“And With All That, Who Believes in Vampires?” Undead Legends and Enlightenment Culture
Paper given at 33rd Annual European Studies Conference (2007)
In the winter of 1740, English literary giant Alexander Pope proclaimed himself a corpse. After a lingering illness, he declared in a letter that he had “become deaf to the voice of the charmer”, and that “upon the application of a lady’s warm hand it appeared that the torpor was general.” He blamed this seeming state of death on his doctors, whom Pope claimed (perhaps jestingly, perhaps not) had taken him to the grave on purpose. This avowed dead man pronounced himself interred at Twickenham where, actually, he was working on his grotto. In Pope’s own words, this corpse:
…has been seen some times in Mines and Caverns and has been very troublesome to those who dig Marbles and Minerals. If ever he has walk’d above ground, he has been (like the vampires in Germany) such a terror to all sober & innocent people, that many wish a stake were drove thro’ him to keep him quiet in his Grave.
If you haven’t studied the vampire lore of Early Modern Europe, Pope’s allusion to “the Vampires in Germany” may be a bit confusing, even in the context of his enigmatically constructed personal correspondence.