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The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre Paperback – Dec 9 2008
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`Moving effortlessly from folklore to melodrama, the Introduction assesses the position that Polidori's story . . . We may not be ableto recover the experience of the origianl readers, but we can be grateful to the editors for bringing back to life tales that are not only of academic interest but which still exert their own nightmarish fascination' Studies in Hogg and his World
About the Author
Chris Baldick is Head of English at Goldsmith's College, University of London. Robert Morrison is Associate Professor of English at Acadia University, Canada.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a book of short stories. Some are good, some bad. Most are readable. The stories, apparently true, relating to cholera epidemics are an interesting historical note.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
A couple of caveats. These stories were written in the early 19th century. Atmosphere counted for a lot. If you've read a lot of modern horror stories, and especially if you watch horror movies, these stories might seem tame to you. The horror often focuses on the situation and psychological experience rather than physical detail. It aims for a deeper level. Also, in most stories, the language is old-fashioned. I feel it adds to the sense of ancient horrors, but it's not everyone's cuppa java.
The Vampyre - This vampire seems rather human. (Not a very nice human, mind you.) Vampiredom is presented as only one of many evils in the world, part of life's tapestry. Humans, we're reminded, have been as cruel as, or crueler than, vampires. The supernatural element is there, but played down. In a way, this makes Lord Ruthven even more frightening because he's an accepted part of society; women love him. Lord Ruthven is said to be based upon Lord Byron, whom the author knew (and apparently didn't like too well).
Sir Guy Eveling's Dream - Bloodcurdling! However, the archaic language gets in the way and makes for difficult reading.
Confessions of a Reformed Ribbonman - An ugly revenge tale. The horror here is how heartless and evil people can be, and how mob rule can make us do things that we might not do otherwise. Lots of psychological insight. Supposedly based on a true event. This one will get you in the gut.
Monos and Daimonos - It has a folklore feel to it. Enjoyable.
The Master of Logan - Excellent! Very gothic, supernatural and suspenseful, loaded with atmosphere. Gripping, with nice plot twists. Suspenseful from beginning to end.
The Victim - Harrowing. One of many stories from the time about Resurrection Men from whom medical schools and students bought bodies on which to practice their anatomy. Sometimes digging up a corpse is just too much trouble. The ending was a bit flat, otherwise a powerful heartbreaker.
Some Terrible Letters from Scotland - I didn't see much of a point in this. Three unrelated men write letters to the editor about different aspects of the cholera plague.
The Curse - Rousing horror story about revenge. Nice use of foreshadowing and suspense, with a delicious plot twist.
Life in Death - The old 'scientist tries to beat God at his own game' routine. Downright creepy tale that'll send chills down your spine.
My Hobby,--Rather - A dud. Hope the author kept his day job.
The Red Man - Excellent! A dark, gloomy, gothic atmosphere is built up creatively and very effectively, this time in not-so-gay Paris. A terrible and sad tale of obsession and revenge.
Post-mortem Recollections of a Medical Lecturer - Inside the mind of a doctor entering a state of delirium while giving a lecture on insanity. We remain in his mind as he dies, and possibly (hard to tell) shortly after he dies. Fascinating.
The Bride of Lindorf - Great start, but then it went downhill. We're introduced to two fascinating characters. One we never hear of again; the other becomes ordinary. I felt as though I had read the beginning of one story and the end of another.
Passage in the Secret History of an Irish Countess - Starts out slow, but once the suspense starts, it doesn't let up. I consider this a psychological thriller. More mystery than supernatural (not a bad thing, just not expected). This is the plot Le Fanu later expanded into his novel, "Uncle Silas." Excellent!
A sense of vice, moral ambiguity, and lawlessness pervades many of the stories. Polidori's vampyre does not simply drain blood and life in the literal sense; he tempts the innocent, further corrupts those who are debauched, and supports the sinner financially whenever he can. He is known for his social and emotional vampirism because even the most rational members of mainstream society can witness these evident depravities.
Criminals, living and supernatural, appear in stories such as "Sir Guy Eveling's Dream," "Confessions of a Reformed Ribbonman," "The Victim," and "Passage in the Secret History of an Irish Countess." A contemporary fascination with madness manifests itself in "Monos and Daimonos," "The Red Man," "The Curse," and "The Bride of Lindorf." The interest in medicine and medical research, exploited in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, appear here in "The Victim," "Post-Mortem Recollections of a Medical Lecturer," and, less successfully, "Some Terrible Letters from Scotland." "Life in Death" touches upon one of Frankenstein's themes: man's imperfect and arrogant attempts to mimic or best God and nature.
The most horrifying of these stories rely strongly on either realism or fantasy. "Confessions of a Reformed Ribbonman," based on an actual event, takes the reader into the inner circle of a criminal brotherhood for whom brutality mocks and replaces morality and spirituality. William Carleton's description of the group's meeting and the atrocities it subsequently commits resonates of a satanic mass and hell itself, complete with a ring of fire. In "The Victim," coincidences are stretched, but the murder of people for medical research specimens was headline news fresh in the minds of readers.
On the other side, "Monos and Daimonos" is written in a dark fairy-tale style, narrated by a giant rejected by society, yet unable to shake his sociable tormentor. The supernatural tale of "The Master of Logan" is wonderfully spun, with the forces of good and evil engaging in near-comic repartee and an exchange of witty compliments before the unmasking. "The Red Man" may be the most disturbing of the tales, as it blends recent history (the French Revolution) with medieval horrors and tortures.
Some stories, like "The Bride of Lindorf" and "Passages in the Secret History of an Irish Countess," are weak because the short story format seems to rush and constrain the narrative. The novel form of Uncle Silas allowed LeFanu to explore themes such as murder, religion, alcoholism, drug abuse, sexuality, and incest while developing a greater sense of the Gothic mystery, atmosphere, and shadows surrounding the title character and the terror of the heroine's helpless situation. For example, the shady French maid of "Countess" is replaced in the novel by the sadistic and depraved Madame de la Rougierre, a memorable accomplice.
The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre is a fascinating and varied collection of stories published in the UK in the early 1800s. For today's reader, the language and style may present an obstacle to enjoyment and even understanding. To me, however, the writing creates a sense of time and place that enhances the richness and even the timelessness of these tales, best read late at night by candlelight.
The Vampyre, by John Polidori: An aristocratic vampire takes advantage and destroys young women of noble lineage. The story introduces the aristocratic vampire to the English readership for the first time.
Sir Guy Eveling's Dream, by Horace Smith: The classic ghost story of a young man who falls for a ghost woman.
Confessions of a Reformed Ribbonman, by William Carleton: A story of a terrible revenge in which innocent men are forced to bear witness. An entire family is murdered, including the little babes, because the father reported a house robber to the police. The robber is sent to prison, and the robber's family decides to avenge him by burning the house down with the family inside, and killing anyone who attempts to escape.
Monos and Daimonos, by Edward Bulwer: A murderer is pursued by the phantom of his victim, which never leaves him alone for a second.
The Master of Logan, by Allan Cunningham: The defilement of a grave and its contents leads to the ghost persecuting the master of an aristocratic house, and a showdown between the forces of good and evil.
The Victim, by Anonymous: A story relating to the murders committed by Burke and Hare, who murdered innocent people in order to provide cadavers to medical students as anatomy subjects.
Some Terrible Letters from Scotland, by James Hogg: Unrelated letters containing frightening accounts about the cholera epidemic in Scotland.
The Curse, by Anonymous: An old curse impels the scion of a great house to murderous actions, ruining himself and his noble family.
Life in Death, by Anonymous: A scientist discovers a way to come back from death which depends on someone rubbing his corpse with a life-restoring balm. But the horror occasioned by the task makes it impossible to perform.
My Hobby--rather, by NP Willis: A young medical student is asked to hold an overnight vigil over a corpse, and in the process of doing so discovers the corpse being eaten by a cat.
The Red Man, by Catherine Gore: Impressive story combining a travelogue style with gothic elements. The author utilizes France and it's then recent past of the French revolution as a setting for a truly horrifying tale that includes murder and infanticide.
Post-mortem Recollections of a Medical Lecturer, by Charles Lever: A professor dies and comes back from death being able to describe the process of what happened.
The Bride of Lindorf, by Letitia E. Landon: A tale full of classic gothic elements (old castles, damsels in distress that turn out to be villains, madness, and murder). It is similar to stories by Anne Radcliffe, though not quite as good as Radcliffe.
Passage in the Secret History of an Irish Countess, by J.S. Le Fanu: After the death of her father, a young and innocent heiress is placed in the care of her uncle, a man whose reputation has been tarnished by the suspicion of murder.
This anthology has something for everyone, and especially for students of literature.
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