First appearance of the vampire in English literature



Published in 1801, Robert Southey’s epic poem Thalaba the Destroyer arguably features the first vampire in English literature. The vampire takes the form of Thalaba’s bride, Oneiza, who dies on their wedding day. Oneiza returns,

Her very lineaments, and such as death

Had changed them, livid cheeks, and lips of blue.

But in her eyes there dwelt

Brightness more terrible

Than all the loathsomeness of death.

The scene is accompanied by an extensive and detailed footnote in which Southey recounts the vampire tales of continental Europe.

Full title
Thalaba the Destroyer. (A metrical romance.).
1801 , London
Robert Southey
Held by
British Library
Usage terms
Public Domain

Related articles

Bram Stoker’s stage adaptation of Dracula

Article by
Greg Buzwell
The Gothic

To coincide with the British Library's current major exhibition, Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination, curator Greg Buzwell explores the story behind Bram Stoker's adaptation of Dracula for the theatre.

An introduction to Ann Radcliffe

Article by
Dale Townshend
The Gothic, The novel 1780-1832

Ann Radcliffe is one of the founders of Gothic fiction. Dale Townshend explores Radcliffe's works in terms of the Female Gothic and her unique distinction between terror and horror.

The imperial Gothic

Article by
Suzanne Daly
Power and politics, The Gothic

Mysticism, degeneracy, irrationality, barbarism: these are the qualities that came to define the non-western ‘other’ in 19th-century Britain. Here Professor Suzanne Daly explores the ‘Imperial Gothic’, examining the ways in which ‘otherness’ and Empire were depicted in Gothic novels such as Jane Eyre, The Moonstone, Dracula and Heart of Darkness.

Related collection items