The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature’s Greatest Monsters

71kBg-qSh3LMichael Dirda at the Washignton Post:

Friday night, at least a few vampires and Frankenstein monsters will knock on our doors even as old Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi films play once more in darkened family rooms. Some of us may even sit down to reread Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” or Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”

But how many people even know about John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” (1819), the first story in English about a magnetically charismatic aristocrat who acquires renewed vitality by preying thirstily on beautiful young women? While Polidori may call this fiend Lord Ruthven, he nonetheless obviously is modeled after the poet who was notoriously “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”: Lord Byron.

In “The Poet and the Vampyre­,” Andrew McConnell Stott, a professor of English at the University at Buffalo, has produced a learned, constantly entertaining and deliciously gossipy account of the erotic and personal entanglements that led up to, and away from, the most famous wet evening in Romantic literature: As the rain poured down outside the Villa Diodati in Switzerland on June 16, 1816, the restless, self-exiled Byron announced to a group of friends, “We will each write a ghost story.”

more here.