Well, now, what an fascinating book this was! The mystery and intrigue begin straight away in the prologue, and segue neatly into a semi-biographical, semi fictional account of a strange affair and a Gothic obsession; a case of mistaken identity, a desire for celebrity, and a life morbidly tainted with failure and bitterness.
There is truth in this fiction. The book arises from a short story, published in 1819 and called ‘The Vampyre’, which was written by Byron’s physician, John Polidori, and published without his permission and with a strong suggestion that it was in fact a work by Lord Byron, who at the time had the celebrity status of Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt. Polidori was at the Villa Diodeti in the summer of 1816 with Byron and the Shelley’s, and during a wet week, confined to the house, the party began telling – and writing – ghost stories, the most famous of which these days is of course Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’.
This portrait of George Gordon, Lord Byron, by Thomas Phillips, hangs in the National Gallery in London… and this is John Polidori…
Spot the resemblance? And that, my friends, is the basis for the fictional element of this book – a young woman, Eliza, sees Polidori from a distance, mistakes him for Byron, and falls in love with him. Polidori, bruised by his dismissal from Byron’s service, wounded by the fact that no-one will believe he was the author of ‘The Vampyre’, and, basically now penniless, yearns for the status, recognition and accomplishments of Byron, and goes along with Eliza’s error…and no, it doesn’t end well!
It is a very clever book, one of those that pops up in your mind well after you have finished it – particularly because it is so firmly rooted in fact. Well written, and with some lovely lines – ‘Eliza said…that whenever she saw a pretty woman, all she could think of was the self-control and sheer graft that went into her appearance’.
Mum read this in 2008, a year after it was first published – I have really enjoyed it, and now, it’s looking for a new home, so, if you would like Mum’s copy, please get in touch either here or through the Instagram or Facebook pages – or click the link below to find this on Amazon.
Some info about John Polidori, who died aged 25, can be found here… https://www.wikiwand.com/en/John_William_Polidori
Amazon link to purchase a copy…