The most influential and most famous of all vampire novels were published during the 1800s. Highly innovative for the times and groundbreaking, these stories took readers to an entirely new world and continue to this day to be read and loved by many. The stories below gave people something new to fear, something new to desire, it pulled them into a seductive darkness they never knew existed yet wanted more of. These incredible works also inspired countless writers to follow in their footsteps; it was the stories below that made vampires what they are now.
Wake Not the Dead by Johann Ludwig Tieck
Tieck was a folklorist and an important member of the late Romantic movement. He created one of the first memorable female vampires in literature, Brunhilda. This vampiress is brought back to life by a sorcerer hired by her husband. She is then driven to feed on human blood as nourishment, choosing to feed from innocent children to survive. This classic story was a major influence during its era.
The Vampyre by John Polidori
This short story is said to be the first vampire tale in English prose. Polidori is credited with presenting the first glamorous aristocratic vampire, which triggered others to also create attractive and seductive vampires.
Varney the Vampyre by James Malcolm Rymer
Originally published in 109 weekly sections, this work is incredibly long and unorganized which makes it fairly difficult to read. Yet in spite of that, it is one of the most influential of all vampire tales, it even inspired Bram Stoker himself.
Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
Another story that is widely believed to have been a major inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Carmilla is one of the most significant classic vampire stories. The story has a fantastic writing style, horrifying yet sensual undertones, a dark Gothic atmosphere and a captivating plot. Fanu also took a great risk, daring to be different by writing in vampiric lesbianism into his tale. It’s no surprise that Bram Stoker and countless others have been inspired by Fanu’s Carmilla.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Dracula is hands down the most influential of all vampire novels. Stoker wrote a novel that continues to win hearts today, a novel that is said to be the second bestselling book of all time (the first is the Bible). Dracula inspired a new wave of vampire literature, it created entirely new vampire lore and is forever embedded in minds of those that have read it, and even those who haven’t.
That concludes this small look into major works in vampire literature published during the 1800s. There were many other highly impressive and incredible vampire tales published during this time and perhaps we’ll look into them later.
Out of the stories listed above, which is your favorite?
“Carmilla” is my favorite! But I’m unaware of any time or instance in which Bram Stoker even indicated he’d read “Carmilla” much less acknowledged it (although frankly it seems incredible that he didn’t read it).
I read that he did, but it’s possible that he didn’t. I can look more into it.
I would also add books like Lilith (George MacDonald, 1895), La morte amoureuse (Théophile Gauthier, 1836), Vij (Gogol, 1835), Le chevalier ténèbre (Paul Féval, 1862), Le Horla (Maupassant, 1885)
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