Open main menu

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.

Devendra Varma
Born(1923-10-17)October 17, 1923
DiedOctober 24, 1994(1994-10-24) (aged 71)
EducationUniversity of Leeds
OccupationLiterary scholar
Notable work
  • The Gothic Flame: being a history of the Gothic Novel in England
  • The Evergreen Tree of Diabolical Knowledge


Early life and educationEdit

Devendra Prasad Varma was born in Darbhanga, India, in October 1923. He studied in Patna where he was strongly influenced by his English teacher, and later went to obtain a PhD at the University of Leeds under Professor G. Wilson Knight.[1]


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.[1]

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".[2] Based on his work in this book, Varma has been credited as one of the first to distinguish between terror and horror.[3][4]

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."[5]

Varma was particularly interested in vampires.[6] 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.

Varma edited the seven volumes of "horrid novels" mentioned in Northanger Abbey when they were reissued by the Folio Society in the 1960s.[1][7]

In 1977, Varma was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal for contributing to education and the arts. He was also recognised by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts in 1993.[8]

Varma retired in 1991 and died of a stroke whilst on a lecture tour in Oceanside, New York in 1994.[1] He was survived by his son, Hemen, and two grandchildren, Tami and Robin.[5]


The Department of English at Dalhousie holds an annual "Varma celebration" at Halloween. The Varma Prize in Gothic Literature was established to celebrate Gothic and horror tales.[9][10]


  1. ^ a b c d Sucksmith, Harvey Peter (5 January 1995). "Obituaries Devendra Varma". The Independent. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  2. ^ Brewster, Scott (2013-10-08). "Gothic and the question of theory". In Byron, Glennis; Townshend, Dale (eds.). The Gothic World. Routledge. pp. 308–320. ISBN 9781135053062.
  3. ^ "Terror and Horror". Graduate English at the University of Virginia. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  4. ^ Round, Julia (2017-05-16). "Misty, Spellbound and the lost Gothic of British girls' comics". Palgrave Communications. 3: 17037. doi:10.1057/palcomms.2017.37. ISSN 2055-1045.
  5. ^ a b Saxon, Wolfgang (27 October 1994). "Devendra Varma, 71, Scholar of the Gothic and the Macabre". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Varma papers relating to Gothic literature". Archives Hub. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  7. ^ Varma, Devendra P. (1968). The Northanger Set of Jane Austen Horrid Novels. Folio Press.
  8. ^ "Past ICFA Guests". International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  9. ^ Skagen, Emma (14 November 2014). "Gothic goodies: Creative writing competition celebrates the macabre". Dalhousie News. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  10. ^ Samija, Hannah Ascough, Helen Pinsent, Tegan (26 October 2017). "Gothic Voices of the City". The Coast Halifax. Retrieved 2018-11-13.