Thursday, June 04, 2015

Interesting Shorts: Margery of Quether

For those that are unaware, Bram Stoker used Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Book of Were-Wolves (1865), as part of his research for Dracula. Indeed he incorporated some of the physical description of a werewolf into his description of the titular Count.

Baring-Gould had also written a vampire story, Margery of Quether, published in 1884 in the Cornhill Magazine January - June 1884 (New Series, volume 2, numbers 7-12) and it was later used as a parallel – amongst other works – by the Daily Mail in their review of Dracula, which was printed on 1 June 1897 (though Margery was spelt Marjery in the review).

The story is relayed by George Rosedhu who lived in the farmhouse of Brinsabatch in Devon. At the start of the tale we hear of a possible romantic interest with Margaret, the daughter of farmer John Palmer who lived at the farm Quether.

As Christmas approaches George informs the reader that the holiday is rung in from the church and his clerk Solomon Davy was also the Sexton who should do that. Davy is suffering from rheumatism and cannot do the job but is loath to offer it to someone who would pocket the stipend he is paid for doing it and also warns George of Margery of Quether – “Her as never dies.” George offers to ring the bells for Solomon but ignores his warning about Margery – thinking he is flippantly remarking about Margaret.

original plate
As he rings the bells a small thing crawls down the rope, wizened, brown and leathery, about the size of a three month old baby she introduces herself as Margery of Quether. Baring-Gould does not have a transformation to bat in the story but does liken Margery to one suggesting “the hands and arms were shrivelled and like those of a bat.” She has one tooth, is mostly deaf and blind and, when he gives his name, mistakes him for a lost love who is one of his ancestors.

He takes the creature home, her single tooth in his chest and her clawed hands gripping to him. He describes her tooth as being “like a proboscis of a mosquito” and cannot remove her when home and ends up nursing her until she finally drops off him. His feelings become defensive of her. She continues to feed from him and grows whilst transforming into a young woman, meanwhile George ages prematurely.

The feeding is unusual; he tells us that “I would not have you suppose that Margery was sucking my blood. Nothing of the sort; that is, not grossly in the manner of a leech. But she really did, in some marvellous manner, to me quite inexplicable, extract life and health, the blood from my veins and the marrow from my bones, and assimilate them herself.” So whilst physical fluids and tissue are mentioned it seems she is more like an energy vampire.

Later, Farmer Palmer intervenes and threatens Margery unless she returns what she has taken and this is described as “streams of vital force.” The story ends with Margery alive, somewhere, George doesn’t know where and his story has been told to protect her rather than injure her.

This is a fascinating pre-Stoker story from a man who certainly inspired some parts of Dracula. Whether Stoker knew this story is unknown, but the fact that the Daily Mail mentioned it suggests it to be well known. So whether the bat like shape of Margery inspired Stoker, or her single, chest piercing tooth, or even her becoming younger, we cannot say. If you wish to read the story it is linked to from here. Note that it is suggested that it was published in 1891 – however this was within a volume and the earlier date still stands for its premiere in the magazine.


Unknown said...

Very interesting! I have never heard about this story before.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Thanks Kirsi, did you read the story? What did you think?

Unknown said...

I didn´t like it nearly so much than some other 19th century vampire stories, but it was nice change of pace.