In 1816, John William Polidori travelled to Geneva as Lord Byron’s personal physician. There they met Mary Godwin (later Shelley) and her lover Percy Shelley and decided to while away a wet summer by writing ghost stories. The only two to complete their stories were Mary Shelley, who published Frankenstein in 1818, and Polidori, whose The Vampyre and Ernestus Berchtold were both published in 1819.
The Vampyre, based on a discarded idea of Byron’s, is the first portrayal of the alluring vampire figure familiar to readers of Bram Stoker and Anne Rice. Ernestus Berchtold scandalously draws on the rumours of Byron’s affair with his half-sister for a Faustian updating of the myth of Oedipus, which it combines with an account of the struggle of Swiss patriots against the Napoleonic invasion.
Along with Polidori’s work, this edition also includes stories read and written by the travellers in the Genevan summer of 1816 and contemporary responses to The Vampyre and Ernestus Berchtold.
“The Vampyre is back again and in very welcome fashion. The editors, including the world’s ranking expert on Polidori, have provided us with a very useful edition of one of the classic Romantic horror stories, together with an odd but compelling version of a ‘modern Oedipus.’ The latter should interest everyone, since, as Freud contends, the Oedipus story ‘might have been ours.’ The edition makes easily accessible a number of the other texts invoked in and produced by the most famous horror- and ghost-writing contest of all time, including works by Byron and P.B. Shelley. Altogether this is a highly useful volume and a not-so-guilty pleasure.” — Ian Balfour, York University