Desperatly Seeking Watson

Listen to The FrankenPod episode; Desperately Seeking Watson

It’s 1881 and 2010 the toll of the war in Afghanistan is being felt by returning veterans who are struggling to find their place within a society that has no frame of reference for their recent experience. One of the more disenfranchised of these returning veterans is one Doctor John Watson, a medical man who is suffering physically and psychologically due in large part to an injury he sustained to his shoulder/leg. He has no real home, no real family or friends. He is a man adrift waiting for the nearest high functioning sociopath to sweep him off his feet and into an implausible mystery.

Tonight we are talking about the character that his own creator resented, the man who popularised a fallacy about deductive reasoning, the frequent ejaculator Sherlock Holmes. 

Actually, I lie Watson is the frequent ejaculator that was rude of me.

Just a warning, this is NOT going to be a comprehensive exploration of holmes, we’re probably going to do other holmes episodes at some point, and I know that there will be people who know far more about Sherlock Holmes  listening to this, so I can only apologize for any inaccuracies and omission, and I extend an open invitation to come on the podcast and share your knowledge.

For this month’s episode, I read A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Brent watched the 2010 episode of BBC’s Sherlock and the unaired pilot.

Full disclosure, I have viewed the BBC Sherlock on numerous occasions, probably more often than I have read the story, but it’s pretty close. This is the story at the very beginning, the story in which Watson meets Sherlock, their eyes meet and a marketable franchise is born.

John Watson served in the Second Anglo-Afghan war. So the bulk of my information about this comes from the story itself and reading an article on garenewing.co.uk. Definitely not knowledgeable about war history so please bear that in mind. The conflict lasted for 2 years from 1878 to 1880

John Watson is said to be in Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as an Assistant Surgeon. He was playing catch up of a kind, I’m sure that’s the technical term, and when he arrived at Bombay they were already in Kandahar. Then getting attached to another unit called the Berkshires. It’s after this that he goes to into the battle of Maiwand and incurs the injury and PTSD that he will be dealing with when he meets Holmes. He cites his orderly Murray as being instrumental in his survival after being wounded by a bullet.

Turns out that some war history research types have basically said nope, wrong place wrong time no Murray to nearly all of this, and have gone about systematically providing the actual information associated with Arthur Conan Doyle’s assertions and I just wanted to point out that we live in a world where someone bothered to do that and it’s beautiful and the internet is just swell sometimes. You can find that info here 

Also, Holmes says in his whole showing off how brilliant he is that he can tell all of the things about Watson including that ‘He has just come from the tropics’ which is bullshit because Afghanistan isn’t in the tropics so suck on that Sherlock.

In the novel, we meet Gregson and Lestrade who Holmes says try jealousy to outdo each other and are rivals on the police force. 

 

The emphasis on the ring is in both the novel and television show In the novel it is because it is the proof of the injustice and cruelty of the victim to the woman that is at the centre of the mystery.

Rache is German for revenge and Jefferson Hope adopts the use of this term and the crime scene as it is the modus operandi of a criminal in the United states that baffled the police and he hoped that he could utilize the same pageantry to throw off Scotland Yard.

There is a similar murder weapon, the two pills and the gun to enforce the choice.

The victims are Stangerson and Drebber. Drebber took the pill choice, stangerson attacked Jefferson Hope and so Hope had to stab him.

The cabby is still the murderer and he is about to die from an aneurysm in the aorta

Part two is very strange, we find out about Jefferson Hope’s motivation for murdering the two men. I’m going to do a bare-bones summary are you ready. There is lots of Mormon hating coming up:

John Ferrier and a tiny 4-year-old Lucy are dying of thirst and starvation on the plains of Utah, they were part of a larger group including Lucy’s parents, but they are the only two left alive. They are rescued by a large caravan of Mormons headed by real-life Mormon leader brigham young, who basically says that he will only save them if they follow all the tenants of the Mormon faith. John Ferrier Does pretty well out of the situation when they get to the ‘promised land’ he gets a portion of land and becomes very wealthy. He adopts Lucy and years pass with her growing up in a super creepy male gaze montage. She goes out one day on horseback and some shit goes down and she is rescued by Jefferson hope, who falls in love with her. He kind of proposes and then goes away for a job. Meanwhile Brigham young tells John Ferrier that Lucy will have to marry a Mormon dude or John Ferrier will be killed and lucy forced into matrimony. She has two to choose from, Drebber or Stangerson, both of whom are already in polygamous relationships They give them 30 days to comply, like some sort of weird notice to vacate and John Ferrier sends for Jefferson Hope to see if he can come and help. He turns up just in time in a weird face planting and crawling along the ground type situation which is ridiculous and I have a quote

They go on the run. But the Mormons catch up and while Jefferson hope is away from Lucy and killing John Ferrier and abducting lucy. Lucy dies not long after being forced to marry Drebber and so Jefferson Hope goes seeking revenge, even after Drebber and Stangerson go to England. And so that is the motivation of Jefferson Hope. He knows one of them killed John Ferrier and they forced Lucy into a marriage that was the apparent cause of her death. The ring at the crime scene is Lucy’s.

This is the point where I need to talk about the representation of Mormons. It’s pretty brutal, the taking of Lucy by force and the way Christianity is held up as the ideal and Mormonism is seen to be criminal and debauched is bad enough, but Conan Doyle attributes awful behaviour to real live people apparently based on sensationalised reports of the time that demonised the Mormons. As an atheist, I don’t think it’s fair for me to make value judgements about anyone’s religion, but the portrayal was so bad that apparently, Arthur Conan Doyle extended a personal apology to Brigham Young.

Advertisements

The First Detective

This post accompanies the podcast episode The First Detective Novel by The FrankenPod

The first detective novel is a hard thing to pinpoint, the detective and mystery narratives can be traced back to ancient civilization arguably visible in the biblical story of Susanna and the Elders and the play Oedipus Rex, though, let me be very clear that opinion is dramatically divided on both of these classifications. There are examples of early detective stories not just in early Anglo European narratives, but in just about every culture with a written tradition. And there are cultures with oral traditions that conform to a similar narrative pattern.

A mystery is introduced, many are baffled, but the mystery is overcome, often by a person with particular and peculiar gifts of insight.

So it seems we’ve always loved a mystery.

The Genius Detective

But it isn’t until the advent of the 19th-century genius detective that the genre becomes certain, defined and incredibly popular with a wide audience. This also has to do with the printing press and higher levels of literacy, particularly in women. It’s kind of funny when we see that a higher proportion of people identifying as female going a bit batshit for true, crime, and I count myself as one of them, and we are tempted to think this is a new phenomenon, but it’s been going on since at LEAST the birth of the novel. A lot of women dig something a little scary or salacious, enter the crime narrative.

C. Auguste Dupin

The man who is seen as the first modern detective is perhaps my absolute favourite the delightfully queer C. Auguste Dupin. Created by Edgar Allan Poe in 1841 and often read as merely a French protosherlock, but he is a detective I have a deep and abiding love for. He is a more relaxed breed of arrogant genius detective than the often violent Holmes and hangs out exclusively with dudes. He seems to potter around mysteries, make bets on the outcome and has that strange sportsman like attitude to crime, viewing it as a puzzle or a challenge that would be so popular amongst his successors, I am thinking specifically Jonathan Creek for some bizarre reason, that’s a weird reference that I think will have a limited resonance, Okay this is very important, if you know who jonathan creek is it is vital that you let me know of twitter as soon as possible @thefrankenpod, it can’t just be me out there in this 90s BBC drama wilderness. Maybe Poirot is a good comparison, I guess.

If you came for pure unadulterated Poe love you may have come to the wrong place, the guy was super problematic in ways too numerous to list without a dedicated episode. He did, however, pen some of the most thrilling and devastating short stories in the English language. I will never be able to reconcile those 2 things.

Anyway back to Dupin, the first story of Poe’s to feature Dupin is Murders in the Rue Morgue. I’m not going to spoil the end but…

If you are going to make Redacted the murderer then you are making an almost explicit comment on Darwinism.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue is thought to be the first Modern detective story, but it is not the first detective novel

The Moonstone

Let us humour some other views on the first detective novel; T.S. Elliot asserts that Wilkie Collin’s The Moonstone is the first and most complete detective novel, and it’s true that in terms of sheer quantity and narrative development you have to hand it to Collins for crafting a tale of intrigue that takes on Imperialism, Temperance and Superstition. A precious gem that has been taken from India and bequeathed Rachel Verinda, it then goes missing and what ensues is a narrative full of red herrings and plot twists that once or twice you may find yourself frustrated with Collins’s trickery. There are a few very good suspects and a few very good motives, and the solution is outlandish and wonderful. There is also an element of bait and switch, we don’t quite know who is the real detective, even that certainty is denied us.

I came late to the Wilkie Collins bandwagon, and the man might be sympathetic the characters from India he also indulges in some casual racism which will grate on most modern readers. He is often seen as condemning racism simply because he has written racist characters unsympathetically, and for his time you know, he was a rather progressive dude.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

But all that being said let me tell you a tale, the tale of a femme fatale, a tale penned by a woman, condemning women, giving them an unparalleled level of agency and shining a light on the injustices of the marriage act. Lady Audley’s Secret written in 1862 by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, 6 years before The Moonstone, provides much of we would look for in a modern detective novel. Barrister Robert Audley, yet another candidate for the most insufferable man in literature thinks there is something up with his uncle’s pretty new wife. He is the least interesting of the detectives detailed, but the villain is the most morally confronting.

I’m not going to give away the ending because it’s an important piece of proto detective, sensation fiction.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon is one of those 19th-century badass women who had a long-term relationship and children out of wedlock, shock horror. Not so shocking when you read her fiction which almost always condemns the institution of marriage. A remarkable scandalous woman, who wrote incredible detective fiction, and not an underage cousin marriage in sight, I’m looking at you, Edgar Allan Poe.

Does the male detective have an intrinsic hatred and distrust of women in particular, or is it just an ultimate distrust of the human race in general, manifesting differently by virtue of the subservient status of women in literature?

The Gothic City

Welcome to The FrankenPod a podcast stitched together from the corpses of mystery, noir and gothic literature and cinema. This is just a short bitesize episode this week.

It’s so easy to get bogged down in the castles, monasteries and estates of the gothic tradition. The dramatic architecture featured in countless gothic tales such as The Castle Otranto, Northanger Abbey, The Monk and even isolated estates like Wuthering Heights are hard mental images to shake when conjuring up images of a gothic backdrop.

However, if we can depart from these places of heritage and means to more recently fabricated structures, the roads and slums of the city are certainly fit for our sinister gothic purposes.

The cold unfeeling city with its grit, grime and smog have become a staple in gothic literature since the industrial revolution. The distrust of mechanisation and the visible incorporation of the poor into that mechanisation made the city into a monstrous spectacle of poverty barely hidden from the upper and middle classes from whom a great deal of the literature of the time emanated. The impoverished and the working class were vulnerable, expendable and silent, as they had been for time immemorial, through feudal systems and imperialism. Things were beginning to shift in 19th Century England however as the industrialised city placed the new middle class in a position in which they could become socially mobile and have means to rival the aristocracy. And all classes were seemingly perched on a precipice, one false move and they could end up penniless in a poorhouse, at least that was the perception. This anxiety around class and poverty paved the way for writers like Dickens and Henry Mayhew who show the perils and pitfalls of a class system in crisis.

Henry Mayhew is not one of our gothic authors but is an early investigative journalist who spent a lot of time interviewing the poverty-stricken of London. One of my favourite writers William Makepeace Thackeray wrote of Mayhew’s work ‘London Labour and the London Poor

‘A picture of human life so wonderful, so awful…so exciting and terrible’

The city of Paris in a state of revolutionary crisis is the not only the setting but key to Guy Endore’s portrayal of the Werewolf in The Werewolf of Paris. Paris is continually cannibalising itself in much the same way as the Werewolf does to his victim. Endore’s story is one I would love to examine further, but that will have to wait. Here, however, is a quote from the narrative that explores the inhumanity and mass atrocities that occur when a city beset with internal conflict:

“Why should this one wolf be shut up for an individual crime, when mass crimes go unpunished? When all society can turn into a wolf and be celebrated with fife and drum and with flags curling in the wind? Why then shouldn’t this dog have his day too?”

For more listen to The FrankenPod Episode “The Cold Unfeeling City”

Sources:

The Ballad of Ern Malley

New Episode of The FrankenPod

I’ve never felt more Like we need a prepared statement. We have seen the trailer for Mary Shelley! Thank you so much to everyone who emailed and a special thank you to Nick of Nick and Vince’s podcast on Twitter, I love that I’ve been fan girl enough about Frankenstein that people saw the movie come out and though, shit I wonder if The Frankenpod has seen this. I’ll be honest I’ve been nervous about the theatre release of this one since I heard about it being screened at the Toronto Film Festival last year.

I’ll be honest I saw some things included that made me happy, but a few that really made me concerned that I may not like this film. I’ve also seen some interviews that lead me to believe that there was a very passionate Mary Shelley enthusiast in Haifaa Al-Mansour and I looked up the pronunciation but I bet I’ve botched it anyway and that is entirely on me.

Early reviews do not seem to be favourable, and they do seem to have gone for a sensationalised approach, but at least it seems to be intended as a feminist reading of the events so even if it’s a bit outlandish, there might be some value to it. That being said there seem to be no definitive dates for an Australian release so if anyone gets to see it in late May in the U.S. and June in the U.K. you must tell me what it is like!

This actually ties in quite nicely with the story I’m going to tell you tonight actually, sort of…

This time we are going back to our origins, both the podcasts and my own with My Life as A Fake by Peter Carey an entry into the Australian gothic literary canon.

I was obsessed with a Bushranger, other countries read horse stealing, bank robbing outlaw type called Ned Kelly at about the age of 10 or twelve. During this time I read every book on the Kelly gang I could get my hands on, except one. There was one book that I was warned about, a book never to read, a book that crossed the line… IT EMBELLISHED THE FACTS. It is impossible to convey exactly how repulsive that book was to me as a result, creative nonfiction and historical fiction are two of my great genre loves, but back then I viewed the whole matter as a betrayal.

That book was Peter Carey’s True Story of the Kelly Gang. I still haven’t read it, I kind of still fear that I might turn to dust or explode if I tried.

A little more recently I was introduced to the novel discussed today, My Life as a fake. Still incensed by the horror of his Kelly gang book I assumed it was an autobiography. I am not joking.

I was glad he was admitting to his transgressions.

Then I found out it took inspiration from both Frankenstein and one of my favourite literary scandals, yes I have a favourite literary scandal (Welcome to The Frankenpod) the publishing of the posthumous works of Ern Malley

To explain the book in any real way you need to know about Ern Malley

And to tell the tale of Ern Malley you need to know about Angry Penguins

Angry Penguins was an artsy experimental Avante Garde literary publication started by Max Harris in 1940 in Adelaide Australia. He was just 18. The magazine flourished and took submissions, art, prose and poetry.  The publication had been going for 4 years when Ethel Malley contacted him via letter, offering up her brother Ernest’s Poetry as a submission to Angry Penguins.

Max Harris was very excited by the works and even commissioned artwork by Sidney Nolan for the front of a special edition featuring Ernest’s poetry.

cover
The Cover of the Ern Malley Edition of Angry Penguins http://jacketmagazine.com/17/ern-poems.html

Sadly Ernest had passed away in 1943, so he would never see his work published. Would you like to hear a little of one of his poems?

Opening of Perspective Lovesong

It was a night when the planets
Were wreathed in dying garlands.
It seemed we had substituted
The abattoirs for the guillotine.
I shall not forget how you invented
Then, the conventions of faithfulness.

It seemed that we were submerged
Under a reef of coral to tantalize
The wise-grinning shark. The waters flashed
With Blue Angels and Moorish Idols.
And if I mistook your dark hair for weed
Was it not floating upon my tides?

The poetry was fresh, new and exciting and the poet was completely oblivious of his own talent, coming from working-class roots. A real diamond in the rough, and Max Harris was determined to give this underdog poet his moment to shine. Ernest, known as Ern to his friends was born in Liverpool in 1918 and migrated to Sydney Australia with his mother and sister just after his father’s passing in 1920. They lived in Perth until his mother’s death in 1933, after which the Young Ern Malley dropped out of school to become an auto mechanic, then moved to Melbourne at the age of 17. In Melbourne, he held a series of jobs before being diagnosed with Graves disease. He moved back to Sydney to be with his sister and died at the very young age of 25, refusing to get treatment for his illness. It seems that unbeknownst to those closest to him the young man had been writing a compilation of poetry called the Darkening Ecliptic.  His sister had found his poetry in his belongings and sent it to the magazine.

Except she hadn’t.

Ern Malley wasn’t dead,

No one dies of graves disease

In fact he never existed

He was a hoax by two quite conservative modernist poets named Stewart and McAuley who met during military service, they thought that Angry Penguins and Harris published ridiculous rubbish and put together the most ludicrous submission they could come up with.

0108-mcauley-and-stewart

And the editor bought it, hook, line and sinker. would you like to hear part of one of the poems?

This is the opening verse of Culture as Exhibit

“Swamps, marshes, borrow-pits and other
Areas of stagnant water serve
As breeding-grounds …” Now
Have I found you, my Anopheles!
(There is a meaning for the circumspect)
Come, we will dance sedate quadrilles,
A pallid polka or a yelping shimmy
Over these sunken sodden breeding-grounds!
We will be wraiths and wreaths of tissue-paper
To clog the Town Council in their plans.
Culture forsooth! Albert, get my gun.

The opening lines are from an Army Directorate on mosquitoes, called Anopheles.

The scandal destroyed the magazine

The press had a field day and then the fuss died down and the incident became a bizarre part of Australian literary history.

Except not quite… in Peter Carey’s version of events, with names and details changed subtly. The hoaxer, by creating this tragic poet out of whole cloth creates an actual person, like Victor Frankenstein creating his creature Christopher Chubb has conjured up Bob McCorkle with words alone, and the man has been rendered flesh and blood by the publisher Jack Slater through the simple act of printing the works, and like any act of tremendous hubris in a gothic setting, disaster ensues.

This is another one of those books that I would loathe ruining the story.

However we do have unnatural creation, a crazed creator, the resurrectionists are name-checked, there is murder, kidnapping and aloof hyper-sexualized poets galore. Sound familiar?

Also, this clearly falls in with our theme the gothic city as the bulk of the early action takes place in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia which is depicted from a self consciously post-imperialist British viewpoint. Kuala Lumpur is depicted as a gritty monsoonal labyrinth that smells mainly of fish and tries to reject the visiting Brits, making them ill. There is racism within these pages, and the brutality of the 1969 race riots, is not long past when the books take place, as our narrator Sarah reflects on as she sees a resident using a machete during harvesting.

Sydney and Melbourne also get the Gothic treatment, the gravesites, bleak working-class residences and bohemian multistory abodes. Not quite as vibrant as Kuala Lumpur, or maybe I just don’t find the description of Melbourne that gothic and outlandish, bare in mind I spent about a third of my goth phase passing the time broke and stupid in the alleyways of Melbourne. The book is rife with depictions of the cultural cringe, from Australian ex-pats wanting to deny their heritage to an artist called Noisette actually being Mary Moriss from Wangaratta. We also get a British character saying that an Australia has a tiny antipodean brain.

There are lots of grim gothic allusions, webs, blood, the man upon the stair, a quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost and the stitching together of the visage of Ern Malley.

There are still those who see something remarkable about the poems. In fact, the work of Ern Malley inspired postmodern poetry overseas, particularly in America where the context of the hoax was easier to disassociate from the work itself. The conservative poets McAuley and Stewart accidentally wrote a pivotal piece of experimental poetry and helped inspire poets and painters for years to come.

Sidney Nolan cited the Ern Malley hoax as the inspiration for his Ned Kelly paintings… see what I did there. 

4267222-4x3-940x705.jpg
Sidney Nolan’s Kelly series can be found here: https://nga.gov.au/Nolan/Index.cfm

Here is a talk about why we shouldn’t let the story of Ern Malley die.

White, Black and Boobs – Sin City 1993 vs 2004

Brent let me tell you a tale of Sin City, where the women are gorgeous and vulnerable and the men are muscly, obese or Kevin.
And everyone has a sinister past (except most of the women who don’t get pasts at all) and everyone owns a gun, except the stereotypical Asian character who has swords and ninja stars.
I read the Hard Good Night, the big fat kill and I started a dame to kill for before I realized it had zero to do with the first film. The only two story arcs I really missed were Nancy and Bruce Willis’s storylines and Josh Hartnett’s storyline as the Colonel or Salesman.
I’m not sure why I read the books because I can tell you with the two narratives I read they took the text verbatim from the novel when they adapted it to film.

The film in question is the 2004 film Sin City directed by Robert Rodrigez which Brent watched repeatedly and with gusto.

Listen to the episode:

 //html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/6473531/height/360/width/640/theme/legacy/autonext/no/thumbnail/yes/autoplay/no/preload/no/no_addthis/no/direction/backward/

This falls within both urban gothic and the gothic graphic novel, two aspects of the gothic genre we had not tackled previously. In the urban gothic detective novel there tends to be a particularly two-dimensional view of women, tending to treat them as objects. Sin City definitely does nothing to buck this trend.
Every time a woman does something to forward the plot, or displays any kind of agency she gets slapped down. Often literally.
I am so over these this whole damn franchise.
But here are some sources we used

theguardian.com/culture/2011/nov/24/frank-miller-hollywood-fascism
http://brightlightsfilm.com/superwomen-bad-ass-babes-sin-city/#.WsL-dsmubqA

Frilled Neck Lucy – Dracula with Erin of SubverCity Transmit

This article accompanies Frilled Neck Lucy by The FrankenPod

For this episode, I talked to Erin who is the host of SubverCity Transmit and voice actor on No Sleep Podcast and Congeria Podcast. She also runs an awesome, spooky online store called Never Not Clever. So I’m incredibly grateful to Erin for making the time to talk to us.

The film we are chatting about is Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) also known as Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Erin knows so much more about the movie than I could possibly hope to learn and among the many insights she has to give, she touches on the influence of Winona Ryder in the production, the Academy Award-winning costume design by Eiko Ishioka and the very deliberately rudimentary special effect that can be such an obstacle to new audiences discovering and engaging with the film.

Other subjects we touched upon include:

  • Lord Byron, because he always pops up
  • The Symbolist Movement
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • Ghost Hunting
  • Urban exploration
  • The 1991 movie Hook
  • and armadillos… because I just cannot get over this

Again apologies for my brevity!

Morgan

An Interview About Vampires

So this week’s episode of The FrankenPod, features an interview that I (Morgan) recorded with Alix Roberts who has written an amazing thesis on Vampiric women, which I had not read at the time of recording but that I have since read and it is goddamn amazing. Unfortunately, the audio is pretty shoddy. Totally my fault and I’m going to extend the invitation to Alix for her to come on the show again so you can hear how wonderful she is without the clicks and hisses of an angry National Broadband Network.

I have changed the way I do interviews now so hopefully, this will

NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN

Alix’s Podcasts: Chasing Tale and Bloody Ripper

Texts Discussed: 

She by H. Rider Haggard can be found on the book depository

Ligeia by Edgar Allan Poe can be found on Project Gutenberg in Volume 3 of the works of Poe

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu can be found on Project Gutenberg

The Blood of The Vampire by Florence Marryat can be found on book depository

No big long blog posts for me at the moment because between my literature and communications courses uni is really kicking my butt right now. I will write more when I get the chance.

Thank you for listening or reading or how ever it is that you interact with us.

Image By No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Chetwyn (Sgt) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Dracula Connection Part 2 – Florence Balcombe

Born: 6th of August, 1876

Died: 25th of May, 1937, aged 78

Possibly named after Florence Nightingale as her father Lieutenant-Colonel James Balcombe was involved in the Crimean War. Florence is talked about frequently as being just gorgeous but it is pretty clear that there is much more to Florence than the flowery and elaborate praise of her appearance. she was said to be tall at 5 foot 8, which is a perfectly reasonable height these days but apparently tall for the Victorian Era

There was widespread admiration of Florence’s intellect and wit and it came to pass that she would cross paths with another person who was renowned for his intellect and wit; Oscar Wilde. In fact, they two dated for two years, Oscar even gave her a gold cross which could be interpreted as a sort of promissory gesture. Once Wilde left for England, they began a long distance relationship that didn’t really work out.

Florence ended up crossing paths with another witty and intelligent young man with theatrical aspirations, Bram Stoker. Oscar Wilde was devastated when he learned of their engagement. Florence and Oscar eventually got to the point where they were able to maintain a friendship.

But life isn’t that simple and Bram still felt the danger of Oscar’s perceived threat to his marriage or reputation or morality or some combination of the three and that threat was exacerbated when Wilde was arrested for gross indecency. That this was the time at which Bram sat down to pen a story about a pervasive threat to the morality of good Christian people has been a subject of much discussion. Many see the depiction of Jonathan at the Castle Dracula as a subconscious expression of his own homosexuality. There is an excellent article  “A Wilde Desire Took Me: The Homoerotic History of Dracula” by Talia Schaffer that I alluded to in my blog post about Oscar and Bram, which paints the picture of a man who was at once, very happy in his life with Florence and had very intense, almost entirely repressed, feelings for the actor Henry Irving who he worked closely with during his time as the Director of the Lyceum Theatre. There is also a much more complex and distant impassioned relationship with Wilde which abruptly ended when Bram proposed to Florence.

One of the articles I read for this included a segment from Bram Stoker’s relatively recently unearthed “Journal”. They assert that it seems to be an idea for an unwritten work:

Seaport. Two sailors love girl — one marries her, other swears revenge. Husbands goes out to sea soon after marriage & on return after some days sees in grey light of morning his young wife crucified on the great cross which stands at end of pier.

Bram certainly never quite got over his distrust of Wilde. The same article that I grabbed that quote from which was from the New Inquiry by Kaya Genc draws distinct parallels between Bram’s version of his courtship with Florence and his friendship with Oscar and the narrative of Dracula. The forces of corruption represented by Dracula attempt to seize Jonathan and then Mina, but they are defeated by Mina’s common sense and good judgement and Jonathan’s eventual courage and the help of some dudes. It’s not a perfect analogy but considering the timing of his writing, it seems to be a little more than coincidental.

Bram and Florence seemed to have had a pretty equal marriage by Victorian standards and they enjoyed a happy and successful partnership. Bram struggled with illness but felt bad for Florence who ran the household and looked after him in his infirmity. Which is quite sweet because you really didn’t see a lot of that level of awareness in the men of the time. Florence was quite a gifted businesswoman, a trait that would serve her well through Bram’s illness, (which I’ve read was syphilis, which opens a whole new avenue for questioning, how did that happen?) and would continue to assist her after his passing.

After Bram died Florence’s main income stream was through Dracula and she was determined to wrestle control of the Dracula narrative back from the film studios in Germany and America, where Dracula was very popular but the Stoker family received no remuneration for use of Bram’s intellectual property.  She fought against the production of Nosferatu which borrowed ideas whole cloth from Dracula. Florence with the help of the Society of Authors sued the makers of the unauthorized film and won £5,000 and an order went out that every copy of Nosferatu would have to be destroyed. Obviously, that did not quite happen…

Sha also fought the Universal Studios production of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi (previously mentioned on this podcast). They didn’t ask for permission, so they had to deal with the full force of Florence Stoker.

 

Bibliography

  • “A Wilde Desire Took Me”: The Homoerotic History of Dracula by Talia Schaffer

http://www.jstor.org.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/stable/2873274

  • Coming Out of the Coffin by Kaya Genc

https://thenewinquiry.com/coming-out-of-the-coffin/

  • Profile of Florence Balcombe by Eleanor Fitzsimons writer ofWilde’s Women”

http://womensmuseumofireland.ie/articles/florence-balcombe

My Favourite Vampire with Sarah from Good Nightmare

This post accompanies The FrankenPod episode My Favourite Vampire

Dracula is one of those monsters who is so pervasive and terrifying, I’ve already explored how he has been contorted and manipulated to fit our social anxieties. Despite the very “of their time” nature of Dracula adaptations, the appeal of certain adaptations divisive, and not by the age of the reader or viewer and the contemporary adaptations of their time. The novel Dracula has a timeless appeal that may not be entirely the case with a movie. The 1931 movie has an enduring quality, but it has visibly aged and has lost its edge, the 1992 movie is still narratively compelling but the effects and augmentation of the original text place it firmly in the 90s. I asked a fellow Australian podcaster, Sarah, from Good Nightmare to tell me why the novel is such a favourite of hers.

In order to fully explore Dracula we would be remiss if we didn’t cover the 1931 movie

Fun fact the Spanish language Dracula was filmed on the same set, but at night, so they were able to perfect the shots that the American crew may have botched a little. Many many regard the Spanish version as the superior film. I have not watched the Spanish version but I instead watched the American Universal Studios Version of Dracula directed by Carl Laemmle jr. and starring Bela Lugosi as the titular Count.

 

The 1931 movie features a lot of close-ups of Dracula, with lights focused on his eyes. This way of depicting the hypnotic gaze is effective but more than a tiny bit ridiculous. Also, we never see a bite, we just see people leaning ominously in and the scene fades or the vampire moves slowly and ominously out of shot. The movie is as subtle as a brick, but let’s face it you don’t come to Universal Studios Monster canon for a nuanced story. They have very obviously styled Lucy as a “modern woman”, and carried out some serious 1930s slut-shaming, because she deserved to be bitten, unlike the pure and innocent Mina. Hey everyone, can we have an adaption of Dracula in which we don’t care about Lucy because she is less chaste or special than her friend Mina? Please. If there is one please let me know because I would love to see it.

I’ve said some nasty things about the film, but I do really appreciate some very special elements that the film brings to the Dracula narrative,

The movie gives us an origin story for Renfield (which means we get soooo much supernaturally crazed Dwight Frye which I am 100% here for)

Helen chandler’s performance is wonderful, over the top and just beautiful. Obviously, Bela Lugosi as Dracula and Eric Van Sloan as Van Helsing are the most iconic characters in the movie but Helen Chandler as Mina Harker almost mare me like the character of Mina more. The bushy moustaches of the Transylvanian villagers are something to behold, honestly, this movie’s moustache game may be the best I’ve seen. An honourable mention has to go to Jonathan’s Suits. They almost made him interesting.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑