Lessons from the Lives of Writers: Dr. John Polidori

The Vampyre Book Cover

Most know the story of how Mary Shelley came to write Frankenstein. As she, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and Lord Byron spent their days in the Swiss Alps rediscovering their favorite Gothic novels, they decided to try their hands at the dying genre. From this endeavor, the world gained Frankenstein. And the very first piece of vampire fiction. Or at least it was inspired during this time.

Among the party, was Lord Byron’s doctor, John Polidori. Not only a private physician, Polidori was also a Romantic author in his own right. During the days of practicing the art of Gothic fiction, Byron wrote “A Fragment of a Novel” and then tossed it aside. Eventually, Polidori was also cast out of Byron’s service and he returned to England. There, he remembered some of Byron’s story and gradually changed it into a short tale—the first to contain vampirism in fiction—called “The Vampyre.”

Prior to Polidori’s story, there were only a few short articles in newspapers and in books that discussed vampires at all. Once his short story was published, these creatures of the night became a popular literary trope, particularly for Gothic authors. And, since his work was the first to actively explore the idea of the vampire in modern literature, he set the first guidelines for what vampires were and were not. “The Vampyre” went on to inspire many later novelists, namely Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu whose novella Carmilla was the primary source text for Bram Stoker’s more renowned Dracula.

Even though Polidori did not fully received credit for his story at the time (it was attributed to Byron), his imagination has gone on to inspire very good (and very bad) fiction. Why? All because a group of writers decided to play with one of their favorite genres, and Polidori later decided to flesh out unfinished ideas into something new.

Note: There was a lack of a proper update last week as I was attending an Air Force BMT graduation. Got to see my Airman First Class! Hua!

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