Thursday, November 25, 2010

Vampires, Then and Now

So, you ask, what do vampires have to do with Historical Belles and Beaus?

I'd ask that myself and indeed, did, before I started to write this post.

If you ever read my bio you'll see that I'm a HUGE fan of Alexandre Dumas. He set the bar for me on what a great read is. My favorite is the Count of Monte Cristo -- no one does revenge better than Edmund Dantes.

If you know me at all, you know I'm not much for vampire stories. I read quite a few when those first alpha vampires hit the scene about 10 years ago or so and then I lost interest. They just didn't do it for my anymore and I went back to the historicals I fell in love with when I first "discovered" romance. That and romantic suspense. Okay and cozy mysteries.

So what do vampires and Alexandre Dumas have to do with me and how did they end up together?

I decided my reading gift to myself for 2011 would be reading all of Alexandre Dumas' books from the very first to the last, The Cavalier. He was quite prolific so I imagine it will take more than a year. I looked high and low for a copy of Captain Paul, his first, in English. None to be had so I picked up Queen Margot. As I looked down his list of books, however, I spotted Le Vampire (The Return of Lord Ruthven). That completely grabbed my attention. Dumas wrote a vampire novel (actually a play). I had to have it -- I'm still looking for a copy in English and did find a publisher that has it. He wrote it long before Bram Stoker conceived of the beloved Count Dracula yet Stoker gets all the vampire credit.

My hunt for The Return of Lord Ruthven (in English) led me to the book I brought home tonight:  A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories. 464 pages of Victorian vampires. I've been gleefully rubbing my hands together since I brought it home. The cover is marvelous -- dark like an old black and white movie (I love the classics) with a castle in the background. It conjures up all that is the true, classic vampire.

And then it hit me...I actually DO like vampire stories, but it's the originals, the classics that I love. Dumas' Lord Ruthven is deemed a Bryonesque vampire, one you cannot help but feel a longing for. Contrasted with Bram Stoker's Dracula and Bela Lugosi's portrayal of him. It is a toss up, for me, whether Lugosi or Frank Langella's Dracula is the most appealing to me. Definitely Langella for the brooding loops and making my heart go pit-a-pat (he was so goregous when he was young). But there is something about Bela Lugosi's portrayal.

Of course I adore Jonathan Frid's character of Barnabas Collins. How could you not feel bad for him and his unrequited love? And then there was George Hamilton in Love at First Bite.

The "modern" vampires, at least the ones I've read, don't have those classic brooding personalities. Oh they are sexy and total alpha males, but for me there is something about the gothic vampire. The dark castles, lit with torches. The sense of darkness encompassing their very personalities. All that makes a Gothic such a good read.

I love a hunky alpha male as much as the next girl; for my vampires there is something about the darker side seen in the Victorian and Gothic characters. There is something about the historical vampires that beckons to my imagination.

Perhaps not the most cheerful of Thanksgiving weekend entertainments, I've rented both Lugosi and Langella's Dracula movies and I have my Victorian Vampire Stories. With the rains due in this weekend they make, for me, the perfect way to spend a hauntingly dark weekend.


Anonymous said...

Jonathan Frid has always been my muse...sigh...and here I am writing Vampire Romances. Coincidence? I think not!

By the way, I blogged about Lord Ruthven awhile might want to read that since you are interested in the guy.

-Cassandra Pierce

Teresa Thomas Bohannon said...

That is one thing I absolutely love about my Nook, all of those fabulous old classics--my list I'm working through right now is H. Rider Haggard--can not only go with you everywhere, and be read one-handed; but you can also make the print larger with the touch of a button. It makes those big old heavy, tiny print, yellow paged classics a delight to read again.

Kate Hill said...

Hi Regan,

Interesting post! I've loved vampires for as long as I can remember, probably because my mother was a fan too and I was raised watching Dracula movies. LOL.

While I enjoy classic vampires, I prefer stories that break tradition. I enjoy reading stories or watching movies that have their own twist on the legend or prove legends wrong, at least in their version of the world. I often like brooding heroes, but if the hero is a vampire I like him to enjoy or at least appreciate his vampiric nature and brood about something else.

This is not to say that I don't like to read traditional stories or re-watch classic horror movies, but in most aspects of life I prefer the non-traditional and it's the same with vampires. :-)


Savanna Kougar said...

Regan, fascinating discussion. I'm not so much a fan of 'brooding'. However, I do like the whole mystique and alpha power of vampires. And, I enjoy putting my own twist on it, or creating my ideal vampire heroes and/or heroines, and world building their reality.

Kelley Heckart said...

Regan, This is a great post.
The classic vampires were the only ones around when I first became fascinated with vampires. I still love the classic Dracula by Bram Stoker and my favorite vamp movies were Dracula and the Frank Langella movies. And I do like the brooding vampire. I remember when Bram Stoker's Dracula was remade with Gary Oldman as Dracula. I loved it.

But I also like some of the modern vamps like Ann Rice's Lestat and Lousis. Lestat was the more alpha type vamp and Louis was the brooding one. I'm not into Twilight though.

Foxessa said...

Theres this, via google books:

The vampire, his kith and kin, By Montague Summers.

If you google Alexandre Dumas le Vampire this comes up. There's a long section on Dumas's play, which is fascinating stuff.

Love, C.

Susan Blexrud said...

Well as a writer of vampire tomes, I had to chime in here. I love the classic stories, too, and I have to recommend The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. She delves into the historical vampire like no other author I've read. I met her this summer while I was on my speaking circuit. I have a presentation entitled "Writing About Vampires," and one of the attendees at a library where I spoke seemed a bit peeved that authors are trivializing vampires. Well, I had a discussion with Elizabeth Kostova about that, and she had to laugh. She said that authors have been trivializing vampires since the seventeenth century, so what's new? Thanks for the great post, Regan.