John Polidori and The Vampyre
Polidori was the friend and personal physician of the infamous rogue and poet, Lord Byron. He was also part of the close-knit circle of friends, including Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Byron, and Claire Clairmont, Mary’s stepsister, and also Byron’s woman of the hour. Polidori was Byron’s personal physician, and traveled with him through Europe. Though he recorded his travels with Byron in his diaries, that were later published, sadly much of the diaries were destroyed or censored by his sister, who originally had them published. A considerable loss to the literary community, and Byron lovers worldwide, the diaries would have said and revealed much more about Byron’s character. Polidori accompanied Byron to the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva, where Byron and Polidori became fast friends with the nearby Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin (later the famous Mary Shelley), and Claire Clairmont.
So one night, after reading scary stories to each other from Tales of the Dead (you can still find re-edited and re-translated versions of this book today), they decide to each write a scary story. Byron wrote ‘Fragment of a Novel’ which he later discard, and Percy took up ‘A Fragment of a Ghost Story’, –which were actually five ghost stories he wrote down. Mary soon-to-be Shelley did not participate, but most say this night inspired her to write Frankenstein. Polidori wrote The Vampyre, using Byron’s base materials in his novel Fragment, as the foundation for his own tale. The vampyre in his story was closely modeled after Lord Byron himself, at least, as Polidori saw him. The story follows Lord Ruthven, and a young man named Aubrey, who accompanies Ruthven on a trip to Rome.
Ruthven is described in the short story by Polidori as “a man entirely absorbed in himself, who gave few other signs of his observation of external objects, than the tacit assent to their existence, implied by the avoidance of their contact…” and “the light laughter of the fair only attracted his attention, that he might by a look quell it, and throw fear into those breasts where thoughtlessness reigned.” Despite the overall arrogance and malignancy of the Lord Ruthven character, Aubrey is attracted, and accompanies Ruthven to Rome, where shortly after, Ruthven seduces the daughter of a mutual acquaintance. Aubrey leaves Ruthven for Greece, where he falls for Ianthe, the innkeeper’s daughter, who tells him of the vampyre. To Aubrey’s horror, she describes perfectly the character of Lord Ruthven. Later, Ruthven arrives, and Ianthe is killed by a vampire. But Aubrey is none-the-wiser and instead accompanies Ruthven once more.
What, did you think I was going to tell you the ending? Sorry, you’ll have to read the book; some good old-fashioned extra-long and unknown English words will be good for you, expands the vocabulary. Anyway, sadly, Polidori was never quite officially credited for the story; it was published and accredited to Lord Byron. Byron attempted to publish his own Fragment, in order to show people the difference, but no such luck. It wasn’t until long after Polidori’s apparent suicide that the story finally appeared with Polidori’s name above it. He died when he was only 26 years old, and probably still with-holding plenty more scary stories.