an. The Great God Pan was created by Arthur Llewellyn Jones, aka “Arthur Machen,” and appeared in just one story, “The Great God Pan,” which first appeared in The Great God Pan and the Inmost Light (1894). Jones (1863-1947) was a very influential writer whose name is unfortunately more recognised than his work is read. This is a shame, since he’s really quite good; “The Great God Pan” is a significant precursor to Lovecraft’s work and a damn fine horror story in its own right.
“The Great God Pan” begins when Dr. Raymond summons Clarke to his house. Raymond has a certain experiment he wants to carry out, and he wants his friend Clarke to be there to witness it. Raymond has certain theories which his experiment will verify but which Clarke is, understandably, dubious about. Raymond believes that there is an “unutterable, unthinkable gulf that yawns profound between two worlds, the world of matter and the world of spirit,” and that the human mind as it is currently constituted prevents humans from seeing the world of spirit, the “real world.” Raymond proposes to operate on the brain of his adopted daughter Mary so that certain nerve-endings currently misunderstood by science will fulfill their real function, and Mary will see the real world. Mary is willing to undergo the operation, so Clarke does not express any reservations over Raymond’s callous approach: “I rescued Mary from the gutter, and from almost certain starvation, when she was a child; I think her life is mine, to use as I see fit.” Clarke dozes off as Raymond is preparing for the operation, and has a dream in which he sees “a presence, that was neither man nor beast, neither the living nor the dead, but all things mingled, the form of all things but devoid of all form.” When he awakes Raymond is ready for the operation. He operates on Mary, but when she returns to consciousness things don’t go as planned:
Suddenly, as they watched, they heard a long-drawn sigh, and suddenly did the colour that had vanished return to the girl’s cheeks, and suddenly her eyes opened. Clarke quailed before them. They shone with an awful light, looking far away, and a great wonder fell upon her face, and her hands stretched out as if to touch what was invisible; but in an instant the wonder faded, and gave place to the most awful terror. The muscles of her face were hideously convulsed, she shook from head to foot; the soul seemed struggling and shuddering within the house of flesh. It was a horrible sight, and Clarke rushed forward, as she fell shrieking to the floor.Years go by, and Clarke’s horror at what happened to Mary fades, and his taste for the outré and the Fortean returns, and he reads for the tenth time an account about a young girl, “Helen V.,” who was adopted by a family in a small village on the border of Wales. Helen liked to walk in the woods, but one day a young boy saw her playing on the grass with a “strange naked man” and ran screaming home to his parents. For days afterward he would wake in the night with cries of “the man in the woods! Father! Father!” His horror faded after three months, but then, when he saw the head of a satyr which had been dug from a Roman ruin, the boy went mad. Helen denied doing anything to the boy. Five years later Helen went walking into the woods with Rachel, a beautiful girl of her own age; after some of these excursions Helen would return with a different manner, “languid and dreamy,” and one night her parents discovered her in her room weeping; Rachel told her mother, “Why did you let me go into the forest with Helen?” Helen then disappeared one day, walking in a meadow.
Three days later Raymond took Clarke to Mary’s bedside. She was lying wide-awake, rolling her head from side to side, and grinning vacantly.
“Yes,” the doctor said, still quite cool, “it is a great pity; she is a hopeless idiot. However, it could not be helped; and, after all, she has seen the Great God Pan.”
Sometime later Villiers of Waldham, a well-to-do young man and “practised explorer of such obscure mazes and byways of London life,” is accosted by a beggar who turns out to be Charles Herbert, an old college friend. Villiers, astonished, asks Herbert how he was reduced to beggary, and Herbert tells him a story about how his wife, Helen Vaughn, corrupted his soul, telling him “things which even now I would not dare whisper in blackest night, though I stood in the midst of a wilderness.” Villiers then asks his friend Austin about Herbert and is told a story about how a man who had died of fear had been found outside of Herbert’s house. Austin mentions how those who saw her at the police court “said she was at once the most beautiful woman and the most repulsive they had ever set eyes on. I have spoken to a man who saw her, and I assure you he positively shuddered as he tried to describe the woman, but he couldn’t tell why.” A few months after that Villiers calls upon his old friend Clarke and tells him about Herbert, his wife, and Villiers’ visit to the house in which the Herberts lived and outside of which the man’s fear-wracked body was found. Villiers found the house to be “full of horror,” though not in any way he could define except that his body rebelled against being inside it. Villiers later discovered that Herbert had died of starvation. Clarke and Villiers discuss the matter, and Villiers produces a sketch which he’d taken from the Herberts’ house. Clarke goes pale on seeing the sketch, thinking first that it’s Mary and then later that it is frighteningly similar to Mary’s face, only with something more, something evil. Clarke advises Villiers to abandon the search for Helen. Villiers meets up with Austin some time later, tells Austin about Clarke, and hears in return about a Mrs. Beaumont, fresh from South America and quite the favorite in London society. Austin also tells Villiers about the death of his friend, the noted artist Arthur Meyrick, who died in Buenos Aires; Meyrick sent Austin a packet of sketches. The paintings are of dancing fauns and satyrs and “ægipans,” but one of the sketches, a woman’s face alone on a white page, is of Mrs. Herbert, a.k.a. Helen Vaughn. Then the suicides begin; wealthy and successful young men killing themselves, one after another, and all immediately after they have visited Mrs. Beaumont’s house. Villiers goes searching for information on Helen Vaughn and finds it, in some of the dire places of London; she appeared a few years ago and took up residence in a bad part of town:
I should be wrong in saying that she found her level in going to this particular quarter, or associating with these people, for from what I was told, I should think the worst den in London far too good for her. The person from whom I got my information, as you may suppose, no great Puritan, shuddered and grew sick in telling me of the nameless infamies which were laid to her charge.Villiers then confirmed that this woman was Helen Vaughn, a.k.a. Mrs. Beaumont, and further that she was providing horrible entertainment for her “choicer guests.” Villiers tells Austin about Pan and the “terror that may dwell in the secret place of life, manifested under human flesh,” and shows Austin a length of hempen cord which he has purchased to put an end to Mrs. Beaumont–either she hangs herself or he calls for the police. Austin wants nothing to do with this, and so Villiers visits Beaumont by himself. After she commits suicide a doctor tends to her, but her body melt and dissolve, and when the transformation is complete the doctor sees something which gives him “great horror and loathing of soul.” Clarke writes to Raymond to tell him about the death of Helen Vaughn and about his trip to the wood where Rachel died, which was near a Roman ruin dedicated to “the great god Nodens...on account of the marriage which he saw beneath the shade.” Raymond writes back to Clarke expressing his remorse for what he did to Mary and telling Clarke about how Helen Vaughn was Pan’s child, fathered on Mary that horrible night, and that when Helen was “scarcely five years old I surprised it, not once or twice but several times with a playmate, you may guess of what kind,” and so Raymond sent Helen away.
I apologize for the too great length of the preceding summary; you may be sure that when I revise this for publication I’ll boil it down into a more apt and less revealing description. But I wanted to get the relevant details down, and, well, there’s always the chance that some one of you may not have read “The Great God Pan” yet and might be inspired to after reading my description of it, and if the preceding does that, if I’m responsible for just one person searching out Machen, then I’ll consider myself well rewarded.
I’m a big Machen fan, and “The Great God Pan” is my favorite of his works. Machen’s style isn’t perfect here. His text is dense, less conversational and more descriptive and at greater length than M.R. James is; Machen, in “Pan,” is Victorian in arrangement, with thicker text, longer descriptions, fewer dialogues and more monologues. One can’t call it stiff, exactly, but it lacks the flow and momentum of an M.R. James. That said, “The Great God Pan” is a fine example of why Machen was the dominant writer of supernatural horror after Robert Louis Stevenson and before M.R. James and Algernon Blackwood, and why Machen’s name deserves mention with Robert E. Chambers and Ambrose Bierce. Machen, though not the wordsmith that M.R. James was, often came up with phrases designed to deliver the most fright. His visual descriptions are good, and his dialogue is nicely modern and realistic.
It’s in creating an atmosphere of horror that Machen is at his best, though. One of the major varieties of modern horror is cosmic horror, of the kind Lovecraft made famous. The underlying idea of cosmic horror is that reality, true reality, is so horrible that the human brain can’t deal with it, and that what we perceive as reality is a delusion and/or our mental defense mechanisms at work. Even non-afficionados of horror are at least somewhat familiar with this concept thanks to Lovecraft’s work, which has become surprisingly widespread. But Lovecraft was not the first to write this sort of horror. One major early author of cosmic horror was Lord Bulwer-Lytton, especially in his Zanoni. Robert E. Chambers, in his King in Yellow, did cosmic horror well. But Machen did it the best, better than Lovecraft, more subtly and with more style. (Lovecraft is not without his virtues, but Machen is the superior writer, something Lovecraft himself acknowledged—see his Supernatural Horror in Literature for his opinion of Machen).
Machen sets out his premise and philosophy in the excellent first section of “The Great God Pan” and then uses the story to flesh out the philosophy and bring home the real horror of the premise. One significant difference between the way Lovecraft conveys cosmic horror and the Machen does it is that Machen has few direct descriptions of the horror of Pan and of what makes Helen Vaughn so frightening. Machen concentrates on the effects and consequences of their horrificness, and so the reader becomes frightened by seeing what Pan and Helen do to others. The specifics, however, are left vague, and this ambiguity becomes frightening. Moreover, Machen manages a level of realism which Lovecraft never achieved. The events in “The Great God Pan” take place over the space of years and involve a number of protagonists; by showing the reader a web of relations between the main characters and spacing out the chronology, the events and the characters take on a more heightened level of realism, a feeling of credibility and verisimilitude, than Lovecraft’s narrators usually managed.
The moralities of Machen and Lovecraft are different in certain respects as well. Lovecraft was a creature of the 20th century, and the Machen of “The Great God Pan” was very much a Victorian. So Lovecraft’s universe is empty and careless of humanity if not hostile toward it, and human society is a delusion, and Lovecraft’s stories are about this emptiness. Machen’s universe, his greater reality, is as terrible as Lovecraft’s, but the actions of creatures like Helen are still evil, which is a word that has no meaning in the stories of Lovecraft. And “The Great God Pan” ends with Helen being defeated and Dr. Raymond admitting that what he did to Mary was horrible, both writerly acts of sentiment which Lovecraft would have had little time for. Lovecraft took several things from Machen; it might reasonably be supposed that Lovecraft took not just the idea of cosmic horror from “The Great God Pan” but also the format of multiple documents, each a kind of mini-story which combines to form the greater story–the exact way in which Lovecraft wrote “The Call of Cthulhu.”
Machen’s Pan is not the jolly satyr of Greek myth. The Pan of “The Great God Pan” is something which humans cannot look on and remain sane. Machen’s Pan is
a presence, that was neither man nor beast, neither the living nor the dead, but all things mingled, the form of all things but devoid of all form.Villiers says this about Pan:
We know what happened to those who chanced to meet the Great God Pan, and those who are wise know that all symbols are symbols of something, not of nothing. It was, indeed, an exquisite symbol beneath which men long ago veiled their knowledge of the most awful, most secret forces which lie at the heart of all things; forces before which the souls of men must wither and die and blacken, as their bodies blacken under the electric current. Such forces cannot be named, cannot be spoken, cannot be imagined except under a veil and a symbol, a symbol to the most of us appearing a quaint, poetic fancy, to some a foolish, silly tale. But you and I, at all events, have known something of the terror that may dwell in the secret place of life, manifested under human flesh; that which is without form taking to itself a form. Oh, Austin, how can it be? How is it that the very sunlight does not turn to blackness before this thing, the hard earth melt and boil beneath such a burden?I’ve gone on at too great a length about “The Great God Pan.” Suffice it to say that it is excellent cosmic horror and one of the best horror stories of the 1890s.
Great God Pan”
The text of the story, courtesy of Project Gutenberg.
anergon. Panergon was created by “Skelton Kuppord” and appeared in A Fortune from the Sky (1902). “Kuppord” was the pseudonym of the British author Sir John Adams (1857-1934), a Scots clergyman and professor at London University; he wrote several novels, including a few juveniles.
A Fortune from the Sky begins when a homeless Englishman named Fred Gurleigh happens upon a street fight between two old men, one trying to take a valise away from the other. Gurleigh breaks it up, allowing one of the men to escape. The other arranges a clandestine meeting with Gurleigh. Gurleigh gets into trouble with the police over this but eventually escapes and makes the meeting. He discovers that the man is actually the prominent scientist Professor Welligham. Welligham has made a great scientific discovery, but his French rival, Professor Frisaine, is trying to take it away from him. (England is threatened with war by the “Russo-French Coalition”). So Welligham hires Gurleigh to protect him. The discovery is “panergon,” a miracle energy source which when channeled through a machine which Welligham has invented can do nearly anything. But Welligham lacks the funds necessary to buy the chemicals to produce panergon. Even without the panergon the machine can still perform any number of wonders, including producing "secondary electricity," which can control to an exactitude projected light. Gurleigh, who keenly remembers his homeless state and is fixated on money, sees the potential for profit in this invention and has the idea to use it to write advertisements across the skies. Gurleigh sells the idea to the business world. As a result the skies over the British Isles are covered, for four hours, with advertisements for liver pills. Unfortunately a side effect of this use of “secondary electricity” are a massive lightning storm and nausea in those beneath the sky-writing. Sky ads are outlawed, but by then Welligham has enough money to continue his work.
Unfortunately, he discovers that Frisaine has bought up all the chemicals he needed. So Gurleigh goes to America to sell the sky-writing idea there and buy the chemicals there. He does so with the help of a business syndicate, but when he returns he discovers that Welligham set the machine to create two lines of energy, one around his apartment and one around England. The energy paralyzes those who move their limbs through it; those who move their heads or hearts through it are killed. Gurleigh is unaffected, because Welligham gave him a special ring which renders him immune. But everyone else is affected, including the burglars who broke into Welligham’s laboratory and killed him during the robbery, and a French invasion fleet. Gurleigh eventually takes control of the machine and enforces world peace on Britain’s behalf, dictating terms of disarmament to all the other nations of the world.
A Fortune from the Sky is an odd combination of the Future War and mad scientist novels. Adams begins the novel with the statement that Britain is unprepared for war, but as the novel progresses he makes several snide references to writers who say the very same thing. He clearly doesn’t think much of the Future War genre, but it is equally clear that without Welligham the French and Russians would have successfully invaded the Home Islands. And Welligham is very obviously a version of the mad scientist. He bald-facedly admits to experimenting on the poor and homeless with his machine, manipulating their wills and even killing them, all in the pursuit of science. Welligham feels no guilt about this, either. Gurleigh doesn’t like him, but works for him because he needs the money. Welligham is unlikable, and it’s clear that Adams doesn’t approve of him. But panergon and the machine channeling it, though causing great mayhem and destruction, result in a kind of utopia at the end of the novel. A Fortune from the Sky is readable, briskly told, takes the idea of a death ray to its logical conclusion (i.e., the body count in A Fortune from the Sky is quite high, in the tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands), and possesses a stiff jollity and wit, and is generally better than the generic post-Verne/Wells science fiction novel, but is hardly a classic or even worth reprinting.
Panergon is a force which “exists in enormous abundance, stored up in the cohesive forces that keep the molecules of all matter from falling apart from one another. A comparatively small initial force could, by parallelism, develop an enormous inductive force.” In practical terms panergon can used to make death rays, change people’s personalities, and (it is hinted by Welligham) much more.
ardaillan. Pardaillan was created by the French writer Michel Zévaco and appeared in the "Pardaillan" series, which began as a series of feuilleton stories but which eventually became ten novels, including Borgia (1900), Flower of Paris (1904), The Captain (1907), The Pardaillan (1907), Fausta (1908), Triboulet (1909), and Buridan (1911). Zévaco (1860-1918) was a professor of literature at Vienna and a dragoon, among other things, but is best remembered for the "Pardaillan" novels, which were influenced by Victor Hugo's work but were themselves very influential, sparking a vogue for the "cape and epée" novel.
The Pardaillan series, which begins in France in 1533, under the reign of Henry II, and which ends in 1614, under the regency of Marie de Médici, is about the Chevalier de Pardaillan, an epée-wielding adventurer. His life is filled with misfortune--he loses two wives--and so he puts himself in the service of the Kings of France, frustrating the plans of their enemies and helping them lead France to glory. His most dangerous enemy is Princess Fausta, a descendant of Lucrezia Borgia who schemes to become the Queen of France. Pardaillan is notable for being a very human hero, someone who not only gets old, as the series goes by, but who also makes mistakes, gets afraid, and sometimes loses. He's still heroic, however, and has all sorts of high adventures. At the series' end Pardaillan and Fausta disappear in an explosion, possibly killing them both.
arkins, Professor. Professor Parkins was created by M.R. James and appeared in “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.” James was a master of the ghost story; I have some information on him in the Demon of the Night entry. Professor Parkins is an avowed disbeliever when it comes to the supernatural: “I hold that any semblance, any appearance of concession to the view that such things might exist is equivalent to a renunciation of all that I hold most sacred.” He’s also a golfer, and so when the term at St. James’s College ends he decides to go to Burnstow, on the East Coast of England, to take a week to golf. Since the inn at which he is staying is near to some ruins, particularly a preceptory of the Templars, the Professor does a friend a favor and looks the area over, to see whether it would be a good site for an archaeological dig. When he looks the site over, however, he finds an area which is lacking in turf, and so he does a little digging with his knife and finds a rectangular hole in some masonry. Inside the hole he finds an old metal tube about four inches long. After finding the tube he decides to return home, as it is late in the day, but on the return walk he notices a figure, far off, “who seemed to making great efforts to catch up with him, but made little, if any, progress.” Parkins thinks of the line from a Pilgrim’s Progress, “Now I saw in my dream that Christian had gone but a very little way when he saw a foul fiend coming over the field to meet him.” Parkins idly wonders what he would do if he saw such a thing, but it’s a moot point.
That night he examines the whistle and finds two Latin phrases on it, one of which is obscure and one which reads “Who is this who is coming?” Parkins blows the whistle, and is pleased by the note of music but quite surprised at the sudden enormous gust of wind which blows up almost immediately after he whistles. The wind keeps up and rises at times to a desolate and discomforting cry. Parkins eventually tries to go to sleep, but finds that pictures keep appearing in his mind: a scene on some desolate shore, quite like the one he’d walked on that afternoon, in which a man frantically running across the broken landscape, pursued by a pale, ill-defined figure clad in “fluttering draperies.” Parkins finally decides that he’s not going to get any sleep and so lights a candle, which sends something scurrying away from the side of his bed. The next morning after breakfast the maid points out that both of the beds needed to be made up, with the one he didn’t sleep in being quite thrown about. Parkins chalks it up to his having disordered the other bed when he unpacked his things. That day Parkins goes golfing with the Colonel, another one of the guests at the inn and a blowhard Scots religious bigot. The Colonel makes the comment that “Extraordinary wind, that, we had last night, in my old home we should have said someone had been whistling for it.” Parkins demurs, not believing in the supernatural, and when the Colonel accuses him of being “little better than a Sadducee” Parkins avers that superstition is behind claims of the supernatural. Parkins also mentions that he’d been whistling, which interests the Colonel, and so Parkins tells him about the whistle. The Colonel says that “he should himself be careful about using a thing that had belonged to a set of Papists.” Later that day the Colonel is almost knocked down by a boy running from something; the boy, very frightened, says that something was waving at him from the window of Parkins’ room. When they investigate they find that the room was locked and that no one else had been into the room. Parkins’ clothes, however, “bundled up and twisted in a most tortuous confusion.” The Colonel examines the whistle and tells Parkins that he should throw it in the ocean. That night Parkins falls asleep easily enough but is awoken by a rustling and shaking sound from the other bed in the room. Then a figure sits upright in the other bed. Parkins jumps up and rushes for a stick, which is the only weapon in the room, but he’s frozen, not wanting it to touch him. Then the figure begins reaching around the room for him, and he realizes that the thing is blind. It is a figure made up of the cloth in the room, with an “intensely horrible face of crumpled linen,” and it feels on the bed for him, and gropes around the room for him, and when a corner of its draperies brushes his face it leaps for him. He cries out as it grabs him,, and it is thrusting him through the window when the Colonel bursts into the room. The Colonel, who remembers a similar happening in India, sees to it that the cloth which made up the creature is burned and that the whistle is thrown into the sea. Parkins is left unable to see even a hanging surplice without being frightened.
“Professor Parkins” delivers the same finely-wrought chills that “Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book” and “Count Magnus” do. As in those stories, James combines a stripped-down narration and naturalistic dialogue with scary ideas and moments to produce a top-notch horror story. The more academic aspects of “Count Magnus” and “Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book” are mostly missing here, with the Latin inscription on the whistle adding strangeness but no real erudition. As in James’ other stories the rather predictable premise is redeemed by the horrific aspects James adds to the story: Parkins’ visions, the frighteningly ambiguous monster, and Parkins’ continual refusal to heed the warnings he’s given.
Professor Parkins is, in the words of the narrator, “something of an old woman–rather henlike, perhaps, in his little ways; totally destitute, alas! of the sense of humour, but at the same time dauntless and sincere in his convictions, and a man deserving of the greatest respect.” Although he stubbornly follows his own rationalist convictions rather than common sense warnings, he faces the cloth creature bravely enough.
arks, Eddie. Eddie appeared in the Chicago Record in the late 1890s in stories like “The Glendon Mystery; or, Eddie Parks, the Newsboy Detective,” “The Steel Box; or, The Robbers of Rattlesnake Gulch,” and “Eddie Parks to the Rescue; or, The National Bank Robbery.” He was created by George Ade, for more information on whom see the Clarence Allen entry. Eddie is, as mentioned, a “newsboy detective.” As you might infer from that title, Eddie sells newspapers and solves crimes. It’s not that, in the beginning, Eddie, a spunky young lad of eight, was looking for criminals. It’s just that they kept showing up on his downtown Chicago beat, and no one else seemed to be able to catch them. By the age of nine he has solved enough crimes that he is “the most celebrated detective in the great city of Chicago, the terror of all criminals.” Eddie is intelligent (speaking the formal and constricted way so many dime novel heroes did), hopeful, a devout Christian (of course), and a hard workers. He’s also relentless, a good detective, a master of disguise, good with his fists (capable of beating up grown men when he needs to), and very well informed on the goings-on and criminals of Chicago. When the Bad Guys come to Chicago from out of town Eddie hears about it, too. Eddie has the respect of Chicago’s police chief (silly fliq, thinking you can solve crimes! Only Eddie can do that!) Eddie “has an open countenance, a flashing eye, and a determined look.”
aschal, Mrs. Mrs. Paschal was created by William S. Hayward and appeared in The Lady Detective, a Tale of Female Life and Adventure (1861). Hayward is the creator of Victor Volans, but apart from that nothing is known about him. Which is odd, because in The Lady Detective Hayward wrote the first novel to star a female detective in British fiction.
(As an aside, this is a subject of some dispute, with crime fiction scholars like E.F. Bleiler and Mary Cadogan and Kathleen Klein arguing for either Mrs. Paschal or “G.” The traditional position was that Hayward’s Revelations of a Lady Detective was published in 1861 and preceded Andrew Forrester’s The Female Detective. But Bleiler showed that Revelations of a Lady Detective was published in 1861, not 1861. But then Kathleen Klein, in her The Woman Detective, noted that Douglas Greene reported that the text of The Lady Detective and Revelations of a Lady Detective were the same, and that The Lady Detective was date stamped, in the British Library, 30 Jan. 1861. Frustratingly, Klein ignores this in the text of her book and gives pride of place to “G” rather than Mrs. Paschal).
Mrs. Paschal is a woman in her early forties who was forced to join the London Police after her husband died, just before she turned forty, and left her without a secure income. Mrs. Paschal was then approached to join a special group of female detectives employed by Colonel Warner, chief of the London Police Detectives:
Fouché, the great Frenchman, was constantly in the habit of employing women to assist him in discovering the various political intrigues which disturbed the peace of the first empire. His petticoated police were as successful as the most sanguine innovator could wish; and Colonel Warner, having this fact before his eyes, determined to imitate the example of a man who united the courage of a lion with the cunning of a fox, culminating his acquisitions with the sagacity of a dog.Mrs. Paschal works for both the London Police and for private citizens; like some of the other casebook detectives included on this site, Mrs. Paschal is allowed to moonlight as a consulting detective as well as work as a police detective. Her salary from the London Police is non-existent, and so she is dependent on the rewards from her cases, both police and private, for her living.
Mrs. Paschal is aware of her position, as a female detective–a societal oddity–and although she demurs that “in this country it is not so uncommon a thing” to be a female detective, she is driven to succeed at her chosen profession. It’s not that she’s a proto-feminist, trying to prove a point to a sexist society; she’s compelled in part because of financial necessity and in part because of what can only be called professional pride: “I had not long been employed as a female detective, and now having given up my time and attention to what I may call a new profession, I was anxious to acquit myself as well and favourably as I could, and gain the goodwill and approbation of my superior.” She’s careful both in her preparation and in her detective-work, seeing that preparation is the key to success. Unfortunately, her work has hardened her, and made her (in her own words) “callous through experience and contact with a hard world.” After some time she even looks forward to the work: “I undertook it (a case) for it was a task of some difficulty which I fancied would occupy a week or so most agreeably. I was always happier in harness than out of it. I do not mean to say that I despised reasonable relaxation, but I depricated any great waste of time.” She is very confident about her own abilities, and enjoys the challenge.
As a detective she is careful and intelligent. She makes use of disguises when necessary, does what research she can, carefully observes crime scenes and suspects, and makes deductions from the available evidence. Her intuition and perseverance are equally important in helping her to solve crimes. She is willing to violate traditional stereotypes of feminine behavior if need be, slipping out of her petticoat on one occasion. She employs a reformed pickpocket to do her legwork for her. And she carries and uses a gun.
The Mrs. Paschal stories are not classics, but they are more than just historical curiosities.
enniel's Painting. Penniel’s Painting was created by Emma Dawson and appeared in “A Stray Reveler,” which appeared in the Christmas issue of The Wasp in either 1884 or 1885 and was collected with the rest of Dawson’s work in An Itinerant House and Other Stories (1896). Dawson (1851-1926) was a San Franciscan poet and author who was a protege and friend of Ambrose Bierce.
“A Stray Reveler” is about Aura, a San Franciscan woman whose lover, Penniel, has committed suicide, leaving Aura all his wealth and property. The story’s narrator visits Aura after a long absence, only to find that due to the conditions of Penniel’s will Aura is forced to stay in the apartment Penniel left her as long as she retains one of his pictures in the apartment and keeps a knotted rope always in her sight. Aura is oddly taken with the painting and has “felt impelled to copy everything painted there, and to banish all my room held before.” The end result is a twinned room, once in real life and once in the painting:
The picture filled nearly one side of the room, which was arranged as an exact copy of it, even having a lattice-window opening lengthwise, put in to match the painted one. Carpet, Navajo rugs, chairs, tables, draperies were alike. A strip of carpet hid the lower part of the frame, so that one might fancy he saw double parlors instead of one room and a painting. The screen in the room stood at just such an angle as just such a screen stood in the painted scene. Tall Japanese vases, low bookcase, hanging shelves filled with rare, odd trifles, were all thus doubled.But there are a couple of differences between the painting and the room. The painting also portrays a Christmas revel and a female figure who clearly resembles Aura. Beside the female figure is an empty seat. And as the narrator quickly discovers, more is wrong with Aura than simply an odd painting. Aura had set her sights on Penniel when she first met him; she was “starving–genteelly starving,” while Penniel was engaged to an heiress. Aura says, “I reasoned with myself that she did not need his money as I did. I used every art to win him from her.”
And she did. She told him a lie about the heiress, which he believed, and he broke off the engagement. She died soon after that (“some say broken-hearted; but, of course, we know that is a mere phrase. I presume she got a cold, or something”). And soon after that a friend of Penniel’s told him that Aura had lied. He took this badly:
He also sent me a letter telling me of these discoveries and taking leave. “I shall avenge Helen’s wrongs,” he wrote. “I shall avenge my own wrongs, but in my own time and in my own way. You shall suffer for what you have done, if I have to come back from the next world to make you. Poor or rich, old or young, sad or gay, remember that I have not forgotten.”And then Penniel dies, on Christmas Eve, leaving Aura the painting and the rope. And things get worse. Aura discovers, skillfully and subtly painted on the screen, the words “Lex talionis,” “the law of revenge.” And then she begins to dream herself in the picture. The first time this happens, she merely sees a sunset, but the second time (which happens as Aura dozes in front of the narrator) things take a turn for the ominous:
There were two vacant places at the table. I no longer sat there, but wandered about the outer room while the guests at supper were watching and whispering and pointing, and a murmur of "Lex talionis!" ran from mouth to mouth. I felt that some horror waited for me and drew me to that screen, but I tried not to go. I went to the window, but the view was changed to the blackness of midnight. I looked in the mirror, yet saw nothing reflected but the room behind me. I was not to be seen.After some prompting and wine, she continues.
“What did you think you saw?”In a fury she throws the rope into the fire,
“Think! I saw it.”
“Don’t ask me!” she cried, shuddering. “I cannot describe it. Can you imagine the aspect of a corpse, long dead, mouldering, luminous, all blue light, and threads and tatters of its burial robe? O God, save us!”
We watched it as the fire consumed it and for a few moments held its charred outlines as it had fallen in a distinct semblance of a closed hand with index-finger pointing toward the screen!The narrator is distracted for a moment by Christmas revellers, and Aura darts behind the screen, not wanting others to see what has happened. Then there’s a scream and Aura, behind the screen, is found to be dead. “Her face was full of terror. Was it only a shadow, that livid line around her neck as if she had been strangled?” And the narrator finds out that the rope was the one with which Penniel had hung himself.
“A Stray Reveler” is a well-crafted and very intelligent horror story which works on several levels. There is the change of plot motif; the reader anticipates that the painting will be haunted, but when Aura says “I have been in the picture” the reader gets an unexpected (and thus quite welcome) horripilation. There is the intercalation, in the story, of four poems and villanelles, which seem to be benign, but given the creeping sense of wrongness in the story the reader tends to reread the poems to see if there’s anything the least bit ominous in them. The poems also lend a somewhat intellectual air to the story, in a more subtle way than, for example, Lovecraft’s invocation of technical and scientific information. This counterpoints effectively the horror that the reader knows will come. And there is the slightly dreamy air about what is inside the painting, an air which goes from nebulous to nightmarish all too quickly.
ercy, Ralph. Ralph Percy was created by Mary Johnston and appeared in To Have And To Hold (1899). Johnston (1870-1936) was a best-selling author and mystic who is best known for To Have And To Hold, which was the best-selling novel of the year 1900, and The Silver Cross (1922), which gained her international fame. On reading To Have And To Hold now it is easy to see why it was a best-seller, because it is a well-written combination of romance and adventure.
In the year 1621, in the Jamestown colony of Virginia, Ralph Percy is a captain of soldiers and a respected member of the colony. But he is unmarried, and when a ship bearing a cargo of single women looking to become wives arrives in Jamestown Ralph is reminded of the loneliness of his life and the disorder of his home. Idly throwing dice, he vows that if he tosses an ambs-ace (snake-eyes) on his next throw, he will look for a wife among the new arrivals. He does, of course, and goes down to meet them but is scornful of the meat market atmosphere as well as of the behavior of the bachelors toward the women. He is getting ready to return to his home when he sees a beautiful woman in Puritan garb being kissed against her will. Ralph knocks the man out and bluntly asks the woman if she’ll marry him. She agrees, obviously unhappy but also obviously without any options. They marry and Ralph moves the woman, Jocelyn Leigh, into his house. For a short time they live together civilly but without any affection, Jocelyn rebuffing all attempts at friendship and Ralph contenting himself with mere polite companionship, until a ship arrives in Jamestown. Initially the colonists think it’s an attack by the Spanish, but they quickly discover that it’s an English ship bearing Lord Carnal, the king’s favorite, who has come in search of the king’s ward, a woman who was promised to Lord Carnal in marriage by the king himself but who fled the court, London, and England itself rather than marry Carnal. That woman is, of course, Jocelyn Leigh. Lord Carnal is very unhappy that Jocelyn married Ralph and demands that she be given up to him–the king would not have sanctioned the marriage, had he known of it, and so it should be ignored. Ralph is unwilling to do this, out of pride, Jocelyn’s obvious reluctance, and an instant idslike for the haughty, insolent, and sneering Lord Carnal. The two duel, but their fight is interrupted by the Governor of the Colony who orders the duel halted. The Governor explains that the Colony takes its orders from the Company, not the king, and so if the Company orders the marriage dissolved, the Governor will see that it is so. But to get the Company to do this will require sending a ship back to London to get that order, requiring weeks of time. Until then, the two must keep peace. They agree, and for a short period things are peaceful, but soon enough Lord Carnal is making attempts on Ralph’s life and to kidnap Jocelyn. Jocelyn begins to warm to Ralph, just a little, as Ralph protects her from Lord Carnal’s schemes. But Lord Carnal becomes a favorite in the Colony and many of Ralph’s “friends” abandon him, and eventually the ship returns from London with orders to return Jocelyn to London and send Ralph, in chains, with her. Ralph is warned just in time and leaves his house, Jocelyn in tow, before the Colony’s guards arrive to arrest him. Ralph, having anticipated this, has a boat packed and waiting, and he and Jocelyn, accompanied by their friend, the giant minister Jeremy Sparrow, go to the boat. Lord Carnal catches them on the docks, only to be knocked out by Sparrow and taken with the trio on the boat. From there Ralph and Jocelyn endure injury and imprisonment, encounter pirates, survive separation and attacks from Indians before finally being reunited and their marriage blessed by the King, whose affections have transferred away from Lord Carnal to Lord Buckingham. Together, and fully in love with each other, Jocelyn and Ralph leave Jamestown for England (and presumably a life of Happily Ever After).
Usually when I or other scholars use the phrase “historical romance” to describe a book, it’s in the older, more traditional sense of “romance,” meaning “an exotic adventure story.” With regard to To Have And To Hold, however, the more modern meaning of “romance” is appropriate. This is as much a love story, as much about Ralph and Jocelyn falling in love with each other, as it is a story of adventure in the Jamestown Colony. Perhaps because To Have And To Hold was written by a woman, the character of Jocelyn Leigh is more realistic and recognizable, and the development of the relationship between Jocelyn and Ralph is more emotionally accurate, than are similar characters and relationships in other historical romances.
The preceding should not be read to mean that the adventure aspects of the novel are lacking. They’re not. They’re plentiful and well handled. Johnston’s portrayal of the time and place combines accurate history and a welcome amount of unromatic detail; blood, hunger, disease and starvation are all accepted and acknowledged facts of life in To Have And To Hold, which is definitely not the case in many other swashbucklers. Johnston does, however, sentimentalize the particulars of the situation, so that the conflict between the native peoples and the white settlers, and the brutality of the conflict (on both sides), functions as the backdrop to formalized duels, a love story, and a Noble Savage, the knightly Nantauquas. Johnston is a good enough writer that even those of us who are sticklers for historical accuracy aren’t bothered by the sentimentalization of the novel. The characterization is solid and the dialogue smart and both have the feel of historical accuracy without being pedantic or long-winded. Johnston’s style is smooth and unobtrusive; she has the lean swiftness and anti-ponderousness of the Weyman School, but her use of period lingo and the historically accurate cadence of the dialogue is greater than theirs. (All of which is to say that if she doesn’t have her history right, she sure fakes it well).
As always in books like this the racial politics of the novel are noticeable. The treatment of African slaves is negligible; there is one, but she is an extremely minor character. The Native Americans play a much larger role in the novel. Ralph often calls them “savages,” but he respects them to a certain degree and is aware of different tribes and their differing characteristics, so that the Paspahegh are brutal, torturing, vicious (albeit brave) warriors, while the Pamunkey are much more friendly and peaceable. And there is Nantauquas, the brother of “Lady Rebekah,” an “Indian Princess” who married Ralph’s friend Rolfe but died before the events of To Have And To Hold. Ralph greatly esteems Nantauquas, calling him “brother” and treating him as one. Ralph describes Nantauquas as “ever to my liking; a savage, indeed, but a savage as brave and chivalrous, as courteous and truthful as a Christian knight.” Nantauquas and Ralph have adventured together before the events of To Have And To Hold, and Nantauquas saves Ralph’s life on a few occasions, once from a wolf and once from torture, but near the end of the novel Nantauquas breaks the friendship (in an honorable way, of course), unleashing a long speech on Ralph describing the evils white men have done and continue to do to the natives. Ralph has no reply to this, and doesn’t even try to justify himself–an odd and perhaps unintentional moment of political commentary on Johnston’s part.
Ralph Percy is somewhat hot-tempered and pert of speech. He’s a good fighter, with guns, by hand, and especially with his sword; he says, with no small amount of pride, that for three years he was the best blade in the Low Countries. He’s cunning, not handsome, strong of body, and a good leader of men. Most importantly he is quite honorable, treating Jocelyn fairly despite her having deceived him, initially, about her true identity.
ersad, Kala. Kala Persad was created by "Headon Hill" and appeared in The Divinations of Kala Persad (1895), a collection of short stories. "Headon Hill" was the pseudonym of Francis Edward Grainger (1857-1924), an English author of romance, mystery, and detective fiction. Although Grainger wrote stories about a number of different detectives, including the female detective Laura Metcalf, and Sebastian Zambra, who had two novels and two short stories written about him, Kala Persad is Grainger's only really distinctive detective and the only one worth describing, and so I'll limit myself to a description of Persad.
Kala Persad is an old ("at least sixty...he must have been a grown man as far back as the Mutiny days") Indian who is being pursued by a trio of "bad Mahometan budmash" when he is lucky enough to stumble across Mark Poignand, an Englishman ("a short, dark young man of seven-and-twenty") who has come to India to investigate possible murder attempts against a friend. Poignand, a rather self-assured young man, doesn't do much to save Persad; he simply stands there and watches as the murderers, "seeing that they had a Sahib to deal with, vanished without more ado across the adjoining fields."
Persad is so grateful for Poignand's "help" that he helps solve the mystery of who was trying to kill Poignand's friend. After that, Poignand presumes on Persad's gratitude and returns to England with him, where he sets up a "Confidential Advice" agency and begins solving mysteries, using Persad's intellect to actually find the answer to the mysteries and catch the criminals and then claiming all the credit for the solving.
I am perhaps being too harsh on Poignand. The division of labor between Persad and Poignand is simple: Persad explains who does the crime, and then Poignand does the legwork, assembling the evidence and confronting the wrong-doer. Poignand is not a complete leech. But he's not a likable person (made deliberately so by Grainger, I think), and he does claim credit for successes which are in large part Persad's doing.
Persad, for his part, is wizened and small, but smart. He is a Hindu and snake charmer from the "hills below Mahabuleshwar" (a real place, by the way; it's a village and hill station in central Maharashtra state, about 90 miles southeast of Bombay) who, before meeting Poignand, was a kind of village detective and wise man.
Kala Persad can read darker riddles than a man's face. In my own gaum in the hills below Mahabuleshwar my words were much sought by those who wish to learn secrets. When any person killed, or bullock stolen...patel come to me and I give him khabar--news--of the bad man. Plenty people hanged in Tanna jail through Kala Persad's talk.Persad is equally successful in his crime solving in London. His method is to simply apply "common sense" and a few simply dictums to the crime, and then reason out the criminal from there. The phrases he uses to guide him include "Where there is a wound on the black heart of man, there is the place to look for crime," "From the still adder comes the most danger," and "When two curious things happen close together, they bound to have to do with each other." All of which may seem cliched or trite, but within the context of the stories themselves work.
ete, Jack and Sam. This fearless trio were introduced in "The Eagle of Death," in Marvel #385, March 1901. The three were created and written exclusively by S. Clarke Hook, the descendant of the novelist and lampoonist Theodore Hook and a writer of several penny dreadful characters, including rival trios like "Dan, Bob and Darkey" and one involving "Jim, Buck," and (gak) "Rastus." Pete, Jack and Sam quickly proved to be quite popular, appearing in a couple of other Harmsworth penny dreadfuls (including The Boys' Friends Library) and lasting until Marvel's end in 1922. Pete, Jack and Sam were jovial adventurers who ranged across the world, fighting the bad guys (often foreign anarchists and revolutionaries, although sometimes corrupt governments) and saving the fair young maidens (in these stories the women are always maidens, always young, and always quite fair). They were almost always rich enough to be able to easily afford such trips, often unearthing buried treasure and blithely charting a train or (more often) a balloon. They went from the Andes to Alaska to Japan to the Transvaal, with stops in places like Glasgow, Northwich, and Canterbury; many of their adventures were in Spanish America, reflecting Hook's fluency in Spanish and personal background.
W. T. Thurbon has a good passage, describing Hook and the Pete, Jack & Sam series:
According to an A.P. editor Clark Hook took more lberties with geography and the probabilities than almost any other author - it is said that he would have put lions and tigers in Iceland if he had wanted them for his story...but he could write a rattling, fine adventure yarn.Pete, Jack and Sam were easily distinguishable. Jack Owen was a wandering, adventurous English teenager, a former Oxford man; he's the headstrong one most likely to get the three in trouble. Sam Grant, an American, is a skilled hunter and an ace shot; he's like a more articulate and less cornpone Huck Finn, although actually the character he most reminds me of is Peterkin Gray. And Pete is a tall, strong, extroverted "Negro," a former sailor and circus strong man. The trio met in a mining camp in Bolivia when they found, in the talons of an eagle, a gold plate with the engraving, "Am starving amid untold wealth," and with a latitude and longitude on the plate, along with the date 1801. With this information they went off to find the treasure, beginning their many adventures. Along the way they picked up a faithful and smart dog, Rory. Later still they gained another chum, Algy, but he never seemed to do very much.
In an unprecedented (as far as I know) twist, Pete quickly became the leader of the three and the focus of the series, although neither Sam nor Jack were neglected. Pete is quite the character; eternally cheerful and outgoing, with a surfeit of bonhomie and an almost preternatural strength and endurance. Pete's speech had little of the typical bigotry of the time, and he was shown to be a great success at whatever he turned his hand to, whether it was learning ventriloquism, making money, or running a "Chinese laundry" or theatre troupe. And even more oddly snobs and bigots who targeted Pete were given a comeuppance by story's end. Even though Pete was badly injured in mid-adventure more than once, he always recovered and resumed being the dominant member of the trio. Pete is in many ways a progressive character, and although the adventures of the trio are no more than are strictly ordinary, Pete (and S. Clarke Hook) should be remembered.
eters, Joseph. Joseph Peters was created by Mary Elizabeth Braddon and appeared in Three Times Dead (1860). Braddon (1835-1915) was one of the most popular and successful Victorian novelists; she wrote more than eighty novels and not only supported herself and her family as a novelist, but became wealthy in doing so--something relatively rare for female novelists in the 19th century. She remains best known for Lady Audley’s Secret (1862), one of the best-selling novels of the 19th century and a work still in print and still read with pleasure. But Braddon wrote a good deal more than just Lady Audley’s Secret, and is in fact an important and under-appreciated early detective fiction author.
Three Times Dead is about a murder committed by Jabez North. North is an orphan of little means and great ambition. Jabez kills Montague Harding, a wealthy man just back from India, but unfortunately Harding has just given all his spare money to his ne’er-do-well nephew Richard Marwood, and so Jabez’s murder is for nothing. But Jabez discovers the presence of a twin brother and quickly puts a plan into action, Jabez steals a bunch of checks from the master of the school at which he works, murders his twin brother, and then arranges his brother’s corpse to make it appear that he, Jabez, committed suicide. (The twin brother is homeless and jobless and no one except his common-law wife knows who he is). Jabez then cashes the checks and takes off for the Continent, where he reinvents himself as the adventurer Raymond Marolles. He cleverly tricks the lovely heiress Valerie de Cevennes into poisoning her husband, and then blackmails her into marrying him. Meanwhile, Richard is convicted of murder, but thanks to timely advice from Joseph Peters, one of the detectives who arrested him, Richard shams insanity, and so is sent to an asylum instead of the gallows. The rest of Three Times Dead is about how Peters brings Jabez North to justice and helps Richard clear his name.
Three Times Dead, which was later released as The Trail of the Serpent, is a murder mystery. It is quite explicitly a murder mystery, rather than a satire of the law, as Bleak House was (see the Inspector Bucket entry) or the story of an inheritance lost and regained, as Clara Vaughan (see the Inspector Cutting entry) and Night and Morning (see the M. Favart entry) were. Because Three Times Dead is about a crime rather than something else, it is in all likelihood the first actual British mystery novel. Three Times Dead is not a whodunit; the reader is aware (unless he or she is an awful duffer) from the beginning who is responsible for the crime. Rather, Three Times Dead is about a crime, those involved with the crime, the aftermath of the crime, and the resolution of the crime.
Three Times Dead is Braddon’s first novel, and it’s an auspicious debut. Braddon is above all else entertaining. Her prose style is almost entirely lacking in the over-written fustian of so many Victorian writers (you have to understand that I came to Three Times Dead after reading Bulwer-Lytton, so I am perhaps unduly biased in my judgment). Although Braddon goes on a bit too long at times, the style of narration is smooth and conversational, with a modern and almost noirish feel in places:
A bad, determined, black-minded November day. A day on which the fog shaped itself into a demon, and lurked behind men’s shoulders, whispering ito their ears, “Cut your throat!–you know you’ve got a razor, and can’t shave with it, because you’ve been drinking and your hand shakes; one little gash under the left ear, and the business is done. It’s the best thing you can do. It is, really.” A day on which the rain, the monotonous ceaseless perservering rain, has a voice as it comes down, and says, “Don’t you think you could go melancholy mad? Look at me; be good enough to watch me for a couple of hours or so, and think, while you watch me, of the girl who jilted you ten years ago; and of what a much better man you would be to-day if she had only loved you truly. Oh, I think, if you’ll only be so good as to watch me, you might really contrive to go mad.”Braddon’s dialogue, too, is not awkward, although in places it is slightly dated. My impression is that Braddon faithfully reproduced dialogue styles she heard around her, so that what feels dated to us today is simply how people really spoke in 1860.
Braddon’s characterization is vivid, albeit not realistic. None of the characters are particularly credible or even three-dimensional, but they are very entertaining two dimensions. Jabez North is a wonderful villain: sly, ambitious, cunning, ruthless and smooth, and if the Marquis de Cevennes thinks that Jabez does not measure up to Iago, it’s because Iago is a marvel of “motiveless malignity,” while Jabez’s motives–wealth and power–are quite understandable.. Were it not for Mr. Peters, this entry would be about Jabez, who is gloriously absent in redeeming features. The Marquis is as memorable as Jabez in far fewer pages; he is a sardonic old mongoose to Jabez’s clever cobra. And Mr. Peters, though not nearly as colorful as Jabez or the Marquis, is still more than just a handicap.
Three Times Dead also shows an acute consciousness of class and of the hypocrisy of society and the wretchedness of poverty. More than most of the 19th century detective novels which followed it, Three Times Dead is very aware of the have-nots in society and how they are too often condemned to lives of hopelessness.
Three Times Dead is nearly always entertaining. It lacks many of the stylistic defects of Braddon’s contemporaries, and for large stretches is a page-turner. Even the pages-long infodump monologues are not unreadable. But Three Times Dead is a great example of a good writer making use of bad material. The plot is...oy. Great fun though it is, Three Times Dead is a mess of plot absurdities. I suppose I’m being unfair to Braddon, in that her suprises and revelations and plot twists are far more cliched now than they were in her day. But when you have a plot which includes identical twin brothers, key evidence being burned in a manner wholly ridiculous, a soprano dying of poison during a scene in which his character dies of poison, one character’s parentage being revealed to make him the sister of his wife, an attempted escape via a coffin loaded on board a passenger liner, and the last-minute revelation that a dead character is not dead after all, well, it’s hard to take the story seriously. I gloried in this over-the-topness in The Wandering Jew (see the Father Rodin entry), but in a detective novel these elements are unwelcome.
Three Times Dead is interesting for reasons quite separate from its intrinsic qualities. Like the rest of the cast of the novel, Peters is not a three-dimensional character, but he is solidly two-dimensional and given much more depth than most handicapped characters (he’s mute) in Victorian literature. Peters is also the first handicapped detective in mystery fiction. The vogue for disabled, handicapped or “defective” detectives really began in the 20th century, with Ernest Bramah’s blind detective Max Carrados, but there were a few precursors. Peters, though, substantially predates all of them. Similarly, Three Times Dead is perhaps the first mystery novel to make use of what might be called the “Doc Savage dynamic,” in which a heroic central figure brings together a disparate group of assistants and helpers to fight crime. Rocambole did this, even more so than Peters (Rocambole is much more clearly a leading man sort of hero than Peters is), but the Cheerful Cherokees who help Peters to clear Richard Marwood’s name, and who vary from gentleman gamblers to Jim Stilson, “the Left-Handed Smasher,” are a protoype of Monk, Ham, Long Tom, and the rest of Doc Savage’s assistants.
Joseph Peters is a good man. He begins as a lowly assistant detective, a “scrub,” because the department he works for feels that he can be of no use to them, being mute and all. When Peters helps capture Richard Marwood, Peters sees, by Marwood’s reaction, that Marwood is innocent, and so Peters devotes himself to solving the case. Peters moves to the town of Slopperton, where Marwood lives, and joins the police force there. He rises up through the ranks, because he’s a good detective, but he never forgets about Marwood, and when the opportunity arises to help Marwood, Peters does. Peters likewise adopts a foundling baby, and infant found thrown into the Sloshy river, and Peters hires and informally adopts a street waif to take care of the foundling. (Who turns out to be Jabez North’s bastard child–yet another of the hard-to-credit plot twists in Three Times Dead). Peters is deaf, but he’s not dumb and is by no means stupid. He uses the standard detective tactics of investigating crime scenes and interviewing witnesses, although the latter is done through interpreters, others who undersand Peters’ “dirty alphabet” sign language. Peters is not brilliant, but he is careful, and his deductions are well thought out. He’s a close observer of people and crime scenes, and finds clues that other investigators missed as well as seeing things in people, such as the surprise (rather than guilt) on Marwood’s face when he’s arrested, that other investigators miss.
Three Times Dead is almost always entertaining, infodumps aside. It's not a classic, but it will entertain you. And anyone interested in the pre-history of detective fiction should read it for the figure of Joseph Peters.
etersen, Count Andre. Count Andre Petersen appeared in Georges Le Faure's War Under Water (1892). Le Faure (1856-1935) was a French writer of adventure and science fiction novels; although unknown in the United States and mostly forgotten about today even in France, he was influential in his day, albeit not a writer of exceptional talent. War Under Water is a literary act of revenge against the Germans for the Franco-Prussian War. Count Andre Peterson served in the French army during the War, in 1870, and took the defeat quite hard. For twenty years afterwards he was the head of a secret organisation of French, Alsatians, Austrians, and Danes (the Danes also lost a war with the Germans) dedicated to overthrowing the German government and military and humbling Germany; the organisation numbers around 700,000. Unfortunately for Petersen, the German spy agency knows about him and his organisation's plans, and what's worse are aware of their entire roster. They offer him a deal: if he marries the daughter of a German consul and gives his word that he'll retire from the organisation, they will spare the members of the organisation. The count accepts, planning on committing suicide as soon as the wedding is over.
Before the wedding, however, Petersen learns of the existence of Jacobus Delborg, the half-paralyzed Dutch inventor. Delborg has created a number of new weapons, the most powerful of which is a small (twenty-man) submarine powered by electricity which is armed with extremely powerful torpedoes. Delborg is not only an inventive genius, he has a head for espionage; he managed to have Petersen's secret correspondence intercepted and deciphered. Delborg contacts Petersen and the chief conspirators and offers his new submarine to them. The Count wants to use the sub, but has given his word to the Germans and intends to proceed with the wedding, even though he is obviously smitten with Delborg's half-sister Ellen. The Count's French agent, Flageot, acts, setting fire to Petersen's castle and spreading the word that Petersen himself is dead.
The conspirators accompany Delborg to Australia, where they build a hidden base in the Great Barrier Reef; they hollow out the Reef and put a glass roof over the base so they can look into the sea. They build the submarine, which they call the Vindex, using forced labor--German sailors captured from a ship the conspirators have sunk. The conspirators chain the Germans together with live wires and work them until they drop, and the Polish and French representatives voice their desires for a time when they can wipe out all Germans. (Genocide, apparently, is okay if it's you doing it to someone else) Time passes as the sub is built; Petersen is captured by the Germans and held at Mannheim. The conspirators take the sub and begin attacking German shipping, only to return to their Australian base when the captured Germans revolt. The conspirators retake the base and kill the Germans and set out once again for Germany, hoping to rescue Petersen. They pass through the Suez Canal, up the Danube, through an underground connection with the Rhine, and then up to the North Sea. They rescue Petersen and execute a Danish traitor…and there the story ends, with more loose ends than a frayed nightgown.
etro's Descendant. Petro’s Descendant was created by Nikolai Gogol and appeared in “A Terrible Vengeance” (variously translated as “A Terrible Vengeance,” “The Terrible Vengeance,” or “The Sorcerer,” from the second volume of Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka, 1832). Gogol I’ve already mentioned here, as the author of that atrocious piece of evil-minded filth, Taras Bulba. “Petro’s Descendant” is somewhat in the same vein as Taras Bulba, being nominally about noble Cossacks, but is far darker.
In Kiev Captain Gorobets is celebrating his son’s wedding. Among those attending are Gorobets’ brother in arms Danilo Burulbash, his young wife, Katerina, and their one year old son. Many wonder why Katerina’s father, who had disappeared when she was young and returned 21 years later when she was married and had borne a son, is not attending. During the feast one of the Cossacks is dancing and making the crowd laugh, but when Gorobets raises the icons given to him from an honorable monk, the Cossack changes appearance, and becomes an ugly old man–the sorcerer who has troubled the people for a generation. After the wedding Katerina complains to Danilo about how much the sorcerer bothers her. Danilo is not so frightened by him. As they row their boat across the Dnieper they see dead men rising from their graves to briefly complain that they can’t breathe, which Danilo feels is just a scare tactic on the sorcerer’s part. Danilo also mentions how he doesn’t like Katerina’s father, how he doesn’t have a Cossack’s heart, and the following day, when Katerina’s father enters Danilo’s house, the pair pick a fight with each other and duel, first with sabres and then with guns. Katerina urges a reconciliation between the two, but Katerina’s father is grudging about it. Shortly after this Katerina begins having awful dreams in which her father demands that she marry him. Danilo follows Katerina’s father and discovers that he is the sorcerer and that he is summoning his daughter’s soul and trying to make it possess Katerina and marry him. Danilo has his Cossacks capture Katerina’s father, but the night before his execution he manages to persuade Katerina to free him. Then, during a fight with some Poles, Danilo is shot and killed by Katerina’s father, who returns to his home, but his next summoning goes wrong, and a face he does not know appears, staring implacably at him and filling him with horror. Katerina is horrified at everything that has happened, and then has to undergo her father telling her, in a dream, how he is going to kill her son, and then having the murder take place. Meanwhile, in the Carpathian mountains between Galicia and Hungary, a ghostly, fantastic knight comes riding out of the dark, riding for the Dnieper. Katerina has gone insane, wandering in a daze. A handsome visitor arrives, claiming to be an old friend of Danilo’s, but Katerina comes out of her daze and recognizes him as her father; she attacks him, but he manages to kill her, and then rides away before the other Cossacks can kill him. But something goes wrong during his ride; he is gripped with fear, he sees the ghostly knight from far away, and the forests themselves seem to be reaching out to him. He seeks refuge and forgiveness at the hands of a holy hermit, but the hermit will not forgive a cursed sinner or pray for his forgiveness, and Katerina’s father kills him. Katerina’s father then tries to ride to the Crimea, but he cannot help but ride toward Hungary and the Carpathians. When he arrives at the mountains the ghostly knight is there, and the knight kills him and throws him into a ravine, where all those he killed gnaw on him. And then, back in Glukhov, a blind bandore player tells the story of evil Petro, a Cossack who was so jealous of his brother Ivan that he killed Ivan. When Ivan got to Heaven God promised him vengeance on Petro, and Ivan responded by asking that Petro be tormented under the ground and that every one of his descendants know no peace on earth, and that “the last one of the family be such an evildoer as the world has never seen.” God responds by granting this request but also by making Ivan sit on his horse and watch Petro’s torment and “as long as you sit there on your horse, there will be no Kingdom of Heaven for you!”
Fun stuff, eh?
Gogol, in “A Terrible Vengeance,” was trying to write a typical Cossack epic, similar to his goal with Taras Bulba. So there is the same rich imagery and occasionally epic prose and action-filled story, with the Cossacks as the heroes and their ethos of fighting, aggression, and hatred being valorized, and the opposng traits of mercy and tolerance being despised. But unlike Taras Bulba, “A Terrible Vengeance” ultimately shows kindness to no one. Everyone is victimized, and although Danilo is the hero of the story he is helpless to stop Katerina’s father from haunting Katerina. Even Katerina’s father, Petro’s final descendant, is tormented, in the end, by the ghost of Ivan and by the zombies of those he’d killed. “A Terrible Vengeance” is about hatred and incest and bigotry (the Poles are described as “Polacks,” and Gogol shows them as much kindness in “A Terrible Vengeance” as he did to non-Cossacks in Taras Bulba) and bad things happening to innocents and non-innocents alike. It’s a dark, merciless story, “A Terrible Vengeance,” with a curse as awful as anything in classical Greek tragedy affecting everyone involved. The universe of Gogol is ultimately a strikingly negative and cruel one, and Gogol’s intent of writing a Cossack epic says volumes about his own ethos and that of the Cossacks.
As a side note, although Gogol intended to write an epic, “A Terrible Vengeance” is as much a horror story as anything else, and there are a couple of moments which are quite memorable as horror story moments. When Katerina’s father tries to summon Katerina’s soul, and instead gets Ivan, who stares at him even after the enchantment ends...it’s almost chilling, in its way. Frightening, also, is the final ride of Katerina’s father, a ride out of a nightmare, where he tries to ride one way and yet is physically compelled to ride in the opposite direction, with the world freezing, motionless, and the ghostly knight being the only thing moving, riding inexorably toward him, and the knight’s laughter hammering inside his brain.
Petro’s descendant, Katerina’s father, is in some ways as much a victim as Katerina herself. After all, God Himself agreed to Ivan’s curse, and so Katerina’s father (I apologize for having to continually call him this, but he’s never actually named in the story) is forced to be evil and forced to suffer eternally–he had no choice in the matter, it was his destiny from the time he was born to be “such an evildoer as the world has never seen.” Although he does enjoy his murders, does enjoy calling up Katerina’s soul and trying to force it to make Katerina marry him, does enjoy appearing in her dreams and terrifying her, and although he is quite ill-tempered and nasty to Danilo, we’ll never know if such was his choice or not.
etronius. This particular fictional version of Petronius was created by Henryk Sienkiewicz and appeared in Quo Vadis (1895). Sienkiewicz was the author of With Fire And Sword, and you can find biographical information about him under the Yan Skshetuski entry. The historical Petronius, a.k.a. "Petronius Arbiter," was the author of the Satyricon: "The most celebrated fable of ancient Rome is the work of Petronius Arbiter, perhaps the most remarkable fiction which has dishonored the literature of any nation." Petronius was quite the character, being regarded as the arbiter of good taste in Nero's court (hence Petronius' title), and he is brought vividly to life in Quo Vadis, which is quite surprisingly faithful to Tacitucs' description of Petronius, despite Sienkiewicz's didactic intent in writing the novel.
As he did in With Fire And Sword, Sienkiewicz presupposes that the reader of Quo Vadis will have a certain level of knowledge about Neronian Rome, and so he does not contextualize much of the information or provide much explanation about the people or events in the novel or the Latin terminology used. For the reader without a solid grounding in the Classics (read: me) this means that the experience of reading Quo Vadis can be somewhat disconcerting.
The plot of Quo Vadis is relatively simple. In Rome in the years 65-66 C.E. the Roman soldier Vinicius meets the maiden Lygia, the daughter of a barbarian prince and a hostage in Rome. He falls in love with her, and eventually converts, through love of her, to Christianity. Meanwhile, Vinicius’ friend Petronius negotiates his way through the court of Nero. Rome is set on fire at Nero’s orders, Nero begins movements against the new cult of Christianity, Lygia is captured but eventually freed, Lygia and Vinicius marry and flee to Sicily, and Petronius, having lost Nero’s “friendship” marked for death by Nero, commits suicide in the arms of his lover, although not before delivering a savage condemnation of Nero. The old Rome dies, conquered by the new faith.
I’m somewhat constrained from commenting on Quo Vadis because I don’t know how much of what I read was Sienkiewicz’s and how much was the translator’s. The dry style and strained attempts to evoke emotion and romantic fervor are likely the product of both, as was the archaic pseudo-Shakespearean style of dialogue. The didactic intent, however, is undoubtedly Sienkiewicz’s. Just as With Fire And Sword was written as a patriotic tract, so too is Quo Vadis written as a religious tract. And as in his earlier work, Sienkiewicz distorts history for ideological ends, painting the early Christians in a sanitized and unrealistic way and depicting the Romans as a vile, decadent bunch. (It’s not an overstatement, I think, to say that Quo Vadis was written so that Christians can congratulate themselves). But the didacticism is tolerable, rather than overbearing, and the bad history is used to make entertaining fiction.
Quo Vadis, though, is superior to With Fire And Sword in a number of respects. Sienkiewicz’s recreation of a decadent Rome is colorful, and he displays an acute consciousness of the utter helplessness of the slaves of Rome. While the characterisation of Vinicius and Lygia is only competent (a shame, in that they are the two main characters), Sienkiewicz excels himself with his portrayals of the supporting characters. Lygia is a naif and a milksop and Vinicius is headstrong, impetuous, and mad with love for Lygia, but also stiff and humorless. But Sienkiewicz’s Nero is an absorbing monster, “ominous” and “repulsive,” childlike, cruel, vain, and obsessed with his art. The roguish manhunter and philosopher Chilo Chilonides is entertaining enough to support his own series of novels. Paul of Tarsus is suitably otherworldly.
And then there’s Petronius. Petronius is far and away the most interesting character in Quo Vadis. He is a shark in the waters of Nero’s court, manipulating Nero without effort and easily outmaneuvering his rival Tigellinus. Petronius is sardonic and an aesthete, valuing not right and wrong but beauty and ugliness. And love, of course, which he esteems most highly. Petronius could depose Tigellinus and become the leader of the soldiers, but thinks that it would not be worth the effort: “through indolence or culture was not vengeful.” Instead, he is content to stay in his villa, admire his works of art, and read the classics. He has a quick hand at flattery (a requisite in Nero’s court) and is generally full of pith and wit. He’s refined, culture, and learned, and is viewed as the arbiter of artistic quality (hence his title). He is an Epicurean and an egotist, and has contempt for Nero and “the herd” of Romans, who he views as “a people worthy of Caesar.” Quo Vadis often drags when Vinicius or Lygia are described, but it crackles when its subject is Petronius. And his death scene (taken from Tacitus) is one of the great ones in literature: knowing that he is about to be condemned to death by Nero, Petronius holds a great feast for those he values. At the end of the feast he slits his wrist and then reads a savage condemnation of Nero’s personality and artistic abilities. Petronius then dies in the arms of Eunice, his love.
Quo Vadis is not without flaws, but the character of Petronius makes it worth reading.
eyral, Paul Du. Paul du Peyral was created by Edward Heron-Allen and Selina Delaro and appeared in The Princess Daphne (1888). Heron-Allen (1861-1943) was something of a polymath, being interested in and publishing on topics as varied as violin making, palmistry, and Persian literature. He also published a small assortment of books, including The Cheetah Girl, a work suppressed in the 1920s because of its kinky sexual subject matter, and The Strange Papers of Christopher Blayre (1932), which I mention in the University of Cosmopoli entry on my Pulp Heroes site. Selina Delaro was a part of the theatre crowd; Richard D’Oyly Carte managed the Royalty Theatre for her in 1875.
The Princess Daphne is about four characters: Paul du Peyral, Mahmouré di Zulueta, Eric Trevanion, and Daphne Préault. Paul du Peyral is a mesmerist and Creole who is given a large fortune in a will as long as he marries his cousin, Daphne Préault, or remains unmarried. If he marries someone else, the money goes to Daphne. He proposes to Daphne, she turns him down, and he goes merrily on his way. Mahmouré di Zulueta is a mysterious and beautiful foreigner with a dark past living in New York and inspiring curiosity and desire among all the men who meet her. Paul wins her heart, somewhat, and they marry in secret. Paul begins practicing psychic experiments on her, projecting her personality into Daphne’s body (the blood link between Paul and Daphne enables this possession) and demonstrating to others that mesmerism works. These experiments drain him, and he further uses them to shore up Mahmouré’s health, which is failing. Paul pours too much of himself into his experiments and dies.
Eric and Daphne, meanwhile, live in London, among the Bohemian artists. Daphne is “the Princess Daphne,” the beautiful and serene idol and inspiration of all the artists of her colony. She is also Paul du Peyral’s near double. Eric is a dilettante, a not particularly talented painter who enjoys being around his friends, and Daphne, and who has a large allowance from his father. Eric is mad for Daphne; she is less so for him. But they eventually fall in love anyhow. She changes, however, in part because Paul’s psychic experiments start to alter Daphne’s personality, and then Eric is thrown on hard financial times, and stress enters their relationship, and then she dies, momentarily, due to bodily weakness brought on by Paul’s experiments. She recovers, but her personality is greatly altered, more “earthy,” and she begins cheating on Eric. Mahmouré arrives in London and goes to see Daphne, and there’s an immediate connection between them. It turns out that when Paul died his soul followed the connection to Daphne and commingled with her soul, and so Daphne feels for Mahmouré what Paul felt for Mahmouré, and vice-versa. What follows can only be called a lightly veiled lesbian love affair. Eric is cruelly rejected by Daphne and goes home, where he marries a kind minor character. Mahmouré and Daphne carry on together, but Daphne weakens, and despite Mahmouré’s best efforts Daphne dies. Mahmouré then goes to Greece to end her days.
The Princess Daphne is an entertaining tale whose enjoyment will be ruined for most modern readers by the figure of Clytemnestra, the freedwoman servant of Daphne Préault. This is always a danger with popular fiction of previous generations, but it’s especially true here: Heron-Allen’s attitudes are not just politically incorrect (whatever that means), but outright racist. It’s a kind of benign racism, wherein “Clytie” does care for Daphne, albeit in a stereotyped manner, and does have positive qualities–but it’s racist nonetheless, from Clytie’s dialogue (“‘Sho, honey! Sho, there! What is it, chile?’” and so on) to the very idea of the character (“...generations of master and slave had looked after one another, and the ideas of freedom, and a vote, and the College of Surgeons were, to Clytie, iconoclastic institutions which she strenuously objected to....”) to Heron-Allen’s ideas about what character attributes might be contained in “Creole blood.” The Princess Daphne has a number of virtues: it’s smartly told, more than occasionally amusing (Heron-Allen gets off several witty lines), has some informed (though even more romanticized than Trilby’s was–see the Svengali entry for more on that) views of the Bohemian lifestyle of 19th century artists, and features a couple of enjoyably pointed satires, esp. of Anglophilic Americans. Heron-Allen works a little too hard at persuading us how wonderful the main characters are, and there’s a bit too much persiflage, but the downfall of the novel is Clytie, and Heron-Allen’s attitude toward her.
It’s bruited about that The Princess Daphne is a “novel of psychic vampirism,” but that’s not exactly the case. Paul doesn’t drain anyone’s life force while he lives; if anything, the reverse is the case, as he invests his own life energies into Mahmouré, and heals her at the cost of his own health. When Mahmouré’s soul possesses Daphne’s body, her personality changes but her health or soul are not drained. And when Paul’s soul possesses Daphne’s body, she is not drained. The Princess Daphne is not a novel of vampirism, but rather of mesmerism, possession, and soul transference.
Paul is a powerful mesmerist, although it takes a lot out of him. Using his power too often robs him of his “soul,” so that he loses energy and becomes listless. He can be merry and witty, but he cares more about his mesmerism, and proving its existence to the world, then he does about his own health. He does, however, love Mahmouré and, as mentioned, sacrifices himself to help her.
It’s a shame about the racism, because otherwise The Princess Daphne is an entertaining read.
hantom Child. The Phantom Child was created by Elizabeth Gaskell and appeared in “The Old Nurse’s Story,” which first was published in Household Words (Christmas Number, 1852). Gaskell (1810-1865) was in her time a very noted writer, producing a wide range of stories and novels, especially “social problem” novels which addressed very real societal ills. “The Old Nurse’s Story,” one of the better mid-century ghost stories, is about Hester, a nurse is hired to take care of Miss Rosamond, the young great-granddaughter of Lord Furnivall. When Miss Rosamond’s parents die Hester and Miss Rosamond are sent to Furnivall Manor House, where Miss Rosamond’s grandmother, Miss Furnivall, lives. Furnivall Manor House is a sprawling mansion, inhabited only by Miss Furnivall, her longtime maid and friend Mrs. Stark, and a few other servants. At first Miss Rosamond and Hester are uncomfortable in the Manor House, but soon enough they come to enjoy it. Until winter begins, in October, with heavy frosts, and Hester hears the organ played late at night, as if from far away, despite its innards being ruined. And then Miss Rosamond sees a child standing out in the snow and gesturing to her, and follows her. Hester sees the ghost, tragic family secrets are eventurally revealed, and Miss Furnivall learns, to her sorrow, that “what is done in youth can never be undone in age!”
Reading various comments on “The Old Nurse’s Story,” it seems that most aficionados of 19th century ghost stories consider the story dated, a period piece inferior to later stories. My reaction was quite different. Although I’m not on the same level–nowhere near it–of expertise in Victorian horror as most of the folks on Horrabin Hall, but I have somewhat more knowledge of the genre than most horror fans, and I’ve begun reading Mrs. Molesworth and Rosa Mulholland and the like, and so I think I’m at least partially qualified to comment. I found “The Old Nurse’s Story” not just a little better than works like “The Haunted Organist of Hurly-Burly” (see the Lewis Hurly entry), but a significantly so. Gaskell is as good a writer as Molesworth and the other mid-Victorians; she does the Lakeland District tone of Hester’s voice very well without indulging in slang or jargon. (If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time you’ll know how I feel about that. If not, just read my comments on any of Sir Walter Scott’s work). The characterization in the story isn’t strong, but it doesn’t need to be. The atmosphere and the pacing of the slowly revealed sin are strong, as they need to be in a story like this. What sets “The Old Nurse’s Story” apart from Mulholland et al., for me, is the greater complexity of the plot. While I had a general idea where Gaskell was going, I did not, could not predict the ending, which was the case with Mulholland et al. Predictability, I’m finding, is a failing for many of the mid-Victorian horror writers, and the lack of same in Gaskell is welcome and combines well with the strong atmosphere.
“The Old Nurse’s Story” isn’t the equal of The Great God Pan–but then, few stories are. But “The Old Nurse’s Story” is a very good example of the mid-Victorian ghost story.
hantom Coach. The Phantom Coach was created by Amelia B. Edwards and appeared in “The Phantom Coach” (All The Year Round, Christmas Issue, 1864). Edwards (1831-1892) is regarded as one of the best Victorian ghost story writers, and several of her stories, including “The Phantom Coach,” are standards in collections of ghost story anthologies. Edwards was also a world traveler and a world-respected antiquarian and archaeologist.
“The Phantom Coach” is about James Murray, a barrister, who gets lost one December day while out grousing on a “bleak wide moor in the far north of England.” He wanders past dusk, and then gets caught in a ferocious snow storm. Murray meets a local man who grudgingly agrees to let Murray follow him home; the man says that the master won’t let him in, but Murray insists, and the man gives in. The master turns out to be rather irascible, but when Murray points out that if he’d stayed outside he’d have died (“There’s an inch of snow on the ground already...and it would be deep enough to cover my body before daybreak”) the master gives in and lets Murray stay and even feeds him. Murray engages the man in conversation and discovers that he’s a hermit philosopher, knowledgeable in many fields; he had voiced his firm belief in apparitions, a belief backed by all his education, and been ridiculed by his contemporaries. Murray enjoys speaking with the man, but is anxious to get back to his young wife, and so after it stops snowing he takes his leave with thanks, heading for the nearest intersection where he might board the night mail coach. Before he leaves, though, he’s told about an accident the night mail coach suffered nine years ago, when it pitched off the road into the valley floor, killing all six passengers. Murray walks to the intersection and waves down the coach, which strikes him as strange and hazy on the outside and cold on the inside, with a “singularly damp and disagreeable smell” and silent, unfriendly passengers. All too quickly Murray discovers that his fellow passengers are corpses and the he is riding on the ghost of the coach. He is found in a snowdrift, with a broken arm and a fractured skull and his recovery is a slow one.
I confess to being slightly underwhelmed by “The Phantom Coach.” It’s certainly quite readable and very entertaining, and the way in which the plot swerves, presenting a crotchety old hermit in a somewhat rundown mansion, so that we think the ghost lies there, and then throwing a phantom coach at us, was unexpected. And the story reads like the telling of an old piece of folklore, which I always enjoy. But the narrative style is dated (given the story’s age that’s unavoidable) and there’s little actual fright to be found, and in general I didn’t find it as good as some other contemporary stories I’ve read. It is a classic ghost story, and was influential on many other stories, certainly many haunted coach/train/car/plane stories, but it wasn’t, for me, in the upper rank of Victorian ghosties. (On the other hand, without it we might never have had the immortal “Large Marge” sequence from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, so “The Phantom Coach” deserves mad props for that, at least).
The coach is lofty, wrapped in a soft haze of light, and moves strangely quickly and quietly. Its passengers are corpses whose eyes glow “with a fiery unnatural lustre” and on whose faces plays “a pale phosphorescent light–the light of putrefaction!”
haros the Egyptian. Pharos appeared in Pharos the Egyptian (1899) by Guy Boothby. Boothby was the creator of Dr. Nikola, in whose entry you can find more biographical information on Boothby. Pharos the Egyptian is in nearly every way a superior work to A Bid for Fortune, and although Pharos is not the equal of Dr. Nikola, he is still a fine creation who deserves better than the obscurity he languishes in today.
(I'm loath to spoil the plot for you, since Pharos is actually a well-spun, suspenseful novel whose surprises, though obvious in retrospect, were actually surprising to me. I obviously have to go into detail about Pharos, which will give away plot details of the book. But if you're looking for a good Victorian-era read, search out Pharos and read this entry only after you're done with the book)
Pharos is a singular individual. He is an old Egyptian man, whose appearance causes revulsion to those who see him. The narrator's first reaction, on being looked at by Pharos, is
as he did so, a great shudder, accompanied by an indescribable feeling of nausea, passed over me...the other's gaze was rivetted (sic) on me--so firmly, indeed, that it required but small imagination to believe it eating into my brain.Pharos' appearance is as follows:
His height was considerably below the average, his skull was as small as his shoulders were broad. But it was not his stature, his shoulders, or the size of his head which caused the curious effect I have elsewhere described. It was his eyes, the shape of his face, the multitudinous wrinkles that lined it, and, above all, the extraordinary colour of his skin, that rendered his appearance so repulsive. To understand what I mean you must think first of old ivory, and then endeavor to realize what the complexion of a corpse would be like after lying in an hermetically sealed tomb for many years. Blend the two, and you will have some dim notion of the idea I am trying to convey. His eyes were small, deeply sunken, and in repose apparently devoid of light and even of life. He wore a heavy fur coat, and...he disdained the customary headgear of polite society, and had substituted for it a curious description of cap...he walked feebly, supporting himself with a stick, upon which his thin yellow fist was clutched till the knuckles stood out and shone like billiard balls in the moonlight.Pharos is the Ptahmes, the Egyptian wizard who was commanded by the Pharaoh to duel with Moses (see the book of Exodus). Because Ptahmes failed to protect the Pharaoh's first-born, the Pharaoh ordered Ptahmes' death, and Ptahmes was forced to flee into the mountains. Ptahmes died in hiding, but because he had sworn falsely by the gods (he "assured the Pharaoh, on the honour of the gods, that what the Israelite had predicted could never come to pass") he was cursed with perpetual life.
Here's where it gets tricky. Ptahmes' body was mummified and hidden, but his spirit was forced to take on a new form--that of Pharos. Pharos was then forced to wander the Earth, seeking his mummy (which was the only way in which he could try to regain favor in the eyes of the Gods), for thousands of years.
He finds the mummy and takes it, along with the narrator and a beautiful clairvoyant woman, back to Egypt, where after various and sundry ceremonies he is given a second chance by the Gods. Pharos uses this second chance to avenge himself and his country on Europe, in the form of a plague that the narrator is vectoring ("I tell thee assuredly that the plague which is now destroying Europe was decreed by the gods of Egypt against such nations as have committed the sin of sacrilege"). The plague wipes out tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in Europe, but this is not what the gods were interested in, and Pharos is damned a second time, for all time, by the gods. In a fit of despair he rips his own throat open, and the narrator and the clairvoyant, both guilt-ridden for having been Pharos' pawn and responsible for so many deaths, flee England and try to forget.
As befits a master magician, Pharos has a number of powers: powerful mesmerism, domination of others' wills, mind-reading, causing clairvoyance in others, and telekinesis. He's a skilled chemist/alchemist, being able to whip up a cure for the plague in a half-hour's time. He's also got a pet/familiar, an evil and possibly sentient monkey named Pehtes.
In addition to having the requisite plot twists, varied scenery (London, Naples, and Cairo, among others) and tone of suspense, Pharos has a few other aspects to it of interest to the modern reader. Pharos, though sinister, a religious fanatic, and willing to slay tens of thousands, is not entirely unsympathetic; the plot makes clear that he is trying to follow the dictates of his gods, gods who are in fact quite real. Pharos is also a patriot, taking action against those he sees (not without reason) as having done Egypt wrong, humiliated and despoiled it. And--most interestingly to the modern reader aware of the Elgin Marbles controversy--the following exchange can be found, after Pharos has taken the mummy away from the narrator, whose father took it from the tomb in which he found it and brought it to England:
"But allow me to remark that it is not your property, Monsieur Pharos," I replied; "and even taking into consideration the circumstances you relate, you must see yourself that you have no right to act as you propose doing."The fair-minded reader will give that exchange to Pharos on points.
"And pray by what right did your father rifle the dead man's tomb?" said Pharos quietly. "And since you are such a stickler for what is equitable, perhaps you will show me his justification for carrying away the body from the country in which it had been laid to rest, and conveying it to England to be stared at in the light of a curiosity."
Pharos the Egyptian is a well-done book, and despite my fondness for Dr. Nikola I must first recommend Pharos to the reader interested in reading a Boothby book. Your efforts in finding it will be well-rewarded. (Although you should be warned that there are one or two moments of anti-Semitic remarks--but those can be ascribed to the characters, I think, rather than Boothby himself)
The e-text of the book, courtesy of Black Mask Online.
hosphor. Sometimes the limits of achievable knowledge frustrate me. I’m a good reference librarian. I’m good at finding information, at chasing down leads and using the slightest hints and clues to uncover useful information. But there are times when I can simply go no farther because I’m in the wrong geographical area for further research, or because more information and data is simply not available. This is one of those times. The following, very tantalizing, information is taken from a University of Melbourne exhibit site, author unknown:
J. Filmore Sherry. Phosphor: an Ischian Mystery. Melbourne: Centennial Publishing Co., 1888. "Phosphor" has some claim to being the weirdest Australian tale ever penned.Now, something this goofy pretty much requires further investigation–-but where? There’s nothing further on the Web. The databases I’ve checked provide nothing. And no library in the U.S. or U.K. has a copy of this book. So...all I can provide is the preceding.
A despondent young man, buried alive after imbibing snake venom to test an antidote he'd invented, breaks out into a subterranean kingdom, inhabited by prehistoric creatures and anthropoids who are both Latin-speaking and phosphorescent!
The queen of the anthropoids, who has a good figure but the head of an ape, takes a fancy to the hero and plans to use him as breeding stock to boost the gene pool of her tribe.
Rather than submit, the hero kills the queen (with a poisonous snake) and is then speedily returned to Australia after a fortuitous volcanic eruption.
hra the Phoenician. Phra the Phoenician was created by Edwin L. Arnold and appeared in The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician, which first appeared as a serial in the Illustrated London News in 1890 before being published as a novel in 1891. Arnold (1857-1935) was the son of a noted Orientalist, poet, and journalist. Arnold himself was a farmer and an occasional author who is best known for Lieutenant Gullivar Jones and for implanting into mainstream science fantasy the idea of time-travel via reincarnation. (One direct imitator of Phra is George Griffith’s Valdar the Oft-Born, which will appear in these pages sooner or later). Arnold used this motif in Lepidus the Centurion (1901) but started it here.
Phra is a Phoenician trader in the 1st century B.C.E. He buys a beautiful British woman from a slaver and, taken with her, sails to Britain and returns her to her people. He discovers that she is Blodwen, a princess of the Britons. She is assigned the queenship of her people, and she and Phra fall in love, marry, and have a child. The Romans invade, however, and while attacking the invaders Phra is captured and brought in front of Caesar. Phra escapes, but on returning to the Britons is betrayed by the evil Druid Dhuwallon and is sacrificed to Ba’al. (Yes, I know that Ba’al was not one of the Druidic gods. Arnold did not know that, however). Phra wakes up 400 years later in Roman Britain and discovers a blue pattern tattooed on his chest. Phra also finds Blodwen’s diary, which records her life and what she did to him: the tattoo, which is responsible for his immortality.
Phra then enjoys himself somewhat in Roman Britain, carousing and then falling in love with Numidea, a British serving girl, and serving as the bodyguard (and implicitly the boytoy) of the depraved Roman noblewoman Lady Electra. When the Romans leave Britain Phra is nearly killed in a rear-guard action but is saved by a strange supernatural guide, who accompanies Phra to a resting place. When Phra awakens it is 500 years later, during the time of Harald Hardraada and the Norman Invasion. Phra falls in love with Editha, a Saxon, and marries her. Phra accidentally discovers the altar on which he was sacrificed. He falls asleep and sees Blodwen, who explains the metaphysics of her existence as a shade and his continued existence; she is following him through the centuries, which are scant moments to her, and either causing other women to fall in love with him or possessing their bodies. Phra is happy with Editha, but the Normans aren’t going away, and after fighting and losing against them, Phra flees from them with Editha. He gets her to safety but then falls asleep and awakens in 1346. Phra meets Isobel and Alianora, the daughters of a nobleman. Phra falls in love with Alianora–Phra forgets his previous loves and acquires new ones with startling rapidity–while Isobel falls for him. Alianora spurns Phra in a most humiliating manner after he turned down Isobel in a rather cold way, and so Phra leaves to join King Edward in the war in France, accompanied by a young knight who is a friend of Isobel’s. They endure battles and triumphs, but the knight eventually sacrifices himself to save Phra, who then discovers that the knight is Isobel herself. Phra, who has just written a love letter to Isobel, is crushed, and returns to England, bearing news of the English triumph at Crecy. He is shipwrecked on the way home, staggers ashore, and falls asleep yet again, to awake in the 1580s. After an embarrassing meeting with Queen Elizabeth–Phra, not realizing that he’s slept through another couple of centuries, wants to bring her news of the great victory of Crecy, and she, understandably, doesn’t take this well–he is befriended by an old man who turns out to be Adam Faulkener, the inventor of the steam engine and father of a toothsome lass named Elizabeth. Phra lives with the Faulkeners for a time and falls in love with Elizabeth, but the pair are poisoned by the Faulkeners’ jealous Spanish steward. Elizabeth dies, Phra kills the steward and lives long enough to write his biography–the novel-before dying for a final (?) time.
Phra the Phoenician is in that class of novels which are bad but entertaining and readable. Arnold’s history is a mess; although he gets many of the minor details of dress and events correct, the behavior and language and personalities of the past are quite romanticized, in the Victorian style, so that chivalry is an ongoing concern for Phra–who, let’s remember, is in origin a Phoenician from before the birth of Christ and so would hardly embrace the ideals of chivalry which a Victorian like Arnold would entertain. Early Britain, in Phra, is a Victorian re-imagining of the real thing, rather than a careful, historically accurate recreation. Arnold goes for (and mostly succeeds in) a sweeping history-in-motion narrative tack, which moves the reader briskly along but in the process sacrifices other elements, such as characterization (Phra is mostly colorless, and the other characters are one-dimension) and realistic feelings (Phra’s love for Blodwen is simply presented as a given, so that we never really are convinced by it–the relationship between Phra and Isobel is much more convincing, or at least was to me). Phra also has some minor errors in logic, such as Phra’s ability to speak English without any difficulty despite the passage of centuries. I also found Phra’s British patriotism hard to credit. He adopts it instantly despite being a Phoenician and maintains it across the centuries. Likewise, Phra’s anti-Irish sentiments say more about Arnold than about Phra.
But Phra, even with these flaws, is still readable and entertaining. Phra has an interesting mixture of aspects from the Wandering Jew, Melmoth the Wanderer, and Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner; there is something about Phra's face which everyone finds disconcerting and non-plussing. Phra’s fearful presence is one of a number of supernatural, occult, or magical moments in Phra, from his serial reincarnation to Blodwen’s ghost to an encounter with a family of cave bears to his supernatural guide to the gods speaking through the slumbering Editha. All of these moments are effectively eldritch, and nicely counterpoint the otherwise realistic feel of the novel. Arnold has some very nice descriptions, and provides scenes of glorious warfare as well as scenes showing the horrible effects of war.
Phra himself is, as mentioned, colorless and one-dimensional. He’s proud, a very good warrior, a devout British patriot, a man who falls in love very quickly, and is as chivalrous and honorable as he can manage. He does change, somewhat, over the course of the novel. He begins as a callous man but becomes more chivalrous and sensitive as time goes by.
Phra the Phoenician is not a good book. It has too many flaws for that, most of which betray its authors’ biases. But it is almost never boring and can be colorful.
ierre. Pierre was created by Sir Gilbert Parker and first appeared in “The Patrol of the Cypress Hills,” which was published in The Independent (New York) and Macmillan’s Magazine (London). Several other Pierre stories followed, in a variety of magazines, and they were finally collected together in Pierre and His People (1892). Parker wrote two sequels: Pierre: A Romany of the Snows (1896), and An Adventurer of the North (1898). Parker (1862-1933) was a noted Canadian journalist, author, playwright, and politician.
Pierre was one of the earliest heroic Canadian characters, although truthfully he’s more of an anti-hero, and sometimes even a villain, than anything else. The Pierre stories are tales of the Canadian frontier during the latter half of the 19th century, only twenty years after the Mounted Patrol had been established, when trappers, attacks by natives, and gold strikes were still common, and before civilization had calmed the land and the people. Pierre is a wandering gambler and occasional miner who travels around the frontier, all the way to the Pacific. He is known as “Pretty Pierre” because of his way of dress, which is as good as he can make it, in the “pronounced French manner,” and because he is very handsome. He is nonchalant, debonair, cool and nerveless, “like the death-adder, small and beautiful, silent and deadly.” But he does not use his prettiness to his advantage with women; them he has no time for. A decade before, when he’d been known as François Rives, he’d discovered his wife being kissed by another man, and left her, faking his own death. (Ten years later he discovered that the other man was her brother, but by then the love was gone between them, and all that was left was the hurt).
Since then he’d wandered the frontier, moving from fort to fort and town to town with all the regularity of a patrolman on his beat. He supports himself by gambling and by smuggling and violating the laws of prohibition. For this he is wanted by the Mounties, but he is far too clever to be caught by them. They know he is involved in smuggling, but they can never catch him with the goods, so they watch him and warn him but never apprehend him. His relationship with the Mounties is uneasy; he respects some individual Mounties and hates others, but on the whole he doesn’t have much use for them.
He’s very good as a gambler, to the point where, in one story, he moves West, to the Pacific, to find new victims who don’t already know how good he is. (His game is cards, by the way, rather than dice). His attitude toward gambling is reflective of his own paradoxical personality: he loves to win and he gambles to win, but the money he cares less about. He is “not a harsh creditor,” and when he wins particularly big he will forgive the debt; in one story he wins the entire contents of a fort, down to the shirt off the Commander’s back, but he exchanges it for a fictitious 99-year-lease on the fort.
Pierre is described as a “malicious, railing little half-breed,” and in a few of the stories he is quite clearly the villain, plotting the murder of a Mountie. In many of the other stories, however, he shows streaks of more positive qualities. In one story he is in a fort which must be evacuated due to an imminent attack by the native Sioux. Unfortunately one of those in the fort is Grah the Idiot, a retarded, crippled man who will never be able to survive the evacuation. So Pierre volunteers to stay behind with Grah, to protect Grah and die for him, because “if we fight, and go out swift...it is the game...it is great to have all the chances against and then to win.” Pierre succeeds in driving off the Sioux, by killing their leader, and then hunts for Grah and feeds him, going hungry at the same time:
And at last, when spring leaped gayly forth from the gray cloak of winter, and men of the H.B.C. came to relieve Fort o’God, and entered at its gates, a gaunt man, leaning on his rifle, greeted them standing like a warrior, though his body was like that of one who had lain in the grave. He answered to the name of Pierre without pride, but like a man and not as a sick woman.In another story Pierre travels across the length of Canada in order to keep his word to a dying man and tell that man’s wife how he died. And in still another story he gives a statutory rapist, of whose crime no physical evidence exists but which Pierre knows to be true, a choice: take poison and die with a clean reputation, or don’t commit suicide and instead face the law and social justice.
That is Pierre: faithful to his own code of morals, rather than those of civilization. He states that the Ten Commandments have little use in the wilds of Canada, but that a man should keep his own commandments:
One by one to make your own, and never to break--comme ça?" These commandments include "thou shalt think with the minds of twelve men, and the heart of one woman...justice and mercy...thou shalt keep the faith of food and blanket...a man shall have no cause to fear his friend...remember the sorrow of thine own wife...make all women safe whether they be true--or foolish...the strong should be ashamed to prey upon the weak,and so on. He’s described, by himself and by others, as having been “possessed by a devil” at birth, and he is more than a little sardonic, not just about love and lovers but about the world in general, but he is not entirely without ethics, and for his few friends he would do anything:
I have not much love for the world...and not much love for men and women altogether; they are fools–nearly all. Some men–you know–treat me well. They drink with me–much. They would make life a hell for me if I was poor–shoot me, perhaps, quick!--if–if I didn’t shoot first. They would wipe me with their feet. They would spoil Pretty Pierre...no, I have not much love; but Val, well, I think of him some. His tongue is straight; he makes no lies. His heart is fire; his arms are strong; he has no fear. He does not love Pierre; but he does not pretend to love him. He does not think of me like the rest. So much the more when his trouble comes I help him. I help him to the death if he needs me. To make him my friend–that is good.Pierre’s mother was white and his father was an “Indian,” and he was raised by the “Indians” (no individual tribe is named) and knows many of their ways and rituals. He knows much about the history of the land and its people, both native and white, and is respected (if not necessarily loved) by all who know him.
Gilbert Parker was very well-regarded in his day, even gaining a knighthood, but his reputation has faded considerably. Which is a shame, since the Pierre stories are quite entertaining, but better writers–Stanley Weyman and Arthur Machen, to name two–are as forgotten as Parker. Still and all, the Pierre stories are eminently agreeable and occasionally quite memorable reading. They’re smartly told and give a good feeling of the Canadian frontier; the frontier is romanticized, of course–although starvation and cruel deaths are mentioned and even show, the sheer difficulty of clawing a life out of the brutal and desperate land is underplayed in favor of entertainment. This is de rigeur for such stories, naturally–few and far between are the Victorian writers who didn’t romanticize the past in one way or another. But I prefer my histories to be accurate whenever possible, so I always feel the need to make note of the romanticization.
Parker is an enjoyable storyteller, with some nice turns of phrase (though nothing epigrammatic or Wildean) and a good touch at making stories which are just long enough to entertain without being long enough to bore. His characterization is concise and memorable; characters aren’t three-dimensional but they are a very entertaining two dimensions. The stories aren’t really mysteries but rather tales of the frontier in which crime often plays a part. The stories, which are linked and involve a rotating cast of characters, also have a nice dollop of supernaturalism, from the gods speaking through Grah the Idiot to an encounter with the native god the Scarlet Hunter and the last enclave of surviving buffalo. Pierre isn’t always the subject of the stories; sometimes he is only a bystander, or Fifth Business. The only flaw to the stories, really, is that coincidence sometimes plays too heavy a part; Parker was too skilled a craftsman to let the strings show as he maneuvered his puppets, and yet he did so anyhow. But despite this quibble, Pierre is a memorable character, and the Pierre stories highly entertaining.
inocchio. Pinocchio was the creation of "Carlo Collodi" (1826-1890), who...okay, okay. You're probably horrified at the idea of someone as innocent as Pinocchio being included here. But...well...think about it. He was a puppet who turned into a human being. That's not creepy? Think about the psychological dysfunctions this kid is gonna have. "Gee, Dad, can you make me a girlfriend?" "Why don't other puppets turn human, Dad?" And what's his reaction gonna be to those really scary marionettes or puppets--the ones that gave me and many people I knew nightmares when we were children? "Dad, that thing's not gonna turn into a human being, is it?"
What kind of precedent is set here, anyhow? Are other creepy puppets going to turn into living beings? I can think of a few puppets who, if given animation and life, will go around murdering people. Yeah, tell me that Pinocchio isn't creepy. Go ahead.
Anyhow. Pinocchio was the creation of "Carlo Collodi," the pseudonym of the Italian writer, editor, theatrical censor, and freedom-fighter Carlo Lorenzini (1826-1890), a man about whom relatively little is known; he translated Perrault's fairy tales into Italian, he fought for the Risorgimento, and he was from Tuscany, but there just isn't more known about him. Which is curious, given how famous his creation has become, but those are the vagaries of literature and history.
More to the point, The Adventures of Pinocchio (1881), like all good children's literature, deals with certain primal ideas, beliefs and fears; although the movie is the version of this story that most people are familiar with, the book (as is so often the case with Disney movies) is superior. The plot will be familiar to anyone who has seen the movie: a boy is made from a block of wood, but misbehaves and goes through a series of misadventures until he finally learns how to be good, at which point he becomes a human, rather than a puppet. But the particulars of the book are almost completely different, Disney having bowdlerized the original. Less precious (Jiminy Cricket dies when Pinocchio throws a mallet on top of him), more horrifying (in the good sense of the word--Pinocchio has his feet burned off, runs into Assassins--he bites the hand off of one--and gets hung and choked almost to death), and altogether filled with more peril and adventure (the Disney film is hardly light entertainment, but is hardly worthy to be compared with the book), The Adventures of Pinocchio is excellent children's literature, from an age in which children were not to be protected, but instructed. Because of this, The Adventures of Pinocchio is more didactic than the movie, but of much higher quality nonetheless.
laces. In some cases a locale described within a work is of far more interest than the work itself. It might be that the author's invention was wholly devoted to describing the city or country, with little left over for minor things like plot or characterization, or it could be that despite the author's best efforts everything within a story or novel was dull with the exception of the place. Which is why the following is a set of descriptions of places, with the emphasis being on the description of that place, rather than the plot of the story in which it appears, or the biographical information of the author who created the place.
Abaton, from Sir Thomas Bulfinch's My Heart's in the Highlands (1892), is a Scots town of variable location, somewhere between Glasgow and Troon. It isn't exactly inaccessible, but somehow no one has yet been able to actually get there. Travelers who've tried to reach Abaton have been known to wander for years and decades without so much as a glimpse of the town. Some rare few men and women have seen it, however, usually at sunrise or sunset, rising slightly above the horizon. The sight of the town affects those who see it most strongly, sometimes bringing great joy and other times great sorrow. No one has ever seen the inside of the town and described it, but the exterior of Abaton is said to be walls and towers of blue, white, fiery red, or yellow, and it is said that a distant and faint music similar to a harpsichord's can be heard coming from the town.
Agartha, from Saint-Yves d'Alveydre's Mission to India from Europe (1885), is an ancient kingdom in either Sri Lanka or Tibet (travelers are not sure which, for reasons which are explained below). The kingdom, which may be mythical, would seem to have a strange effect on outsiders: they either do not notice it as they travel through it, or they forget about it once they have seen it. There are many rumors about Agartha, however. It is said that its capital, Paradesa, holds the University of Knowledge, where the occult and spiritual treasures of mankind are guarded. The capital also is home to an enormous gilded throne which is said to be decorated with the figures of two million gods, and it is further rumored that their combined good spirits are what hold the world together; if they are angered by a mortal, their wrath will descend upon the world, drying the seas and smashing the mountains into deserts. Finally, it is said that Agartha holds the world's largest library of stone books, and that strange fauna inhabit the kingdom, including sharp-toothed birds and six-footed turtles as well as the natives, who are born with forked tongues. The guardians of Agartha are the Templars of Agartha, a small but powerful army.oots, Amine. Amine Poots was created by Captain Frederick Marryat and appeared in The Phantom Ship (1839). Marryat (1792-1838) was the creator of Masterman Ready, and I have some information on him there. The Phantom Ship is a Flying Dutchman story which is more interesting than enjoyable.
Amazonian Republic is a city on the plains near the Ucayali and Maranon Rivers in the Amazon jungle of Peru. (Though the maps say that no such plains exist, our correspondents surely cannot be wrong when they write of the Republic's existence). The Republic was first mentioned in The Amazonian Republic. Recently Discovered in the Interior of Peru (1842) by "Timothy Savage," a pseudonym. The Republic is a city laid out on geometric plans very similar to Washington, D.C.'s. The Republic is in fact made up of Amazons, a culture native to the area which has existed there, in isolation, for centuries, outliving the many other "civilized tribes" who formerly inhabited the plains. (Part of the reason for their secrecy is their isolated location; part of the reason is that the Republic is surrounded by hostile tribes of cannibalistic Indians; and the remainder of the reason is that the Amazons execute strangers who enter their land) The Amazons are matriarchal, with large, strong, aggressive and dominant women and small, weak, and submissive men. The Amazons have a strong military anchored around their infantry and archers. They believe in a benevolent creator goddess and an evil goddess more powerful than the good one and who must be propitiated with sacrifice. Despite their civilization, which includes modern agriculture, complex architecture, a written language and an advanced democratic organization, their society is similar to that of the United States, with long-winded and incompetent politicians and corrupt and irresponsible political journalists.
Animas, Monte de Las (Mountain of the Spirits), a mountain near Soria (Spain, in Castile) were first mentioned in Gustavo Adolfo Becquer's "The Mountain of the Spirits" in the magazine Leyendas, in 1871. Sometime during the Middle Ages, after the city of Soria was recaptured by the Knights Templar from the Arabs, the King of Spain gave the mountain to the Knights, asking them to act as protectors as Soria. The lords of Castile took great offense to this invitation, and held a hunt on the mountain in defiance of the Templars' order that none should trespass on their ground. The ensuing battle left both the Templars and the Castilian nobles dead. The King of Spain declared the mountain to be cursed and ordered that the mountain be left abandoned from that point forward; the corpses of the Templars and the Castilians were buried together in a Templar chapel. Forever after, on the night of All Saints, a ghostly bell is heard tolling in the fog (and it is always foggy on All Saints' night) and the dead rise from their tombs, wearing their rent and bloody shrouds. They engage in a ghost hunt, looking for phantom stags and riding on spirit horses. All across the mountain the living quake, wolves and deer and snakes cowering in terror as the sounds of galloping hooves ring across the mountainside. The morning afterwards the brave visitor who dares to go to the peak will see many tracks in the snow. Sometimes another ghost is seen--that of a pale, disheveled, and quite beautiful young maiden, clutching a blue scarf and fleeing from the hunt on bloody feet. It is said she was a noblewoman who asked her lover to go to the mountain on the night of All Saints to retrieve a scarf she had dropped; the morning after the battle his body was found half-eaten by wolves, while the noblewoman found her scarf, soaked in her lover's blood, on her nightstand when she woke that morning.
The Black Jungle. (From The Mystery of the Black Jungle (1895) by Emilio Salgari) Found on the island of Raymangal, in the Ganges delta, the Black Jungle is a fearsome expanse of greenery so closely packed together that no light can penetrate to its floor. But the Jungle is "black" for another reason; it is the home of the Thugs, the sacred stranglers of the Dark Earth Mother Kali. Their central temple is an enormous pagoda sixty feet high and forty feet wide, ringed by mammoth columns. The dome of the temple is a rearing serpent with a woman's head. Inside the temple is a statue of the Dark Earth Mother herself, and at its foot is a small white basin full of goldfish through which Kali is said to communicate with the faithful. Beneath the temple is a maze of tunnels and rooms, filled with cobras, furry spiders, poisonous centipedes, and multicolored scorpions. Near the temple is a large banyan tree, beneath which is an underground passage leading to a large cavern. The tunnel is filled with sharp, poison-tipped spears. The cavern itself, supported by twenty-four elephant-headed columns, is where the Thugs sacrifice virgins to the greater glory of Kali.
Cagayan Sulu is a small, volcanic island in the Sulu Archipelago, near the southern Philippines. First described in Andrew Lang's The Disentanglers (1902), Cagayan Sulu is an island of two extremes. The natives along the coast are mostly Muslim, well-armed but essentially peaceful. Those in the interior are quite a different story. The interior natives are of the Berbanang tribe, and are widely feared and despised by other Philippine peoples. The Berbanangs are cannibals who possess the ability to place themselves in a trance and project their astral bodies over distances. This projections is accompanied by a loud, almost deafening noise, and causes men and animals to die of fear. This form of death toughens the meat of the victims' bodies, something the Berbanang find tasty. For reasons of their own the Berbanangs will not, however, attack anyone wearing a coconut pearl necklace.
Double Island, located in the Indian Ocean, was first described in George Maspero's Popular Stories of Ancient Egypt (1899). The island is capable of submerging at will. It is the home to three-hundred-foot-long gold and blue serpents, each with six-foot long beards. The snakes are sentient and benevolent, and have been known to take care of shipwrecked sailors. Moreover, the snakes have the power of prediction and can see the future.
Elisee Reclus Island, a long island in the north Pacific near the Arctic Circle, is crisscrossed by a 2400 foot high mountain chain which has a number of hot springs and geysers. The Island, first described in Alphonse Brown's A City of Glass (1891), was simultaneously discovered by American and French expeditions. Each, naturally, claimed it for their own country. The French team stayed where they were while the Americans moved to the north of the island, where they were forced to spend the winter. The Americans created a city of igloos which they called Maurel City. In the mountains beyond Maurel City they established a subterranean town which they named New Maurel City; there they discovered a gold seam. The Americans created a telephone system to communicate with each there. The French, for their part, stayed near the highest peak on the island, the Schrader Volcano, and used its minerals and heat to create a large glass dome on lava columns which they called Cristallopolis. Inside the dome are a number of smaller houses which make use of a geyser and a natural lagoon. Cristallopolis is heated by steam drawn from the hot springs and makes use of steam-powered dynamos to create electricity.
Halcyon. Halcyon was introduced in "Fred Thorpe"'s "The Boy in Black; or, Strange Adventures in the Land of Mystery," which was published in Brave and the Bold 233, June 8 1907. Halcyon is a city located inside of Lone Star Mountain in Wyoming. The mountain happens to be hollow, with entrance to Halcyon gained via slabs of hillside that rotate open. Those inside the city enjoy advanced technology--artificial lighting, moving stone platforms, electricity-based weaponry, and the implication of artificial (i.e., robotic) guards--and the natives of Halcyon dress in togas and have Roman-styled architecture and customs, but their form of government is an absolute monarchy, and their rules are on the strange side, to say the least: if a prime minister dies and no one has been appointed to the role, the first adult to arrive in Halcyon assumes the ministership. Those who arrive after the first adult are condemned to death, as are those who wear black clothing. Halcyon is an unstable land because of earthquakes and volcanoes, and it is the latter that finally destroys Halcyon.
The Invisible City. The Invisible City was introduced by Frank Lillie Pollock in an eponymous short story in the September 1901 issue of The Black Cat. A Polish scientist and revolutionary named Paul Zphanoff discovered, while experimenting with "vibrations," a mechanical method for creating mind control and hypnosis. To further his political aims he traveled to the desert of the American southwest and established a secret city there. He surrounded it with "hypnosis machines" which made the city seem like a lake; these machines were so powerful as to fool both humans and animals. Zphanoff began bringing people to the city, which eventually contained 10,000 people, all controlled by Zphanoff. From the city he sent out squads of assassins to kill the leaders of the governments of the world, so as to bring about (wait for it) The Revolution. Unfortunately for Zphanoff's sake, he fell in love and decided to abandon The Cause. So he killed all of the inhabitants of the city, turned off the machines, and went to NYC, where he collapsed and died of an unknown cause.
Limanora. Introduced in John MacMillan Brown's Limanora. The Island of Progress (1903). An island in the archipelago of Rialloa, southeast of Oceania, Limanora is almost a perfect island. The inhabitants have incredibly advanced technology at their disposal, and thanks to selective breeding and eugenics, started centuries before, they have rid themselves of human failings and are ethically perfect. They are in exceedingly good shape, light but very muscular, and they have lifespans that exceed a millennia. When one stranger washed ashore on Limanora they undertook a program of improvement on him (at the stranger's consent, of course), improving both his physical and his emotional and spiritual sides. The Limanorans educate their children, viewing mass education as a path to savagery, and their education concentrates on futurity. Once a child has been fully educated she or he is allowed to enter the Fialume, a valley devoted to Limanora's past in which the bodies of past Limanorans have been transformed into statues of irelium, a wonder metal behind much of Limanora's technology. Limanoran society is set up in guild-like "families," each one concentrating on one area of knowledge that will help improve the Limanorans. This, combined with their science, makes Limanora a perfect place to live, except for the unstable volcanoes in the area, which have been reported to have numerous eruptions in the near past. (Despite its flaws, Limanora is one of the greatest of all Utopian novels, and unjustly forgotten).
Malacovia was first described in Amedeo Tosetti's Pedals of the Black Sea (1884). Malacovia is a small city/fortress built of iron and located on the St. George delta of the Danube river. Malacovia was built in 1870 by gastarbeiters specially imported from France and England; the workers did not know where they were working (they thought they were in Russia, on the banks of the Dnieper river) and once their work was done they were returned to their home countries. The reason for the secrecy was the martial aims of the city's founder, a rich and "eccentric" Nogai prince who wanted to rebuild the Nogai empire. He'd emigrated to Europe from Crimea but still dreamed of conquering the coastal cities of Russia and of destroying the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Being raised and educated in Petersburg, the prince had a much greater education and understanding of the world than his companions, and knew of mechanics, and so was quite taken with a new invention, which he thought was the key to the return of the Nogai empire: the bicycle.
Malacovia is shaped like a giant iron egg, bristling with cannon, capable of submerging into a large granite platform beneath the surface of the marshes in which it lay; this mechanism was powered by bicycles pedaled by fifty Nogai Tatars. Malacovia was used as a base/launching pad by the Nogai for bicycle-born attacks on Russian settlements; consequently the Russians came to greatly fear the sight of a cycling Tatar. The Russian government could not deal with these Tatar terrorists and was about to ask a foreign government to bring peace to the Black Sea by destroying Malacovia when, in 1873, the humidity of the Danube delta rusted the cogs and those inside were forced to flee, abandoning the city.
Oudemon. Introduced in Henry S. Shipman's In Oudemon: Reminiscences of an Unknown People (1900). Oudemon, located in the Andes in northwest Argentina, is a century-old colony of approximately 500,000 (the novel is set ~1860). They are the descendants of British and American settlers who wanted to begin a new type of society. They are overtly Christian, socialist (with no government except for an "advisory board"), telepathic, and technologically advanced. They also avoid contact with the outside world, which they fear. They are not prey to the usual Victorian mores, and there's a scandalous hint of (no!) free love as well as (horrors!) communal ownership of land and property. Their technology is much advanced; they conduct blood tests which indicate personality types, they have hydrogen-filled flying suits, automobiles powered by compressed gas, and advanced medicine. Their telepathy is not powerful, but they are capable of clairaudience and clairvoyance over long distances.
The Polar Bear Kingdom, an area somewhere in Franz Josef's Land (the Nansen Archipelago) in the Arctic Circle, was first written about by Mór Jókai (1825-1904) (see Ichor) in 20,000 Lieues Sous Les Glaces (1876). The Kingdom is inhabited by a group of sentient polar bears, and beneath an enormous range is a huge maze of ice caverns and underground caves full of geological oddities, including giant crystals and liquid basalt. Littered about the caves are large numbers of frozen dinosaurs, on which the bears subsist. Further into the caves is an enormous cavern with a huge lake of "copper vitriol."
Present Land, near the South Pole, was discovered by Mr. Arthur Gordon Pym (of Nantucket) in 1928; his narrative, eponymously titled, was conveyed to us by Edgar Allan Poe in 1838. Present Land, covered by a thick mist, is a "phosphorescent plateau" of steep mountains whose broken slopes are filled with caves and water-filled craters. The flora of the the land is strange, with bushes of plants similar to white, glowing coral and tall trees like spun glass. The natives of the Present Land are androgynous, semi-transparent humanoids. They are gentle and graceful and have large eyes with short hair. They communicate in a musical language and worship a white figure which is "shrouded" and "very far larger in his proportions than any dweller among men;" they worship this being with cries of "tekeli-li." The Present Land puts out what seems to be some sort of radiation which erases the memory and produces complete contentment.
Quiquendone. A small town in Flanders (Pop. 2393) about a quarter kilometer southeast of Bruges, Quiquendone was first described in Jules Verne's A Fantasy of Doctor Ox (1874). Quiquendone is an extremely peaceful town that was founded in 1197 and never knew a moment of unpleasantness--even the animals were pleasant to each other--until one day in 187 when an unscrupulous, and perhaps even evil chemical engineer named Dr. Ox chose Quiquendone to be the subject of an experiment. Dr. Ox pretended to supply Quiquendone with a modern lighting system, and built a network of pipes to distribute the lighting gas, but did not use the usual carbonated hydrogen, but instead "oxhydric gas," a combination of oxygen and hydrogen, a substance created by Dr. Ox himself by "decomposing water" with the help of a battery he made. Dr. Ox would separate water into its components, guide them through a maze of tubes, and finally combine them, which produced a brilliant flame.
This gas created lighting that was twenty times brighter than the light created by the usual carbonated hydrogen gas. However, the extra light began to affect the character of the natives of Quiquendone, erasing their usual calm temperaments and making them into irritable, aggressive thugs. Domestic animals were similarly affected. The flora of Quiquendone, however, were changed for the better, growing to greatly increased size, with some pumpkins growing to nine feet across. One strawberry would feed two people and a pear would be more than enough for four. One tulip was used as a nest to an entire family of robins; this tulip was given the new name of tulipa quiquendonia.
The health of the people of Quiquendone was negatively affected, with indigestion, gastritis, ulcers, and general nerve diseases doubling and trebling. When the Quiquendonians decided to attack the neighboring town of Virgamen on a pretext, they were almost at Virgamen when Dr. Ox's main gas reservoir exploded, destroying the experiment and, perhaps, Dr. Ox himself, and putting an end to the war.
Terror Island. Terror Island was introduced in "Maurice Douglas"' On Terror Island; or; The Plot To Hold Up The World (1906). Terror Island is a Caribbean Island that the Triumvirate (aka the Masters of the Sea) have fortified and which they use as their base. The Triumvirate consist of the American gangster Boss Jones, the Russian anarchist Count Stohlski, and the Italian genius inventor Signor Hurin; together they have built a fleet of warships armed with Hurin's weapons and use it to extort money from the world via threats to global shipping. They're also associated with the "world terrorist movement," but that's really secondary to their main goal, which is to make money; Boss Jones only pays lip service to the ideals of anarchism, running Terror Island as an total dictator and decapitating traitors with a scimitar. Terror Island is well-armed and protected by a strong fleet of ships, with weapons that turn metal brittle, momentarily rob men of their intelligence, super-powerful cannon, electric mine fields, and high powered explosives. Naturally a pair of stalwart British lads, Donald McKay and Warren Green, infiltrate the island, along with Thornton, an agent of the British secret service, and after a large number of commando raids, shoot-outs, and naval battles Terror Island is taken and destroyed by the British armed forces.
Trinquelage is a medieval castle on the slopes of Mount Ventoux, in Provence, France. Trinquelage was first described in Alphonse Daudet in his Letters from My Mill in 1866. Trinquelage, a massive stone fortress, was formerly the residence of the lords of Trinquelage, but is now haunted by a number of ghosts. At various times, but especially at Christmas, a strange and occult light will shine through the stones of the castle, and those people of Mount Ventoux on their way to Mass in the chapel of Trinquelage will see a ghostly figure moving around inside the chapel, which is lit by invisible candles. At midnight the castle courtyard will be filled with the spirits of beautiful ladies and handsome gentlemen, all dressed in the finery of centuries past. From a ghostly pulpit an old spirit will read from a book, but no one will be able to understand what he says. It is rumored that the old ghost is the spirit of a former chaplain of Trinquelage who is damned for all eternity for having shortened Mass and hurried to his Christmas dinner. Every day of the year a frigid wind blows through Trinquelage, and those of Mount Ventoux generally avoid the castle.
Wolf's Glen was first described in The Freeshooter by Carl Maria, Freiherr von Weber, and Johann Friedrich Kind in 1821. Wolf's Glen is in Bohemia. Hunters who brave the wilds of the mountains and reach Wolf's Glen can, on rare occasions, find Samiel, the wild huntsman, and get seven magic bullets from him in exchange for their souls. The first six bullets will hit what they are aimed at; the seventh will go wherever the hunter wants it to go. The Glen itself is filled with ghosts; those who go to the Glen will see the ghosts of their parents, who will try to warn their children away. Corpses and evil-looking animals crawl from the caves of the Glen, spitting flames and sparks.
Ys, a ruined city at the bottom of the Bay of Douarnenez, near Finistère, in France, was first described by Edouard Blau and Edouard Lalo in The King of Ys in 1888. Near the end of the 4th century the town of Ys was protected from the sea by a dam, the gates of which were hidden. Only the king of Ys had the key to the gates. A mysterious handsome stranger wooed and tempted the daughter of the king and asked her to give him the keys. Enamored of him, she agreed, and he opened the gates to the dam, drowning the city. Ever after it has been said that those on the shores of the Bay can hear the tolling of the bells of the churches of Ys, marking every hour.
Philip Vanderdecken and his mother Catherine live in poverty and hunger, Vanderdecken Sr. having died at sea. So it is with no little surprise that Philip discovers that his father, Philip Sr., died under mysterious circumstances at sea and then visited Catherine as a spirit. Philip Sr. tells Catherine how, in a moment of hubris and fury, he swore by a fragment of the Holy Cross (which he wore in a relic around his neck) that he would sail around the Cape of Good Hope, “in defiance of storm and seas, or lightning, heaven, or hell, even if I should beat about until the Day of Judgment. My oath was registered in thunder, and in streams of fire. The hurricane burst on the ship, the canvas flew away in ribbons; mountains of seas swept over us, and in the centre of a deep cloud, which shrouded all in darkness, were written in letters of livid flame, these words–UNTIL THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT.” For having made this oath and then died, Philip Sr. is cursed to travel the waves forever, as the Flying Dutchman. After Catherine dies Philip goes into a sealed room in their house and finds a letter Philip Sr. sent his mother after his death (“one of those pitying spirits whose eyes rain tears for mortal crimes has been permitted to inform me by what means alone my dreadful doom may be averted”) The letter describes how, if Philip Sr. receives on the deck of his ship the relic, kisses the relic “in all humility,” and then sheds a tear of contrition on the wood of the True Cross, Sr. will be allowed to rest in peace.
Philip, being a good son, vows that he will deliver the relic to his father and help him finally rest. There are, of course, complications. Philip meets a nice girl, Amine, the daughter of a greedy doctor, and he falls in love and marries her, despite her being a non-Christian (he’s a Catholic), non-Dutch (her mother was Arab), and the daughter of a sorceress. They are briefly happy, but soon Philip is summoned to sea on the first of several journeys. Each time Philip goes to sea something bad happens, and he ends up shipwrecked or ruined, etc, and each time he only gets a glimpse of the Amsterdammer, his father’s ship. Often one of his shipmates is Schriften, a small, gaunt, one-eyed pilot whose malice towards Philip is never explained; Schriften often does his best to hinder Philip, trying at various times to steal Philip’s relic or organize the other sailors against Philip. Philip is often separated from Schriften, usually in circumstances which seem to indicate Schriften’s death, but Schriften always comes back. On his last voyage Philip takes Amine with him, despite Schriften’s advice against it; she is consistently kind to him and so he is friendly to her, although he continues to treat Philip badly. On this voyage Philip’s ship is rammed by the Amsterdammer, and although the Phantom Ship sails right through Philip’s ship, Philip’s ship is wrecked soon thereafter, and Philip and Amine are separated. Philip and Schriften have various adventures around Malaysia while Amine is picked up by the Spanish and taken to Goa. Although she steers clear of the Inquisition for a while she is eventually caught working magic, trying to see Philip’s fate, and is given to the Inquisition. She nobly defends herself against them but is inevitably convicted by them. Philip arrives in Goa in time to see Amine killed, which drives him mad. He only recovers his wits many years later, when he is much older. He resumes his quest, and meets up, yet again, with Schriften. They meet up with the Amsterdammer, and the ship they are on sets them adrift for being bad luck. Philip forgives Schriften for his acts because of his kindness to Amine, and so Schriften tells Philip that he, Schriften, was the pilot on the Amsterdammer who Philip’s father killed, and that until Philip forgave his enemy he would never fulfill his destiny. The forgiven Schriften vanishes into the air, Philip is allowed to climb onboard the Amsterdammer, Philip Sr. is allowed to fulfill his vow, the Amsterdammer disintegrates, and God’s grace descends on Philip and his father.
The Phantom Ship is notable for a few reasons. As fiction it is acceptable Gothic horror. The characterization is one-dimensional, albeit readably so; the characters are no more than types, but Marryat develops them interestingly. The dialogue is pitched high, in the usually shrill and histrionic way of the Gothics (in which shouting and impassioned statements are the norm, rather than calm conversations). Marryat keeps the Gothic style of overloaded sentences to a minimum and uses a much more stripped-down style which keeps matters moving. While the horrific moments won’t particularly terrify modern readers, they are imaginative and quite visual, whether it is the Amsterdammer bearing down on Philip’s ship and then sailing immaterially through it, the Amsterdammer emerging from the sea’s surface from the top down, or the final destruction of the ship. The plot is moderately interesting, complicated but not overly so and sufficiently full of colorful incident to keep the modern reader turning the page. There is the occasional moment of broad humor, and Marryat puts his personal knowledge of nautical matters to good use.
It’s the individual aspects of The Phantom Ship which are of more note. The novel is a Christian fantasy; the characters are open about their faith and are overtly concerned with God’s judgment, free will versus predestination, good and evil, proper Christian forgiveness, and whether their own actions are good or evil. And, as with most Gothics, The Phantom Ship is anti-Catholic, with a number of pointed comments on the inconsistencies of Catholicism, the hypocrisies of Catholics, and the evils of the Inquisition. (Please understand that these are the positions of Marryat and the Phantom Ship, rather than my own feelings about Catholicism. Please don’t send me any hate mail). But Marryat is a smart and honest enough writer to make things more complicated than a unitary and simplistic black-and-white morality. Philip is a good Catholic and a good man, and so is Father Mathias despite his flaws. And, most interestingly, Amine, quite clearly the heroine of the novel, is very critical of Christianity and its precepts, is a sometimes practicing witch/sorceress/conjuror, and makes a number of sharp (and to my mind compelling) arguments against Christianity. Amine essentially argues against the dominant ethos of the novel–and wins her arguments. Which is interesting and unusual for a Gothic, I’m sure you’ll agree–and, even more interestingly, quite clearly deliberate on Marryat’s part.
In terms of historical literary significance, The Phantom Ship is notable. It is one of the first major literary treatments of the Flying Dutchman myth. Marryat didn’t invent the myth; literary treatments of the myth (which seem to have originated sometime in the 18th century) began with Sir Walter Scott’s poem Rokeby (1813), and there were at least seventeen appearances of the myth in fiction and poetry before The Phantom Ship, including works by Heinrich Heine (which was in turn the source of Wagner’s opera Der Fliegende Hollander (1843)), Wilhelm Hauff (author of Der Marchen Almanac–see the Orbasan entry), and Washington Irving. But Marryat’s was the first novel-length treatment of the myth as well as the first English-language version to address the notion of Vanderdecken’s redemption, and in some ways became the standard English language version of the myth.
The Phantom Ship also contains one of the earliest and best 19th century werewolf stories. Krantz’s story has often been anthologized as “The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains,” and while it was by no means the first werewolf story–those go back to the Middle Ages–it was the most influential and became a standard version of the myth, at least until Guy Endore’s The Werewolf of Paris (1933), which essentially solidified the particulars of the myth (along with various werewolf movies). A comparison between Krantz’s story, The Were-Wolf (see the Christian entry), and later versions of the story is interesting. Many of the motifs are similar, but Marryat and Housman do not do what Endore and what Robert Louis Stevenson, in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, did, which is to make the werewolf a part of the continuum of doppelgänger stories, so that the werewolf represents the bestial or Id side of human nature. In Marryat and Housman the human version of the werewolf is simply a polite version of the evil creature.
Amine is a good person. Her father was a miser, and one willing to kill to gain more gold, but she escaped that fate. She’s brave, willing to fight potential burglars, and faithful, sticking to Philip through wrack and ruin. She’s kind, showing mercy and goodness to Schriften when none others would. She’s smart, as well, too smart to accept Christianity over her native beliefs just because she’s told she should. She’s proud, defying the Inquisition and unwilling to give up her faith even when facing the auto-da-fé. She is self-assured and even willful. For all that she’s loving with Philip and in some ways very innocent despite her sorcerous abilities.
rice, Matthew. Matthew Price was created by Amelia Edwards and appeared in “The Engineer” (All The Year Round, Christmas Number, 1866). Edwards was the creator of The Phantom Coach, and I have some information on her there. “The Engineer” is more of the same good readable stuff from Edwards–nothing ground-breaking, but still very entertaining stuff.
Benjamin Hardy and Matthew Price are best friends, and have been since childhood. They grew up in Chadleigh, a tiny English hamlet, and did all the things best friends do together. Even when Benjamin gets a job as an engineer in Birmingham and leaves Chadleigh behind, he contrives to bring Matthew (a farmer’s son) with him, and they both rise in the company. When they are contracted to supply locomotives to an Italian firm, the pair leave for Italy together and enjoy the new country. But a woman comes between them: Gianetta, a strikingly beautiful woman who is a heartless flirt and toys carelessly with her lovers. Both Matthew and Benjamin fall for her, and she plays with both of them, alternatively encouraging and discouraging both men. The knowledge that the other is in love with Gianetta weighs on the friendship, which is strained, and when Matt tells Ben that Gianetta agreed to marry him, only to sell herself to a rich Napolitano, Ben feels angry with Matt rather than Gianetta. The pair fight, and Ben ends up stabbing Matt. Ben, quite remorseful, nurses Matt through what follows, and Matt forgives Ben, but Matt’s lungs are permanently damaged, and he dies. Ben is heartbroken and spends the next several years wandering Europe. He eventually returns to Italy and becomes an engine-driver on a line between Mantua and Venice. When Gianetta and her husband, a Duke, board the train, someone tries to pay Ben to crash the train (“For Italy’s sake...for liberty’s sake...this Loredano is one of his country’s bitterest enemies”), but Ben decides to do it “neither for Italy nor for money; but for vengeance.” And so he does–until he sees Matthew Price standing next to him by the engine, at which point Ben gives a cry and passes out. He ends the story grateful that Matthew stopped him from killing the innocent.
As with “The Phantom Coach,” “The Engineer” contains nothing extraordinary. (I think, when I rewrite this site’s text for its book publication, I’m going to have to scale down my expectations and rethink how I evaluate some of these stories). It’s readable and entertaining, and Gianetta is a convincingly awful person, but as a story it’s nothing beyond what we’ve seen many times before. It’s worth recommending for its execution, which is quite competent, rather than for its idea.Matthew Price is a good man, who does not want to quarrel with his best friend Ben and forgives him, and Gianetta, to the end. Matthew is good enough, in fact, that he comes back from the dead not to punish Gianetta but to stop Matthew from hurting others.
(Sometimes the conceit of this site, that I’m listing characters from stories rather than the stories themselves, leads to entries like this one, where the character I’m describing is ordinary. Oh, well).
rince. The Prince was created by Friedrich von Schiller and appeared in Der Geisterseher: Eine Gesichte aus den Memoires des Graf en von O (The Ghost-Seer: A Story from the Memoirs of Count von O, 1778). Schiller (1759-1805) was a tremendously important German writer, poet, dramatist and aesthetician. His Geisterseher is not one of his major works, but with his Der Räuber (see the Karl von Moor entry), it does have enough genre-worthy material for me to include it.
The Prince, who as far as I can tell is never named, is a German nobleman living in Venice who comes under first the friendship, then the influence, and finally the control of a mysterious Armenian. The Armenian, in the first half of Der Geisterseher (the publication history of the novel is complicated, with a marked change in tone halfway through resulting from Schiller’s loss of interest in the Gothic aesthetic), is supernatural, being immortal, having various powers, and subject to a daily coma. The Armenian begins by saving the Prince from execution; the Armenian then saves the Prince from an occult Sicilian swindler modelled on Cagliostro. In the second half of the novel, however, the Armenian begins to control the Prince, eventually converting him to Catholicism at the bidding of his masters, who may be the Jesuits and/or the Freemasons. The Prince is being led to commit a crime which will disrupt the order of succession to the Austrian throne.
And there the novel ends, incomplete, with the Prince’s descent into evil only halfway done and the identity of the Armenian (the Wandering Jew? Christian Rosenkreutz?) unknown.
What’s really interesting about the Prince, however, is that he uses deduction to reach conclusions about various mysteries and crimes; in this he is a significant early proto-detective figure. When various overtly supernatural events occur, the Prince uses reason to discover the rationalist, and real, explanation for those events. When he sees ghosts, or when the Sicilian produces a vision for him, the Prince uses logic to find the cause, which is not supernatural. And near the end of part one the Prince deduces that the Sicilian and the Prince are in cahoots, and that many of the bad things which had happened in his recent life must have been the product of a conspiracy between the Sicilian and the Prince. These are the methods of detectives, and although Der Geisterseher was neither popular nor influential, the Prince is still an interesting example of a prototypical detective.
rince Rupert. Prince Rupert was created by C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne and appeared in Prince Rupert the Buccaneer (1901). Hyne (1866-1944) was a popular and prolific British author who is now forgotten, although his Captain Kettle stories still bring pleasure to those who are happy enough to find them.
Prince Rupert is about Prince Rupert Palatine, the nephew of King Charles I and a soldier against Oliver Cromwell and for the Restoration of Charles II. Prince Rupert is set during the years (1649-1660) when Rupert pirated on behalf of Charles II, raising funds to help the eventual Restoration. In Prince Rupert Rupert sails to Tortuga with a fleet of three ships to rescue the men who fought against Cromwell and who the Lord General sold to the Spanish as slaves ("We call them engagés here: it's a genteeler style"). Unfortunately, once in Tortuga he finds that the men have been scattered about the Caribbean and that the venal Governor of Tortuga, Monsieur D'Ogeron, is disinclined to help round them up. Rupert only gets the Governor's assistance when the British fleet is given to the Governor's men for six months. Tortuga, at this point in time, is a hotbed of pirates, and the Governor intends to use the British fleet for piracy and to line his own pocket. Rupert dislikes this but has no choice and so agrees to the deal, remaining behind in Tortuga with his Secretary as the Governor's "guests." But during an orgy Rupert's dislike for the Governor overwhelms his diplomacy, and he engineers his own freedom. Rupert and his Secretary go to Hispaniola, to find some of the slaves (some of whom have escaped from the Spanish and turned buccaneer). They do, finding and befriending a group of land-based pirates who are warring, guerrilla-style, on the Spanish. Rupert and his Secretary aid the buccaneers in a fight against the Spanish and are sworn into the Brotherhood of the Coast. After that, it's one pirate adventure after another, from the storming of carracks to imprisonment at the hands of the Inquisition, until finally Prince Rupert, his Secretary, and the men he came to free all return home to England, accompanied by a great deal of wealth.
I've been reading (and writing too much on) a lot of historically significant fiction lately. Early important detective novels, the first occult fantasy novel, and so on. So it was with a great deal of pleasure that I read Prince Rupert the Buccaneer, because it's not historically significant, it's not important in any literary sense, and it's not Art. It's just a great deal of fun. Prince Rupert is a classic bit of pirate fiction, full of scurvy sea-dogs, villainous Spanish, the boarding of ships, dawn assaults on Spanish fortresses deep inside the Venezuelan jungle, swordfights, Spanish gold, fetching damsels, broadsides, and all the rest of the trappings of piracy which can be so much fun in the right hands. (Wrong hands=Cutthroat Island. Right hands=Pirates of the Caribbean). It's all great good fun, is Prince Rupert: colorful, wryly told with the right amount of irony and wit, and a narration that winks at the reader in all the right places. Prince Rupert is well-researched, and Hyne takes pains to show a life-of-the-pirates which is not romanticized and is full of blood, starvation, torture, and quick deaths, but Hyne was also quite clearly having a great deal of fun writing the book, and his enjoyment is easily transmitted to the reader. There's no great depth of characterization here, but the two-dimensions the characters have are enjoyable, and the roguish Monsieur D'Ogeron steals every scene he's in. Catholicism and the Spanish come off badly, but that's to be expected, and there's enough hyperbole in the text to (I hope) render the Spanish-bashing inoffensive. Hyne also throws in some amusing plot twists, as when the disguised Prince Rupert, wooing Donna Clotilde, the beautiful niece of the Governor of Caracas while at the same time holding Caracas itself hostage through a clever piece of chicanery, has the tables turned on him by Clotilde, who proves herself to be his match in ingenuity and his superior in honor and patriotism. And there's the subplot of Prince Rupert's Secretary, "Stephen" Laughan, who is actually the maid Mary Laughan in disguise; Mary is desperately in love with the Prince and so accompanied him on his trip, fighting by his side, saving his life, and sharing the perils. Mary is the narrator of Prince Rupert, and her descriptions of the Prince's character are so obviously colored by her love for him that we can't help but laugh as she launches into yet another description of his perfection. It may sound tiresome, but it's just the opposite; we see Hyne winking at us through these monologues and enjoy them all the more.
Prince Rupert himself is proud, faithful to his men and his king, charming in a very courtly way, quite, quite ingenious (the problems he faces keep growing more difficult, and the schemes he devises to solve those problems are increasingly clever), glib, and very brave. He is, naturally, a good fighter. He is not a good sailor, a shortcoming that costs him.
Prince Rupert is excellent light entertainment, a perfect souffle of action and wit. Do make the effort to find a copy of this book. You won't regret it.
rincess Viola. Princess Viola was created by Barry Pain and appeared in “The Moon Slave” (Stories in the Dark, 1901). Pain (1865-1928) was a British humorist and fiction writer; his work, such as his crime stories about Constantine Dix, is usually quite entertaining, and he is, like Arnold Bennett and E.F. Benson, a writer more modern readers should know about than do.
“The Moon-Slave” is a well-written little horror story with a nicely nasty ending. Princess Viola loves to dance, has had “an inevitable submission” to it from her childhood: “a rhythmical madness in her blood answered hotly to the dance music, swaying her, as the wind sways trees, to movements of perfect sympathy and grace.” At 16 she is betrothed to Prince Hugo, who she doesn’t care about one way or another, but who loves her. At her betrothal banquet she is discontented at how mechanical and uninspired is the dancing of the men, and so she slips away and wanders her estate. She finds an old, forsaken hedge maze, abandoned years before. Intrigued, she enters it, wandering aimlessly through it until she finds the open space at the heart of the maze. The moonlit summer sky is beautiful and she is inspired to dance, and she says (oh dear), “My beautiful, moonlit, lonely, old dancing-room, why did I never find you before? But you need music–there must be music here. Sweet moon, make your white light come down in music into my dancing-room here, and I will dance most deliciously for you to see. Ah! Sweet moon, do this for me and I will be your slave; I will be what you wilt.”
Music springs from nowhere, the sound of a great orchestra, and Viola dances to a slow saraband. It ends, and she demands more of it, and it returns, a music of caprice. She seems to see an old king watching her, “a king with the sordid history of the exhaustion of pleasure written on his flaccid face.” But she keeps dancing, and it is only when the music ceases again that she becomes afraid and runs. But the next month she is drawn back at the full moon to dance again, and then again at the next full moon, and again, and again, every month. She finds herself helpless to resist, and takes less and less pleasure from each dance, and the call to dance grows ever more insistent. And after several months she discovers that she can no longer remember the words of the Lord’s Prayer. She tries to be kinder to Prince Hugo, thinking that she could tell him, once they were married, about her monthly dances and that somehow he could protect her. On the night before her wedding, a night of a total eclipse, she is called again to dance and does so wonderfully. She dances to exhaustion, but the music starts up again, a slow waltz. She wearily resumes dancing. “As she did so she uttered a sudden shrill scream of horror, for in the dead darkness a hot hand caught her own and whirled her round, and she was no longer dancing alone.”
The next day, during the search for the missing princess, Prince Hugo goes to the heart of the hedge maze and finds the sand around the edge of the center all worn down, as if someone had danced for a long time. He only finds two footprints “clearly defined close together: one was the print of a tiny satin shoe; the other was the print of a large naked foot–a cloven foot.”
“The Moon-Slave” is a very entertaining and smoothly told horror story. Pain builds the atmosphere nicely so that the horror mounts slowly, and the reader knows something bad is going to happen but isn’t sure what. The final appearance of the owner of the cloven hoof, whether it is Pan or Old Scratch, sharply increases the horror–deliciously so. Pain is a smooth and witty writer, even in this relatively early story, and “The Moon-Slave” reads quickly and easily. It’s also got a few lagniappes (Viola forgetting the Lord’s Prayer, her resolution to be kind to Hugo in the hope that he might protect her, the king “with a sordid history of the exhaustion of pleasure written on his flaccid face”–love that phrase!), which aren’t crucial to the story’s development but which add very nice frissons of terror. It’s pretty good, “The Moon-Slave” is.
Poor Princess Viola. Poor headstrong, foolish Viola. She only wanted to dance and express herself in the movements she loved. She wasn’t bad or cruel. She was just a teenager who had the misfortune to utter a truly ill-advised wish. One would hope that her new master is a kinder Pan than The Great God Pan.
rometheus. This Prometheus is of course not the light-bringer who defied Zeus, but rather the ship Prometheus, which was created by the Danish writer Vilhelm Bergsøe and appeared in En Reise Med Flyvefisken “Prometeus” (A Journey on the The Flying Fish “Prometheus,” 1869). Bergsøe (1835-1911) was a Danish author who is better known for his Fra Piazza del Popolo (From the Piazza del Popolo, 1866), a novel about an Italian monk. Bergsøe also wrote at least one mystery among other novels.
Unfortunately, I have very little information to go on regarding the Prometheus and Flyvefisken “Prometeus”, which is a shame, because it sounds like one of those early proto-sf novels which should be better known. The story is about a Vernean engineer-hero, like Robur but without the hubris (but then, is there much to Robur apart from hubris?), who builds a flying submarine, a flyvefisken (flying fish), and takes it on a sight-seeing/exploratory trip. The flyvefisken is a large dirigible with wings and propellors. The engineer crosses the Atlantic and tours the Panama Canal—note that the novel was written and took place in the late 1860s, when the Panama Canal was a theoretical construct but not something anywhere close to built. (Work only seriously began on the Canal in 1882). On the way back from the Canal, however, the Prometheus encounters stormy weather, with the drama of the flight taking up the rest of the novel.
I’m intrigued by Flyvefisken “Prometeus” on several levels. Did Verne read the novel? As far as I can tell Flyvefisken “Prometeus” was never translated into French, and Verne didn't read Danish; might Verne have heard of the novel anyhow, and remembered it when writing Clipper of the Clouds? (I doubt it, but one never knows). Was Bergsøe inspired by Verne’s work? Verne had written Five Weeks in a Balloon, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, and From the Earth to the Moon by 1869; I assume those had garnered Verne enough fame so that Bergsøe would have known of him when he wrote Flyvefisken “Prometeus.” Are the similarities between the Flyvefisken “Prometeus” and Robur the Conqueror simply coincidental?
Further, was Ovre Richter Frich inspired by Vilhelm Bergsøe when he wrote the Jonas Fjeld stories?
Naturally, I’ll be quite grateful if anyone can send me any information on Bergsøe or Flyvefisken “Prometeus.”
John Burt writes:
An aircraft like the Prometeus, one which develops lift by both gas and wing surfaces, is called an avitor.rowse, John. John Prowse was created by "Thomas Le Breton," a pseudonym for T. Murray Ford, a penny dreadful writer about whom I know nothing. Prowse appeared in The submarine privateer. A tale of the great Boer War. And "The land of mystery," a story of Indian marvels, an 11-part serial published in 1901. John Prowse is a patriotic, adventurous British inventor and nobleman who is outraged by the horrors that the brutal, evil Boers are inflicting on the good, noble, kind and innocent British settlers and soldiers in South Africa. (If the politics and facts of The submarine privateer seem confused, that's because they are) He is angered enough by this to invent his own submarine, The Regina, and take it to the coast of South Africa and begin sinking enemy shipping. The Regina is very much in the mold of the Nautilus, although it does have lance torpedoes and two tentacled metal "arms" that can be used to strike ships. Prowse captures and sinks various Russian and Boer warships--the Russians were the true cause of the Boer war, you see--and then moves on to India, where he takes on opium-smoking Chinese pirates whose ships contain Thuggees (just don't ask) who kidnap British women. I'll spare you further detail; this is not a particularly well-written or interesting dreadful.
I know of no extant specimens of fixed-wing avitor, although some years ago a visionary logger built a prototype for a gas-rotor hybrid he called the Cyclocrane. Alas, it crashed during initial testing.
I have a particular fondness for the exotic, seldom-seen species of aircraft: avitors, autogiros, aereons (a balloon with an aerodynamic gasbag, so that while descending through air it can glide and control its flight), ornithopters and the nameless aeroplane/ornithopter hybrid that Airboy used to fly.
sammead. The Psammead was created by E. Nesbit and appeared in Five Children and It (1902) and The Story of the Amulet (1906). Nesbit (1858-1924), a most significant author of children’s stories, was the creator of the Knights in Marble, and I have some information on her there.
Cyril, Anthea, Robert and Jane (see their entry in the Child Adventurers section) are vacationing with their mother near Camden Town and go digging in a tunnel in the hopes of reaching Australia. They unearth a Psammead, a “sand-fairy.” The Psammead is a grumpy sort and is quite annoyed that the children don't know who and what it is. After the children flatter and cajole the Psammead it relaxes into a good humor and begins to reminisce about its life several thousand years ago and its ability to grant wishes. The Psammead, like the others of its race, is bound to grant one wish a day to those that dig it up, regardless of how ill-advised or hasty the wish is. The children are initially enthralled by this notion and visit the Psammead every day to make wishes. But their wishes never turn out exactly the way they want them to; if they ask to be "as beautiful as the day," or for a pit of gold coins, or to be large enough to beat a local bully, or for wings, or for their home to be made into a castle, they find, after the Psammead grants them their wishes, that the wish only brings them difficulties. The wishes only last until sunset, so no permanent harm is done. The Psammead always grants them their wishes, but is irritated by having to inflate itself so often (that's how it grants the wishes), and it continually grumbles at having to do so. The Psammead also refuses to give them advice, merely pointing out the foolishness of the wishes, both before and after they are granted. The children eventually come to like the Psammead, despite its crabby nature, and at the end of Five Children and It they grant the Psammead its freedom (not without some mixed feelings on their part) so that it can hibernate in comfortable darkness, away from the water it dreads. In The Story of the Amulet the children free it from imprisonment, and it accompanies them on a trip through time to find the missing half of an Egyptian amulet.
Five Children and It and The Story of the Amulet are seen as classics of children’s literature, and they are quite entertaining. Nesbit doesn’t talk down to her younger readers, and displays a certain amount of education, with references to Shakespeare and Haggard. (There’s also a reference to Anstey’s Brass Bottle–see the Jinnee entry). The dialogue is not dated and the story moves properly briskly. When people are hurt, it is not seriously and never permanently; Nesbit’s approach to domestic fantasy is gentle and good-humored. There are even occasional flashes of wit, which makes the stories that much more palatable for adult readers. In all, they’re quite agreeable and easy, smooth reading.
The Psammead is strangely-shaped, with retractable eyes on long stalks, batlike ears, prehensile toes, and a pudgy body "shaped like a spider's and covered with thick soft fur; its legs and arms were furry too, and it had hands and feet like a monkey’s.” It’s grumpy, cranky, cantankerous, quite old, vain, abusive toward the children, but ultimately good-natured.
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 John Prowse
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
Y. Yákoff to Yuki-onna
Z. Zaleski to Zoe