John Polidori, author of The Vampyre (1819).


George Gordon Byron, British poet.

John Polidori took influences from his own personal relationships when writing The Vampyre [1]. At the age of twenty, Polidori took the position of physician to Lord Byron. Lord Byron was a famous author who charmed people at first meetings and whom people naturally gravitated toward. He had many affairs throughout his life and seemed to cause trouble for many people. His personality often overshadowed that of Polidori’s and he often took the opportunity to keep Polidori in his place. Byron would mock Polidori’s work publicly and this gave way for feelings of resentment to rise. Polidori felt his own “sense of self was being drained” and that Byron was “sucking the life out of him.” [2]

This relationship was the groundwork for Polidori’s character Lord Ruthven. Lord Ruthven was a mysterious nobleman who could win the eyes of many ladies and was known for being charismatic. Because of this, many people often fell for his charms. In The Vampyre, the character Aubrey decides he does not want to travel with Lord Ruthven anymore, similar to Polidori’s desire to leave working at Lord Byron’s side. Many people succumbed to Lord Ruthven’s powers much like how people often fell for Lord Byron. The death of people at Lord Ruthven’s hand signifies the loss of self that Polidori felt.

Lord Byron earned himself the title of “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” [3] Because of how he led his life this led to the coining of the literary term “the Byronic hero.” The Byronic hero is one who is portrayed as intelligent, sophisticated, sexually and socially dominant, and is also an outcast. All of these characteristics can be seen in Lord Ruthven and have continued to define the vampire character of popular culture. Ultimately, the Byronic hero is someone who sucks the life out of others either literally or figuratively.


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