THE VAMPIRE; OR, THE BRIDE OF THE ISLES (1820)

JAMES ROBINSON PLANCHÉ (1796–1880)


J. R. Planché wrote more than 150 plays and operas, of which The Vampire was the most popular. This two-act ‘Romantic Melo-Drama’ was performed at the Theatre Royal, English Opera House, on 9 August 1820. Planché acknowledged it as ‘a free translation’ of a French drama, which he transposed to Scotland. The ultimate source is Polidori’s The Vampyre, which was translated into French and German. The extracts illustrate two characteristic features of Gothic melodrama: spectacle and comic characters, which are necessary to both sustain and contrast with the sublimity of the work. I have included a description of the costumes from a later performance, as Planché was famous for his designs.

Copyright © 2000, 2014 Rictor Norton


Dramatis Personć

IN THE VISION.

Unda, Spirit of the Flood
Ariel, Spirit of the Air
A Vampire
Lady Margaret

IN THE MELO-DRAME.

Ruthven, Earl of Marsden
Ronald, Baron of the Isles
Robert, an English Attendant on the Baron
M’Swill, the Baron’s Henchman
Andrew, Steward to Ruthen
Father Francis
Lady Margaret, Daughter to Ronald
Effie, Daughter to Andrew
Bridget, Lord Ronald’s Housekeeper

Retainers, Peasants, Bargemen, &c. &c.

[Unda is costumed in ‘White satin dress, trimmed with shells, &c., blue satin robe, hair in long ringlets, tiara, wand’; Ariel in ‘White muslin dress, with spangles, sky-blue robe, wings, tiara, silver wand’; the Vampire (Ruthven) in ‘Silver breast-plate, studded with steel buttons, plaid kelt, cloak, flesh arms and leggings, sandals, gray cloak, to form the attitude as he ascends from the tomb’; Lady Margaret in ‘White satin dress, trimmed with plaid and silver, plaid silk sash, Scotch hat and feather’; Bridget in ‘Black velvet body and tabs, plaid petticoat, trimmed with black, blue ribbon in the hair, plaid sash’; Robert in ‘Gray shirt, trimmed with yellow binding, drab pantaloons, gray hat, with black feathers, sword and belt, russet boots and collar’; and M’Swill in ‘Red plaid jacket, waistcoat, and kelt, philibeg, flesh leggings, plaid stockings, black shoes and buckles, Scotch cap’.]

Introductory Vision

The Curtain rises to slow Music, and discovers the Interior of the Basaltic Caverns of Staffa; at the extremity of which is a Chasm opening to the Air. The Moonlight streams through it, and partially reveals a number of rude Sepulchres. On one of these, LADY MARGARET is seen, stretched in a heavy Slumber. The Spirit of the Flood rises to the Symphony of the following

INCANTATION.

SOLO. – UNDA.

SPIRIT! Spirit of the Air!
Hear and heed my spell of power;
On the night breeze swift repair
Hither from thy starry bower.

CHORUS.

          Appear! Appear!

UNDA.

By the sun that hath set,
In the waves I love;
By the spheres that have met
In the heavens above.
By the latest dews
That fall to earth;
On the Eve that renews
The fair moon’s birth.

CHORUS.

          Appear! Appear!

QUARTETTO.

By the charm of might and the word of fear,
Which must never be breath’d to mortal ear.
Spirit! Spirit of the air,
Hither at my call repair!

(Music. – The Spirit of the Air descends through the Chasm, on a Silvery Cloud, which she leaves and advances.

Ariel. Why, how now, sister! wherefore am I summoned?
         What in the deep and fearful caves of Staffa
         Demands our presence or protection? – Speak!
Unda. Spirit of the Air! thy sister Unda claims
          Thy powerful aid; – not idly from thy blue
          And star-illumin’d mansion art thou call’d
         To Fingal’s rocky sepulchre – Look here.
                              [Pointing to Lady Margaret.
Ariel. A maiden, and asleep!
Unda. Attend thee, Ariel.
          Her name is Margaret, the only daughter
          Of Ronald, the brave Baron of the Isles.
         A richer, lovelier, more virtuous lady
         This land of Flood and Mountains never boasted.
         To-morrow Marsden’s Earl will claim her hand,
         Renown’d through Europe for his large possessions,
          His clerkly knowledge, and his deeds of arms.
Ariel. How came she in this den of death and horror?
Unda. Chasing the red-deer with her father Ronald,
         A storm arose, and parted from her train,
         She sought a shelter here – calmly she sleeps,
         Nor dreams to-morrow’s hymeneal rites,
         Will give her beauties to a Vampire’s arms.
Ariel. A Vampire, say’st thou! – Is then Marsden’s Earl –
Unda. Thou knowest, Ariel, that wicked souls
         Are, for wise purposes, permitted oft
         To enter the dead forms of other men;
         Assume their speech, their habits, and their knowledge,
         And thus roam o’er the earth. But subject still,
         At stated periods, to a dreadful tribute.
Ariel. Aye, they must wed some fair and virtuous maiden,
         Whom they do after kill, and from her veins
         Drain eagerly the purple stream of life;
         Which horrid draught alone hath pow’r to save them
         From swift extermination.
Unda. Yes; that state
         Of nothingness – total annihilation!
         The most tremendous punishment of heaven.
         Their torture then being without resource,
         They do enjoy all power in the present.
         Death binds them not – from form to form they fleet,
         And though the cheek be pale, and glaz’d the eye,
         Such is their wond’rous art, the hapless victim
         Blindly adores, and drops into their grasp,
         Like birds when gaz’d on by the basilisk.
Ariel. Say on. –
Unda. Beneath this stone the relics lie
         Of Cromal, called the bloody. Staffa still
         The reign of fear remembered. For his crimes,
         His spirit roams, a Vampire, in the form
         Of Marsden’s Earl; – to count his victims o’er,
         Would be an endless task – suffice to say
         His race of terror will to-morrow end,
         Unless he wins some virgin for his prey,
         Ere sets the full-orb’d moon.
Ariel. And with this view
         He weds the Lady Margaret.
Unda. Aye, Ariel;
         Unless our blended art can save the maid.
Ariel. What can be done? – our power is limited.
         What can be done, my sister?
Unda. We must warn
         The maiden of her fate. Lend me thine aid,
         To raise a vision of her sleeping sight.
Ariel. Let us about it.

(They perform Magical Ceremonies to the Symphony of the following Charm.

CHARM. – ARIEL and UNDA.

Phantom, from thy tomb so drear,
          At our bidding swift arise;
Let thy Vampire-corpse appear,
          To this sleeping maiden’s eyes.
Come away! come away!
          That the form she may know
          That would work her woe;
And shun thee, till the setting ray
Of the morn shall bid thy pow’r decay;
          Phantom, from thy tomb so drear,
          At our bidding rise! – appear!
                              [Thunder.

CHORUS – ARIEL and UNDA.
Appear! Appear! Appear!

(A Vampire succeeds from the Tomb of Cromal, and springs towards Margaret.)

Vam. Margaret!
Ariel. Foul spirit, retire!
Vam. She is mine!
Ariel. The hour is not yet come.
Unda. Down, thou foul spirit; – extermination waits thee:
          Down, I say.

(Music. – The Vampire sinks again, shuddering, and the Scene closes.)

Act the First.
Scene I.

A Hall in the Castle of Lord Ronald. M’Swill, and a group of Retainers are seen seated round a Table in hunting dresses, drinking. The Sun is seen just rising behind the hills through the large Gothic window at the back of the scene.

CHORUS.
Tune – ‘Johnny Cope.’

Come fill, let the parting glass go round
With a stirrup cup, be our revelry crown’d,
See the sun that set to our bugles sound
          Is changing the night into morning.

As darkness shrinks from his rising ray,
So sorrow and care will we keep at bay,
By the bowl at night and the ‘Hark away,’
          That awakes us, brave boys, in the morning.

Enter BRIDGET and ROBERT. – M’Swill gets under the Table.

Brid. Very pretty doings upon my word! Here’s our poor mistress, the Lady Margaret, been lost for nearly the whole night in the forest; and no sooner is she by good fortune found again and trying to get a little rest in her own apartments, but you make all this noise, as if on purpose to disturb her.

Rob. Nay, Mrs. Bridget, don’t be angry with them. They’ve been celebrating my lady’s return.

Brid. Return! Don’t tell me. – They never want an excuse to get drunk – out of the castle directly – don’t stand ducking and scraping there – go along directly, when I tell you. [Exeunt Retainers.] Where is that rascal, M’Swill? he’s at the bottom of all this; – but if I – [M’Swill attempts to steal off.] Oh! oh! there you are, sir – come here, sir. [Seizes him by the ear, and brings him forward.] Down on your knees directly, and ask my pardon.

M’Swill. I do, Mrs. Bridget.

Brid. How came you under the table?

M’Swill. What a question, when a man has been drinking all night.

Brid. Will you never leave off taking your drops?

M’Swill. I don’t take drops, Mrs Bridget.

Brid. Here has poor Robert been running through the forest all night, seeking my lady, and peeking in all the holes of the grotto, whilst you –

M’Swill. The grotto, Mrs. Bridget! Good guide us! Why, you didn’t go into the grotto, did you?

Brid. And why not, booby?

M’Swill. O, dear! O, dear! the ignorance of some people – but you’re an Englishman, and that accounts for it. Why, didn’t you know that the grotto was haunted.

Rob. Ha! ha! ha!

M’Swill. Aye! aye! laugh away, do – but I can tell you it’s full of kelpies and evil spirits of all sorts; only ask Mrs. Bridget.

Brid. It’s very true, Robert, and you shou’dn’t laugh, for they always owe a grudge to any body that jests about them.

M’Swill. Did you never hear the story of Lady Blanch?

Brid. Hush! don’t talk so loud.

M’Swill. You know it, Mrs. Bridget.

Brid. No! but Lord Ronald is very angry with every body who circulates stories of that description – so speak lower, if you are going to tell it.

M’Swill. Well, then – once upon a time –

Rob. Ha! ha! ha! – Mother Bunch’s fairy tales.

M’Swill. Well, isn’t that the proper way to begin a story?

Brid. Go on.

M’Swill. Once upon a time –

Rob. You’ve said that once twice.

M’Swill. Will you be quiet with your fun. I won’t tell it at all.

Rob. Well, well, then – Once upon a time – what happened?

M’Swill. Once on a time, there lived a lady named Blanch, in this very castle, and she was betrothed to a rich Scotch nobleman; all the preparations for the wedding were finished, when, on the evening before it was to take place, the lovers strolled into the forest –

Brid. Alone?

M’Swill. No; together to be sure.

Brid. Well, sot, I mean that; and I think it was highly improper.

M’Swill. Well, they were seen to enter the grotto, and –

Rob. And what?

M’Swill. They never came out again.

Rob. Bravo! – an excellent story.

M’Swill. But that isn’t all. – The next morning the body of the lady was found covered with blood, and the marks of human teeth on her throat, but no trace of the nobleman could be discovered, and from that time to this he has never been heard of; and they do say, (I hope nobody hears us) they do say that the nobleman was a Vampire, for a friar afterwards confessed on his death bed, that he had privately married them in the morning by the nobleman’s request, and that he fully believed it some fiend incarnate, for he could not say the responses without stuttering.

Rob. Better and better! and how came you by this precious legend?

M’Swill. The great uncle of my grandfather had it from the great grandfather of the steward’s cousin, by the mother’s side, who lived with a branch of the family when the accident happened; and moreover, I’ve heard my great uncle say, that these horrible spirits, call’d Vampires, kill and suck the blood of beautiful young maidens, whom they are obliged to marry before they can destroy. – And they do say that such is the condition of their existence, that if, at stated periods, they should fail to obtain a virgin bride, whose life blood may sustain them, they would instantly perish. Oh, the beautiful young maidens! –

Brid. Oh beautiful young maidens – merciful powers! what an escape I’ve had. – I was in the cavern myself one day.

M’Swill. Lord, Mrs. Bridget, I’m sure there’s no occasion for you to be frightened.

Brid. Why, you saucy sot, I’ve a great mind to –

A BELL RINGS.

I declare there’s my lady’s bell – no occasion, indeed – an impudent fellow; but men, now-a-days, have no more manners than hogs. (Bell rings.)

                                    [Exit Mrs. Bridget.

M’Swill. There’s a she devil for you. I don’t think there’s such another vixen in all Scotland. She’s little and hot, like a pepper-corn. What a lug she gave me by the ear.

Rob. Nay, nay, you musn’t mind that; all old ladies have their odd ways.

M’Swill. Curse such odd ways as that, tho’; I shall feel the pinch for a month. – Pray, Mr. Robert, as you’ve been in London with Lord Ronald, do you know who this Earl is that the Lady Margaret is to be married to?

Rob. I only know that he is the Earl of Marsden, and master of the castle on the coast facing this island.

M’Swill. What? where the pretty Effie, your intended lives?

Rob. Exactly.

M’Swill. He’ll arrive just in time, then, to be present at the wedding.

Rob. I hope so.

M’Swill. That will be glorious! two weddings in one day – such dancing, such eating, such drinking –

Brid. M’Swill!

M’Swill. Ugh, choak you, you old warlock! what’s in the wind now, I wonder?

Brid. M’Swill, I say!

M’Swill. Coming, Mrs. Bridget.

                                [Exit M’Swill.

Rob. Yes, as soon as the Earl arrives, I shall certainly take an opportunity to request him to honour the wedding with his presence – how pleas’d my dear Effie would be. Charming girl, I shall never forget the hour when first we met. . . .


[SOURCE: J. R. Planché, The Vampire; or, The Bride of the Isles (London: John Lowndes, 1820), pp. 4–12]


Return to Index of Gothic Readings