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Gothic Horrors: The Regency Vampyre

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The “modern” vampire genre (or Vampyre, if you will) stems from James Polidori’s 1819 novel, The Vampyre, however the Gothic craze of the entire Regency era led to this printing, and in fact, real events in Europe led to the fascination of all things mysterious and horrible, as characterized in Jane Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey. It should come as no suprise, then, that Northanger Abbey has finally been rewritten as an actual Vampire inspired novel (see Val McDermid’s Northanger Abbey, 2014). Writers have been trying to mash the two genres for years now, beginning with Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight (supposedly a nod to Pride and Prejudice) and Amanda Grange’s Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, to Jane Bites Back, and other similar tales.

According to legend, vampires are mythical beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of living creatures (not unlike General Tilney, one might suppose…) In folkloric tales, undead vampires often visited loved ones and caused mischief or deaths in the neighbourhoods they inhabited when they were alive. They wore shrouds and were often described as bloated and of ruddy or dark countenance, markedly different from today’s gaunt, pale vampire which dates from the early 1800s. Although vampiric entities have been recorded in most cultures, the term vampire was not popularised until the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe,although local variants were also known by different names, such as vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania. This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to what can only be called mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism.

Frotspiece to Polidori's "The Vampyre".
Frontispiece to Polidori’s “The Vampyre”.

The charismatic and sophisticated vampire of modern fiction was born in 1819 with the publication of The Vampyre by John Polidori; the story was highly successful and arguably the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century. However, it is Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula which is remembered as the quintessential vampire novel and provided the basis of the modern vampire legend. The success of this book spawned a distinctive vampire genre, still popular in the 21st century, with books, films, and television shows. The vampire has since become a dominant figure in the horror genre.

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Orange and Raspberry Shrub

orange shrub vs rapsberry shrub

The border under the terrace wall is clearing away to receive currants and gooseberry bushes, and a spot is found very proper for raspberries.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
February 8, 1807

The word Shrub comes from the Arabic word sharab, which literally means “to drink” (it’s also the same word which gave us syrup and sherbert). The first mention of this word in the Oxford English Dictionary is in 1747 and its meaning (beyond that of the “woody plant or bush”) is “any of various acidulated beverages made from the juice of fruit, sugar, and other ingredients, often including alcohol.”

Both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic (using vinegar) versions of these drinks are refreshing on a hot summer day. Commonly made in an orange, lemon or berry flavor and bottled, they would last all season long in a time before refrigeration. The presence of the brandy or vinegar added a bit of a bite to this non-carbonated, early soft drink and helped to prevent it from spoiling in the warm weather.

Citrus Shrub

“Take two quarts of brandy, put it into a large bottle, and put into it the juice of five lemons, and the peels of two, and half a nutmeg; then stop it up and let it stand three days, after which add to it three pints of white wine; a pound and a half sugar; mix it, strain it twice through a filtering bag, and then bottle it up. This is a fine cordial.”
John Davies, The Innkeeper and Butler’s Guide, or, a Directory in the Making and Managing of British Wines, 1808

A Modern Version of Citrus Shrub (Alcoholic)

  • 1 pint Orange Juice
  • Zest and juice of three lemons
  • 2 Quarts Rum

Combine these ingredients in a gallon jar. Cover and let stand at room temperature for three days.

In a large saucepan, mix 4 Cups sugar with 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil stirring constantly to create a simple syrup. Add this syrup to the rum and juice mixture. Cover the jar and let the mixture stand at room temperature for two weeks. Strain the mixture and bottle.

 

Raspberry Shrub

A Raspberry Shrub Recipe (Non-Alcoholic)

(Martha Lloyd’s recipe for Raspberry Vinegar could also be adapted instead for a refreshing berry drink suitable for all ages)

  • 4 cups fresh Blackberries or Raspberries, about 16 ounces
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • cold water
  • ice

Place berries in a non-metal bowl or pitcher; add vinegar. Cover with plastic wrap or lid; refrigerate for 3 to 4 days. Strain mixture into a saucepan, pressing blackberries to extract all liquid. Discard solids then stir in sugar. Boil 2 to 3 minutes; remove from heat and let cool. Store in a tightly covered jar or pitcher. For each serving, combine 1/4 cup of the blackberry concentrate with 1 cup cold water; pour over ice in glasses.

Makes enough concentrate for about 12 servings.

 

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