The Legacy of John Polidori: The Romantic vampire and its progeny, ed. by Sam George and Bill Hughes (Manchester University Press, 2024)
John Polidori is the least regarded figure in the history of literary vampirism and yet his novella The Vampyre (1819) is perhaps ‘the most influential horror story of all time’ (Frayling). Surprisingly, it has never before been the subject of a book-length critical study. Polidori’s story transformed the shambling, mindless monster of folklore into a sophisticated, seductive aristocrat that stalked London society rather than being confined to the hinterlands of Eastern Europe. Polidori’s Lord Ruthven was thus the ancestor of the vampire as we know it.
This collection explores the genesis of Polidori’s vampire. It then tracks his bloodsucking progeny across the centuries and maps his disquieting legacy from the melodramatic vampire theatricals in the 1820s, through further Gothic fictions and horror films, to twenty-first-century paranormal romance. It includes a critique of the fascinating and little-known The Black Vampyre (1819) – a text inspired by Polidori and the first Black vampire in fiction (celebrated by OGOM here).
Leading and emerging scholars of the vampire and Gothic provide innovative analyses of the variations on monstrosity and deadly allure spawned by Polidori’s revenant. The collection advances from the ground-breaking research of Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day and the first special issue of Gothic Studies devoted to vampires. The research emerged from our symposium for the bicentenary of The Vampyre in 2019.
Appended is an annotated edition of the text of The Vampyre and supplementary material.
Polidori died a suspected suicide aged 25; he has been sorely neglected. This stimulating collection makes a coherent case for the importance of John Polidori’s tale and redeeming ‘poor Polidori’.