The Beetle (Pocket Classics) Paperback – 30 Jun 1994
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From the Back Cover
The Beetle (1897) tells the story of a fantastical creature, "born of neither god nor man," with supernatural and hypnotic powers, who stalks British politician Paul Lessingham through fin de siecle London in search of vengeance for the defilement of a sacred tomb in Egypt. In imitation of various popular fiction genres of the late nineteenth century, Marsh unfolds a tale of terror, late imperial fears, and the "return of the repressed," through which the crisis of late imperial Englishness is revealed.
This Broadview edition includes a critical introduction and a rich selection of historical documents that situate the novel within the contexts of fin de siecle London, England's interest and involvement in Egypt, the emergence of the New Woman, and contemporary theories of mesmerism and animal magnetism. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Julian Wolfreys is a Professor of English at the University of Florida, Gainsville. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Rather akin to Arthur Machen's "The Great God Pan" in that this terrible creature begins to wreck havoc on the polite society it finds itself in. But what is this creature? For one thing we are never entirely sure what sex it is, on many occasions it appears to be an hermaphrodite, which adds some intriguing sexual psychology to the proceedings! Or perhaps Marsh was simply picking up on the old idea that alchemists, when they had perfected their craft, were able to change sex? The whole story is a bizarre yet absorbing mix of true Victorian spaciness combined with John Buchan-style heroics (there is a splendid chase scene when the creature is pursued across London and onto a train). I suspect the reasons it is not that well known these days is that the writing is quite dated. Incidentally, Richard Marsh was the grandfather of fantasy writer, Robert Aickman, so it seems that writing "strange stories" ran in the family!
This book tells the story of a mysterious man/woman/being who is living in a down at heel rented villa in London and has the ability to transform himself into a beetle. In fact, he is the magical scarab beetle of Egypt and emblematic of the worshipers of Isis. The story then goes on to be told through four different points of view as to how he/she/it wreaks havoc across London including causing a train wreck. It's all terribly exciting and crosses the classes as well as the various neighbourhoods of London.
I particularly liked the first book's narrator, the down on his luck clerk, Robert Holt. The second book is narrated by Sydney Atherton - definitely upper class and some kind of early chemical weapons manufacturer - when he tested his "inventions" on a neighbourhood cat, I fell out with him and started wanting the Beetle to win! Marjorie Lindon who narrates the third book is a great example of a modern Victorian woman and the final narrator, a private detective, will remind readers of Sherlock Holmes (and, incidentally also reminded me of Kazuo Ishiguro's lead character in "When we were Orphans").
This is a great example of fin de siecle literature with thoroughly modern "new women" featuring, lots of emphasis on science as well as the class divisions which were so painfully apparent during those times. It also has that Victorian obsession with all things Egyptian to commend it. A great example of Victorian literature and FREE on Kindle. Not to be missed.
The beetle is incredibly written and I would say Richard Marsh ranks alongside some of some of my favourite writers such as H.P Lovecraft, Basil Copper, Robert E Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. Though most similar to Basil Copper in my opinion.
Hopefully thats enough incentive to go out and buy it!
Its a good read but like anything written before 1900 you have to
get in the mind-set of the language otherwise it can be tedious. Not
a book you could happily read a page or two at a time, its more
if you have an hour get stuck into it and enjoy it. It doesn't disappoint
and whilst slow at the start winds up gradually to a satisfying climax.
If you've read Bram Stokers original Dracula you'll enjoy this.
Told by four different narrators we are told a strange and bizarre tale of a creature - a scarab beetle that shapeshifts into a man, or as some report, a woman. We are never really sure what the thing really is or what sex, does it use magic to become human or is it human and changes sex and becomes a beetle by magic? This vagueness leads to the terror felt by the main characters - this thing is also able to mesmerise people and place them under its power. Taking in and mentioning the Cult of Isis, orgies and naked young women being sacrificed there is a whiff of decadence and erotica in this tale that runs most of the way through it, and this is probably what made it such a sensation at the time. Indeed if you were to take away the supernatural part from it this would read as a sensation novel.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Intriguing but ultimately underwhelming Victorian Gothic horror novel. Surprisingly, this book originally outsold Bram Stoker's masterpiece, DRACULA.Published 1 month ago by BookExplorer
Best book I've read in ages. Detective story mixed with classic horror and more.Published 4 months ago by b zimmerman
A very different story from anything I've read before.
Too much longwinded and dated dialogue in most okaves, but certain scenes are still quite chilling, the best example... Read more
This book was written over a century ago, but it is still as relevant today as it was back then.
A very well written piece of fiction. Read more
This book was more popular than Dracula in its time. A good read but not memorable.Published 24 months ago by amazon31
Thoroughly enjoyed this book a real page turner.have not read anything in this genre before.but it was really engrossing.Published on 16 July 2014 by frances wade
Excellent book for those who like fin de siecle Gothic. Outsold Dracula when it was first published and now make something of a comeback in academic circles.Published on 6 Jun. 2014 by TankGirl
The Beetle (1897) concerns the impact on English life of a mysterious oriental figure who pursues a British politician from Egypt to London, where he wreaks havoc with his powers... Read morePublished on 5 May 2014 by barbicandy