THE DEEP ONES: "Amour Dure" by Vernon Lee
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"Amour Dure" by Vernon Lee
Discussion begins on January 9, 2019.
First published in Hauntings: Fantastic Stories (1890).
SELECTED PRINT VERSIONS
The Virgin of the Seven Daggers
The Dedalus Book of Femmes Fatales
The Supernatural Omnibus
The Snake Lady and Other Stories
That's a handsome book, both the decoration and the weathered boards.
Online for me.
Found the image here: https://www.lwcurrey.com/pages/books/136490/vernon-lee-violet-paget/hauntings-fantastic-stories
I always enjoy reading LW Currey's book descriptions as I drool. Online for me, too.
I hope to read three by Vernon Lee in the next few days; this one and Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady, which was a group read in Apr2018 (both online), and A Phantom Lover (novella). Maybe by quick immersion I can get more from the author than a stand alone experience. I didn't realize this was a pen name for Violet Paget. I find the use of pseudonyms fascinating, both by women and by men.
Without much time for research currently, I still hope to enjoy each story on its merit of surface entertainment, until time allows for further investigation of intricacies... then spoilers won't matter as much and will make more sense!
I'm a big Vernon Lee fan - I love the dark gothic atmosphere of her stories The only other author I can think of who does it as well is Isak Dinesen in Seven Gothic Tales. One of the things she does so well is to depict the longing for something unattainable - usually in the past - maybe symbolising the unattainable past itself - and this story is no exception. Trepka expresses this longing very early on in the story -'Ah, that was Italy, it was the Past!. and I felt somehow that he was looking for something to focus his longing on, and that was, of course, when he came across Medea da Carpi.
Of course, she symbolises sexual longing as well - the story is too sophisticated for simple interpretations. You do wonder a bit how much of the story is going on in actuality and how much in the protagonist's head. But the ending is definite enough. Beware what you wish for!
I'm behind in all of this! Haven't read any short stories and such yet. My head is in my Santathing book. I found this on youtube, narrated in two parts, so at some point I need to make time to sit down and listen.
>7 Zambaco: I accepted the story in straight forward fantastic terms.
I liked this one, and I liked Lee taking the story to an unexpected place with Medea having a whole train of apparitions in her wake. That includes those previously ensnared by her -- though she still has one diehard fan.
I also liked that Trepka doesn't delude himself about this femme fatale. He rationalizes her actions and knows that loving her will get him killed.
The one thing I don't quite understand is the importance of Christmas Eve in Medea's plan. Is it tied to Christ's birth representing the birth of salvation, a salvation Duke Robert isn't going to get? If that's the case, though, couldn't she have carried out her plan anytime?
>7 Zambaco: That title has cropped up in four different places in the past 24hrs... it's a sign! ; ) On my wishlist it goes.
>8 WeeTurtle: I will do just that, read the online text along to the narration in the audiobook, from 5-7pm. I have an open window then it's slammed shut for a few days! This overlaps beautifully, since I am in the middle of The Monk (chpt6) after just completing The Italian, and the dukes and Apennines and sacred references feature in each.
Speaking of Italy, anyone familiar with Tasso? His poetry has been mentioned in a few places (Radcliffe/etc.) and I'd never heard of him. Unending research continues...
>9 RandyStafford: Is there seafood involved? A very big deal for Italians on Christmas Eve! =D I will look into that closely...
"...if only you lay a table for two, light four candles made of dead men's fat, and perform certain rites... you can, on Christmas Eve and similar nights, summon up San Pasquale Baylon, who will write you the winning numbers of the lottery upon the smoked back of a plate, if you have previously slapped him on both cheeks and repeated three Ave Marias. The difficulty consists in obtaining the dead men's fat for the candles, and also in slapping the saint before he has time to vanish."
This made me laugh more than once after reading it. All these allusions seem to pile on to the 'unreliable narrator' angle. Is he bonkers? Is his intellect maiming his imagination?
I'm not sure if that quote needed spoiler covering or not, but if someone can remind me how to do it... ?
Seriously though, the only thing I can think of is the Christmas Novena. There are two types; one that starts on Nov.30th on the Feast of St. Andrew and continues right up to and including Christmas Eve, one that begins on the evening of Dec.16th and continues nine nights to Dec.24. This is a preparation for the arrival of the Christ Child and in ancient times would have been celebrated by a loyal community in small and big churches alike. There would have been candles and music and filled pews each evening, for the nine consecutive nights. She 'appeared' to him in the portrait on Nov.30th, then in a black shawl beneath the arch on Dec.15th, and the letter was found on his desk on the morning of Dec.17th, so I am unsure if this is relevant or mere speculation. She might have been in attendance at the small church, and thus it became a haven of safety for a restless soul. Weird that the bronze statue is directly outside, goading her. The characters each had their unique role to play, and were written well by Vernon Lee. Exceptionally well.
Maybe a stupid question ... but was it Robert?! The best part of this story, is that as soon as it's finished, you want to scroll back to the top and start all over again!!! The finest compliment I can pay. =)
I liked this story much for the reasons already given: well-written, with the unexpected reappearance of Medea's prior courtier-victims, and also Spiridion's clarity at his fate. However, even here he is deluded: he thinks perhaps he will meet with Medea and receive her favour! It seems to me that Medea disposes of him, after he has done for her what she demanded. Will his soul continue to hold her in reverence, or will he finally see the "error" of his ways, as apparently the other victims have done (given their warnings to Spiridion on his way to the statue).
I assume the worst fate, though, is reserved for Robert. Surely Medea did not go to all that trouble of releasing his soul, only to let it wander ....
I wonder if Lee alludes to George Sand's earlier novel, Spiridion (1839), which also deals with the Catholic Church and a ghost. It's apparently been translated by SUNY Press.
Also of interest, Spiridion Lusi was an historical personage, both a scholar and ambassador of Prussia, and studied in Italy. And Eustachy Trepka a Polish translator with a link to Prussia, as well.
>12 elenchus: I thought that too, but then was confused by the greed of the one soul still wanting her for his very own, wanting the 'competition' to turn back. Such anguish felt for both men/souls.
>9 RandyStafford: The one thing I don't quite understand is the importance of Christmas Eve in Medea's plan.
>11 frahealee: " ... you can, on Christmas Eve and similar nights, summon up San Pasquale Baylon ..."
I think frahealee is right about why on Christmas Eve, and not any other time. (Though the significance of "similar nights" eludes me: other holy days?) Together with that reference, which I'd forgotten by the time I got to the end of the story, there's the possibility it took Medea awhile to seduce Spiridion, and Christmas Eve was simply an opportune time to play her hand.
These thoughts raise other questions, however.
Is Medea effectively practising magic as a ghost? It's not Spiridion who is summoning any spirit, after all. It's more as though Medea summons the ghosts to the Church, perhaps to better seduce Spiridion. ETA But of course, she raises the ghosts on two nights, neither of which is Christmas Eve.
The nature of Medea's seduction reminds me of an earlier story, Wakeman's "Professor Pownall's Oversight", in that she appears to be haunting a manuscript. With Pownall, we found that the locus of the hauntings were annotated chess matches ... at least initially. Was Medea haunting manuscripts as well, or is it more insidious: the mere concept of her history, her meme, infects any story that is told of her, whether in archived manuscripts, or a portrait, or tales told one by another person? She appears as a ghost, eventually, but Spiridion has been well seduced by this point, as demonstrated by his singing and his diary entries.
I was thinking any Holy Day of Obligation, or a personal Saint's Day celebration (as important if not more so than a birthday) could qualify. Novenas can be done for many reasons, and are year round, but some have more merit than others, more followers, more sanctity, etc.
My guess (or comfort level) is that she uses any channel open to her, since most ran in terror from her, or avoided her due to her history, be it paper or portrait. She needed some henchman to go after the statue, and no woman would bother to help her, nor child, so it had to be a young solid sort. He fell for her as the last fellow did, without ever meeting her, but c/o her substantial influence, even if only in myth. I thought she wanted to use what was familiar to her, her plane of existence was in her present, long past to this last victim (or was he?). She was able to lead him into the church, through the crowd, through the experience until he fully committed his life and death to her. Reminded me of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, but vastly different outcomes. I suspected that he liked the portrait hung in her room, his ego was stroked, and he was happy to keep her company as long as he felt a sense of fondness. In this case, the affection was corrupted, wasted, unfulfilled. His longing and ardour did not rely on her reciprocation.
>15 elenchus: I think the point at which the ghost is conjured (and empowered) is when Spiridion sees the reflection of her portrait in the mirror, looking over his shoulder, as it were. The magical properties of mirrors are well-known. But that also raises the question of how she managed to have her portrait placed just there, well after her death, one presumes....
I liked how the room seemed to be one he'd never before noticed or entered. Great mystique. That mirror thing factored in to The Monk too that I finished reading yesterday! Good gothic/horror/fairy tale trope.
Finally got around to finishing reading this today. Thought Part I a little slow, but interest picked up in II.
Influenced by Lee’s remarks in the preface to Hauntings I expected more ambiguity as to whether there would be any haunting actually going on - having finished it, I’m hard pressed to see what a non-supernatural reading would be. Spiridon hallucinated everything and was unrelatedly murdered by an unknown assailant? The police would surely have been able to tell if he’d stabbed himself.
I deliberately avoided the preface before reading the tale itself, and neglected to go back. Presumably the reference to her "spurious ghosts" is directed at her readers, and not the characters in her tales.
I thought this was very good. I've read a little bit about magical beliefs in the Renaissance, and so the business with the winged effigy didn't seem as outlandish or coming out of nowhere as it might have done.
Trepka's Romantic nature sets him up as vulnerable to falling under Medea's spell. That's the 19th century stereotype of the Polish character. And although the characters are vividly drawn they all conform to stereotypes.
I remembered - only after reading the story - that Poland had been annexed by its neighbours and split between Russia and Prussia. This gives more bite to e.g.Trepka's jibes at unimaginative Prussians academics.
I wondered if those 19th century Prussian ideas about nationhood and patriotism and the Volk were being subtly suggested for the reader prone to such ideas (I'm assuming they would be both more prevalent and seen as less toxic in 1890), as another factor that would help to make Tripka more susceptible to being haunted. you see it often in ghost stories, a weakness that lets the supernatural get its claws in the protagonist.
For Tripka, maybe being a citizen of an occupied country, "a Pole turned Prussian professor" and alienated from his own culture, means he is already at risk (like, I suppose, someone in the present day might be at risk of radicalisation, or falling into the hands of a cult, or indeed just entering into a toxic personal relationship)?
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