orders Theodore executed and has Father Jerome sent for to give absolution to Theodore. But Father Jerome discovers that Theodore is his son, born before Jerome entered the priesthood. Manfred offers to let Theodore go free if Jerome will hand over Isabella, an offer which greatly tempts Jerome.
As Jerome is considering this offer trumpets can be heard. Manfred receives a visit from a group of knights who carry a gigantic sabre with them and demand the release of Isabella and the abdication of Manfred, who they call an “usurper.” Manfred dined with the knights, who did not respond to his words. Father Jerome arrived to tell Manfred that Isabella had escaped from the church, and after everyone left the castle to help find Isabella, Matilda helped Theodore escape from the castle. Theodore and Isabella meet up in a cave in the forest near the castle, one of the knights appears and, thinking Theodore is an enemy, attacks him. Theodore wounds him in the fight, only to discover that the knight is Frederic, Isabella’s father. The group returns to the castle, and Frederic tells them that the giant sword was brought back by him from the Holy Land, and that on the blade it was written that only Manfred’s blood could atone for the wrongs done to the family of Alfonso, the rightful ruler of Otranto. Manfred negotiated with Frederic for Isabella’s hand, playing on his weakness and getting his consent in exchange for promising him Matilda, but this causes a statue of Alfonso to drip blood from its nose.
The giant appears again, Frederic decides not to marry Matilda after seeing a skeleton in a hermit’s cowl, and Manfred, on hearing that Theodore is in the chapel with a woman, stalks into the chapel and stabs the woman, who turns out to be Matilda. Theodore announces that he is the rightful heir to Otranto, Alfonso’s grandson, and the giant appears again and is revealed to be the ghost of Alfonso. Grown to enormous form, he destroys the castle and goes up to heaven. Manfred and Hippolita enter neighboring convents and Theodore marries Isabella and becomes the new prince of Otranto.
Despite being 240 years old The Castle of Otranto remains readable–quite surprisingly so. Although the emotions and dialogue of the characters are permanently at a high pitch, the language of the novel is not. Walpole’s narration is wonderfully free of the turgid and shrill vocabulary and pacing which can make 19th century Gothics and writers like Bulwer-Lytton such a chore to read. Walpole is relatively terse, and not without humor and even a little wit. Otranto is relatively short (although I may be reacting to the Victorian triple-deckers when I see that as a good thing) and easy to read. The novel’s characters lack any interior life, and Walpole tells Otranto in a this-happened-and-then-he-said-this-and-then-this-happened style quite unlike modern novels, but the novel reads quickly, is full of exciting incident, and is enjoyable. The only real impediment to modern readers is some of Walpole’s vocabulary, whose meanings have (understandably and unavoidably, after 240 years) changed. These words are comprehensible in context, but it can be somewhat disconcerting to find “desired” used for “demanded,” “wanted” for “lacked,” and “discovered” for “displayed.”
But even if Otranto sucked (I suppose I should use some more scholarly term, shouldn’t I?), it would merit inclusion here simply because it is prima inter pares among Gothics. The Castle of Otranto isn’t the first Gothic ever written; depending on how one wants to define the Gothic, episodes of Tobias Smollett’s spooky picaresque The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom (1753) are Gothic, and Thomas Leland’s Longsword, Earl of Salisbury (1762) has many Gothic elements. But Otranto is the first real Gothic novel, and, in the words of Frederick Frank, laid “the blueprint for the technology of terror,” with Walpole being “the Gothic novel’s first architect and impresario.” The elements first appearing in Otranto read like a checklist for later writers of the Gothic: a European setting; events occurring in the past, especially the Crusades; the events of the novel taking place in a castle (this one intact, rather than ruined, which was a later staple of the Gothics); a woman pursued and threatened sexually; a Hero-Villain (see the John Melmoth entry for more on this); subterranean passages; claustrophobic entrapment; a virginal heroine; frightening (and symbolically and poetically appropriate) supernatural occurrences; a physical location (the castle) which assume an almost sentient personality; and crimes of the past coming back to haunt the present, especially in the form of hidden parentage and a cheated patrimony.
Although Otranto was not unusually successful financially, its long-term effect of the novel cannot be understated. Direct imitation was not immediate, and the true influence of Otranto was strongest felt in the 1790s. But it was in many respects the banner man for the revolt against the rationalist, realistic, and very restrictive Neo-Classicists; Walpole, in Otranto, helped contribute to a revival of interest in the medieval past, to antiquarianism, and the movement to show psychologically credible characterization and human behavior against a chronologically and geographically remote setting, accompanied by pleasant frights and emotional thrills.
One way in which Otranto does deviate from later Gothics is in its lack of Catholic-bashing; Father Jerome is fallible but essentially a good person, quite the opposite of the many agents of the Inquisition who populated later Gothics.
Unlike later Gothics, such as The Mysteries of Udolpho (see the Count Montoni entry), Otranto partakes fully of the supernatural. In addition to being the first significant Gothic it is also one of the first real horror novels. So in Otranto we have the clearly supernatural death-by-stone-helmet, a levitating helmet, feathers which move without benefit of the wind, mysterious moaning sounds, a groaning portrait, a specter, a ghostly knight in armor, strange voices, a talking skeleton in a hermit’s cowl, and a castle being destroyed by a giant ghost. Not all of the supernatural elements are frightening–modern readers are far too jaded to be scared by someone being killed by a statue’s helmet–but Frederic’s encounter before the altar with the skeleton in the hermit’s cape still retains the ability to chill.
Manfred himself is the first of the Gothic Hero-Villains, and like many of the best of them, from Melmoth to Ambrosio, he is a tormented tormentor, psychologically torn between doing what he wants to do and doing what he knows to be the right thing: “Manfred was not one of those savage tyrants who wanton in cruelty unprovoked. The circumstances of his fortune had given an asperity to his temper, which was naturally humane; and his virtues were always ready to operate, when his passion did not obscure his reason.” Despite Manfred’s flaws, his temper, his pride (“Heaven nor Hell shall impede my designs!”), his treatment of women solely as instruments for the continuance of his line and his ascent to power, his tyrannical treatment of his subjects and his family, his great lust and his inability to resist it, and his cruelty when his passions are aroused, he is not unaware of his internal conflict. He describes himself as “a man of many sorrows,” and is conscious of how he should act. His behavior with the knights who come to free Isabella is featly and proper, and he makes a point of honoring Hippolyta’s virtues. But shame drives him to “exquisite villainy,” rather than pity or love.
arahuna. Marahuna (1888) was written by H. B. Marriott-Watson (1863-1921), an Australian-born writer who spent his adult life in the U.K. He contributed to various magazines, both fiction and non-fiction, and wrote widely in supernatural and historical fiction. A nautical expedition in search of the South Pole, after encountering many obstacles, breaks through to an open polar sea which grows increasingly warm and full of life (including island stocked with animals) as they grow closer to the Pole. They find, however, that the Pole itself is ringed by a circle of flaming water, and that the heat is too much for their ship. They are about to return to Chile when the narrator, an annoying and none-too-bright man named Percy Grayhurst, sees a beautiful blonde woman, wearing a strange red dress, floating towards the ship in a skiff. He rescues her and faints from the heat, but not before hearing her murmur the word "Marahuna," which is what she is called from then on. The ship takes her back to England and Grayhurst becomes her guardian. She eventually learns English, although even at the end of the book she is still not totally comfortable with it, and Grayhurst introduces her to his friends and family. She has no memory of her past and cannot explain herself. After various misadventures she falls in love with Grayhurst, or seems to, and from jealousy she murders Grayhurst's fiancee. The pair go on the run. They end up in Hawaii, where she dies (or kills herself) in the Kilauea volcano, her end as unexplained and mystifying as her never-delineated origins.
Marahuna is interesting, to me, because of the portrayal of the title character. She is legitimately Other; although human-looking, emotions are wholly alien to her, and when a friend of Grayhurst, a nobleman smitten with Marahuna, drowns, literally in front of her, she takes no actions to save him, because she is looking intently at some water lillies; she is aware he is drowning, but finds the flowers more important. Concepts like "love," "hate," and "sorrow" are meaningless to her, and there are several interesting conversations between Marahuna and other characters in which they attempt and fail to explain emotions to her. She is innocent and childlike, as the narrator himself points out, but innocent of human virtues as well as failings. Marahuna, to me, is a well-thought-out attempt at portraying how a truly emotionless being, thrust into the middle of human society, would react. Which is why her falling in love with Grayhurst near the end of the novel rings false; the implication seems to be that her prolonged exposure to people has given her a soul and emotions, but to my eyes this is forced and unconvincing.
There is also the recurring feel of the sinister about Marahuna; not overwhelming, and not obvious, but there nonetheless. Her lack of emotion and affect can become chilling, as in her seemingly-flippant reaction to the drowning death of her suitor. Her murder of Grayhurst's fiancee, a spirited, likable, and entertaining woman named Ellen, is almost an off-handed act on her part. And, finally, there is the matter of her powers and intentions. She is not invulnerable--a thorn draws blood from her--but she is stronger than a normal human, pushing a persistent Socialist street thug away from her with ease, seemingly invulnerable to flame as well as able to control it (which is one reason I don't buy the ending), possessed of undefined powers (her murder of Ellen occurs off-stage and is never explained), and capable of dulling wills and dominating others, as she does with Grayhurst at the end of the novel.
On the whole, Marahuna is unjustly forgotten; it is not in the highest rank of fantastic, speculative fiction, nor in the rank below that, but it is skillfully written, with a building sense of dread and a well-executed examination of a truly alien personality.
argery. Margery was created by the Sabine Baring-Gould and appeared in “Margery of Quether” (Cornhill Magazine, Apr & May 1884). The Reverend Baring-Gould (1834-1924) was the creator of Sacristan Eberhart. “Margery of Quether,” formerly famous and now obscure, is an interesting oddity, the cynical Victorian humorous vampire story.
George Rosedhu is 23 years old and the owner of Foggaton, a large piece of land in Devon. His parents are dead and so he owns the property, as the Rosedhus have for over 500 years. In time he intends to marry–but not too soon, since “young wives are expensive luxuries, and long families ruin a small property.” So, like his father and grandfather before him, George plans on marrying at a sensible age, at least 50 if not older. He of course has the lucky woman in mind: Margaret Palmer, daughter of George’s neighbor John Palmer of Quether. George courts Margaret, after his fashion, and his intentions toward her are clear in his own mind:
I had been keeping company with Margaret Palmer for seven or eight months, and I had begun to hope that in the course of a twelve-month, if things progressed, I might make a declaration of my sentiments, and that after the lapse of some three or four years more we might begin to think of getting married.But George is not romantic, and Margaret gets annoyed with him for that and stays away from him for several weeks. This takes place around Christmas Eve, when it is local custom to climb to the top of the highest local hill and ring the bells in an abandoned church. The man who ordinarily would do it cannot due to his lumbago, so George goes. The old man warns him that he might meet “Margery o’ Quether,” which annoys George, since he assumes that the old man is referring to Margaret. At the church George finds, hanging from the bell cord, “something dark, like a ball of dirty cobwebs.” The thing slowly slides down the cord to the ground, and George sees that it’s a painfully old woman, about the size of a three months’ old baby. The woman mumbles that she is “Margery Palmer of Quether,” who hides up in the bell “year after year with a body o’ bones all scatted abroad...and never no chance of the bones healing...I’ve lived there these hundreds of years. I reckoned it were the safest place I could be in.” When George identifies himself, Margery thinks that he is his many-times removed great grandfather, who died over 200 years ago. Margery explains that she prayed constantly for life, but not for eternal youth, and thus falls into the Cumaen Sybil trap, growing older and older, more and more frail, and losing her senses. All she has left is one tooth.
George takes pity on poor Margery and decides to take her home, so he picks her up. She latches on to him tenaciously and bites him in the chest, her claws digging into him. He doesn’t mind, though, and carries her home and tucks her up carefully by the fire and gives her something to eat. He finds that he’s quite tired and goes to sleep. The next morning, Christmas morning, she looks slightly younger, and when he goes to church others take note that he looks years older than previously. George doesn’t feel too well and so begs off attending Christmas dinner with the Palmers. He returns home, wanting to see how Margery is, and she immediately plants her tooth in his chest again. When she lets go, she is markedly younger, and George is older. George is no dummy and knows what is happening:
I would not have you suppose that Margery was sucking my blood....in some marvellous manner, to me quite inexplicable, extract life and health, the blood from my veins and the marrow from my bones, and assimilate them herself.George doesn’t mind this, however, since he’s quite fond of Margery. One might almost say obsessed with her. This continues until George is a doddering old man, so frail and antiquated that he can no longer walk, and Margery is a buxom young woman with sparkling eyes. At this point Margery suggests to George that he marry her, so that when he dies, something which will occur soon, she can take control of Foggaton. He agrees, because she takes such good care of him in his dotage and because he wants her to continue on, even though it will mean sucking the life out of successive men. But when the banns are announced, they are in the name of George Rosedhu and Margaret Palmer of Quether (where, remember, she lived centuries ago), and this angers John Palmer, for everyone thinks that George is to marry John’s daughter, the younger Margaret. Margery has been attending church regularly, and so everyone knows about her, and so John threatens to burn Margery on a bonfire–she’s a witch, clearly–if she does not relinquish George. George doesn’t want Margery to die, but Margaret does, even though she is disgusted by George’s wizened state. Margery, seeing that John and the mob behind him are serious in their death threats, eventually gives in and restores his youth to him. John then forces George to marry Margaret within the month. Poor Margery, returned to decrepitude, is forced to hide in a remote part of Dartmoor.
“Margery of Quether” was probably the most famous vampire story of the 1880s. In reviews of Dracula, it was often referred to. But for reasons which are now mystifying it fell into neglect soon after the turn of the century and wasn’t anthologized for many decades. Baring-Gould was a skilled writer, and “Margery of Quether” certainly deserves to be counted among the best vampire stories of the 19th century (which include, in no particular order, “Carmilla,” “La Morte Amoureuse” (see the Clarimonde entry), and “The Horla”). The voice of George Rosedhu–crotchedy (though young) and phrased in the rural English vernacular–is perfectly created, and there are a number of funny moments to go with the creepy moment in which George sees the something descending down the church bell rope, and the terrifying (in its way) form which immortality has taken for Margery.
But most memorable is the specific kind of humor in the story. There were no lack of humorous ghost stories in the 19th century, but the particular tone which Baring-Gould strikes is different. It is cynical and pointed, which is something that some critics miss about “Margery.” George’s narration and pointed comments at the expense of modern women and the “Radical-Gladstone-Chamberlain times” are seen as conservative by critics and readers, but this is a misinterpretation, in my view, of “Margery.” It seems clear to me that Baring-Gould is sending up the provincial, small-minded conservatism of George and his neighbors, and that George is a figure of humor and not to be taken seriously. He’s quite dislikable. But Margaret Palmer is equally shrewish, and John Palmer quite willing to use all manner of sophistry to justify killing Margery and getting the Foggaton lands for his family. Margery is really the only one who has much kindness, even though she is also a kind of vampire. No, “Margery of Quether” is not to be taken as a conservative story, but rather a satire of the types of conservatives seen in the story.
Margery is rather pitiable creature. Her prayers for immortality led her to a lingering and depressing existence. When rejuvenated, she’s friendly and sweet and spirited, but in her aged state she is a sorry creature.
argrave. Margrave was created by Edward George Earle Lytton, first Baron Lytton, a.k.a. Bulwer-Lytton and appeared in A Strange Story, which was published in 1861. Bulwer-Lytton appears a number of times in these pages, from the Arbaces entry to the Zanoni entry, and in addition to being a significant writer he also led a very interesting life, even turning down the throne to Greece in 1862 (no kidding!).
A Strange Story begins with Allen Fenwick, a British physician. Fenwick is a strident materialist and rationalist who reacts blindly, stubbornly, and with no small amount of rhetorical violence to the merest hint of anything dealing with mesmerism, clairvoyance, or spiritualism. (You can guess where this is going, can't you?) Fenwick meets and falls in love with Lillian Ashleigh, a dreamy, neurasthenic woman. Allen has some difficulties with Society because of his feelings for Lillian, but they are nothing compared to the problems caused when a brilliant and charming young man named Margrave appears on the scene. Fenwick is initially quite taken with Margrave but then becomes suspicious of him. Fenwick then meets Sir Philip Derval, a wealthy eccentric just returned to England from the Mysterious East. Derval was studying white magic under Haroun of Aleppo, a white magician and Rosicrucian, when Louis Grayle, an unprincipled and wicked old Brit, arrived and demanded the elixir of life from Haroun. Haroun refused, and Grayle killed him. Derval went in pursuit of Grayle, and, believing that Margrave is Grayle (see below) confronts Margrave and defeats him in a magical/mesmeric duel. This partially opens Fenwick's eyes as to the existence of spiritual forces, but then Derval is murdered under mysterious circumstances. Fenwick, at Derval's mansion, reads Derval's memoir and finds out about Haroun, Grayle, and Derval. But Fenwick is put into a trance through seemingly magical means and the memoir is stolen, causing Fenwick to be suspected of the crime. Fenwick is then charged with the crime of murdering Derval and is jailed. Margrave, via a magical sending, then offers Fenwick help if Fenwick will at some later point aid Margrave. Fenwick agrees, and Margrave arranges for the real murderer of Derval to be revealed. Margrave leaves "L_____," the scene of much of the action of A Strange Story, (this was one of Fenwick's conditions for helping Margrave), Lillian disappears and follows Margrave, and Fenwick pursues Lillian, confronts Margrave and beats Margrave in a fight, using Margrave's wand to do so. Fenwick spares Margrave's life, and Margrave leaves England. (Margrave, you see, wants to make use of Lillian's prophetic abilities to make more of Haroun's elixir of life, and Fenwick doesn't want Margrave to do that). Lillian briefly recovers (she was in a trance put on her by Margrave) but Fenwick discovers that Lillian's pursuit of Margrave has brought Society's opprobrium upon her, and that he in turn is also shunned by Society. Fenwick then decides to accelerate the date of his wedding to Lillian and to leave L_____, but on their wedding night Lillian reads a bitchy letter anonymously sent to her pointing out that Society scorns her for chasing after Margrave and that if she marries Fenwick she will ruin Fenwick's good name. The shame of this drives Lillian mad, and she suffers from a kind of amnesia where she can't remember and doesn't recognize Fenwick or her own mother. Fenwick moves Lillian, her mother, and himself to Australia, to give her a chance to recover her wits in a new environment. In Australia Margrave arrives, looking very aged and even decrepit, and demands (and gets) Fenwick's help in making a new batch of the elixir of life. Unfortunately, during the magical ritual necessary to create the elixir, something goes wrong and Margrave, unable to control the spirits he's summoned, dies. Lillian recovers and Fenwick and she live Happily Ever After. (Bulwer-Lytton was big on the Happily Ever After part and is reportedly the person responsible for convincing Dickens to change the ending of Great Expectations to something happier than Dickens' original conception) (It was either Bulwer-Lytton or Wilkie Collins, and it seems to be unclear which one was ultimately responsible).
A Strange Story is, with Zanoni, one of the two novels most responsible for the modern version of the occult fantasy novel; Bulwer-Lytton was the major proponent of the occult fantasy novel in Victorian England, and Zanoni and A Strange Story basically established the form. There's a lot of material in A Strange Story which will seem somewhat trite and cliché to modern readers, but it must be kept in mind while reading A Strange Story that what we, the modern readers, have seen hundreds of times over--magical trances, rites, magic wands, etc--was considerably newer to Bulwer-Lytton's readers. It's clear that Bulwer-Lytton was doing something new and so had to include a good bit of explanation for things that we take for granted. We're familiar with the genre and its particulars; Bulwer-Lytton and his readers were not.
In addition to the pleasures of the novel--and there are some--the novel provides an interesting contrast to modern occult fantasy novels. The occult element of the novel feels less learned than later works; it's as if merely invoking the Mysterious East and dropping the name "Rosicrucian" were enough for Bulwer-Lytton's audience, where more recent writers might provide extensive scholarly trappings for Haroun, Grayle, and the final ritual. Similarly, while the occult/horror moments are less explicit than in modern novels (and even stories from the 1920s), within the context of the novel they are effective. There's only one moment of horripilation; when Dr. Lloyd, a physician who Fenwick has ridiculed for his believes in mesmerism, is dying, Fenwick visits him, and is treated to a fairly chilling "Your time is coming, mate" speech, which ends with "The gibbering phantoms are gathering round you!" But apart from that, there is nothing that will make the skin of the modern reader pleasantly crawl, as in the work of Machen or Chambers or when Dracula crawls down the wall. Once immersed in the novel, however, the reader can, if she or he is willing and not resistant, as some readers will be, derive pleasure from the occult/horror moments.
(I say "as some readers will be" because there are some readers today who are either unwilling or unable to change their mindset in order to enjoy the more outdated Victorian writers. Bulwer-Lytton seems to be a particular target, hence the Bulwer-Lytton Bad Writing Contest and the ignorant jibes of "Barely Literate Bulwer Lytton." It's true that elements of Bulwer-Lytton have not aged well. The same can be said of nearly any writer from 150 years ago, Dickens included. And some readers find those elements prevent them from enjoying these writers. That is understandable. But the pride these readers take in scorning those writers is not so understandable. It's one thing for an E.F. Bleiler to heap abuse on Bulwer-Lytton; although I find him overly severe (though not as laughably so as S.T. Joshi), his opinions are at least considered, and I believe that he gave Bulwer-Lytton a good faith effort in reading him, and that he's capable of appreciating the older Victorians on their own merits. The readers who reflexively sneer at Bulwer-Lytton et al, however, don't even try. If they did, and they made the effort to set aside the annoyance with the outdated elements, they might find themselves enjoying Bulwer-Lytton et al more than they do. Why they make this effort with Dickens and not with Bulwer-Lytton is a question for another time, I guess).
Bulwer-Lytton does something in A Strange Story which later horror story-tellers found and find useful in preparing the reader to be scared. The occult fantasy elements of A Strange Story are not introduced immediately (with the exception of Dr. Lloyd's dying threat, which at the time seems more the ravings of a dying man than a genuine premonition). Instead, Bulwer-Lytton spends the first fifth of the novel introducing Allen Fenwick, Lillian Ashleigh, Mrs. Colonel Poyntz (the voice of Society), and Fenwick's immediate surroundings, and establishing a very mundane, normal environment for the novel. A Strange Story has substantial elements of the Society novel, and the concerns of Poyntz and Fenwick for propriety would not be out of place in an Austen or Hardy novel. The backdrop of Society can be tiresome to readers who are unwilling or unable to adjust their mindset to the Victorian--E.F. Bleiler called the Society trappings "insufferably boring"--but I found it effecting in creating a day-to-day feel for the novel, which in turn made the intrusion of the occult fantasy elements more effective.
The novel actually changes in a few ways. The feel of the novel goes from Society and the mundane to the occult and the fantastic. Bulwer-Lytton's writing style likewise changes, from a brisk and straightforward narrative style, which relies heavily on dialogue and occasionally even verges on the punchy, to the kind of ponderous rhetorical philosophizing readers of Bulwer-Lytton expect (and dread) from him. It must be admitted that the early sections of the novel, though lacking in occult fantasy elements, are faster and frankly easier more pleasant to read than the later pages long disquisitions on the Soul or spiritualism, the increasingly long-winded, ponderous, and stiff dialogue, and the increasingly uninteresting love story subplot. (I'm not joking about the monologues being pages long, either; Fenwick's mentor, Julius Faber, is particularly guilty of this, droning on for a very skippable 10-15 pages at a time).
And Bulwer-Lytton's treatment of the materialism-vs-spiritualism argument changes, as well. Bulwer-Lytton comes down squarely on the side of spiritualism, of course, and one of the purposes of A Strange Story is to rebut the rationalist argument. But the early sections of the novel actually make the reader side with the rationalist Dr. Fenwick and against the mesmerist advocate Dr. Lloyd and his ally Mr. Vigors. We know, of course, that Dr. Fenwick will eventually be proven wrong, but--initially, at least--Bulwer-Lytton puts the readers' sympathies on the side of the materialists rather than the spiritualists. This may have been deliberate on Bulwer-Lytton's part, but given his own pro-spiritualist leanings and the nakedly didactic tone of much of A Strange Story, I doubt Bulwer-Lytton intended it.
The book is intended as allegory, as eventually becomes clear. Fenwick represents blind materialism and too great a reliance on the intellect, Mrs. Colonel Poyntz represents the petty and hypocritical concerns of society and "The World," Margrave/Grayle represents the use of knowledge (occult or otherwise) without conscience and the soul sacrificed to carnal ends, and Lillian is the spirit unbound by earthly concerns (in A Strange Story this is a bad thing).
Finally, A Strange Story has one of Bulwer-Lytton's few well realized female characters. Female characters in Bulwer-Lytton are usually one-dimensional; characterization was not Bulwer-Lytton's strong point, and he was quite weak with his female characters. But he managed to create two interesting female characters. Ayesha, Margrave's too-devoted lover/assistant, is memorable, but Mrs. Colonel Poyntz, the unofficial ruler of Abbey Hill, the privileged part of L_____, is fully three-dimensional, a character who would not be out of place in a Jane Austen novel. Although Bulwer-Lytton's allegory places her in a bad light, and her actions toward Fenwick and Lillian are not kindly, Bulwer-Lytton (perhaps unconsciously--in real life Mrs. Colonel Poyntz types caused Bulwer-Lytton no end of trouble) treats her sympathetically, gives her real motives and depth, at times casts her as an almost tragic figure, and in general makes her more real than Fenwick or Margrave. She may in fact be Bulwer-Lytton's most realized and memorable characters, female or male.
Margrave is himself memorable, even if not as three-dimensional as Mrs. Colonel Poyntz. The chronology of the novel's backstory is only gradually revealed, so that we only learn the truth about Margrave near the end of the novel. Louis Grayle was a wicked, disreputable man forced to flee England in disgrace after dishonorably killing a man in a duel. As an old man he tried to get Haroun's elixir of life and apparently had Haroun killed when the elixir was not forthcoming. But whether or not Margrave is Grayle is never resolved. Derval believes that Margrave is Grayle, rejuvenated from Haroun's elixir but lacking Grayle's intellect and soul and instead occupied by an evil spirit, and much of the novel seems to lean in that direction. But Margrave says, and he seems to have no reason to lie about this, that he is Grayle's son, and a less learned and capable successor to Grayle's power. Which one is correct is not revealed.
Margrave is an enthusiastic and very childlike young man (at least, until the end of the novel, when he ages suddenly--the elixir in his body loses its efficacy, thus requiring the final ritual to make more of it). Margrave is very wealthy, perhaps from Grayle's wealth or perhaps because he has discovered the art of changing lead into gold. He's quite good looking and is a worshiper, after a fashion, of Nature, having little use for intellectual matters (except those regarding the occult) and a fear and loathing of aging and death. Margrave's whole purpose in dealing with Lillian is to use her visionary powers to help him recreate Haroun's elixir and thus prolong his own life. He is so good looking and energetic and outgoing that he's fascinating to everyone, but many find his company tiring after a time. He is also childlike in his lack of conscience and empathy and his complete selfishness; when he catches a squirrel, and it bites him in trying to free itself, he responds by killing it and stomping on its body and calling it a "venomous brute."
Margrave is also a powerful sorcerer and mesmerist, capable of reading minds, controlling them, summoning demons (even, possibly, the Dweller on the Threshold--see the Zanoni entry), and sending a "Scin-Læca," or "Luminous Shadow," a shadow being which he controls and speaks through, to haunt others. Margrave later claims that he has nothing to do with the Scin-Læca, that it is a separate part of him which he does not control.
A Strange Story is of historical significance, and should be read by anyone wishing to acquaint themselves with the modern origins of the occult fantasy genre. But beyond that there are some enjoyable moments of horror, with the final ritual being particularly effective. Although A Strange Story has its quite prominent flaws, it also has some very good moments of occult fantasy and horror, and I found the character of Mrs. Colonel Poyntz to be particularly well sketched.
arjory. Marjory was created by “F. Anstey” and appeared in “Marjory” (The Broken Shaft. Tales in Mid-Ocean, 1886). "F. Anstey” was the penname of Thomas Anstey Guthrie (1856-1934), the creator of The Garuda Stone and The Jinnee, and I have information on him in the latter entry.
Cameron is a sensitive and bookish child whose only company, until he was eleven, was his mother and one servant. He disliked other boys and knew none of them, and his only goal was to grow up to become a curate and live with his mother. But his mother died and he was forced to go to a boarding school by his uncle. Once there he meets Marjory, a kind girl of his own age who makes an effort to befriend him and help him. Marjory is Cameron’s only friend at the school, though, for he is exactly the wrong personality–withdrawn, prone to tears, quite sensitive to slights, and socially awkward–to be left among boys just entering the teenage years, and they choose him as the class target. Worse, one of the boys, Clarence Ormsby, takes a particular dislike for Cameron and picks on him unceasingly. Cameron’s victimization is not physical, for the school is good enough that the students aren’t complete brutes, but the taunting and tricks that Ormsby and the others play on him are bad enough. Marjory tries to help Cameron, but he’s too proud and stubborn and hapless to follow her suggestions, and eventually she gives up on him. Then, one day, Ormsby plays a particularly nasty trick on Cameron, and the latter looks so miserable that Marjory befriends him again and goes to Ormsby to fight for Cameron, who won’t do so on his own behalf. Cameron hears a scream and a thud, and sees Ormsby bending over Marjory’s prone body. Marjory dies that night, and then Ormsby and Cameron begin quarreling, and Ormsby blames Cameron for Marjory’s death. Cameron slugs him in the mouth, and Ormsby is about to club him with a large T-square, when Marjory’s ghost appears. She looks sad and grave, and she makes the terrified Ormsby confess that he had tied a string across the top of a stairs in an effort to trip Cameron, but instead Marjory fell over it to her death. Marjory makes Cameron promise never to tell what happened, and “be brave, and take your own part now,” and then makes Ormsby promise to be kinder to Cameron. She says goodbye and disappears. Ormsby is better to Cameron, and Cameron’s life gets better. Ormsby dies gallantly in the Sudan, and Cameron, well, he looks forward to meeting her in the next life and does not anticipate seeing her in this one, “but her influence will never leave me.”
I described, in the entry for The Garuda Stone, how well Guthrie described the pains of boarding school. In “Marjory” he does this again, quite well; only someone with a stone heart or who was a bully in school (and if you’re the latter, may I say, on behalf of all childhood victims of bullies, I hope you get throat and bowel cancer and die in hideous agony) will not feel large twinges of sympathy for poor, sensitive, withdrawn Cameron, a realistically described and quite recognizable boy. I’m identifying with Cameron for the obvious reasons, of course–reading “Marjory” was in some ways an unpleasant flashback to my own childhood–but I think that even had I not suffered at the hands of my Neanderthalic classmates I’d still have felt for Cameron. Which is why Marjory’s appearance was gratifying–if only all of us victims had had a guardian ghost!–but, even better, Guthrie did not take the perhaps predictable route (one which I confess to hoping for) of having Marjory kill Ormsby. Instead, she simply tells Ormsby to behave. It’s a sad and gentle approach quite fitting for this sad, gentle, and wise story. “Marjory” isn’t flashy and isn’t horrifying, and someone like E.F. Bleiler would undoubtedly dismiss it as “sentimental,” but I found it kind and almost moving.
Dear Marjory, a “bright and gracious little spirit.” She was a good person in life, trying her best to help Cameron. In death her generosity did not end, but she was above meanness or bearing a grudge (unlike me, alas) and acted compassionately even toward her killer.
arsman. The Marsman was created by “Ritson & Stanley Stewart” and appeared in The Professor's Last Experiment (1888). No information is available on the Stewarts, and it is likely a pseudonym. The Professor’s Last Experiment is ostensibly a alien-visiting-Earth/first-contact novel, but what it really is is an anti-vivisection tract.
The Professor’s Last Experiment is a series of diaries and letters which describe first contact with an alien, but made here on Earth. Late one night an alien arrives on Earth. His spherical, meteor-like ship crash lands in rural England. Reverend Stonycroft, the narrator of most of The Professor’s Last Experiment, is out walking and sees the ship land and goes to the crash site. From the ship steps a creature who looks like a man of medium height and intellectual appearance, with an intense expression and wearing a robe-like cloak. He approaches Stonycroft and initially acts like the Reverend is his equal, but soon his expression and attitude toward Stonycroft changes to one of benign contempt, as if Stonycroft is his intellectual inferior.
Stonycroft takes the stranger home with him. The creature, who Stonycroft calls “the Marsman,” quickly learns English, but because the Marsman is telepathic and comes from a culture which abandoned speech long ago, his English is accented and his speech sometimes halting. But the Marsman is very intelligent–much more so than humans–and comes from an advanced culture, and so he adapts to speech quickly. He reads Stonycroft’s thoughts and sees his limitations and asks Stonycroft to have more intellectually advanced men, including the mentalist Irving Bishop, Aldous Huxley, Prof. Tyndall, and Herbert Spencer, come to meet him.
Stonycroft does not bring those men to see the Marsman, but he does, gradually, introduce some of his friends to the Marsman, including Dr. Wright, a former pupil of the celebrated scientist Professor Altenstein. Altenstein is a controversial figure, a brilliant scientist who loves vivisection and is heedless of the suffering of the animals which he experiments on. Dr. Wright greatly respects Altenstein but disagrees with his stance on vivisection. The Marsman enjoys meeting the men, and they are astonished by the Marsman, but after the meeting Wright sends Stonycroft a letter warning him not to allow Altenstein to meet the Marsman, as Altenstein performs vivisection on living beings and wouldn’t scruple at conspiring to capture the Marsman. Stonycroft visits Wright and asks him to explain himself, but Wright is coy, not wanting to show too much ingratitude toward his former mentor or to endanger his romantic relationship with Altenstein’s niece.
Unfortunately, Altenstein hears about the Marsman from some of the other men who met the alien, and so when Stonycroft returns from visiting Wright he finds the Marsman has disappeared. Stonycroft asks for a meeting with Altenstein, who claims ignorance about where the Marsman has gone. Stonycroft then receives a note written by the Marsman in which he describes his impressions of Earth. Stonycroft again meets with Altenstein, who grows cold when he hears that Wright warned Stonycroft about him. Altenstein even threatens libel action against Stonycroft and Wright if their opinions about Altenstein’s experiments are made public. Stonycroft, on returning home, finds another note from the Marsman, this one describing his meeting with Altenstein. Altenstein, who was told that the Marsman could read “thought transmissions” through humans’ eyes, wears smoke-colored glasses, and so the Marsman can’t read his mind and is thus forced to take Altenstein at his word. The Marsman accepts Altenstein’s invitation to visit him in his laboratory, but the visit goes poorly. The Marsman is appalled at Altenstein’s vivisecting experiments, and Altenstein, on hearing that the Martians work to lessen suffering, calls the Marsman a “sentimental bigot.” The Marsman wants to leave, but Altenstein insists that he stay the night, and once the Marsman enters his room he is trapped there. Altenstein tells his niece that the Marsman is only a new kind of monkey. But the niece talks with the Marsman and sees that he’s a good person, and so she tries to help him escape by sending his notes to Stonycroft.
Stonycroft and Wright again confront Altenstein, who again claims innocence. He even invites Stonycroft and Wright to search his house and question his servants. Nothing is found. Altenstein clearly intimidates his niece into lying for him, but Stonycroft and Wright can’t prove anything, and so they are forced to drop the search for the Marsman. Five years pass, and Altenstein publishes landmark papers on the true functions of parts of the human brain. Stonycroft dies, never having found the Marsman. Wright dies in Africa, massacred by the natives. The author lectures on the evils of vivisection. Altenstein’s papers are based on his experiments on “the Borneo monkey,” and other scientists are eager to see the monkey that Altenstein learned so much from. Altenstein claims that the monkey is so ferocious that only he and his assistants can see it. The narrator, a friend of Stonycroft, reads Stonycroft’s notes and the notes from the Marsman and takes up the search for him. The narrator questions one of Altenstein’s lab assistants, the man who carried the Marsman’s notes to Stonycroft, and hears information about Altenstein’s lab and that there is manlike creature in the laboratory, that Altenstein’s niece, after seeing this creature, was committed to an asylum. Other scientists manage to visit the laboratory and spread the word about Altenstein’s horrible experiments, causing a scandal. The scientists describe a creature restrained, with his head and face in bandages. They also describe a pair of bat-like wings hanging on a wall.
The Marsman, who knows that Altenstein’s lab assistant is sympathetic to him, asks the assistant to leave his “grey overcoat” close to him. The assistant does, and the next morning Altenstein is found dead. (The Marsman had a special “disc” in the pocket of the overcoat and used that to cut Altenstein’s throat). The Marsman then rescues his ship, which Altenstein had sent off to a mechanics’ shop to be “repaired, rescues Altenstein’s niece from the asylum, and the pair go home to Mars.
The Professor’s Last Experiment is certainly readable. Whoever “Ritson & Stanley Stewart” were, they were at least capable of competent prose. Those looking for a particularly sophisticated or imaginative treatment of an alien culture or an alien’s impressions of human culture will be disappointed, however. The Marsman isn’t very alien, and his impressions of human nature and culture, which are mostly negative, are those of a human misanthrope rather than something truly alien and non-human. The most notable aspect of the book is its most didactic: the anti-vivisection theme. The author is passionately opposed to vivisection and clearly wrote The Professor’s Last Experiment as a tract to support his views. He does not scant on describing the horrors of vivisection, either, from the torture it inflicts on animals to the pain it causes the Marsman during his five years (!) as a captive to, yes, the effect it has on those who practice it. The author of The Professor’s Last Experiment clearly sees vivisection as something practiced by evil men, and something which drives good men to evil. The vivisectionists were the forerunners of today’s animal experiments, of course, and so how you feel about the vivisection in the novel may depend on how you feel about animal experimentation today.
The Marsman looks mostly human, although he is covered with a soft golden down and has batlike wings attached at the shoulder. His hands are suppler and stronger than humans’, as well. As the product of a more advanced culture than British culture circa 1889 (and implicitly all of human culture), the Marsman is astonished at much of what he sees: the crudeness of human food (he eats only a few crumbs of lembas-like biscuit; the inadequacy of speech, which his people abandoned years ago; the loudness of human music, which he enjoys but can’t listen to too loudly; and human failings like jealousy and superstition. He was sent to Earth in the hopes that Earth natives would be more advanced than Martians and that we could establish communications with the Martians and share technology with them. The Martians had sent a predecessor, Gan Goh, to Earth centuries ago, but he quickly disappeared and nothing more was heard from him. (The Marsman discovers that he was burned for witchcraft). So the Martians sent the Marsman. The trip was important to the Martians; his spherical craft, the “traveling car,” was the product of long labor, but the force which propels it took 100 years of experiments to utilize and control, and the amount of the force in the Marsman’s craft took 50 years of exhaustive efforts to store and compress. But the Marsman himself is only an average Martian; the best Martians couldn’t be spared for such an uncertain and dangerous trip. Even so, the Marsman is far superior to humans. He is very quick to comprehend things, both the English language and what he sees. He is quiet, observant, and sure of himself. He has the manner “of a master who dominates men without needing to give a reason for it.” He’s a scientist, but has the air of an innocent. He’s sad that humans are so barbaric, uncivilized, and ignorant of the possibilities of cultural exchange. And he’s scornful of human ignorance and superstitions and humanity’s unwillingness to confront unwelcome ideas, such as the evils of vivisection and cruelty to animals, viz. hunting and specimen collecting.
arsyas. Marsyas was created by Vernon Lee and appeared in “Marsyas in Flanders” (1900). “Vernon Lee” was the pen-name of Violet Paget (1865-1935) the brilliant creator of Medea da Carpi and Alice Oke. “Marsyas in Flanders” is better than “The Phantom Lover” and not quite as good as “Amour Dure,” but by merely invoking the latter I’m putting “Marsyas in Flanders” in extremely good company. “Marsyas” is, as we said in the suburban Boston of my youth, lo those many decades ago, wicked pissah.
The nameless narrator of “Marsyas in Flanders” visits the Church of the Dunes in France on the eve of the Feast of the Crucifix. The narrator is particularly interested in the Church’s crucifix, which appears to be of a different and later style than the crucifix which was miraculously cast ashore on the island of Dunes in the 12th century. The Antiquary of the Church tells the narrator why this is so. The original crucifix washed ashore in 1195, lacking its crosspiece and its arms. But when it was placed in the Church strange things began to happen. The day after it was erected in the Church it was discovered in a shifted position, “bent violently to the right, as if in an effort to break loose.” The Effigy continued to shift, “always as if it had gone through violent contortions.” The crucifix was eventually found on the ground, the crosspiece broken in three places. A new cross was built and erected some years later, but the shifting began again, and then the crucifix was again found on the ground, the cross shattered. Rumors spread that the stone of the Church was not pure enough, but after the appropriate rites of purification were performed and a new cross put in place, strange noises began to be heard from the Church at night, and “music of rustic dancing.” Then the Church was struck by lightning, and the Effigy found “lying behind the high altar, in an attitude of frightful convulsion, and, it was whispered, blackened by lightning.” A new Church was built and the Prior announced that the original crosspiece of the Effigy had washed ashore. It was put in the crucifix, other relics crowded out the Effigy, and no more miracles took place. The Antiquary goes on to tell the narrator of “Marsyas” about a hearing held involving charges against the Prior, who was threatened with charges of sacrilege and witchcraft. In the hearing witnesses testified about the noises & howling & music heard in the Church at night, and a former Church Warder, now a madman, testified about how “the Great Wild Man” broke the cross in two, played quoits with it and piped music for his wolves to howl to. The Antiquary then shows the narrator the original Effigy, of a crucified satyr, and the Antiquary says, “Here...he was buried beneath this vault and they had run an iron stake through his middle, like a vampire, to prevent his rising...I think the Abbot and Prior were not so wrong to drive the iron stake through him when they removed him from the church.”
Now, educated connoisseurs of horror stories have lamented the title of “Marsyas in Flanders,” because the title itself is a giveaway. It spoils the ending of the story. But I, and presumably many of you, did not know before reading the story (or reading my summary of it, at least) (and I do apologize for spoiling the story’s ending) that Marsyas, in Greek mythology, was the name of a satyr flayed alive by Apollo for challenging the god to a music competition. So I was suitably surprised at the ending of “Marsyas.” “Marsyas” will not pall on a second reading, however, because like the best horror stories (“Monkey’s Paw,” for example) it has many virtues apart from the twist ending.
There is the classical erudition, the feeling of great knowledge carried lightly. Lee was extremely knowledgeable about European culture, art and history–her Studies of the Eighteenth Century in Italy (1880) continues to be used and respected–and she infuses “Marsyas” with some of her great knowledge. Not in a clumsy manner, however, and never in a way that boasts of her superior erudition, but rather just enough to ground the story in history and provide the necessary background.
There is the vivid imagery, the quickly and sharply described scenes. There is the sheer creepiness of the shifting, moving Effigy. There’s the occasional flash of wit, as with this exchange:
Query: Can he remember what happened on the Vigil of All Saints, in the church of the Dunes, before he swooned on the floor of the church?And, finally, there is the tone of the story. Lee gets it just right here. The history of the Effigy is recounted briskly and memorably, without any mood-breaking ironic asides but with just enough additional description to make the scenes come alive, as with the description of the discovery of the Effigy “in an attitude of frightful convulsion.”
Answer: He cannot. It would be a sin to speak of such things before great spiritual Lords. Moreover he is but an ignorant man, and also mad. Moreover his hunger is great.
Marsyas is a satyr. In the world of “Marsyas in Flanders,” Marsyas, the “Great Wild Man,” is not a little like http://www.reocities.com/jessnevins/vicp.html Pan. Contact with him, or at least the sound of his music, drives men mad.
“Marsyas in Flanders” is not immortal in the way “Amour Dure” is, but it’s really quite good.
artians (I). These Martians were created by Kurd Lasswitz and appeared in Auf Zwei Planeten (Between Two Planets, 1897). Kurd Lasswitz (1848-1910) was one of the earliest German science fiction writers. (Pointing out "early science fiction" writers is no less problematic than defining science fiction itself, especially since several of the literary traditions of the 18th and 19th centuries--most notably the Fantastic Voyage and Lost World stories--have more than a little in common with what is thought of today as "science fiction." Because there was no explicit delineation in genres during these centuries, otherwise "realistic" works could make use of sf and/or fantasy tropes without the work being confined to the ghetto of science fiction; the fantastic and the mundane were both lumped together, and literary society did not place a particularly high premium on "realism." Which is why labeling writers of this era as "science fiction" writers is difficult; can a writer be defined by something that has not yet come into existence? All of that being taken into consideration, it's still no exaggeration to say that Lasswitz wrote what we now call science fiction, nor that he is one of its earliest practitioners in Germany--at least if we use present definitions of the genre).
Lasswitz, a professor of mathematics, physics, and philosophy, taught at the "small, intellectually active provincial court city of Gotha" for nearly all of his adult life. He was steadily productive both as a writer and scholar, turning out a number of non-fiction works (scientific and otherwise) and fictional books, but the single work that he is best remembered for--by science fiction scholars only, as he is today forgotten about, not only by the general public but even by the mass of sf readers to whom he would (presumably) be of interest--is Between Two Planets.
Between Two Planets is a work of merit, especially considering the time in which it was written; it and Lasswitz were known and admired by Hugo Gernsback, Willy Ley, and Arthur C. Clarke, and there are some suspicious "coincidences" in ideas and concepts between Robert Heinlein's Have Space Suit--Will Travel & Red Planet and Between Two Planets.
Lasswitz's novel is about First Contact between Martians and humans. A balloon expedition attempting to reach the North Pole for the first time (the novel is set in the 1890s) discovers a previously-unknown island exactly at the Pole. The island, it happens, is an advance base for a Martian expedition to Earth. The explorer-scientists in the balloon are forced down when their balloon is caught in the "abaric field" (variable artificial gravity) within which the Martian's ships commute from their land base to their orbital station located above the Pole.
The Martians rescue the humans, and while the scientists are learning the Martians' language and something of their advanced technology, the Martians are treating the humans with polite condescension, even as pets/laboratory specimens. Although the Martians seem to be superior to humans ethically, culturally, and technologically, when the scientists express a desire to leave the Martians insist that the humans stay with them--an insistence that, in denying the individual rights of the humans, contradicts the aliens' own code of ethics. This contradiction, and the flaws it reveals about the Martians, give rise to a conflict between the Martians and humans.
While the Martians are not thoroughly altruistic--they are interested
in exploiting Earth's energy resources--they nonetheless have a strong
ethical code, and are incapable, at the beginning, of physically forcing
humans to act against their own will. But the Martians gradually become
convinced of their own superiority to humans, which means that the Martians
can treat the humans as being unprotected by Martian ethics. This, combined
with an impulsive belligerence and a breakdown of communications on both
sides, leads to a battle between the Martians and a British warship, a
battle the Martians easily win
due to their superior weaponry.
The Martians summon the leader of their forces, along with one of the human explorers and the backer of the expedition (who happens to be half-Martian), back to Mars. Tensions between the two civilizations grow, with Martian condescension becoming more marked and both human anti-Martianism and Martian anti-humanism becoming exacerbated. The half-human/half-Martian, a man named Ell, begins a relationship with a Martian.
Other nations declare war on the remnants of the British Empire, and the Martians use this as an excuse to justify the declaration of a protectorate over the Earth; human resistance proves short and futile. The Martians' occupation is initially benign, pacifying only the belligerent European states, but as time passes they become increasingly arrogant and oppressive, carrying out their program of "economical, intellectual, and ethical education of mankind." They begin using the methods of the police state, including brainwashing and behavior modification from facilities that are "simultaneously laboratories, schools, and penal institutions."
The occupation becomes a tyranny, and Ell, seeing his mistake, leaves Earth to help the pro-human faction on Mars. In America a secret resistance is formed, using improvements in Martian technology as well as a change in intellectual and moral will brought about by contact with the Martians. Before the suspicious Martians bring their full military against Earth, the rebels attack, seizing both the polar base and the orbital station. An armistice is agreed upon, with the Martians agreeing to leave Earth as long as the only contact humans make with them is via light-beam messages.
Technical problems hinder communications between the two worlds, and war is on the verge of breaking out again, with human and Martian spaceships jockeying for position in Earth's stratosphere, when Ell and the leader of the Earth meet in space to finalize negotiations. Ell dies from the strain, but the peace treaty is signed, and one of the original explorer-scientists marries one of the Martians.
The Martians, in addition to their Kantianism and their fundamental devotion to moral and physical freedom--perhaps their basic societal & intellectual concept and a treasured personal right (but only with regard to other "human" beings, which they become convinced Earthlings are not)--have technology far beyond that of Earth. Their space ships and stations use the anti-gravity material "stellit" and the propellant "Repulsit." They communicate over long distances with devices similar to lasers. They have ftl travel and a machine, the "Retrospektiv," that captures light rays and permits a look into the past. Among their other inventions are fluorescent lighting, photoelectric relays and amplifiers, mobile homes, plastics, artificial foods, hovercraft, automated machines for performing mundane tasks, and copiers and instant cameras. The Martians look like very handsome/beautiful humans, distinguishable from us only by their slightly larger-than-normal eyes and foreheads. They are capable of interbreeding--and falling in love--with humans.
Between Two Planets is not wholly without flaws by any means, but it is an absorbing and interesting read, and well worth searching out.
artians (II). These Martians were created by H.G. Wells and appeared in The War of the Worlds, which was serialized in England in Pearson's Magazine from April to December 1897 and in American in The Cosmopolitan from May to December 1897 before finally seeing print as a book in 1898. You, dear reader, of course know about H.G. Wells. And you are at least marginally familiar with The War of the Worlds, either from reading the book as children, watching various movies based on the story, hearing the Orson Welles' 1938 broadcast, reading the Classics Illustrated version of the book, or even reading Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's wonderful intercalation of the events of the novel in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen v2. But The War of the Worlds you remember is likely quite different from The War of the Worlds in your local bookstore and library--that is, likely different if, like me, you haven't read the novel in twenty years or more. Coming back to the novel after decades away from it is quite a revelation, for the novel is substantially different that it is remembered to be.
You of course know the essentials of the plot. An enormous capsule lands in Woking, south of London, and after a short while it opens and Martians crawl out. Curious humans draw too close and are disintegrated by the Martians' Heat Ray. An invasion follows, with more cylinders landing, more Martians emerging, and then mass destruction ensuing, with Martian-piloted Tripods roaming about London and outer environs, wiping out humans with their Heat Ray and Black Smoke. Although the Tripods can be brought down by artillery, each gun only gets one shot before the Tripods target the guns and destroy them. Much of the south of England is evacuated. The novel's narrator wanders about the outskirts of London, seeing the devastation and suffering starvation and mental difficulties. Eventually the Martians themselves are killed by bacteria, and humanity slowly recovers.
Again, returning to The War of the Worlds after many years away from it is a surprise, and a treat, because one's memories of the book don't do it justice, especially if you read it as a child or teenager. In truth, what The War of the Worlds is is one of the best, most extensive wide-screen summer-action-thriller movie novels ever written. The Martians are suitably violent and bloodthirsty (in a quite literal fashion, as I'll soon get to), the carnage and property destruction is really quite impressive, and Wells plays out the consequences of the invasion to their logical conclusions, regardless of their cruelty. Wells chose a narrator who was "on the ground" during the invasion, and the narrator describes what he sees with the stark reality of a newsreel, so that many of the scenes are quite vividly and realistically drawn. While the alien aspect of the novel is, of necessity, fantastic, the portrayal of individual humans (including the narrator) and of humans en masse is very accurate. When the aliens attack people are stunned, panicked, and in denial, and later on act with bravery, cowardice, cunning and stupidity--in other words, how people actually act under pressure. Trains trying to get away from the Martians plow into crowds of people trying to get on the trains, men fight over food, grandiose and unrealistic schemes are discussed--Wells' humans are very recognizable. The narrator, too, reacts as a person normally would, and his concerns--for his wife, for food, for his own safety--are very understandable ones. The changes of pace in the novel, with the slower periods, only add to the impact of the later, action-heavy episodes. The War of the Worlds is exciting, and even as an adult one can get carried away by what Wells does.
The sweep of the novel gets forgotten after years away from it. So, too, are a number of smaller and very interesting details.
The first is that The War of the Worlds is actually written looking back from the future, rather than as it happened. There are any number of comments in the book which show that the Martian invasion had a substantial effect on human society, from the narrator’s early statement that “early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment” to the description of Martian technology as having “given such an enormous impetus to terrestrial invention.” I don’t quite buy the argument, articulated by Leon Stover among others, that The War of the Worlds is actually a prequel to When the Sleeper Awakes (1899) (but then, I find Stover’s work on Wells tendentious, logically flawed, and often factually incorrect), but it is clear from the text of WotW itself that Wells meant the novel to be told in retrospect.
Another is that the Earth is not the only planet on which the Martians have landed:
Lessing had advanced excellent reasons for supposing that the Martians have actually succeeded in effecting a landing on the planet Venus. Seven months ago now, Venus and Mars were in alignment with the sun; that is to say, Mars was in opposition from the point of view of an observer on Venus. Subsequently a peculiar luminous and sinuous marking appeared on the unillumined half of the inner planet, and almost simultaneously a faint dark mark of a similar sinuous character was detected upon a photograph of the Martian disc. One needs to see the drawings of these appearances in order to appreciate fully their resemblance in character.A third is that the death of the Martians comes not just from their susceptibility to Earthly bacteria, but rather because their culture is so advanced that they are free of such things:
The last salient point in which the systems of these creatures differed from ours was in what one might have thought a very trivial particular. Micro-organisms, which cause so much disease and pain on earth, have either never appeared upon Mars or Martian sanitary science eliminated them ages ago. A hundred diseases, all the fevers and contagions of human life, consumption, cancers, tumours and such morbidities, never enter the scheme of their life.A fourth is the anti-Semitism of the novel. It’s not major, certainly not as bad as in The Invisible Man, but there is an unpleasant moment of it in the novel. This bit has been excised from later editions of the novel but appeared in the original British and American magazine appearance of the story and can be found in 2000 McFarland critical edition.
Finally, Leon Stover credits Kurd Lasswitz (see Martians (I), above) as being an influence on Wells’ work; Stover writes that the Kantian ethics of Lasswitz’s Martians are similar to Wells, and “no wonder he (Wells--Jess) found Lasswitz an agreeable source for rounding off Worlds.”
Like the novel itself, Wells' Martians are more complicated than most will remember them being. Visually they have no bodies, but rather are heads on top of tentacles:
They were, I now saw, the most unearthly creatures it is possible to conceive. They were huge round bodies--or, rather, heads--about four feet in diameter, each body having in front of it a face. This face had no nostrils--indeed, the Martians do not seem to have had any sense of smell--but it had a pair of very large, dark-coloured eyes, and just beneath this a kind of fleshy beak. In the back of this head or body--I scarcely know how to speak of it--was the single tight tympanic surface, since known to be anatomically an ear, though it must have been almost useless in our denser air. In a group round the mouth were sixteen slender, almost whip-like tentacles, arranged in two bunches of eight each. These bunches have since been named...the hands.Their purpose for invading Earth is not simply conquest. It is to feed:
Strange as it may seem to a human being, all the complex apparatus of digestion, which makes up the bulk of our bodies, did not exist in the Martians. They were heads, merely heads. Entrails they had none. They did not eat, much less digest. Instead, they took the fresh living blood of other creatures, and injected it into their veins. I have myself seen this being done, as I shall mention in its place. But, squeamish as I may seem, I cannot bring myself to describe what I could not endure even to continue watching. Let it suffice, blood obtained from a still living animal, in most cases from a human being, was run directly by means of a little pipette into the recipient canal....The Martians have other talents besides that of subsisting on human blood:
...I assert that I watched them closely time after time, and that I have seen four, five, and (once) six of them sluggishly performing the most elaborately complicated operations together, without either sound or gesture. Their peculiar hooting invariably preceded feeding; it had no modulation, and was, I believe, in no sense a signal, but merely the expiration of air preparatory to the suctional operation. I have a certain claim to at least an elementary knowledge of psychology, and in this matter I am convinced--as firmly as I am convinced of anything--that the Martians interchanged thoughts without any physical intermediations.Nor did they arrive alone:
Their undeniable preference for men as their source of nourishment is partly explained by the nature of the remains of the victims they had brought with them as provisions from Mars. These creatures, to judge from the shrivelled remains that have fallen into human hands, were bipeds, with flimsy siliceous skeletons (almost like those of the siliceous sponges) and feeble musculature, standing about six feet high, and having round erect heads, and large eyes in flinty sockets. Two or three of these seem to have been brought in each cylinder, and all were killed before earth was reached. It was just as well for them, for the mere attempt to stand upright upon our planet would have broken every bone in their body.In addition to their native food species, the Martians also brought Martian plant life:
At any rate, the seeds which the Martians (intentionally or accidentally) brought with them gave rise in all cases to red-coloured growths. Only that known popularly as the Red Weed, however, gained any footing in competition with terrestrial forms. The Red Creeper was quite a transitory growth, and few people have seen it growing. For a time, however, the Red Weed grew with astonishing vigour and luxuriance...I found it broadcast throughout the country, and especially wherever there was a stream of water.The Martians' technology is interestingly different from what we might assume or remember. Their science is more advanced than our own, but they lack the wheel and "in their apparatus singularly little use is made of the fixed pivot." Nor did they arrive on Earth via rockets; they were shot here in giant cylinders by enormous guns. But they have the Heat Ray, and the Tripods, and robotic Handling Machines to make their Tripods for them (this is an early appearance of the robot in science fiction, predating Karl Capek's R.U.R. by 23 years), and the deadly Black Smoke (which kills everyone it touches), and "flying-machines," and possibly something more sinister and science fictional:
They have become practically mere brains, wearing different bodies according to their needs, just as men wear suits of clothes, and take a bicycle in a hurry or an umbrella in the wet.Wells' exhilarating penchant for property damage and his ruthlessness toward humanity, along with the journalistic quality of the narration, make The War of the Worlds one of the more enjoyable works of Victorian sf. But there's more to the novel than you'll remember from childhood.
ason, Randolph. Melville Davisson Post (1871-1930) is one of those figures that popular culture is replete with; during their time they are extremely successful and popular, but with the passage of time they become increasingly forgotten, to the point where today only keepers of the arcane and the obscure would even recognise Post's name. He was a West Virginian who worked as a lawyer and politician before he began writing full-time. By the time of his death he was one of the highest-paid American magazine writers.
He is best remembered for two characters. The first, "Uncle Abner," was a cattle rancher in West Virginia in the 1840s & 1850s; Uncle Abner was often portrayed as the personification of justice in sometimes-wild surroundings. The other character was Randolph Mason, who appeared in three books: The Strange Schemes of Randolph Mason (1904), The Corrector of Destinies (1908), and The Man of Last Resort; or, the Clients of Randolph Mason (1897). Mason is a strange and memorable character; he is a twisted and bitter criminal lawyer closer to insane than not. He is not interested in justice, however, but in securing his clients' freedom by whatever means possible. (In an unfortunate move Post reformed Mason starting in The Corrector of Destinies and made him merely another crusading do-gooder) Mason is an outstanding lawyer with a thorough knowledge of the law and a great willingness to exploit quirks in the legal code for the benefit of his clients, however guilty they truly were. He describes his philosophy this way:
No man who has followed my advice has ever committed a crime. Crime is a technical word. It is the law's term for certain acts which it is pleased to define and punish with a penalty. What the law permits is right, else it would prohibit it. What the law prohibits is wrong, because it punishes it. The word moral is a purely metaphysical symbol.Although irascible and "strangely queer and erratic," he has never lost a case. He was originally a criminal lawyer but was so successful that corporations hired him to find ways of bypassing laws so that they could follow the letter of the law while breaking its spirit. Mason is tall and gaunt, with broad shoulders, thinning brown hair, a high forehead and an ugly face which appears, depending on the angle it is looked at, sneering, fearless and animated, cynical and sly, or cruel, vindictive, and almost savage. He is assisted by his twisted and rascally clerk and private secretary Courtland Parks. Mason, like Post, deserves to be remembered; his stories are usually well-written and plotted, and told with a certain style that while dated is nonetheless entertaining. Erle Stanley Gardner named Perry Mason after Randolph; if Erle thought highly of Post's character, shouldn't you give him a try?
aunsell, Antony. Antony Maunsell was created by S. Levett-Yeats and appeared in The Lord Protector (1902). S. (Sidney) Kilner Levett-Yeats (or "Levett Yeats") is a writer of historical romances about whom I've been able to find little. Levett-Yeats was one foremost of the Yellow Nineties swashbuckler writers, a colleague of the great Stanley Weyman (see the Vicomte de Saux entry for more on him), and unfortunately like most of Weyman's colleagues is almost completely forgotten today. About all that can be found of Levett-Yeats' life is that he was an Anglo-Indian who lived in Lucknow. Levett-Yeats had a respectable output of books, but until I get access to any of the others The Lord Protector will stand in as representative of Levett-Yeats' work.
The Lord Protector is set in England in the mid-1650s, during the reign of Oliver Cromwell, the titular Lord Protector. Cromwell does appear in The Lord Protector, and is memorably portrayed, being a Puritan military hard-ass, grave, dignified and severe, but at the same time human, capable of being moved to tears and victim to momentary self-doubt and wary of his own vanity. But Cromwell isn't the hero of the novel. Antony "Black Tony" Maunsell is. Maunsell is a Colonel in Cromwell's New Model Army, "the grim leader of horse, whose name was a terror to the Royalists." The plot of The Lord Protector involves Maunsell being dispatched to the mansion of Coombe Royal to hunt down Sir Christopher "Kit" Harden, a former leader of the Royalist forces and, after the Royalist defeat at the Battle of Worcester, a guerrilla: "Since Worcester was won, and the King's side scattered for ever, there had been no greater thorn in Cromwell's side than this fiery spirit." Levett-Yeats spends more time with Kit Harden than he does with Black Tony, but Harden is the villain of the novel and Black Tony is the hero, despite their respective positions. Maunsell is stern, nearly humorless, and a Puritan zealot, while Harden enjoys his life, is an expert swordsman, fights on, alone, against overwhelming forces, and has a wry sense of humor about most things--but Maunsell is a good man, honorable, willing to sacrifice his career and his life for the happiness of the woman he loves and who hates him (she's a Royalist), and with a respectful attitude toward women, while Harden is without honor, a habitual liar, focused only gold and sex, seeing women as things to be used and then cast aside, and nearly completely without conscience. Maunsell loves Dorothy Capel, the mistress of Coombe Royal, but she's in love with Harden, who vows to wed her but desires only her money and estates. Harden, meanwhile, also strings along Patience Burnside, a Puritan maiden who he romanced, swived, and then abandoned. (Levett-Yeats isn't explicit, but when Patience says that she gave Harden "all that a woman can give a man, and more" and that he "ruined" and "dishonored" her, well, it's pretty clear what's being implied). After an entertaining series of events Harden and Maunsell duel, but Harden is killed by one of Maunsell's men, and Patience kills herself in sorrow (she'd earlier betrayed him after discovering his true nature). Maunsell goes to America (having gotten on Cromwell's bad side by helping Dorothy Capel to shield Harden), but after Cromwell's death he returns, and the novel ends with Maunsell and Dorothy together. (The Lord Protector is much more of a historical romance than many other swashbucklers).
The Lord Protector is quite good. It lacks the wit and good humor of Weyman's work (I've quite fallen under Weyman's spell, I'm afraid, and I keep comparing all the Yellow Nineties writers to him, which isn't fair), but it's similarly spare and swift-moving. Levett-Yeats aptly describes the environment and setting and the moods of his characters, has a sure hand at quick characterization, and is good portraying realistic relationships; perhaps best of all, though, he omits the prolixity of the Dumases and the Walter Scotts, and he leaves out the didacticism of the Charles Kingsleys. The purpose of Levett-Yeats' work, like that of Weyman, is to entertain, first and foremost, and it shows.
axim, Sir Hiram. Sir Hiram Maxim appeared in George Griffith's The Outlaws of the Air, which first appeared as a serial in Pearson's Weekly in 1894. (For biographical information on Griffith, see the Natas entry). Griffith admired Sir Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the Maxim automatic machine gun as well as (and I didn't know this) a steam-powered airplane that actually took flight for a short time. Griffith admired Maxim so much that he named the hero of The Outlaws of the Air after him and dedicated the book to him. Maxim, in the book, is a member of the Utopians, a secret British society, centered in London, which is left a legacy to continue their work (their ultimate goal, of course, is the changing of the world; their headquarters is a planned colony in the South Seas that is based entirely on laissez-faire capitalism). Part of the legacy is the design for a special aircraft, a kind of solid-fuel-based rocket ship. The Utopians build the plane, but a splinter group within the society, led by the black-hearted rogue Max Renault, steals the aircraft. Renault's group are anarchists (called, appropriately enough, The Anarchists), and their goal is the violent overthrow of the established world governments (as opposed to the Utopians, who want a peaceful revolution) (to the novel's credit, the motives of both sides are portrayed with a healthy cynicism). The Anarchists use modern technology towards this end. Working with Renault is the evil genius, engineer and scientist Franz Hartof, who has built a very fast ship.
Using their new ship and a fleet of aircraft they carry out a number of ruthless bombing raids. Renault is captured and about to be executed when he is rescued by one of the Anarchists' airships. After that the Anarchists stop fooling around and focus on London, using a new brand of very powerful high explosive against it; they destroy the Parliament, Scotland Yard, the Bank of England, and the Tower of London, among other landmarks. The French and the Russians, believing that the Anarchists will spread to the Continent (Griffith really didn't like either group), declare war on England.
The English government sets up an Aerial Navigation Syndicate, headed by Maxim. He helps design a new aircraft, one superior to the stolen plane. It is built with horizontal propellers, similar to a helicopter, and is armed with cannon and machine guns. Maxim's plane is better than the Anarchists', and in a one-on-three dogfight Maxim shoots one down and captures a second. After the requisite battles and adventures the Anarchists begin to split; Renault is handed over to the British by the other Anarchists and commits suicide, and most of the other Anarchist leaders are killed by the British, French and Russians. Maxim and the Aerial Navigation Syndicate bombard Paris and destroys the Tsar's air fleet of war balloons (an idea used by Griffith in The Angel of the Revolution) and the naval forces of both the British and the French and Prussians and forces a peace treaty on both countries. The Utopians then found Oceania, a utopian country somewhere in the South Pacific; they are now masters of the air and sea and institute world peace, backed by their air fleet.
ay, Paul. Paul May was created by Harry Blyth, the creator of Sexton Blake, and appeared in Pluck in 1895, in at least n46 and "Policeman Paul," v3 n67 (26 December 1895). Paul May is a London policeman. He's a member of "the T Division" and works off of Smoults Square, a "sombre" and "out-of-date" section of the city. He's a mustachioed, 'what's-all-this-then' type cop, polite, inquisitive, and good with his fists. He's quite similar to Dick Donovan, actually. He's got a Baker Street Irregular-type friend in "Flaring Joe," a young vagabond and newspaper seller who keeps his ear close to the ground and gives Paul information about the street and crime which Paul, who is unusually well-informed for a bleeder, is unaware of. Paul's adventures take him across class lines, from beggars to nobility, both English and foreign, and even to the underground passages and catacombs of Hammersmith. In his second case he duels with the "Forger King," who finally eludes capture but is shortly thereafter killed in a ship collision, and he befriends the daughter of a wealthy American (the implication being that the two will eventually marry). "Flaring Joe" does well in the news trade and Constable Paul gains further honours in stories I've yet to find.
elmoth, John. John Melmoth was created by Charles Maturin and appeared in Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). Maturin (1782-1824) was an Irish clergyman and novelist who wrote a number of Gothics but is best known for Melmoth, which is one of the two or three best-known Gothics as well as one of the most influential.
In 1816 John Melmoth, an Irish student at Trinity College, goes home to visit his dying uncle, John’s only surviving relative and a miserly old bastard. Uncle Melmoth is fearful of something before he dies, and in his will he gives John his estate and points him toward a packet of letters hidden in an attic as well as telling John to destroy a painting in that attic. John asks around and finds out that Uncle Melmoth, though not superstitious, had in the months before he died insisted that a strange man kept visiting him. John destroys the painting and reads the letters, which tell a strange story about John Melmoth’s ancestor, also named John Melmoth (I’ll refer to him as “Melmoth” and to John Melmoth as “John” from this point on). Melmoth is reported to have been seen many times after his death, 150 years ago, and according to an Englishman named John Stanton Melmoth, angered by Stanton’s questions, prophesied that Stanton would end up in Bedlam, in an asylum, despite his sanity. This prediction came true, and in the depths of his despair Stanton was visited in Bedlam by Melmoth, who offered him freedom if he would sell his soul to the devil. Stanton refused, and the Wanderer left.
John finishes Stanton’s account and goes to bed–only to see Melmoth that very night. Melmoth bruised John’s wrist as proof of his visit. The next night a shipwreck takes place on the coast near John’s estate. John and other locals try to save the sailors, but John sees Melmoth standing at the top of a cliff and laughing at the dying. John tries to climb up to get at Melmoth but falls and is rescued by Alonzo Moncada, a Spaniard who escaped from the ship. The Spaniard and John become friends, and Moncada tells John that he, too, knew Melmoth the Wanderer. Moncada had been born out of wedlock from a noble family and so had been sent into a monastery. Some years later Moncada’s brother had tried to free Moncada from his monk’s vows, which earned the family the hatred of the Church. Moncada’s brother arranged Moncada’s escape from the monastery, but the monastery officials arranged for the murder of Moncada’s brother and Moncada’s capture by the Inquisition. Melmoth visited Moncada in his cells and offered to free him in exchange for Moncada’s selling his soul. Moncada then escaped during a firestorm called down upon the Inquisition’s prisons by Melmoth.
Moncada then found refuge with an old Jewish doctor who knew the history of Melmoth. The daughter of Don Francisco di Aliaga, a Spanish nobleman, had been lost at sea in a shipwreck when she was only a baby. The girl, Immalee, grew up on a deserted tropical island, and as an adult she was visited by Melmoth, who tried to corrupt her into making the deal Stanton and Moncada had rejected. Immalee refused, and eventually she and Melmoth fell in love. She refused to marry him unless the marriage was consecrated by the Church. Immalee is then found and brought to Spain, where Melmoth meets her again. He persuades her to marry him secretly, in a ceremony that unbeknownst to her is Satanic. Melmoth, not wanting her to come to harm, appears to Don Francisco, who is on a business trip, and tells her father about the peril she is in. Melmoth tells Don Francisco about two other people who had been tempted to sell their souls in return for earthly happiness. Don Francisco understands Melmoth’s message but is too busy with business to act on it. Don Francisco finally returns home from his trip and brings with him the young man who is Immalee’s intended husband. By this point, however, she is many months’ pregnant with Melmoth’s child. He comes to a masked ball to claim her, and her connection to him is revealed, and since he is Melmoth the Wanderer, of cursed reputation, Immalee is handed over to the Inquisition and dies shortly after giving birth to her child.
Moncada finally shuts up, at which point Melmoth appears in the room and tells John and Moncada that he has returned home to die. Melmoth explains that he had sold his soul to the devil for 150 years of life and various supernatural powers. But he’d been commanded to win souls for Satan, and everyone he’d tempted had refused. And now time has caught up with him, and he’s begun to age. Melmoth asks to be left alone, and a short while later Moncada and John hear awful noises and strange voices from Melmoth’s room. The next morning the room is empty, and there are tracks leading to a cliff, tracks indicating that Melmoth was dragged over the cliff. All that’s left behind is his scarf, caught on a bush next to the place where he’d been thrown into the sea.
Melmoth the Wanderer is generally viewed was the ne plus ultra of Gothic novels, and consequently has attracted significantly more critical attention than other Gothics and perhaps all of them put together. In fact, unlike nearly all of the novels and stories on this list, Melmoth has been extensively written about. So if you’re looking for in-depth analysis of the novel, you’re better off looking else, starting with Edith Birkhead’s The Tale of Terror. But I will devote some space to Melmoth, because it does deserve on historical grounds alone.
Melmoth was the dernier cri of the original phase of Gothics. There were Gothics after Melmoth, but Melmoth was the watershed moment for the genre. After Melmoth came decline and decrepitude. There was a temporary revival in the 1840s in the penny bloods, with Varney the Vampyre as a prime example, but the Gothics didn’t return in force until the 1880s and 1890s, when writers like Arthur Machen and Robert Louis Stevenson, who had read the penny dreadfuls as children, began writing modern Gothics. And then there was Dracula, the widest read Gothic of them all.
So Melmoth was the apex of the Gothic. It was not so much financially successful–Maturin died poor and depressed–as it was influential. The figure of John Melmoth, Melmoth the Wanderer, can be seen across much of the 19th century, in figures as various as Goethe, Byron, Pushkin, Hawthorne, Poe, Baudelaire, Wilde, Dr. Rappaccini and Captain Ahab. Balzac was even inspired to write an unofficial sequel, Melmoth Reconciled (1835). Melmoth is in many ways the epitome of the Byronic Hero-Villain, more on which below.
So it’s historically important. How is it as a novel?
Well...I am somewhat ashamed to admit my own intellectual shortcomings like this, especially because critics of the Gothics use words like “lyric” to describe Melmoth the Wanderer, but I found it heavy going, slow and mostly tedious. It’s not completely without interest, I will freely admit. There are parts which are readable, almost compellingly so, and Maturin has an undeniable talent for entertaining and intense moments and scenes. The scene in which the firestorm destroys the Inquisition’s prison is one; another is a wedding which both Stanton and Melmoth attend and at which Melmoth’s presence so disturbs the presiding priest that he begins raving before dropping dead; and a third is the party at which Melmoth’s identity is revealed, as is Immalee’s tie to him. And Maturin makes use of just about every Gothic trope imaginable, from the crumbling mansion to the malignant Inquisition to the cursed inheritance to the dead bride to the creepy portrait to the shipwreck to the nightmares (or are they?) to evil monks–so many tropes that the book at times is as wonderfully over-the-top as The Wandering Jew is (see the Father Rodin entry). But the prose is dense and told in an old-fashioned manner, the extremes of emotion which some critics see as one of Maturin’s strengths is histrionic rather than affecting, and the individual stories-within-stories take forever to reach the point of Melmoth’s appearance and offer. Melmoth is a compelling character, and Maturin’s decision to keep the focus on other characters rather than Melmoth may have been done to increase the dramatic impact of Melmoth’s appearances, but the stories are substantially less interesting when Melmoth isn’t around. And the anti-Catholicism of the novel becomes shrill and repetitive after a while.
I can appreciate Maturin’s achievement in Melmoth and can appreciate in a dispassionate way the individual elements which work so well in Melmoth, but for the most part I found the novel a dreary slog.
So–not readable, or if readable, not particularly enjoyable. But there are aspects to it which are more than a little interesting. Melmoth has five stories-within-stories, and each is a contained Gothic, using classic Gothic themes: denied inheritance, monastic cruelty, the evil vengeance of the Inquisition, and so on. Melmoth ranges in a disjointed fashion across time and space, so that the experience of reading Melmoth the Wanderer can be disorienting, no doubt a sensation Maturin wished to convey. And, of course, there is Melmoth himself, a figure of towering intensity, one of the two or three greatest Gothic Hero-Villains.
In the Arbaces entry I explain a little about the Hero-Villain. I should probably spend more time on him here, given how significant Melmoth is in the development of the figure. The Hero-Villain has aspects of both hero and villain; he (and on rare occasions she) is someone of great strength of character, will, and passion, someone of great intellectual and physical gifts, but who cannot resist his violent passions and impulses and uses his gifts and abilities for evil ends. The Hero-Villain does evil but is not wholly evil; he is sympathetic, to a certain degree. He is not an anti-hero, for he is set in opposition to the hero and/or heroine of the Gothic, and his downfall is the hero’s triumph, and the victory of good. But the Hero-Villain is a waste of potential and a lesson in what the inability to resist temptation and one’s impulses can lead to. (He’s also usually the most interesting things in Gothics, which may be an object lesson for writers: heroes are boring, villains are fun).
The Hero-Villain often has certain physical attributes in common. He is dark, handsome, physically strong, has “piercing” or “burning” eyes and an expression which mixes contempt, scorn, gloom, and anger. The Hero-Villain is almost demonic in the intensity of his emotions and passions, but is also an outsider and tormented by this fact. The Hero-Villain has greatness, which only makes his downfall the greater.
This is Melmoth. He is miserable, but he is too proud to change or admit his own error; in Frederick Frank's words, "Melmoth's famous lethal eyes glisten with a perverted faith in evil as a last means of asserting self-identity." In Faustian style Melmoth's quest for knowledge and his inability to accept the limitations of mortality and morality lead to his downfall. When offered the chance for a kind of salvation, in his love affair with the innocent Immalee, Melmoth is too proud to accept it, and so becomes a tormented lover (another aspect of the Gothic Hero-Villain). He has certain things in common with the Wandering Jew (see the Ahasuerus entry in the French Heroes section; I’ll be adding more to that eventually) as well.
errilies, Meg. Meg Merrilies was created, sorta, by Walter Scott and appeared in his Guy Mannering, or the Astrologer (1815). Scott (1771-1832) is familiar to most modern readers as the author of Ivanhoe, but he deserves greater credit than that, not least for his creation of the genre of the historical novel. (For more on that and Scott, see the entries for Ivanhoe and Edward Waverley).
I say that Meg Merrilies was sorta created by Scott because there was a real Meg Merrilies, Jean Gordon "an inhabitant of the village of Kirk Yetholm, in the Cheviot hills, adjoining the English border." Gordon was an Amazonian thief and friend to thieves who followed "the old gypsy regulations" but whose sons were not so scrupulous. Scott’s Merrilies is almost as interesting; she’s a “harlot, thief, witch and Gypsy,” and an amateur fortune teller and astrologer. Scott describes her this way:
Six feet high, wore a man's greatcoat over the rest of her dress, had in her hand a godly sloe-thorn cudgel, and in all points of equipment, except her petticoats, seemed rather masculine than feminine. Her dark elf-locks shot out like the snakes of the gorgon, between an old fashioned bonnet called a bongrace, heightening the singular effect of her strong and weather beaten features, which they partly shadowed, while her eye had a wild roll that indicated something like real or affected insanity.Meg is a sibyl and "queen among the gypsies" as well as the informal leader of a gang of Traveler/Romany thieves who work from the ruins of a castle, and she saves Harry Bertram, the nominal hero of the novel, from the thieves in her gang. Meg ends up being instrumental in restoring a lost heir (Bertram) to his usurped estate; she foresees all--accurately, of course--and manages everything, finally dying as she foresaw, violently but well, mortally wounded by Harry Bertram's enemy.
Meg’s interesting, and at least one critic has argued that she’s the
basis for the majority of the Romany characters in 19th century historical
fiction. She has definite spirit, much more so than most of Scott's milquetoast heroes (including Mannering himself). She hates the Lairds who treat her people and the poor well, but is grateful to the Lairds who treat her people well. She bears a grudge admirably well and is quite happy (in a grim way) to prophesy doom for those she dislikes, but she isn't maliciously vengeful, doing her best to spare the child of one of her enemies. She has no patience with fools but is kind when she can afford to be. She has great pride and not a little dignity when pressed. Her speech, alas, is in dialect:
I maun see that lad again, and I maun gang back to Ellangowan too. The laird's dead; aweel, death pays a' scores; he was a kind man ance. The sherrif's fitted, and I can keep canny in the bush; so there's no muckle hazard o' scouring the cramp-ring. I would like to see bonny Ellangowan again or I die.Like Jean Gordon, Meg's sons (and the new breed of ruffian generally) don't abide by the old ways:
The times are sair altered since I was a kinchen-mort. Men were men then, and fought other in the open field, and there was nae milling in the darkmans. And the gentry had kind hearts, and would have given baith lap and pannel to ony puir gypsy; and there was not one, from Johnnie Faa the upright man, to little Christie that was in the panniers, would cloyed a dud from them. But ye area a' altered from the gude auld rules, and no wonder that you scour the cramp-ring, and trine to the cheat sae often.As for Guy Mannering, it's about what you'd expect from Scott. There's a sound portrayal of Scotland during the mid-1700s, but the characterization is generally lacking and the dialect a drag on the reader's enjoyment. The verbiage is thick and not particularly interesting, the dialogue either drear or bombastic, entire pages are taken up with uninteresting letters, the humor is lumbering and unamusing, and in general Guy Mannering is not worth the effort of reading. Ah, but there is Meg Merrilies, who more than enlivens an otherwise dull novel.
Guy Mannering, or the Astrologer
The e-text of the novel.
erriwell, Frank and Dick. Frank Merriwell's fame, and to a much lesser extent that of his brother Dick, long outlasted the life of their creator, William Gilbert Patten (1866-1945), who wrote the many Merriwell stories under the pseudonym of "Burt L. Standish." Patten was a native Mainer who ran away from home when he was 16 and went to work in a machine shop. He moved to NYC when he was twenty five and began selling dime novels and Westerns. He never got any royalties from the Merriwell stories, unfortunately, and had to be saved, later in life, from homelessness by a concerted effort of donations, including one from Wendell Wilkie.
Frank Merriwell debuted in Tip Top Weekly #1 (1896) and starred in over a thousand stories and novels, including Tip Top Weekly, Tip Top Semi-Monthly, Wide Awake Magazine, Sports Story Magazine, Fame and Fortune Magazine, and Top Notch, up through 1930. Dick, his half-brother, first appeared in "Frank Merriwell's Surprise; or, The Contents of the Oil Skin Envelope," in Tip Top Weekly #274 (July 13, 1901). Frank Merriwell (much the more attractive of the pair) was the Mr. Terrific of the brothers, aggressively devoted to fair play and decency. He was an all- sport star at Yale, always sticking up for the Yalies (boo, hiss) and for his friends and parents. He had a "frank, open, and winning face" and "a merry light usually dwelt in his eyes." He was excessively muscular, with a remarkable chest and arms. More notable, though, were his morals. He didn't drink or smoke, he didn't cheat (although this article might cast doubt on that claim), and he kept himself in great physical shape through intensive daily exercise. For Merriwell mens sana in corpore sana is not simply a motto but a moral dictum. Refraining from smoking etc was not because of any moral compunction but because it would impair the physical abilities of the pair.
Frank and Dick's careers were remarkable. They started off at Fardale, a top-notch prep school and military academy, and went from there to Yale, where they excelled both academically and in sports, especially in football and baseball. During their junior year their guardian lost their inheritance, forcing them to leave college. They worked at a railroad and regained their fortunes, after which they went back to Yale. After graduation they formed the Merriwell Company, which oversaw their mining operations in the American West, and had a variety of adventures, both at home and overseas, fighting through ambushes in Peru, Mexican bandits, Indian tigers, wolves, and so on. Dick was the best electrical engineer in the county but not quite the man that Frank was. Frank was an accomplished ventriloquist and hypnotist, fluent in Spanish, an excellent mechanic and all-around stud ("the perfect union of brain and brawn"). He eventually married his long-time sweetheart Inza Burrage and had a son, Frank Jr. (aka "Chip"), and a daughter. He was remarkably humble for someone who beat the Irish heavyweight champion, broke the course record at St. Andrews, and settled a railroad strike. He was also dedicated to helping the weak and persecuted, once even shaking hands with a complimenting a black jockey, despite the jeers of the onlookers. Interestingly, Frank and Dick were good friends with at least one Native American. Shangowah, called by the Anglos "Old Joe Crowfoot," actually raised Dick as his son. Shangowah's biological grandson, Wind-that-roars-in-the-night (or "Young Joe Crowfoot") enrolled in Frank's School of Athletic Development, attended Fardale Academy, graduated from Yale, and became a recurring character and sidekick in the Merriwell stories.
Frank and Dick were helped by Owen Clancy, the "Motor Wizard" ace mechanic. He helped Frank and eventually opened the Square-deal Garage in Phoenix, Arizona. Later still he returned East to help Chip Merriwell in several of his adventures.
The main villains of the series were a pair of bounders, Chester Arlington and Roll Ditson, who were riddled with pride, avarice, hypocrisy, and self-indulgence, none of which Frank or Dick suffered from. They were the only villains that Frank and Dick didn't eventually forgive and befriend, leaving them the better for having encountered the Merriwells. (Note: I've read at least one article which alleges that Chester Arlington, who apparently was outrageously wonderful in his snide villainy, did reform and was forgiven by Frank and Dick, becoming one of Dick's best chums as the years went by).
Novels - Frank Merriwell's Limit
The e-text of a Frank Merriwell's Limit. From Stanford's Dime Novels and Penny Dreadfuls site.
Frank Merriwell is a brief look, with a cover image, at the character.
etzengerstein, Frederick, Baron. Frederick, Baron Metzengerstein was created by Edgar Allan Poe and appeared in "Metzengerstein," which first appeared in The Saturday Courier on 14 January 1832. Poe you should know about. "Metzengerstein" is about the feud between two Hungarian families, the Berlifitzings and the Metzengersteins. Both are illustrious houses, but the Metzengersteins are somewhat more powerful and the last Count Berlifitzing is "an infirm and doting old man, remarkable for nothing but an inordinate and inveterate personal antipathy to the family of his rival, and so passionate a love of horses." Frederick, Baron Metzengerstein, on the other hand, is a young man, but eighteen years of age (or fifteen, depending on which version of "Metzengerstein" you read), and energetic and wild (read: "self-willed and impetuous...through a career of unfeeling, wanton, and reckless dissipation") where the Count Berlifitzing is old and infirm. So wild is Frederick, in fact, that when he inherits the Metzengerstein fortune a debauch follows: "for the space of three days, the behavior of the heir out-Heroded Herod, and fairly surpassed the expectations of his most enthusiastic admirers." Unfortunately, part of this revel includes the firing of the stables of Castle Berlifitzing. In the story's best scene, the Baron is listening to the stables burning while he admires one of the Metzengerstein paintings:
But during the tumult occasioned by this occurrence, the young nobleman himself sat apparently buried in meditation, in a vast and desolate upper apartment of the family palace of Metzengerstein. The rich although faded tapestry hangings which swung gloomily upon the walls, represented the shadowy and majestic forms of a thousand illustrious ancestors. Here, rich-ermined priests, and pontifical dignitaries, familiarly seated with the autocrat and the sovereign, put a veto on the wishes of a temporal king, or restrained with the fiat of papal supremacy the rebellious sceptre of the Arch-enemy. There, the dark, tall statures of the Princes Metzengerstein--their muscular war-coursers plunging over the carcasses of fallen foes--startled the steadiest nerves with their vigorous expression; and here, again, the voluptuous and swan-like figures of the dames of days gone by, floated away in the mazes of an unreal dance to the strains of imaginary melody.Then, of course, a mysterious and powerful horse is found on the Metzengerstein property. It has the brand of the Berlifitizings but their grooms disclaim any knowledge of it. Frederick is happy to claim it, of course, and from that point after is inseparable from it, to the point of declining all other engagements and giving the horse special stables. He rides it day and night, but he does not pleasure in the horse, exactly:
But as the Baron listened, or affected to listen, to the gradually increasing uproar in the stables of Berlifitzing--or perhaps pondered upon some more novel, some more decided act of audacity--his eyes became unwittingly riveted to the figure of an enormous, and unnaturally colored horse, represented in the tapestry as belonging to a Saracen ancestor of the family of his rival. The horse itself, in the foreground of the design, stood motionless and statue-like--while farther back, its discomfited rider perished by the dagger of a Metzengerstein.
On Frederick's lip arose a fiendish expression, as he became aware of the direction which his glance had, without his consciousness, assumed. Yet he did not remove it. On the contrary, he could by no means account for the overwhelming anxiety which appeared falling like a pall upon his senses. It was with difficulty that he reconciled his dreamy and incoherent feelings with the certainty of being awake. The longer he gazed the more absorbing became the spell--the more impossible did it appear that he could ever withdraw his glance from the fascination of that tapestry. But the tumult without becoming suddenly more violent, with a compulsory exertion he diverted his attention to the glare of ruddy light thrown full by the flaming stables upon the windows of the apartment.
The action, however, was but momentary, his gaze returned mechanically to the wall. To his extreme horror and astonishment, the head of the gigantic steed had, in the meantime, altered its position. The neck of the animal, before arched, as if in compassion, over the prostrate body of its lord, was now extended, at full length, in the direction of the Baron. The eyes, before invisible, now wore an energetic and human expression, while they gleamed with a fiery and unusual red; and the distended lips of the apparently enraged horse left in full view his gigantic and disgusting teeth.
Stupefied with terror, the young nobleman tottered to the door. As he threw it open, a flash of red light, streaming far into the chamber, flung his shadow with a clear outline against the quivering tapestry, and he shuddered to perceive that shadow--as he staggered awhile upon the threshold--assuming the exact position, and precisely filling up the contour, of the relentless and triumphant murderer of the Saracen Berlifitzing.
Among all the retinue of the Baron, however, none were found to doubt the ardor of that extraordinary affection which existed on the part of the young nobleman for the fiery qualities of his horse; at least, none but an insignificant and misshapen little page, whose deformities were in everybody's way, and whose opinions were of the least possible importance. He--if his ideas are worth mentioning at all--had the effrontery to assert that his master never vaulted into the saddle without an unaccountable and almost imperceptible shudder, and that, upon his return from every long-continued and habitual ride, an expression of triumphant malignity distorted every muscle in his countenance.As you might guess, things end badly for Frederick. Chateau Metzengerstein burns to the ground, and the Baron rides into the flames on the back of the mysterious horse. Or, rather, the horse rides into the flames, carrying the unwilling Baron into it. When that happens, the "fury of the tempest" dies, and a cloud of smoke in the shape of a horse settles above the castle.
"Metzengerstein" is one of Poe's lesser-known, if better-regarded, stories of horror. It's concise, which is good; this isn't a story which would benefit by padding or extended character interaction. Even with his somewhat baroque phrasing and sentence construction Poe still nails the characterization of Frederick and draws out the horror of what Frederick did and what is done to him. And even the jaded modern reader, who might yawn at the ending, will still feel a jolt at the moment when the portrait of the horse changes its expression to look right at the Baron.
'Govan, James. James M'Govan was created by James M'Govan (like Andrew Forrester, Jr., the name of the author and the character was the same) and appeared in Brought to Bay; or, Experience of a City Detective (1878), Strange Clues; or Chronicles of a City Detective (1881), and Traced and Tracked; or Memoirs of a City Detective (1884). M'Govan was a writer and a violinist; I've been unable to find anything more about the man than that. The James M'Govan stories are casebook mysteries, short stories dealing in a realistic fashion with crime and criminals and are the clear predecessor of police procedurals. The M'Govan stories are particularly good examples of the genre, and would be a welcome reprint.
James M'Govan is a police detective on the mean streets of Edinburgh. He's a local product, the son of a poor, hard-working widow. As a boy a local policeman enlisted M'Govan to help him catch a teenaged purse-snatcher. Young James was so impressed by the cop, and so proud of the praise he received from that policeman for helping to catch the purse-snatcher, that James decided there and then to become a policeman when he grew up. As James grew up he helped the policeman with various jobs, and although this made him socially unpopular he remained proud of what he did. Unfortunately, the policeman James idolized was mugged by the forces of local crime kingpin James Maclusky; the injuries sustained during the mugging were so bad that the policeman eventually died of them. James set his sites on Maclusky, swearing that he'd one day bring him down, and continued to watch Maclusky once James joined the force. (In Brought to Bay James is unsuccessful in finally capturing Maclusky away).
James is a street cop. As a child of the Edinburgh streets, he knows them well, and that helps him on his job. He knows the local criminals, he knows where they hang out, and he knows where to find them. He also has a "nice soft wheedlin' way" when talking to people and to criminals, which helps him get information. M'Govan is relatively smart, and does well at following clues, but he is not a brilliant deductive Great Detective. He questions suspects and picks up on the obvious clues, such as a missing footprint where there should be one, but he has no leaps of genius. He doesn't need any, however. Paying attention to the "trifles" of crimes usually points him in the direction of the guilty, and his superior ability to track criminals through the streets of Edinburgh helps him catch them. M'Govan is a good cop, but he's also relatively kind. When he discovers that the murderer of a young girl was her father, who was temporarily insane during the murder, M'Govan does not charge the man, figuring that he's suffering enough with the knowledge of what he did.
The street-level of focus of Brought to Bay and the M'Govan stories is a welcome change from the more rarified air of some of the other detectives. M'Govan (the author) is always conscious of the victims of crime, both those victimized by the crime and the children of the criminals who have to suffer once the criminal goes to jail. M'Govan shows a particular awareness of poverty as a cause of crime, singling out those teenagers who live on the streets and can afford no other way to eat except by committing crimes. M'Govan doesn't soft-peddle crime or criminals, although he is constrained by the mores of the day and doesn't write about sex crimes, but he is aware that much crime is ultimately caused by social conditions such as poverty. M'Govan also has a cynical view of law enforcement; many of the crime bosses escape justice, leaving their tools to suffer and go to jail. M'Govan's criminals are street criminals--pickpockets, muggers, murderers, body-snatchers, flim-flam men, and the like--and his focus as an author is on what they are and how they came to be that way.
The M'Govan stories are quite entertaining, told in a straightforward, vigorous fashion with a minimum of Scots dialect. M'Govan even shows a very sentimental side in the story of the dog Peep, who is faithful to his criminal master. After Peep's master dies, Peep hangs around his grave and finally dies of a broken heart. (As a pet owner this naked tear-jerker worked quite effectively on me).
ichal. Michal was created by R. Murray Gilchrist and appeared in “Witch In-Grain” (The Stone Dragon and Other Tragic Romances, 1894). Gilchrist (1868-1917) was a British journalist and writer who is remembered (when he is) for The Stone Dragon, a collection of critically well-regarded decadent horror stories. “Witch In-Grain” is a memorable story about a medieval witch.
The narrator, a nameless English lord, has a problem. His lover Michal has recently become obsessed with some French “black-letter books,” and when the narrator visits her one day he finds her changed, become haggard, eyes sunken and generally seeming to have aged many years, although it only adds to her beauty. But the narrator also sees a huge golden bird sitting on her lap and pecking at the flesh of her breast. He is concerned at this, but she seems more irritated at being interrupted by him. When he inquires about the bird, she asks him odd questions and smiles cryptically. The narrator is troubled, and when his men capture Mother Benmusk, an old woman everyone is certain is a witch, she cries out to Michal, “Save me, mistress!” The narrator and his men become convinced that she has bewitched Michal, who refuses to prick her arm and show she is innocent. Under torture Mother Benmusk claims that she is innocent and has “none but paltry secrets,” and tells the narrator to “go at midnight to the heath and watch Baldus’ tomb. There thou shalt find all.” The narrator does, although he is frightened, since King Baldus’ grave is not a place he would ordinarily have visited after dark. The narrator passes through a horde of animals fleeing from the grave’s area and sees Michal, “triumphing, invested with flames,” and an unholy Shape “wrapping her in his blackness.”
“Witch In-Grain” is an odd, intense, and in its way quite powerful story. It has the in-media-res feel of a vignette, with no introduction of characters or explanation of who they are. But Gilchrist quickly and vividly conjures up a medieval and eldritch atmosphere, which combined with the unexplained but very genuine seeming folklore makes “Witch In-Grain” memorable. (“In-grain,” btw, means “downright, by nature, pure and simple, genuine, thorough”).
Michal...it’s not clear whether she really cares for the narrator or is completely deceiving him. She does call him “sweetheart,” but her Eve-like question to him, when he interrupts her meditation, “How camest [I thou hither, o satyr? Even when the Dragon slept, and the fruit hung naked to my touch...the gates fell to” hints at either her own inability to resist temptation, or something more frightening about her personality.
ilford, Mac. Mac Milford was created by Oskar Hoffmann and appeared in Mac Milfords Reisen im Universum. Von der Terra zur Luna oder Unter den Seleniten. Astronomische Erzählung (Mac Milford's Trip Through the Universe. From the Earth to the Moon or Beneath the Men of Mars. Astronomical Story), a 1902 serial which was collected in book form. Hoffmann (1866-?) was a major science fiction writer in Germany around the turn of the century and in the first decade afterwards; he wrote widely, for both adults and juveniles as well as in nonfiction and fiction. Milford is an Scots astronomer, scientist, and inventor who creates three separate methods for space travel; he's not only eager to get into space, he's brilliant, as well, and so develops redundancies for his ship. The first method is the "Atomizer;" it's essentially a Star Trek teleporter, as it electrolyzes (elektrolytisch) organic matter, disintegrates it, and then reconstructs it elsewhere, regardless of distance. Milford's student Mary Watson, the somewhat naive narrator of Mac Milfords, wonders if this destruction would be the death of an organic being. Mac responds:
"I think the bodies of organic beings are composed of a myriad of individual cells; because of these individual cells, which science calls atoms, it is possible for everyone to exist."After all this, however, Milford decides not to use the Atomizer to get to the moon. He has a "cozier way" to get there: his "Anti-Gravitation Vehicle" (antigravitationsvehikel), the Sirius.
(Mary): "Strange--and you're certain that this is so?"
(Milford): "Quite certain...my investigations have led me to recognize every person as a so-called 'government of cells'; on those grounds I have assembled my electrolytic body disintegrator."
(Mary): "But couldn't one lose some of those bodily cells while transporting them over tremendous distances?"
(Milford): "Were that also the case, it would be no obstacle for the reassembly of human bodies; of course, the loss of a number of brain cells would result in the change in character in the person concerned; yes, we can't rule out that, if a portion of bodily cells--some of the brain cortex, for example--came up missing, that would lead to the beginning of sudden chronic memory lapses in the individual."
"Definitely promising," Mary remarked to this, smiling.
"Don't be afraid of a thing; I will proceed with the dissolution of our bodies with as much foresight as conceivable. The electromagnetic light waves I will use for transporting the atoms will travel in a straight line through the universe to their destination planet, free of interference from magnetic influences..."
On my vehicle, there is a parabolically curved metallic screen radiating a magnetic force, which works directly in equal proportion against the Earth's gravity, and totally cancels it out.This ship has a hull lined with planks and a keel on the underside of the ship. It has an electric headlight and cross-paned windows, and in most regards is a departure from the Verne model.
Unfortunately, Milford is not alone in his trip to the moon. An American named "Lowell" (after Percival Lowell Pate) has gone to the moon in a "magnetic dragonflyer" (magnetischen Drachenflieger). The Scots follow him, launching from a mountaintop. They navigate their way through a swarm of shooting stars and then find a new, small moon, which Milford names "Liliput." They land and find that it's inhabited by "ape men," the Darwinian missing link. Milford and Mary leave Liliput and discover, in space, the remains of a crumpled balloon and its passengers, all now dead from the cold and the vacuum. (Milford and Mary are a bit more warmly dressed) It seems that the balloon was caught up in the "Anti-Gravitation Cathode" (antigravitationskathode) of the Sirius and were dragged into space. Still further the Sirius reaches the point between the Earth and the Moon at which the gravity of the Earth and of the moon cancel each other out. The Cathode stops working at this point, and the Sirius is trapped, with the only means of escaping being by venting "precious anti-magnetic fluid" (kostbares antimagnetisches Fluidum):
Like shocks of lightning, countless little arrows of light shot out from the metallic hose that flowed outside the vehicle's hull, spreading around the cathode a dull violet aureola of light.This cancels out Earth's gravity and allows the Sirius to continue on its way to the moon. There they find a race of beings, the Selenites, who were once at humanity's level of evolutionary development but who degenerated. Unfortunately, Lowell, the American, reached the moon before them, fought the Selenites, defeated them and made himself their ruler, and Milford and Mary have various adventures while escaping him. They find an underground world, with a valley of diamonds, a lake, a crumbling cave, and a forest of giant mushrooms. Eventually Milford and Mary escape from the moon and return, in the Sirius, to Earth. In England, however, they are stopped from reporting to the King of England by some pesky humans who lock them up in a sanitarium. (Going to the Moon? Absurd!) Luckily for Milford and Mary, they are rescued by Milford's servant, who springs them from the sanitarium with the help of the Sirius.
irrikh. Mirrikh was introduced in Francis W. Doughty's Mirrikh or a Woman From Mars. A Tale of Occult Adventure (1892). Doughty was one of the foremost writers of dime novels; his work is superior to that of Luis Senarens and the other dime novel writers in its intelligence, style, imagination and learning. Doughty wrote widely, both in dime novels (including Old King Brady) and in non-fiction, where he wrote significant books on numismatics and archeology. Mirrikh is a long and complicated novel which seems like an attempt to incorporate the tropes of the dime novel genre into an adult adventure novel; the attempt is not entirely successful. Mirrikh is a Martian who comes to Earth for reasons which are not made clear. The story begins in Cambodia around 1870s, where George Wylde, a traveling American misogynist, the narrator of the novel, attempts to protect a masked man from being torn apart by a mob. The mob corners the pair, only to see the masked man vanish. Wylde gets a glimpse of the man's face before he disappears; it is yellow above the mouth and black below it. Wylde and his friends continue on to Angkor Wat, where they encounter the strange man again, only to see him vanish. That night the Americans are lost in the jungle and being chased by a tiger when they are rescued by the stranger. When pressed by one of Wylde's friends, an alcoholic Reverend, the stranger identifies himself: he is named "Mirrikh," and he is from Mars.
The Americans don't believe him. Mirrikh explains that it's only his spirit inhabiting the body, and that he can return to Mars at will. Like all Martians Mirrikh has a number of exceptional abilities, among them mind control, levitation, shape alteration, phasing, control over others' bodies, etc; he insists, however, that these are not supernatural abilities, but simply scientifically-based ones. He invites the Americans to visit Mars, and one of them accepts. The group go to Tibet, where the Americans, disguised so they can pass, meet Mirrikh on a desolate mountainside. He meets them in the body of a corpse, explaining to them that this is the easiest way for him to travel around the Earth. He brings them to a lamasery where they see a group of misshapen, disfigured corpses being preserved. Mirrikh explains that the corpses are hosts for interplanetary travelers, and that the bodies take on the appearance of the alien spirits inhabiting them, which is why Mirrikh's host bodies turn black and yellow.
There's more to the novel than this--telepathic conversations, astral spirits traveling around the Earth, a version of the Platonic male/female origin myth, and Martian spirits in human bodies falling in love with humans--but I haven't really the heart to go on. Honestly, it's not worth it. You've got most of the interesting stuff about Mirrikh. The rest is just dross.
onella. Monella was created by “Frank Aubrey” and appeared in The Devil Tree of El Dorado(1897) and A Queen of Atlantis (1900). “Frank Aubrey” was the pen-name of Francis Harry Atkins (1840-1927), aka “Fenton Ash,” a British writer for story papers whose name appears elsewhere in these pages and on my Pulp Heroes site.
The Devil Tree of El Dorado and A Queen of Atlantis are long and plot-heavy books which have relatively little in common with each other besides Monella, so I’ll keep plot summary to a minimum. In Atlantis Monella is encountered in the midst of the Sargasso Sea. Monella helps the main characters survive Atlantis and establish a peaceful kingdom there. In Devil Tree it is revealed that Monella is actually King Mellenda, the former ruler of the lost city of Manoa, in the Roraima Plateau in Guyana (then British Guyana). Mellenda had ruled the white Lost Race of Manoa thousands of years ago, but had fled during a coup. Monella eventually destroys Goryon, who overthrew him years ago, and feeds him and his followers to the titular Devil Tree.
Monella is a seven-foot-tall white man with extraordinary strength, great animal magnetism, the knowledge of two thousand years of experience, and a hypnotic personality.
onkey's Paw. The Monkey’s Paw was created by W.W. Jacobs and appeared in “The Monkey’s Paw” (Harper’s, September 1902). W.W. Jacobs (1863-1943) was a British civil servant who was popular as a writer. He wrote a great deal of fiction, much of it humorous though a surprising amount was supernatural. Despite this, he is primarily remembered now for just one story, “The Monkey’s Paw,” one of the two or three most anthologized horror stories. It is an old chestnut, and yet on rereading it loses none of its power.
The Whites, father, mother, and adult son Herbert, are waiting up one night for their guest to arrive. He finally does: Sergeant-Major Morris, fresh from 21 years of service in India. After he has a few tumblers of whiskey he opens up and begins telling them about his experiences. Mr. White asks about “old temples and fakirs and jugglers...what was that you started telling me the other day about a monkey’s paw or something...?” Morris is reluctant to talk about it, but eventually produces the monkey’s paw and tells them about the spell put on it: “He wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.” Herbert asks, “Well, why don’t you have three, sir?” “The soldier regarded him in the way that middle age is wont to regard presumptuous youth. ‘I have,’ he said quietly, and his blotchy face whitened.’” Morris says how the first man to own the paw used his third wish for death, and angry with the paw–“it has caused enough mischief already”–throws it in the fire. Mr. White retrieves it, and Morris says, “If you keep it, don’t blame me for what happens. Pitch it on the fire again like a sensible man.” Morris tells them how to use the paw. They dine, but after Morris leaves the Whites discuss how to use it. Mr. White, unsure what to wish for, finally asks for two hundred pounds–but when he does he is unnerved, since “It moved....as I wished, it twisted in my hand like a snake.” Nothing happens, and so the Whites go to sleep. Herbert stays up, looking at the fire, and “seeing faces in it. The last face was so horrible and so simian that he gazed at it with amazement.”
The next day the Whites are visited at their home by a man from “Maw and Meggins,” the company which owns the factory in which Herbert works. He tells them that there was an accident–“he was caught in the machinery”–and that, to compensate the Whites, they’re getting 200 pounds. The Whites mourn, but a week later it occurs to Mrs. White to use the monkey’s paw to wish Herbert alive again. Mr. White is afraid:
The old man turned and regarded her, and his voice shook. ‘He has been dead ten days, and beside he–I would not tell you else, but–I could only recognize him by his clothing. If he was too terrible for you to see then, how now?’Mr. White wishes that his son was alive again. The pair wait for hours. That night Mr. White hears “a knock, so quiet and stealthy as to be scarcely audible” on the front door. Mrs. White wants to let him in, but Mr. White is terrified, and before Mrs. White can shoot the bolt on the door and open it Mr. White “frantically breathed his third and last wish.” When Mrs. White opens the door nothing is there.
‘Bring him back,’ cried the old woman, and dragged him toward the door. ‘Do you think I fear the child I have nursed?’
Anyone who’s done any amount of reading into supernatural and horror fiction has read “The Monkey’s Paw.” Many of us read it in high school. It’s been filmed and spoofed many times, even achieving postmodern canonical status as a Simpsons reference. We all know the premise. But because the story is so familiar to us, we often don’t bother to read it, and so it’s quite likely that you, Dear Reader, haven’t actually read “The Monkey’s Paw” in many years. If so, you are missing out, because the story is powerful. Jacobs takes the lighter approach to the material that is a sign of work late in the 19th century or early in the 20th century, and so the prose is stripped down and the dialogue more naturalistic; there’s much less of the ponderous, adjective-heavy style of, for example, Bulwer-Lytton. But despite the dialogue style and the casual conversations and the easy narrative approach, there’s a grave feel to the atmosphere of the story (although that may only be in the reader’s mind because they know what’s coming). I think most first time readers of the story would know that something bad is coming, even if they don’t know what it is. That atmosphere, combined with Jacobs’ descriptive style, makes for a subtly creepy story. Jacobs describes nothing horrible directly, although he devotes close attention to minor details which add to the fright; instead, everything is described indirectly, so that the reader is forced to intuit what Herbert’s body looked like or what was knocking at the door. This all leads to an ending which, despite our familiarity with it, can still chill with the best of them.
The monkey’s paw is a small, ugly thing. The spell on it is more of a curse, which was the fakir’s point: that those who use the wishes to escape their destiny will only have it rebound on them all the harder. The first man to use it learned the hard way: “The first man had his three wishes...I don’t know what the first two were, but the third was for death.” The second man to use it was a little wiser, though not too much. The third...was not wise at all, until the third wish.
onkeys. These monkeys appeared in William L. Alden's "A Darwinian Schooner," which appeared in the August 1893 issue of the Pall Mall Magazine. Alden (1837-1908) was an American writer and diplomat. In "A Darwinian Schooner" the crew of the Jane G. Mather, steaming 500 miles east of Rio de Janeiro, discover a drifting, deserted schooner. A crew from the Mather, including the story's narrator, rows over to the ship to take command of it, and find that is overrun with large monkeys ("baboons was their correct rating, I believe") but is absent of humans. The monkeys act in an entirely unusual way, when the ship is first boarded:
The monkeys were crowded together, watching us over the rail, but keeping as grave and quiet as a lot of man-of-war's men. On the quarter-deck, all alone by himself, was an old, white-haired monkey, that we took to be the captain, as he afterwards proved to be. he was sitting on the skylight, and was a great sight too dignified to be seen watching us.Things take a turn for the odder when the narrator speaks to the white-haired monkey:
"We came aboard to see if you wanted anything. If so be as you are the captain of this schooner, perhaps you'll tell me if you need a navigator, or a carpenter, or anything of the sort?"The problem, for the monkeys, is that they've had nothing to drink for days, and are "half-dead of thirst." The narrator knocks the bung out of a water cask, bringing much joy to the crew and even seeming to please the white-haired monkey.
The monkey didn't say a word, but he bowed as polite as if he was a Frenchman. Meanwhile the other monkeys had gathered in a circle around us, and were whining in a mournful sort of way.
The crew of the Mather takes over the schooner and begins sailing it, and initially everything seems fine, but fairly quickly the monkeys, seeming to deduce that the Mather's crew is going to take the schooner to Rio and sell it as salvage, begin conspiring. The sailors on the schooner decide that either the monkeys threw the original crew of the schooner overboard and claimed the ship for themselves, or that the schooner was originally a slave ship and that the monkeys had stolen the ship while the crew was on shore, drinking and gathering slaves. The white-haired monkey captain begins creeping around with a big knife, stealing bottles of rum, and consulting the nautical charts and log lines, all the while chattering to the other monkeys and acting like a captain does towards his men. The crew of the Mather talk to him, trying to keep the peace, and almost apologizing for stealing his command while warning him not to make trouble, but this does no good. The monkeys riot, led by the white-haired captain, and kill one man, but the narrator shoots the white-hair and he and his friend beat down the rebellion. The monkeys remain quiet until the ship reaches shore and then bolt for the woods. No other explanation, other than the story's title itself, is given for the monkeys' intelligence.
onster. The Monster appears in "The Monster of Lake LaMetrie," which appeared in Pearson's Magazine in August, 1899. It was written by Wardon Allen Curtis, an author about whom I've been able to find little. Dr. McLennegan takes his ailing friend Edward Framingham to Lake LaMetrie in the mountains of Wyoming in the spring of 1896. The Lake is bottomless, and both Framingham and McLennegan, who are subscribers to the hollow earth theory of Symmes, believe that the Lake "communicates with the interior of the earth," and that in its depths might be found species of plants and animals no longer surviving on Earth. An earthquake upsets the lake and brings an "elasmosaurus" to the surface. The dinosaur surprises Dr. McLennegan, who slices its head open. This only serves to stun it, and McLennegan, fearing that it will recover before it dies, removes the monster's brain entirely. This only serves to put it into a coma, and the monster begins regenerating its brain. (!) Framingham meanwhile is so agonized by his dyspepsia that he cuts his own throat. This does not immediately kill him, however, and after McLennegan speaks to Framingham (who can communicate via a series of winks, even with his throat laid open) he is struck by an idea.
So McLennegan transfers Framingham's brain into the body of the elasmosaurus, whose cranial cavity is coincidentally similar to man's. The operation is a success, and within two weeks time Framingham has acquired enough control of his new body to do as McLennegan says. Two weeks after that Framingham can speak, and the pair communicates. Framingham is lonely and afraid that he will either be abandoned or put in a freak show; McLennegan, for his part, refuses to admit of the former possibility but similarly fears the latter. After a year's time Framingham begins to change, becoming more bestial (literally) and less intelligent and coherent; "no longer is his conversation such as an educated man can enjoy, but slangy and diffuse iterations concerning the trivial happenings of our uneventful life." Almost two years after that an army unit, "dispatched into the mountains after some Indians who had left their reservation," discovers the monster "engaged in rending the body of a man." They fire on the monster, using their howitzers, and kill it.
Monster of Lake LaMetrie"
The e-text of the story, from the Gaslight site.
ontoni, Count. Count Montoni was created by Ann Radcliffe and appears in The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). Radcliffe (1764-1823) was one of the most popular novelists of her time, winning praise from critics and her fellow writes as well as the public. But her output was limited–five Gothic novels, one of which was The Italian (see the Father Schedoni entry, which will be revised and expanded in a few weeks)–and her personal life was and remains mostly a mystery, and like many another popular author from a bygone age she is little read today, although she was at least made an action heroine in Paul Feval's City of Vampires (see the Selene entry). She will always be remembered, however, for The Mysteries of Udolpho, which was the second important Gothic in the genre's history. (#1 was The Castle of Otranto–see the Manfred entry–#2 was The Mysteries of Udolpho, #3 was The Monk–see the Ambrosio entry–and #4 was Melmoth the Wanderer). I wish I could say that The Mysteries of Udolpho is as interesting or enjoyable as the Castle of Otranto, but it’s not. Historically important is about the best The Mysteries of Udolpho can do.
The Mysteries of Udolpho is about Emily St. Aubert, the daughter of Monsieur St. Aubert, a French aristocrat who retired in disgust from Parisian society to enjoy the pure life of the countryside. They are happy for a time, but then Emily’s mother, St. Aubert’s wife, dies, and the St. Auberts are left in financially difficult times. They are forced to go on a trip south, to the Pyrenees, for reasons which Emily is not told of. On the trip they meet Valancourt, a handsome young man whose family Monsieur St. Aubert knows. Valancourt joins the St. Auberts on their trip, and Valancourt and Emily quickly become attracted to each other. But Valancourt, on a trip of his own, is forced to part from them. St. Aubert then falls ill and after staying in a cottage with some noble peasants he dies. Emily returns home and burns some letters which her father told her to destroy without reading them. But she also finds a miniature of a beautiful woman who she didn’t know; she’d once seen her father kissing the portrait, and then crying, however. Since he didn’t tell her to destroy the portrait, she takes it with her and then goes to stay with her aunt, Madame Montoni, in Toulouse. She’s not a nice person, and Emily doesn’t like her, but she’s the only person Emily has left, and so Emily goes to stay with her.
Valancourt follows, and he asks her to marry him. She agrees, and eventually Madame Montoni gives her consent, but only a few days before the ceremony Madame Montoni marries the sinister Italian Signor Montoni, who immediately forbids Emily’s wedding and promptly takes Emily and Mme. Montoni off to Venice. Once there both Emily and Mme Montoni soon realize that now-Count Montoni only married Mme. Montoni to gain her estate and that of Emily. Matters worsen when Count Montoni arranges a marriage between Emily and Count Morano, a Venetian nobleman, something Emily is dead set against but which she has no power to prevent. But the night before the wedding Count Montoni orders the household to pack and leave for his castle at Udolpho. When the group gets there, Montoni begins repairing the castle. Emily doesn’t like the place; it’s dark, cold, sprawling, creepy, and the servants claim that it is haunted. The previous owner, Lady Laurentini, had disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and her ghost is said to be one of those who haunt the castle.
Soon after they arrive Count Morano tries to kidnap Emily, but Montoni foils this and wounds Montoni in a duel. Then the Count tries to get his wife to sign over her estates to him; when she refuses, he has her locked in a tower. Emily, who is getting along somewhat better with her aunt by this point, tries to visit her, only to find blood on the tower stairs, which makes her think that her aunt has been murdered. Then strange sounds and shadows are heard and seen around the castle, and everyone is put on edge. The Count himself begins to believe that the castle is haunted. Emily hears that hostages have been taken and becomes convinced that Valancourt is one of them, and between that and the Count’s threat that she sign over all of her estates to him or suffer the same fate as Madame Montoni, Emily’s life is one long unpleasantness. Emily discovers that her aunt wasn’t murdered, but instead died through harsh treatment and was buried in the castle’s chapel.
Morano attempts, again, to kidnap Emily, and she tries to help this time, because she’s afraid for her life. But Montoni finds out about this and captures Morano and then forces Emily to sign over her estates to him. She is then sent away by Montoni to a cottage in Tuscany, because he’s heard that an army is headed to attack Udolpho and seize him. He’s organized a group of thieves to frighten and plunder the neighborhood, and the villas of several rich Venetians have been looted, and Montoni’s made enemies. Emily eventually returns to the castle and finds that there’s been a battle. She helps one of Montoni’s prisoners, an old friend of her father, escape from the dungeons, and together they and Emily’s leave and sail for France. But on the way a storm wrecks their ship and they are forced ashore, near the castle where Emily’s father was buried. They are rescued by the Villeforts, the inheritors of the chateau. While there Emily visits the convent at which her father was buried, and sees a nun who resembles Lady Laurentini. Back at the chateau, strange noises are heard, and one of Emily’s servants disappears. When one of the Villeforts’ servants tells Emily this, she notices that the miniature which Emily’s father had owned. The servant tells Emily that the miniature is a portrait of the former mistress of the chateau, the Marquise de Villeroi, and that Emily resembles the portrait.
Valancourt reappears and again proposes marriage to Emily, but she finds out that he incurred huge gambling debts while she was imprisoned in Italy, and so she breaks off the engagement. She returns home only to hear that Montoni has been captured in Venice, and that since he illegally gained control of her estates, the Venetian courts have restored them to do, she is now wealthy. From that point on, things improve. Emily discovers that the nun who resembled Lady Laurentini was Lady Laurentini and that she had been a former lover of the Marquis de Villeroi, whose wife was the sister of Emily’s father. She had left Udolpho to be with the Marquis, but finding him married to St. Aubert’s sister, tried to get him to poison her wife. He fled to a far country and died of remorse, and she went to the convent to expiate her sins. And then Emily discovers that Valancourt gambled only in an attempt to raise money to help some friends. That’s a good reason to gamble, obviously, and so she marries him and they live Happily Ever After.
I said up above that The Mysteries of Udolpho is the second most important Gothic in the genre. It wasn’t the first place that many of the motifs of the Gothic appeared; that would be The Castle of Otranto. (I list many of the motifs there). But it was Udolpho which popularized them and had the most direct influence on other writers, so that the formula of the threatened maiden, the mysterious castle, and the hidden family secrets became known as the Radcliffean Gothic. Radcliffe is also seen as one of the important early writers of the “female Gothic,” the female-centered Gothic which is usually a Bildungsroman about a heroine’s coming of age. This is set against the “male Gothic,” which are the more supernatural, more open-ended, and more overtly sexual and violent. Critics have traditionally valued the male Gothic over the female Gothic, seeing the former as more “transgressive” and “experimental,” but that is a subjective judgment rather than an objective one.
Udolpho featured Sensibility as one of the major elements of the novel. Sensibility, in the 18th century, was a reaction to the rationalism of the time; it stressed feeling over logic and emotional experience over thought. The man of sensibility was supposed to be particularly receptive to the beauties of nature and to the “sublime,” and was supposed to be naturally benevolent, with his own great feelings leading him to sympathy for others. True sensibility would lead men and women to weep and faint and to languish in melancholia, as an indication of how sensitive they were. This shows up in Udolpho; Emily is supremely sensitive, as is Valancourt, while Montoni is manifestly not. This motif became common in other early Gothics.
Udolpho also was the first Gothic to make a place–in this case, the castle of Udolpho–a central character in the Gothic. The castle seems to the too-imaginative Emily to be an archetypal Bad Place, full of eerily long passages, claustrophobically dark rooms, twisting corridors, and locked rooms from which servants disappear. It’s not supernatural; Radcliffe is at pains to explain everything in rational and realistic terms. But for most of the novel what happens seems to be supernatural. Much more than Otranto, Udolpho makes the castle a central actor in the novel, and this as much as anything else was responsible for the novel’s popularity, something other writers took note of.
Interestingly, for a work so important in the development of the genre, Mysteries is essentially a conservative book, portraying the supernatural frights which the heroine suffers as existing entirely in her own mind and giving a rationalist explanation for every unnatural event. (In this respect it's an ancestor to nearly every Scooby Doo episode). Evil, in Mysteries, comes from men, not Satan, and is finally psychological, not spiritual. This is because Radcliffe was writing what she thought of as Terror, rather than Horror. Terror “expands the soul, and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life,” while horror “contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them.” Terror is a rational reaction to an overwhelming and frightening reality, while horror is a loathing, repugnance, and fear of something else, something Other. Radcliffe was opposed to “superstition,” even though it was a part of earlier Gothics, like Otranto.
Radcliffe’s style has not aged well. She writes thick, heavy, stilted prose, dense with (admittedly well done) descriptions of scenery and quotations from poetry. The plot is long and slow moving, taking its own sweet time getting the main plot, Emily’s imprisonment in the Castle of Udolpho, in gear. Once in Udolpho the machinery of the classic Gothic (which, it bears repeating, Radcliffe was largely responsible for popularizing), is put in motion and matters become more involving, but that’s 240+ pages in. Even there, though, the sluggish pace and torpid prose detracts from the reader’s enjoyment of the novel. Characterization is shown through narrative description rather than action and dialogue–in telling rather than showing, to use the cliched formula. Radcliffe occasionally uses her characters as mouthpieces for lectures, and while the matters she speaks to are far from our own concerns (“do not indulge in the pride of fine feeling, the romantic error of amiable minds. Those, who really possess sensibility, ought early to be taught, that it is a dangerous quality, which is continually extracting the excess of misery, or delight, from every surrounding circumstance”) didactic lecture is never enjoyable, even when you agree with the lecturers’ opinions.
The emotional tone of the novel is pitched quite high; matters are always in a greatly heightened emotional state, so that dialogue is often quite shrill and feelings quite brittle. Emily is virtuous and sweet, but not tough and not wily, certainly not in the way that other, later Gothic heroines were. She faints a lot and weeps more often than that, and her role in the plot is as object, to be acted upon rather than to be an active agent.
But Radcliffe is not a completely woeful writer. Although her characters are for the most part one-dimensional, both heroes and villains, they are one-dimensional in different ways, so that Count Montoni’s cold ambition and villainy is different from the vanity and callousness of Madame Montoni. Radcliffe also shows the occasional (albeit rare) insight to human behavior or moment of subtle characterization. And although much of the story is slow-moving and boring there are parts–sometimes long parts–of Emily’s story, and Valancourt’s, and St. Aubert’s, which hold the reader’s interest, so that you’ll want to know what happens next and how things will turn out.
Count Montoni is not a Hero-Villain, ala Otranto’s Manfred or John Melmoth. He’s not a person of great capability and passions who cannot resist temptation and his darker impulses. No, Montoni is simply a villain, haughty, cold, cruel, and ambitious. He despises the kinder passions, and sees those who give into them as weak. (This sets him in opposition to Emily, who values Sensibility). He broods, has a “severity of temper and gloominess of his pride,” and is extremely ambitious. Montoni has few friends, and even those he disdains, for his “decisive and haughty air, which, while it imposed submission on weak and timid minds, roused the fierce hatred of strong one.” He glories in the “energies of the passions; the difficulties and tempests of life, which wreck the happiness of others, roused and strengthened all the powers of his mind, and afford him the highest enjoyments, of which his nature was capable. Without some object of strong interest, life was to him little more than sleep; and, when pursuits of real interest failed, he substituted artificial ones, till habit changed their nature, and they ceased to be unreal.” He’s handsome, but in a cold and haughty way. He is knowledgeable about many things, but uses his knowledge and abilities only to lie and to gain more money and power.
oor, Karl von. Karl von Moor was created by Friedrich Schiller and appeared in Die Räuber: Ein Schauspiel (The Robbers, 1781). Schiller (1759-1805) was a brilliant writer and aesthetician who is commonly seen as Germany’s greatest dramatist. He was, during the last decade of his life, one of the dominant writers of German letters, and his mystique has only grown in the centuries since his death. His The Robbers is not regarded with the best of his work, although it is more highly valued than his The Ghost-Seer (see The Prince). But The Robbers was the genesis of the räuberroman genre and so deserves inclusion here. That it is a readable and occasionally enjoyable play is a bonus.
The Robbers is Karl von Moor, the passionate, headstrong son of the Count von Moor. Karl, a university student, is an idealist who loathes the modern hypocritical, weak, effeminate and law-bound age and longs for the days of the epic past, when bold, manly heroes could forge their own successes: “Never yet has law formed a great man; ‘tis liberty that breeds giants and heroes.” Unfortunately, Karl does not realize that his brother Franz hates him. Karl was the favorite of the Count their father, who always had scornful things to say about Franz (“the dry commonplace, the cold, the wooden Franz”) and who always esteemed Karl. Moreover, Franz was not born handsome, like Karl, but instead was born with “this burden of deformity...why to me in particular this snub of the Laplander? These negro lips? These Hottentot eyes?” Franz is filled with jealousy of Karl and greed for the Count’s holdings, and so Franz forges a letter to the Count which speaks of Karl’s gambling, dueling, and dishonoring women and of the price set on Karl’s head. The aging Count is horror struck at the damage which Karl is doing to the good name of the von Moors and wants to cut Karl off and withdraw his protection from him. But the Iago-like Franz cunningly persuades the Count to let Franz be the one to write the letter to Karl informing him off this. Franz then writes to Karl and tells him that the Count has disinherited him. Karl is disgusted with humanity because of this, and when his drinking mates suggest to him that they become a band of robbers, with Karl as their captain, he is very pleased with the offer. Franz meanwhile tries to seduce Karl’s cousin and sweetheart Amalia, but when she sees through his tricks he tries and fails to rape her. (She draws his sword and holds him off). Franz then has Hermann, a servant, disguise himself and appear before the Count pretending to have served with Karl in the army during the recent war between Austria and Prussia and to have fallen during the battle of Prague. The Count believes this information and is nearly killed by it, which is Franz’s intent; when Franz later tells Amalia that the Count is dead, she believes him. But Hermann, feeling qualms of conscience, gives away the game to Amalia. Time passes, and Franz becomes a cruel tyrant to his people. Karl and his gang rob many rich people and give a great deal to the poor, but deaths increase as they practice their trade, and Karl feels increasingly worse about them. Karl returns home in disguise. He chats with Amalia and finds that she still loves him, but he’s convinced that he killed his father and is guilt-wracked because of that. But then he discovers his father, still alive but imprisoned in secret by Franz and horribly aged through starvation and sorrow. From his father Karl discovers exactly what Franz did, and Karl vows to attack the castle and kill Franz. But Franz, miserable with guilt, has met with a priest and been told that the parricide is the worst creature on earth, so when he is told that the robbers are storming the castle, he strangles himself. But this victory brings Karl no happiness. When the castle is taken and the Count is freed, Karl reveals himself to his father, who then dies from the shock. Karl tries to run away with Amalia, but the robbers remind him of his pledge of faithfulness to them and then demand that Karl give them Amalia. Karl rejects Amalia, Amalia has scornful things to say about Karl, and Amalia, supremely unhappy (the man she loves, a murdering bandit!), asks the robbers to kill her rather than rape her. When one of them attempts to oblige her, Karl stops them and kills her himself: “Moor’s Amalia shall die by no other hand than Moor’s.” Karl, now [U really unhappy and tired of his life, decides to give himself up to a poor peasant so that the peasant can gain the reward for Karl’s capture.
The Robbers is a play, rather than a novel. The standard version of The Robbers is the edition Schiller wrote, rather than the “acting edition” which was used when the play was staged, so that what is read is different from what was performed and has a different feel to it. So The Robbers can’t be reviewed in the same way that a novel would be reviewed. And it was written 250 years ago, so the standards of judgment we use even for early 19th century literature don’t apply. And it was written in German, rather than French, so there’s the additional burden of translation which reviewers of The Robbers must bear in mind.
All of that said...The Robbers is moderately readable and enjoyable, but no more. Schiller does bring in the occasional good line or aphorism. Karl’s motivation is perhaps hard to credit, but Franz’s characterization, as someone tormented by greed and jealousy but also suffering from parental rejection, is given appropriate depth by Schiller and leaves him understandable, if not sympathetic. Franz is nicely Iago-like in his cunning and plots, but he has too much of a conscience and is too emotionally weak to match up to that marvel of motiveless malignity. But The Robbers has its flaws. It’s unavoidable that a play will seem stagy, and criticizing a play for seeming stagy is perhaps misguided, but there are plays, even ones much older than The Robbers, which have a more vital and less affected and artificial feel to them than The Robbers does. The dialogue and monologues are for the most part dated and formal. The characterization of Karl and Amalia are overblown, as is the language.
But what is most likely to hamper the modern reader’s enjoyment of The Robbers is the extreme breast-thumping emotion which the characters suffer and describe at length, the endless ventings of emotional torment and melancholy which Schiller graces the audiences with. This heightened state is typical of the Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) movement. The movement, which was dominant during the 1770s–The Robbers is a late example of it, written toward the end of the movement but being published some years after its composition–privileged the noble genius, lyricism, emotion over rationalism, emotional suffering, a commitment to social justice, liberty, and attempts at realism. Movement writers embraced the Romantic idea of sensibility, or receptiveness to feelings and superiority of emotions to rationalism, and took it to extremes; they celebrated the misunderstood genius, a man of passion and power, who obeyed his emotions and longings in defiance of supposedly suffocating, materialistic society and the law.
In its time the works and writers of the movement were important and influential, but in certain respects the Sturm und Drang texts are quite dated. The most dated and most unenjoyable are the violent outbursts of overstated, over-the-top emotion which the suffering, self-pitying, too-noble-for-this-world genius gives vent to. (Picture Hamlet’s monologues, only with more excessive hair-tearing, purpler prose, and shriller, apoplectic sentiments). The Robbers was very, very popular when it debuted, but Karl von Moor’s emotional torments, described at length, are unlikely to move the modern reader to anything except irritation.
Ordinarily I’d exclude something written as early as The Robbers from this site. I am trying to concentrate on 19th century material. But I’ve included certain 18th century works here because of their influence on 19th century writers and works. It’s impossible to accurately write about the Gothics without including the 1764 The Castle of Otranto (see the Manfred entry) or the 1786 Vathek. And it’s impossible to accurately write about the räuberroman without including The Robbers.
The räuberroman, or “robber novel,” was a series of plays and novels which featured noble robbers warring with society. I’ve included the two major räuberroman on this site: Heinrich Zschokke’s Abällino der große Bandit and Christian Vulpius’ Rinaldo Rinaldini, der Räuberhauptmann. But the räuberroman genre really got its start with the appearance of The Robbers, which was enormously popular quite influential on both German and English authors at the turn of the 19th century. The räuberroman was not wholly new, of course; its descent from medieval German myths is clear, to say nothing of the stories of Robin Hood and other, similar figures. But The Robbers added modern characterization and sensibilities to it and incorporated the extravagant emotion and violence of the Sturm und Drang movement. Too, Schiller set the action of The Robbers in the modern era, rather than in the distant past, which was something new and interesting to his audiences. Through The Robbers Schiller directly influenced Zschokke and Vulpius, and at a greater remove was responsible for characters like Edmond About’s Hadji Stavros and even Kate and Hesketh Prichard’s Don Q. Although the heyday of the noble robber figure was past when the Gothics ended–the räuberroman and the Gothic are seen as parallel genres–the noble robber figure never went away, either. And Schiller, in The Robbers, started it.
Karl’s a wanker. To his credit, Schiller understood this. Karl is the noble, misunderstood genius mentioned above, the celebrated figure of the Sturm und Drang and the cult of feeling. But Karl is still a wanker. He comes much too late to the realization that his acts, his self-appointed war on society, the robbery and rape and murder which he and his gang have committed, are not justified by his intent. Karl emotionally suffers for the lives lost, but he commits the acts which loses those lives; knowing what will happen, he still sets fire to a city in order to rescue a friend condemned for death. Karl hates repressive, materialistic German society and its weak, vigorless people, and seeks to live heroically outside the trammels of the law, but his chosen course of action is to live as a thief, and that inevitably leads to the suffering of innocents.
oore, Arthur. Arthur Moore appeared in E. E. Kellett's "The Lady Automaton," which first appeared in Pearson's Magazine in its June 1901 issue. Kellett is an author I've been able to find little on, apart from his life span (1860-1933); he seems to have written widely, in both fiction and non-fiction, and translated Latin and Old English poems--perhaps he was an academic?--but other than that there doesn't seem to be anything available about him.
Arthur Moore is the childhood friend of the narrator of "The Lady Automaton." Moore is an inventor who begins with interesting devices as a child ("locomotives which, when once wound up, would run for a day") and progresses, as an adult, to more interesting creations--an "automatic chess player, that had played a draw with Steinitz himself," a whist player, and then finally a "phonograph so perfectly constructed that people began to think that even Edison must soon begin to look to his laurels."
The narrator, in the middle of conversation with Moore, suggests to him that he "make an instrument which should not repeat words, but speak out the suitable answer to them." (The narrator, being a "full-blown materialist," sees humans as machines, and wants to see Moore create a machine that can converse like a person) Moore is struck by the idea, and several months later has created a phonograph that speaks (although it parrots Moore's own opinions). Months after that, Moore has created an android, "the most beautiful girl I had ever seen; a creature with fair hair, bright eyes, and a doll-like childishness of expression." The android, however, has the speaking phonograph inside her, and although she can carry on conversations and sing quite well, she can only parrot the opinions that Moore feeds to her.
The "girl" captivates society, and after a mishap with a brooch pin Moore even makes it so that, when cut, she will bleed something resembling blood. The narrator takes an unreasoning dislike to her, but even his urgings don't persuade Moore to get rid of her. Then, when two separate men fall in love with her, and she agrees to marry both on the same day, she goes to one wedding and ends up stabbed by the other man. Moore dies as she does; "he had put his life into his masterpiece; his wonderful toy was broken, and the cord of Moore's life was broken with it."
The story is actually rather well done, and the final line--about the narrator's reaction to the death of the android and of Moore--has a nice bite to it.
oore, Newton. Newton Moore was introduced in Fred M. White's "The Romance of the Secret Service Fund" series of stories, which started in the August 1900 issue of Pearson's Magazine and ran through 1901. Moore was a recurring character through the series. (For biographical information on White, see the Lancaster Vane entry below).
Moore is a clever, resourceful and tough agent of the "Secret Service Fund," which works out of the British War Office. Moore is one of the Fund's best agents, assigned by his superior Sir George Morley to handle the hardest and hottest cases. He has a number of friends, contacts, and informants in a wide range of professions, and uses them to help him solve the cases. His main enemy, and that of the Fund itself, is Emile Nobel, the "great, gross German," the "chief rascal in the Rogues' Gallery of Europe" and the head of the German intelligence department; Nobel is a deaf, squat, toad-like man who is an ace chemist and is responsible for many murders, "all strictly in the way of business." In one adventure Nobel had succeeded in stealing the plans to a recoilless, frictionless rifle that propels bullets by means of "liquid air" and had a magazine of 400 projectiles; Moore, showing ingenuity and physical stamina (he fights on despite being attacked by a vicious guard dog--Moore uses his diamond tie-pin to kill the dog--and dosed with poison gas), succeeds in taking the rifle and the plans away from Nobel. Although Nobel escapes in this adventure, as he does in every adventure, Moore succeeds in retrieving the rifle.
The "Secret Service Fund" stories are not peerless, but they're brisk adventure/espionage stories with just enough science fictional element to attract interest.
ouret, Placide de. Captain Placide de Mouret was created by Harris Dickson and appeared in The Black Wolf’s Breed (1899). Dickson (1868-1946) was a Mississippi Judge, and a notable short story writer and novelist of the post-Civil War South. The Black Wolf’s Breed is a well written historical romance which is too serious for its own good.
Placide de Mouret is a member of Bienville’s Guards in Louisiana in the 17th century, late in the reign of Louis XIV. One day he goes to visit his friend Colonel d’Ortez, a Huguenot refugee who lives alone in the swamps. They’ve been friends a long time, but this visit brings something different. This time d’Ortez, feeling that he has not long to live, admits to Placide that he is actually the last Count d’Antin, whose crest is the black wolf. The Count tells Placide the story of his family’s dishonor and its broken lineage, and asks Placide to find the last d’Antin. Placide returns to Biloxi and is promptly given a mission by Bienville, the Governor of the colony. Bienville worries about an imminent war between the French colonists and the rascally Spanish and their Natchez-Chickasaw allies, and he has heard that the King is going to turn over control of the revenues and government of the colonies to Antoine Crozat, his minister of finance. So Bienville tells Placide to go to Paris to deliver papers to Serigny, Bienville’s brother, and then to act under Serigny’s instructions. Placide, who has heard many stories about the grace and courage of Serigny, is happy to go, but is well aware that there may be spies within the French colonists and military, and so he feels he can’t trust anyone but Bienville. Placide’s suspicions are almost immediately confirmed when, on boarding the ship which is to bring him to Paris, Le Dauphin, he overhears the conversation of spies. But Placide cannot see who is talking, and so knows only that traitors are onboard the Dauphin. He enjoys the trip and becomes close with two men, Levert, an older and taciturn man, and Broussard, a younger and lighthearted man. Unfortunately, a practice duel between Placide and Broussard turns serious, and when Placide masters Broussard their friendship is hurt.
When they arrive in France Placide begins the journey to Versailles but is appalled at the cruelties he sees inflicted on the Huguenots, as well as the peasants and countryside devastated by the extravagances of the King. On arriving at Versailles he goes to the palace and arranges an interview with Serigny, but he is dressed like a colonist and so attracts the jibes of a courtier, who provokes a duel, which Placide easily wins. Placide tells the courtier, who is one of the King’s soldiers, that “I can not turn the King’s sword against one of his servants.” Fortunately for Placide, the King is standing right behind him when this happens, and His Royal Highness is quite favorably impressed with Placide’s conduct. The King agrees to see Placide the next morning, and struts off into the crowd. Placide’s opponent begs his pardon, and introduces Placide to the Duke of Orleans, the rival of the Duke of Maine for the forthcoming Regency of France. When Serigny is pointed out to Placide, he approaches Serigny and tells him his mission. They retire to the privacy of one of Versailles’ gardens, and Placide gives Serigny Bienville’s papers. Serigny is pleased to get them, and teaches Placide a little about the politics of the court. They agree to meet the following day, after Placide’s meeting with the King.
The meeting goes well, Placide showing his loyalty but speaking boldly to the King when necessary. The King is swayed and reappoints Bienville as the Governor of the Province of Louisiana, which pleases Serigny. He then gives Placide a mission, to go to Paris and assist in the apprehension of the spy Yvard. In Paris he attempts to save a woman from being assaulted, and forces the man to break and run, only to discover that he had been fighting Yvard over a “decoy pigeon” for a wine room. Placide pursues Yvard and gets into a gambling match with him–their previous fight had been in the dark, so Yvard had not gotten a good look at Placide’s face–but this leads to another fight, and Placide only escapes from the inn with the help of Florine, the waitress he’d saved from Yvard. Placide then meets Jerome de Greville, Serigny’s agent. They become friends, and Placide accompanies Jerome to a ball, where he meets a masked woman. The woman flirts with him and enchants him, and so Placide accedes to her requests. This leads him into trouble, and he ends up trapped in a house with Broussard, who Placide discovers is a Spanish agent. A grueling struggle follows in which Placide is forced to kill Broussard by strangling him, something that momentarily drives Placide insane. He falls into a fever, recovering some time later in the care of Jerome and Florine. Placide resumes his work for Serigny, but he allows himself to be gulled by the masked woman, who he discovers to be the maid to the Queen, who is playing the King, the Duke of Orleans, and the Duke of Maine all against each other. The woman, to serve the Queen, manipulates Placide into killing a man Placide had previously refused to duel with, and then further manipulates events so that Placide is declared an outlaw by the King.
After that (for I’ve gone on too long already) Placide flees Paris, meets his true love, finds the last of the d’Antins, returns to Louisiana, and fights in the battle of Pensacola. He ends up living happily ever after.
As I’ve admitted elsewhere on this site, one of my critical shortcomings is an inability to read swashbucklers and historical romances without comparing them to the works of Stanley Weyman. One might call it a matter of personal taste, for such it is, but it’s also unfair to other swashbuckler writers. Take Harris Dickson, for example, and his Black Wolf’s Breed. The novel has a number of virtues, and is clearly a well intentioned, serious novel with much to recommend it. And yet while reading it all I could think of was that it lacked the wit and lightness of Weyman’s best. Silly, really–as if humor and a light atmosphere were the most important measures of a swashbuckler. But that’s how I reacted. Ah, me.
Anyhow. The Black Wolf’s Breed is indeed a serious novel. In the world of 18th century Louisiana and Paris, as Dickson recreates it, there isn’t much room for humor, a light atmosphere or fun. And Dickson clearly took the writing of the novel seriously, and if he did not produce High Art, he still managed to treat individual elements seriously. Dickson is careful with his details, differentiating between Indian tribes, between Choctaw and Chickasaw, something many 19th century writers of historical romances were unable or unwilling to do. Dickson makes good use of real world history, unfortunately to the point of requiring readers to know more about 18th century French history than most modern readers are likely to know. And Dickson treats issues of social inequity, powerlessness and class quite seriously. He shows an acute awareness of the cost of monarchy, of the people whose work supported the upper classes which are so often the focus of historical romances; in The Black Wolf’s Breed, the reader is aware of what it was to be poor under the kings of France. Dickson is equally keen on showing the reader the human pain behind religious bigotry; his descriptions of anti-Huguenot violence and the victims of religious bigotry can verge on gruesome, but they are effective. Finally, unlike many other swashbucklers, The Black Wolf’s Breed does not portray the killing of another as a small thing. When de Mouret strangles Broussard, it greatly upsets him. One can’t imagine, for example, Lucius Sergius Fidenas becoming horrified at having killed another person, but that’s just what de Mouret is.
Dickson’s style is good for these purposes. Although his recreation of Louisiana and Paris is only average, his descriptions are good and occasionally vivid, as when de Mouret slips into fever and madness following his killing of Broussard. Dickson’s tone and vocabulary are good, and the novel has a good, fast pace.
Captain de Mouret is a patriotic Frenchman, despite having been born in the New World. He’s honest enough, but too rash, too hasty, and too confident of his own abilities. He’s a good swordsman, and has various other skills, such as tracking and moving through the wilderness, which he picked up in while growing up in the New World. He is concerned with his own honor, as young men are, and wants to impress others, especially members of Society, as young men do. But he is young and naive in the ways of society and is easily gulled. He can, though, be as bold as a soldier should be to none less than the King Himself when he is pressed.
owgli. Mowgli was created by Rudyard Kipling and appeared in “In the Rukh” (Many Inventions, 1893), The Jungle Book (1894), and The Second Jungle Book (1895). Kipling was the creator of Kim, among a few–more than a few, really--other memorable creations; I’ve got more information on Kipling in the Kim entry. Those of you whose only exposure to the stories of Mowgli are from the Disney movie (memorable though it was, not least for George Sanders’ delightful Shere Khan) are in for a pleasant surprise; the Mowgli stories are considerably more than what Disney brought us.
Mowgli is an Indian child who is separated from his birth mother when just a baby and is adopted by a family of wolves. Mother Wolf takes him in partly because of his soft hairless helplessness, partly because the dread tiger Shere Khan wants him as prey, and partly because he is not afraid of the wolves and pushes his way to Mother Wolf’s teat to drink. Mowgli is accepted by the wolves and taught the Law of the Jungle, which guides the behavior of all the creatures of the jungle. Mowgli is also taught the Master Words of the jungle, which protect those who utter them, by the sleepy brown bear Baloo with the help of the sleek and deadly black panther Bagheera. Mowgli grows up as part of the Free People, the pack of wolves in the jungle, but eventually Akela, the leader of the Free People and Mowgli’s adoptive father, grows old and loses control of the pack, and the young wolves fall under the sway of Shere Khan and turn against Mowgli, forcing him to leave the jungle for the village, where he meets his birth mother. The villagers, however, are superstitious and do not accept him, and so he is driven back into the jungle. Mowgli eventually kills Shere Khan and goes on to have a variety of adventures in the jungle with his friends, the sleepy brown bear Baloo, who taught him the Law of the Jungle and the Master Words, the sleek and deadly black panther Bagheera, the enormous, old, and wise python Kaa, and the three wolves he grew up with; they suffer through a punishing drought, they use their brains (and a huge and deadly colony of bees) to slaughter a rampaging pack of dholes, and they discover a massive treasure trove in a cave beneath a deserted city (and learn about the curse of greed while doing so). Mowgli becomes the master of the jungle, but eventually, when he is eighteen, he becomes unhappy in the jungle and accepts that he must go out among men and find human companionship, and so he does. He is enlisted into the service of the colonial government as the guardian of a rukh or forest reserve and meets and falls in love with a Muslim woman, who joins him in the wilds and bears his children.
Many of you will have seen the Disney movie and will think of the animated images of Mowgli and Shere Khan when Mowgli and the Jungle Book are mentioned. Discard those images. Enjoyable though the movie was, it is (in typical Disney fashion) an unnaturally-happy and bowdlerized version of Kipling's work. The stories are fables written for children about talking animals and a feral child, and so they lack some of the adult sensibilities of Kipling’s other Indian work, as in Kim and “The Phantom Rickshaw” (see the Agnes Wessington entry) or “The Mark of the Beast” (see the Silver Man entry), and the stories in The Jungle Book are particularly innocent of many of the unhappier realities of life. But in all of the stories the animals are animals first and anthropomorphized characters second. Death is not sugar-coated in the stories, but is a fact of life which comes to everyone, even those Mowgli loves. The stories in The Second Jungle Book have much greater edge than those in The Jungle Book; there is a real sense of desperation during the drought in “How Fear Came,” and Shere Khan becomes far more formidable than he was in The Jungle Book, and the White Cobra of “The King’s Ankus” is unpleasantly insane.
The Disney movie, too, did not deal with the sad reality of Mowgli’s growing up; Kipling was too conscientious a writer to ignore that. So the stories follow Mowgli’s growth, which is pronounced and painful, matching that of a real person. And there is always a sense of alienation about Mowgli which is missing from the film. Kipling’s Mowgli does not belong anywhere. Mowgli is truly happy in the jungle, but he can never be an animal, no matter how much he acts like them and how fully he follows the Law. He can forget this for shorter or longer periods, but he is always reminded of it eventually. But Mowgli never fits in among the villagers, either, and sees houses as traps. Mowgli is always different, despite his best efforts to forget this.
The preceding makes the stories sound depressing. They’re not; they’re quite entertaining. Kipling is never less than very readable, and he conveys a wonderful sense of what the jungle might be like. Because the stories are for children they lack the aphorisms which appear in his more adult stories, but the dialogue is always sprightly and there is also the occasional quite vivid image. The characters are memorable, from sleepy Baloo to Kaa, who counterintuitively (for the reader, at least) becomes one of Mowgli’s best friends. And occasionally Kipling introduces surprising elements, such as in “The King’s Ankus,” when Kaa and Mowgli reconstruct a murder scene using deduction and detective work.
But to modern readers of a certain sensibility the Mowgli stories will be troubling in ways that Kim was not. The question of race, empire, and imperialism is ever-present, or should be, when considering Kipling. There are certain implicit assumptions in some of his stories which reflect the time and place in which Kipling wrote which will make most modern readers at least slightly uncomfortable. Most of these assumptions are absent in Kim but are present in the Mowgli stories, and lacking the more sophisticated approach available to Kipling in Kim these assumptions can be discomforting. Although the stories are quite cynical about the advantages of “civilization,” the stories do privilege whites/the British, presenting them as higher and better beings than the Indians, imposing an Order on the jungle which the native Indians are incapable of creating. Even Mowgli is deferential, in “In the Rukh,” to the British game warden Gisborne. “In the Rukh” is very much enamored of the lifestyle of the British game warden, and like the other Mowgli stories in which other humans play a part does not show the downside of the Raj. (The view may be lovely, but many backs have to be stood on to achieve it). And most of all, the constant drumbeat of the Law of the Jungle, and how it must be followed, begins to seem a prescription for a very conservative existence, rather than simple advice for surviving the jungle.
Mowgli is Tarzan, done twenty years early. Mowgli has the same raised-by-animals background and all of Tarzan’s skills, but he is Indian, not British, and so cannot be blamed for the more overtly racist elements of the Tarzan myth. Mowgli shares with Kim the combination of childlike innocence and wonder and humor with ruthlessness when necessary. And, like Kim, Mowgli loves his friends and his adopted family. They just happen to be animals, is all.
oxon, Mr. Mr. Moxon was created by Ambrose Bierce and appeared in “Moxon’s Master” (San Francisco Examiner, 16 April 1899). Bierce (1842-1914?), one of the best American short story writers of the late 19th and early 20th century, was the creator of The Damned Thing, among many others. “Moxon’s Master” is, like the rest of Bierce’s oeuvre, an interesting and tart short story, and has an additional ambiguity which pleasantly lingers.
The nameless narrator of the story meets one night with his friend Moxon. They have a lengthy discussion in which the narrator doubts Moxon’s idea that a machine is capable of thinking and Moxon lectures on why machines are capable of thinking, bringing in plant behavior as an analogy. From Moxon’s workshop, to which the narrator has never been admitted, both Moxon and the narrator hear a “singular thumping sound;” Moxon, agitated by this, goes into the workshop. The narrator hears “confused sounds, as of a struggle or scuffle,” and the floor shakes, and the narrator hears Moxon swear, “Damn you,” and then silence descends and Moxon emerges from the workshop with four parallel cuts on his left cheek. Moxon’s comment is, “I have a machine in there that lost its temper and cut up rough.” They continue the conversation, and before the narrator leaves he asks Moxon what he has in the workshop. Moxon responds, “Nobody; the incident that you have in mind was caused by my folly in leaving a machine in action with nothing to act upon.” The narrator leaves, but mulls over Moxon’s words and decides that he is at least partially right about machine consciousness and so returns to Moxon’s house. He finds that Moxon has gone into the workshop. The narrator peers in through a crack in the door to the workshop and sees Moxon playing chess with a stranger. The narrator can see Moxon’s face, although Moxon is so intent on the stranger’s face that he does not notice the narrator. All that the narrator can see of the stranger is his back, but that’s enough to make the narrator not want to see the front; he is not more than five feet high, but tremendously broad, with unruly black hair topped by a crimson fez. His right hand, which he moves the chess pieces with, is disproportionately long. The stranger moves his pieces quite deliberately, in an almost theatrical way, while Moxon’s movements seem “quick, nervous, and lacking in precision.” The narrator remembers Moxon having once said that he had invented an “automaton chess player,” but the narrator sees the stranger shrug its shoulders as if it were irritated, and then, when Moxon wins the game, the stranger undergoes a convulsion and then begins throttling Moxon. The narrator tries to intervene, and finally glimpses on the “painted face of (Moxon’s) assassin an expression of tranquil and profound thought, as in the solution of a problem in chess,” but then passes out. He awakens in the hospital and speaks with Moxon’s assistant Haley about Moxon’s end. Moxon’s house burned down and Moxon was buried during the three days that the narrator was unconscious. It was Haley who rescued the narrator from Moxon’s house. The narrator asks Haley whether he rescued “the automaton chess-player that murdered its inventor.” Haley is silent for a long while and finally looks at the narrator and gravely says, “Do you know that?” The narrator says, “I do, I saw it done.” But, “that was many years ago. If asked to-day I should answer less confidently.”
As in “The Damned Thing” and “The Death of Halpin Frayser” (see the Larue entry), Bierce creates a quite entertaining and intelligently-written short story which resolutely refuses to answer the reader’s questions about what happened during the story. On the surface “Moxon’s Master” is a story about a chess-playing android which takes losing very badly. But the final line casts doubt on that interpretation. Was it, as E.F. Bleiler says, “a murder mystery in which the young man was skillfully misled by the actors”? Was the chess player a golem rather than a robot? Is the narrator not merely unreliable but possibly homicidal?
Moxon is very intelligent and possibly brilliant. He has thought long and hard about consciousness in machines, and believes that all matter is sentient and that “Consciousness is the creature of Rhythm.” He is an inventor, of sorts. But whether he could have created a chess-playing robot...well, that’s really up to each reader to decide.
ujina. Mujina was created by Lafcadio Hearn and appeared in “Mujina” (Kwaidan, 1904). Hearn (1850-1904), an American who did much to familiarize the West with Japan, was the creator of Yuki-Onna, and I have some information on him there.
In Tokyo there is a portion of the Akasaka Road which had a bad reputation after dark. “Belated pedestrians would go miles out of their way rather than mount the Kii-no-kuni-zaka, alone, after sunset. All because of a Mujina that used to walk there.” The last man to see the Mujina was an old merchant. Late one night he was hurrying along the road when he saw a woman crouched by the moat on one side of the road. The woman was alone and weeping, and the merchant, afraid that she was going to drown herself, stopped to offer her help. She was beautiful and well-dressed, and despite his words she continued to weep, her hands across her face. He drew closer to her, imploring her to stop crying and asking how he could help her. When he drew close enough to touch her she turned around and dropped her hands and stroked her face–and the merchant saw that she had no face, neither eyes nor nose nor mouth. The merchant screamed and ran as he never had, up the road until he saw a lantern from far away. He ran toward it and saw that it was a wandering buckwheat-seller who had set up his stand along the side of the road. The merchant ran to the stand, crying out. The seller asked him what was wrong. The merchant gasped that he’d seen a woman, but that he could not tell the seller what she showed him.
“‘Hé! Was it anything like this that she showed you?’ cried the soba-man, stroking his own face–which therewith became like unto an Egg.... And simultaneously the light went out.”
Hearn uses the same clear and unadorned style of the other stories of Kwaidan to tell a folktale which unexpectedly and joltingly (in a good way) becomes frightening; the final two lines are as powerful as anything in Western horror literature.
In Japanese mythology a mujina is a shapeshifting creature which steals the faces from others. In female form the Mujina is “a slight and graceful person, handsomely dressed; and her hair was arranged like that of a young girl of good family.” (Except for the having no face part). In male form he looks like any soba-seller...except for the having no face part.
üller, Joseph. Joseph Müller was created by Auguste Groner (née Kopallik) and appeared in a series of short stories, beginning sometime in 1893, with "Die goldene Kugel" (The Golden Bullet) and appearing in both short story form, in the German monthly serial Karl Prohaska's Illustrirte Monatsbande, and in collected book form. Groner (1850-1929) was a Viennese journalist who turned to detective fiction at age 39 and began publishing widely in the genre; although Müller was her only series character she wrote a wide variety of other sleuths. Müller is a passionate policeman whose inability to tailor his actions and statements to please his superiors ends up getting him fired. (This attitude should be familiar to anyone who's read enough hardboiled detective fiction) Müller is more than simply a policeman, however; he is devoted to justice more than the law, but also has a great deal of compassion for those criminals who are driven to commit crime because of wronged passion or because social injustices and/or poverty have driven them to it. Müller always wants the bad men caught and brought to justice, but if a criminal has committed a crime for what Müller thinks are understandable reasons, than Müller will warn them before he comes to arrest them, or will let them go once he has found them--always with the understanding that they will do whatever is necessary to rectify the crimes they committed. In "The Golden Bullet" a cuckolded husband who has killed his wife's lover is caught by Müller and then released, with the understanding that the murderer will then go home and commit suicide in a civilized manner, rather than undergoing the indignity of arrest, torture, trial, imprisonment, and execution. The murderer then leaves Müller a great sum of money, which allows Müller to become a private investigator after he's been fired from the police, although Muller remains respectful of them and cordial towards them. Groner tended to flaunt continuity a little bit, with Muller's profession changing from consulting detective to agent of the secret police and with Muller's personal code changing from the traditional European code of honor (the nobility are given much more latitude to spare themselves public humiliation than the poor and working class ever are) to a more American one-justice-for-all ethos depending on what story Groner is telling.
One of Joseph Muller's tales does stray into the fantastic and science fictional. In Mene Tekel, a Tale of Strange Happenings (1910), Muller, Professor Clusius (the "great Swedish scientist"), and Lord Tannemore (the "great scholar") venture to the Near East to prove that two tablets sold to the British Museum are false. They have a new kind of writing on them, what the scholars call "hieratic," and only Tannemore believes that the tablets are fakes. However, he can't prove it, and so has to either admit he's wrong (inconceivable, that) or hit the road and find the proof he needs. So off they go, on the road to Beirut, Palmyra, and Baghdad--Muller has been called in by Scotland Yard to handle the case, and so naturally must accompany Clusius and Tannemore--and after much to-do prove that the tablets are fake. The science fictional aspect of the case comes from Clusius' discovery of a technique that recaptures light that hit objects in the past, so that Clusius can replay images from the past. Clusius does this in the hidden throne room of the kings of Babylon and sees the flaming writing on the wall: Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.
Muller is not a large man, and in fact is described as being "shrunken," thin, and "miserable" looking. In at least one later story Groner had another detective, Herr Rainer, "der best bekannte Detektiv des Polizeibureaus unserer Landeshauptstadt," use the alias "Herr Muller," look like Muller, and use the same methods as well as look like Muller (except for being fat instead of thin). Muller's methods are a mix of intuition and deduction based on solid evidence.
Well, fancy that! Joseph Muller stories, e-texted!
ummies. These mummies were created by Giacomo Leopardi and appeared in “The Dialogue of Frederick Ruysch and his Mummies” in Operette Morali (Moral Essays, 1827). Leopardi is little known outside his native Italy, but inside Italy he is seen as its greatest writer after Dante, which is quite saying something. Leopardi was a poet, scholar, and essayist whose work is regrettably obscure to non-Italians. The mummies of “Frederick Ruysch” are rather interesting creations, being entirely unlike the vengeful mummy of “Lot No. 249” (see the Mummy entry below) and other such. These mummies have, in the words of Patrick Creagh, “a rather severe dignity,” being if anything glad of their mummification and current state of unlife. In their own words,
As a vague reminiscence:
Such memory of our living
Is left to us: but very far from terror
Our remembrance is. What were we?
What was that acid spot in time
That went by the name of life?
On one night in question, the dead around the world begin singing to each other, thereby allowing Ruysch, a scientist, to begin talking with them. The mummies turn out to be rather content with their lot, finding the langour of death to be rather pleasing.
ummy. An early mummy story, ala Bram Stoker's The Jewel of Seven Stars and, more famously, the 1932 Boris Karloff film The Mummy, was A.C. Doyle's "Lot No. 249," which first appeared in 1892 in Harper's Magazine Monthly.
An upright, square-jawed, Victorian Biff Slabchunk-type, Abercrombie Smith (no, I'm not making that name up) is at the "Old College" in Oxford, studying medicine, when he becomes aware of the foul scheme of one Edward Bellingham, who lives above him. Abercrombie, a studious and not unintelligent doctor-in-training, slowly deduces that Bellingham (who has olive skin, speaks several foreign language, and is flabby--which means, obviously, that he's repulsive to all right-minded men and that he's evil--EVIL, do you hear???) has found a way to activate the mummy he keeps in a casket in his Oxford room. (The room, it must be said, is quite the sight:
Walls and ceiling were thickly covered with a thousand strange relics from Egypt and the East. Tall, angular figures bearing burdens or weapons stalked in an uncouth frieze round the apartments. Above were bull-headed, stork-headed, cat-headed, owl-headed statues, with viper-crowned, almond-eyed monarchs, and strange, beetle-like deities cut out of the blue Egyptian lapis lazuli. Horus and Isis and Osiris peeped down from every niche and shelf, while across the ceiling a true son of Old Nile, a great, hanging-jawed crocodile, was slung in a double noose.Because Bellingham is evil and vindictive (he's not English, you know), he uses the mummy to kill people he's in disagreement with. He is only partially successful in this, despite the mummy's inhuman speed and strength (and its malicious and bloodthirsty nature), and Bellingham's schemes (such as they are--for all his intelligence and erudition he is a particularly unimaginative villain) go awry in the end, fouled by the upright White nature of the White, White Abercrombie. (After all, no real Englishman would be permanently defeated by an...an...EGYPTIAN!) Bellingham is forced to dismember (with a saw) the mummy and then burn it and the papyrus scroll which he used to activate the mummy (who is nameless and called "Lot No. 249" after his auction number). But who's to say that Bellingham might not have acquired another, similar scroll, and found another mummy...?
In the centre of this singular chamber was a large, square table, littered with papers, bottles, and the dried leaves of some graceful, palm-like plant.
Lot. no 249
The e-text of the story, with comparisons between British and American versions. From the Gaslight site.
urghab. Murghab was created by Mrs. Campbell Praed and appeared in The Brother of the Shadow (1886). Mrs. Rosa Caroline Murray-Prior Campbell Praed (1851-1935) was a prolific, if not overly skilled, Australian-born British novelist who wrote in a couple of different genres, including romances, but is remembered for her occult fantasies.
The Brother of the Shadow is an occult fantasy very much in the vein of A Strange Story (see the Margrave entry above) and Zanoni. The novel is about Antonia “Toni” Vascher. She is a delicate, demure, innocent young woman who suffers from crippling attacks of neuralgia. The only thing the doctors can do for her is prescribe morphine, but she is forced to constantly take it and so is usually doped up, and the cumulative effect of the neuralgia and the morphine is killing her. So her husband, Colonel Julian Vascher, writes to his old friend Dr. Lemuel Lloyd, who is not just a physician but also a believer in scientific mysticism, mesmerism, magnetism, and all the other tenets of Theosophy (though that word is not used–see below). Lloyd, who has a small but healthy practice, agrees to see her, and she goes to Lloyd’s villa on the Riviera. At the villa Lloyd is assisted by Ananda, who the Vaschers knew in India. Ananda is a Hindu Brahmin and the pupil of “certain adepts of Inner Asia;” he is a very low-level initiate and is more enlightened than the somewhat more powerful but less enlightened Lloyd, who Ananda’s masters, the Great Occult Brotherhood, have refused to contact. This bothers Lloyd, who lusts after the kind of knowledge the Great Masters can reveal to him.
Toni’s arrival is a godsend to Lloyd, because she is a powerful latent psychic and can potentially help Lloyd delve into the mystic secrets denied to him. More than that, however, she’s a beautiful, good woman, and he’s been a celibate ascetic for four years. So the predictable happens. As Lloyd begins his cure of Toni, he also begins falling in love with her. To his credit, Lloyd struggles manfully to resist. He knows it would be dishonorable to pitch woo at her, or even worse to use his powers on her. When he can finally hide the truth from himself no longer, he resolves never to weaken around her. And he really does want to heal her, and his treatments do help. But eventually Toni has a strange dream in which she sees a tall, dignified Egyptian who begins a mystic ceremony (she wakes up screaming before the ceremony ends). Ananda then informs Lloyd who the figure was that Toni saw: Murghab, “a black magician, a follower of the left hand path, a Brother of the Shadow....the Dugpas, as we call these black magicians in the East, aim only at internal enjoyment, sensuality, the things of the flesh....” Murghab then appears to Lloyd and begins tempting him, and although Lloyd puts up a good fight he eventually gives in, partially, and uses his powers to make Toni love him. Ananda is out of town at this point, which is why Lloyd succumbs. Toni and Lloyd live together for a short while, but then Lloyd is informed that Colonel Vascher is on his way to visit. Murghab advises Lloyd to use a mystic ceremony to psychically kill the Colonel, but his astral spirit speaks to Toni during the ceremony, disrupting her trance and breaking Lloyd’s concentration. The Colonel arrives, Toni tells him she loves him, and Lloyd dies as a result of the disruption.
The Brother of the Shadow labors under the shadow of Bulwer-Lytton to a great extent, down to the invocation of the “scin-læca.” The novel is shot through with Theosophist knowledge and learning, and is, even more than A Strange Story, written as a Theosophist fantasy (similar to Christian fantasy, ala The Were-Wolf–see the Christian entry–but functioning as a vehicle for Theosophy rather than Christianity). But Praed wrote Shadow in 1886, two years before Madame Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, published The Secret Doctrine, the landmark work of Theosophy. So Shadow can be seen as an early Theosophist occult fantasy–first generation, even, reflecting her friendship with Blavatsky and her involvement with the Theosophical Society.
Shadow is also one of the earliest works to feature what would become a reliable cliche in 20th century science fiction and occult fantasy: the hidden masters of Tibet/India/Central Asia, whose secret knowledge and superhuman psychic/mystic abilities are far beyond those of mortal men and who labor to bring enlightenment to the world as well as fight against the evil forces which plague mankind, especially their corrupt but powerful opposites. This is a basic tenet of Theosophy, and via Theosophy influenced a fair number of writers, who put the cliche of the hidden masters (or the Nine Unknown or the White Lodge) in their fiction, so that it appeared in works as varied as Talbot Mundy’s Jim Grim stories and in Twin Peaks. It was particularly common in pulp and adventure fiction before WW2.
Shadow is actually a fairly quick read. It’s got all the Theosophical hoobajoob of Bulwer-Lytton without his bombast, straining for effect, and other defects. It’s also lacking in Bulwer-Lytton’s moments of genius, and is less inspired, if more even, than A Strange Story or Zanoni. Shadow reads easily and agreeably. Campbell’s characterisation is effective, if shallow. While Campbell doesn’t create atmosphere as well as Bulwer-Lytton, and so doesn’t frighten in the moments presumably meant to chill the reader, the mystical moments are at least interesting. (That is, they were more entertaining than many modern high fantasies of the generic David Eddings kind). The treatment of Ananda is less racist than might have been expected; the Theosophists were generally more progressive in their portrayal of Indians (as seen in Dion Fortune’s Dr. Taverner) than their Western contemporaries were, although (in their fiction, at least) they were not without stereotypes of their own. (Ananda’s mystical “Hindoo” adept is little better than the Theosophist version of the Noble Savage stereotype).
Campbell’s best piece of writing in Shadow is her depiction of the temptation of Lloyd. It’s rather convincing, actually, which was not something I was expecting. The characterisation of Lloyd is solid and credible, and Lloyd’s descent from genuinely well-meaning and honorable to conflicted by desire, honor, and guilt to consumed by power and bereft of any twinges of conscience is relatively realistic, and quite believable.
Murghab is an Egyptian, tall and dark. He has piercing black eyes, and a face “full of intellect and majesty.” He wears white dress and a red turban, the red indicating his identity as a Dugpa. He is a powerful psychic and mystic, capable of astrally projecting himself as well as engaging in various summoning ceremonies. He’s a pretty good tempter, quite glib in his specious (but intellectual-sounding) arguments whose purpose is to lead the unwary into using their psychic powers for selfish, carnal, and/or evil goals. He’s cold, sinister, but encouraging to Lloyd when the latter needs him, and in conversation he comes off as surprisingly affable. It’s all part of his goal as a tempter, of course, a role he plays quite well.
yrl, Dora. Dora Myrl was created by McDonnell Bodkin and first appeared in Dora Myrl, The Lady Detective (1900), a collection of short stories. His Honour Matthias McDonnell Bodkin, Q.C. (1849-1933) was an interesting man; he created Paul Beck, wrote six books of detective fiction, became a member of the Irish Bar, the Irish Nationalist M.P., a journalist and a patron of the theatre.
Dora Myrl is a bright young woman of unusual talents. She's a "Cambridge wrangler and a Doctor of Medicine," but the latter profession bored her, and so she tried other things, including being a telegraph girl, a telephone girl, and a lady journalist. It wasn't until she began detecting that she found a profession which held her interest. Her first case involved her helping a woman whose child had been kidnaped. She found that she was good at the job and enjoyed it, so she continued at it. As a detective, she's efficient and even slick. She's knowledgeable about a great many things, from violins to cypher breaking to rare and valuable stamps, and she puts that knowledge to good use, along with close observation of people and crime scenes and a great deal of ingenuity in deducing how a crime might have been committed and who might have done it. She eventually becomes famous as a female detective, consulting to the middle and upper classes.
As a person she's more than a little attractive. She plays golf and is a bike rider but, per the author, there is "nothing of the New Woman" about her. (This reader begs to differ). She is quite independent, both economically and socially. She is young, perhaps in her early twenties, and she enjoys being a detective because she is "an impatient little busybody, brimful of restless curiosity." She is stubborn and rightfully confident in her own abilities; she hates being condescended to but manages to keep her control when it happens. She is a stylish dresser and is very attractive, not just to the reader (for she's not a little witty) but also to the men around her. Her best friend is Evelyn "Pussie" Morris.
The crimes she deals with are an interesting lot, from a stolen rare violin to the theft of gold in a clever way to a poisoner to a horse swindler, to a rare stamp thief, and even a man attempting to blackmail Pussie. The latter is quite clever but is eventually defeated by Dora and bows politely to her in defeat.
In later Paul Beck stories Dora met and fell in love with Paul, marrying him, retiring from detecting, and raising their son, who became a detective in turn.
Dora Myrl, The Lady Detective was quite enjoyable without being groundbreaking. Dora's lack of Watson meant that Bodkin could play around with the focus of the story; in one story he began by focusing on the victim of the crime, rather than on Dora. The stories were more than occasionally clever, had a few genuinely clever twists, and more than once ended on a brisk, punchy note. Dora Myrl isn't Art, but it was quite enjoyable to read, and had more vigor and life than many similar collections.
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