Blood & Roses: The Vampire in Nineteenth Century Literature

Rating: 
4
Blood & Roses: The Vampire in Nineteenth Century Literature
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 28-Oct-2001

Adapted from "Vampires in Print" in The Vampire's Crypt #9 (Spring 1994).

Review by Cathy Krusberg

 

Blood & Roses: The Vampire in Nineteenth Century Literature, ed. Adele Olivia Gladwell and James Havoc. London: Creation Press, 1992; Distributed in the U.S. by Inland Book Co., 140 Commerce St., East Haven, CT 06512; $15.95.

Blood & Roses (not to be confused with Sharon Bainbridge's novel of the same name) is a sampler of nineteenth century literature with vampiric themes. A number of old standbys appear in its pages: "The Horla" by du Maupassant; Le Fanu's "Carmilla;" "The Vamprye" by Polidori; and "The Beautiful Dead" by Theophile Gautier (which is known by a number of titles). Others are less known: Turegnev's haunting story "Phantoms," with the phantom Alice who refuses to define herself further than her name; "The First Song" from Maldoror, barely vampiric, a lyrical examination of sadism and cynicism; and "The True Story of a Vampire" by Count Stenbock, a moving tale despite its hackneyed themes. Scattered throughout are illustrations by Felicien Rops (1833-1898), characterized by "obsessive juxtapositons of Eros/Thanatos," some more eerie, most unabashedly erotic.

In addition to short stories per se, there are excerpts from novels: Smarra by Charles Nodier; Jane Eyre; La-Bas by J.-K. Huysmans; The Picture of Dorian Gray; Varney the Vampire; yes, even Dracula. These are mere snippets, not entire chapters but rather part of an attempt to be comprehensive, to show just how widespread the vampire theme was in literature of this period.

Smoothing over the disconnectedness that results from juxtaposition of so many fragments is "The Erogenous Disease," an introductory essay by editor Gladwell, which discusses a number of different sorts of vampire and analyzes vampire literature in general and most selections in this anthology in particular, showing commmon themes and using the works' historical and literary context as a foundation for analysis. At times, however, Gladwell's fondness for sentence fragments adds to the book's overall patchwork effect:

Gogol, Toystoy [sic] and Turgenev all wrote

tales that could clearly be seen as metaphors and analogies of political or social events of the time. Class struggles; the threat of the peasant or the threat of the aristocrat. Struggles against social changes or ideals; socialism and communism, or even, it has been suggested, fascism. Anyting that threatened the status quo of the time. A xenophobia; the fear of the outsider.

And so on. And so forth. Perhaps the volume should bear a warning: "Some assembly required."

Disjointed style notwithstanding, Gladwell's essay eases the unwary reader into insights, into ways of likewise assembling the book's disparate elements into a sex- and death-charged whole. For those who wish to delve in vampire fiction's nineteenth century origins and analogues, this volume is a splendid place to start.

Fanged Films

USA, 1957
Not of This Earth
Philippines, 1989

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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