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Varney the Vampire

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  772 ratings  ·  45 reviews
After 100 years of neglect, the potboiler Penny Dreadful Varney The Vampire; or, The Feast of Blood returns in this innovative critical edition to entertain a whole new generation of readers. Sold for a penny a chapter on the streets of London in 1845, Varney the Vampire is a milestone of Vampire fiction, yet ignored and overlooked for nearly 100 years, until now!

The Crit
Paperback, 812 pages
Published October 31st 2007 by zittaw press (first published 1845)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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D.M. Dutcher
God my brain. If you read this in the right mood it can be hilarious, but this is one hell of a slog for something that bears little resemblance to modern vampires and doesn't have plot holes, it has plot subways. I'm not even going to try to synopsize this, but just list the characters.

Flora Bannerworth: The chick. Varney wants to suck her blood, then softens to her, and just wants her out of the way so he can get into Bannerworth Hall. Is engaged to Charles Holland and her brother is Henry.

I have to admit, upfront, that I didn’t finish this book. I plan to (someday), but right now all I really want is to put as much distance between me and Varney. The breaking point was getting to the end of my kindle version and realizing that, besides the 96 chapters contained in it, I had 124 more to look forward to. 124 more chapters filled with more and more repetitive actions, mindless chatter, and a vampire that instead of looking like this:


Is more and more looking like a 19th century versi
I read this potboiler, in this edition, when I was an undergraduate (a very, very long time ago), and have always had a yen to revisit it. I was pleasantly surprised, and very amused. This facsimile reprint gives ample evidence of how little care was bestowed on the physical production of the novel - it's the 1847 full-length edition that's reproduced, and it's just chock-a-block with bad chapter numbering and pagination, not to mention chunks of type being banged out of alignment or knocked out ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Evokes gothic atmosphere maybe with three sentences overall (the first chapter is alright). Varney's interesting in theory, as he's a sympathetic vampire and by far the only character who actually has a soul (ha!). The others are like cardboard cutouts. Not that there seems to be any logic to the story itself, anyway. Rymer either forgot every once in a while what his book was about, or he was so broke that he absolutely had to bloat the text by every means necessary, including ministories here ...more
Janet Robel
A beautifully rendered classic tale of the Vampyre. This Victorian era Penny Dreadful about Varney the Vampyre is a huge tome of a novel but well worth the time and effort to read. This really brought me back to the days when vampire books were all the rage and flying off the shelves at bookstores. True vampire fans will absolutely love this book and the detailed illustrations and want it for their keeper shelves. This is a superb reminder of why paranormal books are still going strong after all ...more
Derek Davis
I read a free download, and only because I'd heard it was perhaps the first genuine vampire novel, from the early 19th century. Nobody even seems to be sure who actually wrote it (in those magazine-serialized "penny dreadful" days of pay-by the-word). OK, it's bad. It's really, really, really bad. But if you can download it for free, dip into it now and then, giggle and put it away again. It's, well...friendly. I mean, the vampire isn't a wholly bad guy, the "rational" debunker is a little wacko ...more
Christopher Roth
The bad news is that the Project Gutenberg free ebook version of this I read had only 96 out of 110 or so chapters, so I still don't know how it ends, darnit. The good news is: despite being a "penny dreadful" it holds up extremely well against Bram Stoker's Dracula. It's too long by far, and the dialogue is hilariously stilted, but the latter is also true of Dracula, and Varney is smarter in a lot of ways, including excellent scenes of an angry mob becoming convinced that every neighbor might b ...more
Mar 05, 2008 R. marked it as to-read
Var-neeey, Varney Vampire; King of the Wild Frontierrrr...
More than a little long and I can see why some folks didn't's a lenghty tome and maybe due to it's serial type status is repetitive to circumstance and dialogue throughout...not to mention diversions and tales that really have nothing to do with the actual story.
That said there is also much to commend a work it does have some humour and is acknowledged as presenting certain aspects to the whole Vampire mythos (Dracula included).
It really gathers pace about half way through..
If you read this monstrous serial with an expectation of quality (or even coherency) you will be sorely disappointed. If you want a nonsensical never-ending litany of absurdities mixed up with some interesting conventions of early vampire literature, however, this is your book. There's a suggested scythe duel in a medically sealed darkness chamber, a mob discovering that their accused vampire has transmogrified himself into a brick, the build-up to a mysterious midnight meeting being derailed du ...more
I feel weird giving it 4 stars... but I loved the rollicking pace and the authors occasional "asides" - meaning, the little stories thrown in for no reason. But it was a mix of scary and funny, the ridiculous, the sublime. You have to be patient with it and remember you are reading a penny dreadful - this isn't Shakespeare or Bram Stroker, for that matter. It's all about sensationalism. The ending upset me... but I won't ruin it for you.
From what I understand, this is only the first half of the entire novel. The whole thing is appx 660,000 words - way more than can fit in 860 pages. Having said that, while some of the dialog is atrocious, many parts of this is quite amazing, especially when it's talking about the mobs that are trying to destroy the titular vampire. Some of the descriptions are beautifully done.

While this was originally released in small printed pamphlets - penny dreadfuls - which may explain the length of this,
Undoubtedly one of the worst books I have ever read!! If I could give it a negative rating I would.
Michael Kelly
I had high hopes for this, one of the earlier examples of vampire literature, originally serialised as a 'penny dreadful'. The first few chapters reinforced my hopes: they were excellent! Sure, they were overwritten and full of frightful melodrama, but that was what I had been expecting from a story of this sort from that time, it was a kind of delicious nostalgia, an indulgence. The description of the vampire's initial attack and the reaction to it is quite superb.

Would that I had stopped readi
This isn't a novel it's the equivalent to a 20 season Boxed Set, if the original story ran every week then it went for at least 4 years. Its long, reallll long.
I'm not sure how many writers there were but i'm sure there was more than one. The writing style becomes much less descriptive and over the top around chapter 30 or so much to its detriment.
The story becomes increasingly inconsistent with at least 3 different origin stories for Varney, however it is possible to link everything together w
This review will have to suffice for Volume I only (couldn't seem to find my copy here. It seems there are many versions of these books, some attributed to a different author).

I have to admit, the schlocky, messy cover on my copy (not the one pictured here) was so off putting that I put off reading this book for a very long time. The title, "Varney the Vampire" also somehow strikes the modern reader's ear as trite and campy in the same vein as Howard the Duck or Ming the Merciless. But how wrong
Norman Howe
I would have liked this more if the quality had not been so variable. Serialized as it was"," it probably passed through several writers in the process. The first few chapters were quite interesting. The middle of the book became quite repetitive"," as Varney adopted various identities to try and get close to women and drink their blood. The last chapter felt rushed"," as though the editor had said"," "We're tired of this character. Finish it."
Bobbi Weiss
First off, I'm amazed that I read this whole thing. It's enormous. (The edition I read, in two huge volumes, isn't on Goodreads, so I presume this edition is complete.) The story is, in essence, fun, but it was a Penny Dreadful, which meant that the writer was paid by the word, therefore the writer kept the story going as long as they could to get the most money. So some of it gets dull, and the storyline sort of gets silly, but this is really the first true "vampire fanfic." I loved it.
Richard Broad
A lengthy tale, hard going, and at times incredibly repetitive. It has taken, with a break in between, over the course of two years to read this tyrannosaurian vampire novel; and yet, it has been worth every moment.

As an avid fan of nineteenth century vampire fiction, this penny dreadful encapsulates many of the modern myths of the contemporary vampire. Carmilla and Dracula owe much of their content to Varney: a vampire who is more human than monster, more monster than myth. Truly a great read w
i finally finished this book after many weeks and a nice overdue charge at the library... my quest to read the classic vampire novels that started it all is one book closer. it was a strange vampire story, but mostly very very wordy. 3 pages to describe how he ran across a field and many little tangent stories intertwined, but off the plot. i'm not sure how people back in the day talked like this, let alone read like this. i'd get tired of hearing myself. i will however check out the remaining b ...more
Varney the Vampire is extremely entertaining. I read this over two years ago and I can still picture the beginning scenes. I loved how after Flora screams, the household just stands outside her bedroom, having a panicked conversation, while Varney is inside "slurping" up her lifeblood. In a sparkly vampire obsessed world, this type of quirky vampire story is refreshing.

I don't recommend any extended reading of this book. The sentences/lines go straight across the page, which can get frustrating
Well I got to the end of this book and I'm still not sure what I think of it. It was not a chore to read like I thought it might be and it was one large story rather than a series of shorter ones like I expected. I say one large story, however more than once the author instead shoehorned in a completely unrelated story with different settings and characters for no apparent reason. The kindle version is minus the illustrations which I wouldn't mind but the kindle keeps reminding you [Illustration ...more
Even as a serialized story this was w a a a y to long. One character (with out explanation) just disappeared about half way through. One of the later chapters did not even appear to have anything to do with the story. I am not sure that I can be made to believe that there was only one writer at work here, if it is true, then he lost track of his original goal - what ever that may have been. The end left unresolved questions about what happened with the main characters, at least in this edition.
Jul 04, 2008 Jay added it
didn't read this particular edition, the 3 volume arno press facsimile edition with all the illustrations and two columns of text, it is an epic work and reading all of it is the best way i say, sir francis varney is a very intriguing fellow that feels bad for what he does, but he does it anyway, he tries not to sometimes but it was entertaining and you can see the connections between this and its more famous counterpart, Dracula
Paul Mirek
Over-long and at times mind-numbing, but certainly influential in its way. Rymer seems at his best writing in a humorous manner, as seen in the antagonistic relationship of the Admiral and Jack Pringle and the pigheaded rationality of Dr. Chillingworth. However, some sequences (like the famed opening) do send the old tingles down the spine.
Mar 30, 2012 Heather marked it as to-read
I have to say that this book is interesting. This dates before Dracula. I stumbled upon it by accident and since it was a free kindle download I couldn't pass it up. This was written in the 1800s in weekly chapters. "It sold for a penny a chapter on the streets of London in 1845." The language is pretty amazing to follow.
Before Dracula, before Carmilla, before Twilight (shudder) came Varney. Easily one of the greatest unknown vampire novels out there. It actually beats out most all of the well known vampire novels too. Added with being a Penny Dreadful, this is novel is filled with plenty of vampire action and a long time-spanning narrative.
Kelvin Ng
I read this on ebook format and I have to say it was a challenging read but I still got through it. This book is excessively long, contains too many characters and somehow some of them just disappears halfway through the story. But credits to the author for introducing the variety of tropes present in today's vampire fiction.
Boudica Birdsong
Very few people finish this book. It is huge. I loved it. A 'penny dreadful' so it's over the top style is fun once you get into it. I think it's the longest running 'dreadful' series. I bought the annotated version and enjoyed the footnotes as much as the roller coaster storyline,
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James Malcolm Rymer was a British nineteenth century writer of penny dreadfuls, and is the probable author of Varney the Vampire, often attributed to fellow writer Thomas Peckett Prest, and co-author (with Prest) of The String of Pearls, in which the notorious villain Sweeney Todd makes his literary debut.

Information about Rymer is sketchy. In the London Directory for 1841 he is listed as a civil
More about James Malcolm Rymer...
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Varney the Vampire, Volume I Ada the Betrayed Vampire Triptych (Varney the Vampire, Carmilla, Dracula) Varney, the Vampyre

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“Tis strange what a change comes over masses of men as they gaze upon a dead body. It may be that they all know that to that complexion they must come at last. This may be the secret of the respect offered to the dead.” 0 likes
“It is,” said Henry, “the portrait of Sir Runnagate Bannerworth, an ancestor of ours, who first, by his vices, gave the great blow to the family prosperity.” 0 likes
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