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"The Vampyre" by John William Polidori, published in April 1819, was the first English prose vampire story and set off a craze of vampire fiction. It began as a fragment of a novel by Lord Byron and was adapted into a short story by Polidori, who had been Byron's personal physician. It was published with an attribution to Lord Byron -- probably on purpose, for the sake of selling more copies, as the misattribution stuck long after both Polidori and Byron corrected it.

The plot concerns Lord Ruthven[1], a nobleman, and Aubrey, his traveling companion. In Greece, Aubrey learns about vampires from a girl he falls in love with, who is later killed by one. Ruthven dies, and makes Aubrey swear not to tell anyone about his death for a year and a day. When Aubrey returns to England, however, he finds Ruthven alive and well, and courting his sister. Aubrey falls ill under the stress of keeping his oath. He dies shortly after revealing that Ruthven is a vampire, too late to save his sister.

Has been adapted numerous times into plays, operas, and even a TV miniseries.


Provides examples of:

  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Lord Ruthven invokes this trope to ensure his corpse will be exposed to moonlight, which he knows will revive him in undeath.
  • Continuation: Had an unauthorized French sequel, Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires (1820). In an amusing case of imitating the original story, the novel was attributed to the French playwright Charles Nodier, who had adapted "The Vampyre" for the stage, instead of its actual author, Cyprien Bérard.
  • Downer Ending
  • Genre Popularizer: Vampire fiction.
  • Our Vampires Are Different:
    • First, they are different from the traditional, more zombie-like vampires of Eastern European tradition. Polidori basically invented the seductive aristocratic vampire.
    • Second, they are different from the modern conception of fictional vampires. In particular, the idea of vampires being healed by moonlight rarely shows up in fiction (although it is present in early vampire works, particularly adaptations of "The Vampyre" and Varney the Vampire).
  • Plagiarism: Of Byron's fragment; although that's a bit unfair, as Polidori never intended for the story to be published.
  • Take That: Lord Ruthven is widely considered to be based on Lord Byron.
    • Also one from Byron to Polidori: In an attempt to correct the misattribution of the story, Byron wrote, "I desire the responsibility of nobody’s dullness but my own."

Notes

  1. In real life, a prominent Scottish family, among other things
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