Pre-Dracula Vampire Characteristics Tracked Through Stories and Poems
These are the characteristics of vampires as they appear in poem and story pre-Dracula. They appear in order of publication. More will be added as I have time.
Heinrich August Ossenfelder : "Der Vampir" (1748) Poem
- Male vampire --
- Seeks one distinct woman's blood/life because she turned him down
- Drinks blood
- Vampire isn't slain at end.
You can read the poem at the Vintage Poetry homepage.
Gottfied August Bürger : "Lenore" (1773) Poem
This is actually a terrific poem to read. It has great internal rhyme, rhythm and sense!
- Male vampire -- soldier vampirized in Turkey during war
- Rides a black horse (this horse appears in story after story! There is a black horse in Revelations.
- Must be invited in and welcomed
- Goes after fiancé first
- Hates the chant of priests
- Sleeps in a coffin
- Must return to his coffin before dawn each morning.
- Will make her his "wife"
- Travels in a "the way I looked alive" guise which he
looses at cock's crow
- Vampire is "alive" at the end -- no slayer
I argue that the victim isn't vampirized at the poems end.
Hit this if you want to read the poem...
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe : "Die Braut von Korinth" (1797)[The Bride of Corinth] Poem
This is the link to the poem...
- First female vampire in English literature -- serves the 'old' gods (Roman pantheon)
- Wan [pale] lips and hands
- No heartbeat
- Cold body
- Won't accept the silver chalice of consecrated wine
- Takes a lock of his hair to work magic on
- Doesn't like prayers or chanting of priests (this is
another characteristic that appears countless times!
- Her white clothing is really her burial shroud
- Sleeps in her coffin
- Goes out only at night
- Water, salt or earth will keep her from her purpose
(finding her man)
- Left grave for fiancé's blood, after she finishes him off, anyone's will do.
- Drinks his blood from his breast, and the heat from his
- Will be destroyed by burning in coffin
- Burning them releases them to the old god's
- One assumes that mom will slay them
Samuel Taylor Coleridge : "Cristabel" (1798) Poem
Robert Southey : "Thalaba the Destroyer" (1800) Poem
The vampire has a walk-on appearance only.
"The Mysterious Stranger" Anonymous (1800) Poem (German)
Read the "Mysterious Stranger" here.
- Male vampire -- female victim
- He is high-born -- a Lord
- Pale and emaciated -- he flowers as his victim fades
- Drinks blood from throat
- Leaves vampire marks that don't seem to heal
- Unless the victim does the slaying, she must become a vampire
- Sleeps in his coffin
- Must return to coffin each night
- Can't appear in daylight
- Must be invited in
- Rude to everyone except his victim
- Travels in mist -- entering almost like a dream, which his victim imagines she has had.
- Is sorta slain: he is walled up after the ceremony: someone must say the creed while the victim hammer three nails into his coffin between sundown and actual dark. Then she must catch some of the blood that leaks from the coffin and smear it on the bite marks -- or she becomes a vampire.
John Stagg : "The Vampyre" (1810)
- Vampire can be either sex
- vampire sucks its friends or family dry and then the victim becomes a vampire as well
- killed, or prevented from leaving its coffin at night by being staked to the coffin or ground.
- First vampire infestation caused by demons inhabiting either an already dead human, or a demon occupying small bits of discarded human matter.
Lord Byron : "The Giaour" (1813)
Unusual religious bent, with the man becoming a vampire because he is a Christian infidel within a Muslim environment. He also:
- Drinks blood in order to remain alive
- Prefers the blood of his immediate family
- Lives in a graveyard
- Has a conscience!
- Is a night-dweller
- Is as unwelcome in Hell as he is in Heaven.
If you want to place the vampire section within the rest of the poem, the newest entry in The Supernatural Bookstore (left navigation bar) is a Study Guide for the poem.
Here is a sample of the Study Guide!
John Polidori: "The Vampyre" (1819) Story
For my money, this is a much better rendering than Byron's version upon which it is based. The vampire is both complex and interesting, and this story is as much about the battle of good against evil and a man's word being his bond, as it is about a vampire. (A complete study-guide for this poem will be available in my store along about Oct. 08)
To read the poem, hit this link.
Male vampire: Lord Ruthven
He understands human psychology and plays on it to get access to willing victims
- Goes after young innocent virginal females to ruin them
- Drinks their blood
- Must drink once a year
- Restored to "life" by being laid in the moonlight (first full moon of the month)
- Can be shot and it kills him, but it fails to "slay" him
- Vampire walks away winner
John Keats : "Lamia" (1819)
Sorry, not here yet!
Byron, Percy Lord. Fragment.
A complete study-guide for this poem will be available in my store along about Oct. 08!
- male vampire well, alomst. He never actually is shown as having risen -- high-born
- no victims
- we believe he will be reborn after death
J.R. Planche: (1820) The Vampire -- drama based on "The Vampyre"
- vampire sleeps day
John Keats : "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" (1820)
While decreed by critics as a vampire poem, I argue that this is really about a fairy inasmuch as it can't cross the iron threshold and enter/exits through the threshold of the oak-tree.
Johann Ludwig Tieck "Wake Not the Dead" (1823) Story
This is a truly interesting story. The vampire carries the same personality after death as she had before it!
Here are study notes for the story.
Female vampire -- lady of the manor.
- She doesn’t care about the age or sex of the victim.
- Pale complexion
- Cold -- both physically and emotionally
- She is called back via sorcery by the victim
- She drinks blood from the victim’s breast
- Uncomfortable in bright sunlight, but can endure it.
- Drinks blood at night only.
- To dispose of her, she must be staked, then beheaded, and never remembered.
Elizabeth Caroline Grey: The Skeleton Count, or The Vampire Mistress (1828) is a hard to find story. It offers:
- A female vampire
- Women and children victims
- A vampire created by sorcery
- She can go out in daylight
- Prefers to hunt for victims between 9:00 PM and Midnight
- Vampires can be killed by staking and burning
She is staked into her coffin, deteriorates, and is reburied.
- She is in a "natural" state when she is raised as a vampire, with "natural" meaning childlike/animal-like/unrestrained
Copies come and go. It may be found in a book called The Vampire Omnibus1857976843. It mostly ships out of the UK and I note the occasional copy on Amazon and Abe Books.
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: The Moral Immortal (1833)
There is no vampire in this novella. There is a young apprentice to a sorcerer who inadvertently drinks an immortality drink. Thereafter he is immortal, without needing to drink blood. Actually he’s quite a nice guy
Henry Liddell : "The Vampire Bride" (1833)
Théophile Gautier : "La Morte Amoureuse" (1836)
- female vampire
male priest is victim
- sleeps daytimes
Can enter churches
- offers eternal youth
Edgar Allan Poe: "Legeia" (1838)
- Female vampire
Very "learned" in just about all facets of human endeavors -- math, languages, history, theology, as though she has lived several lifetimes.
- Beautiful -- but not perfect -- face. She has just enough lack of symmetry to lend interest.
Big fawnlike eyes, with depths you could swim in framed by luscious long eyelashes and great eyebrows.
- tall, but well-build if emaciated
Refuses to die -- wills herself to live beyond death.
- no family extant
Takes over and changes the body of another woman (her husband's second wife).
- able to affect the real physical world from beyond grave to drop three drops of blood into the drink which kills Rowena (wife two).
Count Alexis Tolstoy: "The Vourdalak" (1840's published 1884):
- female vampire (Bertha) raised by sorcery, magic, and necromancy
- she has long dark hair, dark eyes, and a great body -- "livid" skin which becomes rosy after drinking
can function just fine in daylight
- drinks blood after dark-- between 9:00 and 12:00 PM
- doesn't eat regular food
- peasant stock
- drinks blood from neck
- needs no invite to enter
vampires can be killed by staking, beheading, then burning.
Bertha is staked through heart, placed back in her coffin, and reburied (consecrated ground)
Bertha's victims don't become vampire because they rub her blood on their wounds.
James Clerk Maxwell : "The Vampyre" (1845)
- Female vampire
- lives on a small boat which she lures her victims onto
- uses her feminine beauty and helpless appearance to ensnare her victim
- her victim for this poem is the man who "done her wrong."
- somehow able to prevent the man, who should recognize her, from doing so.
James Malcom Rymer: Varney the Vampyre:The Feast of Blood (1845) serial publication. I have the abridged version available for purchase and download in my store.
This link will take you to the free sample chapter of my modernized version.
Male vampire, female victim
- Prefers young beautiful innocent virginal victims
- Long sharp teeth
- Pale and more than a bit like a corpse walking
- Sir Francis Varney (high born?)
- Can be shot but it dosn't kill him
- Lying out in the full moon restores his life
Dresses in out-of-date fashion
"The Last Lords of Gardonal" (1867) William Gilbert
- female vampire
- husband only victim
can eat regular food as well as drink blood
raised by magic
can only be seen by moonlight
offers her husband eternal life (as she has it
"Vikram and the Vampire" (1870) Sir Richard F. Burton
vampires are spirits which possess souls of the dead so that they can continue to live. Once a year they need to kill someone and drink their blood in order to inhabit next body.
Sheridan Le Fanu "Carmilla" (1871) novella
This is a story well worth reading, even in the original language. There is a wealth of detail about vampires, especially the standard means for slaying them!
Lesbian Vampire female victims only, preferably young and virginal
She is a high-born lady
This will take you to the story. If you want the Study Guide for the text, visit our Book Store....
"The Horla" (1887) Guy De Muapassant
- a spirit
can be either male or female
requires invitation for entry
- sleeps daytime
propagates through possession
The Mystery of the Campagna (1887) Anne Crawford
- male victim
- sleeps in daytime
- staking is effective
"The Sad Story of a Vampire" (1894) Count Stenbock
- vampire sucks energy through touching a pulse point
- Needs invite into home
- Gains energy and bulk in direct proportion to its donor's / victim's weakening.
Good Lady Ducayne (1896) Mary Elizabeth Braddon
She is closer to a Elizabeth Bathory than our concept of vampires usually embraces. Science allows her to transfuse the blood of young females into her own veins in an attempt to become young and beautiful again.
Rudyard Kipling : "The Vampire" (1897)
Female vampire. Boy is this one indicative of masculine views of women at the time.She is:
- Totally self-involved
- Sucks blood, money, and emotions, and life from victim
- Her victim is a willing victim.
- Her victim ignores the warning of friends and family.
Kipling's Anti-Feminist Viewpoint
Traits of Dracula