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The Blood of the Vampire by Florence Marryat

The Blood of the Vampire (1897)

by Florence Marryat

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This is an interesting thing. Despite the title, it contains neither blood nor vampires. It's a melodrama, and certainly sensational, but it's a tidy package and tightly plotted.

Marryat was a huge success in her time, writing something like 70 best-selling novels, most of which most critics hated. We're familiar with writers like this today: we book snobs turn our noses up at them. There's apparently some sort of backlash wave happening for the Victorians, though, where these best-selling, unappreciated Victorian authors are being reexamined, and Marryat's undergoing a bit of a Renaissance. Based on this one book, I'd say it's deserved; Blood is deeper than it looks.

The vampirism in Blood is invisible. There's no biting here. The "vampire" isn't even consciously harming anyone. Since there's no possibility for proof, the idea that she's a vampire at all is completely circumstantial.

Blood is clearly a metaphorical book about The Woman Question. (And race, as well; Miss Brandt, a quadroon, is a direct descendant of Jane Eyre's Bertha Mason.) As Greta Depledge points out in an informative but wicked thesisy introduction, you can replace the word "vampire" with "hysteric" throughout the book and it still reads perfectly well. ("Hysteria" was the diagnosis for any woman who didn't rigidly conform to societal expectations, or showed a glimmer of libido, or did anything else men weren't crazy about.)

But its ambiguity, which must be intentional, allows for two opposite interpretations of the book. In the most obvious, the hysterical Brandt sucks the life out of people around her; in this reading, Marryat is a conservative.

But since, again, there's no proof whatsoever that Brandt is a vampire, the second reading is that she's an innocent free-thinker who's victimized and eventually murdered by patriarchal oppression. (Now I'm the one who sounds thesisy.) How do we even get the idea that she's a vampire? From a physician who decides that it's the best explanation for a now-dead baby she was fond of holding. That, obviously, is a ludicrous diagnosis, even for a Victorian doctor.

That second reading is tempting, but problematic for one reason: the physician predicts that if Brandt marries, her husband will die, and he obligingly does so.
So let's not say there's conclusive evidence either way on this. Just that it's an interesting, complicated book. ( )
2 vote AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Florence Marryatprimary authorall editionscalculated
Depledge, GretaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hammack, BrendaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Valancourt Books

An edition of this book was published by Valancourt Books.

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