The Vampyre Family: Passion, Envy, and the Curse of Byron

Written by Andrew McConnell Stott
Review by Claire Cowling

In the spring of 1816, Lord Byron’s refuge from notoriety in Geneva, together with a young doctor, John Polidori, coincided with that of the poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, his lover Mary and Mary’s step-sister, Claire Clairmont. This visit to Geneva, and the months that followed, was integral to the production of a number of important literary works, and has been the subject of much speculation, rumour and even a horror film.

This is a very reader-friendly book, suitable for those who wish to transcend the myth of Byron and his cohort and become acquainted with, not just the respective stories of Byron and the Shelleys, but of the tragic course of events for the ‘lesser players’ in their lives – John Polidori and Claire Clairmont.

What is particularly appealing here is the manner in which the author relays certain biographical ‘given’ details, only to trump the evidence by a scathing logicality which serves to disrupt our belief in the accepted evidence. After all, we know that words can be manipulated for a variety of reasons, and none least than to veil truth, which the author reveals adroitly. It is highly recommended.