Marryat, Florence

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Marryat, Florence (1837–1899)

(pop culture)

Florence Marryat, a popular British author and spiritualist, wrote approximately ninety novels and more than 100 short stories in her lifetime. She is primarily remembered today, however, for There Is No Death (1891) and The Spirit World (1894), her two books in support of the mediums of the late nineteenth century, many of whom had been charged with faking their séances. As a novelist, she wrote for a female audience, including such titles as Love’s Conflict, Too Good for Him, Her Lord and Master, Forever and Ever, and The Girls of Feversham.

Marryat also made her mark on the vampire world. The same year that saw the publication of Bram Stoker‘s Dracula (1897) celebrated the publication of Marryat’s The Blood of a Vampire, a 345-page novel about a psychic vampire, Harriett Brandt. Marryat looked to the then-British colony of Jamaica for the origin of her vampire. In the story, Brandt’s father had been kicked out of medical school in Switzerland prior to moving to Jamaica where he pursued a career as a mad scientist. The natives were the victims of his torturous experiments. Her mother, a black woman, was a witch, as evil as her mad-scientist husband. At one point her mother had been bitten by a vampire bat and had developed a taste for blood.

While Brandt was a child, the black people rose up and killed her parents and Brandt was raised in a convent school. When she came of age, she inherited her father’s considerable estate, and left Jamaica to see Europe for the first time. When she settled in among the Brits vacationing in a resort town in Belgium, she was as yet unaware of her vampiric nature. The first victim was the baby of a woman who befriended Brandt at the hotel. Eventually Brandt married, and from her husband gradually became aware of her vampiric state, although not in time to keep him from slowly declining and dying. After his death, unable to control her vampirism, she committed suicide.

Marryat’s novel is a study in contrasts, and completely different in approach to the vampire and novel of Stoker. The vampire Brandt lacks Dracula‘s strength, being as much a victim as those whose death she unwittingly causes. Missing from the story are the explorations of sexuality and power that provide the tension in Dracula and the plot moves so slowly it can lose the reader’s interest even before the nature and source of Brandt’s peculiar psychic vampirism is discovered.

Sources:

Marryat, Florence. The Blood of the Vampire. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1897. 345 pp. Reprinted. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books, 2009.
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Rider Haggard, Sheridan Le Fanu, Florence Marryat, and Vernon Lee, the book covers the key primary texts of the field with a critical perspective that refreshes as well as illuminates the works.
Chapter Four covers a dozen anti-vivisection novels, with particular focus on four by Leonard Graham, Wilkie Collins, Edward Berdoe, and Florence Marryat. The figure of the sinister male vivisector in these novels stands in opposition to the morally superior, and often imperiled, heroine.
Two of her sisters were also novelists: Augusta Marryat wrote adventure fiction, such as Left to Themselves : A Boy's Adventure in Australia (1878); Florence Marryat wrote over 70 novels, many of them focusing on themes of alcoholism and marital cruelty, such as Love's Conflict (1865).
Marsh, Florence Marryat, and Ouida were fairly common in Russian periodicals throughout the second half of the nineteenth century.
In "The Case of Florence Marryat: Custodian of the Spirit World/ Popular Novelist," Tatiana Kontou studies the reception of the famous medium's memoir in order to show the difficulty--perhaps the superfluousness--of separating fact from fiction in the representation of psychic phenomena.

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