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72 pages, Paperback
First published April 1, 1819
THE VAMPYRE is also a product of the competition that produced Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN.
As the story begins, we first meet Aubrey, a handsome recently orphaned and now wealthy young man and his only sister....ready to come out. Not a fan of society parties, Aubrey leaves his sister in the hands of guardians and heads off in search of antiquities with a curious new traveling companion, Lord Ruthven.
When evil shows its ugly face, Aubrey parts ways with the Lord....but that's not the last he sees of the strange man with the dead grey eye and alluring presence.
A bit of a love story, and a warning from the dead "Remember your oath" makes for a great classic end.
I love vampires. There, I said it! Ever since I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I have been fascinated by this creature of the shadows, the undead. Never mind a certain series that threatened to spoil the ‘monster’ for me, but now that the last of that smoke is on its way out, I can demurely admit to this without my declaration to be succeeded by ‘Oh! Twilight.’ Cringe!
No. My fascination rests with the creature of the undead, shrouded in darkness and legend, surrounded by hushed voices and hear-says. This probably runs in the same strain of thoughts, as my undying love (yes. That was intentional) for the DC and Marvel universe. But with the vampyr lore there is a danger that is almost delicious. My vampire has hair growing out of his palms and calls sweetly to the wolves at midnight.
Children of the night
Oh! What music to my ears
We, in India, have our own vampyr legend known as Baital. This incarnation of the legend appears in a text called The Kathasartsagaraa, which translates into Oceans of the Streams of Stories’ by a Kashmiri Somadeva, for Queen Suryamati of Kashmir. The 11th century collection of works is believed to have been derived from an ever older and now lost piece of work called Brihatkatha, which was written in a language Paisachi that is all but lost and rarely appears in antique works written in old Sanskrit. There are various versions of this story in existence, the most popular one being the one televised as a children’s programme called Vikram and Baital , in which Baital ( the pisaach/ the vampyr)is shown hanging upside down from a tree, similar in manner to that of a bat and drinks the blood of humans(obviously!).
But Polidori’s Vampyr is something else entirely. By all accounts this short story is the first English vampire story and is written with a young man named Aubrey narrating his encounters with a certain gentleman, Lord Ruthven, whose peculiar disposition and disdainful mannerisms give flight to many a maiden’s heart. He is ruthless and wealthy, and wherever he leaves there a trail of destruction follows. The Vampyr lays the groundwork and establishes many of the themes that we have now come to associate with this legend. The sophisticated stranger, the learned and distinguished gentleman, the dead eyes and pallor of the skin, the bloodlust, the ruiner of virgins, etc have all been taken birth from the inked pages of Polidori's The Vampyr.
The origins of the tale has been known to all. One fateful holiday with the Shelleys, Byron and his physician Polidori and a journey that produced two original compositions that has since inspired an entire genre. Polidori is said to have been inspired from an abandoned work of Byron himself and had allegedly based the character of Lord Ruthven on him. There was no love lost between them. Amidst the various public humiliations suffered by Polidori at the hands of Lord Byron, the latter is even rumoured to have threatened to subject him to ‘a damned good thrashing’. From there to the life sucking monster in The Vampyr, it is a straight line. The tale was first attributed to Lord Byron himself, and it gained immense popularity. Some even went so far as to say that it was Byron's greatest work. Of course the work wasn't Byron's and Polidori had a merry chase trying to establish the correct authorship of the work. Polidori is said to have committed suicide, but even this fact is shrouded in mystery.
"He had been tormented by a vampyre, but had found a way to rid himself of the evil, by eating some of the earth out of the vampyre's grave, and rubbing himself with his blood. This precaution, however, did not prevent him from becoming a vampyre himself"