Happy Birthday, Lord Byron, our first vampire?

 

Happy Birthday, Lord Byron, our first vampire?

Portrait of Lord Byron in Albanian dress by Thomas Phillips, c1835

George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron Byron,  was an early 19th Century poet, rake, gambler, traveler, assumed bisexual, confirmed tortured soul, and alleged vampire. Most commonly referred to simply as Lord Byron and remembered for such prime examples of Romantic era poetry as “She Walks in Beauty”, Lord Byron is widely credited with inspiring the “Byronic Hero”, a dark tortured anti-hero seeking redemption but unable to atone for the vanity and ego that lead him straight into the arms of iniquity.

“(D)escribed by the historian and critic Lord Macaulay as “a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection”. – Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byronic_hero

What traits identify the Byronic Hero?

“Mad—bad—and dangerous to know. -Lady Caroline Lamb describing George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron Byron

The Byronic hero typically exhibits several of the following traits (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byronic_hero#Characteristics):

  • Arrogant
  • Cunning and able to adapt
  • Cynical
  • Disrespectful of rank and privilege
  • Emotionally conflicted, bipolar, or moody
  • Having a distaste for social institutions and norms
  • Having a troubled past or suffering from an unnamed crime
  • Intelligent and perceptive
  • Jaded, world-weary
  • Mysterious, magnetic and charismatic
  • Rebellious
  • Seductive and sexually attractive
  • Self-critical and introspective
  • Self-destructive
  • Socially and sexually dominant
  • Sophisticated and educated
  • Struggling with integrity
  • Treated as an exile, outcast, or outlaw 

Various examples of Byronic Heroes in fiction and film are listed here http://www.rc.umd.edu/praxis/contemporary/stein/stein.html

Bryon and The Vampyre

In the late spring of 1816, Byron and his personal physician, Dr. John William Polidori, traveled by carriage to Geneva, Switzerland, where the pair planned to vacation afar from the British gossip of Byron’s recent divorce. Upon arrival at the Villa Diodati, Byron was pleasantly surprised to find Claire Clairmont, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Shelley awaiting him. Accounts from the time recall that spring as very rainy which was quite unusual for the season. And so it is said that in an effort to entertain themselves, each member of the party agreed to write a story of a most terrifying nature. Mary Shelley wrote a story that would eventually be published as a novel in 1818, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

Dr. Polidori wrote The Vampyre, a story whose lead character, Lord Ruthven,  was based on Byron.  Polidori’s story was published almost 80 years prior to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and served as the basis for several other European works including novels, operas and plays.

“The story was an immediate popular success, partly because of the Byron attribution and partly because it exploited the gothic horror predilections of the public. Polidori transformed the vampire from a character in folklore into the form that is recognized today—an aristocratic fiend who preys among high society.”  Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Vampyre

So, my friends, after all these years, I have come to learn that I should thank Lord Byron for all these wonderful paranormal romance novels I love to read.

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