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Author Archive: "Lauren Owen"

The Other Vampire

It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches — a hideous creature with long fingernails and eyes that shine like polished tin. The girl wakes up, but is too terrified to flee as the vampire breaks the glass and enters the bedroom. He seizes his victim by the hair, drags her onto the bed, and bites her neck.

The story is probably familiar, but the vampire may not be: this is a summary of the opening chapter of Varney, the Vampyre. Written between 1845 and 1847, probably by James Malcolm Rymer, Varney is a forgotten work from the "penny dreadful" genre. A far cry from Dickens and Eliot, the penny dreadfuls were racy, sensational serials, aimed at an urban, working-class audience with limited time to spend reading. They provoked suspicion from Victorian moral authorities, who feared that the tales of crime, violence, highway robbery, and cannibalism might incite class warfare, or encourage the young in antisocial behavior.

Vampires had entered English literature at the beginning of the ...

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