Fantastic Victoriana: R

affles, A. J.  Raffles was created by E.W. Hornung and debuted in “The Ides of March” (June 1898, Cassell’s Magazine). Ernest William Hornung (1866-1922) was a British journalist, writer, and enthusiastic amateur cricketer. He was also Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law, and the pair admired each other (Hornung dedicated The Amateur Cracksman to Doyle). Hornung was fairly prolific and created another somewhat popular character The Stingaree, but he is now known for Raffles, the most famous of the gentlemen thieves. The Raffles stories first appeared in Cassell’s and The Strand before being collected into The Amateur Cracksman (1899), The Black Mask (1901), and A Thief in the Night (1905), with a full-length Raffles novel, Mr. Justice Raffles, being published in 1909.

Raffles is a Gentleman Thief, as I said. For generations of readers, Raffles was the Gentleman Thief, the archetype of the class. The Gentleman Thief is the man of Society, of good breeding and good manners, who enriches himself, or simply earns his daily wage, through crime. Raffles wasn’t the first of this sort. You can logically trace the character back to the “knight of the road” highwayman character of the 19th century, from Dick Turpin to Claude Duval. Nor was Raffles the first Gentleman Thief proper; that honor goes first to Grant Allen’s Colonel Clay and second to Guy Boothby’s Simon Carne. But Raffles caught the public imagination in a way that Clay and Carne did not, and so Clay and Carne were (regrettably) forgotten while Raffles went on to appear in dozens of short stories.

Raffles’ importance, his literary significance, is his role in the development of the mystery genre. The Gentleman Thief was the first modern–that is, late Victorian–character type in mystery fiction who was a hero while also being a criminal. Raffles wasn’t the first Gentleman Thief, as I said, and he wasn’t the first criminal protagonist–two more shocking and transgressive predecessors were Horace Dorrington and Randolph Mason, who both lacked the redeeming qualities of Raffles and the other Gentleman Thieves. And Hornung, in the character of Raffles, didn’t invent the idea of the outlaw hero, which goes back to Robin Hood and is seen in this site in the characters of the räuberroman, from Karl Von Moor to Don Q. But Raffles’ popularity spawned imitators, which Colonel Clay et al did not. Raffles is the predecessor for the more noble heroic thieves, or rogue heroes as I’ve called them elsewhere on the site (following Robert Sampson’s lead), from Jimmie Dale to The Saint.

But Raffles was not the best of the Gentleman Thieves. That title belongs to Arsene Lupin. Maurice LeBlanc, Lupin’s creator, was a better writer than Hornung and wrote better Gentleman Thief stories. But LeBlanc was French and Hornung was English, and LeBlanc’s translators did not do justice to his stories, and so the English-reading public has always preferred Raffles to Lupin, despite the latter’s superiority.

This isn’t to say that the Raffles stories aren’t good. They are. But they aren’t great or, for the most part, even very good. Readable, yes. Entertaining, certainly. But falling short of greatness. Hornung writes in the light 1890s style, which moves briskly, even more so than the occasionally stiff Sherlock Holmes stories. I find this style quite readable and a marked improvement on the ponderousness and prolixity of the mid-century style, and so found the Raffles stories quick reads and quite agreeable, even if Hornung’s vocabulary occasionally gets a bit obscure or shows its age. But in other respects the stories are sadly inconsistent. Hornung’s plots improved as he went along, but the first ones are simplistic and even the more complicated ones are no match for Maurice LeBlanc’s puzzle plots. Hornung is very clear on how Raffles commits his crimes, so that several of the stories are quite realistic guides to practical burglary, but Hornung rarely makes life as difficult for Raffles as it could and should have been, so that Raffles’ opponents and victims often come off as unintelligent and careless. This isn’t always true, and there are several stories in which Raffles tangles with smart and dangerous men, but more often than not Raffles’ victims lack the intelligence of the average reader, which is never a good sign in a crime story.

Somewhat more damning are the two moments of anti-Semitism and the one use of the N-word in the first two story collections. It’s hard to condemn Hornung out of hand as a bigot based on those three examples, and it always has to be remembered that the politics and prejudices of a bygone age are different from our own–but, nonetheless, there are two moments of anti-Semitism and one use of the N-word in the first sixteen stories, and those may slightly mar the modern readers’ enjoyment of the stories.

The most critical failure of the stories is Hornung’s own muddled approach to Raffles. The reader is presented with conflicting messages about Raffles, and while in the hands of some authors this leads to the protagonist’s depth or moral complexity, Hornung only manages to present incoherence. As George Orwell noted in his famous essay “Raffles and Miss Blandish,”

However, the truly dramatic thing, about the fact that he is a gentleman. Raffles is presented to us and this is rubbed home in countless scraps of dialogue and casual remarks — not as an honest man who has gone astray, but as a public-school man who has gone astray. His remorse, when he feels any, is almost purely social; he has disgraced ‘the old school’, he has lost his right to enter ‘decent society’, he has forfeited his amateur status and become a cad. Neither Raffles nor Bunny appears to feel at all strongly that stealing is wrong in itself, though Raffles does once justify himself by the casual remark that ‘the distribution of property is all wrong anyway’. They think of themselves not as sinners but as renegades, or simply as outcasts....

Both Raffles and Bunny, of course, are devoid of religious belief, and they have no real ethical code, merely certain rules of behaviour which they observe semi-instinctively...Raffles and Bunny, after all, are gentlemen, and such standards as they do have are not to be violated. Certain things are ‘not done’, and the idea of doing them hardly arises. Raffles will not, for example, abuse hospitality. He will commit a burglary in a house where he is staying as a guest, but the victim must be a fellow-guest and not the host. He will not commit murder, and he avoids violence wherever possible and prefers to carry out his robberies unarmed. He regards friendship as sacred, and is chivalrous though not moral in his relations with women. He will take extra risks in the name of ‘sportsmanship’, and sometimes even for aesthetic reasons. And above all, he is intensively patriotic. He celebrates the Diamond Jubilee (‘For sixty years, Bunny, we’ve been ruled over by absolutely the finest sovereign the world has ever seen’) by dispatching to the Queen, through the post, an antique gold cup which he has stolen from the British Museum. He steals, from partly political motives, a pearl which the German Emperor is sending to one of the enemies of Britain, and when the Boer War begins to go badly his one thought is to find his way into the fighting line. At the front he unmasks a spy at the cost of revealing his own identity, and then dies gloriously by a Boer bullet....

In choosing Raffles as a background for No Orchids I deliberately chose a book which by the standards of its time was morally equivocal. Raffles, as I have pointed out, has no real moral code, no religion, certainly no social consciousness. All he has is a set of reflexes the nervous system, as it were, of a gentleman. Give him a sharp tap on this reflex or that (they are called ‘sport’, ‘pal’, ‘woman’, ‘king and country’ and so forth), and you get a predictable reaction.

Orwell puts it interestingly: Raffles’ stories are “morally equivocal.” I’d disagree, however, and describe them as conflicted and contradictory. The stories implicitly present Raffles as the hero, simply by making him the focus of the stories. Raffles has several positive attributes, particularly the code of behavior which Orwell describes. Bunny’s worship of Raffles, which verges on the homoerotic at times, reinforces the message of Raffles-as-good-guy. And Hornung adds to this by making some of Raffles’ opponents and victims bad people, so that we are pleased at their victimization and cheer for their victimizer. But it was understood by Hornung’s contemporary audience that because of what Raffles did he could not be the hero. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, in his autobiography, that “I confess I think they are rather dangerous in their suggestion. I told him so before he put pen to paper, and the result has, I fear, borne me out. You must not make the criminal a hero.” Raffles was a controversial character at the time because of this; most of the reading audience thought poorly of a book which presented a criminal as a hero. Hornung’s competence as a writer made the stories entertaining, and the reading audience, despite its disapproval, took a kind of horrified delight–one might almost call it non-erotic prurience–in Raffles’ exploits. But underlying this illicit pleasure was the knowledge that Raffles was a villain, or an anti-hero at best. He steals from people. He has a code but no morals. He steals to enrich himself, not as a kind of Robin Hood. He’s a self-centered thief, not a hero. Hornung generally paints Raffles in a glowing light, and Bunny’s condemnation of Raffles’ acts is so inarticulate, and weakened by his hero worship of Raffles, as to be quite toothless. The contemporary audience would have understood some of Raffles’ acts to be Wrong, even with his code of conduct; contrary to what Orwell says, Raffles doesn’t hold friendship to be sacred, and violates it in a few stories, even risking Bunny’s life (and worse, his good name). But Hornung shows Raffles as charming and friendly and otherwise honorable.

It’s this conflict between message and reality that produces the incoherence which mars the stories. Hornung, I think, realized this on some level, and took pains to make the stories a linked progression, so that time passes and Raffles’ life changes from the “Ides of March,” his first appearance, to “The Knees of the Gods,” in which Raffles dies. Compare this to the Sherlock Holmes stories, which with a few exceptions can be read in any order with little loss of coherence. You can read “A Case of Identity” or “The Veiled Lodger” and find Holmes, Watson, and their circumstances essentially unchanged. But the Raffles stories gain something by being read in order. You can see how Hornung, with seeming reluctance, applied the logical consequences to the stories, with Raffles being caught (and the implicit attendant disgrace) at the end of The Amateur Cracksman and then made Raffles suffer through the disgrace and finally manage atonement in death in The Black Mask. But that’s the background; the foreground is about the boyish and almost childlike Raffles trying to live a carefree and careless life, one unaffected by the passage of time (ala the Holmes canon), and being punished. While I generally think story series are improved when the author acknowledges the passage of time, rather than keeping the characters unchanged and caught in the Eternal Now, a series which is about the drawn-out punishment of an appealing character–and make no mistake, Raffles is at least superficially appealing–is not so pleasant, and speaks to a confusion of purpose on the author’s part, because we can be sure that Hornung, whatever else he may have intended in the Raffles stories, did not intend to make them a prolonged consideration of the punishment of a class transgressor.

All this needn’t be an impediment to the enjoyment of the stories, of course, but Hornung’s confused approach to the topic does indicate a certain inconsistency of thought on his part. The plots of the stories aren’t muddle, but are too often too straightforward and even simplistic. Hornung’s plots just aren’t as intricate as those of Maurice LeBlanc or Grant Allen. The plots aren’t stupid–Hornung was too competent and professional for that–but they aren’t imaginative, either, and Raffles is rarely really challenged in the stories.

It’s trite but accurate to say that the Bunny-Raffles partnership is a reflection of the Watson-Holmes pairing. Hornung himself acknowledged it. But Bunny-Raffles is not a copy of Watson-Holmes, but rather a complement to it. Where Holmes treats Watson with patronizing scorn–sometimes genial, on rare occasions affectionate, but often harsh–Raffles is openly affectionate to Bunny. Raffles is more of a friend to Bunny than Holmes is to Watson, but Watson is closer to Holmes and more privy to Holmes’ secrets and inner personality and character than Bunny is with Raffles. Bunny himself complains of Raffles’ “capricious reserve,” and although Raffles admits that he keeps too many secrets from Bunny, Raffles never stops doing. Too, Raffles occasionally manipulates Bunny, or places him in risky situations, in the service of crime, a sacrifice of friendship which Holmes would never contemplate.

But the reason I mention the pairing here, and their Doyle counterparts, is that on the most basic level of story quality, Bunny fails the test. Watson humanizes Holmes and acts as a suitable (if occasionally duffer-ish) figure for the reader to identify with. Bunny does not, and acts as a detriment to the stories. His hero worship of Raffles borders on the craven, and in “The Gift of the Emperor,” when Raffles falls in love with a woman, Bunny’s outright jealousy of the woman can only lead the modern reader to conclude that Bunny is in love with Raffles. (This wasn’t Hornung’s intent, certainly, but it’s how the story turned out). Bunny has moral objections to the life Raffles leads, and which Bunny helps him lead, but Bunny lacks the moral spine to make his objections known, or to obey his own conscience and cease helping Raffles. Bunny is quite happy to accept the role of sidekick; contrast this with Watson’s irritation at Holmes’ relegating him to such a role. Bunny is a weakling, a coward, and incompetent (with only the exception of his timely actions in “The Wrong House”). Bunny disgusts himself, and the reader ends up agreeing with him.

(That said, it occurs to me that Hornung may deliberately have been making Bunny “womanish,” to use the traditional Victorian term, as yet another change from Watson. If so, my interpretation of Bunny will need rethinking).

Raffles is a good thief. He plans ahead, spending time casing the houses he’s to crack and the men he’s to rob. He believes that “pains and patience” are required to get what he wants. And he has a certain native intelligence and wit to accompany his Society polish and public school education. But he’s not a great thief, not a Lupin or even a Colonel Clay. Raffles’ plans occasionally go awry or require help, either from Bunny or from Bunny’s dependable haplessness, to make them work and save Raffles from disgrace. He’s very good at disguises, and makes use of a crashpad apartment (one of the first secret headquarters in crime fiction) and alternate identities. He follows his code and avoids violence (except when it’s really merited) and won’t murder: “that’s not the game.” It is, really a game for Raffles. He steals for gain, of course, but he’s in it as much for the thrill of the chase, of the danger (of exposure and disgrace) as he is for the swag–as they say, money won or stolen is twice as sweet as money earned. But he doesn’t seek that thrill regularly, only when the money runs out. The modern reader will be curious why Raffles doesn’t try harder and steal more–enough to retire on, at the least. It may be that stealing more than you need is against the code, or that it would make him worse in his own eyes. Bunny describes Raffles’ viewpoint in this way:

Human nature was a board of checkers; why not reconcile one's self to alternate black and white?  Why desire to be all one thing or all the other, like our forefathers on the stage or in the old-fashioned fiction?  For his part, he enjoyed himself on all squares of the board, and liked the light the better for the shade.
Perhaps too much theft would put him too far in the shade? That’s part of it, I think, but more than that, I think, stealing too much for Raffles would require more effort than he’s willing to give. Raffles in repose is languid and even lazy, and seems to have the same set of assumptions as Bertie Cecil, in Under Two Flags (see the Cigarette entry). Raffles has, to a large degree, Bertie’s affected languor, the done behavior of upper class young men in Britain in the early and mid 19th century.

Raffles is one of England’s best cricketers. He thinks well of himself, though not too well. He’s usually charmingly frank, although there is that reserve which no one, even Bunny, manages to penetrate. He has the nerve which Bunny lacks, and he prefers fair play to foul.

The Amateur Cracksman
The e-text of the novel. From Marcus Rowland's excellent Forgotten Futures site.

akhmétov. Rakhmetov was created by Nikolai Chernyshevsky and appeared in Chto Delat? (What is to be done?) (1862-1863) Chernyshevsky (1828-1889) was a Russian socialist, reformer, and writer; he wrote for the radical journal Contemporary. What is to be done? was his most influential work, though, giving him the reputation as a forerunner of the Russian revolutionary movement as well as a primary influence on Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground, and Crime and Punishment.

Rakhmetov is not the main character of What is to be done?, but is probably the most important character. (The novel, I should add, is heavy sledding, and not to be picked up lightly). Rakhmetov is, to quote one critic, "the emerging hero of history's and to some extent the novel's future." Rakhmetov is the descendant of a famous Russian family, renowned since the thirteenth century for their heroics, whether as boyars, crown officers, or generals-in-chief. Rakhmetov himself is the next-to-youngest child of eight, and so only has a small portion of the family's estates on the Medvyeditsa River. Rakhmetov, though, does not live the life of a young lordling, despite owning over four hundred serfs. Rakhmetov became a student in St. Petersburg and read widely, particularly in philosophy.

Rakhmetov is an exceptional person in many ways. Among the boatmen of the Volga Rakhmetov is known as "Nikitushka Lomof," after the legendarily huge and strong boatman hero. Rakhmetov wasn't born strong, but at age seventeen decided to improve himself, and so spent hours practicing gymnastics. Rakhmetov also spent time as a "common laborer," improving his physical strength, and feeding himself a special diet. The result was that he became exceptionally, almost superhumanly, strong. (At one point he catches the axle of a runaway wagon and holds it for long enough to stop the horses). He read widely, in philosophy, science, and literature, always trying to improve his mind and become as knowledgeable as possible. He traveled across Europe and North America, studying other languages, cultures, and peoples.

The result is that Rakhmetov becomes, in the words of a critic, "the prototype of hard-headed materialism and pragmatism, of total dissatisfaction with the government, and of the self-sacrificing nobility of spirit that was the ideal of many of the radical intelligentsia." Rakhmetov is a rationalist and ascetic who prepares himself for total and complete revolution against the Czarist regime. He is, in other words, a revolutionary Doc Savage.

amsey, Ann. Ann Ramsey was created by George Brewer and appeared in The Witch of Ravensworth (1808). I've been able to find nothing about Brewer except his date of birth, 1766. The finale of The Witch of Ravensworth is so gloriously confused that one could be forgiven for thinking that the ending, a classic "...the HELL?" moment, was deliberate on Brewer's part. To quote Frederick Frank, "Many Gothic writers...suffer from this defect. Having written their characters into a haunted castle or witch's cavern, they lacked a way of getting them out."

The Baron de la Braunch is a despot who aspires to power. To do this he needs to get rid of his wife, Gertrude, and his two sons. As The Witch of Ravensworth begins he seems to have already taken care of Gertrude, but he still has to take care of the kids, so he visits Ann Ramsey, the Witch of Ravensworth, and asks her to prophesy for him. In these early passages Ann Ramsey comes off as quite the Gothic witch. She's a hideous hag, unspeakably foul. She drinks blood, eats the flesh of babies, and lives in a hovel completely overrun with serpents and toads. So when the Baron comes to her for help she agrees to do so--but he must pay her one child for each prophecy she gives him. The Baron, no fool, sees this as a perfect opportunity and pays her with the blood of his sons. The prophecies seem to favor him, which he likes, but with Gertrude gone the Baron is now focused on the toothsome Alwena. To gain her favors the Baron participates in a Satanic ritual with Ann Ramsey, and in the course of the ritual stabs a corpse and swears allegiance to "Askar," the lord of hell. From there it's downfall for the Baron, unfortunately; his crimes mount, as do the bodies of his victims and the dangling plotlines of The Witch of Ravensworth.

And that's when Brewer hijacks the narrative bus and makes it pull into Goofyville. Alwena and the Baron appear to kill each other, and Ann Ramsey reveals herself to be...wait for it...Gertrude, who is a righteous Christian (and yet has been plotting any number of evil schemes against the Baron as well as eating infant flesh and drinking blood). The Baron, now remorseful, retires to a monastery. And there the story ends.

appaccini, Dr. Dr. Giacomo Rappaccini was created by Nathaniel Hawthorne and appeared in “Rappaccini’s Daughter” (United States Magazine and Democratic Review, December 1844). Hawthorne was the creator of Dr. Heidegger and I have information on him there. Hawthorne liked his stories dark, and while “Rappaccini’s Daughter” isn’t quite as dark as “Young Goodman Brown” (see the Goodman Brown entry) it is, in its own way, a very dark story.

A young student named Giovanni Guasconti travels to Padua to pursue his studies. Because Giovanni is poor he can only afford a room high up in an old building. His room overlooks a lovely garden. Giovanni’s landlady tells him that the garden belongs to the famous doctor Signor Giacomo Rappaccini; “it is said that he distils these plants into medicines that are as potent as a charm. Oftentimes you may see the signor doctor at work, and perchance the signora, his daughter, too, gathering the strange flowers that grow in the garden.” Giovanni, looking at the garden, has his eye caught by one plant in particular, lustrous and richly purple. Giovanni sees a “tall, emaciated, sallow, and sickly-looking man, dressed in a scholar’s garb of black,” walking through the garden; he is “beyond the middle term of life, with gray hair, a thin, gray beard, and a face singularly marked with intellect and cultivation, but which could never, even in his more youthful days, have expressed much warmth of heart.” This man (Rappaccini, obviously) moves through the garden, carefully observing every plant but even more carefully avoiding touching the plants or inhaling them. He is soon joined by a beautiful young woman–his daughter Beatrice. Beatrice talks around the garden, talking to the plants, and she pays particular attention to the large purple plant, calling it “my sister” and “my splendor.” Giovanni falls for her fairly rapidly. Meanwhile, Giovanni meets Signor Pietro Baglioni, a professor of medicine at the University of Padua and a friend of Giovanni’s father, and learns that although Dr. Rappaccini is very knowledgeable, Prof. Baglioni dislikes him: “he cares infinitely more for science than for mankind. His patients are interesting to him only as subjects for some new experiment. He would sacrifice human life, his own among the rest, or whatever else was dearest to him, for the sake of adding so much as a grain of mustard seed to the great heap of his accumulated knowledge.” Baglioni and Rappaccini are, as Giovanni discovers, professional rivals, with Rappaccini “generally thought to have gained the advantage.”

Giovanni watches the garden and sees similarities between Beatrice and the large purple plant, even dreaming about them as being “different, and yet the same.” He also sees a reptile killed instantly from exposure to a drop of dew from the broken stem of the purple flower. This does not faze Beatrice, but it unnerves Giovanni, as does Beatrice’s breath knocking dead an insect. He strikes up an acquaintance with her anyhow, and their relationship blooms into a cozy friendship. Signor Baglioni is not happy about this, but Giovanni is too much in love with Beatrice to be anything but irritated with Baglioni. Dr. Rappaccini encounters Baglioni and Giovanni talking in the road and greets Baglioni coldly but is very interested in Giovanni. Giovanni does not like the garden, for the flowers seem “unnatural” and “an evil mockery of beauty,” but he goes into the garden to be with Beatrice. Baglioni tries to warn Giovanni off of Beatrice by telling him the story of a woman who had been “nourished with poisons from her birth upward, until her whole nature was so imbued with them that she herself had become the deadliest poison in existence. Poison was her element of life. With that rich perfume of her breath she blasted the very air.” Baglioni even tells Giovanni directly that Beatrice is purely poison, made literally so by Rappaccini, but Giovanni still insists on seeing her–although Baglioni quietly vows to himself to thwart Rappaccini, and gives Giovanni a vial containing what he claims is an antidote against the most virulent poisons. After being touched by Beatrice, and reacting as if stung by an insect, Giovanni eventually discovers that he himself is beginning to exude poison, and that his breath has become lethal like Beatrice’s, and he pitches a fit at Beatrice over this. She, poor thing, blames her father, and he believes her and so gives her the antidote Baglioni gave her. As she drinks Rappaccini appears, and he tells her that he has made Giovanni virulent so that she would no longer be lonely. Beatrice dies, for the antidote kills one to whom poison had been life, and as the horrified Rappaccini and Giovanni watch Baglioni appears and cries, “Rappaccini! Rappaccini! And is this the upshot of your experiment!”

“Rappaccini’s Daughter” can be read on several levels (and has been by several generations of literary critics). Hawthorne opposes Rappaccini’s almost alchemical knowledge and investigative spirit with Baglioni’s jealous anti-intellectualism and rationalism, so that both sides end up in the wrong. Beatrice, who in personality is often rather sweet and innocent, can be read as a misogynist allegory or as a transcendentalist one (much is made of her angelic nature and her desire to transcend her awful body and become one with God/Nature).  Hawthorne distrusted science, so the story can be read as a polemic against science, with Rappaccini, rather than Baglioni, as the final villain, a heartless mad scientist not dissimilar to Victor Frankenstein, to Aylmer, the protagonist of Hawthorne’s later story “The Birthmark” (1845), or even Chillingworth in The Scarlet Letter. There is even the symbolic Beatrice-as-Eve, her-garden-as-Eden, and Giovanni (or Rappaccini)-as-Satan reading. What most readers will come away from “Rappaccini’s Daughter” with is its darkness, despite its garden environment and Beatrice’s generally nice personality. Beatrice and Giovanni end up being pawns in the rivalry between the unsympathetic old men, and Giovanni’s treatment of Beatrice is unkind.

Dr. Rappaccini is, as mentioned, not dissimilar to Victor Frankenstein. Rappaccini is if anything colder; he seems very much to be the precursor of the heartless and inhuman mad scientists of pulp fiction. Victor Frankenstein was passionate about several things, while Rappaccini’s only real emotions are his love for his daughter, which though haughtily described is nonetheless real, and his cold and dispassionate love of science. When Baglioni describes him this way: “I know that look of his: it is the same that coldly illuminates his face as he bends over a bird, a mouse or a butterfly which in pursuance of some experiment he has killed by the perfume of a flower–a look as deep as Nature itself, but without Nature’s warmth of love,” Baglioni is for the most part accurate. Rappaccini is stupendously knowledgeable about science and Nature, and one who, through his experiments, can make his daughter’s touch and breath poisonous. But as he discovers science unmediated by wisdom can and often does lead to tragedy.

apperschwyll, Dr. Dr. Rapperschwyll was the creation of E. P. Mitchell (1852-1927), a graduate of filthy Bowdoin College and journalist and editor, rising to be the editor-in-chief of the New York Sun for seventeen years; like Robert Duncan Milne, of Professor Vehr and Philip Hall fame, Mitchell is one of the forgotten giants of 19th century American science fiction. Rapperschwyll appeared in "The Ablest Man in the World," which appeared in the 4 May 1879 issue of the New York Sun. In the spa in Baden, Germany, an American traveler, Fisher, is dragged into an international incident. A hotel clerk accidentally calls him "doctor," so Fisher is brought to the bedside of an ailing Russian, Baron Savitch, who appears to be in the sheerest agony. Fisher does what he can to help Savitch (it's not much) but Savitch is still in great pain, and he collapses, begging Fisher to unscrew the top of his head. Fisher sees a silver plate on the Baron's head and begins to remove it, but then Dr. Rapperschwyll appears and pushes Fisher out of the room, adding several rude comments and insults ("Dunderhead! Know-nothing!") along the way. Fisher is curious and begins investigating; he discovers that Baron Savitch is actually the mastermind of the Russian empire and that he has instituted reforms and gotten great results. Fisher is now quite interested and manages to trap Rapperschwyll, and under threat of a beating (Rapperschwyll is small and bearded, while Fisher is tall, strong, and athletic) Rapperschwyll confesses. Rapperschwyll had wanted to help Russia and put her atop the world and had designed a "small logic engine" much better than Babbage's machine. He'd then taken this machine, and put it into the head of a congenital idiot. The result was Baron Savitch. Fisher is concerned by this story, as Savitch seems to have world conquering aims, so he gets Savitch drunk on moonshine and then removes the engine from his head and destroys it.

assendyll, Rudolf. Rudolf Rassendyll was created by “Anthony Hope” and appeared in The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) and Rupert of Hentzau (1898). “Anthony Hope” was the pen-name of Anthony Hope Hawkins (1863-1933), a lawyer who abandoned the law to become a full-time writer after the remarkable success of The Prisoner of Zenda and The Dolly Dialogues (1894), a comedy of manners.

The Prisoner of Zenda was the novel which spawned an entire genre of stories, what is now called the Ruritanian novel (after Ruritania, the setting of Zenda), in which an outsider (traditionally American or British but only human in science fictional or fantasy versions of the story) travels to a small, fictional kingdom (usually European but occasionally Asian) which is a nostalgic throwback to earlier times, complete with a feudal system, royalty, and sword-wielding, duel-interested nobility. The outsider falls in love with a member of the country’s royalty and becomes that country’s ruler, marries that country’s ruler, or helps decide the rulership of that country. Though not often written today, for a few decades the Ruritanian novel was quite common; I have a few examples of them here–see the Mr. Barnes and Graustak entries for examples.

Like many another novel on this site, The Prisoner of Zenda is a classic much better known than read. And as with many of these other classics, this lack of familiarity is a shame, since Zenda is really quite good light entertainment.

Rudolf Rassendyll is the indolent, wealthy son of a British family and a member of the Elphbergs, the royal house of Ruritania, a small country within a day’s train ride from Dresden. On a whim, and to escape the nagging of his sister-in-law, who thinks he should do more with his life than knock about, Rudolf travels to Ruritania, as much to follow a beautiful woman he sees in Paris as to travel. Once in Ruritania Rudolf discovers that he is a near twin to King Rudolf, excepting Rassendyll’s mustache and imperial beard. (Rassendyll and the King meet by accident in a forest). Rassendyll and the King hit it off and have a fine night of drinking. Unfortunately, the next morning the King (having unwisely partaken of wine sent especially to him by his knavish brother, Black Michael) is unconscious, drugged. This is especially unfortunate, as this is the morning of his coronation, and if he does not attend Black Michael will seize power.

So, of course, Rassendyll is persuaded by Rudolf’s adviser, wily Colonel Sapt, to shave his beard and mustache and then impersonate Rudolf at the coronation. Rassendyll successfully pulls this off but also meets and is immediately attracted to Princess Flavia, the beautiful intended of King Rudolf. (At least, that’s what supposed to happen, but Rudolf takes far too little seriously for Flavia’s liking, and their relationship is somewhat strained). Rassendyll makes ready to leave, but when he and Sapt return to the inn where they left the unconscious Rudolf, they find him vanished and the guard they left with him dead. Rassendyll and Sapt figure out soon enough that Black Michael is holding the king. From that point forward Rassendyll has to juggle several matters: the kingship, for he must continue impersonating the king lest Black Michael seize power; the king, for Rassendyll and Sapt have to rescue him; and Princess Flavia, who Rassendyll becomes increasingly smitten with, and she with him, although for most of the time she thinks he’s Rudolf.

Eventually matters are resolved. The king is freed and restored to his throne, Black Michael is defeated and killed (though by the charming rogue and villain Rupert Hentzau, not by Rassendyll), and Rassendyll and Flavia...separate. Her duty is to Ruritania and although she loves Rassendyll and he her she must be Queen to Rudolf’s King. In the far less successful sequel Rassendyll must return to Ruritania, not just to see Flavia again (King Rudolf’s jealousy of her love for Rassendyll leads to a cessation of messages from Flavia to Rassendyll) but also to defeat the schemes of Rupert of Hentzau; it all ends tragically.

The Prisoner of Zenda will never be mistaken for Art, but as a fast-reading romantic adventure it is excellent. It’s lacking all of the ponderousness of many of the non-Weyman School adventure novels on this site; if The Hunchback of Notre Dame (see the Quasimodo entry) is a stew, The Prisoner of Zenda is a souffle. It has a briskness to it, a Gay Nineties insouciance, and a lack of serious authorial intent which produces a quick pace and a modern tone. The concerns and subject matter are old-fashioned, but the treatment is not. Zenda is dialogue-heavy, and while Hawkins didn’t produce wit it’s still punchy. While Zenda does conform to the Ruritanian/Tarzan/Mowgli/Kim/Haggard formula of the Westerner/white man going to a foreign culture, immersing himself in it, and triumphing there as a superior to the natives, Zenda lacks the racial element of similar stories set in Africa or India, and Hawkins convesy the sense that Rassendyll triumphs through thought and planning, and not through innate racial or cultural superiority. And Hawkins shows a refreshing lack of hesitation at having Rassendyll kill when necessary as well as at following characterization to its logical end, even when that results in an unhappy ending for the novel.

Rudolf Rassendyll is not a complex character. (Hawkins’ characterization is efficient but hardly deep). He’s a typical Gay Nineties adventure hero: wealthy, unwilling to take much seriously (except his honor and his final love affair), well educated, well travelled, a good swordsman and shooter, and capable under any circumstances, whether freeing a prisoner from a castle, chatting with an ambassador, or unexpectedly meeting a king while in a forest. Rassendyll does have a sense of humor as well as a code of honor, and when pressed loses his insouciant pose and becomes quite serious.

avenshaw, Captain. Captain Ravenshaw was created by Robert Neilson Stephens and appeared in Captain Ravenshaw (1901). Stephens was the creator of Dick Wetheral, and you can find a little more information on him there. Captain Ravenshaw is an entertaining example of the novel of roguery, and although it is set in England in the late 16th century Captain Ravenshaw is not so much a swashbuckler or a historical romance, but rather the story of a rogue. Captain Ravenshaw is a roarer and a noted bully, but he's really not a bad sort, once you get past his bluster, brawling, and boozing. (No bawding, though; he's an avowed enemy of women, though not A Friend of Dorothy). He's notorious across London for his bar brawls, his roistering, and his swaggering of the taverns. When the novel begins he's down on his luck, not wanting to hold a real job (but of course) and having been cheated of his inheritance and swindled out of a position, both due to women's cozening against him. (Hence his hatred for the sex). Ravenshaw befriends a young scholar, similarly down on his heels, and the two have a memorable series of adventures across the city, teaching four young nobles how to be roarers in exchange for food and clothes (it must be said that Stephens, for all the lightheartedness of Captain Ravenshaw--and it is quite lighthearted, amusing, and entertaining, if not overfull with wit--and that's what separates Stephens from Stanley Weyman; Weyman is witty, while Stephens is more broadly amusing--does not skip the descriptions of the hunger that poverty brings Ravenshaw and his friend to), swindling gamblers out of their gold, skipping out on their rent, picking fights after nightfall just for the sheer fun of it, and so on. It's all great roguish fun.

And then, of course, a woman gets involved. She's Millicent Etheridge, and she's a sweet seventeen year old who's been engaged to marry a vain old knight, quite against her will. Ravenshaw is initially recruited to be the go-between between Jerningham, the villain of Captain Ravenshaw, who wants to court Millicent, "if only for an hour" (and is willing to kidnap and rape Millicent if she won't accede to his requests), and Millicent. But Ravenshaw falls for Millicent's charms, and so there's the requisite (if still quite entertaining) alarums and excursions, disguises, late night flights down the Thames, swordfights, and sweet talking, until by novel's end Jerningham has fled for the New World and Millicent and Ravenshaw, now happily in love, are wed. (Well--intending to be wed, and pretending to all that they are already wed).

Ravenshaw is Falstaffian, though not fat and not quite so witty. He's clever, though, and gets a number of good lines in. Despite his roguery (he knows the Beggars' Cant, something that proves quite helpful to him not once but twice) he's a good cove, deep down. And unlike many rogues he's got the skill at arms to back up his boasts. Half of the reason that no one will gamble with him (and that's his chosen form of making money) is that he's just too good at the dice. The other half is that losing gamblers can't fight him, since he'll skewer them. He fought with Sir John Norris in Portugal and France and killed an escaped bear all by himself.

It's great fun, is Captain Ravenshaw, and not mean-spirited at all.

eade, Frank (I, II, and III). The first Frank Reade was created by "Noname," aka "Harry Enton," aka Harold Cohen, and debuted in “Frank Reade and His Steam Man of the Plains, or, The Terror of the West,” Boys of New York #28, 28 February 1876. The Frank Reades were collectively the most famous and successful of the Edisonade (see below) dime novel characters, and in many ways were the most representative of them, and their stories of the genre itself. Frank Reade wasn't the first Edisonade; that was Johnny Brainerd. His stories weren't the best-written; those would be Robert Toombes' Electric Bob stories. The Reades, however, had longevity, appearing in 184 stories over 23 years, and were definitely the most influential of the Edisonades.

There were three characters to bear the name: Frank Reade; his son, Frank Reade Jr.; and Frank Reade III, Reade Jr.'s son. Most of the following description will be about Frank Reade, Jr., as it was this character that appeared in 179 of the 184 Reade clan stories.

Frank Reade Sr. was created after "The Steam Man of the Prairies," starring the aforementioned Johnny Brainerd, had been reissued to some success. Frank Tousey, publisher of the Tousey family of magazines, saw how profitable "The Steam Man of the Prairies" was for his rival, the Beadle House publishers, and decided that he wanted something similar. He commissioned Harold Cohen (1854-1927) to write the story. Cohen, who had been writing for the dime novels under the pseudonym of "Harry Enton," agreed, and produced "Frank Reade and His Steam Man of the Plains" (Boys of New York #28-36, 28 February-24 April 1876). Frank Reade, in this first set of stories, was a 16-year-old who lived in New York City. He was "of a studious nature, and quite a thinker, was pale, slim, and not over strong." He decided to construct a steam man, a slightly better version of Brainerd's. Reade, his Missouri cousin Charley Gorse, and the Steam Man go out West and have the predictable Edisonade adventures, fighting Indians, bad men, and buffalo, and enriching themselves in the process. Three sequels followed, with Reade producing more and more steam-robots, variations of steam men and steam horses, and having various adventures in the West. Cohen, however, had been forced by Tousey to use the Tousey house pseudonym of "Noname" on all four stories (there's some dispute over whether he wrote the fourth Frank Reade, Sr. story). Cohen was dissatisfied with this state of affairs, as he wanted his own pseudonym of "Harry Enton" to receive credit for the stories. Cohen and Tousey quarrelled, and Cohen quit the series, although he continued to write dime novels, including Old Cap Collier stories.

Tousey then approached Luis Senarens (1863-1939), a "Brooklynite of Cuban descent," to replace Cohen. Senarens, then only 16, had been writing various pieces for the Tousey dime novels for a few years, and had a reputation as a reliable, quick, and cheap worker. Tousey dithered a bit; he didn't want to have to meet Tousey to agree to the deal, because then his real age would be known and, he feared, Tousey would not offer him the job. They finally met and Tousey persuaded Senarens to take the job. Senarens never looked back, and went on to write around 1500 (!!) dime novels under 27 (!) pseudonyms for Tousey, including the Jack Wright stories.

(As a sidenote, Senarens became somewhat involved with Jules Verne himself. One of Senarens' first stories earned him a letter of praise from Verne, something whose effect can only be estimated. A 17-year-old receiving compliments from a titan of fantastic fiction is no small thing. Senarens might not have been so happy had he known the truth of the matter, which was that Verne had lifted some of Senarens' ideas and incorporated them into his novel, The Steam House. Verne would later on take Senarens' idea of the multivaned helicopter and incorporate it into Robur the Conqueror (see the Robur entry below). Don't feel too bad for Senarens, however--well, don't feel bad for the bigoted bastard at all, actually, but don't feel bad about his ideas being stolen by Verne. Senarens was not above stealing from Verne. Senarens used an imitation of Robur's Albatross, down to the compressed-paper material of the ship, in "Frank Reade, Jr., and His Queen Clipper of the Clouds" (Boys of New York, 2 February-6 July 1889). Verne got his own back, though, in the final Robur novel, The Master of the World, which features a flying submarine which is a direct lift from Senarens' "Over the South Pole; or, Jack Wright's Search of a Lost Explorer With His Flying Boat" (Boys' Star Library #364, 1895)).

In Senarens' first Frank Reade story, "Frank Reade Jr. and His Steam Wonder" (Boys of New York #338-350, 4 February-29 April 1879) he revealed that Frank Reade was suddenly middle-aged and a retiree in Readestown, “the smart little town where several generations of Reades had dwelt.” Reade was quite happy, enjoying his sedate lifestyle and tending to his steam-powered garden, but Reade's son, Frank Reade, Jr., was not. Jr. had drive and energy:

Frank Reade was noted the world over as a wonderful and distinguished inventor of marvelous machines in the line of steam and electricity. But he had grown old and unable to knock about the world, as he had been wont once to do.

So it happened that his son, Frank Reade, Jr., a handsome and talented young man, succeeded his father as a great inventor, even excelling him in variety and complexity of invention. The son speedily outstripped his sire.

The great machine shops in Readestown were enlarged by young Frank, and new flying machines, electric wonders, and so forth, were brought into being.

But outstripping his father was not enough for Junior, and when news comes to Readestown that an innocent man has been unfairly convicted and jailed, Junior decides to intervene, and takes his new Steam Man out West, along with Barney and Pomp, his father's two servants. (More on them below). From there he just kept adventuring, kept inventing, kept getting richer, and kept killing. Frank Jr. is described as "a fine specimen of physical young manhood, with a small, dark mustache, keen eyes, an intellectual forehead, and an athletic figure, made up of bone and sinew."

Much later, in 1899, Frank Jr. was succeeded by Young Frank Reade. Young Frank's only appearance was in “Young Frank Reade and his Electric Air Ship; or, a 10,000 Mile Search for a Missing Man,” in Happy Days #261-268, 4 October-2 December 1899. In that story Frank, Jr. is suddenly old and retired, with a family of his own. Young Frank builds his own wonder-craft, a special airship, and quickly outstrips his father, as Frank Jr. did to his father, and goes off adventuring in search of a missing family friend. Young Frank, who is a virtual twin of his father, is assisted by his sister, Kate, who is spunky and resourceful and in most ways just like her brother and father and grandfather.

The Reade clan were Edisonades. One definition of the term can be found here. Another, better definition is the following, by noted SF writers & critics John Clute and E.F. Bleiler, from the magisterial Encyclopedia of Science Fiction:

As used here the term "edisonade"--derived from Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) in the same way that "Robinsonade" is derived from Robinson Crusoe--can be understood to describe any story which features a young US male inventor hero who uses his ingenuity to extricate himself from tight spots and who, by so doing, saves himself from defeat and corruption and his friends and nation from foreign oppressors. The invention by which he typically accomplishes this feat is not, however, simply a weapon, though it will almost certainly prove to be invincible against the foe and may also make the hero's fortune; it is also a means of transportation--for the edisonade is not only about saving the country (or planet) through personal spunk and native wit, it is also about lighting out for the Territory. Once the hero reaches the virgin Territory, he will find yet a further use for his invention; it will serve as a certificate of ownership. Magically, the barefoot boy with cheek of tan will discover that he has been made CEO of a compliant world; for a single revelatory maxim can be discerned fueling the motor heart of the edisonade: the conviction that to tinker with is to own.
I might quarrel with certain particulars of this definition, of course. There were any number of Edisonade stories set outside the United States; indeed, after the first few Edisonade stories in each major series, all of the stories were set outside the U.S. I think the nature of the Edisonade's invention should be emphasized; while the Edisonades are very good at inventing "electric rifles" and "electric cannon," their primary talent lies in inventing armed vehicles, with a new vehicle being created for each new story. And I think the nature of the Edisonade's enemies needs to be pointed out. The Edisonade’s enemies were always non-WASPs; when the Edisonade adventured inside the United States, his enemies were immigrants, blacks, Mexicans, Mormons, and Native Americans. When the Edisonade traveled outside the United States, his enemies were those of the United States itself; the October, 1891 riots in Valparaiso, Chile, between American sailors and native Chileans, had led to lasting ill-will between the United States and Chile, so the Chileans occasionally figured as the villains of an Edisonade’s story. Likewise, during the hostilities between the United States and Spain over Cuba, in 1898, the Spanish became the enemy of the Edisonades. At other times the Edisonade’s enemy was a social group or country whose international reputation, at the time, was low, so that Czarist Russia and the slave-trading Portuguese and the piratical Chinese were the Edisonade’s enemy. On the whole, however, Clute and Bleiler have summed up the nature of the Edisonade quite nicely.

Clute and Bleiler are not fans of the Edisonades, and at heart neither am I. The charges many, most lately Clute and Bleiler, have laid against the genre are true. (There's an ill-informed and pretentious fan "critic" on the Web whose objections to the Clute Encyclopedia, including Clute's Edisonade entry, are regrettably findable via Google. Pay that poltroon no mind. His objections are logically faulty, morally wrongheaded, and factually ill-informed). The Edisonade is a racist, imperialist genre full of unexamined assumptions about the superiority of the White Man and the moral righteousness of acquisitiveness and expansionism. In the hands of Senarens, as Bleiler wrote in his Science Fiction: The Early Years, the Edisonade stories "en masse...suffered visibly from this hugely prolific author's carelessness, cheap jingoism, racist stereotyping, and lackadaisical plotting."  Bleiler also describes Senarens nicely when he says that Senarens "exemplified the worst in the dime-novel tradition: very bad writing, sadism, ethnic rancor, factual ignorance and an exploitational mentality. On the positive side, he led the dime novel away from eccentric inventions into a developmental stream that culminated in modern Children's SF."

The Reades are part and parcel of this tradition; neither the first nor the best of the Edisonades, they are perhaps the quintessential examples of the form. At another point Clute and Bleiler summarize the genre this way:

Stress was on iron technology, with little or no science; narratives contained random, thrilling incidents, often presented in a disjointed and puerile way. Typical social patterns were: a conscious attempt to capitalize on age conflict, with boy inventors outdoing their elders; aggressive, exploitative capitalism, particularly at the expense of "primitive" peoples; the frontier mentality, with slaughter of "primitives" (in the first Frank Reade, Jr. story Frank kills about 250 Native Americans, to say nothing of destroying an inhabited village); strong elements of sadism; ethnic rancor focused on Native Americans, Blacks, Irish, and, later, Mexicans and Jews.
The Reades, as mentioned, travel around the world and have adventures nearly everywhere, from Siberia to Australia to the Andes. As Bleiler and Clute point out, much of their adventuring abroad focusses on exploitation, imperialistic ambitions, and establishing the superiority of the White Man at the bloody expense of the non-White Man. Racism and ethnic bias were an essential part of the Edisonades and of the Frank Reade stories in particular. In the world of the Frank Reades, only WASPs were civilized, with immigrants a criminous threat to the integrity of the country, Native Americans savages, Mexicans cruel “greasers,” Jews greedy and treacherous, and blacks, whether African or African-American, savages deserving of mass slaughter. In Frank Reade’s first appearance he gleefully kills over 200 Native Americans. In “The Mysterious Mirage; or, Frank Reade, Jr.’s Desert Search for a Secret City with his New Overland Chaise” (Frank Reade Library #113, 9 August 1895) a Lost Race of “original Hebrews” are found; the “original Hebrews,” who are tall, blond, and peaceful, are perfect Christians, while one of Frank’s companions, the journalist Hilton, describes “the Hebrew, the Israelite, and the Jew as all one race, dark-skinned, coarse-featured and the enemies of Christ.” When meeting Mexicans, in “Frank Reade, Jr., and his Air-Ship” (Boys of New York, 1 December 1883) Frank’s opinion is that “greasers” are cowardly, vain, stupid, and vicious, and Frank shows no compunction and no small pleasure at murdering them by the dozens.

The Frank Reade stories aren't unrelievedly negative about non-WASPs, hoewver. One bright point--well, not so dark spot, anyhow--is the portrayal of Barney O'Shea and Pomp, Frank's twin servants. Barney O'Shea is a stereotypical Irishman, loving brawling and booze, and quite lethal with his shillelagh. Pomp is an African-American, embodying most of the negative stereotypes of the time. The pair joined up with Frank Reade in his first two stories, and when Frank, Jr., went adventuring the two went with him. When Young Frank Reade went adventuring the pair went along with him. They fight with each other nearly every story, and often require rescuing by Frank, although they often help Frank, and even save his life on occasion.

There is some dispute among scholars about the Barney and Pomp, especially the latter. It is true that Pomp, despite his appearance (a description of pure racism that I can't bear to repeat here) is given some positive qualities. He genuinely cares for Frank, even even pulling a gun on a policeman so as to prevent Reade being falsely arrested. Pomp is one of the greatest horsemen who ever lived, even outracing a pack of "Indians" and outlaws, shooting them down one by one with a pistol while riding backwards. There does seem to be a genuine, if hidden, affection between Pomp and Barney Shea, despite their endless squabbling. Both are involved in the operations of the Reades' wondercrafts in a more than menial way. And both Pomp and Barney Shea are shown as being capable of feats of real heroism, inspired by fair play and patriotism. But for all that, in my view there is an implicit assumption, throughout the series, of the superiority of the WASP and the corresponding inferiority of non-WASPs. Positive aspects Pomp and Shea may have, but those do not, in my view, negate the stereotypes they are also shown as having, and there is no excusing the portrayals of the non-Pomp/Shea non-WASPs in Senarens' work. It must be conceded that Barney and Pomp are generally portrayed more positively than the character of Frycollin, in Robur the Conqueror (a nasty and wholly unexpected piece of racism, somewhat like finding the anti-Semitism in the original version of War of the Worlds) or the African-American characters in the Tom Swift series. But that is damning with faint praise.

The most important parts of the Frank Reade stories, though, isn't the racism but the adventures themselves and the inventions. The Reade stories are precursors to the science fiction of the Golden Age, in which the characterisation of the super-scientists was of secondary importance to their brand new inventions and discoveries, the Deluxe Atom Smashers and the Kzippa Particles and the Transspace Drives and the like. The object fetishism of the Frank Reade stories, with new inventions being seen as wonderful, nearly holy things, can still be seen today, in the works of technothriller writers like Tom Clancy and Stephen Coonts.

All that said, though, Frank Reade's creations can be quite interesting. His Steam Man is much like that Johnny Brainerd's, only it has headlights and its wagon is not covered. Better still, it is armed, shooting "fiery missiles" which dart "hither and thither like stars of fire" from "belts of fire at the neck and waist" of the Steam Man, and its wagon is not covered. It is two feet taller and can travel at a staggering 50 miles per hour.

Reade's airship, the Cloud Cutter, is made from a bulletproof steel/aluminum alloy produced by Reade in his foundries and machine works in Readestown, USA, from which Reade hails. Naturally, the Cloud Cutter is well-armed and capable of traveling around the world, and Reade being Reade, the Cloud Cutter's decks can be electrified in case boarders take the ship, as happened when Reade took on a pack of Siberian bandits. Coincidentally, Reade also carries anti-smallpox "disinfectants," which came in handy when he and his crew discovered a plague ship adrift in the Baltic.

Reade's also got the Neptune, a special seacraft. It's a submarine shaped like a ship; it has masts and sails, and can move via steam, but when necessary Reade can seal all the hatches and doors and take it to the bottom of the sea. It's powered by "chemical generators" which also generate oxygen and consume CO2. The Neptune has electrical lights and is armed with torpedoes; it can also deliver limpet mines that Reade activates at the touch of a button. The crew of the Neptune has diving suits with square oxygen packs that allow them to travel around the sea floor.

Reade's Demon of the Clouds is similar to a flying catamaran with twin aluminum hulls, powered by an electric plant and steered by propellors and gyroscopes. In "Lost in a Comet's Tail" (Frank Reade Library #122, 13 December 1895) Reade's ship-shaped aircraft has four enormous "rotors" (helicopter blades) and is airtight; designed for undersea use, when it gets sucked into space by the pull of Verdi's comet it does double duty as a spaceship, the oxygen-generators, electric heaters, and diving suits (which double as space suits) all being just what Reade and crew needed.

These are just a few of the inventions that the Reades come up. Some others are "night pistols," automatic pistols filled with flashless powder and special bullets; nitroglycerin grenades; steam-powered and later feedless electric locomotives; several varieties of armed, fast-moving airships (including the Cloud-Cutter, the Eclipse, the Flight, the Catamaran of the Air, and the Thunderer) that are usually variations on the theme of helicopters but occasionally are proto-jets; one-person battery-powered electric flying suits (complete with wings); "electric cannon" (pneumatic machine guns); yachts and ships that double as submarines (the Sea Diver, the Rocket, and the Neptune among them); an early version of the instant camera; motorcycle-like "bicycle cars;" armed and armored "overland omnibuses;" chariot-like "electric phaetons;" and space ships (the Flash, the Saturn, and the Shooting Star).

Reade, for his part, embodies the Edisonade genre and is the best example of it. He is anti-everyone (except white male Americans); he may treat them politely, but his biases are only lightly concealed. He is a polylinguist and a wonderful inventor, with a brilliant mind capable of scientific advancements, but he is egotistical, an unashamed imperialist (indeed, Reade would see no need to apologize, for the implicit assumptions of the Edisonades are never examined by them), and a moral hypocrite; he can, in the same sentence, express an aversion for taking human life but also say "to send the black craft and her crew [of pirates--Jess] to the bottom of the sea could be no crime." The Reade stories can be fun to read, but you'll need to take a shower afterwards.

A Gallery of Victorian Airships
A very nice array of images of Frank Reade stories.

eady, Masterman. Masterman Ready was created by Frederick Marryat and appeared in Masterman Ready, or, The Wreck of the Pacific, Written for Young People (1841-1842). Marryat (1792-1848) was a naval officer who became a writer in his retirement. Marryat is important in literary history for being one of the fathers of English nautical fiction, with both Midshipman Easy (1836) and Masterman Ready being quite popular in the 19th century. More significantly, Marryat was arguably the father of British “boys’ fiction.” Although most of his fiction was aimed at adults, Masterman Ready was aimed at children, one of the first works by a major author specifically intended for a juvenile audience. The example of Marryat was noted and followed by Captain Mayne Reid, with his The Desert Home (1851), by W.H.G. Kingston with his Peter the Whaler (1851), and by R.M. Ballantyne, with his Snowflakes and Snowbeams; or, the Young Fur Traders (1856). Reid, Kingston, and Ballantyne were enormously popular, and by catering to a specifically juvenile male audience helped created the “boys’ book.” (I cover Reid in the Captain Haller entry and Ballantyne in the Child Adventurers section, under Peterkin Gray, Jack Martin, and Ralph Rover entries).

Masterman Ready is about the Seagrave family and Masterman Ready. The Seagraves are bound for Australia, where Mr. Seagrave has land, sheep, and cattle. The Seagraves are Mr. Seagrave, his ailing wife, and their children, William, Tommy, Caroline, and the infant Albert. They are assisted by Juno, their black slave. Masterman Ready is a sailor on the Pacific, the ship bringing the Seagraves to Australia. Unfortunately, the Pacific gets caught in a very big storm and is too badly damaged to carry on. The crew abandons both the Pacific and the Seagraves, loading many of the ship’s supplies (and Captain Osborn of the Pacific, who has been struck insensible during the storm) on to a boat and setting off on their own, but Ready is too good a man to let the family die, and so he helps get the Seagraves to the nearest island. Ready then sees to it that the Seagraves survive, helping them at every turn to salvage what they can from the wreck of the Pacific, survive and prosper on the island, build shelter, make fire, catch fish and turtles, blaze trails across the island, and eventually fight off the (inevitable) “savage” natives. Ready is mortally wounded getting fresh water for the Seagraves, but he holds on long enough for Captain Osborn to arrive and rescue the Seagraves.

Masterman Ready was meant by Marryat as a book that his and other children to read. But the genesis of it came from Marryat’s own reading of Johann Wyss’ The Swiss Family Robinson (1812-1813). Just as H. Rider Haggard is reputed to have read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1881) and snorted that he could do better, eventually producing King Solomon’s Mines (1885--and, yes, I know, Allan Quatermain should be on this site. And he will, quite soon) as a response, so too did Marryat respond to The Swiss Family Robinson with disgust and vow to write something better. And so Masterman Ready was born.

Marryat’s problem with Wyss were the numerous inaccuracies and liberties Wyss took with seamanship (“or rather the want of it, which occasions impossibilities to be performed on board of the wreck”) and the flora and fauna of the island on which the Robinsons landed. As far as correcting Wyss’ mistakes, Marryat succeeds magnificently. The realism of the book and the amount of small detail given, both in the scenes on the Pacific and then on the island, is faultless. Too, the amount of action in Masterman Ready would probably have been sufficient to thrill most boys in the 19th century. Yet in most other respects Masterman Ready has not weathered the passage of time well, and the modern reader, juvenile or adult, is most likely to find it tedious rather than exciting.

Marryat’s prose style is utilitarian, and sometimes not even that; there are some very uneven patches, and his descriptions of the island and the plants and animals on it are lacklustre. The characterisation is perfunctory, and the dialogue is all too often dressed-up lectures. Marryat’s desire to rebuke Wyss and write a better version of The Swiss Family Robinson results in a very didactic novel, in which the Seagraves are usually quite helpless and the omnicompetent Ready must rescue them while describing, in great detail, what he is doing. Marryat, like Wyss, is writing a robinsonade, a story of survival in a hostile, isolated environment. The original model for this is of course Daniel Defoe’s The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719), from which the genre got its name. Defoe’s work gained its power in large part from the desperation of Cruose, whose battle with his surroundings is truly life-or-death, and his ingenuity in conquering his island with few tools and fewer skills. The peril of Robinson Crusoe is missing in Wyss, who replaces it with a very unrealistic bounty of natural supplies as well as a tooth-hurtingly saccharine family, whose unceasing harmony and religious fervor is respectively unrealistic and offputting. Unfortunately, Marryat focussed too intently on achieving factual accuracy and forget to restore the element of danger. Worse, the religious didacticism of Wyss is actually increased by Marryat, who has Ready continually invoke the name of the Almighty, and the necessity of mere mortals to “put our trust in a merciful God...who will dispose of us as he thinks fit.” (Honestly, for a long time it seemed that Ready was saying something like that at least once a page). Marryat no doubt felt it his place to educate the youths who might read Masterman Ready, to tell them accurate facts about seamanship and ships and untracked Pacific islands, and to teach them moral and religious and life lessons, but to a 21st century reader it adds up to hundreds of pages of preachy tedium. (There’s also the racism in the portrayal of Juno, the happy black maid, and the natives of the island. While Juno is at least shown to be resourceful, the natives are one-dimensional savages). Finally, special mention must be made of Tommy, the Seagraves’ six-year-old son, who never misses a chance to do the worst, most annoying thing possible, from throwing rocks at lions in a zoo to needlessly shooting off guns (and alarming the entire family) to wasting the family’s water supply (thus leading to Ready’s death). Marryat meant him to be a mischievous scapegrace, someone whose thoughtless acts the reader would smile and shake their heads over; Marryat has several such characters in his works. But the modern reader is likely to glare at the passages with Tommy, trying to blow his head up in the vein of Scanners or at least willing the Seagraves to lay a proper smack-down on the little brat. Honestly, Tommy is as thoughtless and unlikable as Jack Harkaway, and long-time readers of this site will know just how vexed I have to be to invoke his loathesome name.

Ready himself is, as mentioned, omnicompetent. There seems to be nothing he does not know everything about: not seamanship, not the flora and fauna of islands, not life in general, and not religion. He’s in his sixties, having been at sea for more than fifty years, on many sorts of ships and in every climate. He’s exceedingly capable, and modest in everything except his understanding of the divine, in which he is doctrinaire to the point of excess. He’s a good man, as his sticking by the Seagraves shows, and if not for his preachiness he’d be quite likable.

(Masterman, by the way, is his first name, rather than a job title).

eeves, Albert. Created by Thomas F. Anderson, a Canadian author who wrote extensively about Nova Scotia, Albert Reeves appeared in "A Mental Mischance," a story appearing in the September 1896 issue of The Black Cat. Reeves acquires the ability to read minds (no cause for this new ability is given). However, he finds this not an unmixed blessing. He begins by becoming a detective, and is very successful at it, but then grows bored with the profession and decides to become a journalist. He does well by this, too, but grows tired of that, as well, and decides to make one big financial score and then retire. He interviews a tycoon and plucks from his mind the details of a massive deal to consolidate the nation's railroads. Reeves buys up all the railroad stock he can, but then grows ill. When he recovers he finds out that there was no consolidation and that he's broke. The tycoon was plotting out a novel that had the plot, and Reeves was fooled by his thoughts. Worse still, Reeves has lost his mind-reading ability and now must work as an ordinary journalist.

ichard of the Raven's Crest. Created by "Devil" (the real author seems to be unknown) and appearing in The devil's diamond; or, The fortunes of Richard of the Raven's Crest, a sixpenny volume appearing in five parts in 1885. Richard is a rousing, old-fashioned (perhaps even by the standards of the time) adventure story starring Richard Davy, a dispossessed nobleman (one of many in the adventure fiction of the day) on a quest to regain his lost ancestral lands and mansion. The plot hinges on the diamond of the title, an enormous gem that Richard's father found in a "heathen temple" in the depths of India. One day Richard discovers that the gem he'd been keeping in his vault was only a worthless duplicate, and within two days a number of creditors come calling. Richard is forced to sell his mansion and lands, keeping only one set of clothes and a sword, all bearing the crest of his family, a black raven in flight. Richard sets out to regain his family's diamond and discover who'd done him dirty. The story takes us across the world, from the jungles of India, where Richard saves a young British noblewoman by killing four Thuggees, to Tierra del Fuego, where Richard pilots his ship (the Captain having been killed earlier in an attack by Chinese pirates piloting junks with jet-black sails) around the tip of South America in the face of a blinding storm, a trip that holds up well even today. Richard gets into fights in ports in France, North Africa, India and China, conspiracies involving the Chinese and Russians are uncovered, the noblewoman (Alexandra Winston) is met again, wooed (there was mutual attraction from the start) and engaged, and the villain, Richard's uncle, is found and slain in a thrilling sword fight on a sinking ship in the middle of a storm off of Ceylon. Richard regains the diamond and returns to England, where he clears his family name, buys back the Davy house, and lives happily ever after with Alexandra.

ichards, Mr. Mr. Richards was created by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton and appeared in “The Haunted and the Haunters” (Blackwood’s, August 1859). Bulwer-Lytton is mentioned in a number of places on this site, and I’ve come to appreciate him much more after my forced march through 19th century literature. He’s not a particularly good writer, but he can be excellent, and he is an important writer in 19th century letters. (I will argue this at greater length in the article I’ll be writing for Argosy next year).

“The Haunted and the Haunters” is one of the most important early haunted house stories, but it’s much more than that, and in fact is a vehicle for some of the themes which Bulwer-Lytton would later touch on in works like A Strange Story (see the Margrave entry). How you feel about the story may have a lot to do with how you feel about Bulwer-Lytton’s style and about a particular choice he made in writing the story.

The narrator of “The Haunted and the Haunters” hears from a friend about an actual haunted house in London. The nameless narrator, who is very interested in ghosts and haunted houses and such, decides to stay in the house overnight, despite warnings from his friend that there’s something very Wrong about the place, above and beyond the usual sorts of things which happen in supposedly haunted houses. The narrator, his servant, and his favorite dog take rooms overnight, with the landlord, Mr. J—, trying but failing to dissuade the narrator from doing so. The narrator genially scoffs at the landlord’s warnings of the house’s terrors, but by the end of the night he’s a believer, having seen his formerly unflappable servant flee in fear, his dog killed, and having seen, heard, and felt a wide range of spooky happenings, from the pattering of invisible feet to unexplained draughts of cold air and terror to rooms which entrap the narrator and his servant to a disembodied hand stealing letters which the narrator has discovered to, most frighteningly, an evil Darkness in human form which seems to be the cause of so much of the house’s unpleasantness. The narrator eventually discovers the secret of the haunted house: a murder committed there by a bad couple who starved and beat their own child to death, and a kind of psychic battery which transmitted its stored evil magnetism to the rest of the house. The narrator destroys the battery and sees to it that the section of the house infected with evil is destroyed, thus cleansing the house.

In many anthologies the story ends there. But in the original Bulwer-Lytton continues the story. In the house the narrator had found a portrait of a man. The man, in the portrait, exudes a “certain ruthless” calm and “an immense power.” The man in the portrait “made a considerable noise” two centuries ago, but died–although his paraphernalia, left behind in the house, include the psychic battery, so that it was this man who was ultimately responsible for the haunting of the house. The narrator recognised the portrait from his studies in history. So, did Mr. J—, who had seen the man–living–in India. And then, a few days later, the narrator and Mr. J— are chatting when they see the man in the street. That night, at the narrator’s club, the Cosmopolitan Club, the narrator sees the stranger in conversation with his friend G—. G— names the man–“Richards” and then introduces them. The three chat, and then G— leaves, and the narrator mentions that he’s seen the portrait of Mr. Richards. Richards begins to hypnotize the narrator, but the narrator says “I have been a student in the mysteries of life and nature; of those mysteries I have known the occult professors. I have the right to speak to you thus,” and utters “a certain pass word.” Richards allows the narrator to quiz him, and they have a conversation filled with prophecy and magical theory. The narrator wakes from a trance to find Richards gone, and on visiting his hotel room finds a note from Richards telling the narrator that he is now in Richards’ power, and that he will die in a year and a day’s time.

“The Haunted and the Haunters” is one of the best-known and most often anthologized haunted house stories of the 19th century, and is based on the famous haunted house at 50 (now 25) Berkeley Square in London’s West End. I found it an enormously frustrating story to read because of a particular choice Bulwer-Lytton made in writing it. The story can be divided into roughly three parts: the set-up, in which the narrator visits the haunted house; the solution, in which the narrator explains what is causing the house to be haunted; and the encounter with Richards. The first part, the set-up, is excellent. The narrative style is quick  and free of the ponderous rhetoric for which Bulwer-Lytton is known, the tone is matter of fact, and Bulwer-Lytton’s imagination provides some moments which have the power to chill, even now. (I won’t mention them here for fear of spoiling them for you. Trust me, there are a couple of genuinely creepy moments in “The Haunted and the Haunters”). The second part, the explanation, is the tedious and long-winded philosophizing of Bulwer-Lytton at his worst, and it destroyed not just the momentum of the story but also my enjoyment of it. The third part is a mixture of the first two, with a long and quite dull passage on the reality behind magic in the middle of the interesting encounter between the narrator and Richards. I was so frustrated by this story because I could feel, as a reader, when Bulwer-Lytton made the decision to go from the first to the second part, with the corresponding deadening of my enjoyment.

Mr. Richards is a Rosicrucian, like the narrator, and (possibly) an immortal, or at least someone very long-lived. 200 years ago he was wealthy, profligate, with a “restless spirit” and a “taste for the occult sciences.” He “died in time to escape the grasp of the law, for he was accused of crimes which would have given him the headman.” Some decades before the events of “The Haunted and the Haunters” he posed as “de V----,” a Frrenchman “high in the confidence of the Rajah of ----.” His psychic/mesmeric abilities are large. Through his psychic battery he made the house malevolent and capable of manifesting the mind-controlling Darkness. By himself he can mesmerize even the narrator, who boasts of being immune to mesmerism, and can use the narrator to then prophesy. Richards is not a nice person, either; his face reflects his personality: “if you could fancy some mighty serpent transformed into man, preserving in the human lineaments the old serpent type, you would have a better idea of that countenance than long descriptions can convey.” He projects “a dignity, an air of pride and station and superiority, that would have made any one...hesitate long before venturing upon a liberty of impertinence.” Later, “the dignity of mien I had acknowledged in the street was also more striking; a dignity akin to that which invests some prince of the East–conveying the idea of supreme indifference and habitual, indisputable, indolent, but resistless power.”

“The Haunted and the Haunters” is memorable and well worth reading for the frightening moments, but it’s a shame Bulwer-Lytton did not end the story when he should have. I realize that he was following his own story-telling instincts and wanted to educate his public as well as entertain them. But in this case his instincts were wrong.

ichmond, Tom. Tom Richmond appeared in Richmond: Scenes in the Life of a Bow Street Runner (1827). The authorship of Richmond is unknown; although it has long been attributed to either Thomas Surr (1770-1847), a banker and popular novelist, or Thomas Gaspey (1788-1871), a newspaperman and author of novels with crime elements. But the redoubtable E.F. Bleiler has convincingly (to me) cast doubt on either Surr or Gaspey being the author of Richmond, so I'm going to say that Richmond's creator is unknown.

Richmond: Scenes in the Life of a Bow Street Runner is important because, simply stated, it may be the very first collection of detective stories--or, rather, the first collection of stories about the cases of a professional detective. This isn't to say that Richmond was a historically influential book, however. As I've (repeatedly) said on these pages, the common perception that Edgar Allen Poe began the genre of detective stories with the C. Auguste Dupin stories is inaccurate. Genres are tricky things, especially when you try to determine beginnings and endings. For every generally acknowledged starting point of a genre, be it cyberpunk or the Western or mystery fiction, one can always point to earlier works. A proper analysis of what Poe did and did not do will have to wait for either the publication of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana, the print version of this site, or for the time when I reread the Dupin stories and give him a proper treatment, but it suffices to say now that Poe changed the perception of the genre rather than the reality. There were definitely antecedents to the Dupin stories, and Richmond was one of them. But while Poe was in all likelihood aware of the some already existing works of detective fiction, including Susan Hopley and Night and Morning (for which see the M. Favart entry), there is almost no chance he was aware of Richmond. Richmond did not inspire imitators, although it was the first collection to make serious use of the Bow Street Runners. Richmond appeared in isolation and then disappeared the same way; it is an interesting early example of detective fiction without in any way being influential on what came after.

Tom Richmond began as a mischievous lad given to pranks on those he didn't like. After an extended sojourn among the gypsies he signed up with the Bow Street Runners, a career which proves to be a successful one for him as well as a remunerative one. Richmond does well at his job and gains recognition as well as rewards; like many other detectives, both fictional and real, of the pre-Holmes years, he accepts rewards from private individuals who hire him. His work is done through Bow Street, however, rather than as a private investigator. The crimes he investigates are fairly standard: the desecration of graves and the selling of cadavers to medical experimenters, the murder of children, pranks played on an unlikeable Rector, smuggler, a crazy husband, and a counterfeiting noblewoman. As a detective he's effective, if basic. He follows the available trail of clues, which he often gets by questioning friends (including highwaymen who he knew before he joined the Runners), witnesses, and acquaintances of suspects, and he uses basic logic--elementary stuff. At one point he does the Holmesian trick of guessing the profession of a client based on the client's looks--and he gets it wrong. If anything Richmond is closer to police procedural territory than to classic detective fiction.

Richmond is not particularly compelling as fiction. It begins as a picaresque, following Richmond's early life, before swerving into detective fiction territory. Although the mysteries are straightforward and the style of narration very old-fashioned, there are a few features of the book which make for interesting reading. It's notably pro-gypsy, which I did not expect. It's anti-Irish and anti-Semitic (the former more than the latter), which I sort of did expect. And it has a wealth of minor detail about life in the 1820s, including real-seeming examples of Thieves' cant.

It's not a classic, Richmond, but it is important in terms of literary history.

idd, John. John Ridd was created by R. D. Blackmore and appeared in Lorna Doone (1869). Richard Doddridge Blackmore (1825-1900), an author and fruit grower, wrote a number of works, including Clara Vaughan (1864), which contains one of the earliest major fictional detectives in British literature--see the Inspector John Cutting entry for more on that--but Blackmore's importance and fame, during and after his lifetime, spring from Lorna Doone, one of the most entertaining historical romances (emphasis on both) of the 19th century and a work which has deservedly never been out of print.

During the latter half of the 17th century John Ridd is a young boy in the western England area of Exmoor when his father is killed by the Doones of Badgery, a villainous clan of thieves and murderers. But he has a solid family, between his mother and his sisters Annie and Eliza, and so they survive. Then, one day, John is out exploring when he sees a young girl, at the edge of Doone Valley, who identifies herself as "Lorna Doone." John is quite taken with her and remembers her. Years pass, and as a young man he returns to Doone Valley, meets up with Lorna again, and falls in love with her. She isn't in love with John, not to the same degree that he is with her, but she likes him, and she hates the Doones. But she is destined to be the wife of Carver Doone, the monstrous son of Sir Ensor Doone, the leader of the Doones, and freeing her from them is no small thing. After months of waiting the worst frost and snow of the century arrive in west England, and John succeeds in freeing Lorna from the Doones. But the course of love doth ne'er run smooth, and before they can Live Happily Ever After the pair must endure separation (Lorna goes to London to assume her role as a lady of a very high noble family), danger (John goes in search of his sister's roguish husband and gets arrested and nearly hanged as a rebel during the collapse of Monmouth's rebellion), more danger (an attack on Doone Valley), and near heartbreak (Lorna is shot on the altar by Carver Doone, who John then kills in hand-to-hand combat). But there is a Happily Ever After, and all's well that end's well.

Lorna Doone is one of those works I approached with trepidation, in part because it's a Victorian triple-decker (a hefty 660+ pages in my Oxford World's Classics edition), in part because I hadn't been overly impressed with Blackmore's style while reading Clara Vaughan, and in part because it seemed a rather dense and uninviting work. But it only took me about 20 pages to get drawn in, quite reluctantly, and then another 50 pages to get me hooked, and from there it was me mainlining Lorna Doone, much to my surprise. Lorna Doone is one of those "classics" everyone's at least heard of but few have read--which is a pity, because it well deserves the term "classic." It will, in fact, be a work I return to in the future.

Leave aside the fact that it was one of the works most responsible for the rise in popularity of the adventure novel in 19th century English letters, or that it spawned a new trend in historical romances. It's a classic because it's well-written and it's emotionally involving.

Blackmore is very good at descriptions of environment. Whether it succeeds in being "lyrical" is a matter of taste, I suppose. Many find his descriptions of the scenery of Exmoor to be "lyrical" or "poetical." I confess that they didn't strike me that deeply, but I freely admit that they are well-written. Blackmore is very good at evoking the pastoral life as an idyllic one and much superior to urban life; there's never any doubt where Blackmore thinks the better life is. If Blackmore is long-winded in his descriptions--and I think he is--the cumulative weight of the descriptions is effective in portraying the life of a rural farmer as an enviable one.

Interestingly, however, Blackmore doesn't portray that life as an easy one. Much of Lorna Doone is taken up with the specifics of farm life, the necessities of day-to-day work and the real-life concerns--frost, drought, livestock lost to disease, theft, and scavengers, the price of crops, getting farm workers to earn their pay--of farmers. This strikes me as not just a good thing but an unusual one, at least in what is ostensibly an adventure novel. (Lorna Doone isn't, not really, but more on that anon). Most novels in the adventure/swashbuckler mode aren't, at heart, concerned with the exigencies of real life. Matters like making money, doing your job, putting a roof over your head and food on your table, these aren't inherently exciting and so aren't usually a part of most adventure novels. Characters are nobility and already have money, or go sailing off to be pirates and taking booty. Novels with these characters are fun, of course--I bow to no one in my admiration of Stanley Weyman and his school--but they lack a certain grounding in reality. This is why novels like Lorna Doone and Kidnapped (see the David Balfour entry for my thoughts on that very good novel) are unusual--again, reality isn't as much fun as swashbuckling hijinks--and good. They're recognizable. I can enjoy but not empathize with the Vicomte de Saux's struggles with the choices French nobility had to make. I identify with and empathize with John Ridd's daily struggle with his farm.

Blackmore is likewise realistic in his characters. John Ridd, his family, Lorna Doone--even Carver Doone, vile though he is, has an exchange with John Ridd late in the novel which provides a glimpse of a massively deluded and hypocritical person. Delusion and hypocrisy are bad character traits, to be sure, but they are recognizable ones, and they make Carver Doone more than just a cartoon bad guy. Beyond the realism of the characters, however--and that's the major and minor characters--is the skillful way with which Blackmore portrays emotions. Blackmore keeps the emotions real and understated, saying much more by implication or hidden tears than shrieks and too-strenuous attempts at effect.

Blackmore also shows a very sure touch at making Ridd, as a child, neither overly simple nor absurdly precocious. Ridd's interior life is likewise well done; he becomes a very real person to us, so that we know, or think we know, what he would do and say in situations removed from the novel (a litmus test for good characterization, for me). Blackmore takes his time in the writing of the novel, so that the relationship between John and Lorna is naturally developed and not rushed. The naturalistic and unhurried way in which Lorna Doone proceeds is one of its greatest strengths. We feel the passage of time along with the characters, which makes us identify with John-as-farmer as much as we do with John-as-maturing adult. Blackmore also has a light touch with the humor of the novel.

The only negative to the novel is the West Country dialect, which is bothersome. But that's a part of Lorna Doone's greatest strength, too: its completely convincing depiction of a departed time and place. Blackmore did a great deal of research to get the dialect and vocabulary of John Ridd accurate, and it shows. The vocabulary and cadence, the rural lifestyle and practices, the concerns of a lawless and wild land, it all feels very real. The reader (i.e., me) is completely convinced that we're hearing a voice from the past.

I mentioned that Lorna Doone isn't an adventure novel. It's not, not really. It's a romance, in the modern sense of the word. Oh, there are elements of the adventure in it, and it's a historical romance in the old sense, but it's much more a romance, the love story of John Ridd and Lorna Doone. And because the characters are emotionally real (John more than Lorna, but Lorna as well as John) and the lives portrayed recognizable to us, and because the characters are likable, we care about what happens to them and want a happy ending for them. The plot may be conventional, but the novel is emotionally involving. And very effective.

John Ridd is one of the more appealing heroes of adventure fiction I've run across. He's a genuinely good person, compassionate and caring. He's self-deprecating, very honest, straightforward and polite. He repays his debts, loves his family, forgives easily, and is exceedingly mild-tempered. He's not particularly talkative, and when confronted with wit usually holds his peace: "not being good at repartee, I made no answer." He's a good hero, too--he's very big (6'8"), very strong, smarter than he appears (many take his self-deprecation seriously and think that his mild temper means he's slow), the best wrestler in England, a crack shot, an expert hunter and horseman, conspicuously unwilling to kill or even hurt others, and someone capable of running hundreds of miles in a ten days or less. He's insightful about people and not easily gulled. But above that, and one of the things that makes Lorna Doone such a pleasure to read, is that he's not just heroic, he's good, and that makes him all the more appealing. (Conversely, Amyas Leigh is heroic but not always good, and not nearly such good company as Ridd).

I really liked Lorna Doone, and think that you will, too.

ima the Jungle Girl. Rima (whose real name is Riolama, but nobody ever remembers that) was introduced in W.H. Hudson's Green Mansions (1904). Hudson (1841-1922) was a naturalist and writer who was "an important link between nineteenth-century Romanticism and the twentieth-century ecological movement." Out of all his writings, though, the single work he is most remembered for now is Green Mansions; it was quite popular when it first came out; a statue of Rima carved by Sir Jacob Epstein was erected in Kensington Gardens, in London's Hyde Park, in 1925, and an Audrey Hepburn film of Green Mansions was made in 1959.

The novel is set in the jungles of British Guiana, along the Orinoco. (There's a framing sequence in Georgetown, the capital of British Guiana, but it's fairly easily dispensed with and is not returned to) Abel, the callow narrator, expelled from his native Venezuela due to political intrigues, goes into the jungle, more or less on a lark. He befriends a series of natives until finally he is deep in the jungle. He hears tell, from a tribe he's living with, about a mysterious patch of jungle that they avoid because of an evil spirit called the "daughter of Didi." The narrator, curious, investigates and sees by chance a beautiful "girl." (She's actually 17, which somewhat ameliorates the love between her and Abel, but she's a very young and in some ways immature 17, lending Green Mansions a faint feel of pedophilia). They eventually meet and fall in love, and he tries to help her find her people, but she is the last of her kind, and she ends up being burned alive by the Indians who had befriended Abel.

To quote another summary of the novel:

William Henry Hudson's Green Mansions concerns itself chiefly with the story of Rima, a child of nature, who is discovered in her Guiana jungle solitude by Abel, a sophisticated Venezuelan vagabond from Caracas.  She is unspoiled and wild, like the animals, a sort of female equivalent of Tarzan.  She knows neither the evil nor guile common to all civilized humans. This gives her supernatural stature in the eyes of the worldly Abel, who falls passionately in love with her.  Toward the end, Rima is burned to death by hostile and corrupt native tribesmen, whom, to protect her beloved birds and animals, she had driven from their hunting ground by preying upon their superstitious fears.  Abel's dream bursts like a soap bubble.  The book's qualities are of a striking and original sort.

It has enchantment; its pages are haunted by an unearthly perception of beauty and a wonderment that stirs the imagination. Green Mansions is the work of a great naturalist and a poet in prose.

I'm not sure I'd go that far in describing it; Hudson has a deft hand at describing nature but his narrative style lends itself to prolix. This might, however, be a matter of literary tastes (i.e., mine) changing with the decades, rather than an intrinsic fault within the book itself. Despite this, Green Mansions does stick in the mind, and naive, passionate, doomed, brutal and innocent Rima/Riolama--Rima, who can catch a shot arrow with her bare hand, but loves animals so much that she will not eat or slay any of them--stays with the reader after the book is over. (Another critic described it as "a poignant mediation on the loss of wilderness, the dream of a return to nature, and the bitter reality of the encounter between savage and civilized man.")

E. McKnight Kauffer is a web page featuring his illustrations of Green Mansions. I rather enjoy his art, which is simple without being simplistic, and is very fitting to Green Mansions.

Green Mansions
The e-text of the novel.

In Search of Rima has a painting about Rima and a short summary of Green Mansions.

inaldini, Rinaldo. Rinaldo Rinaldini was created by Christian A. Vulpius and appeared in Rinaldo Rinaldini, der Räuberhauptmann (1799-1801) and its two sequels and a stage version. Vulpius (1762-1827) was the brother of Goethe’s mistress Christiane Vulpius and is best known as the author of räuberroman, that peculiarly German genre of novels featuring heroic bandits. (Vulpius wrote 140 of them). He was also a semi-decent poet and songwriter.

Rinaldo Rinaldini was staggeringly popular at the turn of the 19th century; despite running to six volumes, it sold extremely well, inspired (as mentioned) two sequels, and was reprinted in eight editions and translated into over thirty languages by 1858, with numerous editions (and even a tv show and movie or two) since then. It, along with Schiller’s Die Räuber (see the Karl von Moor entry) and Heinrich Zschokke’s Abällino der große Bandit, inspired the craze for räuberroman in England around 1800. Rinaldo Rinaldini was in fact one of the best-selling books of the first half of the 19th century and was far more popular than anything Goethe wrote, something which undoubtedly irritated the “Great Man” no end.

Rinaldini is about a noble-minded Corsican bandit, Rinaldo Rinaldini, who leads a similarly-noble-minded and patriotic group of thieves in a rebellion against French control of Corsica as well as the stifling conventions of modern society. Rinaldini never wanted to be a thief or a leader of thieves. He was quite happy living the quiet, bucolic life of a herdsman. But he was drafted by the Army, and a cruel and stubborn officer began giving him dangerous orders and mistreating him, and so Rinaldini, a vehement proponent of complete self-determination, killed the officer and went on the lam. Rinaldini ended up the leader of a band of thieves and then the uneasy ally of Der Alte von Fronteja, the leader of a group of Corsican patriots and rebels. (Rinaldi recants once jailed and gives the group’s plans away to the Schwarzen, the hated agents of the French government). Rinaldini eventually escapes from jail, disguises himself as the Muslim Selim, is called upon to repress his fellow Cypriots, refuses, and is killed in battle.

Rinaldini is generally a good person, robbing only those who deserve it, giving away nearly all his money to those who need it, and in general acting like a Corsican Robin Hood. (And we all know how likely that is...). He’s very much the Romantic hero, however, being given to a certain amount of self-doubt, self-pity, and fatalism. He’s also a weak reed romantically, pledging his love to a woman, swiving her, and then moving on. But he’s no fool and no patsy; Rinaldini’s gang, led by his lieutenants Altaverde and Cinthio, are generally good people, but when they turn too larcenous or violent Rinaldini punishes them. When Rinaldini encounters Battistello, the evil leader of a rival band of murderous thieves, Rinaldini shoots Battistello. When Rinaldini finds Romany/Travellers, Jews, Muslims and Moors being persecuted, he defends them, by force if necessary. (Rinaldini is the son of a Christian mother and a Muslim father, thus giving him a greater sensitivity to foreigners than many other, similar characters possess). When Rinaldini finds slaves, like the toothsome Melite, he frees them. When the Schwarzen pursues Rinaldini and his lady love Dianora to the pastoral island of Lipari, Rinaldini kills the leader of the Schwarzen pursues. Rinaldini prefers to settle disagreements verbally rather than by force, but he’ll use the club, sword, or gun if he has to. (Rinaldini was based on the thief Angelo Duca, hanged in Salerno in 1784, who acted in much the same way, protecting the weak and making his band of thieves act in a relatively moral way).

Rinaldini’s on the sentimental (read: mushy) side. It’s got a lot of the cliches of novels of the time, including (as Edward Larkin put it) “dark and stormy nights, secret societies, trap doors, mysterious characters, disguised personae (even a fake nose is used), narrow escapes, individual acts of bravery, friendship cults, Eastern lands, and extensive weeping.” But Rinaldini is still an entertaining character worth discovering.

obardin, Hoseib Alar. Hoseib Alar Robardin was created by Ambrose Bierce and appeared in “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” (also known as “Can Such Things Be?” San Francisco Newsletter, 25 December 1886). Bierce (1842-1914?) was an outstanding turn of the 20th century journalist and writer of short stories; he’s represented on this site by The Damned Thing, among a few other creations. “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” is, like many of Bierce’s other horror stories, strange and compact and powerful, leaving only questions without answers.

Hoseib Alar Robardin ponders the words of Hali and loses track of where he is. The landscape he walks through is drear and unfamiliar to him, and he thinks he’s lost track of the time. Hoseib wanders and realizes that he can’t remember how he got there. He remembers that he’d been ill and had demanded of his family that they take him outside, but he doesn’t recognize where he is, although it is clearly some distance away from his home, the ancient and famous city of Carcosa. Hoseib wonders if he is still feverish and delusional, and when he encounters first a lynx and then a raggedy-looking man, neither acknowledge his presence. He becomes sure he is mad, although he feels a sense of mental and physical exaltation despite his confusion. When he looks closely against the stone of a grave, he  notices his own name, in full, with the dates of his life and death, and he realizes that he is dead, and the ruins around him are those of Carcosa. “Such are the facts imparted to the medium Bayrolles by the spirit Hoseib Alar Robardin.

“An Inhabitant of Carcosa” is told in a different style than most of Bierce’s other stories. The terse, sardonic humor is absent, and in its place is a more formal and old-fashioned narration, including archaic vocabulary (“withal,” “herbage,” “tumuli”). This doesn’t render the story unreadable by any means; Bierce is never less than very readable and entertaining. But it is a quite different approach from the one he usually takes. Bierce is more descriptive than normal and conjures some vivid images, and in general creates a mood of unease and lurking evil before he reveals the final secret.

As a side note, “Carcosa,” like Bierce’s “Hastur,” does appear in work by other hands–specifically, Cthulhu Mythos stories, by Lovecraft and others. But Bierce is not a Mythos writer, and Lovecraft et al took only the names from Bierce. Robert Chambers, in The King in Yellow, took the name “Carcosa” from “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” and made it into something terrible; in Bierce Carcosa is an ancient and famous city.

Hoseib Alar Robardin is very much an ordinary man, understandably confused by the experience he undergoes. He loves his city, Carcosa, and his wives and sons. More than that, we cannot say about him.

obur. Robur was created by Jules Verne and appeared in Robur le Conquerant (Robur the Conqueror, 1887) and in Robur’s sequel, Maître du Monde (Master of the World, 1904). Jules Verne, of course, is widely known as the father, with H.G. Wells, of modern science fiction, and if I need to say more about him than boy, are you visiting the wrong site. Robur’s two appearances are different in tone, reflective of the change in Verne’s outlook on technology. Both books are entertaining, if not quite classics.

Robur the Conqueror begins with a variety of strange events--odd lights and noises in the sky and a black flag being hung on the Eiffel Tower. A debate among members of the Weldon Institute, a bunch of self-important flight enthusiasts, over heavier-than-air versus lighter-than-air flight is interrupted by a strange figure, calling himself Robur, who claims to have solved the problem. Robur is bodily thrown from the meeting by the lighter-than-air lobbyists, who are building the Go Ahead, an enormous dirigible. That evening the president of the Weldon Institute, the secretary, and the servant of the secretary, are kidnaped by Robur, who takes them onboard his ship, The Albatross, and keeps them there as his prisoner. Robur takes them around the world, passing over Canada, the western half of the United States, Peking, Tokyo, India, Russia, northern Europe, France, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Antarctica, and the South Pacific. This trip takes around five weeks, with the only thing of significance occurring is that the prisoners come to hate Robur and no longer speak to him. The Albatross is headed towards Robur's secret base in the Marquesas Islands when the Albatross runs into a storm and is badly damaged. Robur puts in at a small island for repairs and the three captives escape, leaving a time bomb behind in the Albatross' cabin. The bomb explodes while the Albatross is in flight, dropping it and Robur and his crew into the sea.

The three make their way back to America and then continue work on the Go Ahead, even though they've already seen that the Albatross was the dirigible's superior. At the launching of the Go Ahead an airship appears, zooming towards the Go Ahead. It's the Albatross, and it rams the dirigible, but Robur changes his mind and saves the Go Ahead's pilots and safely deposits them on the ground. (Robur, it is explained, went with his crew to another secret hideout, where they built a second ship). He then leaves, saying to the crowds who've gathered around him

Citizens of the United States, the conquest of the air is made; but it shall not be given into your hands until the proper time. I leave, and I carry my secret with me. It will not be lost to humanity, but shall be entrusted to them when they have learned not to abuse it. Farewell, Citizens of the United States!
The Master of the World resumes some years later. The narrator of the story is John Strock, the chief of the Washington (D.C.) Police Department as well as a highly-ranked Federal agent, empowered to conduct investigations across the United States. After a number of strange events, including what seems to be a volcanic eruption from the Great Eyrie, an inaccessible mountain in the North Carolina Appalachians, a super-fast automobile leaving tracks on various roads in the U.S., a strange automobile racing by a Wisconsin road race at 150 mph and disappearing into Lake Michigan, and a submarine being active in Lake Kendall, in Kansas lake. Strock and his superior, Mr. Ward, eventually piece together that it is the same craft in each case. Various European and American governments make an offer to buy the vehicle, and in response gets a brusque, vainglorious refusal from an individual calling himself the "Master of the World." (Strock had previously gotten a warning from him as a result of his trying to scale the Great Eyrie) Strock hears about the craft being near Toledo and attempts to capture it, but instead is dragged along behind it as it takes off through Lake Erie. He awakens as a prisoner of the ship's captain. The Captain refuses to speak to him, despite Strock's egging him on. The ship, which is called The Terror, (although that seems to be Strock's name for it, rather than the actual name of the ship itself) is pursued across Lake Erie by destroyers. Its engines seem to give out as it is being carried over Niagara Falls, but then the ship sprouts wings and flies away. As the ship is headed towards the Eyrie Strock confronts the Captain again, and the "Master of the World," reveals himself to be Robur. The Terror leaves the Eyrie and is flying over the Caribbean when Robur deliberately flies it into a storm. The Terror is struck by lightning and plummets a thousand feet into the sea. Strock awakens after having been rescued from the wreckage of the Terror, and Robur is presumed dead, although his body is never found.

Robur the Conqueror and The Master of the World are both good light entertainment, quite suitable for whiling away a day at the beach or a few hours in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep. But neither is more than that, which is unfortunate, because 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (see the Captain Nemo entry) was certainly more than that. Robur the Conqueror and The Master of the World can accurately (and unfortunately) be described as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with the best parts taken out. Verne is never less than readable; he has a clean and unaffected style which reads cleanly and easily. But the characterization of the protagonist, which was much the best thing about Leagues, is for the most part absent in both novels. Likewise, the plots of both Robur novels are surprisingly scanty and thin. There’s a lot of description in both novels, but not much actually happens. There’s still Verne’s preoccupation with providing real world details as the framework for his more fantastic extrapolations, but the story hooks are different, and lesser. The humor of Robur is dated and labored. The character of Frycollin, the servant of Uncle Prudent, is a racist caricature. The beginning of Robur the Conqueror, with its series of mysterious occurrences, reads like a repeat of Leagues, but the reader never becomes intrigued with the figure of Robur as we did with Nemo. And Robur’s motivation for kidnaping the men of the Weldon Institute is murky and never satisfactorily explained.

However, Robur the Conqueror’s most important flaw is its age. The novel is over 115 years old and was written at a time when the debate of heavier-than-air flight versus lighter-than-air flight was very much alive. In this argument Verne is very much a partisan, using Robur to argue for heavier-than-air flight and using realistic and achievable details to make his case. At the time it was written Robur must have seemed powerful. But today the rhetorical lifting Verne does on behalf of the heavier-than-air side is likely to seem pointless, and the lecturing asides boring. Verne essentially argues a case which is long since settled. Similarly, when Verne wrote Robur the idea of traveling around the world by air was entrancing. A great deal of the appeal of Around the World in Eighty Days (see the Phileas Fogg entry) lies in the global setting, which undoubtedly held a great deal of appeal to its readers, who were unlikely to ever see the places which Phileas Fogg visited. Verne repeats the travelogue in Robur, this time from the air, and in 1887 such a trip would have been very interesting to the reader. But read in the light of 2004 it’s just another plane ride away. The modern, jaded, cynical, and romance-free approach to air travel destroys much of the appeal which Robur the Conqueror no doubt initially had for its readers.

The Master of the World was written at the end of Verne’s life, when he had lost his faith in technology. The novel lacks the usual attention to detail and accuracy and concern with realism and reads more like a standard adventure novel. Robur himself is no longer the somewhat sympathetic megalomaniac of Robur. In the words of John Clute, "Robur has become a dangerous madman, blasphemous and uncontrollable, and his excesses--like those of Wells's Dr. Moreau--seem to represent the excesses of an unfettered development of science." Of course, Verne keeps Robur’s character opaque to the reader, for the most part, so that we glimpse only a small part of his personality, but what we do see is as Clute describes.

There are a few interesting aspects to the two novels, however. The first, and this is something I don’t believe I’ve touched on here, certainly not in any depth, is Verne’s role in propagating the idea of the ‘crossover.” I wrote about this at some length in the ‘Crossovers” essay in Heroes & Monsters and if you’re interested in the following I’d recommend buying the book and reading that essay. Briefly, a crossover is when a character or concept from two or more discrete texts or series of texts meet. The first kind of crossover was the meeting of characters from folktale in legend, and can be seen in things as varied as the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts, the Chinese myths of Judge Bao (who I’ve written a little about in the Chinese Heroes section), and the myths of King Arthur. The second type of crossover occurred when authors began linking their stories and novels together and creating a coherent, whole, fictional universe from those works. Honoré de Balzac did that in his La Comédie Humaine novels, beginning with Le Père Goriot (see the Monsieur Vautrin entry) in 1834. Alexandre Dumas père did this, Emile Gaboriau did it, and Jules Verne did it, with sixteen of his novels tied together by internal references. Robur the Conqueror is part of this web, with references to The Begum’s Fortune and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

Another notable aspect of Robur is his portrayal as a rogue engineer and inventor, relatively benign in Robur and then dangerous in Master. The engineer/inventor as a powerful and threatening creator is a variation on the mad scientist theme, but is a departure from the Faustian aspect of the mad scientist. The Faustian mad scientist, best typified by Dr. Frankenstein, is dangerous because of his attempts to learn Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. This is a very typical attitude of the early Victorians. After mid-century, however, attitudes toward science began to change, so that it was not the knowledge itself which was dangerous, but rather what was done with the knowledge. In the last half of the 19th century portrayals of inventors generally fell into one of two types: the heroic adventurer or the megalomaniac. The Edisonades (see the Frank Reade entry for more on that character type) were the former; characters like Robur was the latter.

Robur, in the first novel, is relatively benign. He is a strident partisan for heavier-than-air flight, and arrogant enough to think little of kidnaping three men and imprisoning them indefinitely on his ship. But he is relatively well-intentioned, not engaging in the capricious murder of others--he’s far less bloodthirsty than Captain Nemo--and telling the world that he will give it his scientific secrets “the day you are educated enough to profit by it and wise enough not to abuse it.” In Master of the World, however, megalomania grips him, and he threatens the world, saying that “on the day when it pleases me to have millions or billions, I have but to reach out my hand and take them” and calling himself “the Master of the World.”

Master of the World
The e-text, from at Zvi Har'El's Jules Verne Collection.

ocambole. Generally I dislike lifting entire paragraphs from other writers, but in some cases they do it much better than I can and have much more information that I've got, so that summarizing them makes less sense and would take more effort than a simple quotation. So rather than clumsily sum up Rocambole, I'm just going to quote Jean-Marc Lofficier, from his French Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Pulp Fiction, which you should all run right out and buy:

One could hardly cover the field of 19th-century roman feuilleton without mentioning Victor-Alexis Ponson du Terrail, the author of the saga of Rocambole or Les Drames de Paris (The Dramas Of Paris), comprising twenty-five volumes published between 1857 and 1867.

Rocambole was an adventurer who did good but was often on the wrong side of the law, like Arsène Lupin and The Saint. As did Sherlock Holmes and The Shadow, Rocambole gathered around him a group of assistants, selected from various slices of society, ready to drop everything to help their "Master." Like Doc Savage, Rocambole mastered the physical skills of the Orient and inherited some of the secrets of ancient Tibetan (or equally exotic) civilizations. Rocambole was more than a mere man, he was the first modern, literary super-hero.

Rocambole's sometimes lover, sometimes rival, was the beautiful Baccara, a former courtesan who was a fearless shooter, rider and swordswoman. In one of the novels of the saga, it was revealed that she eventually emigrated to the New World and became Calamity Jane! Rocambole's arch-enemy was the satanic Sir Williams, whose extraordinarily devious schemes were always thwarted at the last minute. In fact, the term "rocambolesque" became common in French to label any kind of fantastic adventure. While incurably evil, Sir Williams nevertheless had a sense of panache and doomed grandeur about him. Rocambole, whose origins remained shrouded in mystery, started as a minor, supporting character helping Sir Williams in one of his nefarious plot to steal an inheritance. Then the pupil overtook and surpassed his master. Rocambole always referred to Sir Williams as "my good Master" and it was clear that the two adversaries liked and respected each other. Rocambole was often sprinkled with fantastic elements, such as a sect of Kali-worshipping thugs, and a Russian exiled prince who was also a mad scientist plotting to conquer the world. But like Les Habits Noirs, it was primarily a crime thriller/adventure series. Unlike Féval's work, however, Rocambole created and virtually defined all the archetypes of modern heroic and super-heroic fiction.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to come up with anything more than what was contained here, there being next to nothing written in English about Rocambole or du Terrail. I did find an interesting Rocambole pastiche in Rokambul, however.

Vincent Mollet kindly provided the following information on some unauthorized sequels to the initial Rocambole as well as a possible chronology of events:


Two novels by Constant Guéroult:
Le Retour de Rocambole (The Return of R), Paris, Victor Benoist 1876
A detective story in which Rocambole fights for justice, helped by some old friends from Ponson Du Terrail’s novels. One of the villains plans to give himself out as Rocambole (there’s obviously a Rocambole syndrome, like there is a Great Detective Syndrome: in “Cadet Fripouille”, we’ll meet another of these fake Rocamboles).

Les Nouveaux Exploits de Rocambole (R’s New Deeds), Paris, Capiomont aîné, Calvet et cie, 1880. I didn’t read it…

Jules Cardoze, Les Bâtards de Rocambole (The Bastard Children of R.), Paris, Boulanger 1886
France 1845: the famous chief of gangsters, Rocambole, fathers two children: A son with Ursule de Marcée, wife of the attorney Emilien de Fréjus.
A daughter with the mysterious Countess Diana, who has been known under many others names, and is actually an American adventuress. Obviously, she’s your “Elisabeth Mocksite”! Valmur, Rocambole’s right-hand man and Ursule’s hopeless lover, understands that Diana will try to suppress the other woman’s child, to bring the chief’s inheritance to her own offspring. Without Rocambole or the two women knowing it, he’ll thus make a double exchange. The same day the children are born:
Ursule’s son is abducted. He’ll be raised as a foundling, protected by Valmur and will become a justice fighter, the “Capitaine Hibou” (Captain Owl). Diana’s daughter is abducted and given to Ursule. She’ll raise her as Simone de Fréjus. The son of an unknown maidservant is given to Countess Diana. She’ll raise him as her son, Knight Martial (who was that servant? Who was the father? It would be quite foolhardy to identify Martial with your “Seamus Dedalus”, but...).
Ursule dies from natural death in 1856, while Valmur is in jail. Circa 1870, the children having grown up, Diana urges her “son” to seduce and/or abduct Simone and become the only inheritor of Rocambole (who is missing, presumed dead). Her attitude will change at the very last time, when she discovers that her child isn’t Martial, but Simone.
At the end of the story, Diana and Martial are presumed dead. We don’t know about Simone’s fate, but the author depicts her as a quite empty-headed, easily influenced damsel. It would have been easy to make her join the dark side of the Force, become Marie Sanspere and marry Seamus Dedalus (may this latter be Knight Martial, or someone else).

By an anonymous author who didn’t hesitate to sign “Ponson Du Terrail”:
Cadet Fripouille, Paris, Fayard 1912
During the Crimean War (1854-1855), the misdeeds of a gang led by one “Rocambole”. Cadet Fripouille (“Scoundrel Junior”) is one of the gang. Nevertheless, according to Ponson Du Terrail, the Crimean War is the period when “Les Chevaliers du Clair de Lune” takes place, a novel in which Rocambole has already joined the forces of Good. The Rocambole that we meet in “Cadet Fripouille” is obviously an impostor, like in “Le Retour de Rocambole” by Guéroult.

Eight volumes by Frédéric Valade:
Le Petit-fils de Rocambole (R’s Grandson), Paris, Ferenczi 1922
La Haine Immortelle (The Immortal Hate), Paris, Ferenczi 1922
Le Testament de Rocambole (R’s Last Will), Paris, Tallandier 1931
Olivia contre Rocambole (O vs R), ibid
La Justice de Rocambole, Paris, Tallandier 1932
La Belle Olivia, ibid, (I didn’t read it)
Les Larmes de Rocambole (R’s Tears), Paris, Tallandier 1933, (not read, either)
Le Châtiments d’Olivia (O’ Retribution), ibid

Rocambole dies from old age in 1886. He had married Lady Ellen, a character of one of Ponson Du Terrail’s novels, and, after the murder of his son Edouard, had raised his grandson, also named Edouard (Nota - Edouard Sr and Jr obviously aren’t Ellen’s son and grandson: the Lady met Rocambole in the late 1860’s, as she was still a teenager, and Edouard Jr is already a young adult in 1886. Edouard Sr was presumably the same as Captain Owl).
Edouard Jr becomes the new Rocambole. He will avenge his father and fight for justice, against some villains like the treacherous Olivia.

And now, blessings be upon him, Riccardo Barbagallo has sent along a bunch of very good information on Rocambole's chronology:
Rocambole was first serialized in newspapers, then collected in volumes that did not always regroup the episodes in the same form and under the same titles.


Sir Williams and his pupil, the young Rocambole (then in his early 20s) fight Armand de Kerghaz for his inheritance. They clash with the reformed courtesan and adventuress, Baccarat.

 1. L'Héritage Mystérieux
     L'Héritage Mystérieux [The Mysterious Inheritance]
     Les Deux Frères [The Two Brothers]

(Serial. 58 eps., La Patrie, 1857)
(Rep. in Rocambole Vol. 1, Rouff, 1883-86)

Note: This episode includes an untitled Prologue that takes place in 1812. The story otherwise begins in 1840.


Sir Williams and Rocambole lead the evil crime society known as "Club of the Jack of Hearts". They are defeated by Armand de Kerghaz and Baccarat; Sir Williams is mutilated; Rocambole exiled to England.

2. Le Club des Valets de Coeur
    Le Club des Valets de Coeur [The Club Of The Jack Of Hearts]

(Serial. 105 eps., La Patrie, 1858)
(Rep. in Rocambole Vol. 1, Rouff, 1883-86)


Rocambole returns to Paris as the Marquis de Chamery but is again defeated by Baccarat. He kills Sir Williams and ends up in the Toulon Penitentiary.

3. Les Exploits de Rocambole
3a. Les Exploits de Rocambole [The Exploits Of Rocambole]

(Serial. 109 eps., La Patrie, 1858-59)
(Rep. in Rocambole Vol. 1, Rouff, 1883-86)

3b. La Revanche de Baccarat [Baccarat's Revenge]

(36 eps., La Patrie, 1859)
(Rep. in Rocambole Vol. 2, Rouff, 1883-86)

Note: This episode is the conclusion of (3) above and generally considered part of that story. It is at the end of this story that Rocambole is captured and imprisoned in the Toulon Penitentiary.


Rocambole aka Convict No. 117, escapes from the Toulon Penitentiary. He leads the Companions of the Moon (Les Compagnons du Clair de Lune) (Later deleted from continuity). He repents and becomes a fighter for the cause of good; He and Baccarat team up to defeat the evil Vasilika. (La Resurrection de Rocambole)

4. Les Chevaliers du Clair de Lune [The Knights of the Moonlight]
    Le Manuscrit du Domino [The Domino Manuscript]
    La Dernière Incarnation de Rocambole [The Last Incarnation Of Rocambole]

(Serial. 58 eps., La Patrie, 1860-61)
(Rep. in Rocambole Vol. 2, Rouff, 1883-86)

Le Testament de Grain de Sel [The Testament Of Grain-Of-Salt]
Le Château de Belleombre [The Castle Of Belleombre]

(Serial. 74 eps., La Patrie, 1862)
(Rep. in Rocambole Vol. 2, Rouff, 1883-86)

Note: This episode was subsequently taken out of continuity by Ponson du Terrail who started the next saga (5) with an alternate version of Rocambole's escape from Toulon, and no reference to this story.

5. La Résurrection de Rocambole [The Resurrection Of Rocambole]
    Le Bagne de Toulon [The Penitentiary Of Toulon]
    Les Orphelines [The Orphan Girls]
    La Vengeance de Wasilika [Wasilika's Revenge]

(Serial. 223 eps., Le Petit Journal, 1865-66)
(Rep. in Rocambole Vol. 2, Rouff, 1883-86)


Rocambole travels to India.

6. Le Dernier Mot de Rocambole [Rocambole's Last Word]
    Les Ravageurs [The Ravagers]
    Les Millions de la Bohémienne [The Millions Of The Gipsy Woman]
    Le Club des Crevés [The Club Of The Deceased]
    La Belle Jardinière
    Le Retour de Rocambole [Rocambole's Return]
    Le Bûcher de la Veuve [The Widow's Stake]

(Serial. 350 eps., La Petite Presse, 1866-67)
(Rep. in Rocambole Vol. 3, Rouff, 1883-86)


Rocambole returns to Europe. He tells his life story to Ponson du Terrail.

7. La Vérité sur Rocambole
    La Vérité sur Rocambole [The Truth About Rocambole]
    La Nourrisseuse d'Enfants [The Child Feeder]
    L'Enfant Perdu [The Lost Child]
    Le Moulin sans Eau [The Waterless Mill]

(Serial. 237 eps., La Petite Presse, 1867)
(Rep. in Rocambole Vol. 4, Rouff, 1883-86)


In London, Rocambole terrorizes the Underworld as the new "Man in Grey".

8. Les Misères de Londres [The Miseries Of London]
    Le Cimetière des Suppliciés [The Graveyard Of The Tortured]
    Un Drame dans le Southwark [A Drama in Southwark]
    L'Enfer de Mistress Burtin [Mistress Burtin's Hell]
    Les Amours du Limousin [The Loves Of The Limousin]
    La Captivité du Maître [The Captivity Of The Master]
    Le Fou de Bedlam [The Madman of Bedlam]
    L'Homme en Gris [The Man In Grey]

(Serial. 122 eps., La Petite Presse, 1867-68)
(Rep. in Rocambole Vol. 4, Rouff, 1883-86)


Rocambole is back in France. His last saga is interupted by his biographer's death the following year.

9. Les Démolitions de Paris
    Les Démolitions de Paris [The Demolitions Of Paris]
    La Corde du Pendu [The Hanged Man's Rope]

(Serial. 112 eps., La Petite Presse, 1869-70)

Jean-Marc Lofficier's excellent illustrated site on Rocambole. It was the source for most of the preceding, and has a lot more illustrations, so you should go there rather than reading my entry on him.

odney, Dick and Dan. The pair were introduced in William Harrison Dennett's "The Flying Boys; or, Three Thousand Miles on Wings," a dime novel serialized in Golden Hours from April 18-June 20, 1891. (They also, I think, appeared in later works of Dennett, including the 1903 Two Young Inventors, or, The Mine of Three Pine Mountain, which appeared in the turn-of-the-century magazine Brave and the Bold, although this could have been a later reprint of The Flying Boys). I've been unable to find any information on Dennett, including his dates of birth and death. Dick and Dan Rodney are a pair of brothers who invent stuff in their spare time. Their father, Colonel Rodney, stupidly signs away the Rodney house in rural Connecticut in exchange for a gold mine way out in the West, and in the wake of that the Colonel's name is mud and the Rodney family finances are nil. Fortunately for all concerned, Dick and Dan have just come up with their best invention yet: individual flying machines similar to Da Vinci's sketches of one-man flyers. They are operated by muscle power and work on the principles of birds in flight. Dick and Dan fly West, making surprisingly good time, and investigate the mine. Naturally, it's valuable, and the boys are able to take enough gold from it to cash it in and wire the money home, thereby clearing the name of the Colonel and saving the family. But--of course--their adventures don't end there. While investigating the mine they have hostile encounters with local Indians, and the pair use the electric batteries they carried West with them to shock and play tricks on the "redskins." And Dan, flying over the hills around the mine, discovers the entrance to the underground city of the Zamas, sun-worshiping descendants of the Aztecs who have been in the  city since the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Dan noses around the city, which is actually fairly complex (complete with hydroponics, no less), and finds a surface girl, Mary Johnson, who is about to be sacrificed. He rescues her and the pair escape to the surface.

odolphe. Rodolphe, the Grand Duke of Gerolstein, appeared in "Eugène" Sue's Les Mystères de Paris (The Mysteries of Paris) (1843). "Eugène" (real name Marie Joseph) Sue (1804-1857) was a French ship's doctor and novelist who incorporated some of his own experiences at sea into his nautical novels but is best known for his extremely popular sensational romantic novels. Sue, who was among the 19th century's most successful writers (monetarily speaking) was seen as a rival to Dumas père for decades. Les Mystères de Paris was his most successful and influential novel, having a marked influence on English penny dreadfuls.

Although Les Mystères cannot really be said to have a main character, as the novel is about Paris and the poor and needy of that unfortunate city more than anything else, Rodolphe is as much the center of the novel as any of its hundred other characters. In the novel he is the Grand Duke of Gerolstein, a small Germany state. He had been brought up in his father's court by Polidori, an evil man who had done his best to warp Rodolphe's mind. Polidori forced Rodolphe into a morganatic marriage with Lady Sarah Macgregor, a beautiful and sinister woman. Lady Sarah got pregnant by Rodolphe and fled to London, where she had the child, a girl. Rodolphe's father, furious with Rodolphe, annulled the marriage, which prompted a quarrel between Rodolphe and his father. After Rodolphe threatens to kill his father, he is exiled and cut off from his fortune. He hears his child by Sarah is dead (she's actually been given into the hands of criminals, who force her into stealing for her). Rodolphe spends some time in London, where he learns the art of dandyism and various other skills, including posing as a Scotland Yard inspector. He then moves to Paris, where after his father's death he is made Duke. With Sir Walter "Murph" Murphy, his servant and friend, they roam the streets and sewers of Paris in disguise, fighting against crime and learning the secrets of the city and its underworld. They rescue a young girl, Fleur-de-Marie, who turns out to be, of course, Rodolphe's long-lost daughter. Eventually she is redeemed and sent to a convent, where her innate goodness is instantly seen and she is made an abbess. (She dies from the honor) Rodolphe, meanwhile, goes on to live a double life, the hit of Paris society and the scourge of the underworld; Rodolphe is not so much a punisher of thieves as someone who helps all the good, poor people he runs across. Rodolphe does blackmail an evil lawyer into using his criminally-gotten money to establish worthy charities. In the course of the novel Rodolphe defeats the Maître d'École (The Schoolmaster), Chourineur (The Stabber) (or perhaps The Slasher), and La Chouette (The Owl). Rodolphe is handsome, rich, extremely clever, and very good at manipulating others. He's also quite capable of handling himself in a fight; his pugilistic skills are the equal of "the most celebrated London boxers."

Note: Apparently Sue based Rodolphe at least in part on (according to one critic I've just discovered) "two faux-English Anglophilic dandies whom the public conflated into one legendary 'milord Arsouille.'" One of these Arsouilles was a noted reveler of Courtille/Belleville, France, known in the 1830s for leading the "descente de la Courtille," a popular local Ash Wednesday party, with a vast equipage and no small amount of panache. "Mylord Arsouille" was also the name of a French pulp character, but I'm unsure whether the two are connected in some way.

oy, Rob. This fictional version of Rob Roy was created by Sir Walter Scott and appeared in Rob Roy (1818) There was a real Rob Roy, of course, the Scots rebel (1671-1734) and cattle thief. His exploits, or more accurately the legends of them, inspired Scott to write Rob Roy. Scott (1771-1832) was influential on the course of literary history, being primarily responsible for the popularity of the historical romance. It was Scott who, in Ivanhoe and his "Waverly" novels, including Rob Roy, did the most to popularize the genre in the early 19th century. Scott was also a poet and literary biographer of note, producing acclaimed biographies of John Dryden and Jonathan Swift; Scott helped to establish biography as a legitimate part of modern scholarship.

Rob Roy is about the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 and of the relationship between Scotland and England. Ostensibly about Rob Roy, the novel is really about Frank Osbaldistone, an young Englishman who is separated from his father's affection through a petty quarrel and who goes north to meet his cousins and becomes embroiled in the rebellion as well as family politics and a prolonged romance. Rob Roy, though vividly drawn, is only a secondary character who has a marked impact on Osbaldistone's life, rather than the focus of the novel.

The truth is that Rob Roy is in many respects heavy sledding. (It's why my description of Rob Roy himself is non-existent. My soul was dead by the time I got to his appearances, and though I remember turning the last page of the novel with relief I remember nothing of the preceding 400 pages). While I respect Scott’s place in literary history and can see the good ideas in Rob Roy, I also found a lot to dislike in the novel. Far too much of the dialogue in Rob Roy is spoken in Scots dialect, some of it relatively light but much of it nearly impenetrable (especially to this American’s eyes). That dialogue which is understandable is all too often long winded; Scott rarely seems to use one word when he could use ten instead. Scott’s literary style as a whole is excessive—too many words, too much description, too many "comic" characters, too much dialect, too much of everything except speed and action. Part of this is my own distaste for the bloated and very dated Victorian style. I made a mistake in beginning my historical romance reading with Stanley Weyman (see the Vicomte de Saux entry for my opinion of him) and then returning to the early days of Bulwer-Lytton (Arbaces) and now Scott. Weyman’s style is lean and swift, without the ponderous descriptions and circuitous dialogue which can make Scott such a chore to read. But even setting aside my own dislike for Scott’s style, I find other errors in Rob Roy to dislike. The titular character does not appear for fully half the book, for example, and our narrator, the putative hero, is hardly as interesting—not nearly as interesting as the Die Vernon, the hero’s eventual wife, who though memorable is relegated to a secondary role. Scott relies somewhat too heavily on coincidence and plot developments which in my (admittedly too modern) view are unbelievable. And the novel as a whole takes far, far too long to get anywhere. Perhaps Scott was only being paid by the word, which would make the novel’s dawdling understandable, if not excusable. Whatever the reason, Rob Roy is pokey, even turgid, with far too little action and far too much verbiage.

All of which is to say that I’m fairly dreading having to read Ivanhoe….

uthven, Lord. Lord Ruthven appeared in John Polidori's "The Vampyre" (1819). Polidori (1795-1821) is more noted for his associates than his achievements; he was a friend of Lord Byron and was one of that select group of travelers who accompanied Lord Byron on his tour of Europe in 1816. Polidori was one of the group present at the story-telling klatsch which gave rise to Frankenstein. He did, however, achieve one thing, which was to take one of Byron's plots and turn it into "The Vampyre," the first modern vampire story.

Lord Ruthven, in "The Vampyre," is a newcomer to London society who befriends Aubrey, a wealthy young man. Ruthven is a bit cold and distant and notably pale skinned, but he's wealthy (and willing to loan his money to gamblers) and popular with women. Those who take his money generally lose it, however, and generally become dissipated and even decadent. Despite all this, Aubrey decides to accompany Ruthven on a tour of Europe (hey, it was 1819, what would Aubrey know from vampires?). Unfortunately, Aubrey is upset at Ruthven's attempt to seduce a young lady of his acquaintance, and he leaves Ruthven and goes on to Greece without him. In Greece he meets Ianthe, a comely young lass and the daughter of an innkeeper; Ianthe tells Aubrey about the legend of the vampire. Aubrey enjoys Ianthe, but Ruthven eventually arrives and Ianthe is then mysteriously attacked and killed by a vampire.

Not quite quick on the uptake, Aubrey does not link the two, but continues traveling with Ruthven. The pair are attacked by bandits and Ruthven slain, but not before making Aubrey swear to cover up how he died and any of his crime, for a year and a day. Aubrey then returns to London, only to have Ruthven reappear and remind him of his vow of silence. This is a little too much for Aubrey, who has a nervous breakdown. Ruthven then macks on Aubrey's sister, and Aubrey, still mindful of his oath, feels he can't do anything to stop Ruthven's impending marriage to Miss Aubrey. The wedding is on the day that the oath expires, but Aubrey is still too late, and Ruthven drains Miss Aubrey and then vanishes, triumphant.

Lecture Notes for "The Vampyre"
A professor's notes on Polidori and "The Vampyre."

The Lord Ruthven Pages: The Byronic Vampire in Popular Culture
A good site on Ruthven and Byronic Vampires; not as lengthy as it might be, but a good summation of Ruthven and his legacy.

The Vampyre
The story's e-text.

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

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