Polidori's Vampyre Hardcover – 1 Nov 2002
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About the Author
Darrell Schweitzer lives in Philadelphia, PA.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
A very naive, romantic young man named Aubrey becomes acquainted with a mysterious aristocrat named Lord Ruthven, and decides to go on a tour of Europe with him. But he soon discovers that Ruthven isn't the idealized romantic figure he thought -- he's cruel, depraved and has a corrupting influence on everyone he gets involved with.
Aubrey soon abandons Ruthven and flees to Greece, where he falls in love with a beautiful peasant girl -- only to have her die from a vampiric attack, followed by Ruthven being killed by bandits. Even more shocking, Ruthven reappears in London -- alive and well -- when Aubrey returns, and he has some spectacularly sinister plans in mind for Aubrey's sister.
The main character may be a vampire, but Polidori's story is less of a horror story and more of a study of innocence's destruction. Not only does Ruthven apparently wreck the morals of everyone he becomes close to (although we're never told how), but even the pure-hearted Aubrey turns into a glassy-eyed crazy wreck because of Ruthven.
Writingwise, I hope Polidori was a better doctor than he was a writer. His writing isn't BAD, but he tends to ramble in a purple, prim, distant style -- it feels like the entire story is a summary of someone else's novel, and he skims over the most interesting stuff like Ruthven's actual cruelty or his wooing of Aubrey's sister. But he does give the story an atmosphere of taut suspense especially when Aubrey is trying to escape Ruthven.
Ruthven (based on Byron) is a fairly fascinating character since he was the first aristocratic, elegant, attractive vampire that anybody knows of -- he's not just a monster, but a smart one who manipulates others to get the prize. We don't know whether he corrupts and murders because he's a vampire or whether he's just an evil manipulator, but strangely it makes him all the more fascinating.
"The Vampyre" has the distinction of being the first story involving an aristocratic, attractive vampire, and Lord Ruthven is a fascinating villain despite Polidori's clunky writing. Worth a read, if nothing else for the insights.
The Vampyre is known as the first work of modern fantasy to approach vampire myths with a character who frequents and preys upon high society. The vampire of the story is purposefully composed as a mirror of Lord Byron, which adds a unique flavor. However, beyond these two factors the story falls short of greatness.
This book is a fun read, and certainly an important model for the wonderful Dracula of Bram Stoker, but provides only minimal entertainment for a modern audience. If you happen to be interested in the development of vampire lore in culture and fiction, The Vampyre is a necessity. But instead of buying it here on Amazon, I would suggest you read it on Project Gutenberg and decide for yourself if it's good enough to actually own.
Upon some research of the short story, I came to see that it was the first vampire story of any kind printed in the English language. That is an interesting tidbit to have knowledge. This means that it came before the likes of "Dracula", and is the base of the vampire figure in our society today. Many characteristics were taken from the charismatic Lord Ruthven for use in "Dracula" as well as in more modern culture - his mysterious and allusive attraction, his disconnection from society but apparent ability to blend in with humans, and perhaps most importantly, his need to live on the blood of a human being.
Even though this story is mainly valued for it's contribution to the vampire figure as a whole, it has certain literary elements that should not be ignored either. The plot, for one, was intriguing. It kept you on the edge of your seat, always wondering what was about to occur. The story was told through the eyes of the innocent and naive Aubrey, a noble newcomer into the eyes of society. Aubrey is ready to travel on his Grand Tour, a sort of coming-out activity that all young males of the time went on. It just so happens that the mysterious Lord Ruthven is traveling the same way as him, and has invited him on his journey...
Aubrey finds Lord Ruthven particularly appealing. His is not attracted to him in a homosexual sense, but more of a manly bond approach. He is the hero figure that is the savior of his shallow life. But not all is as it seems. As their travels continue, Aubrey discovers more than he cares to know about the man, and is very soon, brought to the brink of insanity...
"The Vampyre" is a must read for anyone interested in the vampire culture. This story is the very root of all vampire fiction in the English language. It would only make sense to start at the beginning, to see the path that all others derived from. Not only that, but you will be entertained by a chilling tale whose ending will leave you wanting revenge.