John Polidori and The Vampyre

 On a frigid June evening in 1816,  Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin (later Shelley), Claire Clairmont, and Doctor John Polidori huddled together in their summerhouse on the shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.    With a  thunderstorm raging outside, Byron  passed the time by reading out loud from Das Gespensterbuch (The Ghost Book). Upon finishing, he challenged each occupant to write a ghost story.  Mary Godwin would go on to pen, Frankenstein.  

John Polidori would pen the first English vampire tale, The Vampyre.

 The darkly handsome physician had always been ambivalent towards the medical profession.   Sensitive and insecure, Polidori had been bullied as a child and turned to poetry for solace.  Now he wished to win Byron’s respect.   Unfortunately, the infamous poet never missed out on a chance to mock Polidori’s literary ambitions.

The day after the challenge was announced, Polidori wrote in his journal, “The ghost-stories begun by all but me.” 

Byron began a piece featuring a mysterious aristocrat named, Augustus Darvell, who made the narrator of the story promise to bury him after he died, but to tell no one of where.   More at home with poetry than prose, Byron soon abandoned his ghost story.

Mary Godwin Shelley later recollected, “Poor Polidori had some terrible idea about a skull-headed lady, who was so punished for peeping through a key-hole.”

Polidori abandoned that story and at some point turned his attention towards, The Vampyre.  Leaving behind the hideous features of Nosferatu, Polidori modeled his vampire into a sauve, sexually-attractive gentleman.  Naming the vampire, Lord Ruthven, (pronounced with a silent “th”) was hardly coincidental.  Byron’s spurned lover, Caroline Lamb, had used the same name in her own novel, Glenarvon, a fictionalized account of their affair. 

  Polidori cast himself as the innocent Aubrey who dies in a failed attempt to save his sister from the clutches of Lord Ruthven.

Evil triumphed.

The Vampyre first appeared in the New Monthly Magazine on April 1, 1819.   The story had reached the magazine editors along with a note regarding the circumstances of which it had come about during the summer of 1816.   The letter also claimed Byron as its author.  After Byron denied authorship, Polidori came forth, explaining in a letter to the magazine editor, “I beg leave to state, that your correspondent has been mistaken in attributing that tale, in its present form, to Lord Byron.  The fact is, that though the groundwork is certainly Lord Byron’s, its development is mine. . .”

Although Byron continued to deny authorship, and stated he disliked the whole subject of vampires and had no interest in writing about them, many readers still believed the famous poet was the author of the tale.  Byron’s suspected involvement in writing the tale, helped spur huge sales.   Polidori’s fragile ego was smashed once again.  To make matters worse, the book had been registered by the book publisher, which meant that Polidori lost the copyright.  The Vampyre became a bestseller.   Within two years, the novel was translated into German, French, Spanish, and Swedish. Polidori received a token payment of thirty pounds.

Polidori continued his literary pursuits.  In 1819 he published an unsuccessful play entitled, Ximenes.   This was followed by Ernestus Berchtold: The Modern Oedipus, a seamy tale involving the supernatural and incest.  Only 199 copies were sold.

 By 1821, Polidori was back living with his family in London, and deeply in debt.

On August 24th, 1821, John Polidori committed suicide.  It was a month before his twenty-sixth birthday.

Got Muse? A Writer-to-Writer Meme

music playing:  Air en G de Bach

Hey everyone,

My great pal (and really talented writer) Ms. Emily Leftywritey created a little survey for writers on her blog.

Here it is, with my answers:

 1) Where do you write?

 In the living room with my netbook on my lap.

2) When do you write?

My best hours are ten p.m. to seven a.m.  So, I tend to stay up really late some days, or get up really early on others. 

 3) Planner or Pantser?   Pantser for the first drafts.  Once I know what my story truly is, then I do a chapter outline. 

4. coffee or tea?  I love both.  depends on my mood.

 5) Pen and paper, or computer?  computer for the actual writing.  I love jotting down ideas in my paper journals.

 6) What gets you in the writing mood?   Writing, itself.  I’ve noticed the more I write, the more I want to write.

As for inspiration, just about everything inspires me.  I’m a magpie like that- attracted to shiny ideas everywhere.

 7) What pulls you out of the writing mood?  Tiredness.

 8 What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever read/heard/received?

“Inspiration comes from the writing”.    I’ve found that to be true.  I used to wait to be in the mood.  That’s fine if you write as a hobby.  But if you want to be a professional writer, you have to be able to write sometimes when you don’t feel like it.   When you’re blocked, you have to type away, even if it’s crap at first, until the answers come to you.

 9) Got muse?  Yup.   She helps me as long as I prove myself to her by working hard.  When I get lazy, she takes off.  She hates sloth.

10) Who is the biggest supporter of your writing? Luckily, I have tons of support.  My family and friends have always encouraged me.  I know I’m blessed for that, because a lot of writers don’t have that same kind of support.    I’ll say my parents, because they were my first supporters.

Okay, if you would like to do the meme, just go over to Leftywritey’s blog and leave her a note.  You should go there anyway because she’s made of awesomeness.

Published in: on June 17, 2009 at 12:11 pm  Comments (12)  

Editing: Oh, those Goofy Goofs

music playing: Loreena Mckennitt’s, “The Highwayman”

For the last couple of weeks I have been fully occupied with editing my novel, “Portraits of the Living:  A Ghost Story”.   This has mostly entailed me studying every line with the scrutiny of Holmes with his magnifying glass, sending chapters to my wonderful betas, and fixing any typos  that they found.

Which brings me to the reason of this post: those goofs you discover in your manuscript that leave you shaking your head, wondering what planet your brain had vacationed to.

Example?  In chapter five when Anne is being hypnotized by Mr. Raferat, he tells her to shut her eyes and relax.  Okay.  But then he proceeded to take out a pocket watch and tell her to follow it with her eyes.  Hmm. . .

Oh, but there’s more!  My beta (who totally rocks!  waves pompoms back at her)  alerted me to the fact that in chapter one, the servant says goodnight to Anne and turns to leave.  Anne stops her, asks her a question, and then the servant takes a key out of her apron pocket and unlocks the guest room for  Anne.   As my beta put it,  “why did she start to walk away if she had to unlock the door for Anne?”  Uhm, uh yeah.  Very good question.

Okay.  Fess up.  What goofy goofs have you, or someone else, discovered in one of your manuscripts?

Published in: on June 11, 2009 at 11:46 pm  Comments (22)  
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