Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Vampire Lord Ruthwen – review

Author: Cyprien Bérard

Adaptation: Brian Stableford

First Published: 1820

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: I felt a fire in my veins that devoured me. My eyes shone in the profound gloom, my burning lips quivered, the quaking earth opened up, and like terrifying claps of thunder, these terrible words resounded in mid-air: "Vampire woman! Emerge from the tomb!"

The mysterious Lord Ruthwen travels to Venice and strikes again, killing the beautiful Bettina and torturing her lover, Léonti, who swears to avenge her. He joins vampire hunters Aubrey and Nadoor Ali to search for the elusive monster...

Cyprien Bérard's The Vampire Lord Ruthwen (1820) was the first sequel to continue John-William Polidori's 1819 ground-breaking story that had introduced the character of the handsome, but evil Vampire lord. Also drawing upon The Thousand and One Nights for inspiration, Bérard weaves stories of mystical Venice, Arabian Nights and Vampire legends into one exotic and suspenseful tale of revenge against the Undead.

"A significant stepping-stone in the evolution of the modern image of the vampire, foreshadowing the other major thread of subsequent vampire fiction: the seductive female vampire." Brian Stableford.

The review: BlackcoatPress again make an important part of the development of vampire literature available for a modern audience.

This is the fourth Lord Ruthven orientated book they have released, this time with Ruthven’s name changed by the original author. The previous volumes were Lord Ruthven the Vampire, The Return of Lord Ruthven and Lord Ruthven Begins. Those three volumes included a lot of scripts as Ruthven was adopted as a character by the theatre, much as the theatre and the movies would adopt Dracula years later. The third volume, whilst fairly important from a genre fan's point of view, did suffer from the feeling that it was almost an afterthought when compared to the other two volumes and the wealth of material they contained.

This volume is a translation and adaptation of a novel produced by Cyprien Bérard as a sequel to Polidori’s original and, as a piece of literature, it is poor… it is a melodramatic romance, a hack piece of prose cashing in on the original story's popularity… however, as a piece of genre material it is an important work. As Stableford says in the blurb, this introduced the female vampire into the genre, indeed Bérard calls her the first example of a female vampire within the narrative, and – most interestingly – she overcomes her initial bloodlust for her own lover, a bloodlust that is well disguised within the prose and mentioned only as a desire to torment her lover. When that is achieved she is met by an angel and is tasked as being a celestial agent to help bring the evil of Ruthwen to an end, meaning that the 'good vampire' has a pedigree going back to some of the earliest vampire prose.

As for any other (male) vampire, we are are told that they are, “Strangers to remorse and pity, vampires choose for victims those who are most charming in their delightful form, most interesting in their weakness, and most enchanting in their beauty.”

As well as Ruthwen, Bérard adds in Aubrey from the original tale who is pursuing the vampire across Europe to avenge his sister who, of course, perished at Ruthwen's hand at the end of the original story.

As poor a piece of prose as this might be (and I am confident that the quality is dependent on the original author and not the adaptation and translation), this is a necessary volume for the student of the vampire in literature – as such the book is difficult to score. 7 out of 10 is a score raised because of the importance of the contents rather than reflective of the quality of the art.

9 comments:

RoseOfTransylvania said...

I doubt it´s so entertaining than brilliant Dumas play in Return of Lord Ruthven or Nodier´s deserved smash hit, but this sounds indeed relatively interesting to someone who loves 19th century vampire stories.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Rose, absolutely... it could never reach those heights but it is still an important piece.

Unknown said...

I notice you forgot to mention the name of the Female Vampire?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

As she is a victim of Ruthwen, I thought I'd keep the identity hidden...



...but for those who want to know...


...her name is Bettina

Unknown said...

Isn't identifying her as the hero's lover enough to spoil it?




That is an interesting name.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

probably ;) there was some logic when I wrote this, but it seems vague and ethereal now

Unknown said...

I've read this one now. Ruthven actually becomes a Jafar style Evil Chancler. It's the kind of Vampire story you'd half think only a modern writer could think up.

Your description of the Female Vampire's Arc makes it sound like, well an arc, but ti's really not, that development all happen instantly yin flashback.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi. To be fair I didn't actually call it an arc, though I see how my description may have mislead.

But even though it isn't an arc it is very genre important, firstly because of it being the first female vampire in prose, but more so because of the fact that she is a good vampire and a celestial agent. :)

Unknown said...

Brian descirbes her as an Anti-Vampire. Which I find interesting in a Nerdy sort of way.