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The Poet and the Vampyre: The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature's Greatest Monsters

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Love affairs, literary rivalries, and the supernatural collide in an inspired journey to Lake Geneva, where Byron, the Shelleys, and John Polidori come together to create literature’s greatest monsters
In the spring of 1816, Lord Byron was the greatest poet of his generation and the most famous man in Britain, but his personal life was about to erupt. Fleeing his celebrity, notoriety, and debts, he sought refuge in Europe, taking his young doctor with him. As an inexperienced medic with literary aspirations of his own, Doctor John Polidori could not believe his luck.

That summer another literary star also arrived in Geneva. With Percy Bysshe Shelley came his lover, Mary, and her step-sister, Claire Clairmont. For the next three months, this party of young bohemians shared their lives, charged with sexual and artistic tensions. It was a period of extraordinary creativity: Mary Shelley started writing Frankenstein, the gothic masterpiece of Romantic fiction; Byron completed Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, his epic poem; and Polidori would begin The Vampyre, the first great vampire novel.

It was also a time of remarkable drama and emotional turmoil. For Byron and the Shelleys, their stay by the lake would serve to immortalize them in the annals of literary history. But for Claire and Polidori, the Swiss sojourn would scar them forever.

From Publishers Weekly

Jun 16, 2014 – Stott's chronicle of Lord Byron and his circle concerns itself exhaustively with their itineraries and entanglements less so with their literary works. In 1816, following the collapse of "Byromania" in the wake of his broken marriage, Byron crosses the Channel in the company of his physician, John Polidori. While abroad, the poet and the doctor encounter Percy Bysshe Shelley, Shelley's wife-to-be, Mary Godwin, and Mary's stepsister, Claire Clairmont. The party lingers in picturesque spots, and readers learn of their erotic intrigues and the jostling of their Romantic egos; the momentous literary consequences of their European vacation, however, receive less consideration. The novels Frankenstein and The Vampyre, written by Mary Shelley and Polidori respectively, were prompted by the "ghost story contest" set by Byron one night in Geneva. Stott (The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi) observes this occasion and gives updates on the drafting processes and practicalities of publication (or, in Polidori's case, piracy), but his discussion of the novels themselves, which gave birth to "literature's greatest monsters," is cursory. Though the book successfully draws attention to two figures Polidori and Clairmont who have been overshadowed by their more illustrious companions, it can scarcely be described as literary scholarship. As a popular history, however, it's certainly engaging. 16 pages of color and b&w photos.

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The Poet and the Vampyre: The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature's Greatest Monsters
View in iTunes
  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Sep 15, 2014
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books
  • Seller: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
  • Print Length: 464 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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