“The Vampyre” is a short story or novella written in 1819 by John William Polidori which is a progenitor of the romantic vampire genre of fantasy fiction. The work is described by Christopher Frayling as “the first story successfully to fuse the disparate elements of vampirism into a coherent literary genre.”
- Lord Ruthven — a suave British nobleman, the vampire
- Aubrey — a wealthy young gentleman, an orphan
- Ianthe — a beautiful Greek woman Aubrey meets on his journeys with Ruthven.
- Aubrey’s sister — who becomes engaged to the Earl of Marsden
- Earl of Marsden — who is also Lord Ruthven
- Polidori’s work had an immense impact on contemporary sensibilities and ran through numerous editions and translations. An adaptation appeared in 1820 with Cyprien Bérard’s novel, Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires, falsely attributed to Charles Nodier, who himself then wrote his own version, Le Vampire, a play which had enormous success and sparked a “vampire craze” across Europe. This includes operatic adaptations by Heinrich Marschner (see Der Vampyr) and Peter Josef von Lindpaintner (see Der Vampyr), both published in the same year and called “The Vampire”. Nikolai Gogol, Alexandre Dumas, and Alexis Tolstoy all produced vampire tales, and themes in Polidori’s tale would continue to influence Bram Stoker’s Dracula and eventually the whole vampire genre. Dumas makes explicit reference to Lord Ruthwen in The Count of Monte Cristo, going so far as to state that his character “The Comtesse G…” had been personally acquainted with Lord Ruthwen.
In England, James Planché’s play The Vampire, or The Bride of the Isles was first performed in London in 1920 at the Lyceum Theatre based Charles Nodier’s Le Vampire, which was based on Polidori. Such melodramas were satirised in Ruddigore, by Gilbert and Sullivan (1887), a character called Sir Ruthven must abduct a maiden, or he will die.