Let me get this straight. John Polidori was Lord Byron's fawning physician. One evening, Byron and Polidori were hanging out with Percy Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, and a Miss Clermont (with Mary, a daughter of Mr. Godwin also living with Shelley). They were enjoying and being creeped out by various scary tales. After surviving Mr. Shelley's panic attack and engaging in an evening's worth of conversation, attendees agreed to write their own supernatural tales. Among other works, the fruits of this literary evening included Mary Godwin's (soon to be Shelley) Frankenstein and Polidori's The Vampyre
My initial reaction to the historical context surrounding The Vampyre
? Mary Shelley won the hell out of that contest! My other thought is that Polidori should have stuck to being the physician of literary luminaries like Lord Byron. The Vampyre
is a mediocre effort at best.
Sure, The Vampyre
may be important historically. Without Polidori, we might never have been gifted the rich vampire-laden narratives of Bram Stoker and Anne Rice. Taken strictly as an academic exercise, The Vampyre
might deserve a high rating. But I'm not interested in academic exercise. The story itself, as read through my own early 21st century lens, lacks much. Polidori's ending is abrupt. He fails to build tension in any real sense, though he tries like hell. Granted, Polidori shows great skill in developing Aubrey's character ("He believed all to sympathise with virtue, and thought that vice was thrown in by Providence merely for the picturesque effect of the scene, as we see in romances .... He thought, in fine, that the dreams of poets were the realities of life."), he doesn't pay as close attention to developing others. In the end, zero dread or remorse arose for me as Lord Ruthven ruined life after life. Polidori kept me disconnected from his pathetic or hollow excuses for characters. No connection; no empathy; no horror. The Vampyre
falls extremely flat.
If you're looking for a short, Reading Challenge-friendly, free, historically relevant work, by all means read The Vampyre
. Otherwise, try the works of Polidori's patients and social contacts instead. They're much better.