Publication date 1 April 1819
Publication type Magazine
Originally published 1 April 1819
Publisher Henry Colburn
|Media type Print (Periodical & Paperback)|
Adaptations The Vampyr: A Soap Opera (1992)
Genres Fiction, Suspense, Mystery, Horror
Similar John William Polidori books, Horror books, Classical Studies books
"The Vampyre" is a short work of prose fiction written in 1819 by John William Polidori. The work is often viewed as the 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."
- The vampyre by john william polidori
- Film adaptation
- Theatrical adaptations
The vampyre by john william polidori
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.
"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.
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 Shelley and Claire Clairmont. Kept indoors by the "incessant rain" of that "wet, ungenial summer", 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, 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".
Polidori's work had an immense impact on contemporary sensibilities and ran through numerous editions and translations. That influence has extended into the current era as the text is "often even cited as [an] almost folkloric sources on vampirism". 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 Aleksey 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 Ruthven in The Count of Monte Cristo, going so far as to state that his character "The Comtesse G..." had been personally acquainted with Lord Ruthven.
In 2016 it was announced that the studio Britannia Pictures will be releasing a feature length adaptation of The Vampyre. Production for the film is slated to begin in spring 2018, with filming taking place in the UK, Italy and Greece. The film will be directed by Rowan M. Ashe and is scheduled to be released in October 2018.
Earlier adaptations of Polidori's story include the 1945 film The Vampire's Ghost starring John Abbott as the Lord Ruthven character "Webb Fallon", with the setting changed from England and Greece to Africa. Also, The Vampyr: A Soap Opera, based on the opera Der Vampyr by Heinrich Marschner and the Polidori story, was filmed and broadcast on BBC 2 on December 2, 1992, with the Lord Ruthven character's name changed to "Ripley", who is frozen in the late eighteenth century but revives in modern times and becomes a successful businessman.
In England, James Planché's play The Vampire, or The Bride of the Isles was first performed in London in 1820 at the Lyceum Theatre based on Charles Nodier's Le Vampire, which in turn was based on Polidori. Such melodramas were satirised in Ruddigore, by Gilbert and Sullivan (1887), a character called Sir Ruthven must abduct a maiden, or he will die.
In 1988, American playwright Tim Kelly created a drawing room adaptation of The Vampyre for the stage, popular among community theaters and high school drama clubs.