The Vampyre

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"The Vampyre"
Author John William Polidori
Country England
Language English
Genre(s) Horror short story
Publication type Magazine
Publisher The New Monthly Magazine and Universal Register; London: H. Colburn, 1814–1820. Vol. 1, No. 63.
Media type Print (Periodical & Paperback)
Publication date 1 April 1819
1819 title page, Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, London.

"The Vampyre" is a short story or novella written in 1819 by John William Polidori which is a progenitor of the romantic vampire genre of fantasy fiction. The work is described by Christopher Frayling as "the first story successfully to fuse the disparate elements of vampirism into a coherent literary genre."[1](p108)

Characters[edit]

  • Lord Ruthven — a suave British nobleman, the vampire
  • Aubrey — a wealthy young gentleman, an orphan
  • Ianthe — a beautiful Greek woman Aubrey meets on his journeys with Ruthven.
  • Aubrey's sister — who becomes engaged to the Earl of Marsden
  • Earl of Marsden — who is also Lord Ruthven

Publication[edit]

"The Vampyre" was first published on 1 April 1819 by Henry Colburn in the New Monthly Magazine with the false attribution "A Tale by Lord Byron". The name of the work's protagonist, "Lord Ruthven", added to this assumption, for that name was originally used in Lady Caroline Lamb's novel Glenarvon (from the same publisher), in which a thinly-disguised Byron figure was also named Lord Ruthven. Despite repeated denials by Byron and Polidori, the authorship often went unclarified.

The tale was first published in book form by Sherwood, Neely, and Jones in London, Paternoster-Row, in 1819 in octavo as The Vampyre; A Tale in 84 pages. The notation on the cover noted that it was: "Entered at Stationers' Hall, March 27, 1819". Initially, the author was given as Lord Byron. Later printings removed Byron's name and added Polidori's name to the title page.

The story was an immediate popular success, partly because of the Byron attribution and partly because it exploited the gothic horror predilections of the public. Polidori transformed the vampire from a character in folklore into the form that is recognized today—an aristocratic fiend who preys among high society.[1]

The story has its genesis in the summer of 1816, the Year Without a Summer, when Europe and parts of North America underwent a severe climate abnormality. Lord Byron and his young physician John Polidori were staying at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva and were visited by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and Claire Clairmont. Kept indoors by the "incessant rain" of that "wet, ungenial summer",[2] over three days in June the five turned to telling fantastical tales, and then writing their own. Fueled by ghost stories such as the Fantasmagoriana, William Beckford's Vathek and quantities of laudanum, Mary Shelley, in collaboration with Percy Bysshe Shelley,[3] produced what would become Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Polidori was inspired by a fragmentary story of Byron's, Fragment of a Novel (1816), also known as "A Fragment" and "The Burial: A Fragment", and in "two or three idle mornings" produced "The Vampyre".[4]

Influence[edit]

Polidori's work had an immense impact on contemporary sensibilities and ran through numerous editions and translations. An adaptation appeared in 1820 with Cyprien Bérard’s novel, Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires, falsely attributed to Charles Nodier, who himself then wrote his own version, Le Vampire, a play which had enormous success and sparked a "vampire craze" across Europe. This includes operatic adaptations by Heinrich Marschner (see Der Vampyr) and Peter Josef von Lindpaintner (see Der Vampyr), both published in the same year and called "The Vampire". Nikolai Gogol, Alexandre Dumas, and Alexis Tolstoy all produced vampire tales, and themes in Polidori's tale would continue to influence Bram Stoker's Dracula and eventually the whole vampire genre. Dumas makes explicit reference to Lord Ruthwen in The Count of Monte Cristo, going so far as to state that his character "The Comtesse G..." had been personally acquainted with Lord Ruthwen.[5]

In England, James Planché's play The Vampire, or The Bride of the Isles was first performed in London in 1920 at the Lyceum Theatre[6] based Charles Nodier's Le Vampire, which was based on Polidori.[7] Such melodramas were satirised in Ruddigore, by Gilbert and Sullivan (1887), a character called Sir Ruthven must abduct a maiden, or he will die.[8]

Plot[edit]

Aubrey, a young Englishman, meets Lord Ruthven, a man of mysterious origins who has entered London society. Aubrey accompanies Ruthven to Rome, but leaves him after Ruthven seduces the daughter of a mutual acquaintance. Aubrey travels to Greece, where he becomes attracted to Ianthe, an innkeeper's daughter. Ianthe tells Aubrey about the legends of the vampire. Ruthven arrives at the scene and shortly thereafter Ianthe is killed by a vampire. Aubrey does not connect Ruthven with the murder and rejoins him in his travels. The pair is attacked by bandits and Ruthven is mortally wounded. Before he dies, Ruthven makes Aubrey swear an oath that he will not mention his death or anything else he knows about Ruthven for a year and a day. Looking back, Aubrey realizes that everyone whom Ruthven met ended up suffering.

Aubrey returns to London and is amazed when Ruthven appears shortly thereafter, alive and well. Ruthven reminds Aubrey of his oath to keep his death a secret. Ruthven then begins to seduce Aubrey's sister while Aubrey, helpless to protect his sister, has a nervous breakdown. Ruthven and Aubrey's sister are engaged to marry on the day the oath ends. Just before he dies, Aubrey writes a letter to his sister revealing Ruthven's history, but it does not arrive in time. Ruthven marries Aubrey's sister. On the wedding night, she is discovered dead, drained of her blood — and Ruthven has vanished.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Frayling, Christopher (1992), Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula, London: Faber & Faber, ISBN 0-571-16792-6 
  2. ^ Shelley, Mary (1831), Frankenstein (introduction to Third edition ed.) 
  3. ^ Owchar, Nick (October 11, 2009), The Siren's Call: An epic poet as Mary Shelley's co-author. A new edition of 'Frankenstein' shows the contributions of her husband, Percy, Los Angeles Times 
    • Rhodes, Jerry (September 30, 2009), "New paperback by UD professor offers two versions of Frankenstein tale", UDaily (University of Delaware), "Charles E. Robinson: "These italics used for Percy Shelley's words make even more visible the half-dozen or so places where, in his own voice, he made substantial additions to the 'draft' of Frankenstein."" 
    • Pratt, Lynda (October 29, 2008), Who wrote the original Frankenstein? Mary Shelley created a monster out of her 'waking dream' – but was it her husband Percy who 'embodied its ideas and sentiments'?, The Sunday Times 
    • Adams, Stephen (August 24, 2008), Percy Bysshe Shelley helped wife Mary write Frankenstein, claims professor: Mary Shelley received extensive help in writing Frankenstein from her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, a leading academic has claimed, Telegraph, "Charles E. Robinson: "He made very significant changes in words, themes and style. The book should now be credited as 'by Mary Shelley with Percy Shelley'." 
    • Shelley, Mary; Shelley, Percy (2008), Robinson, Charles E., ed., The Original Frankenstein, New York: Random House Vintage Classics, ISBN 978-0-307-47442-1 
    • Rosner, Victoria (September 29, 2009), Co-Creating a Monster., The Huffington Post, "Random House recently published a new edition of the novel Frankenstein with a surprising change: Mary Shelley is no longer identified as the novel's sole author. Instead, the cover reads 'Mary Shelley (with Percy Shelley).'" 
  4. ^ Byron, George Gordon (1997), Morrison, Robert; Baldick, Chris, eds., The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-955241-X 
  5. ^ Dumas, Alexandre, "Chapter XXXIX", The Count of Monte Cristo 
  6. ^ Roy, Donald (2004). "Planché, James Robinson (1796–1880)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press
  7. ^ Summers, Montague; Nigel Suckling. "The Vampire in Literature". Montague Summers' Guide to Vampires. Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  8. ^ Bradley, p. 731; Polidori and Planché are precursors to and context for Gilbert. See Williams, Carolyn. Gilbert and Sullivan: Gender, Genre, Parody, p. 277, Columbia University Press (2010) ISBN 0231148046

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bainbridge, S. "Lord Ruthven's Power: Polidori's 'The Vampyre', Doubles and the Byronic Imagination." The Byron Journal, 2006.
  • Barbour, Judith. “Dr. John William Polidori, Author of the Vampyre.” Imagining Romanticism: Essays on English and Australian Romanticisms. Ed. Deirdre Coleman and Peter Otto. West Cornell, CN: Locust Hill, 1992. 85-110.
  • Bleiler, E.F., ed. Three Gothic Novels: The Castle of Otranto, Vathek, The Vampyre, and "A Fragment of a Novel". Dover, 1966.
  • Boone, Troy. “Mark of the Vampire: Arnod Paole, Sade, Polidori.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts, 18 (1995): 349-366.
  • Bradley, Ian (1996). The Complete Annotated Gilbert and Sullivan. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816503-X. 
  • Budge, G. "'The Vampyre': Romantic Metaphysics and the Aristocratic Other." The Gothic Other: Racial and Social Constructions in the Literary Imagination. 2004.
  • Byron, George Gordon. “Fragment.” The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre. Ed. Robert Morrison and Chris Baldick. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997. 246-251.
  • Dyer, Richard. “Children of the Night: Vampirism as Homosexuality and Homosexuality as Vampirism.” Sweet Dreams: Sexuality, Gender and Popular Fiction. Ed. Susannah Radstone. London: Lawrence, 1988. 47-72.
  • Gelder, Ken. Reading the Vampire. London: Routledge, 1994.
  • Kelly, Tim J., and John William Polidori. "The Vampyre: A 'Penny-Dreadful' Stage Thriller in Two Acts. New York: Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1988.
  • Kristensen, A.C. "Evolution of the Vampire Genre: From Polidori's The Vampyre to Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Aalborg University, 2003.
  • Lovecraft, H. P. "Supernatural Horror in Literature." The Recluse, No. 1 (1927), pp. 23–59.
  • Macdonald, D. L. Poor Polidori: A Critical Biography of the Author of the Vampyre. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1991.
  • Marschner, H.A. "Der Vampyr: Romantic opera in two acts (1828), based on'The Vampyre' by John Polidori (1819), revised by Hans Pfitzner." MRF Records, 1971.
  • Morrill, David. F. “‘Twilight is not good for Maidens’: Uncle Polidori and the Psychodynamics of Vampirism in Goblin Market.” Victorian Poetry, 28.1 (Spring 1990): 1-16.
  • Polidori, John. The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre. Ed. Robert Morrison and Chris Baldick. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997.
  • Polidori, John William. The Vampyre; And, Ernestus Berchtold, Or, The Modern Oedipus: Collected Fiction of John William Polidori. University of Toronto Press, 1994.
  • Rieger, James. “Dr. Polidori and the Genesis of Frankenstein.” Studies in English Literature, 3 (1963): 461-472.
  • Rigby, Mair. “Prey to some cureless disquiet”: Polidori’s Queer Vampyre at the Margins of Romanticism." Romanticism on the Net, 36-37, November 2004, February 2005.
  • Senf, C.A. "Polidori's The Vampyre: Combining the Gothic with Realism." North Dakota Quarterly, Winter, 1988.
  • Skarda, Patricia. “Vampirism and Plagiarism: Byron’s Influence and Polidori’s Practice.” Studies in Romanticism, 28 (Summer 1989): 249-69.
  • Stiles, A., and S. Finger. "Somnambulism and Trance States in the Works of John William Polidori, Author of The Vampyre." European Romantic Review, 2010.
  • Stiles, A., and S. Finger. "A New Look at Polidori. European Romantic Review, 2010.
  • Switzer, R. "Lord Ruthwen and the Vampires." The French Review, 1955.

External links[edit]