Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 24

ReynoldsMiscChapter 60 opens with Wagner arriving in Florence and taking a peek at the painting of a werewolf “which he had painted when in a strangely morbid state of mind” only to find that the painting has disappeared, leaving only a blank canvas; he takes this as a sign of divine mercy upon his soul. He then learns that his lover Nisida has arrived in the city, and he’s naturally anxious to meet her. He has to be careful, though: she’s pretending to be deaf-mute, and if he startles her with his appearance, this “might evoke a sudden ejaculation, and thus betray her secret.”

Wagner finally catches sight of Nisida, and is unnerved to find her in the company of another man (Demetrius, the Grand Vizier’s Greek servant). As Wagner eavesdrops, Nisida reveals all to Demetrius: that his sister Calanthe was executed after the Grand Vizier had an adulterous affair with her. “Is it possible that I have served so faithfully a man possessed of such a demon-heart?” asks Demetrius. Nisida is also angry, partly because the Grand Vizier wants to marry his “low-born” sister to Nisida’s own brother Francisco, who is held captive by the bandit gang of Antonio.

The two begin concocting an elaborate scheme (remarkably so, given that there are only four more chapters left) to get back at their various enemies. Nisida hopes to wipe out every last one of Antonio’s bandits, not just to avenge her brother but also because some of them know that she killed Wagner’s granddaughter Agnes. As the icing on the cake, her plan involves handing Flora over to the Inquisition.

Wagner is most disturbed to hear Nisida’s scheming, and is faced with the knowledge that “a very fiend was incarnate in the shape of her whom he had loved so madly.” Fortunately, he receives guidance in the form of another vision:

Having tossed on a feverish couch for upward of an hour,—unable to banish from his mind the cold blooded plot which Nisida and Demetrius had resolved upon in order to consign Flora Francatelli and her equally innocent aunt to the stake,—Wagner at last slept through sheer exhaustion. Then Christianus Rosencrux appeared to him in a dream and said:—“Heaven hath chosen thee as the instrument to defeat the iniquitous purposes of Riverola in respect of two guiltless and deserving women. Angelo Duras is an upright man; but he is deluded and misled by the representations made to him by Nisida, through his brother, the physician, relative to the true character of Flora. In the evening at nine o’clock, hie to Angelo Duras—command him in the name of justice and humanity, to do his duty toward his clients—and he will obey thee. Then, having performed this much, speed thou without delay to Leghorn, and seek the grand vizier, Ibrahim Pasha. To him shalt thou merely state that Demetrius is a traitor, and that tremendous perils hang over the heads of the vizier’s much-loved relatives. Manifest no hatred to the vizier on account of his late treacherous intention with regard to the honor of Nisida: for vengeance belongeth not to mortals. And in these measures only, of all the deeply ramified plots and designs which thou didst hear discussed between Nisida and Demetrius, shall thou interfere. Leave the rest to Heaven.”

Nisida’s plan 9or part of it, anway) is carried out offstage and, come 26th September, Flora and her aunt are placed before the grand inquisitor, who is unsympathetic to their pleas:

“Woman,” exclaimed the grand inquisitor, not altogether unmoved by this touching scene, “the tribunal cannot take heed of supplications and prayers of an impassioned nature. It has to do with facts, not feelings.”

Because of the destruction of the convent from which Flora was rescued, her aunt’s sheltering of her, and one of their relatives (the present Grand Vizier) converting  to Islam, the two women are sentenced to torture. There is a delay before the sentence can be carried out, however, as a result of the Ottoman Envoy turning up.

The Jewish usurer Isaachar is next before the grand inquisitor. He makes an impassioned plea for religious tolerance (allowing the author to again air his own commendable opposition to anti-semitism). All of thsi falls on deaf ears, and Isachaar is tortured on the rack. He fails to confess to his supposed crimes (namely, driking the blood of Christian children) and so the inquistion moves on to torturing Giulia, a character who hasn’t turned up in the novel for quite a while. Her cuckolded husband looks on with approval as she is torn to death.

Once her “still warm and palpitating corpse” is removed, it’s the turn of her lover Manuel to be tortured. He’s got some fight left in him, though, so he grabs an iron bar and bashes the skull of Giulia’s husband in with it, avenging her death. The inquisitors haul Manuel back into his cell so that he can endure a greater torture.

2 thoughts on “Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 24”

  1. One has to say this for Reynolds–while it’s clear that he’s run out of things for the nominal protagonist to do, and honestly seems a bit bored with him, he’s decided he’s going to close this one out in a big way, or at least try to.

    A few odds and ends I’ve managed to unearth about this one–it is at least nominal sequel to Reynolds’ Faust, hence the latter’s appearance associated with a noble title that Reynolds gave him in that work. Like Wagner that one involved a lot of elaborate historical hijinks around Italy–indeed, it’s hard not to see the whole work as an intentional call back to what had been a big hit for Reynolds. As for why, well, Wagner was the inaugural serial for Reynolds’s Miscellany, the magazine he’d brought out to get him free of his main publisher with whom he had Disputes. While these were temporarily settled, and Reynolds wrote the second series of his biggest hit The Mysteries of London for them, he kept the magazine going. As Wagner wound up, he started a new serial, The Days of Hogarth, or the Mysteries of Old London which seems to have kept his interest better, and provided the model for his most successful series of all, The Mysteries of the Court of London which ran for nearly eight years.

    I’d argue his city mysteries are a better example of his strengths than Wagner–indeed, I’d argue he was probably the closest thing that bizarre Victorian genre had to a perfecter of the form.


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