REVIEW: A Fragment of a Novel (1819)

An Unfinished Story by Lord Byron

When I spoke about Polidori’s The Vampyre, I mentioned that it was based on an unfinished Vampire book by Lord Byron. All that exists is basically a single chapter, which is a shame because what we do have is pretty good – far better than the “remake”. What Polidori filled in with relentless “Purple Prose”, Byron actually made one want to know what was happening. I was actually somewhat miffed when this “story” ended, considering where it did. Basically, this tells the story of a narrator traveling with an elderly nobleman named Augustus Darvell. They are on a tour of the middle east when Darvell takes quite a tumble in health in Turkey and ends up dying in a Turkish cometary of all places. As the narrator watches in horror, The lord’s face turns back as he suddenly decomposes.

A Fragment of a Novel is an unfinished 1819 vampire horror story written by Lord Byron. The story, also known as “A Fragment” and “The Burial: A Fragment”, was one of the first in English to feature a vampire theme. The main character was Augustus Darvell. John William Polidori based his novella The Vampyre (1819), originally attributed in print to Lord Byron, on the Byron fragment.”

Supposedly, Byron intended for Darvell to re-appear later, but much younger and courting his sister. Since a pact was made, the narrator would be forced to stand back as The Lord does whatever he wants. This is also the plot of Polidori’s story, but if this introduction is any indicator, it would have been MUCH better.

There is not much else to say about a story that only exists as a single chapter of a book, aside from the fact that it alone became hyper-influential regarding subsequent vampire stories moving forward. It is a shame that the story was never completed by Byron, considering that what we do have is a solid foundation for a gripping story. Who knows, perhaps this story would have been regarded as an all-time classic example of gothic horror literature? Maybe it would have been a big flop? I am sure it has been done already, but it would be interesting to see a contemporary writer go in and try to take Lord Byron’s original idea and actually make a delightful story out of it. In fact, I made need to see if that has ever happened and talk about it here! This is an interesting bit of historical literature that, despite its short length, is especially important to an entire genre of storytelling, and because of that I would definitely recommend seeking it out.

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