George Sylvester Viereck published The House of the Vampire in 1907. It is one of the first “psychic vampire” novels ever written, but what makes it even more interesting is the romance at its center is a homosexual one (in fact, a homosexual love triangle, of sorts.)
I first encountered Viereck while working on my dissertation (which, side note, has been edited and revised, and is soon to be published as a book on Amazon; I’ll be posting about this soon), and I was surprised by the themes of his work, the stark clarity with which he wrote them, and the deep awareness he brought to issues of gender and sexuality in a time that always seems so deeply ignorant and puritan to our contemporary one. (Spoiler Alert: My book upends a lot of these misconceptions about the early-twentieth century!)
Perhaps the most compelling element of this novel, gay “romance” of the early-1900s aside, is the psychic aspect. It is not a straightforward, “the vampire will drink your blood” kind of horror. Instead, the antagonist feeds off of the creativity of those around him, specifically focusing on a slow devouring of one talented individual at a time. The vampire takes an apprentice under his wing, showers him (or her) with affection, and all the while drinks the life-source of that individual’s creative talents, until the writer, artist, or poet has nothing left to give. It’s in many ways more horrific than the simple vampire villain.
Despite being relatively unknown, it is safe to say that House of the Vampire is, or deserves to be, a classic of the Victorian Gothic genre. The writing is suitably Romantic, the blurring of lines between reality and the supernatural is present and effective, and the exploration of humanity through art and relationships, love and fear, is both interesting and touching. Although relatively short and fast-paced, much more akin to Jekyll than Udolpho, the questions at its core are what make House of the Vampire worth reading, and reading in particular for the honesty with which Viereck treats the possibilities of human love and action.
Overall: 3.5/5.0 This book was selected as part of my 2019 TBR Pile Challenge.
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