The Probable Consequence of the Mysterious Apparition's Appearance: Varney the Vampire

This time on Varney the Vampire we are introduced to the most sensible character in this part of the book and encounter a hint of Plot.

We left our heroes just as Varney finally manages to escape, getting shot (again) and vanishing over the wall; when they go to look for the body there is no sign of it, and after another several pages of dialogue they go back inside. It is revealed that the Ominous Portrait on Flora’s bedroom wall, which looks a hell of a lot like the thing that was snacking on Flora not so long ago, is of their ancestor Sir Runnagate Bannerworth, a double-dactylic wastrel who ninety years before “first, by his vices, gave the great blow to the family prosperity." I’ll take heavy-handed foreshadowing for three hundred.

In the morning Flora wakes up and has the screaming horrors at the sight of sunlight, which is a nice touch. The others proceed to have the world’s longest and least interesting discussion of whether vampires exist and, if so, if the thing they saw is one, eventually coming to the conclusion “yes.”

"Tell no one that which I am about to say to you. Let the dreadful suggestion remain with ourselves alone, Henry Bannerworth."

"I—I am lost in wonder."

"You promise me?"


"That you will not repeat my opinion to any one."

"I do."

"On your honour."

"On my honour, I promise."

Mr. Marchdale rose, and proceeding to the door, he looked out to see that there were no listeners near. Having ascertained then that they were quite alone, he returned, and drawing a chair close to that on which Henry sat, he said,—

"Henry, have you never heard of a strange and dreadful superstition which, in some countries, is extremely rife, by which it is supposed that there are beings who never die."

"Never die!"

"Never. In a word, Henry, have you never heard of—of—I dread to pronounce the word."

"Speak it. God of Heaven! let me hear it."

"A vampyre!"

And so on. Eventually Henry decides to fetch a doctor to see Flora, and because he is an idiot is surprised to find that everyone is gossiping about vampires:

He had never thought, so engaged had he been with other matters, that the servants were cognizant of the whole affair,


and that from them he had no expectation of being able to keep the whole story in all its details. Of course such an opportunity for tale-bearing and gossiping was not likely to be lost; and while Henry was thinking over how he had better act in the matter, the news that Flora Bannerworth had been visited in the night by a vampyre—for the servants named the visitation such at once—was spreading all over the county.

As he rode along, Henry met a gentleman on horseback who belonged to the county, and who, reining in his steed, said to him,

"Good morning, Mr. Bannerworth."

"Good morning," responded Henry, and he would have ridden on, but the gentleman added,—

"Excuse me for interrupting you, sir; but what is the strange story that is in everybody's mouth about a vampyre?"

Henry explains that uh, no, someone…broke into the house, that’s the ticket, no vampyres around here, and continues into town. He tells the doctor about his hideous suppositions and the doctor, Chillingworth, is like “don’t be ridiculous.” I like Chillingworth: he is the most sane and level-headed person we have met so far.

Back at the house Flora has come to the obvious conclusion herself, and while Chillingworth dismisses her fears, his scientific curiosity is piqued. We then get another little nugget of vampire lore which previously appeared in at least one other classic, Polidori’s The Vampyre:

"You have, of course, heard something," said Henry to the doctor, as he was pulling on his gloves, "about vampyres."

"I certainly have, and I understand that in some countries, particularly Norway and Sweden, the superstition is a very common one."

"And in the Levant."

"Yes. The ghouls of the Mahometans are of the same description of beings. All that I have heard of the European vampyre has made it a being which can be killed, but is restored to life again by the rays of a full moon falling on the body."

"Yes, yes, I have heard as much."

"And that the hideous repast of blood has to be taken very frequently, and that if the vampyre gets it not he wastes away, presenting the appearance of one in the last stage of a consumption, and visibly, so to speak, dying."

"That is what I have understood."

"To-night, do you know, Mr. Bannerworth, is the full of the moon."

Oh, Chillingworth. You’ve already made up your mind to pursue this matter. Polidori’s book came out in 1819, and Varney was published in serial form between 1845 and 1847, so it’s a fair bet that Rymer/Prest were cribbing off the earlier text; Lord Ruthven is definitely killable, and definitely comes back to life under the influence of moonlight.

(A brief aside re. taxonomy: In my verse, Varney is a lunar sensitive, a subspecies that uses the Y spelling and features the moonlight-resurrection trait, and I’ve borrowed the virgins-only thing from Blood for Dracula (Ruthven looks pretty much exactly like the young Udo Kier). Ruthven, however, is a classic draculine vampire with an I, who can drink anybody’s blood but who does not undergo moonlight resurrection, and who is extremely shirty about Polidori’s getting his taxonomy and his details wrong. Carry on.)

The Bannerworths now get a letter from Sir Francis Varney himself:

"Sir Francis Varney presents his compliments to Mr. Bannerworth, and is much concerned to hear that some domestic affliction has fallen upon him. Sir Francis hopes that the genuine and loving sympathy of a neighbour will not be regarded as an intrusion, and begs to proffer any assistance or counsel that may be within the compass of his means.

"Ratford Abbey."

To which they basically go “not now, dude, fuck off,” and get ready to sit up in Flora’s room all night, but Mr. Marchdale has another unsettling piece of evidence: a piece of cloth he had ripped off the vampyre’s coat the previous evening, which not only smells like the grave but matches exactly the coat Sir Silly Name is wearing in the Ominous Portrait, DUN DUN DUNNNN.

That’s enough for now. Tune in next time for Varney the Vampire Gets Shot A Whole Bunch More Times, With Varying Effect!