Imposture by Benjamin Markovits - review by Edmund Gordon

Edmund Gordon

In Byron’s Shadow



Faber & Faber 212pp £10.99 order from our bookshop

In the summer of 1816, when Byron and the Shelleys, stranded by heavy rain beside Lake Geneva, decided to amuse themselves by composing ghost stories (a diversion that led to Mary Shelley’s writing Frankenstein), they were accompanied by Byron’s physician, John Polidori, who joined the competition and began a supernatural tale of his own. The Vampyre was published anonymously in 1819, and, such was the familiarity of its style, its author was widely assumed to be Byron himself. 

Benjamin Markovits’s third novel takes this confusion as its premise, and imagines Polidori, recently dismissed from Byron’s service, at the time of The Vampyre’s publication. When he asserts his authorship to the governess Eliza Esmond she assumes he is Byron, a mistake he doesn’t correct, and they begin a relationship

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