Up a dark alley: 1753 to 1857 – The quiet years

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This work is an essay/article for history buffs and for that, again, I make no apology, in fact it’s aimed at vampire history buffs in particular and, more widely, anyone who has an interest in the “modernity” of the aesthetic of the vampire. I offer to take you on a trip that will be at once both familiar and unknown. I don’t proclaim this to be “scientific”, I don’t proclaim it to be anything other than a fact, information gathering and data presentation thing but the one thing I have believed for my whole life, since as early as I could form a rational and inquisitive focus is that the whole of humankind, and yes I’m including us, has lost something vital and important; some piece of knowledge, some sort of key that opens the lock to “much more than is dreamed of in our philosophies”, our Vampire philosophies and the search for that key is as important and as integral to who and what we are and where we came from, how we came to be, as any of the accumulated information we currently have. Of course, finding a key is only the first part of the dilemma, the real cruncher comes in trying to find the lock it opens.


This article series is, as I mentioned in the preface to “Up a dark alley 1858 to 1963”, not going to be arguing any of the myriad points of the “why and wherefore” that have been dissected, stitched together, re-dissected, had the internal organs scrutinized before being re-sewn back together… you get my point I hope? No, this article series is to educate on some of the lesser known “lights” in the proverbial darkness.

Seriously, as an old high school history master of mine once remarked, “Open your eyes, history is rich and exciting and intoxicating and she makes a wild mistress.”   (c.a. 1974)

Imagine you’re in a strange town, my town and I am your guide.

Using that as a starting point the most sensible first step is to review the historical events of the time period we are considering.

World Vampcentric Timeline 1753 – 1857


Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary is first published and The Great earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal kills over 60,000 people.


France loses its North American colonies.


Sees the beginning of the British Empire in India.


Voltaire’s Candide and Haydn’s Symphony No. 1 are completed.


Catherine II (“the Great”) becomes czarina of Russia.


Watt’s Steam Engine
(Img. source: History Rundown.com)

James Watt invents the steam engine.


Sir William Arkwright patents a spinning machine


Joseph Priestley and Daniel Rutherford independently discover nitrogen.

The Partitioning of Poland begins. (in 1772, 1793, and 1795, Austria, Prussia, and Russia divide the land and people of Poland between themselves effectively ending its independence.)


In the U.S. the Boston Tea Party takes place.


In the U.S., the First Continental Congress drafts the “Declaration of Rights and Grievances.”


The American Revolution begins with battles of Lexington and Concord.

Priestley discovers hydrochloric and sulfuric acids.


The U.S. Declaration of Independence is released.


Capt. James Cook discovers Hawaii.


Immanuel Kant’s, “Critique of Pure Reason is published.


Beethoven’s first printed works are published.


Crimea is annexed by Russia.


The Constitution of the United States is signed.


Pierre Simon marquis de Laplace

Pierre Laplace’s work entitled, “Laws of the Planetary System“, is released.


The French Revolution begins with the storming of the Bastille.

In the U.S. George Washington is elected President.


Aloisio Galvani experiments on electrical stimulation of the muscles.

Lavoisier formulates the Table of 31 chemical elements.


The U.S. Bill of Rights is ratified.


Mary Wollstonecraft’s “Vindication of the Rights of Woman” is published.

(Img. source: bridgesummit.com)


Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are executed in France.

Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin.


A French general named Napoléon Bonaparte defeats the Austrian Army.

Edward Jenner introduces the smallpox vaccination.


The first mention of vampires in English literature appears in Robert Southey’s monumental oriental epic poem “Thalaba the Destroyer“.

A German poem exploring the subject of the interactions between the living and the dead is published, it contains a prominent vampiric element, and was entitled “The Bride of Corinth” (by Goethe), it tells the tale of a young woman who returns from the grave to seek her betrothed

Excerpt (translated by Edgar Alfred Bowring)

From my grave to wander I am forc’d

Still to seek The God’s long-sever’d link,

Still to love the bridegroom I have lost,

And the life-blood of his heart to drink;

When his race is run,

 I must hasten on,

And the young must ‘neath my vengeance sink.”



Napoleon extends French conquests to Rome and Egypt.


The Rosetta Stone is discovered in Egypt.


The tale “Wake Not the Dead” (aka The Bride of the Grave) is published and although it is attributed to Johann Ludwig Tieck, it may actually have been by Ernst Raupach. The tale was translated into English in 1823.

Napoleon conquers Italy and firmly establishes himself as First Consul in France. D.C.

Robert Owen’s social reforms are established in England.

Alessandro Volta produces electricity.


The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is established with one monarch and one parliament however, Catholics are excluded from voting.


Napoleon transforms the Consulate of France into an empire, proclaims himself emperor of France, systematises French law under Code Napoleon.

The Lewis and Clark expedition begins exploration of what is now northwest U.S.


Lord Nelson defeats the French-Spanish fleets in the Battle of Trafalgar. Napoleon is victorious over Austrian and Russian forces at the Battle of Austerlitz.


Robert Fulton makes first successful steamboat trip on Clermont between New York City and Albany.


In the U.S., Congress bars importation of slaves.

Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies are performed for the first time.


(Img. source: newscientist.com)

The common vampire bat was first classified as Phyllostoma rotundum by Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.

Reports of sheep being killed, by having their jugular veins cut and their blood drained, circulate throughout northern England.


Napoleon’s Grand Army invades Russia in June. Forced to retreat in winter, most of Napoleon’s 600,000 men are lost.


The poem “The Giaour” , is published. In this poem, it is held, that Byron demonstrated his familiarity with the Greek vampiric being the Vrykolakas.

Excerpt from, “The Giaour“…

But first, on earth as vampire sent,

Thy corpse shall from its tomb be rent:

Then ghastly haunt thy native place,

And suck the blood of all thy race;


There from thy daughter, sister, wife,

At midnight drain the stream of life;

Yet loathe the banquet which perforce

Must feed thy livid living corpse:


Thy victims ere they yet expire

Shall know the demon for their sire,

As cursing thee, thou cursing them,

Thy flowers are withered on the stem.”



The French are defeated by allies (Britain, Austria, Russia, Prussia, Sweden, and Portugal) in War of Liberation. Napoleon is exiled to the island of Elba, off the Italian coast.

George Stephenson builds first practical steam locomotive.


Napoleon returns from exile and the “Hundred Days” conflict begins. Napoleon is defeated by Wellington at Waterloo.


(Img. source: Paula Cappa WordPress)

Generally regarded as being a pivotal point in the genre of Vampire fiction, Dr. John Polidori’s “The Vampyre: A tale“, is published. It is widely held that Byron’s own wild life became the model for Polidori’s undead protagonist.

Vampirismus“; a section in “Die Erzählungen der Serapionsbrüder” by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann appears.

Simón Bolívar liberates New Granada (now Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador) as Spain loses its hold on the South American countries.


An unauthorized sequel to Polidori’s tale by Cyprien Bérard is published called “Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires“. The work is often erroneously attributed to Charles Nodier. Nodier himself adapted “The Vampyre” into the first vampire stage melodrama, “Le Vampire“. Unlike Polidori’s original story, however, Nodier’s play was set in Scotland


Smarra, ou les Demons de la Nuit” (“Smarra, or Night of the Demons“) by Charles Nodier. (French Lit.)


Greece proclaims itself a republic and seeks independence from Turkey. Turks invade Greece. War ends and Brazil becomes independent of Portugal.

Schubert’s Eighth Symphony (“The Unfinished”) is played.


Hans of Iceland” by Victor Hugo is published.


Mexico becomes a republic, three years after declaring its independence from Spain. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is played.


La Vampire Ou La Vierge De Hongrie” (“The Vampire or The Hungarian Virgin“) by Étienne-Léon de Lamothe-Langon is published and though this is the commonly accepted date of release it may actually not have appeared until 1828.

The first passenger-carrying railroad in England begins operation.


Der Vampyre und seine Braut” (The Vampire and his Bride) by Spindler is published.

Joseph-Nicéphore Niepce takes the world’s first photograph.


La Guzla, ou Choix de Poesies Illyriques” by Prosper Merimee is, allegedly, an authentic collection of folklore but some reports have it that they are, in the majority, works of fiction by Merimee.

Der Vampyr” by Friederike Ellmenreich appears.


Regarded as a seminal point in vampire literature, Elizabeth Caroline Grey’s, “The Skeleton Count“, or “The Vampire Mistress” is published. It is widely believed to be the first vampire story published by a woman.

The story of this volume is that is actually a forgery supposedly published in the (fabricated) weekly paper “The Casket” in 1828, but “discovered” by Peter Haining before 1995. Continuing the fake pedigree, “It was later published in the US under the title “Lena Cameron; Or, The Four Sisters” (Philadelphia: T.B. Peterson & Bros., [ca. 1850]), and in the 1995 collection “The Vampire Omnibus“)

Der Vampyre, oder die Totenbraut” (The Vampyre and the Dead Bride) by Theodor Hildebrand.

Russia declares war on Turkey over Greece. Greece is also aided by France and Britain.


With the war of 1828-29 ending, the Turks recognize Greek independence.


Henry Steel Olcott, American religious leader, author and cofounder of the Theosophist movement, is born in Orange, N.J.


Slavery is abolished in the British Empire.


Babbage’s ‘Analytical Engine’
Photo: Rosa Menkman

Charles Babbage invents the “analytical engine,” the precursor of computers.


Lit. “Viy” by Nikolai Vasilevic Gogol.


The Dead Lover” (aka La Morte Amoureuse; Clarimonde, or The Beautiful Vampire; The Dead Woman in Love; The Dead Leman) by Theophile Gautier is published.

The Mexican army besieges Texans in Alamo and the entire garrison is wiped out. Texas gains independence from Mexico after winning Battle of San Jacinto.


young Queen Victoria
by Franz Xavier Winterhalter

Victoria becomes queen of Great Britain.


Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligeia” appears in “The Vampire Archives


The Family of the Vourdalak” (Sem’ya Vurdalaka) by Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy is published.


Der tote Gast” (The Dead Guest) by Zschokke is attributed to this year, again, however, it may actually have been published as late as 1869.

Lower and Upper Canada united.


The Vampire” (Upyr) by Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy appears.


Crawford Long uses first anesthetic (ether).


Samuel F. B. Morse patents the telegraph.


The Last of the Vampires” by Smyth Upton is published.

(Img. source: Wikipedia)

Edgar Allan Poe

(born Edgar Poe; January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849)

Edgar Allan Poe publishes The Raven and Other Poems.


Failure of the potato crop causes famine in Ireland.


Influential works of “literature” include the penny dreadful “Varney the Vampire“.

Abraham “Bram” Stoker, (died 1912) is born in Dublin, Ireland – Stoker was the author of Dracula, the key work in the development of the modern literary vampyre myth.


Vampyren” by Viktor Rydberg is published.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s Communist Manifesto appears.


Vincenzo Verzeni is born in Bettanuco, Bergamasco region. (In 1874 a court found Verzeni guilty of two murders; involving the “biting and sucking of the blood of his victims” and of the attempted murder of four more women.)

The Carpathian Mountains” (aka “The Pale Lady“) from “The Thousand and One Ghosts” (Les Mille et un Fantomes) by Alexandre Dumas & Paul Bocage is published. The original is French and translated into English for the chapter “The Thousand and One Ghosts” in The Vampire Omnibus

The California gold rush begins.


Alexandre Dumas, père re-dramatises the Bérard version of “Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires” (1820) in a play also entitled “Le Vampire“.


La Baronne Trépassée” (The Dead Baroness) by Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail is published. (It is translated in 2007 as, “The Vampire and the Devil’s Son” by Brian Stableford)

The South African Republic is established.


The Crimean War begins as Turkey declares war on Russia.


Nicholas I of Russia occupies the Danubian provinces of Turkey.

Baron von Haxthausen reports on the case of the Dakhanavar (Mythology; Armenia.) A vampire whom protected the hills and valleys around Mount Ararat in the Caucasians.

The case of vampirism in the Ray family of Jewett, Connecticut, is published in local newspapers.

Britain and France join Turkey in war on Russia.


So, dear reader, why do I call these The Quiet Years?

Predominantly I am looking at the lack of “vampire activity”, the actual incidences of cases of vampirism. The only, notable, reported event being the 1810 reports of sheep being killed by having their jugular veins cut and their blood drained, that circulated around northern England and the strange tale of the Ray Family of Connecticutt of 1854. Hardly the sort of thing that proves dominant and rampant vampire activity in any great measure.

Of course everybody was mostly pre-occupied with the great and far reaching changes that were shaking the known world. The Napoleonic Wars, the American Independence struggles, the French Revolution, the Crimean War, Victoria’s accession to the English throne and, overshadowing all of this, social reforms and the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

No, the vampire’s “quiet years” were dominated by the classical literary vampire, indeed, it seems as though even the art world had moved on, in the main, from the “vampire” image as a subject. The thing most influential in keeping the vampire firmly in the public consciousness was popular literature of the time.

The first mention of vampires in English literature appears in Robert Southey’s poem “Thalaba the Destroyer” (1797)

In the same year a poem exploring the subject of the living interacting with the dead, with a prominent vampiric element, was published, “The Bride of Corinth” (1797) by Goethe, was a tale in which a young bride returns from the dead seeking her betrothed.

In 1813 the poem “The Giaour”, was completed and published. In this poem, it is held, that Byron demonstrated his familiarity with the Greek vampiric being the Vrykolakas. This was followed, six years later, with the publication of Polidori’s “The Vampyre: A Tale” (1819) and it is widely believed that Byron’s wild life became the model for Polidori’s main character

In 1820 an unauthorized sequel to Polidori’s tale, by Cyprien Bérard, appeared entitled “Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires” and was, erroneously, attributed to Charles Nodier.

Nodier himself adapted “The Vampyre” into the first vampire stage melodrama, “Le Vampire“. Unlike Polidori’s original story however Nodier’s play was set in Scotland. Alexandre Dumas, père later re-dramatized the Bérard version in a play also entitled “Le Vampire“.

There were a number of other contributions during this period that were directly concerned with the belief, the archetype and the history and myth of the vampire. These, although perhaps not mainstream, would certainly have enhanced the role of the written word in continuing to make vampires more popular and ever more in demand amongst the readers of the period. Works such as Voltaire’s “Philosophical Dictionary” (1770 ), which includes an article on vampires and the 1820 work “Historie Des Vampires” by Collin de Plancy, introduced as, “A scarse and famous history of vampires“.

Amongst, and from within, all these popular influential works vampires suddenly came to the attention of the masses with the publication of the penny dreadful, “Varney the Vampire” in 1847. Stepping out of the shadows of high classical literature for the educated and savvy the vampire had, for the first time, hit the “mass media” market and it was just in time to play right into the hands of the rising interest in the occult and metaphysical fashions of the following years.

Varney the Vampire

In the main, fine art during this period of time was predominantly concerned with Romanticism and Impressionism and looking for vampires in that is like looking for needles in haystacks. I did come across one fine example of an art type of the period however. Charles Meryon’s “Le Stryge” (circa 1853) is an etching in brown ink on green laid paper; fifth state of ten. The etching shows one of the stone gargoyles projecting from a tower of Notre-Dame Cathedral. A flock of ravens circle in the air. The image was almost certainly inspired by Victor Hugo’s evocation of the medieval city in ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’ (1831), in which the writer describes a bird’s eye view from the cathedral towers.”

Now, at first glance we see a gargoyle, or rather, what we have come to regard as a gargoyle but I would draw your attention to the inscriptions made below the piece by the artist.

Meryon’s inscription at the base of the print proclaims

The insatiable vampire, eternal lust

 Forever coveting its food in the great city’.


Aside from this, and possibly one or two more minor works it seemed the whole motif in “dark” art had become entranced with the concept of the interactions between the living and the dead, between the living and “premature burial”, between the living and the inner psychopathology of the characters in the stories. In short, dear reader, there was a lot of morbid navel gazing going on. Incidentally, “L’Inhumation précipitée” by Wiertz , 1854, depicts a cholera victim awakening after being placed in a coffin.


1700–1799 (A.D.) World History | Infoplease.com




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