By Anna Mercer
Open Graves, Open Minds presents:
‘Some curious disquiet’: Polidori, the Byronic vampire, and its progeny
A symposium for the bicentenary of The Vampyre
6-7 April 2019, Keats House, Hampstead
(part-sponsored by BARS)
Image via British Library
John Polidori published his tale The Vampyre in 1819. It is well known that his vampire emerged out of the same storytelling contest at the Villa Diodati in 1816 that gave birth to that other archetype of the Gothic heritage, Frankenstein’s monster. Present at this gathering were Polidori (who was Byron’s physician), Mary Godwin, Frankenstein‘s author; Claire Clairmont, Percy Shelley, and (crucially) Lord Byron.
Byron’s contribution to the contest was an inconclusive fragment about a mysterious man characterised by ‘a curious disquiet’. Polidori took this fragment and turned it into the tale of the vampire Lord Ruthven, preying on the vulnerable women of society. The Vampyrewas something of a sensation and spawned stage versions and imitations that were hugely popular.
Sir Christopher Frayling declares The Vampyreto be ‘the first story successfully to fuse the disparate elements of vampirism into a coherent literary genre’. Polidori gave the creature the form that largely persists through subsequent vampire narratives, transforming it from the animalistic monster of the Slavic peasantry to something that can haunt …read more