Ktismatics

24 April 2012

Dracula by Stoker, 1897

Filed under: Fiction — ktismatics @ 6:57 pm

Dr. Van Helsing’s Memorandum

I knew that there were at least three graves to find, graves that are inhabit. So I search, and search, and I find one of them. She lay in her Vampire sleep, so full of life and voluptuous beauty that I shudder as though I have come to do murder. Ah, I doubt not that in the old time, when such things were, many a man who set forth to do such a task as mine, found at the last his heart fail him, and then his nerve. So he delay, and delay, and delay, till the mere beauty and the fascination of the wanton Undead have hypnotize him. And he remain on and on, till sunset come, and the Vampire sleep be over. Then the beautiful eyes of the fair woman open and look love, and the voluptuous mouth present to a kiss, and the man is weak. And there remain one more victim in the Vampire fold. One more to swell the grim and grisly ranks of the Undead!…

There is some fascination, surely, when I am moved by the mere presence of such an one, even lying as she lay in a tomb fretted with age and heavy with the dust of centuries, though there be that horrid odour such as the lairs of the Count have had. Yes, I was moved. I, Van Helsing, with all my purpose and with my motive for hate. I was moved to a yearning for delay which seemed to paralyze my faculties and to clog my very soul. It may have been that the need of natural sleep, and the strange oppression of the air were beginning to overcome me. Certain it was that I was lapsing into sleep, the open eyed sleep of one who yields to a sweet fascination, when there came through the snow-stilled air a long, low wail, so full of woe and pity that it woke me like the sound of a clarion. For it was the voice of my dear Madam Mina that I heard.

Then I braced myself again to my horrid task, and found by wrenching away tomb tops one other of the sisters, the other dark one. I dared not pause to look on her as I had on her sister, lest once more I should begin to be enthrall. But I go on searching until, presently, I find in a high great tomb as if made to one much beloved that other fair sister which, like Jonathan I had seen to gather herself out of the atoms of the mist. She was so fair to look on, so radiantly beautiful, so exquisitely voluptuous, that the very instinct of man in me, which calls some of my sex to love and to protect one of hers, made my head whirl with new emotion. But God be thanked, that soul wail of my dear Madam Mina had not died out of my ears. And, before the spell could be wrought further upon me, I had nerved myself to my wild work. By this time I had searched all the tombs in the chapel, so far as I could tell. And as there had been only three of these Undead phantoms around us in the night, I took it that there were no more of active Undead existent. There was one great tomb more lordly than all the rest. Huge it was, and nobly proportioned. On it was but one word.

DRACULA

This then was the Undead home of the King Vampire, to whom so many more were due. Its emptiness spoke eloquent to make certain what I knew. Before I began to restore these women to their dead selves through my awful work, I laid in Dracula’s tomb some of the Wafer, and so banished him from it, Undead, for ever.

Then began my terrible task, and I dreaded it. Had it been but one, it had been easy, comparative. But three! To begin twice more after I had been through a deed of horror. For it was terrible with the sweet Miss Lucy, what would it not be with these strange ones who had survived through centuries, and who had been strengthened by the passing of the years. Who would, if they could, have fought for their foul lives…

Oh, my friend John, but it was butcher work. Had I not been nerved by thoughts of other dead, and of the living over whom hung such a pall of fear, I could not have gone on. I tremble and tremble even yet, though till all was over, God be thanked, my nerve did stand. Had I not seen the repose in the first place, and the gladness that stole over it just ere the final dissolution came, as realization that the soul had been won, I could not have gone further with my butchery. I could not have endured the horrid screeching as the stake drove home, the plunging of writhing form, and lips of bloody foam. I should have fled in terror and left my work undone. But it is over! And the poor souls, I can pity them now and weep, as I think of them placid each in her full sleep of death for a short moment ere fading. For, friend John, hardly had my knife severed the head of each, before the whole body began to melt away and crumble into its native dust, as though the death that should have come centuries ago had at last assert himself and say at once and loud, “I am here!”

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5 Comments »

  1. Oh, my friend John, but it was butcher work.

    Led on as ever by the obvious we must ask ourselves whether Van Helsing had a ‘stake-on’? That writhing, those paroxysms. After his grisly work did he have a companionable pipe and a glass of genever.

    “Van Helsing went about his work systematically. Holding his candle so that he could read the coffin plates, and so holding it that the sperm dropped in white patches which congealed as they touched the metal, he made assurance of Lucy’s coffin. Another search in his bag, and he took out a turnscrew.”

    Very interesting but is it great art?

    Like

    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 25 April 2012 @ 3:42 am

  2. Yes the dripping sperm was a disturbing image. The women all wanted it though: “Had I not seen the repose in the first place, and the gladness that stole over it just ere the final dissolution came, as realization that the soul had been won, I could not have gone further with my butchery.” Mina admitted that she wanted it; maybe that’s why her men took so much trouble not to give it to her. She wanted her pallid and passive Jonathan to drive the stake into her, but it turned out that he had an uncontrollable passion for staking someone else instead. At last the smoldering desire that began the story achieves its consummation.

    Jekyll & Hyde, Dorian Gray, Dracula — it’s no wonder Freud’s version of the unconscious was such a dark and feral force. Is it significant that all four of these writers were subjects under foreign dominion, discontented with the civilizations that constrained them? Dorian Gray sublimated his dark side through art. All of the humans in Dracula recognize the importance of writing it all down, as if their private journals contained their immortal souls, protecting them from the bestial predations of the Undead. Presumably Freud mastered this same trick: write it down, gain control.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 25 April 2012 @ 8:31 am

  3. Instead of Freud’s Greek tragedy Stoker had tapped into a dark Slavic shamanistic, shape-shifting mythology going back into the Celtic heartland with its emphasis on death and the underworld and the force of light. The great tumuli of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth were there when the Acropolis was rough grazing and the pyramids a sketch on the back of a papyrus.

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    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 26 April 2012 @ 4:00 pm

  4. I presumed that the book constituted a warning against the cosmopolitan allures of global commercial expansion, carrying in its cargo holds the plague of oriental exoticism. But as you point out the Celts too came from the East, Count Dracula being the noble Irishman come to infect the conquerors of his ancient homeland. In one of her last journal entries Mina extols “the wonderful power of money” to combat Dracula, carrying the battle all the way back to his castle. But despite his money the rich American still dies at the hand of the Gypsies. Seven years later the English survivors can no longer resist the allure: together they take a vacation jaunt back to Transylvania. And while the Harkers’ child bears the names of all the men who joined in the fight, they call him by the name of the dead man. They are infected, all of them.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 26 April 2012 @ 5:48 pm

  5. Going back to his lair to lay the vile creature must be regression therapy. This oppression must be lifted by confronting it with powerful sacramentals which themselves might be repellent to the Protestant mind. The Real Presence will confront and vanquish the Real Absence. The chthonic powers and the power of Heaven are matched, the draining of blood and the blood shed for our sins bright with saving power. Protestant Stoker turned to the Catholic catalogue when he needed high grade industrial ju-ju. This is serious chaps.

    Along the way a lot of fun with new toys, but the further East you go the less efficacious they are. Keep it simple: the kukri, the bowie, the Winchester but at last only the stake will do. It is rumoured that in Freud’s library in Vienna there is a well thumbed copy of ‘Drac’ with copious annotations. ‘You got that right, bebe’. ‘Cathexis, cathexis, cathexis’.

    Like

    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 27 April 2012 @ 1:39 am


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