John Polidori

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John Polidori

John William Polidori (born September 7, 1795 in London , † August 24, 1821 there ) was an English writer and personal physician and travel companion of the poet Lord Byron .


John William Polidori was the eldest son of Gaetano Polidori , an Italian politician and scientist in exile, and Anna Maria Piere, an English governess . The couple had four sons and four daughters. His sister Frances Polidori married the scientist Gabriele Rossetti , who was also living in exile . John William Polidori is therefore the uncle of Maria Francesca Rossetti , Dante Gabriel Rossetti , William Michael Rossetti and Christina Rossetti . However, the children from this connection were all born after the death of John William Polidori.

John William Polidori was one of the first students of the then newly founded Ampleforth College and studied at the University of Edinburgh after 1810 . He received his doctorate there with a thesis on sleepwalking and received his doctorate in medicine on August 1, 1815 at the age of 19. From 1816 Polidori worked for Lord Byron as his personal physician and accompanied him on a trip through Europe. On Lake Geneva , the two met Percy Bysshe Shelley , his future wife Mary Godwin and her stepsister Claire Clairmont , among others . The never-ending rain forced the small company to stay at Villa Diodati for several days . The time was passed by talking about, among other things, the natural philosopher and poet Erasmus Darwin , who was said to have animated dead matter through experiments, as well as about galvanism and the possibility of creating artificial life. In front of the log fire in Lord Byron's mansion, people read horror stories to each other at night. Lord Byron finally suggested that everyone should contribute their own horror story for entertainment. Mary Godwin then designed the story of Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus ; Lord Byron began a story that Polidori later took as the basis of his own tale, The Vampyre , and expanded it further. With this, Polidori not only created the first vampire story in world literature , but also founded the type of modern vampire with the figure of Lord Ruthven , which still shapes the genre today. Last but not least, Anne Rice's gentleman vampires are inspired by Polidori.

After separating from Lord Byron, Polidori traveled to Italy and then returned to England. There the story was published in The New Monthly Magazine in April 1819, without Polidori's consent , and attributed to Byron. This is followed by the German translation Der Vampyr , published by Leopold Voss in Leipzig in 1819, with the subtitle “A story from the English of Lord Byron”. Both Polidori and Byron did their best to clear up the misrepresentation. The story remained the only literary work of Polidori published during his lifetime. His long poem, The Fall of the Angels , which was heavily influenced by Byron , did not appear until after his death in 1821. His sister-edited diaries appeared in 1911.

Polidori died under circumstances that were not entirely clear on August 24, 1821. Suffering from depression and under a heavy burden of gambling debts, Polidori may have committed suicide by ingesting hydrogen cyanide . However, it was officially announced at the time that he died of a natural cause.

The subject of contemporary novels is Polidori in The Cold Summer of Doctor Polidori by Reinhard Kaiser , in The Vampire by Tom Holland and in Lord Byron's Shadow by Federico Andahazi .

The Vampyre , 1819




Web links

Wikisource: John Polidori  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. The events of these nights are the basis of the film Gothic .