article is a slightly revised chapter from Reflections on Dracula,
published by Transylvania Press in 1997. Sections of the chapter were
previously published by Greenwood Press in Visions of the Fantastic
| I considered
the being whom I had cast among mankind, and endowed with the will
and power to effect purposes of horror - my own vampire. (Mary
Shelley, Frankenstein, 73)
ALTHOUGH THE MODERN pairing of Dracula
and Frankensteins Monster is primarily a function of their partnership
on the silver screen, our favourite monsters have enjoyed a long and
fascinating relationship. Their origins can be traced to the famous
literary gathering on the shores of Lake Geneva. The story is well known.
In the summer of 1816, Lord Byron and his doctor, John Polidori, were
residing at the Villa Diodati where they were visited by Percy Shelley,
Mary Godwin (who would soon become Mary Shelley) and Claire Claremont.
One evening, after a collective reading of ghost stories, Byron suggested
that each member of the party write a story of their own. Two tales
that changed the face of Gothic fiction were inspired by this challenge.
Mary Shelley began Frankenstein, while Byron wrote a fragment
about a nobleman named Augustus Darvell who contrives to return from
the dead. Later that year, Polidori used his employers unfinished
work as the basis of a novella: Lord Ruthven -- who bears an intentional
resemblance to the notorious Lord Byron -- is a jaded, charismatic nobleman
who must feed upon the blood of the living in order to continue his
unnatural existence. Polidoris creation became the prototype for
most subsequent literary vampires, ranging from Count Dracula to Lestat.
Both Frankenstein and The Vampyre were initially
ascribed to different authors. The fact that the first edition of Frankenstein
was published anonymously led many readers to assume that it had been
written by Percy Shelley. The story of the debut of The Vampyre
is more dramatic. When it appeared in The New Monthly Magazine on
1 April 1819, it carried the by-line A Tale by Lord Byron.
Polidori was outraged and Byron tried, unsuccessfully, to disassociate
himself from it. The Vampyre was an immediate and phenomenal
success. Five more editions were published in London, and it was translated
into French and Italian. There is little doubt that the success of Polidoris
story was due to the fact that most people believed it had been written
by his employer; even Goethe considered it Byrons best work.
The first adaptation of The Vampyre appeared in 1820 with
Cyprien Bérards novel, Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires.
This novel was rumoured to have been written by Charles Nodier, who
eventually wrote his own version, the influential drama Le Vampire,
a play that initiated the first vampire craze. By June of
1820, three vampire plays were running simultaneously in Paris theatres.
In the same year, James Robinson Planchés The Vampire;
or, The Bride of the Isles, an adaptation of Nodiers play
with a Scottish setting, appeared on the London stage. Other versions
of Polidoris story were popular for years to come.
The first adaptation of Frankenstein was a three-act opera by
R. B. Peake titled Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein
(1823). It featured an inarticulate monster and an assistant named Fritz,
and included the line It lives! It lives. In The Frankenstein
Legend, Donald F. Glut suggests that no attempt had been made to
adapt the novel before this because Percy Shelley was too controversial
to have a novel even suspected of being of his authorship presented
on the stage (28). But by 1823, Percy had died and Mary had been
acknowledged as the author. She eventually attended a performance of
the play, and commented that she was much amused and it appeared
to excite a breathless eagerness in the audience (quoted in Glut,
Legend, 32). A second adaptation opened the same year, as did
a trio of comedic versions. In 1826, new versions were staged in London
link between The Vampyre and Frankenstein is that
Peter Thomas Cooke, who played the title role in The Vampyre
at the Theatre Royale in 1820, was also the first actor to play the
Frankenstein Monster in the London staging of Presumption. In
fact, in 1826 a theatre-goer in London could take in a double bill and
be treated to both monsters. It was only a matter of time before both
fiends appeared in the same production. The Devil Among the Players
(1826), which was based on the story of Frankenstein, included a vampire.
By the time the monsters co-starred in Frankenstein; or The Vampires
Victim in 1849, the link between them had been inexorably forged.
The most famous vampire novel of the mid-nineteenth century, Varney
the Vampyre, was originally serialized as a penny-dreadful
and was reprinted as a novel in 1847 (the year of Bram Stokers
birth). Although this pot-boiler is indebted to Polidori (there is even
a minor character named Count Pollidori), it also contains
echoes of Frankenstein. Sir Francis Varneys revival by
moonlight reflects Mary Shelleys hints of galvanism, while the
scene in which a disillusioned Varney leaps into Mount Vesuvius is a
melodramatic echo of Frankenstein. The Model Man, a stage
play in which the Frankenstein monster and a vampire are tracked to
the Arctic, appeared in 1887, just three years before Bram Stoker started
working on Dracula.
Although Count Dracula has replaced both Lord Ruthven and Sir Francis
Varney as the vampire of choice, the vampires association with
Frankenstein has continued. In the early days of motion pictures, both
novels were adapted as films: Edison produced Frankenstein in
1910 and Murnaus Nosferatu was released in 1922. Hamilton
Deane, who appeared as the Monster in Peggy Webling's adaptation of
Frankenstein, wrote the definitive theatrical adaptation of Dracula
in 1924. Over the next few years, both monsters became permanent parts
of his travelling repertoire. This was the beginning of a formula that
would continue to capture the public imagination for the rest of the
twentieth century. John Balderston, who rewrote Deanes play for
the Broadway production of 1927 (and whose text formed the basis of
Universals Dracula) also adapted Weblings Frankenstein
for Universals production of 1931. When these movies were re-released
as a double bill in 1938, they broke all box office records.