I am fan of both Carmilla and Vampire Lovers, and sumptuously elegant Miss Carmilla is one of my favorite vampires. Theophile Gautier´s glorious Clarimonde is her equal - she stars in wonderfully over-the-top La Morte Amoureuse (1836) which shows that vampire romances are not new invention...
Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.
Do yourself a favour and try to track down a copy of Clarimonde (under any title) if you have not read it already.
* as an aside Aickman also reprints Vernon lee's wonderful novella "Oke of Okehurst" in the same volume. This is another story that has been printed under a variant title, as in the case of the Gautier Aickma goes for the less leading/cat-out-of-baging title. More important perhaps for the Lee where the ambiguity of the tale is undermined by the alternative title.
I think the NYRB would be a good start from the viewpoint of someone interested in genre fiction. I enjoyed the whole collection although none of the other tales come near to the power of the Priest/Clarimonde.
I'm afraid I haven't read any of Gautier's generally bettre known more mainstream novels (which I suspect Pengiun Classics concentrate on). I suspect they'd make for good reads, but perhaps not focusing on "Vault-of-Evil" themes (I could be wrong though in terms of decadence if not horror). Perhaps someone else could chip in here? If not I suspect a good place to ask would be Caemaen, the Machen Yahoo forum, many of the regulars are very widely read in the nineteenth century decadents.
I have read a couple of Gautier's shorter supernatural/fantasy novels that have been reprinted in the last couple of years.
The Jinx, from the excellent Hesperus Press (who have a number of other very interesting titles) deals with a tortutred English artist in Europe who appears cursed with "the Evil-Eye", inadvertantly causing the death of those closest to him:
and Spirite, from that even more intresting publisher Dedalus. This is more of a supernatural romance between the living and the dead (as in ghost, not corpse). Also included a short tale "the Coffee Pot".
All of the above I found readable and enjoyable. But Clarimonde is the big hitter. If you haven't read Vernon Lee's "Oke of Okehurst" then perhaps another good bet would be picking up Fontana Great Ghost Stories 6, which I'm sure you can find for a couple of quid online.
Apologies for amazon links. I know not everyone thinks highly of amazon, but it is often the easiest way to link to book details.
Gorgeous cover artwork and, to offset the beautiful Lee and Gautier obsessive love stories, a macabre gem from Rev. Henry Whitehead, quite possibly the most full-on horror story Aickman published as editor.
Can't say i've read anything else of Gautier's bar The Mummy's Foot which was once quite popular with anthologists, though i can't remember if it made any impression.
Much missed comedian Dave Allen included Clarimonde in his ghost & horror anthology, A Little Night Reading!
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
Thanks very much for all of that. I've ordered My Fantoms and I may even post a review in due course.
I found a copy of Fontana GGS 6 as part of a slipcased set sitting at the back of a bookcase in Probert Towers last night, so Lady P was treated to the first 20 pages of Clarimonde as a bedtime story. It's either crackingly well written or crackingly well translated (by Lafcadio Hearn I notice) - quite possibly both.
I suspect I'll stick with the Fontana volume as well as there are some other goodies in there, but the other Gautier volumes you mention may well make their way onto my TBR bookcases.
Daedalus are an interesting publisher aren't they? I have a few of their anthologies of decadent fiction from around the world
Post by Michael Connolly on Dec 17, 2016 13:55:05 GMT
Considering that "Carmilla" first appeared in 1871, it still comes across as very modern. There is nothing ambiguous about its sexual themes.
While the second half does go round in circles a bit, the best of it is very well written, as following passage, from the end of chapter VI, shows. The idea of a very still figure moving is very creepy:
But I was equally conscious of being in my room, and lying in bed, precisely as I actually was. I saw, or fancied I saw, the room and its furniture just as I had seen it last, except that it was very dark, and I saw something moving round the foot of the bed, which at first I could not accurately distinguish. But I soon saw that it was a sooty-black animal that resembled a monstrous cat. It appeared to me about four or five feet long for it measured fully the length of the hearthrug as it passed over it; and it continued to-ing and fro-ing with the lithe, sinister restlessness of a beast in a cage. I could not cry out, although as you may suppose, I was terrified. Its pace was growing faster, and the room rapidly darker and darker, and at length so dark that I could no longer see anything of it but its eyes. I felt it spring lightly on the bed. The two broad eyes approached my face, and suddenly I felt a stinging pain as if two large needles darted, an inch or two apart, deep into my breast. I waked with a scream. The room was lighted by the candle that burnt there all through the night, and I saw a female figure standing at the foot of the bed, a little at the right side. It was in a dark loose dress, and its hair was down and covered its shoulders. A block of stone could not have been more still. There was not the slightest stir of respiration. As I stared at it, the figure appeared to have changed its place, and was now nearer the door; then, close to it, the door opened, and it passed out.
I was now relieved, and able to breathe and move. My first thought was that Carmilla had been playing me a trick, and that I had forgotten to secure my door. I hastened to it, and found it locked as usual on the inside. I was afraid to open it--I was horrified. I sprang into my bed and covered my head up in the bedclothes, and lay there more dead than alive till morning.