Terpsichore has given an excellent outline of a “Villain”, and I find myself with really nothing to add.
Except, perhaps, to utter the injunction, “Oh villain! thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this!”
Dogberry’s misspeaking aside, The Villain of my nightmares is not going anywhere near redemption.
He is a man, who presumably started life as a human, but choose evil so willingly and wholeheartedly that he can barely identified as such anymore. In fact, it is suspected that the devil has given him a third eye so as to better see and manipulate people.
from Russell Kirk’s Old House Of Fear
Kirk, better known for his philosophy, economics, and literary commentary, loved ghost tales. He discovered them during his sojourn at the University of St. Andrews, where he was surrounded by the ghostiness of the town. (St. A’s is known for being haunted.)
And Kirk’s taste for the sublime spooks came out in his fiction. He is, (as Lewis says of MacDonald,) perhaps not the best writer but he is a great teller of myth. All of his tales are chilling, but in a very good way.
Each is shot through a sense of the otherworldly, where the possibilities of meeting a devil or meeting an angel walk side by side.
Each is told from a human standing: imperfect but trying, and oh, so very mortal.
And each highlights the dangers of Evil on the immortal soul. From the ghosts of thieves, to the possessing spirits of truly fiendish mobsters, Kirk’s stories create an intense interior repulsion from all things devilish.
The tales are told in such away that the reader is not sure what is happening, or if there is even something truly diabolical going on. But the little twists and turns that the plot takes slowly uncovers the supernatural working. Every story has surprised me in some way. But none laid a chilly finger on my spine the that my first Kirk story did.
This a Gothic Romance, written because Kirk simply wanted to see if he could write one.
Old House of Fear is narrated from the point of view of a prosaic American Lawyer, Mr. Logan, on a business trip to buy a castle. He gets stranded on the island off the coast of Scotland where this castle resides, with the dying owner, her beautiful niece, and Mr. Jackson. And Mr. Jackson’s henchmen. And Angus the shepherd.
But mostly Mr. Jackman. Mr. Edmund Jackman, who wants the castle, the niece, and the money. And can use evil powers to get it all.
Mr. Logan starts the story denying the possibility of any hocus-pocus. But as he becomes involved, he slowly becomes convinced of the actual, real, palpable existence of Evil. (And the fact that that wrinkle in Mr. Jackman’s forehead is really the lid for his third eye.)
There is terror, evil, a beautiful girl, midnight romps across a storm-tossed island, Scottish accents, and bottle dungeon.
(The bottle dungeon is modeled after the one in the Castle in St. Andrews!)
And the best part is, the Good wins! Mr. Jackman faces the eternal consequences of his choices. Logan gets the girl. And everything is resolved in a way that brings not only narrative and literary but spiritual satisfaction. For not being explicit Christian in any fashion, there is still an underlying system of belief. A portrayal of the Devils assumes the presence of the True God.
So the memory of Mr. Jackman remains to remind me that not only is Evil real, it is vanquishable.