Is there evidence to suggest that vampire fiction was invented to satirize Lord Byron?

Is there evidence to suggest that vampire fiction was invented to satirize Lord Byron?

Erin Horáková writes:

Byron was such a tool ppl invented vampire fiction to take the piss out of him…

Tony Lewis writes:

Polidori's relationship with Byron soured for various reasons, and he was soon dismissed from his job. The doctor returned to his father's native Italy, and there decided to get his own form of literary revenge on Lord Byron… Polidori's Lord Ruthven was a vampire, but unlike the vampires of traditional folklore, this one was a suave aristocrat who preyed on the young women of the British upper class, destroying their lives with his evil. The character was, again, a thinly-veiled satire on Byron and his hijinks. To rub salt in the wound, Polidori plagiarized Byron's ghost story and created a novel called The Vampyre.

Kim Newman writes:

Polidori, who was making the point that his friend Byron sometimes acted like a callous, blood-sucking monster, dressed up the fiend in smart clothes, gave him a title (there was a real Lord Ruthven at the time, but he didn't sue) and set him loose as a predator in high society.

My question is: Is there evidence to suggest that Vampire Fiction was invented to satirise Lord Byron?


It is the universally accepted opinion that Lord Ruthven character in "The Vampyre" is based on Byron, but the author himself never confirmed this. The story itself was apparently written in 1816, when Byron, his physician Polidori and Mary Percy Shelley with friends stayed at Villa Diodati in Geneva [1]. It was Byron's challenge of writing a ghost story that initiated the writing of both "The Vampyre" and "Frankenstein". Byron himself created the unfinished story known as "Fragment", which Polidori then used to create his own novel - apparently with Byron's knowledge. The story was then written down for the Countess of Breuss, who lived nearby, and from whom the publisher acquired the manuscript later [2].

In 1819 the story was published by Henry Colburn in the New Monthly Magazine - under Byron's name (it seems it was published without first contacting the author). Byron denied his authorship, so later editions removed his name from the front page, although still did not credit Polidori [3].

Thus, the evidence is that by the time Polidori and Byron's relationship indeed soured, the novel was already written, so it is unlikely that it was intended to be a satirize of Byron, and we have no evidence to suggest otherwise. And second - if anything, the "Vampire Fiction" was invented by Byron himself, as it was he who wrote the original fragment which was the basis for Polidori's work.


Gulliver and the Gentle Reader 1

The satire in Swift’s anatomy of the human animal in Gulliver’s Travels is unusually radical, comprehensive and aggressive. In the first three books it conventionally attacks humans for what they do , but at the end of book III and throughout book IV humans are attacked for what they are . From the beginning, the reader is wrongfooted by an unusually quarrelsome intimacy on the part of the narrative, and a constantly shifting instability in the register of the irony. The naïve Gulliver’s praise of humanity, as well as his deranged condemnation of it in the final book, are both separate from the implied voice of the satirist, which always makes itself felt. But the reader is left uncertain as to the exact degree and tone of this separation. While knowing that the details of Gulliver’s enraged diatribes are substantiated by the facts of the narrative, the unhinged nature of the speaker’s voice must be discounted as being in Timon’s manner which Swift explicitly disavowed in a famous letter to his friend Pope. The reader is thus left without the comfort and foothold of an extreme denunciation which could be dismissed as self-disarming precisely because the implied satirist’s voice is disengaged from the character. This is part of what Swift meant when he told Pope that the story was designed to vex the world rather than divert it.

Dans cette anatomie de l’animal humain que constituent les Voyages de Gulliver, la satire est particulièrement radicale, générale et violente. Dans les trois premiers livres, elle attaque de manière conventionnelle les humains pour ce qu’ils font, mais à la fin du livre III et tout au long du livre IV, les humains sont attaqués pour ce qu’ils sont. Dès le début, le lecteur est pris à contrepied par l’intimité étonnamment querelleuse que manifeste le récit, et une instabilité dans le registre de l’ironie qui évolue en permanence. L’éloge de l’humanité énoncé par le naïf Gulliver, tout comme sa condamnation démente dans le dernier livre, sont tous deux distincts de la voix implicite du satiriste, qui se laisse constamment percevoir. Mais le lecteur est laissé dans l’incertitude quant au degré et au ton exacts de cette distinction. Tout en sachant que les détails des diatribes furieuses de Gulliver sont nourris par les éléments factuels du récit, la nature déséquilibrée de la voix du narrateur doit être écartée, dans la mesure où elle s’inscrit dans le style de Timon, que Swift a explicitement désavoué dans une lettre célèbre adressée à son ami Pope. Le lecteur se retrouve donc dépourvu du confort et de la position avantageuse d’une dénonciation extrême qui pourrait être rejetée en se désarmant elle-même, précisément parce que la voix du satiriste implicite est détachée du personnage. Ceci relève de ce que Swift voulait dire quand il a expliqué à Pope que l’histoire était destinée à tourmenter le monde plutôt qu’à le divertir.