NPG 990 (1a)

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A biographical account by W.M. Rossetti of his uncle John Polidori, his mother Frances Rossetti and his sister Christina Rossetti, sent to Lionel Cust, the director of the National Portrait Gallery, on 29 August 1895.


I. John Wm Polidori (illegible), born in London towards 1796, died 1821. Was son of an English mother & of Gaetano Polidori, a Tuscan who came to England in 1790, after being secretary to the famous Tragedian Comte Alfieri: he taught Italian, & wrote & published (or printed privately) many things - Verse, translation of the whole of Milton's Poems etc. J. W. Polidori took his degree of M.D. at Edinburgh at age of 19. In 1816 became travelling physician to Lord Byron. They left England together, & went to Lake of Geneva and to Milan & there they separated. Returning to England, P. relinquished medicine & studied for the Bar. In '21 he poisoned himself, having in gambling incurred a debt of honour which he could not at the moment discharge. Verdict, "Died by the Visitation of God".

He published various things prose & poetry. The one most remembered is a prose tale The Vampyre. He produced this in that often mentioned competition in which Byron, Shelley, Mrs Shelley, & Clare Clairmont engaged near Geneva. Mrs Shelley produced Frankenstein. Byron began a tale named The Vampyre, & dropped it. Polidori, taking some hint from this project of B's, wrote his own complete tale (a different train of incidents), & published it; &, owing to a not unnatural confusion, P's take has very frequently (especially on the Continent) been attributed to B.

The portrait of P. was painted in England towards 1820 - I suppose London, but it might probably be Norwich. I have heard the painter's name but have forgotten it.

P. is mentioned in some jocular verses by Byron;
also in Moore's Life of B., Dowden's Life of Shelley, & elsewhere. There is a well-

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