Published 1819 Short Story
Aubrey, an orphaned young gentleman in possession of a large fortune arrives in London for the season where he meets the mysterious Lord Ruthven. Aubrey befriends Lord Ruthven and upon discovering that Lord Ruthven is planning a trip to Europe decides to take his grand tour at the same time and travel with him. The longer Aubrey is with Ruthven the more he discovers about him. He decides to distance himself from Ruthven but is he already too late to save all that he holds dear from the thirst of the vampire?
The Vampyre is a classic vampire story. It is an extremely interesting and important work for several reasons. Firstly, it is probably the first English vampire story written. It has influenced many writers of vampire tales, most notably Bram Stoker who has several parallels with The Vampyre in his novel Dracula.
The Vampyre was an important leap forward in vampire evolution because, prior to this story, vampires had been mindless revenants, creatures of animal instinct that looked hideous and crawled out of their graves every night. They generally preyed upon their own family members first and were fairly limited in their roaming. By contrast, Lord Ruthven is a smooth, socially adept man who frequents parties, can travel and sleeps in a regular bed (not his grave) each night. He shows his evil character in more subtle ways. He enjoys toying with Aubrey’s mind, driving him to the point of madness as he preys upon Aubrey’s nearest and dearest. He promotes vice and is a corrupter of innocence.
One of the most remarkable things about The Vampyre is its conception. In fact the story of how The Vampyre was written often overshadows the importance of The Vampyre. Polidori was the private physician of Lord Byron. In 1816 Lord Byron, Shelly, Shelly’s wife Mary and Polidori were travelling on the continent and were forced by thunder storms to take shelter in an Italian villa. To entertain them selves they told each other ghost stories and then had a writing competition to see who could write the best spooky story. Byron and Shelly were the famous published writers of the day so it is strange that the best Byron could come up with was A Fragment and that Shelly’s contribution was completely forgettable. It was Mary and Polidori who came up with the best work. Mary wrote Frankenstein, the classic gothic novel, and Polidori wrote The Vampyre. Although it wasn’t published until a while later, the Vampyre was very popular at the time and was even made into a stage play.
To sum it up, The Vampyre is an entertaining short story in a gothic style and is well worth reading whether you are interested in the literary beginnings of the modern vampire or not.
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