Walking down Great Pulteney Street you’ll see a blue plaque commemorating John William Polidori, poet and novelist and author of what is thought to be the first published story about vampires, The Vampyre. He was born and died at number 38.
He was the eldest son of an Italian political émigré and an English governess, Anna Marie Pierce. His sister, Frances, married the exiled Italian philosopher Gabriele Rossetti, so Polidori was the uncle of the Pre-Raphaelites Dante Gabriele and William Michael Rossetti, and their sister, the poet Christina, though they were all born after his death. Polidori studied medicine at Edinburgh University, where he wrote his thesis on sleepwalking, and for a time he was Lord Byron’s personal physician. Legend has it that he was inspired to write The Vampyre on the same evening that Mary Shelley was inspired to write Frankenstein. ‘We will all write a ghost story,’ announced Lord Byron and it was indeed a dark and stormy night as they sheltered from thunder storms at his home, Villa Diodata, on Lake Geneva.
John William Polidori (1795-1821)
Polidori died in 1821 after long bouts of depression and considerable gambling debts.
In 1828 The Vampyre was turned into an opera in two acts by Heinrich Marschner. Apparently it was quite a hit.