Contents Index

my own vampire

So entwined are the fortunes of Victor Frankenstein's Creature and vampires in twentieth-century popular culture, that to many it comes as a shock to realize that Bram Stoker's Dracula dates from three-quarters of a century after Mary Shelley's novel. And yet, the subject matters were entwined from the beginning. The story that Lord Byron vowed to produce for the Gothic competition of the summer of 1816 was to be called The Vampyre. In the end he dropped it, and the account was picked up and finished by John Polidori, Byron's personal physician during this summer, who then published his novella with the same title as by Byron so as to increase its circulation.

Vampires were rather new on the literary scene at this point: general legendary knowledge about them actually stemmed from a single source, the incorporation of a vampire in Robert Southey's exotic and very popular oriental romance, Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). Although the figure appears in only one stanza, it afforded Southey the opportunity to show off his learning in a ten-page note. Since Percy Shelley was greatly enamored of this poem, even reading it aloud to Mary and Claire Clairmont on successive evenings in September 1814, there is little doubt that Mary had this account in mind in drawing upon vampire imagery for Frankenstein.