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The Gothic Flame: being a history of the Gothic Novel in England
The Evergreen Tree of Diabolical Knowledge
Devendra Varma (17 October 1923 - 24 October 1994) was an expert on Gothic literature. He was particularly well known for The Gothic Flame: being a history of the Gothic Novel in England and The Evergreen Tree of Diabolical Knowledge, and also for making available hundreds of Gothic tales.
Early life and education
Devendra Prasad Varma was born in Darbhanga, India, in October 1923. He studied at Patna College, where he was strongly influenced by his English professors, and later went to obtain a PhD at the University of Leeds under Professor G. Wilson Knight. In 1968, Varma had also "received a 'distinction of
honor' from the State of California and a fellowship for 'outstanding ability and signal evidence of scholarship and proficiency in research" from a subsidiary of the degree millSequoia University.
An anecdote Varma used to tell sums up his lifelong Gothic quest: One day, he was walking in the foothills of the Himalayas and saw among the wares of a poor bookseller laid out by the roadside a tattered copy of a Gothic novel so scarce that none of the world's great collections possessed a copy.
Varma joined the 6th Queen Elizabeth's Own Gurkha Rifles regiment and fought for the British Indian Army during World War II. Varma was wounded during an airborne and amphibious attack on Rangoon by British, American and Indian forces during the Burma Campaign (April-May, 1945). The attack was dubbed Operation Dracula.
Varma taught in India, Nepal, Syria and Egypt before moving to Canada where he became a lecturer at Dalhousie University in 1963 and then full professor in 1969.
In 1957, Varma's book The Gothic Flame was published. Herbert Read said in an introduction that in this work, Varma "rescued a dream literature from oblivion". Based on his work in this book, Varma has been credited as one of the first to distinguish between terror and horror.
During Varma's career, he oversaw publication of hundreds of Gothic tales, many of which were rare or dismembered. He was noted for saying of this work: "My researches are archival... You'll find 40 pages in one treasure room, another 50 with a collector, the title page somewhere else."
Varma was particularly interested in vampires. He wrote the introduction to the reprint of Varney the Vampire and, in 1973, he travelled to Castle Dracula to research Bram Stoker's novel.