Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Tale of Melibee from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

Last week in The Canterbury Tales we ended with the Host interrupting Geoffrey's Tale of Sir Thopas and telling him rather unkindly, "Thy drasty rymyng is nat worth a toord!" Chaucer replies that he will tell another tale in prose, and it is The Tale of Melibee, a translation of Livre de Melibée et de Dame Prudence by Renaud de Louens (1337), which is itself a translation of Liber consolationis et consillii by Albertano da Brescia (1246).

The story begins with the attack of Melibeus' wife Prudence and daughter Sophie, who, whilst he was out walking, he had left locked in at home: his three enemies, having seen him go out and:
... betten his wyf, and wounded his doghter with fyve mortal woundes in fyve sondry places - this is to seyn, in hir feet, in hire handes, in hir erys, in hir nose, and in hire mouth - and leften hire for deed, and wenten awey.
Melibeus is distraught and Prudence tries to soothe him. She remembers the advice of Ovid in Remedies of Love and lets him cry for a while, but then reminds Melibeus of advice from Seneca:
Senek seith: `The wise man shal nat take to greet disconfort for the deeth of his children, but, certes, he sholde suffren it in pacience as wel as he abideth the deeth of his owene propre persone.'
They debate this theory: Melibeus says that Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus ("Jhesu Crist, oure Lord, hymself wepte for the deeth of Lazarus hys freend"), and Prudence agrees that tears are not forbidden, quoting another part of the Bible - St. Paul, but she then advises, "But though attempree wepyng be ygraunted, outrageous wepyng certes is deffended": temperate weeping is granted, outrageous weeping is forbidden. She quotes Seneca again, saying it is good to cry in moderation but, should one's friend die, one should endeavour to get a new friend rather than weep over the old friend whose death is absolute and cannot be undone:
`Whan that thy frend is deed,' quod he, `lat nat thyne eyen to moyste been of teeris, ne to muche drye; although the teeris come to thyne eyen, lat hem nat falle; and whan thou hast forgoon thy freend, do diligence to gete another freend; and this is moore wysdom than for to wepe for thy freend which that thou hast lorn, for therinne is no boote.' 
More quotes are exchanged from Jesus, Solomon, and the Book of Job, and eventually Melibeus decides to call up a congregation to discuss the matter of the crime. He is of course still angry,
And by the manere of his speche it semed that in herte he baar a crueel ire, redy to doon vengeaunce upon his foes, and sodeynly desired that the werre sholde bigynne...
But nevertheless he seeks counsel on how to proceed. There is a long debate on whether or not Melibeus should seek vengeance, but as the larger portion seem to favour war that is what Melibeus decides:
Whan Melibeus hadde herd that the gretteste partie of his conseil weren accorded that he sholde maken werre, anoon he consented to hir conseillyng and fully affermed hire sentence.
However when he tells his wife Prudence she disagrees, citing more scripture and Seneca (and others) to back her arguments. The two discuss vengeance and it's relationship with wickedness, villainy for the sake of villainy, and the idea of war being useful to stop further wars or other evils. This debate takes up nearly the entire Tale of Melibee - (the tale begins on line 967 of Fragment VII, and the debate runs from line 1051 - 1870: 819 lines in total). Ultimately Melibeus agrees with Prudence and he thanks God for giving him such a good wife - 
Whanne Melibee hadde herd the grete skiles and resouns of dame Prudence, and hire wise informaciouns and techynges, his herte gan enclyne to the wil of his wif, considerynge hir trewe entente, and conformed hym anon and assented fully to werken after hir conseil, and thonked God, of whom procedeth al vertu and alle goodnesse, that hym sente a wyf of so greet discrecioun.
When he finally confronts the criminals he forgives them just as God would:
Wherfore I receyve yow to my grace and foryeve yow outrely alle the offenses, injuries, and wronges that ye have doon agayn me and myne, to this effect and to this ende, that God of his endelees mercy wole at the tyme of oure diynge foryeven us oure giltes that we han trespassed to hym in this wrecched world. For doutelees, if we be sory and repentant of the synnes and giltes which we han trespassed in the sighte of oure Lord God, he is so free and so merciable that he wole foryeven us oure giltes and bryngen us to the blisse that nevere hath ende." Amen.
And there ends the Tale of Melibee. It is easily and by far the most boring tale of The Canterbury Tales so far, but why? There are some theories. The first is that this was a translation, as I've said, of a French work - Livre de Melibée et de Dame Prudence by Renaud de Louens (it's not the fact that it's French that makes it boring, I hasten to add!) and thus is somewhat clumsy and tedious, which it may not be in its original language. This theory is, I do believe most wholeheartedly, incorrect. The Romaunt of the Rose (1361-67) and Boece (1378-81) are Chaucer's other translations (The Romaunt of the Rose is a translation of Le Roman de la Rose and Boece Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy) and both are excellent works I think (I do favour Boece). Chaucer is more than capable of translating prose and poetry. The second theory, which I do agree with, is that Chaucer deliberately made the tale dull as revenge for the Host calling his first tale, The Tale of Sir Thopas, "crap". For this, however boring it was, somehow it remains funny and for that I don't hate The Tale of Melibee at all. In fact, I do feel some affection for it, though I'm most unlikely to ever read it again! For now I'm looking forward to next week: finishing Fragment VII with The Monk's Prologue and Tale and The Nun's Priest's Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Poetics by Aristotle.

Aristotle by Francesco Hayez (1811).
Poetics (Περὶ ποιητικῆς, 335 B.C.) or On the Art of Poetry is a short book on drama and poetry, and it's part of a book I have - Classical Literary Criticism (published by Penguin, 1965) which also contains Ars Poetica by Horace and On the Sublime by Longinus (I hope to read the latter later in the week). Poetics was not an easy book to read. I read it first about a month ago, and then again a few days ago hoping somehow it would sink in a little. I'm afraid I found it rather dry and perhaps a little lacking in passion. 

What remains of it (there was a second part addressing comedy, now lost) is divided into 26 short chapters.  In the introduction, Poetry as Imitation, in which he argues that music and literature are simply imitation:
Epic and tragic poetry, comedy too, dithyrambic poetry, and most music composed for the flute and the lyre, can all be described in general terms as forms of imitation or representation. However, they differ from one another in three respects: either in using different media for the representation, or in representing different things, or in representing them in entirely different ways.
Drama then is a form of imitation in that actors imitate real life: in tragedy, the 'higher' art, men are heroes, they are noble and deal with the most serious matters of human existence. Comedy, the lower and more base art, deals with ultimately trivial aspects of the human condition:
... comedy represents the worse types of men; worse, however, not in the sense that it embraces any and every kind of badness, but in the sense that the ridiculous is a species of ugliness or badness. For the ridiculous consists in some form of error or ugliness that is not painful or injurious; the comic mask, for example, is distorted and ugly, but causes no pain.
From here he goes on to define "tragedy" (in the sixth chapter: A Description of Tragedy). It is -
... a representation of an action that is worth serious attention, complete in itself, and of some amplitude; in language enriched by a variety of artistic devices appropriate to the several parts of the play; presented in the form of action, not narration; by means of pity and fear bringing about the purgation of such emotions.
Tragedy, he continues, has six constituents:
  1. Plot
  2. Character
  3. Diction
  4. Thought
  5. Spectacle
  6. Song 
Throughout the rest of Poetics he discusses these points at more length. For plot he argues that "tragedy is a representation, not of men, but of action and life, of happiness and unhappiness - and happiness and unhappiness are bound up with action". Plot therefore is the "life-blood" and "character takes the second place". It must be "whole" ("that which has a beginning, a middle, and an end") and have "unity" - not in that a poem or drama is concerned with one man, rather it has one theme or one sequence of events. Furthermore it must be remembered that a drama is not and does not have to be a "history", but it is concerned with universal truths:
... it is not the poet's function to describe what has actually happened, but the kinds of thing [sic] that might happen, that is, that could happen because they are, in the circumstances, either probable or necessary.
 Concerning characters, he argues the poet should aim for four things:
    1. "... the characters should be good".
    2. "... the portrayal should be appropriate"
    3. "... the characters should be lifelike"
    4. "... they should be consistent"
    Next, in Further Rules for the Tragic Poet that there are four kinds of tragedy:
    1. "There is complex tragedy, which depends entirely on reversal and discovery"
    2. "... tragedy of suffering, as in the various plays on Ajax and Ixion"
    3. "... tragedy of character, as in The Phthiotides and the Peleus"
    4. "... and fourthly, spectacular tragedy, as in The Phorcides, in the Prometheis, and in plays with scenes in Hades."
    Tragic poets, he believes, should try to encompass all or at least most of these elements.

    From here he moves on to diction, concerning linguistics - suggesting that language is made up of "[1] the letter, [2] the syllable, [3] the connecting-word, [4] the article, [5] the noun, [6] the verb, [7] the inflexion or case, and [8] the phrase or proposition." This is discussed at length in chapter 21: Some Linguistic Definition. He urges for clarity and originality and also restraint. 

    Thought, the fourth part of tragedy, is found, he points out, in his Rhetoric (Ῥητορική), so from diction he turns his attention to spectacle and song. Epics are concerned with spectacle, such as Homer's Odyssey and Iliad and a number of others, but as tragedy may also concern itself with spectacle, Aristotle argues it is the superior art form. Finally song is used to help achieve a cathartic effect. 

    I have to say Poetics may have put me off Aristotle for life. It is interesting in that he felt motivated to write such a scientific dismantling of the artistic, and I do wonder how it went on to influence writers (something I don't know right now but do intend to find out). And of course I've certainly learned a little about Aristotle. So far reading Classical Literary Criticism I did enjoy and admire Horace's Ars Poetica infinitely more, and I'm looking forward to reading the final part - On the Sublime later in the week. As for the other titles by Aristotle I have listed on my Ancient Greek and Roman Challenge - Ethics, On the Soul, Parva Naturalia, The Politics, and Rhetoric - I am now absolutely dreading them!

    Tuesday, 6 October 2015

    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.

    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the first published novel of James Joyce (1916) following his short story collection Dubliners (1914). Joyce began writing it in around 1903 as Stephen Hero but after numerous rejections he threw the manuscript into the fire. It was quickly rescued by his sister Eileen, but Joyce decided to re-write his novel and so produced A Portrait, which is classed as a 'künstlerroman': an artist's novel, and its hero is Stephen Dedalus, Joyce's fictional alter ego. 

    It begins with the very famous opening sentence:
    Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo... 
    His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face.
    This is about the young Stephen, and this sentence represents his early 'self' and sense of awareness. In Portrait Joyce will develop Stephen's perception and character and his intellectual growth, but in this first chapter we see it in an early form - not the earliest where consciousness is minimal, but just at the point whereby Stephen recognises not only his self but the outside world, and he begins to relate the two. This chapter, then, is a kind of bridge between the basic, selfish, subjective, impulsive and physical understanding of being to the more social, objective, and complex methods of understanding life and self. We learn that Stephen still wets the bed, and, as Joyce interprets, "When you wet the bed first it is warm then it gets cold. His mother put on the oilsheet. That had a queer smell." Still then young Stephen interprets the world in a physical sense, through touch and smell and lacks the awareness that wetting the bed may be inconvenient for his mother, but as Joyce names family members then goes on to mention by name other boys, Stephen's friends and acquaintances, Joyce the interpretor tells us that Stephen is aware that he is part of something greater - a social body.

    And so the novel continues, subtly marking these changes in Stephen. He goes to school and writes on his exercise book,
    Stephen Dedalus
    Class of Elements
    Clongowes Wood College
    County Kildare
    The World
    The Universe
    On the opposite page is written by someone else,
    Stephen Dedalus is my name,
    Ireland is my nation,
    Clongowers is my dwellingplace,
    And heaven my expectation.
    Here this theme continues - we have in the same exercise book Stephen's own knowledge of belonging to a larger order, and then someone else's definition and understanding of him: there are two ideas of what "Stephen Dedalus" is - simply the boy at school existing somewhere in the universe, and then the Irish Catholic schoolboy called Stephen Dedalus.

    Stephen gradually becomes more involved with this "bigger picture". He observes a furious disagreement at a dinner party about Charles Stewart Parnell, an Irish nationalist, however he doesn't grasp the argument. During this time, very unhappy at school, his imagination is growing and developing and he begins to interpret events further, slowly piecing together the fragmented and apparently disjointed elements of his life that will become his narrative - the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. "Facts" are no longer necessary parts of his self-image - he may have been brought up a Catholic but that does not mean that he must be Catholic, and same with being a nationalist: these beliefs may have shaped his childhood but he learns he does not have to accept them. In Portrait we soon see him rebelling: at the age of sixteen he is already visiting prostitutes and indulging in the 'deadly sins', but for a while he is confused and he seeks forgiveness from the priest and from that which he was rebelling from. But still he grows older and the rebellion is no longer a crisis and he can come to accept his beliefs and world view without any drama. With the help of his friends, art, music, and literature he becomes free of the limitations imposed on him by his family, society, and his former, earlier self.

    A Portrait of the Artist is a complex psychological work. Joyce explores the notions of self and identity, what it is to be an artist, and what it is to be Catholic and to be Irish in the late 19th and early 20th Century. It is a great work, immensely challenging and not so easy to grasp. I've tried (and struggled!) to write about an element of it, but it is far deeper than I've given it credit for! I did enjoy it, and came close to loving it. It's my second read; the first time, a few years ago, it was fairly lost on me but as I enjoyed Stephen Hero so much (which, I dare say, I enjoyed reading more) I was eager to give it another go. It is a satisfying and provoking read: well worth it, in short, and one to keep reading and re-reading.

    Monday, 5 October 2015

    Women of Trachis by Sophocles.

    Deianira by Evelyn De Morgan (1878).
    Women of Trachis (Τραχίνιαι) is a tragedy by Sophocles, written at some point in the mid to early 400s B.C. It's also known as The TrachiniaeThe Trachinian Women, or The Maidens of Trachis, and these women refer to the chorus in the play, not the central characters.

    The focus of the play is Deianeira (Δηϊάνειρα) and her husband Heracles (Ἡρακλῆς, whose Roman equivalent is Hercules), the god of strength. They were married after Nessus (Νέσσος), a centaur, kidnapped Deianeira and Heracles rescued her, killing the centaur. As the play reveals, at the point of his death Nessus tells Deianeira to take some of his blood; when mixed with oil, the concoction will prevent Heracles from ever being unfaithful. 

    The play begins with Heracles away at war. In a monologue Deianeira says,
    Heracles chose me for his wife; and since that day
    I have no moment's rest from fear
    On his account.
    Each night's terror drives away
    The terror of the night before.
    We had children... [Sophocles' ellipsis] but he never sees them
    Except as a farmer sees a distant field
    On the edge of his estate, visiting it
    Now and again, at planting or at harvest.
    That's what his life has been,
    Home one minute and away the next,
    A slave to his employer.
    In desperation she asks their son Hyllus (Ὕλλος) to search for him. Hyllus tells her he has heard that he has become "a Lydian woman's slave / This whole year past", and that he is at the point of waging war against Euboea. Deianeira reveals Heracles was aware of a prophecy concerning himself and Euboea:
    It said that either he should meet with death,
    Or this would be his last exploit
    And he would live in peace henceforth
    Till his life's end.
    Believing his "fate is in the balance" she begs Hyllus to help him, and he immediately consents. Shortly after a messenger of Heracles, arrives (bid by Lichas), and gives her good news - 
    Mistress Deianeira, I have the honour to be
    The first to bring you the news that puts an end
    To all your fears.
    Heracles is alive, has won his victory,
    And is coming back to bring the spoils of battle
    Home to our country's gods.
    As they wait for Heracles' imminent arrival they see a group of captives, and after an account of the battle from Lichas, Deianeira singles one of the girls out:
    Whose daughter are you, poor child?
    Are you married? A mother, perhaps?
    No, neither, from your looks, I think.
    But well-born, surely... Lichas, whose daughter is she? I think I am sorrier for her than all the rest,
    She seems more sensitive to her condition.
    Do you know who her parents are? Tell me if you do.
    The girl does not speak, and it is assumed she is in shock, however a messenger tells Deianeira of her identity:
    He told me - and many others were there to hear him -
    That it was all on account of that girl you were speaking to
    That your husband went and slew King Eurytus
    And sacked his fortress city, Oechalia.
    If any god inspired him in that great exploit,
    It was Eros, no other; and it had nothing to do
    With his slavery to the Lydian woman, Omphale,
    Nor his hurling Iphitus over a precipice.
    It seems your husband, unable to persuade her father
    To let him have his girl for a concubine,
    Trumps up some trifling change by way of excuse,
    Attacks her country, where Eurytus - that's her father -
    Is king, kills him, and lays the city to ruins.
    Then back he comes, sending her home before him,
    With proper ceremony, you see, my lady,
    Not as a slave - no dear me, no - not likely,
    Seeing he's head over heels in love with her...
    I thought I'd better tell you all, my lady,
    Just as he told it in the market-place at Trachis.
    There were plenty besides that heard him, as well as me:
    They'll tell you the same... If I've said more that I should,
    I'm sorry... but I've spoken nothing but the truth.
    He then reveals the girl's name: Iole (Ἰόλη) - "a famous name / And famous beauty". 

    Naturally Deianeira is distraught but she comes up with a plan - she takes Nessus' blood and mixes it with oil as he instructed, and with a piece of wool she applies it to a coat, then asks Lichas to take it to Heracles and bid him to wear it. He does, but then when Deianeira throws away the wool she learns of her mistake, which she tells the chorus, the Women of Trachis:
    I must have thrown away the knot of wool
    With which I smeared the robe, into the glare
    Of the scorching sun, and as it took the heat
    It crumbled to nothing, shrivelled into powder,
    And there it lay, scattered upon the soil
    Like so much sawdust blown from a woodman's bench.
    But out of the earth it fell on, foamy bubbles
    Came oozing up, like the fermenting juice
    Of blue-ripe grapes crushed out upon the ground.
    So now I am at my wits' end. What I have done
    Must have some deadly consequence. O why,
    Why should I think the monster at his death
    Would wish to do me good, who caused his death?
    After this speech Hyllus returns and curses her - he has seen Heracles put on the coat and he has seen the effect it has had: in a frenzy of pain and terror Heracles killed Lichas, and now Heracles is dying in agony. Deeply ashamed, Deianeira says nothing, she simply walks away and the Women of Trachis explain to Hyllus how and why Deianeira did what she did, but it is too late - Deianeira has killed herself before Hyllus can speak with her. And so he is left to tell Heracles, who is at the point of death, what has happened, and that Deianeira did not mean to kill him. Heracles then recalls a prophecy - his father (Zeus) once told him,
    ... that I could never be killed
    By any living creature, only by one
    That had passed the border between life and death.
    And so it is, as the oracle foretold;
    Death comes to the living from the dead; the Centaur
    Kills Heracles...
    Heracles then instructs Hyllus to marry Iole, and after much protest he eventually submits. Heracles is then taken away to be thrown alive onto a pyre to end his suffering. 

    I truly loved this play: Sophocles' sensitive and poignant portrayal of Deianeira makes her a very sympathetic character, and though she is responsible for the great Heracles' death, we cannot forget his neglect and philandering. Nevertheless, it is very moving to see the death of such a powerful god. 

    The Death of Heracles by Francisco de Zurbarán (1634).

    Thursday, 1 October 2015

    Dracula by Bram Stoker.

    Usually for the first of the month I write about my reading plans and whatnot, but as I just did that last week with my Top Ten Autumn Reads, I thought I'd jump straight into October with a Gothic classic: Dracula by Bram Stoker, first published in 1897. It is the ultimate vampire story told in a series of letters, diaries, newspaper articles, and official statements or logs by a variety of narrators. 

    It begins with the diary of Jonathan Harker, a young solicitor engaged to Mina (Wilhelmina) Murray. He has travelled to Transylvania to complete a real estate transaction between his employer and Count Dracula, a charming but very strange man. As he travels to the Count's castle in the Carpathian Mountains he is repeatedly warned off by locals: he writes on 4th May in his diary of a conversation with an old woman in which she says,
    "It is the eve of St. George's Day. Do you not know that to-night, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway? Do you know where you are going, and what you are going to?" She was in such evident distress that I tried to comfort her, but without effect. Finally she went down on her knees and implored me not to go; at least to wait a day or two before starting. It was all very ridiculous but I did not feel comfortable. However, there was business to be done, and I could allow nothing to interfere with it. I therefore tried to raise her up, and said, as gravely as I could, that I thanked her, but my duty was imperative, and that I must go. She then rose and dried her eyes, and taking a crucifix from her neck offered it to me. I did not know what to do, for, as an English Churchman, I have been taught to regard such things as in some measure idolatrous, and yet it seemed so ungracious to refuse an old lady meaning so well and in such a state of mind. She saw, I suppose, the doubt in my face, for she put the rosary round my neck, and said, "For your mother's sake," and went out of the room. I am writing up this part of the diary whilst I am waiting for the coach, which is, of course, late; and the crucifix is still round my neck. Whether it is the old lady's fear, or the many ghostly traditions of this place, or the crucifix itself, I do not know, but I am not feeling nearly as easy in my mind as usual.
    But, portents of doom aside, Harker persists in his journey and soon arrives at the castle. In the next diary entry Harker describes him,
    His face was a strong—a very strong—aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed; the chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor. 
    Hitherto I had noticed the backs of his hands as they lay on his knees in the firelight, and they had seemed rather white and fine; but seeing them now close to me, I could not but notice that they were rather coarse—broad, with squat fingers. Strange to say, there were hairs in the centre of the palm. The nails were long and fine, and cut to a sharp point. As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me, I could not repress a shudder. It may have been that his breath was rank, but a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which, do what I would, I could not conceal. The Count, evidently noticing it, drew back; and with a grim sort of smile, which showed more than he had yet done his protuberant teeth, sat himself down again on his own side of the fireplace. We were both silent for a while; and as I looked towards the window I saw the first dim streak of the coming dawn. 
    From here the drama really begins, and because this is such a famous story I don't feel the need to go too much in-depth. Harker soon realises he is imprisoned and he has a near-deadly encounter with the three "weird sisters", and for a period we are left wondering if he manages to escape the castle alive. 

    The story then cuts to London to a very innocent letter from Harker's fiance Mina to her dear friend Lucy Westenra. When Lucy replies we learn she has had three marriage proposals from Dr. John Seward, Quincey Morris, and Arthur Holmwood, the latter of whom she accepts, but the three men do remain friends and we see more of them in the novel. After that, we're introduced to another character in the transcript of a phonograph diary of John Seward -  Renfield, a patient in an asylum obsessed with eating insects and birds, claiming they were "very good and very wholesome; that [they were] life, strong life, and gave life to him". Whilst this unfolds there is a shipwreck, on which Mina writes about in her diary:
    The sequel to the strange arrival of the derelict in the storm last night is almost more startling than the thing itself. It turns out that the schooner is a Russian from Varna, and is called the Demeter. She is almost entirely in ballast of silver sand, with only a small amount of cargo—a number of great wooden boxes filled with mould. This cargo was consigned to a Whitby solicitor, Mr. S. F. Billington, of 7, The Crescent, who this morning went aboard and formally took possession of the goods consigned to him. The Russian consul, too, acting for the charter-party, took formal possession of the ship, and paid all harbour dues, etc. Nothing is talked about here to-day except the strange coincidence; the officials of the Board of Trade have been most exacting in seeing that every compliance has been made with existing regulations. As the matter is to be a “nine days’ wonder,” they are evidently determined that there shall be no cause of after complaint. A good deal of interest was abroad concerning the dog which landed when the ship struck, and more than a few of the members of the S. P. C. A., which is very strong in Whitby, have tried to befriend the animal. To the general disappointment, however, it was not to be found; it seems to have disappeared entirely from the town. It may be that it was frightened and made its way on to the moors, where it is still hiding in terror. There are some who look with dread on such a possibility, lest later on it should in itself become a danger, for it is evidently a fierce brute. Early this morning a large dog, a half-bred mastiff belonging to a coal merchant close to Tate Hill Pier, was found dead in the roadway opposite to its master’s yard. It had been fighting, and manifestly had had a savage opponent, for its throat was torn away, and its belly was slit open as if with a savage claw.
    There, then, are some disjointed facts: Mina awaits Jonathon, who was imprisoned in Dracula's unholy castle, there is a patient obsessed with consuming blood, a shipwreck on which the only survivor is a dangerous dog, and then suddenly Lucy, who suffers with sleep-walking, becomes dangerously ill - "She was ghastly, chalkily pale; the red seemed to have gone even from her lips and gums, and the bones of her face stood out prominently; her breathing was painful to see or hear". Abraham Van Helsing, Dr. Seward's teacher, is summoned to help. 

    The Vampire by Philip Burne Jones (1897).
    A lot of loose ends, then, and slowly but surely they are tied together by these characters - Jonathan, Mina, Lucy, Arthur, Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, and others. And this is Dracula - a Gothic Horror Mystery nearly 120 years old but somehow feeling much older and yet timeless.

    Part of this is because the vampire 'phenomenon' is old (for example The Vampire, 1748, by Heinrich August Ossenfelder, Lenore, 1773, by Gottfried August Bürger, and  The Bride of Corinth, 1797, by Goethe) and still carries on (Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, 2005–2008, and the television programme Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 1997 - 2003 created by Joss Whedon are two of the most obvious). Stoker's Dracula is essentially in the middle of a long tradition, yet it is probably the best. His vampire, Dracula, was based on Vlad the Impaler (Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia - Drăculea, to use his patronymic), and in a sense Dracula is also about the clash of modernity represented by 19th Century London, only a few years away from the 20th Century, and the ancient superstitions inspired by Vlad III and represented by Dracula and his castle. We also learn about the stereotypes of Victorian women - the pure and the fallen, and how the fallen are punished, yet salvation and redemption remains possible through Christ. It is outstanding, and a most enjoyable read - still capable of at least unsettling the reader.

    To finish, no illustrations but some gifs I can't resist sharing from Dracula, 1931 directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi.

    Further Reading

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