Geneva Story 1: “A Fragment of a Novel”

2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, started during a story contest between Shelley and several other writers staying by Lake Geneva. 

To celebrate this book, I’m doing a series of posts on Frankenstein and two other stories that came from this contest.

“A Fragment of a Novel” is interesting because although it’s written by a famous writer, Lord Byron, it’s also a story that he never finished.

In fact, we only know about it because it got published as an epilogue to Byron’s poem Mazeppa – which, according to a letter Byron wrote to his publisher, happened without his permission.

In this incomplete story, a narrator befriends an older man named Augustus Darvell, known as an adventurer who perhaps who enjoys living wildly.

The two men travel across Europe and end up in Greece, visiting various ruins.

Darvell, sick and exhausted, rests in a cemetery. As he gets weaker, he makes some mysterious requests about how he should be buried and so forth.

Since this story is unfinished, it’s hard to tell what Bryon was going to do with this story.

According to his physician John Polidori, Bryon planned for the story to involve Darvell returning from the dead as a vampire.

Technically then, this is one of the earliest stories in the English language to have a vampire in it.

If we assume Darvell’s a vampire, then this story has some very interesting development.

Scholars have commented that earlier vampire stories tended to be ghostlike, figures haunting graveyards.

In contrast, Darvell is a society figure.

People don’t always trust him (the narrator gives the impression no one can agree on whether he’s a good man or a scoundrel).

However, he is not so overtly bad that he’s been called a criminal or thrown out of society. He may be odd or evil, and presumably, the reader had to keep reading to find out.

This is an important step in vampire literature, even though Bryon never fulfilled it since he didn’t finish the story.

But someone close to Byron would take that step.

Someone else who was there at Lake Geneva, who took “A Fragment of a Novel” and gave it a conclusion.

Come back next week for my blog on the next Geneva story: John Polidori’s “The Vampyre.”

2 thoughts on “Geneva Story 1: “A Fragment of a Novel”

  1. Pingback: Geneva Story 2: “The Vampyre” – G. Connor Salter

  2. Pingback: Geneva Story 3: Frankenstein – G. Connor Salter

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