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

  • Matthew Gibson

Abstract

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

Keywords

Austrian Emperor Dead Body Metaphorical Meaning Opera House Animated Nature 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Skarda, Patricia L, ‘Vampirism and Plagiarism: Byron’s Influence and Polidori’s Practice’, Studies in Romanticism 28:2 (Summer 1969), 249–69, at 250–1. Skarda notes that the name Aubrey is taken from that of a young antiquary of the seventeenth century, John Aubrey (1626–97), whose work had been published in 1813, but rightly asserts that in the story he is ‘in part, an image of Polidori’ (Skarda, Studies in Romanticism, 28:2 251).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Skarda states that: ‘Polidori harvests images and phrases and setting from Byron’s Giaour for the Ianthe in his ‘Vampyre’ not merely because Byron’s fields were fertile but because Polidori could not find his own’ (Skarda, Studies in Romanticism, 28:2 255).Google Scholar
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© Matthew Gibson 2006

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  • Matthew Gibson

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