NPG 991 (2a)

 

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Handwritten copy (probably by John Murray) of draft letter, undated, from John Polidori to the editor of the Morning Chronicle, giving an account of his role and that of Lord Byron in the creation of The Vampire.
  Draft letter

Draft letter from Dr J.W. Polidori to Editor of Morning Chronicle

Sir,
As you were the first person to whom I wrote to state that the tale of the Vampyre was not Lord Byrons - I beg you to insert the following statement in your paper, without the fear of my sending to withdraw it as I did the last. You would not have been troubled with this if no other periodical publication than those under the immediate influence of the publisher of the new monthly magazine has dropt innendoes (sic) & hints with regard to my being the person with whom the blame of the forgery lies. Such contemptible papers as the Litterary Gazette etc would hardly have drawn me forth, but when the Edinburgh Magazine of Constable takkes up the same side I can no longer remain silent, but would not have troubled you with my statement if it had not been too late when I saw that paragraph to get a few lines inserted in that Magazine for next month.

The tale as I stated to you in my letter was written upon the foundation of a proposed and began story of Lord Byron's. Two friends were to travel in Greece, one was to die there: but before death having extracted an oath of secrecy from his companion & was after his burial to appear again & make love to his sister. Lord Byron in a letter dated Venice stated that he knew nothing of the Vampyre story & hated Vampyres, but while this letter was busy circulating in all the London & provincial papers, the fragment at the end of Mazeppa was in the hands of his publishers in Albemarle St with the date of June 17, 1816 attached to it, being the beginning of his tale upon this very foundation. My devellopement was written on the Continent: left with a lady at whose request it was undertaken. In the course of three mornings by her side it was produced & left with her. From her hands by means of a correspondent without my knowledge it came into those of the Editor of the New Monthly with a letter stating it to be an ebauche of Lord Byron's. Mr Watts as Editor of that magazine states in his notice that the tale which accompanies the letters "we also present to our readers without pledging ourselves for its authenticity as the production of Lord Byrons, & he continues "we should suppose it to have been committed to paper rather from the recital of a third person.
This however after the publication of 100 copies was cancelled by the publishers and another notice inserted stating it to be decidedly his Lordships in direct opposition as I am informed to the Editors' will who has since retired from the conduct of the magazine.

Immediately it was published I found a copy and upon finding that it was an almost forgotten trifle of my own, instantly wrote to you as Editor of the Morning Chronicle stating the little share Lord Byron had in the work. This was upon the Friday evening after its publication. I at the same time wrote to the publishers of the tale in its seperate form and to those of the magazine to stop its sale under his Lordships name. On Monday the publishers of the Magazine called upon me & promised it should be instantly announced as mine. With regard to my property in it, he brought forth a paper in which he proposed to give me a share in the profits, but as he said the paper was rough & not of any use, he said I might trust to his honour, I was persuaded so to do. In the course of the conversation I stated having written to you. He immediately begged of me as a favour to allow him to withdraw that letter stating that as he being the publisher was more compromised than myself that he wished I would allow the first explanation to come from him promising that if I would sign a short note he would send me, that he would attach to it an explanation completely freeing me from all imputation. I consented and he sent me the note signed by me which appeared in his magazine and in which in the original was written more extended devellopement which was erased by me. He then obtained a short delay on the plea that having heard it reported that Lord Byron was really the author of it by those who had been present at the conversation mentioned in the letter that he wished to have a few days to clear the matter up entirely. I granted him to the end of the week. He has at the same time so cautiously in his correspondence with me avoided mentioning the name of Vampyre or anything that could positively be brought against him as a proof of his acknowledgement of its being my property mentioning it as the affair, so that when I came to claim my share in the profits I was offered 30£ instead of 300£. I find myself at the same time without any paper, which could directly & at once, force him to give me my rights. I agreed to take 30£ to account & determined to sue for the rest; But I am frightened by the expense of the law & fear that I must leave him to his meaness.

Hoping that you will make this statement public & thus free me from the imputation his hangers on have striven to throw upon me

I remain Sir
Your obedient servant
John Polidori