Vampire Poets – Part One!

Argh, sorry about the long delay folks, I’ve been out of town for a couple of weeks. But I am back! and so are Babbage and Lovelace! and so is… someone else..

My own poetic licence was revoked under circumstances too embarrassing to recount here, involving unwise use of mixed metaphors and exactly the wrong place to put an anapest.


I had some considerable anxiety over this episode because the Brontes kind of belong to Kate Beaton now, but Vampire Poets has always started for me with Emily Bronte breaking windows for Babbage’s chart, and that’s just how it had to be! Charlotte Bronte provides a description of her sister in the preface to the 1851 edition of Wuthering Heights; Emily did not in actuality accompany the other two sisters on their well-known visit to London, probably because this is just the sort of thing they were afraid would happen. She succumbed to Poetry at the age of 30. Complete poems here.

Babbage’s Report of Windows Crashes

I had some difficulty finding that chart, because it’s attributed in the Mechanics Magazine mysteriously to a ‘distinguished statistician’! I had to track it down in a roundabout way, via the Insurance Cyclopedia, which in itself I could only see the cover in in Google Books. Being published in 1878 it is just outside of Google Books possibly excessively cautious 1870 copyright cutoff in Europe. You see, without delving into the life history of its author Mr. Cornelius Walford, it cannot be 100% guaranteed that this 1878 book falls outside of life+70 years. Cornelius may have been a youthful 20-year-old firebrand, eager to make his name in the field of actuarial history, who pursued his craft until the age of 95! This however would have made him 10 years old on the publication of The Insurance Guide and Handbook on Fire, Life, Marine, Tontine, and Casualty Insurance, an unusually precocious age for an interest in actuarial theory. In the end no less a person than James Gleick was kind enough to send me a PDF of this inestimable volume with its entire chapter on the history of glass breakage insurance, so I’m delighted to have another chance to plug his excellent book with its very substantial section on Babbage and Lovelace.

Where was I? Statistics! Zoo animal food consumption and frequency of surname starting-letters are just some of the subjects on which the tireless Babbage wished to have accurate data. You can read about his project in On the Tables of Constants in Nature and Art.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel kept notebooks in little shelves in his hat; I don’t know if this was a standard thing but I would certainly expect it of Babbage!

Sorry again for the long wait, next one should come much brisker!


  1. Anon on October 21, 2012 at 11:22 am

    I expect you already know this by now, given your assiduous research, but Vampire Poets is an oddly fitting combination. All modern vampire fiction can be traced back to The Vampyre, by John Polidori, and, without wanting to spoil for other readers in case you were already using this little factoid, Polidori’s story has some very interesting precedents…

  2. Andrew on June 25, 2012 at 3:25 am

    Mortal! Though soon life’s tale is told; who once lives, never dies!

  3. fvngvs on December 21, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Nightingale? Snow? Statistics?
    Large tables of numbers without error!

    Oh my goodness gracious.

  4. Clare on December 21, 2011 at 12:58 am

    Wonderful! Thank you for another thrilling (and beautifully drawn) installment. With the added bonus wonderment of a hat with library shelves in it. Oh, I want one!

  5. Bruce on December 20, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Mrs. Padua: You have a wonderful mind

  6. Dark Puss on December 11, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Welcom back! Would you like some more sponsorship? My human avatar bought you five fine pencils recently.

  7. =Tamar on December 11, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    It appears that poetry itself is capable of drawing blood.
    Fritz Leiber found that it was true of prose as well. (That story was first titled The Pale Brown Thing. The later title escapes me.) Impatiently awaiting more, I remain, yr faithful reader.

  8. Mick on December 9, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Bravo! Fantastic! Hilarious!

    That statistical table is almost as good. Who threw a dog through a window? How do soda-bottles burst violently enough to blow out glass? There were seven stampedes of cattle, horses or sheep through plate-glass windows! Nine blind men fell through them! (Unless he means the other kind of blind).

  9. Emily on December 6, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Okay, now I have a mental image of tiny Lovelace collaborating with the Bronte children to create steam powered mounts for the warriors of Angria. The plentiful ore deposits allow for mass production, but will the dastardly combustion engines of Gondal render these magnificent creatures obsolete?!

  10. skauthen on December 5, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    You are 110% correct in your assertion that hats were used as small filing cabinets. I know – I saw it in a cartoon, once. (Though it did not have footnotes…)

  11. Marion on December 4, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Love, love, LOVE, how your vampire does not transform into dozens of bats but in dozens of sheets of paper, which then circle their prey and draw blood by way of papercuts!

    We could almost believe that papercuts (nasty, painful, sneaky things!) were indeed the work of some sinister genius…

    • Ken on December 5, 2011 at 6:06 pm

      I was about to say…death by a thousand paper-cuts. Another first-rate excursion.

  12. Ceridwen on December 3, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    What a great end to the semester! Loving every panel.

  13. gallinacrema on December 2, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Sorry, I was so enthralled by the episode that I forgot to write how much I love this comic before hitting “Submit”.

  14. gallinacrema on December 2, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Is there any intention of bringing foreign help for this case? I mean, will you delight us with the appearance of the great belgian statistician-criminologist Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quételet? (Don’t know about his physical appearance, but I imagine him as somewhat Poirotesque) Or shall we have to be contented with a cameo of his “homme moyen”?

    • sydney on December 2, 2011 at 4:15 pm

      M. Quetelet is certainly a spirit hovering over the entirety of Vampire Poets, and he will definitely appear in some upcoming footnotes! I may not be able to resist putting him in the comic as well.. as vampires are first and foremost a public health problem though statistics will be represented in this story mostly by the formidable duo of Nightingale and Snow.

      • Marie Brennan on December 2, 2011 at 8:45 pm

        . . . holy crap, “Nightingale and Snow” needs to be a TV show, um, NOW. Or possibly a superhero comic book series. Look at those names! Look how fabulous they are together!

      • SimonG on December 13, 2011 at 9:59 pm

        Surely Mr Babbage will be tongue-tied before the Majesty of the Creatrix of the Pie Chart and the Hero of Broad Street.

  15. Mary Ellen on December 2, 2011 at 2:06 am

    Sometimes I think that the thing I love best about your work is the atmospherics. And then I think, No, what I love best is the wacky scholarship. Then I think, Oh, but look at the flow! and the facial expressions and body expressions…

    Y’all are a great, great cartoonist, ma’am. And one hell of a writer and researcher.
    The news about Brunel’s hat is the cherry on the whipped cream on top of the cloudcapped towers of ice cream of this episode.

    • Charles on December 2, 2011 at 9:42 pm

      Definitely the wacky scholarship.

  16. Joe on December 2, 2011 at 12:36 am

    “…an unusually precocious age for an interest in actuarial theory.”
    Mrs. Padua, my love for your oeuvre grows proportionally with the frequency of its appearance.

  17. Kaazz on December 1, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Oh, man I love this stuff! How do I love it? Let me count the ways! Oh, sorry, wrong poet. Nevertheless:

    I love the faces: (a) Emily’s face after all the smashing, (b) Babbage finding the right form (‘poetry and criminal tendencies’), (c) Babbage realizing he’s lost her (‘Now where did she get to..?’), and last, but not least (d) Babbage’s “WE FIGHT CRIME!”.

    I also love the dialog/poetry. I love the creepy scenery. I love the bad puns (e.g. The verse is strong in this one).

    I. Just. Love. It.

    Keep creating and I shall keep reading! :-)

  18. Elmo on December 1, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    As always, delightful and brilliant.

    Pretty please: need a t-shirt with the “Good evening, youthful vandal!” panel. Would make my evening commute through the Occupy MyTown shanty much less perilous.

    • Bella Green on December 2, 2011 at 7:58 pm

      haha! I would wear that!

      • Anon, a Mouse on December 5, 2011 at 1:50 am

        Me too! Especially having been one… once upon a time, a long time a go, in a land far, far away.

  19. anggara jakarta on December 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    haunted spooky until my paper become a human

  20. anggara jakarta on December 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    hahahahhaha so funny this story make my worksheet fly like the paper

  21. Latransa Pera on December 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    They’re back! A long international nightmare is at an end. Or… just beginning??
    (btw, “it’s first victim” -> “its first victim”, unless there’s a Bronte precedent there too? :P )

    • Danny on December 2, 2011 at 1:42 am

      I was assuming these were the usage of the time.. Or perhaps Ms Padua is using some.. er.. license? If a poetic license was revoked (what’s THAT story?) we can use the Creative Commons license? Qualifications for an artistic license are in plain view! Artistic License, then?

      I like Babbage’s smile at the rare opportunity to “..track a single DATUM.”

  22. Robin on December 1, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I was already struck by Lovelace, now I fear I am smitten by Miss Emily to, her swirling locks, her libertine smile…

  23. sam on December 1, 2011 at 8:49 am

    So fabulous! I never realized that comics with footnotes were the thing that was missing from my life. Can’t wait Waiting patiently for more.

  24. Scott Nickle on December 1, 2011 at 3:36 am

    Hmmm, a window in London being broken by an air gun? I’m sure the date is too early for it to have been a certain window in Baker Street. Maybe Col. Moran was just practicing?

    Anyway, lovely to see more L & B! One thing I’m not quite sure of: the frame showing Em’s hand and a piece of paper – is that indicating a serious paper cut?

    • Brian on December 1, 2011 at 8:16 pm

      Indeed, I’m assuming that’s where the vampirism comes in…..

    • sydney on December 2, 2011 at 4:12 pm

      Yes, paper cut! I drew that bit in kind of a hurry, I’ll have to go back over it.

    • Telzey Amberdon on December 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm

      It is my suggestion that our esteemed Lady Author/Artist take a page from the playbook of the genius Edward Gorey and use the color red sparingly and to good effect for the bloodstains, as well as the occasional item that she might wish to call attention to (i.e.; a bloodstone ruby in a hatpin, ring, or stickpin; a glass bottle holding a poisonous liquid; a red flower on a white gown; a pair of eyes glinting in the dark; etc.), using only black-and-white for the rest. Gorey won a Tony for his B & W& Touches of Red set decoration of Dracula on Broadway and it was incredibly visually striking. A salute to his artistry would fit right in to the general tenor of the comic!

  25. Anon, a Mouse on December 1, 2011 at 2:47 am

    A HAT with BOOKSHELVES in it?! I must make one!

    Finding you’ve posted the next installment of Vampire Poets put a big shiny brass button on the day. Thank you! brilliantly executed as always. I am now going to have nightmares about vampires turning into swirling paper… and Emily Bronte as a”youthful vandal” temporarily confounded by Babbage is hilarious!

    • Bella Green on December 2, 2011 at 7:55 pm

      Oh, thanks ever so much, Anon! I’ll have a nightmare too, please, in which the recycling bin disgorges a fate of ravening vampires to roam my lightless cul-de-sac, waiting for the unwary teenager who returns in the wee hours, smelling of hamburgers and fries… :-)

      As always, Lady Author, we are thrilled with your wit and creativity!! Yay! Yay! Yay!

  26. Scott on December 1, 2011 at 2:46 am

    “An universal influence” is correct (see I’d be interested to know when the pronunciation changed, though. I also remember encountering, in the church hymnal, “love” rhymed with “move.” I’d be curious to know about that one, too.

    • Marion on December 4, 2011 at 8:40 am

      I don’t think that the pronunciation changed so much as that the ‘poet’ in question rhymed things on paper, without sounding them out…

  27. LP on December 1, 2011 at 1:02 am

    Hurrah! for the start of another episode. “The verse is strong in this one.” Brilliant.

  28. John on November 30, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Yeah, copyright has gone nuts and is going nuts…er. “Wah, our monopolies on things we’re not selling are being shared, which we liken to theft, so we must SHUT DOWN THE INTERNET rather than fix our centuries-old failing business models.” So Google’s cutoff is insane, but sadly understandable.

    Anyway, whee!

    On the actual topic, for years, I taught alongside a great math professor (who would hate that I called him any one of those three words) who actually did work for a few years with a major metropolitan police force (which one, I forget) analyzing crime statistics in hopes of distinguishing organized crime from the ordinary sort.

    No hat, though.

    (Also, Emily is adorable. But maybe I’m just into bad girls or something…)

  29. the doodler on November 30, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    The bit with the swirling paper is nicely spooky. :D

  30. Stephen J Henstridge on November 30, 2011 at 9:26 pm


  31. Victoria on November 30, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Ah, I always knew that Emily B was a bad ‘un! Can’t wait for the next thrillingly statistical installment!

  32. Barnesm on November 30, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Brilliant and well worth the wait. Now of course I must go off and read all those links you provided. My eleven year old son is thankful you didn’t start writing 2D comics a decade ago as he would have been named Isambard Kingdom. A name too awesome for the 21 century.

    Can’t wait to read what happens next.

    • sydney on December 2, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      Aw, now I’m bummed I didn’t think of this 10 years ago and have deprived the world of an Isambard!

      • Michael on December 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm

        Umm, my 11 month old son is named Isambard… Although we chickened out slightly and that’s his middle name.

  33. Nick on November 30, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Just a small correction, it “a universal”, not “an universal”. While the word universe does begin with a vowel, the actual sound made when reading the word does not. :-) If in doubt, just try to read it, saying “an universal” just sounds wrong.

    • sydney on December 2, 2011 at 4:11 pm

      I’m afraid you’ll have to take that up with Emily Bronte, but I warn you she can get violent.

    • Bookworm on December 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm

      It’s probably an issue of changing usage and/or pronounciation. Shakespeare did the same thing:
      And when you saw his chariot but appear,
      Have you not made an universal shout…
      (Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 1)

      A similar thing happens even now, with using ‘a’ or ‘an’ before a word beginning with ‘h.’ Brits, I believe, would tend to say “an hysterical movie,” where Americans would nearly universally say “a hysterical movie.”

  34. Redshift on November 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Sherlock Holmes successfully solved crimes primarily by cogitating on obscure bits of information, so clearly applying statistical methods will permit the solving of crimes on a MASS SCALE! Capital!

  35. Brian on November 30, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    It was worth the wait just to see Babbage reveling in his forms again!

    • sydney on December 2, 2011 at 4:10 pm

      I’ve been waiting to draw Babbage and his forms for a long time!

  36. Derek C. F. Pegritz on November 30, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Having been a fan of Babbage & Lovelace’s adventures for some time, and having also just finished readong Misters Gibson’s and Sterling’s The Difference Engine for, like, the 900th time, I would gladly contribute copious sums of money to see you produce an illustrated edition of The Difference Engine.