Beyond Dracula: The Early Years
It seems like every where you look nowadays there's a pale, skinny, befanged creature staring wantonly or comically zipping into blood-lust action. Vampires are suddenly ubiquitous again (and, watch out, werewolves are on their way up the charts with a silver bullet). Many people assume it all began with Bram Stoker's Dracula, but if you are interested in digging up the roots of the undead, there are a casketful of books to choose from. Here are a few to start with:
- The Vampyre by John Polidori: This book, which appeared in 1819, is credited as the first vampire tale in English. The Vampyre was conceived originally by Lord Byron and adapted by Dr. John Polidori, his personal physician, who famously accompanied the Lord and his friends, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Shelley), and Claire Clairmont to his Villa Diodati on the very same night Frankenstein was born. The Vampyre tells the story of an aristocrat, Count Ruthven, and his blood thirsty ways.
- Published in 1845 in installments which sold for a penny (the Penny Dreadful Press) on the streets of London, Varney the Vampire or The Feast of Blood by James Malcolm Rhymer (alt. Thomas Preskett Prest) is thought by many to be the catalyst to pre-Dracula Vampire popularity.
- Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu in 1872 introduced a female enchantress whose victims were young girls. Much vampire lore was established in this tale; like the fact that most bloodsuckers would slowly seduce their prey, savoring the blood in small sips over month long periods.
- The Blood of the Vampire by Florence Marryat was "the other vampire novel" of 1897, along with Stoker's classic. Marryat introduces us to Jamaican emigre Harriet Brandt, who leaves a trail of dead bodies in her wake. Is she, as everyone suspects, indeed a vampiress, or is it just all an unfortunate coincidence.