Friday, 17 November 2017

A note on the origin of the loquacious villain

The trope or meme of the loquacious villain who loves the sound of his own voice and can’t help revealing the secrets of his nefarious scheme is a familiar one from the Bond films and similar action or adventure films. It’s attested, too, in literature. We see it in the Bond novels, of course, but also in older fiction. A novel by William Le Queux offers one example.


In The Mysterious Three (1915), Dago Paulton (the book is of its time!), with his accomplice, Baronne de Cauldron, has trapped the hero, Richard Ashton and his adventurer friend, Frank Faulkner, in a room of a chateau in France. Paulton begins to make things very clear to Ashton.
“You possess information you have no right to possess,” he tells Ashton. “You know the Thorolds’ secret, and until your lips are closed I shall not feel safe.”
“You can’t suppose I shall reveal it,” Ashton answers.
“Not reveal it, man, when you know what is at stake! You must think me very confiding if you suppose I shall trust your bare assurance. As I have said, I intend to – to – well, to close both your mouths.”
“Why Faulkner’s,” Ashton asked.
“Because he is to marry Gladys Deroxe, who is so friendly with Vera Thorold, who is to be my wife. Vera knows too much, and may have told her little friend what she knows. I mistrust Vera’s friends – even her friends’ friends. You understand?”
“Oh, why talk so much!” the Baronne interrupts. “Tell him everything in a few words, and have done with it!”
The Baronne’s interjection reminded me of Scott in Austin Powers (“Why don't you just shoot him now? I'll go get a gun”), and suggests that the talkative villain was a somewhat over-familiar trope even when Le Queux was writing. I’m sure there are other examples, for instance from the likes of John Buchan, and it’s a topic to I will certainly return. Watch this space!

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