Happy Monday, Amarillo! With the Halloween season fast approaching its time for more Monday book reviews. This week’s book is The Vampyre.
The Vampyre was written in 1816 by John William Polidori as part of a story challenge. Polidori was staying with Lord Byron as the author’s physician. During the summer Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley and Claire Clairmont were houseguests of Lord Byron in the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva. Trapped indoors by foul weather, the creative group decided to hold a story challenge, with each writing a complete horror story by the end of the week.
At the time it was published many people attributed The Vampyre to Lord Byron. Both Lord Byron and Polidori denied the former had any involvement with the writing of the story. The misunderstanding stemmed from the description of the main character, Lord Ruthven, as a gambler and ruiner of women. A similar literary description in a book by Lady Caroline Lamb was widely recognized at the time to be a sketch of that author’s former lover, Lord Byron. It didn’t help matters that Polidori’s main character, Lord Ruthven, had the same name as Lamb’s character.
Aubrey, a wealthy young man with no family save a younger sister, travels the world. He is disillusioned about people until he meets Lord Rutherford. Intrigued by the way Lord Ruthven presents himself, Aubrey becomes his traveling companion. Events in Italy cause Aubrey to abandon his companion. He travels to Greece and falls in love with a beautiful girl. She dies at the hands of a vampire. Lord Ruthven reappears, and Aubrey agrees to travel with him despite his misgivings. They are attacked by robbers, and Lord Ruthven dies from his wounds. Before he dies he swears Aubrey to secrecy about certain things. Aubrey returns to his sister, only to lose her to a horrible fate.
Spoiler: Lord Ruthven is a vampire. Knowing the truth about Ruthven and being unable to share it with anyone destroys Aubrey’s health and sanity. Two innocent young women (three, if you count the one in Italy) die at the hands of the vampire.
Is it worth reading: Yes. And if you download it from Project Guttenberg it’s free. The story would be stronger if written in first person from the perspective of Aubrey. Regardless, it’s still a good read. The stages of Aubrey’s mental and physical decline as he struggles with the consequences of his promise to Lord Ruthven are brilliantly described and keep the reader engrossed to the end.
Fun fact: This vampire isn’t burned by sunlight and doesn’t sparkle. He can be healed by the first beams of moonlight.
More fun facts: Another story to come our of that week at Lake Geneva is “Frankenstien” by Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley . The poem Ozymandias, written by Mary Shelley’s husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, was the inspiration for the giant legs statue you can see off the road between Amarillo and Canyon.