Polidori’s The Vampyre

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the influential novella of John Polidori (1795-1821) published in 1819 and attributed first to Lord Byron (1788-1824) who had started a version of it in 1816 at the Villa Diodati in the Year Without A Summer. There Byron, his personal physician Polidori, Mary and Percy Shelley and Claire Clairmont had whiled away the weeks of miserable weather by telling ghost stories, famously giving rise to Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’. Emerging soon after, ‘The Vampyre’ thrilled readers with its aristocratic Lord Ruthven who glutted his thirst with the blood of his victims, his status an abrupt change from the stories of peasant vampires of eastern and central Europe that had spread in the 18th Century with the expansion of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The connection with Lord Byron gave the novella a boost, and soon ‘The Vampyre’ spawned West End plays, penny dreadfuls such as ‘Varney the Vampire’, Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, F.W Murnau’s film ‘Nosferatu A Symphony of Horror’, and countless others.

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  • Nick Groom 2 episodes
    Professor of Literature in English at the University of Macau
  • Samantha George No other episodes
    Associate Professor of Research in Literature at the University of Hertfordshire
  • Martyn Rady 2 episodes
    Professor Emeritus of Central European History at University College London

Reading list

  • Vampires, Burials and Death: Folklore and Reality
    Paul Barber (Yale University Press, 2nd edn, 2010) Google Books →
  • Joseph II: In the Shadow of Maria Theresa, 1741--80
    Derek Beales (Cambridge University Press, 1987) Google Books →
  • Metamorphoses of the Vampire in Literature and Film: Cultural Transformations in Europe, 1732-1933
    Erik Butler (Camden House, 2010) Google Books →
  • Treatise on Vampires & Revenants: The Phantom World
    Dom Augustine Calmet (Desert Island Books, 1993) Google Books →
  • The Origins of the Literary Vampire
    Heide Crawford (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) Google Books →
  • The Vampire: A Casebook
    Alan Dundes (University of Wisconsin Press, 1998) Google Books →
  • Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula
    Christopher Frayling (Faber, 1991) Google Books →
  • Reading the Vampire
    Ken Gelder (Routledge, 1994) Google Books →
  • Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from Enlightenment to the Present Day
    Sam George and Bill Hughes (eds.) (Manchester University Press, 2013) Google Books →
  • The Legacy of John Polidori: The Romantic Vampire and its Progeny
    Sam George and Bill Hughes (eds.) (Manchester University Press, forthcoming, 2022)
  • Dracula and the Eastern Question: British and French Vampire Narratives of the Nineteenth-Century Near East
    Matthew Gibson (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) Google Books →
  • The Vampire: A New History
    Nick Groom (Yale University Press, 2020) Google Books →
  • The Uses of Supernatural Power: The Transformation of Popular Religion in Medieval and Early-Modern Europe
    Gabor Klaniczay (Polity Press, 1990) Google Books →
  • Maria Theresa and the House of Austria
    C. A. Macartney (Hodder, 1974) Google Books →
  • Poor Polidori: A Critical Biography of the author of The Vampyre
    D.L. Macdonald (University of Toronto Press, 1991) Google Books →
  • The Poet and the Vampyre
    Andrew McConnell Stott (Pegasus Books, 2014) Google Books →
  • The Monstrous and the Dead: Burke, Marx, Fascism
    Mark Neocleous (University of Wales Press, 2005) Google Books →
  • Visions of the Vampire: Two Centuries of Immortal Tales
    Sorcha Ni Fhlainn and Xavier Aldana Reyes (eds.) (British Library, 2020) Google Books →
  • Vampire Lore: From the Writings of Jan Louis Perkowski
    Jan Louis Perkowski (Slavica Publishers, 2006) Google Books →
  • The Habsburgs: Rise and Fall of a World Empire
    Martyn Rady (Allen Lane, 2020)
  • Dracula's Guest, A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories
    Michael Sims (ed.) (Bloomsbury, 2010) Google Books →
  • Stage Blood: Vampires of the Nineteenth-Century Stage
    Roxana Stuart (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004)
  • The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature
    James B Twitchell (Duke University Press, 1981) Google Books →

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Programme ID: m00162xz

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00162xz

Auto-category: 800 (Literature and rhetoric)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1819, John Polidori's novella, The Vampire, thrilled readers with its aristocratic Lord Riven, who glutted his thirst with the blood of his victims.