Book review – John Polidori’s The Vampyre

September 5, 2013 9:35 pm

Summary 

As you may have noted, the spelling of Vampyre is odd and that is because it is one of those “old horror books” much alike the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. I am not an English Literature graduate, so forgive my crude labelling. Having said that, I did get it from an Oxford World Classics anthology of short stories titled The Vampyre and other tales of the Macabre.

Aubrey, a young upper class English man, wants to travel the world and see it before he engages himself in the real world which he is about to be a part of. And so, he decides to travel with Lord Ruthven, a mysterious man who people fear, are fascinated by and attracted to. Throughout his travels to Europe, the young Aubrey notes the sinister nature of Lord Ruthven, and by the time they reach Greece all hell breaks loose. What follows is desperation and madness.

The Review 

Because of it’s style, I urge anyone who reads this short but amazing tale to take their time with it. It certainly pushed the boundaries of my vocabulary, and I had to back pedal a little with some of the more long winded passages. Nevertheless, if you take your time with it and get used to the language then it can be a very rewarding experience.

1For instance, I loved the presentation of the Vampyre, Lord Ruthven. Although it is easy to work out that he is not normal, the fact that he is supernatural in a way is only ever insinuated and it is not overly obvious. This is very unlike a lot of modern literature that features vampires. One of my favourite passages that describes him is:

“In spite of the deadly hue of his face, which never gained a warmer tint, either from the blush of modesty, or from the strong emotion of passion, though its form and outline were beautiful, many of the female hunters after noteriety attempted to win his attentions, and gain, at least, some marks of what they might term affection”. 

Descriptions like that are beautiful in that they are poetic and powerful at the same time. However, the lack of full stops is something we aren’t used to right now and I am guessing it was simply the style of the time. Nevertheless, the commas seem to do the trick!

The most interesting thing about the story, which reminds me a lot of H.P. Lovecraft, is the “after taste” of reading it; the emotions that you feel towards it. It is because that Lord Ruthven’s supernatural nature is only insinuated that you get left with a sense of wonder and curiosity, and it is one of those tales that really make me wish that the super natural existed. It is also a very inspiring read in that regard.

The only thing that I did not find very good was the lack of descriptive writing when it came to settings. The author does leave you to paint a lot of settings and scenes from scratch, and although I have no trouble doing that I do still appreciate good description. But I guess that is just me nitpicking.

So check out John Polidori’s The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre as published by Oxford’s World Classics. It takes a look at the past to bring something new, after the countless horror books, and especially vampire books, that we have been swamped with recently!

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