The Vampire has always been with us. It is found in the writings of the Babylonians anciently and is thought to date even to prehistoric times. They are usually described as sub-human or rotting corpses wishing to drink the blood of cattle or humans or whatever seemed to be a convenient walking food source.
The myth grew up in the early 1800’s when the first sophisticated vampire sprang to un-life. He was born of the unholy union of lurid-living and the need for quick cash. The parent was John William Polidori, a young doctor, and the traveling companion of scandal incarnate; the poet, Lord Byron. Byron was described by a mistress, Caroline Lamb, as “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know.”
Polidori was supposed to write out his memoirs of his travels with Byron and send them to the publishers. But instead, after his travels with Byron were at an end, he wrote a fictional piece.
The Story that Polidori wrote called ‘The Vampyre’, is loosely based on a character from the abandoned story by Byron, called ‘Fragment of a Novel’. When Polidori’s book was first published, it was accredited to Byron, and though Byron tried to dispel the rumor, it persisted.
This work is the first popularization of the sophisticated Gentleman-Vampire. Did Polidori, write it to give shape to Byron’s monstrous behavior? Had the unspeakable found a voice? If so, then we find subject matter couched politely in the vampire genre fiction that is truly frightening above all else; man’s inhumanity to man.
Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ was published in 1897. Here is an even more polished vampire. Here is the blood-sucking gentleman-of-the-manor in full bloom. Slick. Handsome. Good with the ladies. It is thought the story is sub-textually about the abuse of women in the Victorian Era culture as well as other sociological problems of the day. Victorian’s loved wild Gothic adventure stories and the genre called Invasion Literature. Interestingly, Dracula though highly praised was not an overnight success. It was not until it flickered onto the silver screen many years later that it surged in popularity and is now iconic.
Vampires remain in the popular culture, unchanged and unrepentant in nature. They all want living blood. They are all users and abusers. Bad boys to the last, they claim they can’t help themselves. It’s there nature. Right.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good vampire, especially a dead one. (Just like Strahd at the end of Ravenloft). I say give the poor fellow the relief he needs and deserves.
So get that garlic around your neck, hold up that mirror a little higher and stand by with the wooden stakes. Oh wait, here comes the morning sun… This is gonna be easy.