Book Review: The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre by John Polidori

The VampyreTitle: The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre
Main Author: John Polidori
Genre: Classics / Short Stories / Horror
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pages: 320
Started: 18th April 2016
Completed: 23rd April 2016
Rating: 4/5
Summary: John Polidori’s classic tale “The Vampyre”(1819), was a product of the same ghost-story competition that produced Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The present volume selects thirteen other tales of mystery and the macabre, including the works of James Hogg, J.S. LeFanu, Letitia Landon, Edward Bulwer, and William Carelton. The introduction surveys the genesis and influence of “The Vampyre” and its central themes and techniques, while the Appendices contain material closely associated with its composition and publication, including Lord Byron’s prose fragment “Augustus Darvell.”

Just as the summary says, this is a collection of short macabre tales which includes John Polidori’s 1819 story The Vampyre.

John Polidori was an English writer and physician who was often associated with Lord Byron and some biographers think that Bryon and Polidori were lovers. The Vampyre was the first published modern vampire story and Polidori originally used Byron’s name instead of his own when publishing the book. Some of the success can be accredited to this but it was later confirmed as Polidori’s story. The tale was conceived during the famous trip to Geneva where Mary Shelley first told the story of Frankenstein

I’m going to start by talking about The Vampyre and then move on to a general overview of some of the other stories in the collection.

The Vampyre is a fantastic story and it features Aubery, a young man from England who meets Lord Ruthven, a mysterious English nobleman. They travel together to Rome but Aubery leaves for Greece alone when Ruthven seduces the daughter of Aubery’s friend. In Greece Aubery becomes infatuated with Ianthe, a very young girl, who tells him a tale about vampires. Later, Ruthven seduces Aubery’s sister who has a nervous breakdown. I’m not going to reveal much more of the plot because you should read it to find out what happens. It’s a fantastic plot though and I really enjoyed it.

Another aspect that I loved about this story is that the the vampire is obviously Lord Byron. Ruthven is a name that a few of Byron’s lovers have used to represent him in novels, most notably in Glenarvon by Lady Caroline Lamb which is a very unflattering depiction of Lord Byron. I just love that Byron offended so many of his lovers that they had a thinly veiled code name for him so that everyone knew when a story was about Byron.

I think that this short story is excellently written and I really love this line from the opening on the story:

In spite of the deadly hue of his face, which never gained a warmer tint, either from the blush of modesty, or from the strong emotion of passion, though its form and outline were beautiful, many of the female hunters after notoriety attempted to win his attentions, and gain, at least, some marks of what they might term affection.

Polidori does not hide that Ruthven is a vampire. He makes it obvious from the first page. However, his protagonist doesn’t know so there’s a lovely bit of dramatic irony at play in this novella. I also really love the term ‘female hunters’ because women are usually seen as weak and submissive in vampire novels and novellas but Polidori considers women to be predators.

The other stories are great too. I loved My Hobby – Rather by N. P. Willis. It’s so short. It’s only three pages long and yet I still really enjoyed it. The story is so strange and yet compelling and that’s just how tales of the macabre should be. I also really enjoyed Post-Mortem Recollections of a Medical Lecturer because it was so different as well as The Bride of Lindorf. 

I really wish that there had been more stories in this collection. It’s just a really good collection of tales if you’re into horror stories or the macabre.

Overall, I really enjoyed most of the stories in this collection. I just loved it. I’d definitely recommend it to people who enjoy horror stories or even just vampire stories. Well, if you’re more into vampire stories than general horror then you may be better off just buying a copy of The Vampyre rather than the collection. You can even read it for free on Project Gutenberg if you’d rather not buy it.



2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre by John Polidori

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