Lord Ruthven (vampire)
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Lord Ruthven is a fictional character. First appearing in print in 1819, in John William Polidori's "The Vampyre", he was one of the first vampires in English literature. The name Ruthven was taken from Lady Caroline Lamb's Glenarvon, where it was used as an unflattering parody of Lord Byron, while the character was based on Augustus Darvell from Byron's "Fragment of a Novel". "The Vampyre" was written privately, and published without Polidori's consent, with revisions to the story made by Polidori for an unpublished second edition showing that he planned to change the name from Ruthven to Strongmore. The initial popularity of "The Vampyre" led to the character appearing in many translations and adaptations, including plays and operas, and Ruthven has continued to appear in modern works.
There is a genuine title of Lord Ruthven of Freeland in the Peerage of Scotland which is a subsidiary title of the Earl of Carlisle in the United Kingdom. The fictional characters are not related to the historical title holders.
The first fictional Lord Ruthven appeared in the 1816 Gothic novel Glenarvon by Lady Caroline Lamb. This character was based on the genuine Lord Byron and was not a vampire. Lady Caroline was a former lover of Lord Byron's and the novel did not offer a flattering portrait.
In a copy of "The Vampyre" annotated by Polidori—presumably for a revised second edition of the book which was never published—the author changed the name of the vampire from "Lord Ruthven" to "Lord Strongmore".
Lord Ruthven appeared as the titular character in the 1819 short story "The Vampyre". This had been written in 1816 by Dr. John William Polidori, the traveling doctor of Lord Byron. It was published in the April 1, 1819 edition of The New Monthly Magazine. The publishers falsely attributed the authorship to Byron. Both Byron and Polidori disputed this attribution. In the following issue, dated May 1, 1819, Polidori wrote a letter to the editor explaining "that though the groundwork is certainly Lord Byron's, its development is mine."
In the story, a young Englishman Aubrey 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 are 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 who Ruthven met ended up suffering.
Aubrey returns to London and is amazed when Ruthven appears shortly thereafter, once again alive. 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. Aubrey writes a letter to his sister revealing Ruthven's history and dies. The letter does not arrive in time. Ruthven marries Aubrey's sister, kills her on their wedding night, and escapes.
His character is one typical of the gothic genre and vampires in general. His vampire character is alluring and sexual, but is also linked with horror and supernatural terror.
The story was an immediate success and several other authors quickly adapted the character of Lord Ruthven into other works. Cyprien Bérard wrote an 1820 novel, Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires, which was falsely attributed to Charles Nodier. Nodier himself wrote an 1820 play, Le Vampire, which was adapted back into English for the London stage by James Robinson Planché as The Vampire, or The Bride of the Isles. At least four other stage versions of the story also appeared in 1820.
In 1828, Heinrich August Marschner and W. A. Wohlbrück adapted the story into a German opera, Der Vampyr. A second German opera with the same title was written in 1828 by Peter Josef von Lindpaintner and Cäsar Max Heigel, but the vampire in Lindpaintner's opera was named Aubri, not Ruthven. Dion Boucicault revived the character in his 1852 play The Vampire: A Phantasm, and played the title role during its long run. Alexandre Dumas, père also used the character in an 1852 play.
A Lord Ruthven also appeared in the Swedish novel Vampyren (1848), the first published work by author and poet Viktor Rydberg; as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that he is inspired by him in name only. This Ruthven is not a supernatural being, but a lunatic believing himself to be a vampire.
Lord Ruthven appears as a main character in Nancy Garden's young adult book Prisoner of Vampires. In this story, Ruthven uses the name "Radu" and is a relation and helper of both Count Dracula and Carmilla.
Lord Ruthven served as the inspiration for a 1945 film, The Vampire's Ghost, which was adapted into comic book format in 1973. Lord Ruthven also appears in the background of the Vampire: The Masquerade game system, under the name Lambach Ruthven.
Kim Newman uses the character of Lord Ruthven in his alternate history Anno Dracula series, having Ruthven serve as the Conservative Prime Minister after Count Dracula seizes the English throne. Ruthven holds the Premiership from c. 1886 until 1940, when he loses it to Winston Churchill. Ruthven later reclaims it following the war, losing it to Churchill again after the Suez Crisis. Ruthven later serves as Home Secretary under Margaret Thatcher and is poised to take over as Prime Minister again following her departure.
Ruthven also appeared in some Superman comics, notably in Superman: The Man of Steel #14 and #42 and Superman #70. He has also appeared in Marvel Comics. Originally, he appeared in the first issue of Vampire Tales, then as the possessor of the mystical book called Darkhold. An incidental character called Ruthven appears in later issues of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman comic; this Ruthven is a man with a rabbit's head, as well as prominent "vampire" fangs.
A comical "Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd" is the main character of Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore. In it, the pastoral Robin Oakapple finds that he is descended from an evil uncle and is forced to take up his ancestor's evil ways.
The Lord Ruthven Award by the Lord Ruthven Assembly is named after the character.
- Polidori, John William (2008). "A Note on the Texts". In Macdonald, D.L.; Scherf, Kathleen. The Vampyre and Ernestus Berchtold. Broadview Editions. p. 35.
- 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
- Beresford, Matthew (2008). From Demons to Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth. London: Reaktion Books. p. 121. ISBN 978-1-86189-403-8.