James Malcolm Rymer wrote the first English vampire novel in 1845, Varney the Vampire, the saga of the un-life of Sir Francis Varney. Varney was offered to the public in 109 weekly installments of the "penny dreadfuls" type. Enormously popular, they were the soap operas of their time and are now considered classics.
This is the first chapter. The entire set of subsequent chapters have been made available online at Project Gutenburg at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/14833 and can also be found on http://varney.50megs.com.
----"How graves give up their dead,
And how the night air hideous grows
MIDNIGHT -- THE HAIL-STORM -- THE DREADFUL VISITOR -- THE VAMPYRE
The solemn tones of an old cathedral clock have announced midnight -- the
air is thick and heavy -- a strange, death like stillness pervades all nature.
Like the ominous calm which precedes some more than usually terrific outbreak
of the elements, they seem to have paused even in their ordinary fluctuations,
to gather a terrific strength for the great effort. A faint peal of thunder
now comes from far off. Like a signal gun for the battle of the winds to
begin, it appeared to awaken them from their lethargy, and one awful, warring
hurricane swept over a whole city, producing more devastation in the four or
five minutes it lasted, than would a half century of ordinary phenomena.
It was as if some giant had blown upon some toy town, and scattered many
of the buildings before the hot blast of his terrific breath; for as suddenly
as that blast of wind had come did it cease, and all was as still and calm as
Sleepers awakened, and thought that what they had heard must be the
confused chimera of a dream. They trembled and turned to sleep again.
All is still -- still as the very grave. Not a sound breaks the magic of
repose. What is that -- a strange pattering noise, as of a million fairy
feet? It is hail -- yes, a hail-storm has burst over the city. Leaves are
dashed from the trees, mingled with small boughs; windows that lie most
opposed to the direct fury of the pelting particles of ice are broken, and the
rapt repose that before was so remarkable in its intensity, is exchanged for a
noise which, in its accumulation, drowns every cry of surprise or
consternation which here and there arose from persons who found their houses
invaded by the storm.
Now and then, too, there would come a sudden gust of wind that in its
strength, as it blew laterally, would, for a moment, hold millions of the
hailstones suspended in mid air, but it was only to dash them with redoubled
force in some new direction, where more mischief was to be done.
Oh, how the storm raged! Hail -- rain -- wind. It was, in very truth,
an awful night.
There was an antique chamber in an ancient house. Curious and quaint
carvings adorn the walls, and the large chimneypiece is a curiosity of itself.
The ceiling is low, and a large bay window, from roof to floor, looks to the
west. The window is latticed, and filled with curiously painted glass and
rich stained pieces, which send in a strange, yet beautiful light, when sun or
moon shines into the apartment. There is but one portrait in that room,
although the walls seem paneled for the express purpose of containing a series
of pictures. That portrait is of a young man, with a pale face, a stately
brow, and a strange expression about the eyes, which no one cared to look on
There is a stately bed in that chamber, of carved walnut-wood is it made,
rich in design and elaborate in execution; one of those works which owe their
existence to the Elizabethan era. It is hung with heavy silken and damask
furnishing; nodding feathers are at its corners -- covered with dust are they,
and they lend a funereal aspect to the room. The floor is of polished oak.
God! how the hail dashes on the old bay window! Like an occasional
discharge of mimic musketry, it comes clashing, beating, and cracking upon the
small panes; but they resist it -- their small size saves them; the wind, the
hail, the rain, expend their fury in vain.
The bed in that old chamber is occupied. A creature formed in all
fashions of loveliness lies in a half sleep upon that ancient couch --- a girl
young and beautiful as a spring morning. Her long hair has escaped from its
confinement and streams over the blackened coverings of the bedstead; she has
been restless in her sleep, for the clothing of the bed is in much confusion.
One arm is over her head, the other hangs nearly off the side of the bed near
to which she lies. A neck and bosom that would have formed a study for the
rarest sculptor that ever Providence gave genius to, were half disclosed. She
moaned slightly in her sleep, and once or twice the lips moved as if in prayer
-- at least one might judge so, for the name of Him who suffered for all came
once faintly from them.
She had endured much fatigue, and the storm dose not awaken her; but it
can disturb the slumbers it does not possess the power to destroy entirely.
The turmoil of the elements wakes the senses, although it cannot entirely
break the repose they have lapsed into.
Oh, what a world of witchery was in that mouth, slightly parted, and
exhibiting within the pearly teeth that glistened even in the faint light that
came from that bay window. How sweetly the long silken eyelashes lay upon the
cheek. Now she moves, and one shoulder is entirely visible -- whiter, fairer
than the spotless clothing of the bed on which she lies, is the smooth skin of
that fair creature, just budding into womanhood, and in that transition state
which presents to us all the charms of the girl -- almost of the child, with
the more matured beauty and gentleness of advancing years.
Was that lightning? Yes -- an awful, vivid, terrifying flash -- then a
roaring peal of thunder, as if a thousand mountains were rolling one over the
other in the blue vault of Heaven! Who sleeps now in that ancient city? Not
one living soul. The dread trumpet of eternity could not more effectually
have awakened any one.
The hail continues. The wind continues. The uproar of the elements
seems at its height. Now she awakens -- that beautiful girl on the antique
bed; she opens those eyes of celestial blue, and a faint cry of alarm bursts
from her lips. At least it is a cry which, amid the noise and turmoil
without, sounds but faint and weak. She sits upon the bed and presses her
hands upon her eyes. Heavens! what a wild torrent of wind, and rain, and
hail! The thunder likewise seems intent upon awakening sufficient echoes to
last until the next flash of forked lightning should again produce the wild
concussion of the air. She murmurs a prayer -- a prayer for those she loves
best; the names of those dear to her gentle heart come from her lips; she
weeps and prays; she thinks then of what devastation the storm must surely
produce, and to the great God of Heaven she prays for all living things.
Another flash -- a wild, blue, bewildering flash of lightning streams across
that bay window, for an instant bringing out every colour in it with terrible
distinctness. A shriek bursts from the lips of the young girl, and then, with
eyes fixed upon that window, which, in another moment, is all darkness, and
with such an expression of terror upon her face as it had never before known,
she trembled, and the perspiration of intense fear stood upon her brow.
"What-- what was it?" she gasped; "real or delusion? Oh, God, what was
it? A figure tall and gaunt, endeavouring from the outside to unclasp the
window. I saw it. That flash of lightning revealed it to me. It stood the
whole length of the window."
There was a lull of the wind. The hail was not falling so thickly --
moreover, it now fell, what there was of it, straight, and yet a strange
clattering sound came upon the glass of that long window. It could not be a
delusion -- she is awake, and she hears it. What can produce it? Another
flash of lightning -- another shriek -- there could be now no delusion.
A tall figure is standing on the ledge immediately outside the long
window. It is its finger-nails upon the glass that produces the sound so like
the hail, now that the hail has ceased. Intense fear paralysed the limbs of
the beautiful girl. That one shriek is all she can utter -- with hand
clasped, a face of marble, a heart beating so wildly in her bosom, that each
moment it seems as if it would break its confines, eyes distended and fixed
upon the window, she waits, froze with horror. The pattering and clattering
of the nails continue. No word is spoken, and now she fancies she can trace
the darker form of that figure against the window, and she can see the long
arms moving to and fro, feeling for some mode of entrance. What strange light
is that which now gradually creeps up into the air? red and terrible --
brighter and brighter it grows. The lightning has set fire to a mill, and the
reflection of the rapidly consuming building falls upon that long window.
There can be no mistake. The figure is there, still feeling for an entrance,
and clattering against the glass with its long nails, that appear as if the
growth of many years had been untouched. She tries to scream again but a
choking sensation comes over her, and she cannot. It is too dreadful -- she
tries to move -- each limb seems weighted down by tons of lead -- she can but
in a hoarse faint whisper cry, --
"Help-- help-- help-- help!"
And that one word she repeats like a person in a dream. The red glare of
the fire continues. It throws up the tall gaunt figure in hideous relief
against the long window. It shows, too, upon the one portrait that is in the
chamber, and the portrait appears to fix its eyes upon the attempting
intruder, while the flickering light from the fire makes it look fearfully
lifelike. A small pane of glass is broken, and the form from without
introduces a long gaunt hand, which seems utterly destitute of flesh. The
fastening is removed, and one-half of the window, which opens like folding
doors, is swung wide open upon its hinges.
And yet now she could not scream -- she could not move. "Help! -- help!
-- help!" was all she could say. But, oh, that look of terror that sat upon
her face, it was dreadful -- a look to haunt the memory for a life-time -- a
look to obtrude itself upon the happiest moments, and turn them to bitterness.
The figure turns half round, and the light falls upon its face. It is
perfectly white -- perfectly bloodless. The eyes look like polished tin; the
lips are drawn back, and the principal feature next to those dreadful eyes is
the teeth -- the fearful looking teeth -- projecting like those of some wild
animal, hideously, glaringly white, and fang-like. It approaches the bed with
a strange, gliding movement. It clashes together the long nails that
literally appear to hang from the finger ends. No sound comes from its lips.
Is she going mad -- that young and beautiful girl exposed to so much terror?
she has drawn up all her limbs; she cannot even now say help. The power of
articulation is gone, but the power of movement has returned to her; she can
draw herself slowly along to the other side of the bed from that towards which
the hideous appearance is coming.
But her eyes are fascinated. The glance of a serpent could not have
produced a greater effect upon her than did the fixed gaze of those awful,
metallic-looking eyes that were bent down on her face. Crouching down so that
the gigantic height was lost, and the horrible, protruding white face was the
most prominent object, came on the figure. What was it? -- what did it want
there? -- what made it look so hideous -- so unlike an inhabitant of the
earth, and yet be on it?
Now she has got to the verge of the bed, and the figure pauses. It
seemed as if when it paused she lost the power to proceed. The clothing of
the bed was now clutched in her hands with unconscious power. She drew her
breath short and thick. Her bosom heaves, and her limbs tremble, yet she
cannot withdraw her eyes from that marble-looking face. He holds her with his
The storm has ceased -- all is still. The winds are hushed; the church
clock proclaims the hour of one: a hissing sound comes from the throat of the
hideous being, and he raises his long, gaunt arms -- the lips move. He
advances. The girl places one small foot on to the floor. She is
unconsciously dragging the clothing with her. The door of the room is in that
direction -- can she reach it? Has she power to walk? -- can she withdraw her
eyes from the face of the intruder, and so break the hideous charm? God of
Heaven! is it real, or some dream so like reality as to nearly overturn
The figure has paused again, and half on the bed and half out of it that
young girl lies trembling. Her long hair streams across the entire width of
the bed. As she has slowly moved along she has left it streaming across the
pillows. The pause lasted about a minute -- oh, what an age of agony. That
minute was, indeed, enough for madness to do its full work in.
With a sudden rush that could not be foreseen -- with a strange howling
cry that was enough to awaken terror in every breast, the figure seized the
long tresses of her hair, and twining them round his bony hands he held her to
the bed. Then she screamed -- Heaven granted her then power to scream.
Shriek followed shriek in rapid succession. The bed-clothes fell in a heap by
the side of the bed -- she was dragged by her long silken hair completely on
to it again. Her beautifully rounded limbs quivered with the agony of her
soul. The glassy, horrible eyes of the figure ran over that angelic form with
a hideous satisfaction -- horrible profanation. He drags her head to the
bed's edge. He forces it back by the long hair still entwined in his grasp.
With a plunge he seizes her neck in his fang-like teeth -- a gush of blood,
and a hideous sucking noise follows.
The girl has swooned, and the vampyre is at his hideous repast!