Varma, Devendra Prasad

Varma, Devendra Prasad (1923–1994)

(pop culture)

Devendra P. Varma, a Canadian gothic scholar, became a key figure in the development of modern gothic studies that in turn provided the foundation for the contemporary revival of interest in the vampire. As a young scholar, Varma began to gather a collection of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century literature that would come to include many rare volumes. The collection would later become the source for the reprinting of almost 200 important pieces of literature, including the complete works of Sheridan Le Fanu and a three-volume edition of Varney the Vampire (1970), now a collector’s item in itself. In the 1960s, he became a professor of English and Gothic Literature at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he would remain for the rest of his life.

Varma’s first book, The Gothic Flame: Being a History of the Gothic Novel in England (1957) stands at the fountainhead of contemporary gothic studies. He went on to edit editions of Jane Austen’s horror novels, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1976), Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1984), and the complete set of Ann Ratcliffe’s Gothic Romances (1987).

As a particular student of vampire literature, Varma wrote “The Vampire in Legend, Lore, and Literature” as an introductory essay for his 1970 edition of Varney the Vampyre (reprinted in 1989 in Margaret Carter‘s The Vampire in Literature: A Critical Bibliography) in which he called attention to the vampire characters in the folklore of India and nearby countries of Tibet, Nepal, and Mongolia, and suggested that these stories, arriving in the Mediterranean via the ancient trade routes, may have been the source of European vampire tales. That essay has stood the test of time far better that his early exploration of “The Genesis of Dracula” (1975), which helped stimulate the last two decades of consideration of the origins of the prominent element of Bram Stoker‘s novel. He edited one volume of vampire short fiction, Voices from the Vaults: Authentic Tales of Vampires and Ghosts (1987). He was working on a volume of essays on Dracula projected for publication for Dracula ‘97: A Centennial Celebration, but was overtaken by a heart attack on October 24, 1994, in Oceanside, New York, while on the last leg of a lecture tour. His last major work was an introductory essay for Henry Peter Suck-smith’s Those Whom the Old Gods Love (1994).

Sources:

Varma, Devendra P. “The Vampire in Legend Lore, and Literature.” In Varney the Vampyre; or, The Feast of Blood. New York: Arno Press, 1970. Reprinted in Carter, Margaret, ed. The Vampire in Literature: A Critical Bibliography. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1989: 13–29.
———. “The Genesis of Dracula: A Re-Visit.” In Peter Underwood, ed. The Vampire’s Bedside Companion. London: Leslie Frewin, 1975.
———. “Dracula’s Voyage: From Pontus to Hellespontus.” Paper presented at the American Association of Slavic Studies, Eighteenth National Convention, New Orleans, November 21, 1986.
———. Voices from the Vault: Authentic Tales of Vampire and Ghosts. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1987. 247 pp.
Stuart, Roxana. Stage Blood: Vampires of the 19th-Century Stage. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1994. 377 pp.