The Gentleman Vampire
In my research on vampire legends, I found it curious that while so many vampire myths of the East seem to be centered on a fear of female sexual power, the vampire stories of the West often focus on the male vampire. The zombie-like revenants of Slavic folklore somehow morphed into the suave and sophisticated “gentleman vampire” of Gothic literature.
This evolution is attributed to the novel, The Vampyre, written by John Polidori. It’s commonly believed that the 19th century English poet, George Gordon, Lord Byron, inspired the depiction of the vampire in this book. Polidori, a recent medical school graduate, accepted a position as Byron’s personal physician and traveled with him to the continent. Byron was a kind of rock star in his day, known for his scandalous love affairs with both sexes. He created what is known as the “Byronic hero”, a deeply flawed man given to bouts of melancholy. Lord Byron, his mistress Claire Clairmont (stepsister of Mary Shelly), the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley and Polidori participated in a contest to write a ghost story. The most famous of these, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, spawned the genre of science fiction. Polodori’s tale was most likely begun by Byron, but tossed aside. In any case, Polidori finished and published it.
While not as well known as Frankenstein’s monster, the compelling vampire, Lord Ruthven, set the stage for vampires like Count Dracula, Anne Rice’s Louis and Lestat, Barnabas Collins and even Twilight’s Edward Cullen.
Contest: Leave me a comment telling me about your favorite “gentleman” vampire. I’ll draw three commenters by random drawing to win a free ebook of my collection of short stories, Annals of the Immortyls. Please leave an email address where I can email the link and free coupon code.