Saturday, 16 June 2012

Fun and games with Sir Francis Varney

Bugger, this blog's been a bit neglected, hasn't it? Well, that will change. Can't say when it will change, but it will, at some point. But in the interim, let's have a bit of badly typed silliness.

The thing is, I love my 19th Century vampire fiction so imagine my glee when I received, for my birthday, a copy of the original, the prototype, the penny-dreadful doorstop bloody mess of a vampire novel 'Varney, The Vampyre'. Adore it already! It even has a totally superfluous 'y' in the title! The problem though is the problem I always have - no matter how you dress it up, no matter how ambiguous the ending, Sir Francis is going to lose, isn't he? He will not, alas, get the girl, the house, the treasure that even I've figured out is probably concealed there, and the good guys will win the day because that is what good guys do, especially in 19th Century vampire fiction (except, maybe, in Polidori's 'The Vampyre'.) I, of course, will still be rooting for Sir Francis because championing a lost cause is what I do best.

In fact, I always seem to end up rooting for team vamp. It's not just because they are sexy beasts because tbh, most of them aren't, no. The reason is so much more simple: all too often, the good guys in vampire fiction are just painfully fucking stupid. Part of the problem seems to stem from the fact that the author has to convince us that a group of otherwise rational people have, reluctantly, accepted the existence of vampires as a fact, and have subsequently decided to turn vampire hunter. There are many ways of doing this, but all are based upon the presenting enough evidence to establish said existence beyond all reasonable doubt - the trouble comes with knowing when to stop. Von Klatka, for example, is not only blatantly a vampire from page one, but he is also desperately, sarcastically open about that very fact - when the good guys finally rumble him, I doubt even the original, non-genre savvy audience could entirely suppress a, "well, duh."

'Varney', to my delight, does not trouble itself overmuch with that accumulation of evidence - everyone knows it's a vampire, and that the vamp is Varney from the word go, yet avoiding the most obvious pratfall does not excuse our goodies from monumental levels of idiocy. Therefore, for your delight and delectation, I present a modernisation of Volume One, Chapter 13 - the confrontation between heroic numb-skull Henry Bannerworth and sarcastic vampire Francis Varney - also known as:

Vampire Hunting for Beginners, Step 1: Identify the Culprit:

Henry: (enters room and promptly collapses) Oh. My. God.
Marchdale: Henry, shut up. 
Sir Francis: Is your friend... okay?
Henry: My God!
Marchdale: Yes, he's fine. Henry, shut up. 
Henry: But he's...
Marchdale: (whispers) Yes, I had noticed, now shut the fuck up. 
Sir Francis: Often like this is he?
Marchdale: No, no, he's just, er... had a difficult week.
Sir Francis: Of course. The business with his sister....
Henry: But he looks just like... I mean he has to be... 
Sir Francis: My dear fellow, what are you drivelling about?
Henry: You're really somebody else aren't you? I mean, your name isn't really Varney, is it?
Sir Francis: Look,I quite understand if you're feeling under the weather, but...
Henry: I'm not ill! You look just like the portrait of my evil ancestor who...
Sir Francis: (rolls eyes)
Marchdale:  Henry, shut up.
Henry: But he's blatantly a VAMPIRE!
Marchdale: Henry, it's not very polite to make that kind of insinuation, now, is it? Besides, it makes you sound like a crazy person.
Henry: Oh, come on, it's obvious.
Marchdale: Henry, shut up.
Sir Francis: Oh, no, by all means, keep talking. 
Henry: Well, if you're not the vampire, you look just like him.
Sir Francis: Really? How unfortunate. Oh. Ouch.
Marchdale: Anything the matter? 
Sir Francis: Minor injury. Just caught myself on the chair.
Henry: (with such weight we can hear the cogs of his brain turning to the theme of: but my sister shot the vampire, so it's probably that...) A wound? As in a gun shot.
Sir Francis: Nothing so melodramatic. More of a scratch.
Henry: But how did you get it? Huh? Huh?
Sir Francis: I fell over. Funny though, isn't it? How easy it is to injure oneself if one isn't careful... All those little accidents, so common, but they can be quite nasty. Fatal, even...
Henry: Yes, it is funny. You know what else is funny, too? That some people are VAMPIRES!
Sir Francis: Yes, I suppose you're right. Now, do I get to buy your ancestral home?


  1. Varney is the original sympathetic vampire, but isn't all mopey until the later chapters. Mostly he's clever. Of course, then there's the question of whether he is in fact a vampire.

  2. I may have to send this to the professor I love who teaches the Vampire Fiction class, as she'll get a hoot out of it.

    1. Always glad to entertain. For a shameless self-plug, she may also enjoy which is sort of a car-crash between Varney, the Vampyre and The Owl and the Pussycat...