The vampyre; a tale, p.1
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The Vampyre; a Tale


  THE

  VAMPYRE;

  A Tale.

  By John William Polidori

  LONDON

  PRINTED FOR SHERWOOD, NEELY, AND JONES

  PATERNOSTER ROW

  1819

  [Entered at Stationers' Hall, March 27, 1819]

  Gillet, Printer, Crown Court, Fleet Street, London.

  EXTRACT OF A LETTER

  FROM GENEVA. ______________

  "I breathe freely in the neighbourhood of this lake; the ground uponwhich I tread has been subdued from the earliest ages; the principalobjects which immediately strike my eye, bring to my recollectionscenes, in which man acted the hero and was the chief object ofinterest. Not to look back to earlier times of battles and sieges,here is the bust of Rousseau--here is a house with an inscriptiondenoting that the Genevan philosopher first drew breath under itsroof. A little out of the town is Ferney, the residence of Voltaire;where that wonderful, though certainly in many respects contemptible,character, received, like the hermits of old, the visits of pilgrims,not only from his own nation, but from the farthest boundaries ofEurope. Here too is Bonnet's abode, and, a few steps beyond, the houseof that astonishing woman Madame de Stael: perhaps the first of hersex, who has really proved its often claimed equality with, the noblerman. We have before had women who have written interesting novels andpoems, in which their tact at observing drawing-room characters hasavailed them; but never since the days of Heloise have those facultieswhich are peculiar to man, been developed as the possible inheritanceof woman. Though even here, as in the case of Heloise, our sex havenot been backward in alledging the existence of an Abeilard in theperson of M. Schlegel as the inspirer of her works. But to proceed:upon the same side of the lake, Gibbon, Bonnivard, Bradshaw, andothers mark, as it were, the stages for our progress; whilst upon theother side there is one house, built by Diodati, the friend of Milton,which has contained within its walls, for several months, that poetwhom we have so often read together, and who--if human passions remainthe same, and human feelings, like chords, on being swept by nature'simpulses shall vibrate as before--will be placed by posterity in thefirst rank of our English Poets. You must have heard, or the ThirdCanto of Childe Harold will have informed you, that Lord Byron residedmany months in this neighbourhood. I went with some friends a few daysago, after having seen Ferney, to view this mansion. I trod the floorswith the same feelings of awe and respect as we did, together, thoseof Shakespeare's dwelling at Stratford. I sat down in a chair of thesaloon, and satisfied myself that I was resting on what he had madehis constant seat. I found a servant there who had lived with him;she, however, gave me but little information. She pointed out hisbed-chamber upon the same level as the saloon and dining-room, andinformed me that he retired to rest at three, got up at two, andemployed himself a long time over his toilette; that he never went tosleep without a pair of pistols and a dagger by his side, and that henever ate animal food. He apparently spent some part of every day uponthe lake in an English boat. There is a balcony from the saloon whichlooks upon the lake and the mountain Jura; and I imagine, that it musthave been hence, he contemplated the storm so magnificently describedin the Third Canto; for you have from here a most extensive view ofall the points he has therein depicted. I can fancy him like thescathed pine, whilst all around was sunk to repose, still waking toobserve, what gave but a weak image of the storms which had desolatedhis own breast.

  The sky is changed!--and such a change; Oh, night! And storm and darkness, ye are wond'rous strong, Yet lovely in your strength, as is the light Of a dark eye in woman! Far along From peak to peak, the rattling crags among, Leaps the lire thunder! Not from one lone cloud, But every mountain now hath found a tongue, And Jura answers thro' her misty shroud, Back to the joyous Alps who call to her aloud!

  And this is in the night:--Most glorious night! Thou wer't not sent for slumber! let me be A sharer in thy far and fierce delight,-- A portion of the tempest and of me! How the lit lake shines a phosphoric sea, And the big rain comet dancing to the earth! And now again 'tis black,--and now the glee Of the loud hills shakes with its mountain mirth, As if they did rejoice o'er a young; earthquake's birth,

  Now where the swift Rhine cleaves his way between Heights which appear, as lovers who have parted In haste, whose mining depths so intervene, That they can meet no more, tho' broken hearted; Tho' in their souls which thus each other thwarted, Love was the very root of the fond rage Which blighted their life's bloom, and then departed-- Itself expired, but leaving; them an age Of years all winter--war within themselves to wage.

  I went down to the little port, if I may use the expression, whereinhis vessel used to lay, and conversed with the cottager, who had thecare of it. You may smile, but I have my pleasure in thus helping mypersonification of the individual I admire, by attaining to theknowledge of those circumstances which were daily around him. I havemade numerous enquiries in the town concerning him, but can learnnothing. He only went into society there once, when M. Pictet took himto the house of a lady to spend the evening. They say he is a verysingular man, and seem to think him very uncivil. Amongst other thingsthey relate, that having invited M. Pictet and Bonstetten to dinner,he went on the lake to Chillon, leaving a gentleman who travelled withhim to receive them and make his apologies. Another evening, beinginvited to the house of Lady D---- H----, he promised to attend,but upon approaching the windows of her ladyship's villa, andperceiving the room to be full of company, he set down his friend,desiring him to plead his excuse, and immediately returned home. Thiswill serve as a contradiction to the report which you tell me iscurrent in England, of his having been avoided by his countrymen onthe continent. The case happens to be directly the reverse, as he hasbeen generally sought by them, though on most occasions, apparentlywithout success. It is said, indeed, that upon paying his first visitat Coppet, following the servant who had announced his name, he wassurprised to meet a lady carried out fainting; but before he had beenseated many minutes, the same lady, who had been so affected at thesound of his name, returned and conversed with him a considerabletime--such is female curiosity and affectation! He visited Coppetfrequently, and of course associated there with several of hiscountrymen, who evinced no reluctance to meet him whom his enemiesalone would represent as an outcast.

  Though I have been so unsuccessful in this town, I have been morefortunate in my enquiries elsewhere. There is a society three or fourmiles from Geneva, the centre of which is the Countess of Breuss, aRussian lady, well acquainted with the agremens de la Societe, and whohas collected them round herself at her mansion. It was chiefly here,I find, that the gentleman who travelled with Lord Byron, asphysician, sought for society. He used almost every day to cross thelake by himself, in one of their flat-bottomed boats, and return afterpassing the evening with his friends, about eleven or twelve at night,often whilst the storms were raging in the circling summits of themountains around. As he became intimate, from long acquaintance, withseveral of the families in this neighbourhood, I have gathered fromtheir accounts some excellent traits of his lordship's character,which I will relate to you at some future opportunity. I must,however, free him from one imputation attached to him--of having inhis house two sisters as the partakers of his revels. This is, likemany other charges which have been brought against his lordship,entirely destitute of truth. His only companion was the physician Ihave already mentioned. The report originated from the followingcircumstance: Mr. Percy Bysshe Shelly, a gentleman well known forextravagance of doctrine, and for his daring, in their profession,even to sign himself with the title of ATHeos in the Album atChamouny, having taken a house below, in which he resided with Miss M.W. Godwin and Miss Clermont, (the daughters of the celebrated Mr.Godwin) they were frequently visitors at Diodati, and were often seenupon the lake with his Lordship, which gave rise to the report, thetruth of which is here positively denied.

  Among other things which the lady, from whom I procured theseanecdotes, related to me, she mentioned the outline of a ghost storyby Lord Byron. It appears that one evening Lord B., Mr. P. B. Shelly,the two ladies and the gentleman before alluded to, after havingperused a German work, which was entitled Phantasmagoriana, beganrelating ghost stories; when his lordship having recited the beginningof Christabel, then unpublished, the whole took so strong a hold ofMr. Shelly's mind, that he suddenly started up and ran out of theroom. The physician
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