John William Polidori (1795-1821) was Engelse schrijver en arts, en initiator van het vampiergenre in de literatuur. Onderstaand fragment, over een reis naar Europa in het gezelschap van Lord Byron, is afkomstig uit: The Diary of Dr. John William Polidori (1816).
April 26. — We embarked at 9 o'clock, much
hurried, with three servants.
[This means, to judge from a published letter by Byron, 9 o'clock on the evening of April 25. The
three servants were Berger (a Swiss), William
Fletcher, and Robert Rushton. Mr. Davies and Mr.
Hobhouse, it will be understood, remained ashore.]
When at a distance, we waved our hands and hats,
bidding adieu. The wind was completely in our
teeth, but we made the passage in sixteen hours.
The coast of Dover is very striking, though miserably
barren-looking. The cliff is steep, though not such
as Shakespear paints. The castle — at a distance,
which is the only way I viewed it — is miserable.
Sailing from England, I for a long time kept my eye
upon its stern white cliffs, thinking on her who bade
me join her remembrance with the last sight of my
[This points pretty clearly to a love-passage, perhaps
a matrimonial engagement. As a fact Polidori never
married. The lady may possibly have been Eliza
Arrow, a relative in India, with whom he, at a rather
earlier date, had interchanged various letters.]
They at last faded from my sight, and all on board
looked dreary ; the sea dashed over us, and all wore
an aspect of grief. Towards night a most beautiful
spectacle was seen by myself, who alone remained on
deck. The stars shedding merely a twilight enabled
me to see the phosphoric light of the broken foam in
all its splendour. But the most beautiful moment was
that of its first appearance : no sound around save the
sullen rushing of the vessel, and the hoarse cries of
the heaving sailor ; no light save a melancholy
twilight, which soothed the mind into forgetfulness of
its grief for a while — a beautiful streak following the
lead through the waves. We arrived at Ostend at
2 o'clock in the morning.
[Polidori's chronology is a little confusing here. If
the party left Dover at 9 p.m. on April 25, and
took sixteen hours in the sea-passage, they must have
reached Ostend at i in the afternoon. There is also
a confusion immediately afterwards, for he repeats
the date for which he has already accounted, viz.]
April 26. — We passed through the gates, paying
a franc a head, and went to the Cour Imp^riale. We
were astonished at the excellent inn and good treat-
ment, except that I got a dreadful headache from
the smell of paint in my bedroom, and that the tea
[It was, I believe, at this point of the narrative that
my aunt Charlotte Polidori cut out a peccant passage.
I seem to remember the precise diction of it, which
was this: "As soon as he reached his room, Lord
Byron fell like a thunderbolt upon the chambermaid."
Such at any rate was the substance of the statement.
The other statement which my aunt excluded came
somewhat further on, when Dr. Polidori was staying
near Geneva. He gave some account of a visit of his
to some haunt of the local Venus Pandemos. I think
the police took some notice of it. The performance
was not decorous, but was related without any verbal
Arising in the morning, I went upon a stroll round
the town. Saw little girls of all ages with head-
dresses ; books in every bookseller's window of the
most obscene nature ; women with wooden shoes ;
men of low rank basking in the sun as if that would
evaporate their idleness. The houses generally good
old style, very like a Scotch town, only not quite so
filthy. Very polite custom-house officers, and very
civil waiters. Fine room painted as a panorama, all
French-attitudinized. Went into a shop where no one
spoke French. Tried German ; half-a-dozen women
burst out laughing at me. Luckily for myself, in a
good humour; laughed with them. Obliged to buy
two books I did not want, because I let a quarto fall
upon a fine girl's head while looking at her eyes.
Coaches of the most horrid construction ; apparently
some fine horses, others small. Fortifications look
miserable. Once stood a fine siege, when 40,000 on one
side and 80 on the other fed fowls and manured the
fields. What for? For religion? No — for money.
There was the spring of all. As long as only religion
and rights were affected, bigoted religionists and wild
republicans were alone concerned ; but a step too far,
and all was ruined.
[The allusion here is to the great siege of Ostend,
1 60 1 to 1604.]