Up a dark alley, 1753 – 1857 – The quiet years Part 2


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_VampireVarney 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, The Vampire, 1853

 Français : Le Stryge                English: The Vampire             Date: 1853

 Medium           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.”  [Link]

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,_The_Vampire inscription 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.

IMG_1756 Wiertz

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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