Monday, March 03, 2014

Honourable Mention: The Count of Monte Cristo

Published in 1844 and written by Alexandre Dumas, père, The Count of Monte Cristo is one of Dumas’ most famous works (probably only topped by The Three Musketeers). It may seem strange, therefore, that it is getting an Honourable Mention on Taliesin Meets the Vampires – but vampires are indeed mentioned in its pages.

Dumas was a prolific author and dramatist and he did contribute to the genre both with the story The Pale Lady and with the play Le Vampire based upon Polidori’s The Vampyre: A Tale - the play has been translated into English and released by Blackcoat Press as The Return of Lord Ruthven. Indeed Dumas was a protégé of Charles Nodier who had also adapted The Vampyre for the stage in 1820 (the script of which can be found in Lord Ruthven the Vampire.

As you can see, Dumas has a vampire genre pedigree. In Count of Monte Cristo, which preceded the Pale Lady by a few years, he invokes the shadow of Lord Ruthven in a scene between the Countess G— and Baron Franz d'Épinay where they look over at a mysterious stranger in the theatre. The Countess suggests that he “seems to me as though he had just been dug up; he looks more like a corpse permitted by some friendly grave-digger to quit his tomb for a while, and revisit this earth of ours, than anything human. How ghastly pale he is!” Of course, the pallor would be a trait he carried forward to the Pale Lady, a mark not only of the vampire (other than the rosiness after feeding) but any surviving victim. When Franz suggests the stranger is always that complexion the Countess wonders whether he is a vampire and then suggests, “Why, that he is no other than Lord Ruthven himself in a living form.

Franz does not believe in vampires – though the stranger, he admits, could change that opinion. The Countess then namedrops Byron when she says, “Byron had the most perfect belief in the existence of vampires, and even assured me that he had seen them. The description he gave me perfectly corresponds with the features and character of the man before us. Oh, he is the exact personification of what I have been led to expect! The coal-black hair, large bright, glittering eyes, in which a wild, unearthly fire seems burning,— the same ghastly paleness.” She accuses his female companion of also being of that “same horrible race”.

It transpires, of course, that the stranger is the Count of Monte Cristo.

And there you have it; vampires, by passing mention, get into one of the most famous novels in French literature and not just any vampire but Lord Ruthven himself.

4 comments:

JaredMithrandir said...

The Penguin Classics translation is the only one I recommend, it isn't censored like the much older one.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers Jared

JaredMithrandir said...

Apparently Frankenstein itself might be worthy of a mention.

Been awhile since I read so I'm not sure but apparently early in Volume II there is a Vampire reference.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

thanks, I'll have a check at some point