So we don’t know for sure who wrote Varney. The researchers hypothesized that most Varney was written by James Malcolm Rymer (1814-1884), with the remainder written by Thomas Perst (1810-1859) and (possibly) two other unknown authors. Perst was a bestselling author of about a hundred penny bloods, but he was also a major plagiarist who died in obscurity of tuberculosis at age 49. Conversely, Rymer only ever published his own work, writing over 120 penny bloods, creating both Sweeny Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street and Varney the Vampireand die rich and comfortable at 70. (Take that, Prest).
Varney chronicles Sir Francis Varney’s (very) long quest to acquire blood to live on, in the form of a beautiful young virgin whom he can marry and then suck dry. Lacking this woman for reasons of conspiracy, he resorts to the women near him for food. He wants to “obtain voluntary consent from a young, beautiful, virgin person” (this diet is the Victorian predecessor of keto), but failing that, he’ll settle for someone young, beautiful, and a virgin that he doesn’t. is not married to.
Varney is emo, guilt-ridden, self-critical, and a wanderer in a world that hates and fears vampires. Who better, then, to become the icon of the living dead? Varney is tall, skinny, so pale he has pure white skin, with “eyes like polished pewter” and a head full of long black hair. Basically, he’s Robert Smith’s Victorian beta of The Cure as a young man. (One at a time, comrades! The line forms on the left!).