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The First Vampyre Tale, 1819
Recently, while doing research for a horror book discussion, I found an article on Wikipedia that talked about the first vampire fiction. According to Wikipedia, “The literary vampire first appeared in eighteenth century poetry, before becoming one of the stock figures of gothic fiction with the publication of John William Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819), which was inspired by the life and legend of Lord Byron.”
In an attempt to find more about it, I ran across a website that had The Vampyre in text format. I was so excited, I almost injured myself trying to click fast enough on the link! Let me tell you about this awesome find.
If you can get past the many typos that this free online text has, it is worth the read for any vampire fan. At times I did have to read a sentence twice because of the old English language and the run on sentences. It has almost no dialogue, which for some can be a trial. However, to be able to read a piece of work that has inspired so many awesome vampire books is amazing. It’s almost like watching an old silent movie. There’s something about the art of it that allows you to soak up ambience you don’t always get in modern fast-paced tales.
The Vampyre, though original in its day, is predictable. Lord Ruthven, the vampyre, is a gambler, womanizer, and known throughout the ton for “hurling young ladies from the pinnacle of unsullied virtue, down to the lowest abyss of infamy and degradation”. Got to love that language. There is an innocent gentleman, Mr. Aubrey, who travels with Lord Ruthven. When Aubrey finds out about his friend’s “licentious habits that are dangerous to society” he distances himself and attempts to go on with his life. Aubrey soon learns that you can’t just walk away with out injury as the vampyre maliciously attempts to ruin all that is good in his world on the false pretense of being his closest and dearest friend.
My favorite section of this tale is when a woman tells of vampires and what they are known to do.
…often as she told him the tale of the living vampyre, who had passed years amidst his friends, and dearest ties, forced every year, by feeding upon the life of a lovely female to prolong his existence for the ensuing months, his blood would run cold, but lathe cited to him the names of old men, who had at last detected one living among themselves, after several of their near relatives and children had been found marked with the stamp of the fiend’s appetite…
You can enjoy this tale yourself, by going to: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/6087