14 March 2010
Vampires have long held a fascination for us. Their popularity rose in the eighteenth century when the vampire legends of Eastern Europe became known to Western Europe. These mythological creatures that overcame death by sucking the blood from their sleeping victims were romanticized in the nineteenth century. Beginning with the short story The Vampyre by writer and physician John William Polidori (1795 – 1821), the vampire evolved in English literature from a folkloric to an aristocratic being. Polidori, the son of an Italian émigré scholar and an English governess, was the personal doctor of Lord Byron during a trip through Europe. While staying at TheVilla Diodati in Lake Geneva they were joined by Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and her fiancé Percy Bysshe Shelley. It was during this Year Without a Summer while forced inside by bad weather they shared ghost stories and laudanum. Mary Shelly would go on to write Frankenstein, Polidori who was paintedby F.G. Gainsford was not as successful. He died at the age of twenty-six an apparent suicide. He would never know his extremely talented niece and nephews: Christina Georgina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and William Michael Rossetti. Christina is remembered for her haunting poetry, Dante and William for their contributions to the Pre-Raphaelites. Sir Philip Burne-Jones, 2nd Baronet (1861–1926), son of Pre-Raphaeliteartist Sir Edward Burne-Jones painted a female vampire attacking an unconscious man. Whereas Henry Fuseli (1741–1825) painted a sleeping woman succumbing to her own vampiric nightmares.