The Precedents Set by John Polidori’s The Vampyre

A paper which outlines the influence of John Polidori’s `The Vampyre` on the vampire genre in literature, along with film, theater and popular culture.

John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819) is considered one of the most influential works of the vampire genre. The novel sparked a literary interest in vampires and has set many standards in the field. The paper shows how Polidori drew the premise of the story directly from an unfinished novel begun by Lord Byron. The paper discusses how John Polidori, a doctor by profession, accompanied Byron on a journey from England to mainland Europe in 1816, where Byron wrote the first few pages of the work that he shortly set aside. It shows how, with access to Bryon’s composition, Polidori developed several of the elements and ideas that Byron had initiated, and created his own vampire novel. The paper examines how the characteristics of the antagonist in `The Vampyre`, Lord Ruthven, dramatically altered the view of the vampire and the vampire story in Western literature and culture and gave writers a new direction with which to take vampire ideas.
`Perhaps the single most distinguishing quality of a vampire is the uncontrollable thirst for blood. Lord Ruthven is, of course, no different. He preys upon his victims by putting them into a type of trance, sinking his teeth into their necks with his two extraordinarily long incisors, and finally sucking their blood. This is seen in the death of Ianthe, a Greek woman whom Aubrey comes to love (p. 274). Polidori’s vampire, along with those vampires who had proceeded and all who follow, is a creature of the night. Still, unlike more modern vampires, Ruthven is able to travel during the day with relative ease. To today’s reader, this trait may seem to contradict what are believed to be true vampire characteristics. However, according to Dilworth, Polidori’s Ruthven, in this sense, was similar to previous vampires of legends and folklore.`