John Polidori MD

John William Polidori MD (1795 - 1821)

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John William Polidori MD
Born in London, Englandmap
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[children unknown]
Died in London, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 19 Oct 2014
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Categories: British Novelists | Nominated Profiles | Suicides | Notables.

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John William Polidori, M.D.

John William Polidori, M.D.[1] authored the The Vampyre. The publication is considered the first modern vampire story.

Early Life

John was born 07 September 1795.[1] The son of an Italian political refugee,[2] and Ms. Pierce,[1] an English governess, John studied to become a doctor and was fascinated by the darker side of medicine.[2]


After receiving a degree from Ampleford in Yorkshire, John studied medicine at Edinburgh. By 19, he was an M.D.[1] His thesis was about somnambulism.[2]


Soon after, John became Lord Byron's physician, and the two traveled abroad.[1] At the Villa Diodati, on the shores of Lake Geneva, they met poet Shelley, his wife to be Mary Godwin, and her step sister/companion, Claire Clairmont. That night, the group told ghost stories, famously leading to the creation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and John's The Vampyre (1819).[2]

John often lacks credit, but he strongly influenced Frankenstein, by talking about reanimation of the dead, and his medical knowledge at the villa.[2]

In The Vampire, John's main character, Lord Ruthven, is the first vampire to be portrayed as an attractive and mysterious aristocrat. Based on Byron himself, Ruthven is also the first English vampire.

The Vampyre went on to inspire Bram Stoker's Dracula,[2] but John also wrote prose, drama, and other works.[1]

After leaving Byron's service in 1816, John returned to London to work as a doctor in Norwich. But he gave up medicine to study for the Bar.[1]


In August of 1821, John committed suicide four months after lodging formal complaints with publications that wrongly credited Byron for The Vampyre.[1] He poisoned himself with prussic acid,[1] in his house in Soho, two weeks before his 26th birthday.[2]

John's death was reported in The Traveller,[3] and The New Times.[4] But sadly, the verdict of the corner's jury said it was due to, "death by the visitation of God," ... without demanding any evidence.[1]

His grave was later disinterred. As one of 7000, it was removed for a late-19th century railway.[2]


The uncle of the artistic Rossetti siblings, John lacked respect and recognition during his lifetime. But this is turning around, since he is the one who created vampires as we know them today.[2]


  • Audio Book (Libravox). The Vampyre. Youtube


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 The diary of Dr. John William Polidori 1816 relating to Byron, Shelley, etc. (1911). William Michael Rosettin, ed. London: Elkin Matthews.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8
  3. Mon evening. 27 Aug 1821.
  4. Tue 11 Sep 1821.


"John William Polidori," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed October 19, 2014.

Stephen, Sir Leslie, ed. Dictionary of National Biography, 1921–1922. (Vol 1–20, 22) London: Oxford Univ Press.

John William Polidori
b. 7 Sep 1795 London
d. Aug 1821 London
Father: Gaetano Polidori

UK and Ireland, Find A Grave Index, 1300s-Current about John William Polidori. 2012.

John William Polidori
Birth: 7 Sep 1795 Soho, Greater London
Death: 24 Aug 1821 Soho, Greater London
Cemetery: St Pancras Old Church Churchyard
Burial or Cremation Place: St Pancras, London Borough of Camden, Greater London

Biography Index. A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines. See volumes:

  • Vol 8: Sep 1967-Aug 1970. NY: H.W. Wilson Co., 1971. (BioIn 8)
John William Polidori (1795-1821)
  • Vol 15: Sep 1986-Aug 1988. NY: H.W. Wilson Co., 1988. (BioIn 15)
  • Vol 17: Sep 1990-Au 1992. NY: H.W. Wilson Co., 1992. (BioIn 17)
  • Vol 18: Sep 1992-Aug 1993. NY: H.W. Wilson Co., 1993. (BioIn 18)

Continuum Encyclopedia of British Literature. Steven R. Serafin and Valerie Grosvenor Myer, ed. NY: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003. (ContEnBL)

Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol 116: British Romantic Novelists, 1789-1832. Bradford K. Mudge, ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. (DcLB 116)

Bio contains portrait.

Dictionary of National Biography. The Concise Dictionary. Part 1, From the beginnings to 1900. London: Oxford Univ Press, 1953.

Bio abstracts found in Dictionary of National Biography (21 volumes, NY: Macmillan Co.; London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1908). (DcNaB)

New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. Five volumes. George Watson, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press, 1969-1977.

Use index in Vol 5 to locate entries. (NewCBEL)

Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. Criticism of the works of novelists, poets, playwrights, short story writers, philosophers, and other creative writers who died between 1800 and 1899, from the first published critical appraisals to current evaluations. Vol 51. Detroit: Gale Research, 1996. (NinCLC 51)

Bio contains portrait.

Oxford Companion to English Literature. Margaret Drabble, ed. (6th ed.) Oxford: Oxford Univ Press, 2000. (OxCEng 6)

Oxford Companion to English Literature. Margaret Drabble, ed. (revised 6th ed.) Oxford: Oxford Univ Press, 2006. (OxCEng 6R)

Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. Jack Sullivan, ed. NY: Viking Penguin, 1986. (PenEncH)

Reginal, R. Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. A checklist, 1700-1974. (Vol 1.) Detroit: Gale Research, 1979. (ScF&FL 1)

Short Story Criticism. Criticism of the works of short fiction writers. (Vol 97.) Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2007. (ShSCr 97)

St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, & Gothic Writers. David Pringle, ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1998. (SJGHorW)

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On 20 Oct 2014 at 17:35 GMT Matt Pryber wrote:

according to Wikipedia. he was the the oldest son of Gaetano Polidori, an Italian political émigré scholar, and Anna Maria Pierce.

His sister Frances Polidori married exiled Italian scholar Gabriele Rossetti, and thus John was the uncle of Maria Francesca Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti and Christina Rossetti, though they were born after his death.

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