ady Detectives. There were a significant number of detectives in Victorian-era fiction who were women; many more so than one would think. For the most part I have not given them separate entries. I've lumped them together like this for a couple of reasons. For one, I haven't read some of the stories in question; as with many of the other entries here, the stories and books were written so long ago that only one or two libraries own them, and those libraries won't lend the books out (not that I can blame them--the books are in some cases 130 years old, or more). Another reason is that the lady detectives simply aren't that distinctive. Each entry on this list has an intrinsic worth, I think; at least, I read them and am interested in them. But as with many of the male detective characters (see their entry above) many of the lady detectives are just not that interesting:
Denver Doll was created by Edward L. Wheeler and appeared in Beadle's Half-Dime Library in 1882 and 1883. She is, alternatively, "the Detective Queen" and "the handsomest girl sport in the West." Somewhere in her late teens or early twenties, she is a very pretty frontier detective, the former leader of the "Red Shirts" and the current chief of a trio including Yakie Strauss (the Dutchman) and Little Bill Bethel. She's a crack shot and a shark at poker.ady Jaguar. Lady Jaguar was created by William H. Manning and appeared in "Lady Jaguar, the Robber Queen. A Romance of the Black Chaparral" (Beadle’s New York Dime Library v14 n176 8 March 1882). Manning (1852-1929) was a Bostonian author of frontier stories and dime novels.
L______ was created by William Burton, an author I've found little about, and appeared in "The Secret Cell," a two-part story which appeared in Gentleman's Magazine in 1837. "L_______" (her name is never given) is actually the wife of a professional detective, but the detective is having no luck looking for a kidnaped girl, and so he asks for his wife's help. (Rather progressive of him, especially for 1837, eh?) She's "a shrewd woman, and well adapted for the business," and so she goes into the neighborhood of the girl's family and begins chatting away with the residents. In this way she gains the confidence of a female member of the kidnapers, and gets the information that her husband needed. For this her husband splits his pay with her--making L_______, in the words of one critic, "the earliest example of the woman detective who is engaged by others to investigate crime in a professional capacity."
Madelyn Mack was the creation of Hugh C. Weir and appeared in one story collection, Miss Madelyn Mack, Detective (1914). Weir (1884-1934) was an American journalist who wrote a number of other books, but no further detective novels; Miss Madelyn Mack was actually filmed, in 1914, but as far as I know no prints survive. Mack obviously appeared after the Victorian period, but there's something Victorian about her, and in some respects she is a distaff version of Holmes. She has a Watson, Nora, a reporter, who she treats as Holmes did Watson. She is crisp and intelligent, does not seem given to many social pleasantries, and has a similar lack of respect for the authorities and those not up to her level of intelligence. She travels much more widely than Holmes did, however, and is more vivacious and less self-absorbed.
"Lady Jaguar" is a dime novel with a surprisingly complicated (for dime novels, of course) plot. There are a few minor mysteries and plot twists, with the final revelations not appearing until the end. The backstory is that Doña Luisa Villena, a Mexican noblewoman, is drugged and forced to marry Don Manuel, the leader of a local group of bandits. The marriage is a fraud, the “priest” one of the bandits dressed up in ministerial garb, but Doña Luisa does not know that, and so she flees in shame and anger when she recovers from the drugs. (The marriage is never consummated, but just the idea of the marriage is bad enough). She goes for help to her beloved uncle, Juan Villena. Juan already bears a grudge against Don Manuel, because through his schemes Juan’s brother Leon, Doña Luisa’s father, was killed. So Doña Luisa and Juan become “Lady Jaguar” and “El Alacran” (“the scorpion”), the leaders of a gang of bandits whose headquarters is the tall, thick, unbroken mesquite that makes up the “black chaparral” of northern Mexico. Together they prey on travelers while searching for the means by which they can avenge themselves on Don Manuel. Juan maintains his alternate identity as a wealthy Mexican landowner, and a local crazy woman, Barbara, moves herself into Juan’s villa and claims to be Doña Luisa, which Juan tolerates–it’s good for the real Doña Luisa’s alibi.
Into this stumbles Edgar Lewis, a boring Biff Thunkchest heroic type who is traveling around Mexico when he is robbed by El Alacran’s bandits. The usual hijinks ensue, including a mistaken identity love triangle (Edgar mistakes Barbara for Doña Luisa and falls in love with her, while Doña Luisa falls for Edgar) and the appearance of someone claiming to be the Wandering Jew (and Sue’s novel is mentioned by name–see the http://www.oocities.com/jessnevins/vicf.html Father Rodin entry for more on this). All is made well in the end; Juan finds evidence that Doña Luisa’s marriage wasn’t legal, Edgar and Doña Luisa marry, and Juan avenges himself on Don Manuel.
Lady Jaguar is the “queen” of the bandit gang and is supposedly the most merciless of the group. She turns out to be rather nice, “a friend to all in trouble,” just as El Alacran is really just a gentleman bandit. Her name comes from her spotted mustang, which is similar to the jaguar in color. She is, naturally, beautiful, with long blonde hair. She is “clad in a plain but becoming costume, while a mask of unusual size (conceals) her whole face except the dark, handsome eyes.” She’s a good rider and not a bad shot.
ady Kate. Lady Kate was created by “Old Sleuth” and appeared in “Lady Kate, The Dashing Female Detective” in Old Sleuth Library v2 n30 (1 September 1886). “Old Sleuth” was one of the pen names of Harlan P. Halsey, the creator of Old Sleuth, but there’s no direct evidence that Halsey created Lady Kate, so we’ll just mark her creator down as “unknown.”
“Lady Kate” is actually Kate Edwards, a female detective. She is not a private detective, instead being the star sleuth of the bureau which employs her. Her history is straight from the dime novels, almost stereotypically so:
Kate Edwards was a waif.But her work background isn’t entirely clean:
She had been placed by her parents, whoever they were, in a charitable institution. She had run away from the place at an early age, and ever since had knocked around New York.
She had grown up handsome, ay, wondrously handsome, was, indeed, a beautiful woman, and she had managed to educate herself, and had picked up many ladylike accomplishments, although she had graduated from a crossing sweeper to a newspaper vender, from the latter to a telegraph operator, and from the latter position she had gone into the Custom-house.
She was a self-made girl. She had improved every opportunity.
The money she made as a newsgirl she had expended to fit herself to become a telegraph operator, and the money earned in her latter position had been expended in the acquirement of other accomplishments.
She was a smart, brave, enterprising, beautiful, virtuous young woman, born with great natural talent and wonderful energy of character.
The moment she had received an appointment as a detective she had applied herself to become fully fitted for the position, and had become in her way, an expert.
She had once been employed in the New York Custom-house as a lady inspector, or secret-service officer.As a detective she is a distaff version of Nick Carter and Old Sleuth. She has all their skills, being able to deduce clues about people based on the clay on their boots as well as disguise herself as everything from a beggar to a male sailor to a Frenchman. She is physically strong, able to hold her own in a fight, even with men, and is a “magnificent female athlete” who is “an expert in the use of weapons.” She is multi-lingual, a quick thinker, and “cool and courageous during critical moments.” But she’s also a woman, and when her quarry, Arthur Everdell, turns out to have hidden depths—he is, in fact, relatively close to a Gothic Hero-Villain (see the Melmoth the Wanderer entry for more on that)—she falls in love with him and after great effort succeeds in making him repent his evil ways. She, unfortunately, retires from the detective trade so that she can marry him.
It had been her duty to examine females suspected as lady smugglers, and the government officials had utilized her talents upon many occasions in particular cases.
She had lost her position because of sympathy displayed toward an accused lady, and she had left the service under a cloud.
Financially, the discharge was an advantage, as almost immediately she was employed by a detective bureau, where she made herself remarkably useful….
Her experience in the Custom-house had been of great service to her, and since she had become a regular detective she had enjoyed a remarkable experience. She had been associated in cases with some of the most noted detective experts. Upon one occasion she had been employed as an aid to no less a man than Old Sleuth himself, the most successful detective on complicated cases who ever shadowed a hidden crime.
“Lady Kate, the Dashing Female Detective” is quite typical in narration and content; with the exception of the figure of Kate herself, there’s nothing unusual about it. But as far as dime novel female detectives go—a short list, as you might imagine—Kate is distinctive.
ampooner, Mr. Mr. Lampooner was created by Charles Gleig and appeared in When All Men Starve. Showing how England Hazarded her naval supremacy, and the horrors which followed her interruption of her food supply (1897). Gleig (1862-?) was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and a writer of short stories and novels.
When All Men Starve is actually a dystopic future war novel, a genre I've generally avoided for this site. But When All Men Starve is also a story about anarchism, which is a genre I'm interested, so I'm going to include it here. The trouble begins in the "summer of 18--," following the Jubilee. There's a native uprising in Egypt and then in the Transvaal, which successfully revolts. British vanity, political incompetence, and lack of foresight, especially regarding the status of its defenses, doom the country, and following a war with Germany, France, Russia and the Transvaal the British Navy is beaten, its trade routes closed, food made very scarce in the Home Islands and the colonies placed in great danger. Crime becomes rampant and the Army, police, government, capitalists, aristocrats and M.P.s flee the country, leaving it in the hands of the anarchists. When a group of 6000 policemen are sent against the anarchists they are massacred, most "hacked to death." Eventually the leaders of the anarchists lead the "excited and hungry" mob in an uprising against the middle and upper classes, and When All Men Starve ends with the mob in "its mad dance of anarchy, reveling in the downfall of the Respectabilities."
When All Men Starve is nakedly didactic in intent, preaching the need for military awareness, the need for a strong army and navy, and for the freedom from reliance on foreign investment and grain. Despite Gleig's open lecturing, however, When All Men Starve is actually entertaining and a quick read. Gleig gave it a scholarly gloss, making use of footnotes and providing lengthy, detailed comparison of the numbers of ships of the line in the British and foreign navies. Gleig put his naval experience to good use, devoting a great deal of attention to naval matters such as ship maneuvers, tactics, battles, and so on. Gleig used real people as secondary characters, changing only their names but leaving their positions and personalities, so that Sir Compton Domville becomes "Sir Dompton Colville," Sir John Hopkins becomes "Sir John Skipworth," Lord Charles Beresford becomes "Lord Harry Gasington," and so on. Interestingly, Gleig did not use When All Men Starve has a platform from which to bash the lower classes, but rather used the novel to support the working man and decry poverty (Gleig is complimentary of "Alfred Norrison and his 'Madge of the Gutter'--aka Arthur Morrison and Child of the Jago) as well as MPs, capitalists, aristocrats and Society.
Mr. Lampooner is really only a secondary character in the novel, and is not the leader of the anarchists. That is Robert Margrave, a "gentleman of the rank of major by untiring application of duty." Margrave was a patriot until he committed "the unpardonable social sin" of marrying a "woman of the people." This rendered Margrave outcast in the eyes of Society, and so, embittered, he became "a revolutionary of the most pronounced type." Mr. Lampooner is a Member of Parliament, a "cultured gentleman, a student of many languages, an able journalist, and a man of aristocratic descent." He's rather sardonic about the revolt, and once his Cassandra-like warnings are ignored he simply smiles sardonically as the revolution proceeds and eventually welcomes the anarchists into Parliament.
aroche, Louis. Louis Laroche was created by Amelia B. Edwards and appeared in “How The Third Floor Knew The Potteries” (All The Year Round, 1863). Edwards was the creator of The Phantom Coach, and I have some information on her there. “How The Third Floor Knew The Potteries” is an interesting story, half-ghost story and half-mystery. In a pottery factory George Barnard, a sober Wesleyan in his late 30s, is the foreman, and the man responsible for helping the narrator, a much younger man, get a job at the factory. He’s well-liked and well-respected by the workers. He’s also in love with Leah, a twenty-year-old who is as serious as George, and they are quite happy together. Until Louis Laroche, a French painter on porcelain known for his works at Sèvres, is hired by the factory owner. Laroche is neat and prim and young-looking, and has a superior attitude, and George doesn’t like him at all. Neither do children or George’s dog Captain. But Leah is taken with him, and believes his promises about taking her to Paris. One night George sends the narrator home early, saying he has work to do. In the morning George is nowhere to be found, and has not done his work. Days go by and George is not found, but the narrator begins seeing George, or something that looks like George, walking through the factory, and then the narrator sees George walk into a furnace, glow, become transparent, and disappear. Eventually the factory owner has the furnace emptied and its ashes examined, and the remains of animal matter is found in them. Laroche is suspected, but no evidence is found to convict him, and he leaves, without Leah.
I actually liked “How The Third Floor Knew The Potteries” better than “The Phantom Coach,” although I’m apparently in the minority on that. Both have different and interesting settings for the ghost story, which is something Edwards does well, and interestingly–no haunted houses for Edwards, her spooks are in different and new locations. But the factory location of “Potteries” is less exotic than the snow-covered landscape of “The Phantom Coach,” and so the atmosphere of the story is more grounded in real life, which makes the appearance of the ghost more effective. More entertaining, however, and a better authorial choice on Edwards’ part, is the lack of closure and resolution in “Potteries.” We think we know who killed George, but are never sure. We don’t know why his ghost appeared to the narrator. And no answer is given as to the peculiarities of Laroche, more on which in a moment. There’s no narrative closure, no punishment of Laroche, if he is indeed guilty; George is murdered, his ghost appears, and that’s it. That works better, at least in Edwards’ hands, than a forced ending in which wrongs are righted.
Laroche is “small, dark, and well made; had little white soft hands and a silky moustache; and spoke English nearly as well as I do. None of us liked him...we couldn’t help seeing that he thought himself ever so much better than the rest of us.” But beyond that, he strikes George as wrong. His young look, George thinks, isn’t natural: he has wrinkles under his eyes and hard lines about his mouth. He’s slight of stature but is far stronger than any man should be. Whenever George is near him he feels “as if my eyes saw clearer, and my eyes heard keener, than at other times. Maybe it’s presumption, but I sometimes feel as if I had a call to guard myself and others against him.” And Captain growls furiously whenever Laroche walks by, and would attack him if he was not chained. (It may be that Edwards intended Laroche to be a vampire).
arue. Larue was created by Ambrose Bierce and appeared in “The Death of Halpin Frayser,” which first appeared in The Wave on 19 December 1891. Bierce is the author of “The Damned Thing” as well as The Devil’s Dictionary and a number of other minor classics of American literature.
“The Death of Halpin Frayser” is a dark piece of horror quite lacking in a happy ending or anything resembling cheer. This isn’t a bad thing, of course. Horror needn’t have a happy ending. But so much of 19th century literature, even 19th century horror literature, had happy endings, and so when we read something like “The Death of Halpin Frayser” the grimness is surprising. (Perhaps it’s only surprising to me, who has spent months straight reading 19th century literature and so has had the happy-ending paradigm drilled into my critical consciousness. If I’d been reading a great deal of, say, Lovecraft I wouldn’t have been so surprised by the ending of “Halpin Frayser.” But coming to this story from Lorna Doone, well, you can imagine the jolt. It’s a jolt you feel often in reading Bierce’s work, in which, all too often, death is inescapable).
Halpin Frayser is the child of a well-to-do Tennessee family, ignored by his absentee father (“Frayser pere was what no Southern man of means is not - a politician. His country, or rather his section and State, made demands upon his time and attention so exacting that to those of his family he was compelled to turn an ear partly deafened by the thunder of the political captains and the shouting, his own included”) and beloved and cosseted by his mother. Halpin and his mother are close, both when he is a child and when he grows up, and “by strangers observing their manners were not infrequently mistaken for lovers.”
Halpin decides to go to San Francisco, and while there is shanghaied on to the crew of a ship, and then cast ashore on a Pacific Island, so that he does not return to San Francisco until six years have passed. Halpin is living in St. Helena and waiting for news from home when he goes hunting in the hills west of Napa Valley. He falls asleep and has a fearsome dream of something awful hunting him and then strangling him. He awakes to find his mother’s corpse about to strangle him.
Some time later two detectives, looking for “Branscom,” a wife-murderer, find Halpin’s body, lying next to a headstone reading “Catherine Larue.” One of the detectives notes that “Larue” was the real name of Branscom, and that Larue’s murdered wife had been named “Frayser.” And then:
There came to them out of the fog - seemingly from a great distance - the sound of a laugh, a low, deliberate, soulless laugh which had no more of joy than that of a hyena night-prowling in the desert; a laugh that rose by slow gradation, louder and louder, clearer, more distinct and terrible, until it seemed barely outside the narrow circle of their vision; a laugh so unnatural, so unhuman, so devilish, that it filled those hardy man-hunters with a sense of dread unspeakable! They did not move their weapons nor think of them; the menace of that horrible sound was not of the kind to be met with arms. As it had grown out of silence, so now it died away; from a culminating shout which had seemed almost in their ears, it drew itself away into the distance until its failing notes, joyous and mechanical to the last, sank to silence at a measureless remove.Bierce is a very interesting and quite underrated storyteller. He’s got a very naturalistic style, with both characters and description solidly grounded in reality. It makes the creepy dreams and the scary laugh that much more effective, when they come. The tone of the story is, typical for Bierce, sardonic. And despite the seeming long-windedness of the above passage, the story is actually told rather concisely; the descriptive passages are all necessary for delivering the creeps. As with “The Damned Thing,” “The Death of Halpin Frayser” is exactly as long as it needs to be to produce the desired effects. One can’t exactly call Bierce neglected, but he doesn’t get nearly the attention that Lovecraft does despite Bierce’s clearly superior skill.
Larue is...well, it really depends on how you interpret “The Death of Halpin Frayser.” Larue may simply be a very clever man who cut his wife’s throat and then returned to her grave site to evade the policemen looking for him. In that interpretation the mother-zombie is playing out some Oedipal/incestuous theme. Looked at another way, Larue is a very powerful, very nasty being who creates nightmares and zombies and laughs at those who pursue him.
Whatever your interpretation of the story, “The Death of Halpin Frayser” is one you won’t soon forget.
Death of Halpin Frayser”
The e-text of the story.
aunay, Ernanton de. Ernanton de Launay was created by Robert Neilson Stephens and appeared in An Enemy to the King (1897). Stephens (1867-1906) was the creator of Captain Ravenshaw and Dick Wetheral, and you can find somewhat more about him in the latter entry. An Enemy to the King is better than The Road to Paris but not as good as Captain Ravenshaw; it’s flawed but enjoyable.
An Enemy to the King is written in the Weyman mode, but Stephens, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere in this site, isn’t Weyman. Few were, but Stephens makes some mistakes in An Enemy to the King which Weyman never would. (I hate to dwell on the negatives, since An Enemy to the King has several virtues, but it also has a few moments which made me want to throw the book across the room).
Ernanton de Launay is a young nobleman, heir to a country estate, in France in 1578. He’s just attained his majority and is an orphan, and so is eager to leave his home and venture to Paris. He’s a Huguenot, but is eager to serve the King, and even more eager to fall in love. But life is more complicated than dreams, and his life goes awry quickly. While on the road to Paris his temper gets the better of him and he quarrels with a stranger about the Duke de Guise, who Ernanton (like all Huguenots) holds chiefly responsible for the St. Bartholomew’s Night massacre. Ernanton arrives in Paris, the stranger being too mature to allow himself to be drawn into a duel with a young hothead like Ernanton, but once there stumbles on to a duel between M. de Quelus, chief of the King’s chamberlains, and M. Bussy d’Amboise, the bullying swordsman of the Duke of Anjou, King Henri’s discontented brother. Quelus is at a disadvantage, which Bussy does not know about but which Ernanton does, and so Ernanton intervenes on Quelus’ behalf, proving himself as good a swordsman as the heralded Bussy. Ernanton comports himself honorably in the duel, gaining Bussy’s respect and Quelus’ gratitude. Quelus rewards Ernanton by getting him an appointment with the King the next day. In the Louvre he meets the King, meets De Rilly, an acquaintance from home, and gets from De Rilly a recap of the political situation with the King and his brother, and meets and is smitten with Isa d’Arency, a mysterious, coquettish woman who is a handmaiden to the Queen.
Ernanton joins the King’s Guards and gets on with his life, having minor adventures, including saving Bussy from another ambush, and pursuing Isa. She leads him on, subtly encouraging him without giving him any concrete reasons to hope. When he is properly worked up, she asks him to kill Phillippe de Noyard, one of the followers of the Duke de Guise (and so the enemy of the Queen, d’Arency’s mistress). He refuses, but through a clever (and dastardly) ruse she succeeds in getting him to (accidentally) mortally wound Noyard in a duel. Since the King has forbidden dueling, Ernanton is in trouble, and so runs to De Rilly for help. Ernanton sends a message to De Quelus informing him of what happened, but the Duke de Guise gets to the King before De Quelus can, and the Queen, not wanting the King to blame her for Noyard’s death, urges that Ernanton be made an example of. De Quelus, seeing how things were, goes along, telling the King that he will have Ernanton punished.
But Marguerite, the daughter of the Queen and the wife of Henri of Anjou, finds out what has happened and hides Ernanton. She asks him to deliver some letters to Henri, and so Ernanton, now furious with the King, the Queen, and most especially with his treacherous patron De Quelus, agrees, and sets off to become Henri of Anjou’s man. The King’s men chase him. While being chased he makes a friend, the brawling Huguenot Blaise Tripaut. Ernanton only barely reaches Nerac and delivers the letters into Henri’s hands. Ernanton enlists with Henri. Ernanton goes on a mission for Henri to find Huguenots in the lands of the King, who is allowing the Huguenots to be persecuted for his own political advantage. While on this mission, at which he proves to be so successful as to earn the particular enmity of the King, Ernanton meets the woman who is to be the love of his life, Julia. Their courtship does not run smooth, however. She doesn’t tell him that she’s been hired by the Governor of the province to capture him (he’s made himself infamous with his missions to recover Huguenots and get them safely into the territory of the Duke of Anjou). He, for his part, is so smitten with her and his feelings for her that he blinds himself to her feelings for her, her guilt, and the way in which she leads him to betray everything to her, including the location of his crew’s hideout. All ends well, however, for before it’s too late she foreswears her mission, he accepts her apology (though not after a great deal of breast-beating and hair-rending) (she did it to save her imprisoned father), and they ride off to Henri of Anjou’s territory and live happily ever after.
As I said, An Enemy to the King has some flaws. First, the good. It's colorful, full of incident and historical detail. The story entertains even if it does not grip. There is some irony and even occasional wit in the narration, and if humor is mostly lacking in the novel it won’t be greatly missed by the reader. Stephens does a good job of providing, in not too obtrusive a fashion, information and historical context, so that those of us not up on French history circa 1578 are not too lost. Stephens’ characters are often at least two dimensional, so that even the villains are more than simply villainous–they have motivations of their own–and the good guys can be interesting beyond being simply good. And Stephens’ France, if not shown with the depth of a Kipling or Hugo, at least has the feel of reality.
But Stephens, in An Enemy to the King, steps wrong too many times. Stephens clearly meant to tell the story of several important years in Ernanton’s young life, but in compressing eight years into 450 pages’ he elides some events and glosses over others. This is understandable and necessary, but Stephens does this in a fitful manner, so that the narrative is full of stops and starts. Too, Stephens establishes interesting characters–the foppish and treacherous De Quelus and the pugnacious and honorable Bussy, to take two–and then abruptly shuffles them off-stage and off-handedly disposes of them. Such things happen in real life, but an author should be skillful enough to make transitions in fiction feel more gradual than they can be in real life, and Stephens is not.
Stephens also employs too much verbiage at too many points, so that the dialogue has the feel of dancing around the point. There are some hard to credit plot coincidences, such as when Ernanton just happens to find the inn where the Governor is staying and just happens to be left alone long enough to overhear the governor explaining his entire scheme. Several times Stephens explains his plot through his characters’ monologues, and does so in a particularly obvious and clumsy way. Some of his characters act quite stupidly. And, worst of all, Ernanton’s utter inability to see that Julie is the spy is exasperating. The reader reaches this conclusion over a hundred pages before Ernanton does. His denial over her betrayal begins as understandable, given his character, but soon becomes tedious, and his belaboring of his emotions both before and after her betrayal is revealed is tiresome.
Ernanton de Launay is very young, even for twenty one. He’s strong in his body, quick and a very good swordsman, but his personality is immature, and An Enemy to the King is about his learning some of the lessons of life. He is far too eager to fall in love for his own good, which leads him into the unpleasantness with Mlle. d’Arency. He’s polite, even to his enemies, and a dab hand at honest praise/flattery. He’s honorable but not ridiculously touchy about it. He’s generally well-meaning but quite naive; he’s clever, but incapable (to the point of self-delusion) of seeing truths which he finds uncomfortable.
An Enemy to the King is a better than average and usually entertaining swashbuckler with too many flaws to be ranked particularly high. If you’re looking for good Robert Neilson Stephens, seek out Captain Ravenshaw instead.
avarède. Lavarede was created by Paul d'Ivoi and appeared in Cinq Sous de Lavarède (The Five Pennies of Lavarède, 1894) and Cousin de Lavarède (Lavarede's Cousin, 1897). d'Ivoi (1856-1915) was one of a number of French imitators of Jules Verne, who, we should remember, was taken much more seriously in France, and was much more successful, than he was and is in England and America. d'Ivoi was the most commercially successful and influential of the Verne imitators, with his 21-volume Les Voyages Excentriques series being a best-selling take-off on Verne's voyages extraordinaires. d'Ivoi, under the pseudonym of "Paul Deleutre," published a large number of novels, and I'd love to be able to provide more information on them, but, alas, as usual I am restricted by language and access as to the amount of information I can give. d'Ivoi created Dr. Mystery and Miss Mousqueterr, among a number of other characters.
Lavarède is a young man who in his first appearance goes on a trip around the world with only five sous in his pocket. (Yes, the plot is quite similar to Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. As I said, he's a Verne imitator). In his second appearance he flies to the North Pole in an aircraft with movable wings, parachutes, a photo-telephone, and compressed air guns; at the North Pole he finds the records of previous lost civilizations, including a group of Romans blown far off course.
ecoq, Monsieur. Monsieur Lecoq was created by Emile Gaboriau and appeared in six novels: L’Affaire Lerouge (The Lerouge Affair, serialized in the newspaper Le Pays in 1863 and then published as a novel in 1866), Le Crime d’Orcival (The Orcival Crime, 1867), Le Dossier No. 133 (File 113, 1867), Les Esclaves de Paris (The Slaves of Paris, 1867), and Monsieur Lecoq (1869). Lecoq also appeared in La Vieillesse de Monsieur Lecoq (Mr. Lecoq’s Old Age, 1878), by Fortuné de Boisgobey. Gaboriau (1835-1873) was a French novelist and journalist. He wrote widely, but his historical romances are now viewed as second rate and his journalism is unread and mostly unavailable today. But Gaboriau’s place in literary history is secure for his mysteries and for Monsieur Lecoq; Gaboriau is seen as one of the creators of the modern mystery novel.
As I hope I’ve shown on this site, the origins of the mystery genre are considerably more fluid and ambiguous than they are usually described in the reference books. I’m not including book-length studies like Howard Haycraft’s famous Murder for Pleasure and Julian Symons’ (not quite so famous but superior) Bloody Murder in that charge, because they have the time and the space and the knowledge to evaluate the early years of the genre as they deserve. (Which is not to say that I agree with all or most of their judgments, but rather that they, at least, acknowledge that the situation isn’t cut and dried). But recent reference works like Herbert’s The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing and Murphy’s Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery slight the complexities of the mystery writing in the first half of the 19th century in favor of received (and incomplete/inaccurate) wisdom.
Poe is generally considered to be the father of the modern mystery, but as mentioned in the C. Auguste Dupin entry there were many mystery stories before Poe wrote the first Dupin story. What Poe did was essentialize the mystery short story, synthesizing it out of elements already existing in other types of fiction. Gaboriau is in something of the same position. There were novels before Gaboriau in which a mystery was solved and was at the center of the plot. By some definitions the Gothics are mysteries, and many novels of domestic realism, like Susan Hopley, certainly qualify as mysteries. And Gaboriau wrote The Lerouge Affair and The Orcival Crime years after Dickens wrote Bleak House, with its policeman Inspector Bucket. So it’s not entirely accurate to call Gaboriau the creator of the modern detective novel. He was working within a developing continuum. But he did contribute to that development, even if he cannot be counted as a completely original author.
Gaboriau’s most important contribution was to shift the focus of his novels on to the mystery, rather than on the social aspects of the characters. This idea, of a story focused on detection rather than on characters and relationships, was not Gaboriau’s invention, of course. It was Poe’s. Gaboriau was consciously imitating Poe; Baudelaire’s translation of Poe had first appeared in 1856, and Gaboriau had been inspired by it. And Poe was only one of the sources Gaboriau drew on for the Lecoq mysteries. The roman-feuilletonists of the 1840s and 1850s, the casebook mysteries of the 1850s and 1860s, and the sensation novels of the 1860s all provided different elements for Gaboriau to use. The figure of Lecoq was inspired by Vidocq (see the Dupin entry for more on him) and Balzac’s Monsieur Vautrin. So neither Gaboriau’s approach, his novels, nor his main detective character can be described as wholly original to him. Gaboriau is a less original writer than Poe.
But using antecedents as a way to deny an author credit for his work is the literary equivalent of a cheap shot. What should be considered is what Gaboriau did that was new and different.
Gaboriau drew on Poe and on other genres for elements in his work. But Gaboriau made use of elements which Poe never did. Gaboriau made his mysteries novel length, rather than short stories. This seems a simple thing, now, but at the time it was quite a novelty. Susan Hopley and Bleak House and Night & Morning (see the M. Favart entry) and all the other proto-mystery novels which preceded The Lerouge Affair contain mysteries and detecting characters, but they were not written by their authors as mysteries. Crowe and Dickens and Bulwer-Lytton and all the others did not have the idea of a novel-length mystery when they began writing their novels. Gaboriau did. Similarly, Crowe et al wrote novels about the web of relations between the victims of crime, the suspects in the crime, and the perpetrators of the crime, novels in which popular issues were highlighted and love stories were played out. Gaboriau made the focus of his work the detective, the crime, the criminal, and the solving of the crime. And Gaboriau showed how this could be done at novel-length, rather than in a story, drawing out the details of the investigation and showing them over the length of the novel, rather than compressed into the space of a short story.
The concept of the Lecoq stories was of a problem (the crime) which could be solved through deduction, observation, and analysis, and although Gaboriau does not play fair in the way that modern readers have become accustomed to–not all of the clues are available to the reader, so that the reader cannot always anticipate the solution to the crime and the identity of the guilty party–this concept, which Gaboriau took in imitation of Poe, was different from Crowe, Dickens, Bulwer-Lytton, and Gaboriau’s predecessors. Gaboriau emphasized the detection aspect of the plot rather than the puzzle, unlike later “puzzle plot” authors. Too, Lecoq’s enemies took precautions, attempting to mislead Lecoq with false clues which pointed at innocents as the perpetrators, so the Lecoq stories became duels between Lecoq and his enemies, much as Marian Halcombe and Walter Hartright dueled with Count Fosco.
The Lecoq mysteries are in many ways police procedurals, realistic and accurate portrayals of how police work is actually done. The Lecoq mysteries have been described as the first police procedurals, but this isn’t entirely true. The casebook detectives, from Waters to Andrew Forrester, Jr., were practicing protoypical versions of police procedural detection. But the Lecoq mysteries had the highest profile to that date of any of the police procedurals, and presented more detail than their predecessors as well as de-emphasizing the social background of the detective in favor of a greater emphasis on detection and methods. The realism of the Lecoq mysteries, the fact that the crimes (if not Lecoq himself) could easily be committed in real life, was influential on other French mystery writers for several decades.
Gaboriau’s use of a map in Monsieur Lecoq was the first use of multimedia in a mystery, something which would later become widespread. Anna Katherine Green, in her Ebenezer Gryce novels, made great use of this. Green was in fact greatly influenced by Gaboriau, copying his police procedural approach, the melodramatic family tragedy elements, and the emphasis on detection over the puzzle of the crime.
Green was not the only author influenced by Gaboriau. Arthur Conan Doyle was, and the character of Lecoq was an influence on Sherlock Holmes. The Great Detective archetype which Holmes did so much to establish began long before Holmes. As mentioned in the Dupin entry, Doyle modeled Holmes on Dupin. But Doyle had other models for Holmes than just Dupin, including Eugène François Vidocq and Maximilien Heller. More than those two, however, Doyle took aspects of Lecoq for Doyle, and repaid Gaboriau in the same way that he repaid Poe: by having Holmes (in “A Study in Scarlet”) mock the character he was modeled on:
“Have you read Gaboriau’s works?” I asked. “Does Lecoq come up to your idea of a detective?”This was Doyle’s idea of a joke; he actually was a great fan of Gaboriau and Lecoq. Doyle took from Gaboriau the ability of Tabaret and Lecoq to look at a crime scene and make detailed and accurate deductions based on brief observations; as one character says of Tabaret, “He invents a story that fits the situation exactly. He claims to be able to reconstruct all the scenes of a murder starting with a single fact, like the expert who is able to reconstruct lost animals using a single bone.” Like Sherlock Holmes, Lecoq has an elderly mentor (Tabaret) who helps him solve cases without leaving his lodgings. As well, there are similarities in scenes in Monsieur Lecoq and “A Study in Scarlet.”
Sherlock Holmes sniffed sardonically. “Lecoq was a miserable bungler,” he said, in an angry voice; “he had only one thing to recommend him, and that was his energy. That book made me positively ill. The question was how to identify an unknown prisoner. I could have done it in twenty-four hours. Lecoq took six months or so. It might be made a textbook for detectives to teach them what to avoid.”
The Lecoq novels are in many ways are quite modern mysteries. About sex and murder and family scandal, they are well-plotted and thanks to Gaboriau's intensive research display a large amount of detail about crime and the legal/police procedures of the French during that era. Gaboriau spends a significant amount of time following Lecoq and showing his methods; unlike later Gaboriau is also a distinctive stylist whose use of the French language is quite remarkable; he has not, regrettably, been well served by his translators.
Of course, Gaboriau’s influences affected his style as well as his content. This is particularly true of the roman-feuilleton writers who influenced him, including Paul Féval (with his Les Mystères de Londres (1844) and his Les Habits Noirs), Eugene Sue (with his Les Mystères de Paris–see the Rodolphe entry), and Ponson du Terrail (with his Rocambole stories). So Gaboriau’s work has substantial elements of the roman-feuilleton and sensation fiction, including too great a reliance on coincidence and a surfeit of melodrama. For all that, though, they do make entertaining reading, even with the fustian and excessive verbiage.
The portrayal of Monsieur Lecoq changes over the course of the five novels. (Although minor characters from the five Lecoq novels appear in other Gaboriau novels, Lecoq himself does not). In The Lerouge Affair he plays a relatively minor role, as a young, energetic police detective who consults with the elderly Tabaret (a.k.a. “Pére Tireauclair,” or "Father Bringer of Light"), a retired pawnbroker’s clerk and wealthy bibliophile. Initially it is Tabaret who has the incredible skill at making precise and accurate deductions of crimes based on brief examinations of the evidence, but Lecoq gradually gains that skill and is called “Pére Tireauclair.” Lecoq is a determined and clever detective who is respected by certain influential judges but who must nonetheless struggle against the obtuseness of his colleagues. (Some of them idolize him, however). Lecoq is careful, logical, and a master of disguise who can “mould his features according to his will, as the sculptor moulds clay for modeling.” Better still, while Lecoq is vain and a self-promoter, he is an honest cop, something of a rarity in the French police forces of this era. This is, in fact, a big reason why the French reading public so took to Lecoq; they disliked the police on general principle in this time period, but the concept of an honest policeman quite appealed to them. At the time there was a perception, partially based on fact, that violence was on the increase and the slow professionalization of the French police force was not keeping pace, so that a fictionalized, heroic policeman was that much more appealing. The real police detectives were, in Gaboriau’s words, “loathed as intensely as if he were some monstrous horror, in lieu of generally being a most useful servant of society,” but a fictional police detective who was the antithesis of the common stereotype (who also upbraids and embarrasses police characters who were close to the stereotype) was uniquely appealing.
Lecoq is somewhat "typically French" in his eye for detail and in his extreme elation or depression over success or failure. Gaboriau had Lecoq use several methods of detection that have since become standards, including creating a plaster cast of a footprint, using a striking clock as evidence of the time a crime occurred, and testing to see whether a bed has been slept in. The texts themselves differ on whether Lecoq is a reformed criminal (ala Vidocq) or whether that notion was one with which Lecoq had misled Gaboriau.
For more information on Lecoq please consult Jean-Marc Lofficier's outstanding French Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Pulp Fiction and his Shadowmen.
Jean-Marc Lofficier’s excellent illustrated site on Lecoq.
ee, Nelson. On this page I used to have a entry on Nelson Lee. Lee, in case you are unaware of him, was the long-running rival to Sexton Blake. Lee was created by "Maxwell Scott," the pseudonym of Dr. John Stanforth, and first appeared in The Halfpenny Marvel #46, on 19 September 1894. Lee went on to appear in a number of story papers through the 1930s. As I gathered more and more information on Lee, however, and grew more and more interested in him, his entry here became too long. Like Blake, Lee appeared for several decades and accumulated a very complex and rich personal mythology and history, and it was all too much for just this page, which is, I'm sure you'll agree, quite long enough to begin with. So in the interest of saving space on this page as well as decreasing its download time, I've moved all the information on Nelson Lee, his friend and assistant Nipper, the boys and teachers of St. Frank's, and every other piece of information about Lee's exploits and enemies to the Nelson Lee Page. Lee might not sound interesting to you, but I think a visit to my site on him will convince you otherwise. Join me there, won't you?
eigh, Amyas. Amyas Leigh was created by the Rev. Charles Kingsley and appears in Westward Ho! (1855). The Reverend Kingsley (1819-1875) was one of the giants of Victorian literature, although he is (perhaps not surprisingly, given his writing style) little-remembered today, and that only for The Water Babies. (See the Tom entry under the Child Adventurers section). But in his time he did bestride the petty world of letters like a colossus. He wrote children's literature, poetry, historical romances, sermons, scientific treatises, religious tracts, and literary criticism. He was also a parish priest, a prominent social reformer and political activist, a professor of history at Cambridge, tutor to the future Edward VII, and chaplain to Queen Victoria herself. A notable personage of the age, was the Reverend Kingsley, and it's a sad commentary on the transience of mortal works that he's only remembered, if at all, for his children's novels, which he thought little of.
For its part Westward Ho! was not a giant of Victorian literature, but it was very influential on later British juvenile literature and the entire Boys' Own Paper school of authors and stories. It is the story of Amyas Leigh, a Devonshire lad who goes to sea in the 16th century to serve Queen Elizabeth. Leigh and his shipmates end up fighting and defeating the Spanish in the New World and the Old, taking part in various historical battles in the New World as well as the defeat of the Armada in 1588. Westward Ho! is an interesting book on a number of levels. The first 150 pages or so are filled with some of the most venomous Catholic- and Spanish-bashing I've ever encountered, as well as no small amount of bigotry towards those of African and Native American descent. Kingsley, a Protestant parson, was a proponent of what is now called "muscular Christianity," and he wrote with a didactic purpose: to stir up patriotic feelings on the part of the reading public (Kingsley wanted to rally the British to support the Crimean War) as well as to instill in the readers what Kingsley saw as the more courageous spirit of the Elizabethans. So the first 150 pages (the first quarter of the book) are not just rabid pro-British propaganda but anti-Catholic, anti-Jesuit, and anti-Spanish hatred and bigotry. (Honestly, folks, I came close on a number of occasions to throwing the book against the wall and deciding that it wasn't worth it). Too, Kingsley's knowledge of history was somewhat faulty, and so the historical recreations we get are flawed, if not entirely inaccurate. And Kingsley's ideology leads him to sacrificing historical accuracy in favor of jingo: Spanish cruelties are highlighted while English cruelties are downplayed; the English are portrayed in almost entirely positive terms ("pure conquering holy Aryan warriors" and all that rot) while the Spanish and the Catholics are portrayed in almost entirely negative terms; and, most damningly (at least for those of use who care about historical accuracy), the Elizabethans are shown to have the political attitudes of the Victorians, especially with regard to the slave trade--Kingsley's Elizabethans abhor it, while the real Elizabethans saw it as just another honorable trade. In judging Kingsley it must be remembered that he wrote at a time when reliable histories were hard to come by. But bigotry is bigotry, and the first quarter of Westward Ho! is full of it.
But after that first 150 pages something interesting happens. Kingsley settles down and doesn't let his agenda get in the way of telling a cracking good tale. The Catholic- and Spanish-bashing occasionally recurs, but most of the time Kingsley is more concerned with describing Amyas Leigh's exploits. It reads for all the world as if the storyteller in Kingsley, who had been cowed by Kingsley's preacher side at the start of the book, slowly won the battle and took over the writing of the story. After that first quarter Westward Ho! has enough shipboard combats and swordfights to satisfy any adventure-seeking young lad. For those of us who aren't young any longer, it has other interesting aspects. The book is, on the whole, anti-intellectual, but nearly everyone, even the roughest of Jolly Jack Tars, seems to have a thorough grounding in the Classics and can reel off long poetry quotes at the drop of a cap. There's a memorable witch who might well have been an early model for Terry Pratchett's Nanny Ogg. A number of historical figures make appearances, from Sir Philip Sydney to Edmund Spenser, and John Dee is name-dropped on several occasions. God sends messages to many of the characters in dreams, and the dreams always come true. Many of the characters are depicted as being too good to be true, but even they are given depth and shown to be flawed. (Well, except for Amyas' mother, who is too saintly to be believed). Kingsley's hatred for the Spanish is marked, but a few individual Spanish are shown as being honorable and even good people. And, finally, Kingsley throws some genuinely unexpected plot twists at the reader: main characters are killed unexpectedly or die at the hands of the Inquisition; the woman Amyas loves runs away with a Spanish don and (quite surprisingly to me) is shown to genuinely love him; the fat boy, though occasionally a figure to be mocked by Amyas and his friends, displays no small amount of nobility and courage and positively shames Amyas et al; and Amyas' pursuit of his arch-enemy ends with his enemy dying in a shipwreck, rather than at Amyas' hands, and with Amyas struck by lightning and blinded.
Finally, there's Amyas himself. In some respects he's a quite stereotypical action/adventure hero, being physically powerful, energetic, athletic, not too bright and distrustful of intellectuals, very brave, very loyal, a positive demon in a fight, devoid of imagination and gallant and respectful toward women. But Kingsley wasn't content to leave him there, and instead used him to teach a moral lesson, and in a surprising (to me) fashion. Amyas' enemy is, he thinks, responsible for the death of his lady-love and his brother, and Amyas places his own personal vengeance against this man above his responsibilities to his crew or his duty to Gloriana. As the years pass and Amyas' vengeance is increasingly delayed, Amyas' hate for his enemy grows until he becomes filled with it, and all other emotions are driven out. Even Amyas acknowledges that he is so filled with hate that he can feel no joy or love any other man. For this sin God punishes Amyas by taking his vengeance away (by having him die in a shipwreck rather than in personal combat) and blinding him. And then, even more unexpectedly, God sends Amyas a dream in which he meets the ghost of his enemy, and the two forgive each other and become friends. (Like I said, some interesting and surprising plot twists in Westward Ho!). Amyas ends the novel still blind and being cared for by his mother and a woman who loved him but who he refused to love because of her Spanish blood. (Of that he repents in the end).
All in all, Westward Ho! turned out to be a real page-turner, something I hadn't at all anticipated and which, had I been told about at page 100, would have surprised me no end. My advice is to skip ahead to Chapter VII, "The True and Tragical History of Mr. John Oxenham of Plymouth," and start reading from there. You'll be rewarded for it.
eon, Reginald St. Reginald St. Leon was created by William Godwin and appeared in St. Leon. A Tale of the Sixteenth Century (1799). Godwin (1756-1836) was a British novelist, political theorist, biographer, historian, and generalist; he taught many of the Romantics and was a leading figure in the British liberal movement of the late 18th and early 19th century. He’s best known for Caleb Williams (1794), one of the most important proto-detective novels. (I’m–still–torn on whether or not to read it for this site. It’s certainly relevant, and I suppose I have to, but Godwin’s style is off-putting; he’s about as bad as Bulwer-Lytton with few of B-L’s redeeming qualities).
St. Leon was Godwin’s attempt at writing a Gothic, although it is as much a historical novel as a Gothic. Set in Europe in the 16th century, St. Leon is about Reginald St. Leon, the child of a noble French family who has just returned from the Italian wars. He raises a family, but when he takes his son Charles to Paris to attend the university there, Reginald gives in to weakness and gambles away his son’s tuition and his own inheritance. Reginald and family move to Switzerland and begin life anew as farmers, but an earthquake wipes out their farm. They recover and start again, but then a poor stranger calling himself “Francesco Zampieri” appears and asks for sanctuary with them. Zampieri is grateful enough to Reginald that he offers to tell him a great secret if Reginald agrees to discuss it with no one, not even his wife Marguerite. Reginald eventually agrees to this, though not without qualms, and so the stranger, who wants nothing more than to die, tells Reginald the secret: how to make gold and how to make the elixir of life.
Unfortunately, Godwin’s central theme in St. Leon is that money does not bring anyone happiness, and so Reginald enjoys nothing but misery from the use of the two secrets. By not telling Marguerite about the source of his newfound wealth Reginald brings unhappiness into his marriage. The authorities are curious about where Reginald is getting his money from as well as the death of Zampieri, and so they throw Reginald into prison. Reginald buys his way out and flees with his family to Pisa, but their servant Hector tells his unfaithful lover about Reginald’s mysterious wealth, and this ruins the St. Leons’ reputation. The Pisans think that St. Leon is an alchemist and necromancer, and so his family become social outcasts. The Pisans eventually turn hostile and the St. Leons are forced to flee to Spain. Marguerite dies soon after the family arrives in Barcelona, and St. Leon is forced to assume a new identity. Eventually his wealth comes to the attention of the Inquisition, and St. Leon becomes their prisoner and is held by them for a dozen years, escaping the auto-da-fe only by luck. Reginald moves on to Hungary and sets himself up as a philanthropist, determined to put his inexhaustible wealth to good use and to make the war-ravaged country into a good place to live. He has initial success and is at first beloved by the Hungarians, but eventually he causes inflation and leaves the poor no better than they were before he arrived. Worse, he is forced to constantly bribe the Turkish bashaw who is in charge of Hungary. The bashaw puts his army at the service of St. Leon, but that only makes the Hungarians hate St. Leon the more, for they see him as an ally of the Turks. Eventually St. Leon’s friend, the massive misanthrope Bethlem Gabor, kidnaps St. Leon and holds him prisoner in Gabor’s castle. When the castle is attacked St. Leon escapes, only to be found by the troops of St. Leon’s son Charles. Charles and an incognito St. Leon become friends, but St. Leon’s attempt to ensure Charles’ marriage to his fiancee backfires, and Charles becomes convinced that his fiancee Pandora is cheating on him with St. Leon. Then Charles learns about St. Leon’s Hungarian adventure and declares his hatred for St. Leon, who he sees as an enemy of Christianity. St. Leon flees again and becomes a kind of Wandering Jew figure, and there the story ends.
Godwin, in St. Leon, attempts to express various themes. Immortality is found to be a curse. Endless wealth brings only unhappiness. Attempts to help others through the use of wealth calamitously backfires. St. Leon’s pride and willingness to sacrifice the honesty and love of his marriage for immortality and wealth end up destroying his marriage and ruining his family and reputation. The intolerance of humanity–religious, philosophical, and cultural–alienates the well-meaning and drives away those who would attempt to uplift their fellow men and women.
Godwin, to his credit, adds a large amount of historical fact to St. Leon, so that the novel is considerably more historically accurate than most Gothic novels. Godwin’s Inquisition is terrible, but quite realistic, unlike the cartoonishly evil Inquisition of most Gothics.
But for all of that St. Leon is a bore. It is a typically sluggish and stilted Gothic. The speeches are endless and often turgid maunderings, the emotion and characterization overblown, and Godwin’s themes points are hammered home with no subtlety whatsoever. St. Leon, frankly, is quite dull. The only real point of interest for the modern reader is the figure of Bethlem Gabor. Gabor, a mutilated colossus, lost his wife and family to violence and so hates mankind. He is literally a misanthrope, and while articulate is quite vengeful, and St. Leon sees in him “the sublime desolation of a mighty soul.” Gabor is initially friendly toward St. Leon but then decides to hate him, since St. Leon’s inability to blame mankind for his misfortunes strikes Gabor as contemptible. The figure of Gabor and his friendship and then enmity with St. Leon may have inspired Godwin’s daughter, Mary Shelley, when she was conceiving of the Creature in Frankenstein. St. Leon, in his Romantic alienation and isolation, also may have been an inspiration for the Creature.
As a side note, Godwin, in the person of Hector, the servant of the St. Leons, presents a positive African-American character. Hector is articulate, compassionate, and kind; he’s also innocent and somewhat naive, but Godwin makes plain that these are his character traits, rather than something inherent to his ethnicity. Hector is a welcome change from the racism which is too common to many early 19th century works.
St. Leon is a kind of Faustian figure, bargaining away all that makes him happy in a quest for wealth and power. He truly means well, and his venture in Hungary is nobly intentioned, but by agreeing to keep Zampieri’s secret he cuts himself off from the relationships that he values the most. He ignores his wife’s many warnings and is forced to be dishonest with his daughters and son. He never learns from his mistakes, and his final alienation is well-deserved.
esage, Gaston. Gaston Lesage appeared in The Auroraphone (1890) by Cyrus Cole, an American writer about whom nothing is known. The Auroraphone begins with a pair of young men who move to the American West to prospect for gold. They have the usual adventures and hard times in the Colorado Rockies before meeting Gaston Lesage. Lesage is an old Frenchman who moved to Colorado to work on his "pet hobby," which is "to invent and perfect an instrument for the transmission of sound-signs by natural electrical currents." Lesage is a monomaniac about this, having abandoned his previous life and moved to the Rockies just to take advantage of the altitude. With the help of his freed slave assistant Pete King, Lesage perfects his invention, which he calls the "Auroraphone." As the two young men are visiting Lesage, the Auroraphone begins picking up transmissions from outer space. As Lesage et al soon discover, they are being contacted by "Rulph Bozar...(a) human being much like yourself." Rulph is a Saturnian, and he begins telling Lesage, in a series of long, boring lectures, about life on Saturn, their society and history.
The Saturnians have a technologically advanced culture. They have air ships, flying machines, and "electrical road carts." Rulph uses an "optigraph, attached to our plano-electraphone," to observe events on Earth, including Lesage's reactions to his words. The Saturnian society is a peaceful one, although their laboring class, robots, are revolting. The robots are called "dummies;" they are made out of metal ("matal") and are powered by battery-like "electromotors" and are physical duplicates of the Saturnians. Unfortunately, they are discontented with their position in society and so are rebelling against Saturnian rule.
Just as things are getting interesting the conversation is terminated. Pete King, you see, is a superstitious type who believes that it is Satan who is communicating with Lesage. King is a particularly foul racist stereotype who is given to saying things like "Fo' de Lawd's sake, Marse Gaston, smash de deb'lish ting an' frow um in de lake." One day, while Lesage and the others are out, King gets on the Auroraphone and cusses out Rulph Bozar: "So I jes' goes to dat telegraph'n' 'sheen an' sends ole Beelzebub er telegram myse'f. 'Yo' ole debil,' says I, 'jes' get clar behind me an' neber let me see yo' talk'n' to Marse Gaston agin.'" The Saturnians then cease communication with Lesage, frying the Auroraphone via electrical feedback. It's not until ten years later that communication is restored, at which time the Saturnians send Lesage recordings of events from the past, including the Battle of Gettysburg.
idenbrock, Professor. Professor Lidenbrock was created by Jules Verne and appeared in Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864). Verne, well, what more is there to say about the man? Journey to the Centre of the Earth is about Professor Otto Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel, and their journey beneath the surface of the Earth. Lidenbrock is paging through a centuries-old manuscript of “the Heims Kringla of Snorro Turleson (sic)” when a piece of paper slips out of the book. The paper has coded runic writing on it, and after some day’s work Axel and the Professor decode it. The information on the paper leads Axel and the Professor to conclude that Arne Saknussem, a 16th century Icelandic alchemist, made a trip to “the centre of the Earth.” Lidenbrock, fascinated, immediately vows to follow Saknussem’s footsteps. So he and Axel pack their bags (Axel most unwillingly) and leave for Iceland. Once there they gain Hans, a native guide, and make their way to the extinct volcano Sneffels, which is where Saknussem found an entrance into the Earth’s innards. They follow his footsteps and embark on a very long trek through the Earth, making their way through and down hundreds of miles of tunnels large and small, caverns toothy with stalactites and stalagmites, and eventually across the Lidenbrock Sea, a vast underground ocean at least as big as the Mediterranean and inhabited by dozens of extinct species of fish, including an icthyosaurus and a plesiosaurus (who fight each other in front of Axel, Lidenbrock, and Hans). The group don’t make it all the way across the Sea, however, for an enormous storm blows them back the way they come. Eventually they return to the surface of the Earth via a ride up an exploding volcano.
As with Around The World In Eighty Days (see the Phileas Fogg entry), Verne grounds his story in a mass of realistic detail, so that the small things, from the trip to Iceland to the trio’s survival underground, are quite believable to the reader. This verisimilitude allows the reader to swallow the more improbable aspects of the book, including the earth’s core not being molten lava and the presence of various species of dinosaurs and a mastodon-herding twelve foot tall humanoid. Verne is not particularly concerned with the interior life of his characters, although the characterization of Lidenbrock and Axel are certainly adequate for his purposes.
Lidenbrock has a few traits in common with A. Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger. Like Challenger, Lidenbrock is impatient, especially with those not as intelligent as himself (read: most everyone). Like Challenger, Lidenbrock has an extremely high opinion of himself (an opinion events usually confirm). And like Challenger, Lidenbrock is a very capable scientist and explorer. Lidenbrock is not likeable, and indeed his only displays of compassion or humanity are when Axel’s life is in danger. But Lidenbrock is, again, very capable.
Journey to the Centre of the Earth is a fast-moving, entertaining read, and while it does not stand in the first rank of imaginative novels it is a perfect companion for a gray, dreary Sunday afternoon.
ieutenant Fritz. Lieutenant Fritz was created by Jerome K. Jerome and appeared in “The Dancing-Partner” (The Idler, March 1893). Jerome (1859-1927) was a British humorist and magazine editor. “The Dancing-Partner” is a rather savage short story; I imagine Jerome smiling rather ferally as he wrote it. In Furtwangen, a small town in the Black Forest of Germany, there lives Nicholaus Geibel, a brilliant inventor. His speciality is mechanical toys–rabbits that flop their ears, smooth their whiskers, and so on–but Geibel is such a genius that he can make much larger creations than mere toys, such as “a gentleman with a hollow inside who could smoke a pipe and drink more lager beer than any three average German students put together.” One day he overhears his daughter Olga and her friends chatting about the shortcomings of men, which include not being able to dance very well, talking stupidly while they dance, and generally giving themselves airs. One of the girls suggests a clockwork dancer, one who would never run down, never tread on a woman’s toes, never get out of step, never mop its face with a handkerchief–all the things the girls find tiresome about men. Geibel, fascinated, listens closely, and then grills his daughter on dancing men. He then spends a few weeks in his factory, and at a large ball given by a timber merchant to celebrate his niece’s betrothal Geibel debuts Lieutenant Fritz, a clockwork man. Geibel has only taught him how to waltz, but at that he is flawless, and he never tires. Too, he has a series of recorded responses which he utters. Geibel offers Fritz’s dancing services to Annette, the girl who suggested his creation, and so Annette and Fritz begin to dance. They dance divinely, for a while, and Geibel leaves to enjoy a pipe and a glass of hock.
Then Annette loosens the screw regulating Fritz’s rate of progress, and the two dance faster and faster. They outpace the other couples, and even the band–and then someone notices that Annette has fainted. No one is able to free her, and when two men rush at Fritz they only manage to knock him out of his orbit and against the wall, which results in Annette’s head being wounded, and she bleeds on her dress and on the floor. The women run screaming from the room, and the men follow them. Someone finally thinks to fetch Geibel, but meanwhile all they can do is wait and listen to the noises coming from inside the ballroom, the “steady whir of the wheels upon the polished floor as the thing spun round and round; the dull thud as every now and again it dashed itself and its burden against some opposing object,” and the “thing ghostly voice, repeating over and over the same formula: ‘How charming you are looking to-night. What a lovely day it has been. Oh, don’t be so cruel. I could go on dancing for ever–with you. Have you had supper?’” Eventually Geibel and Wenzel, the timber magnate, arrive and enter the ball-room, closing the door behind them. “From within there came the muffled sound of low voices and quick steps, followed by a confused scuffling noise, then silence, then the low voices again.” Wenzel and Geibel emerge, white-faced, and they choose two men to help them and send the women away. “From that day old Nicholaus Geibel confined himself to the making of mechanical rabbits, and cats that mewed and washed their faces.”
Jerome’s usual storytelling style was comedic, but he plays “The Dancing-Partner” straight, keeping his fangs sheathed until the horrific ending. The very matter of fact manner in which he tells the story only adds to the savagery of the ending. One might almost call the story misogynist, as the girls sound quite shrewish in their complaints about men, and the punishment dealt to Annette is vicious. The lagniappe which makes “The Dancing-Partner” particularly unpleasant (in a good, horror-story way) is the ambiguity of what Geibel and Wenzel find, and why both were so white-faced, and why it was so important to “get the women away as quickly as you can.” Could it be that, behind closed doors, in private, Lieutenant Fritz did more than just dance with the unconscious or dead body of Annette?
Lieutenant Fritz dances divinely. He doesn’t walk so well–but then, as Geibel points out, walking is not his forte. Dancing, though, he does quite well, revolving on his wheeled feet without tiring, always saying the same things in his squeaky voice. His arms have to be fixed into place around his dancing partner, and the buttons on the back of his head need to be pushed to make him speak or dance faster, and tampering with his controls can lead, as seen, to disaster–but oh, how he dances.
“The Dancing-Partner” is somewhat frightening and not a little vicious, and quite unlike Jerome’s usual work.
inley. Linley was created by Fitz-James O’Brien and appeared in “The Diamond Lens” (The Atlantic Monthly, January 1858). O’Brien, the creator of It, was an Irish-American journalist and writer who died far too young. “The Diamond Lens” is another of O’Brien’s fine works of horror.
Linley, the narrator of “The Diamond Lens,” became obsessed with microscopy at a very young age, when he first discovered the world of creatures inside a drop of water. He was given a good microscope by his cousin, and this whetted his appetite–or, more accurately, fueled his obsession. His parents wanted him to take a good, reliable profession and to enter the counting house of his uncle, but Linley refused, wanting only to spend time peering through the lens of his microscope. He finally entered medical school, but this was a ruse designed to mislead his parents. Linley intended never to attend classes, only to spend all his time with his microscopes. Linley spent a year learning microscopy, the practice of it and the proper use of the equipment, and by the end of the year was an accomplished practitioner, even having made a few small discoveries of his own and debunked a few theories of older and more experienced microscopists. But Linley was always discontented due to the imperfections of his instruments, which could not help him achieve what his imagination conceived of. Linley dreamed of the ultimate lens, which could see anything. Linley began experimenting with different lenses, but was always dissatisfied with the results. But one day Linley heard from his upstairs neighbor, Jules Simon, about a medium who apparently had a real power and was not a charlatan. Linley, intrigued, visited the medium, who summoned up the spirit of Antony van Leeuwenhoek, who via the medium told Linley how to construct the ultimate lens. There was one difficulty, however. This lens would require a diamond of 140 carats, something far beyond Linley’s ability or means to acquire. When Linley mentions this to Simon, he reacts badly and eventually confesses to Linley that he has such a diamond. Linley, not to be put off from his quest, murders Simon in such a way as to make it seem suicide, and uses Simon’s diamond to create the lens. What Linley sees through the diamond lens, inside a drop of water, is a stunning microscopic world inhabited by a superhumanly beautiful creature in the shape of a woman. Linley becomes fixated on her, spending days doing nothing but watching the “animalcule,” who he calls Animula. He momentarily decides that he needs to wean himself from his “insane love” for Animula, but when he watches a celebrated ballerina at the theater he finds her unlovely and awkward. He returns to his apartment and looks at the animalcule again, but finds that she seems to be in pain. Linley realizes that he has not replenished the original drop of water since he put it beneath his lens, and so Animula’s world must be dying as it dries up, and the animalcule with it, but this realization comes too late, and she dies as he watches. He faints, destroying his microscope as he does. This leaves him insane and a joke to other microscopists, and he no longer has the will or heart to work, obsessed as he is with his lost Animula.
“The Diamond Lens” is, like “What Was It?” accorded classic status by afficionados of 9th century weird fiction. “The Diamond Lens” isn’t horror, exactly, although the depths to which Linley’s obsession leads him is horrific in its way. “The Diamond Lens” is science fiction, with the supernatural element of the medium and a mystery fiction element in the locked room setting in which Simon is murdered. “The Diamond Lens” might actually be considered a kind of hard science fiction, as O’Brien grounds the more speculative elements of the story in recognizable and realistic scientific facts about microscopes. “The Diamond Lens” is, like “What Was It?” excellent reading, although “Lens” is told in a more formal and older-reading narrative style than the more modern-sounding “What Was It?” The description of the microscopic world is properly unworldly, and I found Linley’s character development and the tracing of his descent into a literally unhealthy obsession quite convincing. The only slight mar on the story is the moment of anti-Semitism in the description of Simon as having “many traits of the Hebrew character: a love of jewelry, of dress, and of good living.” But Jules Simon is developed as a character, not a stereotype or a paradigm.
Linley is a study in obsession. He’s smart, and when he wants to he works hard–but then, all obsessives are like that. In his case, his obsession led him to view Animula, whose beauty is impressive. But Linley, like most obsessives, has no sense of proportion, and rather than enjoying Animula to a limited degree and getting on with his life, Linley let his obsession overwhelm his reason, and so lost everything. (Actually, this sounds like some folks and porn....)
ion City. The Lion City was created by Willis Boyd Allen and appeared in The Lion City of Africa (1890). Allen (1855-1938) was a lawyer, poet, and author of numerous novels for children. The Lion City of Africa is about David Livingston Scott, an American who from a young age was fascinated with Africa. After graduating from Harvard in the early 1870s he and his best friend Ned Hastings set off for Africa, David exploring for the Smithsonian and Ned to bag some elephants. Unfortunately, the captain of the ship bringing them to Africa sells booze to the natives, and when David and Ned object to this they are stranded in Africa in the middle of nowhere, 500 miles from the Congo.
Luckily, they’re near a village of natives they’ve come to know, and so they have food and shelter for a while. Eventually they get antsy and decide to leave, taking with them Mbongo, a native guide. They trek into the jungle, meeting and killing various forms of wildlife, including a very aggressive and evil gorilla, and then meeting and being attacked by a group of cannibalistic dwarf pygmies, malformed, hideous, and very ape-like, who attack them using spears and arrows poisoned with spider venom. David, Ned, and Mbongo hold the pygmies off for a while, but eventually David is knocked unconscious and taken to the large (four miles’ long) village of the pygmies. David learns that the pygmies are the Masongi and that they worship lions. They Masongi will attack and eat anyone and anything else, but they will not raise a weapon against lions, who conversely prey on them.
Eventually David is brought to Lion City as a sacrifice by the Masongi to the lions. Lion City is in the crater of an extinct volcano. It has regularly laid out streets and buildings and open squares and at one time was a human city but is now in ruins and is inhabited by a local tribe of lions. David, the classicist, examines the city and is certain that it was built by Roman Jews centuries ago.
After various alarums and excursions David and Ned are rescued from the Masongi by Mbongo and his tribe, and at the end of the novel David and Ned have returned to the United States with Lulua, a Masongi women who helped them at various times. David is intent on returning to Africa while Lulua is being educated in a southern college to become a missionary.
The Lion City of Africa is mildly entertaining as a Lost Race novel, although the Lost Race aspect is marginal at best. What really holds the attention is the great amount of detail devoted to African flora and fauna. The book has a number of very nice and very accurate illustrations of animals and people, including lions, hippos, giraffes, gorillas, leopards, elephants, and crocodiles, and the narrative is, as best I can tell, very realistic in its descriptions. Too, Allen isn’t nearly as racist as he could be, and while the portrayal of the pygmies is not complimentary Allen doesn’t resort to many stereotypes, either. If Boyd wasn’t an old Africa hand, he faked it very well.
ittle People. The Little People were created by Arthur Machen and appeared in The Three Impostors (1895), “The Shining Pyramid” (The Unknown World, 15 May 1895), “The Red Hand” (Chapman’s Magazine of Fiction, December 1895),“The White People” (composed 1899, first published in Horlick’s Magazine, January 1904), “Out of the Earth” (in T.P.’s Weekly, 27 November 1915), with references to them in a number of his other stories. Machen (1863-1947) was an important late Victorian and Edwardian author of horror and supernatural fiction; I go on about him in the Pan entry.
As I mentioned in the Dyson entry, much of Machen’s supernatural work is linked together in two ways, through the figure of Dyson and the conceit of the Little People. In the entry to Pan I mentioned Machen’s influence on Lovecraft. Another way that Machen influenced Lovecraft is in the Little People, who show up in different forms in Lovecraft’s work (as the black-stone worshiping Yuggoth in “The Whisperer in Darkness”) as well as that of Robert E. Howard.
Machen’s Little People are primeval throwbacks, an atavistic race of beings who lurk underground and on the edges of society. They are bestial and subhuman, using primitive tools like flint arrows and knives. And they are malefic and worshipers of ancient and terrible supernatural powers.
In “The Shining Pyramid” the Little People kidnap a beautiful teenage girl while she is out walking in the hills near the Wales border. Along a very old walkway they communicate to each other by leaving symbols, made up of old flint arrow-heads, in the grass along a wall; the symbols range from ordered lines to a “device of spokes” to a bowl to a pyramid to a half moon. On the wall they draw, in a red substance, an eye with a epicanthic fold, what Machen calls “the Mongolian eye.” The Little People use the symbols to communicate with each other, in the case of “The Shining Pyramid” to plan a gathering. At that gathering the Little People come together and sacrifice a human, causing a pyramid of flame to erupt. The Little People are described there as being around three and a half to four feet tall, writhing and tossing in a great mass of vague and restless forms. They hiss in a venomous tongue, their “abominable yellow limbs, vague and yet too plainly seen, writhe and intertwine.”
In “The Red Hand” the Little People are discovered by a man who after many years deciphers a black tablet of stone with writing in an alien language upon it. The tablet leads him into the hills in the West, presumably the same hills along the Welsh border in which “The Shining Pyramid” takes place. He brings away a flint knife but is forced to kill an old friend with it. When he returns to the hills, he sees “the keepers” of the Little People and is given or takes away gold, including “a small piece of curious gold-work...the Pain of the Goat,” which causes Dyson and his friend Phillipps to cry out “in horror at the revolting obscenity of the thing.” The man further says, “You do not wonder that I did not stay long in a place where those who live are a little higher than the beasts, and where what you have seen is surpassed a thousandfold?”
In The Three Impostors Phillipps is told a story (which in the body of the story may be simply another lie told to him) about a Professor who, using the black tablet from “The Red Hand” and the fact of the girl’s disappearance in “The Shining Pyramid,” goes to the hills along the Welsh border to seek out the Little People. A Latin text is quoted describing the Little People:
This folk dwell in remote and secret places, and celebrate foul mysteries on savage hills. Nothing have they in common with men save the face, and the customs of humanity are wholly strange to them; and they hate the sun. They hiss rather than speak; their voices are harsh, and not to be heard without fear. They boast of a certain stone, which they call Sixtystone; for they say that it displays sixty characters. And this stone has a secret unspeakable name; which is Ixaxar.A double of the black tablet from “The Red Hand” turns out to be Ixaxar; the Professor finds Jervase, a boy whose mother was raped by the Little People, with the result that Jervase is a half-wit who goes into fits and speaks, in tongues, “the very speech of hell;” the Professor meets a Mr. Meyrick (likely a relative of the Arthur Meyrick who was a victim of Helen Vaughn in “The Great God Pan”) who mentions that the locals describe the fairies/Little People as the “Tylwydd Têg;” one of the Professor’s busts is mysteriously moved, leaving behind a snake-like smell and a “sticky and slimy” residue; the Professor refers to “the inimitable Holmes;” and then the Professor disappears, leaving behind a long account of his investigations into the true source of the legends of fairies–the Little People, the Professor witnesses Jervase become possessed and manifest a slimy tentacle (which moved the aforementioned bust) and uses the writing on the Black Seal (the black tablet) to dispel Jervase’s possession.
And in the remarkable “The White People” (which may or may not get an entry all to itself) a young girl first meets the Little People when she is only an infant (“the little white faces that used to look at me when I was lying in my cradle”) and then, when she is five or six, sees them dancing with her Nurse, and then when she is thirteen years old visits them and sees their world in all its fantastic, evil glory, and she finally becomes a part of that world, solving its mysteries, and dies.
ittlecote Academy. Littlecote Academy and its interesting inhabitants were the creation of E. Harcourt Burrage, the creator of Broad Arrow Jack. Littlecote Academy appeared in installments in Aldine Publishing Company penny dreadfuls in 1893 and 1894, and were collected in The Lambs of Littlecote (1894) and The Island School (1895). The Littlecote Academy stories were very much similar to other school stories, which were quite common in the Victorian era after (roughly) 1850. The rough template involves misbehaving children defying their uncomprehending and often stupid masters and getting involved in adventures, whether mild (will the plucky lads of Academy X beat the vile bounders of School Y in the next game of cricket/rugger/football?) or dangerous ("Good heavens, schoolmaster, those look like the tracks of a giant opium fiend!").
The Littlecote Academy stories were similar to these others, with one exception (which I'll get to in a moment). The Academy's principal was Fontenoy Snicker, who dropped his Hs and who had "a face which Nature must originally have intended for a racecourse welcher." He drank, of course, and was often publicly upbraided by his wife for his failings. Snicker's assistant was P. Y. Bunn, a drinker like Snicker and someone misused by the students, who called him "Penny Bunn." The teacher of pupils was Awful Rooker, who likewise drank. The students were mostly an interchangeable lot, no different than students in any other school story; their leader was Jim Gordon, a "youth of action, abounding in health and courage." He was predictably stalwart and doughty and moral and all that.
What sets the Littlecote Academy stories apart is the presence of Chunder Loo, a Chinese professor. Loo was wise, cryptic, and almost sinister, and was never the target of the students' pranks. He'd joined the Littlecote staff in odd and threatening circumstances, and the students were clearly a bit afraid of him. When they needed him on their travels, he always helped them out, of course.
The Littlecote students, in the first penny, spent time playing pranks at the Academy and searching through its abbey vaults for lost treasure. (They found none) In the second novel they went to a Mediterranean island, where they revealed a smuggling ring, encountered a tame bear and three racist stereotypes by the names of Macbeth, Hamlet, and Romeo, and destroyed a plot involving a Spanish invasion and vendetta called by the "proud, revengeful Spanish beauty," Lucia di Valo.
ord, Ferrers. Introduced in "Wolves of the Deep," Boys' Friend Library #32, December 1907, Ferrers Lord was created by "Sidney Drew," the pseudonym of Edgar J. Murray, a British author of story paper stories. Lord is a well-to-do British nobleman and inventor, responsible for creating two vast and advanced submarines, the Victoria and the Britannia. Lord is a staunch patriot who (like all the penny dreadful characters) unthinkingly believes in the superiority and moral righteousness of the British cause. It's Britain's God-given destiny to rule the waves and the world, after all, and Lord is determined to be the one to help keep her there; he is willing and even enthusiastic about using force in the service of the Crown. Lord's submarines are in the Verne/Nautilus mold, with primitive torpedoes, rams, cannon, and electric mines. Lord is assisted by his good friend from school, Rupert Thurston, the usual resolute two-fisted manly British adventurer who is a good fighter and strong under fire but lacks Lord's genius at inventing. The most important crew members of the two submarines, which Lord used in seemingly random fashion, from book to book, are Prout and Maddock, two long-serving Jolly Jack Tars; Pierre Bovrille and Kennedy, the "comic relief," a Frenchman and an Irishman who live up to every stereotype that Murray could think of; and Ching Lung, a Chinese prince and "expert conjurer" who is also an ethnic stereotype, and as further "comic relief" is always misbehaving and getting into minor trouble which requires Lord or Thurston to rescue him. Lord's sworn enemy is Michael Scaroff, a wealthy Russian prince and patriot. He stole the plans to the Victoria and used them to build his own submarine, the Tsaritza. Just as Lord represents all that is good (i.e., British), Scaroff symbolizes all that is evil (i.e., Russian). The two had a long series of duels, with each submarine taking much damage and each character being injured at one time or another. Lord and Scaroff first went at it in "Wolves of the Deep," and continued their over- and underseas battle in "Lion Against Bear;" Scaroff's quietus was finally delivered in "Death at 5 Leagues Down." In "Mysteria the Unknown" Lord discovered a sinking island, Mysteria, which was surrounded by a rosy aura and which was filled with overgrown plants, cannibalistic trees, carnivorous, armored crabs and giant predatory black owls; Lord finally destroyed the island with his sub's super-cannon. At other points he was called to Greyfriars or St. Jim's (both "public schools") to investigate stabbings or kidnappings. Later on Lord crossed over with Sexton Blake, beginning (at least) with Union Jack Library #742, 29 December 1917.
oring, Sir Nigel. Sir Nigel Loring was created by A. Conan Doyle and appeared in The White Company (1891) and Sir Nigel (1906). Doyle (1859-1930) is most famous as the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but he himself didn't think much of Holmes or the Holmes stories, preferring instead his historical romances. The White Company was always Doyle's favorite. Doyle called The White Company “the most complete, satisfying, and ambitious thing I have ever done.”
The White Company is primarily about Alleyne Edricson, a young Englishman in the 14th century. He begins the novel as a part of the Abbey of Beaulieu, having spent his entire twenty years there. But according to his father’s will when he turns 20 he must spend a year in the world, after which time he can choose the monastic or secular life. So Alleyne ventures out into England, discovering on the one hand that it’s as sinful and dangerous as place as he anticipated but also that it is full of brave and good men. He meets two of them in Hordle John, the massive, brawling, good-natured yeoman who was thrown out of the Beaulieu Abbey for the sin of carrying a woman across a stream (women, you see, are the root of all sin), and in Samkin Aylward, the boastful, genial, well-traveled archer. Aylward is headed for the White Company, a band of freelances and mercenaries, bearing a letter to Sir Nigel Loring, the leader of the White Company, and after Aylward beats John in a wrestling match and Alleyne discovers that his brother, the Socman of Minstead, is a scoundrel and a caitiff, the trio set off to join the White Company at Christchurch.
At Christchurch the three are accepted into the Company, John joining Aylward with the archers (the White Company consists primarily of archers and spearmen with only a few of the noblemen, like Sir Nigel, acting as the classic mounted knight in full plate) and Alleyne becoming squire to Sir Nigel and teacher to Sir Nigel’s daughter, Lady Maude. Alleyne had earlier saved Maude’s live and virtue from the Socman of Minstead, and the two enjoyed each other’s company. This enjoyment deepens to love, although Alleyne’s lack of status means that the two can have no future together. But just before Alleyne leaves Maude gives him a token, so he is not completely discouraged.
In Bordeaux the White Company meet Prince Edward and Don Pedro, the Spanish Prince Edward intends to place on the Spanish throne. Feelings run high between the White Company and the local French and Spanish knights, so a tournament is held at which the English knights distinguish themselves and Sir Nigel re-establishes his reputation as the doughtiest knight in Europe. After the tournament Sir Nigel, Alleyne, and a handful of other White Company men head into France to rendezvous with a group of White Company men who are living as bandits. Sir Nigel et al stay temporarily at the castle of the Seneschal of Villefranche, a very harsh lord who mistreats his peasants. This means that Sir Nigel et al are caught in the peasant revolt and have to fight their way out, losing some of their men in the process.
From there they join up with the White Company, march on Spain, and win a very bloody battle with the Spanish. Sir Nigel and Aylward are captured, but Alleyne is free, and he returns to England. His brother, the Socman, has been killed trying to storm Sir Nigel’s castle, so now Alleyne is the Socman, and he’s now of the position to court Lady Maude. She says yes, of course, and everyone’s happiness is made the better when Sir Nigel and Aylward are freed from captivity. After that, everyone lives Happily Ever After.
The White Company is one of the better historical romances ever written. Doyle put in an enormous amount of research, and it shows; the novel is full of large and small details of medieval life. Doyle doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the era—his portrayal of a France ravaged by constant war, and of peasants living little better than animals, is harrowing—but his descriptions of the good guys, the English knights, is greatly sentimentalized. Usually I view this as a bad thing—and it is, fidelity to the truth is almost always for the best—but in terms of the historical romance Doyle is trying to tell, a sanitized history works far better than a more realistic account.
The story is extremely entertaining. Doyle’s a dab hand at concise and colorful characterization, which he establishes through dialogue and action rather than description. Showing rather than telling is a rather elementary lesson for authors, but one many Victorians ignored or never learned. Doyle was better than that, and The White Company is the better for it. Likewise, Doyle has some wonderfully colorful descriptions, of clothing and people and scenery, and his action scenes are very well-written. Interestingly, the story has a very international feel to it. The impression many people have of the Middle Ages is that most people did not travel far from their homes, if at all. But Alleyne and Sir Nigel and the White Company go from England to Bourdeaux to France and then to Spain, and during the tournament in Bourdeaux there are knights from across Europe, from Lithuania to Hungary. Doyle occasionally gets off a pithy one-liner:
Neither entreaty nor courtly remonstrance came from the English prince; but Sir Hugh Calverley passed silently over the border with his company, and the blazing walls of the two cities of Miranda and Puenta della Reyna warned the unfaithful monarch that there were other metals besides gold, and that he was dealing with a man to whom it was unsafe to lie.There’s a welcome hint of the supernatural in the clairvoyancy and predictions of Tiphaine Raquenel, the wife of the Seneschal of Villefranche. Doyle does acknowledge the disparity between the lives of the rich and the poor in the Villefranche section, so that the reader gets a disturbing glimpse at what the lives of the have-nots were like, and that much of the happiness of the nobles came at the expense of others. Finally, the underlying ethos of the novel, that honor is more important than anything and that the knightly life is the best way to live, is at times undeniably stirring.
But it’s the ideology of The White Company that also gave me pause at times. There are a few minor flaws in the novel, particularly Doyle’s tendency to describe action through dialogue:
It is dried wood from the forest. They pile them against the walls and set them in a blaze. Who is this who tries to check them? By St. Ives! It is the good priest who spake for them in the hall. He kneels, he prays, he implores! What! Villains, would ye raise hands against those who have befriended you? Ah, the butcher has struck him! He is down! They stamp him under their feet! They tear off his gown and wave it in the air! See now, how the flames lick up the walls!Thankfully, this sort of thing is more uncommon than common, but it still reads peculiarly. But more troubling is the basic ideology of the novel. Doyle is presenting, as I said, an idealized version of the 14th century. As part of this idealization Doyle has his hero characters, especially Sir Nigel, voice an ideology which privileges honor over all else, and defines honor as skill at arms and courage, entirely divorced from how those abilities are put to use. So a pirate and murderer is described by Sir Nigel as “he carried himself like a very gentle and débonnaire cavalier,” and men whose only capability is their ability to fight are recommended as “honorable cavaliers” or “courteous gentlemen,” and Sir Nigel describes a strong fighter as someone “for whom I bear a greater love and esteem.” Too, Doyle buys too much into the medieval mind-set, so Alleyne’s worthiness as a husband for Lady Maude is almost entirely predicated on gaining the title of Socman; whether Alleyne is a good person or not does not seem nearly as important. This is undoubtedly how many people thought in the 14th century, but since Doyle sentimentalized so many other aspects of the time it is regrettable that he kept that.
Sir Nigel is the leader of the White Company, and a very gentle parfait knight. He is mild in manner except when angered, which is not often, and even when his temper is roused he speaks calmly, if forcefully and bitingly. Sir Nigel is “a slight man of poor stature, with soft lisping voice and gentle ways,” nearly bald, possessed of a face “tanned of a dull yellow tint, with a leathery poreless look…his features were small, delicate, and regular, with clear-cut, curving nose, and eyes which jutted forward from the lids.” In battle, however, he is a giant, being capable of unhorsing and defeating men half his age and twice his size. Nor is his courage based on his armor and weapons; when faced with an escaped bear terrorizing a neighborhood, he walks up to the bear, “blinking with puckered eyes, reached up his kerchief, and flicked the beast twice across the snout with it. ‘Ah, saucy! saucy,’ quoth he, with gentle chiding; on which the bear, uncertain and puzzled, dropped its four legs to earth again….” He’s a very impressive knight; it’s just a shame that his primary pursuit is glory and battle rather than some more positive goal.
ost Legion. The Legion were introduced in Francis Whitlock's "Lost Legion" series, which appeared in The Popular Magazine from 1907-1914. I've unfortunately not been able to actually read the Legion series, so the only information I have on them is from secondary sources. Likewise, I've been unable to find any information on Whitlock. The Legion were a group of mercenaries, although that label conjures up the image of a squad of trained military men acting in concert, and that's not the case with the Legion; the members of the Legion usually worked solo or in pairs. (For a real mercenary group, see the Gringo Legion).
Technically speaking, the members of the Lost Legion are filibusters, which my dictionary defines as "an irregular military adventurer; specif : an organizer or member of a hostile expedition to a country with which his own is at peace." To quote Whitlock himself, the Legion were:
a number of adventurous men who were eager to undertake any enterprise from the exploration of an unknown wilderness to the direction of a revolution...so long as adventure promised and the pay was good there was always an available supply of these men. Owing to the peculiar nature of the employment of these members of the Lost Legion, vacancies in the ranks were of frequent occurrence, but recruits were always clamoring for admission.The Legion is run by one Jabez Cooper, a nasty piece of work. He is "very tough. He has the same sentimentality quotient as a fire brick and he is suspicious as a wounded fox." In exchange for enough money to pay the Legion's salary, expenses, and (when necessary) funerals, and to lay some profit aside--a sum that usually runs into the tens of thousands (no small sum by 1907 standards) Cooper will get enough men to take care of your problems. If you need to rescue an American ballet dancer from the harem of an "Arab" sheik, if you, kidnapped and held for a princely ransom, need to be rescued from the hands of anarchists, or if you need to have the reigning king of a tiny Eastern European country overthrown so that you, who has a slight-but-legitimate claim to the throne, can be made the new king, Cooper is the one to call.
The men of the Legion are not supermen; they are quite mortal, given to wounds and death, fears and stress. Whitlock did not skimp on the action, nor did he slight the dangers faced by the Lost Legion.
ovel, Barbara. Barbara Lovel was created by William Harrison Ainsworth and appeared in his Rookwood (1834). Ainsworth (1805-1882) was a novelist (he wrote 39 novels, several of which dealt with the fantastic and the occult) and editor of Bentley's Miscellany and Ainsworth's Magazine, and is one of those all-too-common authors who was quite popular in his day but is now forgotten by all but scholars. He’s mentioned on this site several times, for John Dee, Alice Nutter, and Dick Turpin. Rookwood, which was an enormous success and helped inspire a revival of interest in the Gothic form, is set in the first half of the 18th century in the forests of Yorkshire, and is revenge, a contested estate, and Dick Turpin. (For more on Rookwood and Turpin, see the Dick Turpin entry).
One of Rookwood’s secondary features, and something of more interest to the modern reader (if I may be so bold as to speak for my audience), is the novel’s Gypsies. “Gypsy” isn’t a term most of those long-oppressed people like; they tend to prefer “Romany” and “Traveler,” and so I’ll use the former rather than “Gypsy.” (Hey, it may be PC of me, but I think it’s simply common courtesy to call someone what they prefer to be called, rather than a name they find insulting). Ainsworth, naturally, distorts the personalities of the Romany in his novel, just as he distorted the personality of Dick Turpin and the realities of the highwaymen. But Ainsworth, somewhat surprisingly, makes the Romany relatively benign, rather than indulging in what would have been relatively easy bigotry. Ainsworth’s Romany are freedom-loving wild men who live in the wilderness of England, outcasts of society but more innately noble than the English who look down on them.
Ruling over the clan of Romany which Turpin meets is Barbara Lovel, the clan’s “queen.” (The real title of such persons is something quite different than “queen,” but that will do as a rough translation, I suppose). From a ruined priory Lovel rules the Romany completely, and they obey her without hesitation, seeing her “with some such feeling of inexplicable awe as is entertained by the African slave for the Obeah woman.” They “shrank with terror from her anathema, which was seldom pronounced; but when uttered, was considered as doom.” For her part, she views her tribe as “her flock,” her children, and she acts in a maternal way toward them, caring for them but being strict and chastising them when needful. She is far nastier toward those who hurt the Romany of her clan, engineering elaborate and gruesome vengeances upon them. She is rich, and is quite willing to spend her money to gain these vengeances; she is fiercely protective of her clan.
Lovel is a powerful sorceress, one who can work magics, from love spells to curses to magic-making potions to prophecy. Her familiar is a "monstrous owl" roughly the size of a very large dog. Her assistant in working sorcerous wonders is Balthazar, the clan's "patrico, or hierophant," an old Traveler with a long white beard. Balthazar is the tribe's "principal professor of divination," and although he has gained most of his "magical skill" from Lovel his powers are little short of her own.
Lovel is not particularly sympathetic, but she does care for her granddaughter Sybil, and she wants Sybil to marry well, and make Sir Luke Rookwood her husband. Unfortunately, Luke Rookwood is forced to marry Eleanor, and Barbara vows to slay Luke’s bride, and Sybil substitutes herself for Eleanor and is married in disguise to Luke, and Barbara is forced to live up to her vow and kill Sybil. Barbara then wastes away and dies in a quite messy fashion.
She is generally "wrapped in a cloak composed of the skins of various animals," with her head "coiffed, in folds like those of an Asiatic turban," earringed with "long golden drops, of curious antique fashioning." "Upon her withered fingers, which looked like a coil of lizards, were hooped a multitude of rings." She of course has "heavy, bloodshot eyes, once of a swimming black, and lengthy as a witch's, which were now sinister and sunken." Her skin is “yellow as the body of a toad; corrugated as its back...to look at her, one might have thought the embalmer had experimented her art upon herself.”
A concise and critical biography and bibliography of Ainsworth.
The product of the simply wonderful Mitsuhara Matsuoka.
ow, Flaxman. Flaxman Low was the creation of "E. and H. Heron," which was the pseudonym of Hesketh V. Prichard (1876-1922) and Kate O'Brien Ryall Prichard (1851-1935). Hesketh was a famous big-game hunter and cricketer who served the Crown in several capacities, as an aide to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland starting in 1907 and then with the army during World War One, where he received several citations for heroism but was viewed with disfavor for advocating sniper tactics rather than mass charges. Kate was Hesketh's mother, but apart from that, and her being a writer, I just haven't found out very much about her.
Although both were successful authors--Hesketh for travel, big-game hunting, adventure stories (including those about the sadistic Spanish bandit Don Q, whose exploits were later emasculated to form the source of the Douglas Fairbanks movie Don Q, the Son of Zorro), and Kate for a similar range of books, including a later Don Q novel--they are included here because of Flaxman Low, the first true (in the modern sense) occult detective. Occult detectives are those investigators--usually gentlemen, ala Lord Peter Wimsey, rather than private eyes, ala Sam Spade, who specialize in cases involving the supernatural. Later, Edwardian/post-Victorian examples include W.H. Hodgson's Carnacki the Ghost-Finder, Algernon Blackwood's Dr. John Silence, and the most notable and successfully executed occult detective of them all, Seabury Quinn's Jules de Grandin. There were earlier versions of the character--proto-occult detectives like L.T. Meade's John Bell and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Dr. Martin Hesselius, who rationalise seemingly-supernatural phenomena using rational and scientifically-possible explanations (think Scully, rather than Mulder)--but Flaxman Low was the first true Occult Detective, that is, the first full-time specialist specifically summoned to investigate and solve supernatural mysteries.
Flaxman Low's adventures first appeared in Pearson's Magazine in 1898 and 1899 and were later collected in Ghosts; Being the Experiences of Flaxman Low (1899). Low was, as I've said, a gentleman, called in on cases at the request of friends, acquaintances, the law, or the government, rather than being hired by someone. Although learned, he does not pummel others with the scope and depth of his erudition; his conclusions are generally reached through logic and the scientific method rather than through research through many a quaint and curious tome of forgotten lore. His attitude is that "everybody who, in a rational and honest manner, investigates the phenomenon of spiritism will, sooner or later, meet in them some perplexing element, which is not to be explained by any of the ordinary (i.e., anti-mystical--Jess) theories." He deals with apparitions, mummies, ghosts, Chinese secret societies, vicious African fungi, and an arch-enemy, the evil Dr. Kalmarkane, an occult investigator with more knowledge than Low but far fewer morals. In personality Low is genial and reasonable, but very persistent.
Katherine and Hesketh Prichard Page
Four Flaxman Low stories. From the Gaslight site.
uc Vân Tiên. Luc Vân Tiên was created by Nguyên Ðình Chiêu and appeared in Luc Vân Tiên (c. 1860). Nguyên Ðình Chiêu (1822-1888), a.k.a. "Do Chieu," was one of Vietnam's leading poets in the 19th century. Blinded at an early age by a serious illness, he became a teacher and doctor in his home village. He also used his poetry to inspire patriotism and to help the anti-French movement. His poems are still read and well thought of in Vietnam.
Luc Vân Tiên, in particular, is valued, being seen by the Vietnamese as one of their best heroic romances. (Recently it was even turned into a very successful t.v. miniseries). Luc Vân Tiên is the hero of the 2,076-line poem, set in Vietnam in the 19th century. He is in many ways a typical Vietnamese knight errant, being an able fighter and a rescuer of those in need as well as a scholar of some note. One day he is out wandering when he discovers the beautiful Kieu Nguyet Nga being threatened by a gang of robbers/rapists. Luc fights them off, and Kieu is so grateful for this that she vows to stay with him forever. But bad things come to them. They can't marry, because Luc has not yet passed his exams. They suffer a series of accidents and setbacks. Luc gets banged up in a series of fights, and then his mother dies, which so traumatises him that his own tears blind him. Then Luc's friend Trinh Ham accidentally pushes Luc into a river. Kieu, meanwhile, is ordered to give herself as tribute to the invading Wuguo. She refuses, wanting to remain faithful to Luc, and jumps in a river to end her life. She is fished out of the river, but then has to flee to avoid marrying the man who saved her.
But Luc and Kieu, being good and just folk, are eventually rewarded. Quan Yin, the Buddhist goddess, looks kindly on Kieu for her efforts to remain true and so helps her to wait for the day when she can be reunited with Luc. Luc, for his part, gets his eyesight restored through a local remedy, passes the exams for mandarins, and then defeats the hated Wuguo. Luc and Kieu end up together, and we're given a very satisfying (if not unpredictable) happy ending.
udlow, Johnny. "Johnny Ludlow" was the creation of Mrs. Henry Wood, née Ellen Price (1814-1887). (Although she was best known by her married name, defining someone by who they married is an old and sexist mannerism, and I'll have none of it. Especially when the wife became far better known than the husband, and when her reputation outlasted his). Price was one of the most popular British authors of the Victorian era, outselling even Dickens and writing several bestsellers of both domestic and "sensation" fiction. She is best known today for East Lynne (1861), which was staggeringly popular in both the U.S. and the U.K., being rather quickly made into a play which is sometimes performed even today. As far as this page is concerned, her most relevant and notable character was Johnny Ludlow. He appeared in Johnny Ludlow, First Series, Johnny Ludlow, Second Series, Johnny Ludlow, Third Series, and Johnny Ludlow, Fourth Series; these collections of short stories, which first appeared in the magazine The Argosy, were a continuing series about a country family's life and times. Johnny Ludlow, a strapping youth of good nature and high morals, often finds himself (and others of his family and its friends, such as the pompous windbag Squire Todhetley and Johnny's more direct/abrasive brother Tod) involved in crimes in and around Worcester (U.K., naturally), and called upon to solve them.
unatics. The Lunatics were created by "Napoléon Aubin" and appeared in "Mon Voyage à la Lune" (My Voyage to the Moon), which was published in the newspaper Le Fantasque from 9 July to 1 October, 1839. "Napoléon Aubin" was actually Aimé-Nicolas Aubin (1812-1890), a Swiss immigrant who moved to Canada at age 23. He's an interesting character; he was jailed for various satirical articles, he was a chemistry teacher, he published the first two volumes of a noted history of Canada, and he invented a device for lighting gas.
"Mon Voyage à la Lune" was a newspaper serial, never finished, which is usually counted as the earliest piece of French-language Canadian science fiction. Through a whimsical piece of trickery, similar to Cyrano de Bergerac's method, the hero of "Mon Voyage" flies to the moon, where he encounters the green-skinned Lunatics (one of the earliest appearances of the 'little green men' so beloved of those who would discuss SF in cliches). The Lunatics' civilization is an exaggerated form of 1830s Québec, allowing Aubin to satirise and criticise his adopted country.
upin, Arsène. Arsène Lupin was created by Maurice Leblanc and appeared in twenty volumes, including both stories and novels, beginning with "L'Arrestation d'Arsène Lupin" (The Arrest of Arsène Lupin) in Je Sais Tout #6, 15 July 1905. Leblanc (1864-1941) was a very successful French playwright, novelist, and short story writer who ultimately was made a member of the French Legion of Honor for his work. Although he wrote many non-Lupin works, including science fiction, Leblanc will likely always be known for his Lupin stories more than anything else.
Arsène Lupin, the "Prince of Thieves," is a gentleman thief in the mold of Simon Carne, Raffles and Colonel Clay. But although Lupin came after Carne and Raffles and Clay, he brought the gentleman thief character type to heights those three, and the many others like them, never reached. (Which is why I’m including Lupin here, despite the fact that his debut came after the nominal 1902 time limit of this site). Lupin is a brilliant thief, rogue, and anti-hero, the best in France and even the better of Sherlock Holmes (changed to “Holmlock Shears” after A. Conan Doyle objected). Unlike many other gentleman thieves, however, Lupin is not a suave product of the upper class–he’s a street urchin made good–and because his name is well known he does not maintain over a long period an alternate identity, as Raffles or Simon Carne does. Lupin is notorious–infamous, even–and although he does have some friends they rarely play a role in his stories. He is more solitary then Raffles or Carne or even the Great Detectives like Sherlock Holmes (and, yes, actually, Holmes will be appearing on these pages sooner or later, sooner most likely–why do you ask?), and although the narrator of many of the stories is a confidant of sorts to Lupin, we rarely get a glimpse of Lupin’s real personality, even in those stories narrated by Lupin. The very first Lupin story is a first-person narrative by Lupin and does give us some idea of what Lupin is really like. In the succeeding stories and novels Lupin becomes increasingly remote and lofty, so that, with the exception of a few basic character traits, we know little about Lupin as a person, and he almost becomes a plot device as much as a character. (I’m not unfairly picking on Leblanc with this judgment, I think. A. Conan Doyle fell into the same trap with Sherlock Holmes, who is more of a pose, an attitude, and a few good lines than a three- or even two-dimensional character).
Lupin does have a lot of joie de vivre, and loves to laugh at those who deserve it, especially the police, who he views as “dunderheads” incapable of understanding him, much less arresting him. Lupin greatly enjoys his life and his crimes, which he commits not for the money, but because the victim deserves it (and in those cases the victim is something like a murderer or child abductor who really does deserve victimization) or because a work of art or piece of jewelry is not being appreciated by its owner nearly as much as Lupin will when he acquires it. And in some of the cases Lupin commits his crimes and defies the police for the sheer joy of the chase and the crime. He enjoys humiliating the police, and his poor enemy on the police force, Inspector Ganimard, is treated with a genial contempt by Lupin, and the one time that Ganimard is successful against Lupin, in Lupin’s debut when Ganimard arrests him, Lupin adroitly turns that to his advantage, so that Ganimard comes to regret having arrested Lupin. Lupin isn’t amoral, exactly; he is governed by a code, of sorts, so that he does help the innocent and the victimized and repays his debts. But he is a criminal because it’s fun, and he has little concern for those whose valuables he steals.
Lupin is young, handsome, quick-witted, brave, and full of spirit. He is learned but carries his knowledge lightly. He plans his crimes carefully and long in advance, but he’s also quite good at thinking quickly when he’s surprised. He's also a master of disguise, to the point where, when the police were concentrating on catching him, he took on the identity of Lenormand, the chief of the Sûreté, and for four years headed the official investigations into his own activities. As time passed Leblanc had Lupin work more for the side of good, solving crimes in the Holmesian style and working more closely with the police.
Lupin has no single, distinctive appearance. It changes from story to story, and Lupin is a master at disguising himself. To quote from the narrator, Lupin's confidant:
His likeness? How can I trace it? I have seen Arsene Lupin a score of times, and each time a different being has stood before me...or rather the same being under twenty distorted images reflected by as many mirrors, each image having its special eyes, its particular facial outline, its own gestures, profile, and character.The Lupin stories are fast-moving and told in a clean if undistinguished style, similar to that of other Edwardian slicks. Leblanc has not been well-served by his translators; Jean-Marc Lofficier has rated Leblanc’s style as superior to that of Gaston Leroux and even A. Conan Doyle. Doyle’s style was not displayed to its best in his Holmes stories, but rather in his historical fiction, like the Brigadier Gerard or the White Company (see the Sir Nigel Loring entry) stories, but I trust Jean-Marc’s critical judgment, which means that, judging from the Lupin stories I’ve read, Leblanc has been very poorly served indeed by his translators. Although the tone of the stories is fairly light, there are only a few rare flashes of humor or wit, as in this early passage:
Arsene Lupin, the eccentric gentleman who operates only in the chateaux and salons, and who, one night, entered the residence of Baron Schormann, but emerged empty-handed, leaving, however, his card on which he had scribbled these words: "Arsene Lupin, gentleman-burglar, will return when the furniture is genuine."The stories are cleverly constructed and thought out. They are often puzzle plots, involving very difficult, if not impossible, crimes, and Leblanc is careful to explain to the reader how the crime was committed. The plots include Arsene Lupin on a ship, tipping the crew off to his presence as a way to distract attention from himself; Lupin, while in jail, warning one of his victims as to where and when he will strike; Lupin surprised and robbed by another thief and forced to catch the man while he’s being pursued by the police; Lupin involved in the vanished plans to a new kind of submarine; a young Lupin losing his money to a clever swindler; Lupin called upon to solve a murder; and Lupin outwitting Sherlock Holmes himself.
It’s a shame that a good translation of the Lupin stories does not exist, although I know that Jean-Marc Lofficier is considering a new translation of 813, which is supposed to be the best of the Lupin novels. As they are now, the Lupin stories are reliably entertaining, but not as immortal as Lupin deserves.
As a side note, the Japanese produced an anime character, Lupin III. There's a good site on him called The Lupin III Encyclopedia which I encourage you to investigate.
Jean-Marc Lofficier's excellent page on Lupin.
Arsene Lupin page
Four e-texts, courtesy of Gaslight.
A. Abällino to Axel
B. Hajji Baba to Amelia Butterworth
C. Cahina to Inspector John Cutting
D. The Damned Thing to Dyson
E. Robert Easterley to Pedro Arbuez d'Espila
F. Fantomas to the Fulgurator
G. "G" to Dr. Ginochio Gyves
H. Les Habits Noir to the Hypnotist
I-J. Ichor to Rob Joslyn
K. Kai Lung to Kreuzgang.
L. Lady Detectives to Arsène Lupin
M. Madame Koluchy to Dora Myrl
N. Nameless Child to Alice Nutter
O. Jack O'Halloran to Ozmar the Mystic
P. Pan to Psammead
Q. Dr. Jack Quartz to Quong Lung
R. A.J. Raffles to Lord Ruthven
S. Mr. Sabin to Count Szémioth
T-U. Adrian Temple to Undine
V. Vaila to Vril
W. Hilda Wade to Wung-Ti
X-Y. Xipéhuz to Yuki-onna
Z. Zaleski to Zoe