Sunday, 18 November 2007

Baron Vordenburg's library

At the end of Sheridan Le Fanu's famous story Carmilla a few works from the library of the vampire hunter Baron Vordenburg are mentioned, among them Magia Posthuma:

Let me add a word or two about that quaint Baron Vordenburg, to whose curious lore we were indebted for the discovery of the Countess Mircalla’s grave.
He had taken up his abode in Gratz, where, living upon a mere pittance, which was all that remained to him of the once princely estates of his family, in Upper Styria, he devoted himself to the minute and laborious investigation of the marvellously authenticated tradition of Vampirism. He had at his fingers’ ends all the great and little works upon the subject. “Magia Posthuma,” “Phlegon de Mirabilibus,” “Augustinus de cura pro Mortuis,” “Philosophicae et Christianae Cogitationes de Vampiris,” by John Christofer Herenberg; and a thousand others, among which I remember only a few of those which he lent to my father. He had a voluminous digest of all the judicial cases, from which he had extracted a system of principles that appear to govern—some always, and others occasionally only— the condition of the vampire. I may mention, in passing, that the deadly pallor attributed to that sort of revenants, is a mere melodramatic fiction. They present, in the grave, and when they show themselves in human society, the appearance of healthy life. When disclosed to light in their coffins, they exhibit all the symptoms that are enumeranted as those which proved the vampire-life of the long-dead Countess Karnstein.

How they escape from their graves and return to them for certain hours every day, without displacing the clay or leaving any trace of disturbance in the state of the coffin or the cerements, has always been admitted to be utterly inexplicable. The amphibious existence of the vampire is sustained by daily renewed slumber in the grave. Its horrible lust for living blood supplies the vigour of its waking existence. The vampire is prone to be fascinated with an engrossing vehemence, resembling the passion of love, by particular persons. In pursuit of these it will exercise inexhaustible patience and stratagem, for access to a particular object may be obstructed in a hundred ways. It will never desist until it has satiated its passion, and drained the very life of its coveted victim. But it will, in these cases, husband and protract its murderous enjoyment with the refinement of an epicure, and heighten it by the gradual approaches of an artful courtship. In these cases it seems to yearn for something like sympathy and consent. In ordinary ones it goes direct to its object, overpowers with violence, and strangles and exhausts often at a single feast.

Harenberg's 1733 book was published in German (see the accompanying illustration), but somehow got a Latin title in Calmet's book, and this must be the reason why Le Fanu uses a Latin title and spells Harenberg's name 'Herenberg' like Calmet did. Phlegon's De Mirabilius will be well-known to readers of books on vampires, and Augustin's De cura pro mortuis gerenda is a key Catholic text on the care for the dead.

Regular visitors of this blog probably would like to have at their fingers' ends all these and other books on the subject.

3 comments:

Anthony Hogg said...

Speaking of Harenberg's work, you might have come across Matthew Bunson's entry on him in his vampire encyclopedia.

It seems to list a lost work of his:

"He was the respected author of several learned treatises on the undead, the most renowned being the 1739 Von Vampyren (On the Vampires)." ~ Vampire: The Encyclopaedia. London: Thames and Hudson, 1993. pp. 116-17.

It also lists "Philosophicae et Christianae Cogitationes de Vampiris (1739, Philosophical and Christian Thinking on the Vampire)".

Where he got this erroneous date from, I've got no idea.

However, I'd be interested to know if Harenberg actually did publish any more on the subject, apart from the 1733 work I am already familiar with.

Niels K. Petersen said...

The source for the title Von vampyren and the year 1739 is Montague Summers in The Vampire: His Kith and Kin, p. 23 and footnote 54. I can not remember ever seeing any other reference to this work, so I think Summers is erroneous here. This goes for the date of the other book as well, because it is mentioned in the footnote.

Leon said...

Ever since I read Carmilla I have been fascinated by the short list of treatises mentioned there by LeFanu. This blog, in consequence, is a fabulous finding for me as it opens documentations and doors really difficult to reach from where I live. Thanks for it!

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