Polidori’s The Vampyre and the Dangers of Philhellenism to Italian Liberation

  • Matthew Gibson


It has been argued that Polidori’s The Vampyre is something of a short story ‘à-clef’. Lighting on the similarities between Ruthven’s character and that of Lord Byron, and the clash of personalities between the two which erupted while Polidori was staying with Byron as his physician, critics have understandably regarded Aubrey, the young accomplice of Ruthven on his disgraceful travels through Belgium, Italy and Greece, as a projection of Polidori’s own suffering self, and Ruthven as his famous patient: an idea supported by the fact that Ruthven was the name Lady Caroline Lamb had already awarded the Byron figure in her own very obvious roman-à-clef, Glenarvon.1 It is also clearly an interesting hypothesis that the first aristocratic vampire in literature was really a means of poking fun at the dual nature of a famous poet and public personality. The Greek setting for the tale has been considered by one critic in particular as simply an example of the extent to which Polidori was influenced by his benefactor-cum-rival.2


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© Matthew Gibson 2006

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  • Matthew Gibson

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