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The Not Entirely Accurate Chronicle of John Polidori, Genius Physician and Brilliant Writer, and His Rather Less Distinguished Companions

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April 12, 1816

10:45 am

Off on our grand adventure. Byron has packed an impossible number of possessions, but I have no doubt they will come in useful. This morning Byron told me I would be treated as an honored member of the family. V. flattering. Someday, perhaps, I will hold my grandchildren on my knee and tell them stories of their dear "Uncle George."

4:15 pm

Learned what Byron meant by 'member of the family.' In detail. I declined. Weather continues to be miserable and cold. It only increases my fatigue.

6:30 pm

At dinner Byron asked me how many of the assembled guests I thought he had been intimate with. Gentleman that I am, I refused to answer. Byron continued to goad me through the soup (salty) and venison (dry). He also snuck scraps to his dog just below the table, despite my objections to this highly unsanitary practice.

10:00 pm

"It was a trick question," Byron said at supper. "I haven't fucked any of them yet. Ask me again tomorrow."


April 13

Note to self: Do not ask Byron any questions regarding his conquests.

2:00 pm

Note to self: Must stop assuming the rumors and gossip surrounding Byron are false. Far easier to assume everything is true.

10:00 pm

Far easier to assume that everything is, in fact, more scandalous than rumored.


May 2

The Rhine is lovely. Byron has been a great aid to me during this journey, as I continue to be overcome with dizziness. Perhaps I have been too uncharitable to him. We are staying at a lovely country home of a distant cousin of one of Byron's friends. She is a lovely young woman, and delighted to have such a literary light in her home.

3:00 pm

Byron has suggested a new game: "Try and find a place here that I haven't put my penis in."

It is a terrible game.

He told me I lost when I failed to identify the chambermaid.

10:00 pm

Apparently he entertained both the cousin and the chambermaid simultaneously.

He insisted I listen to every intimate detail and I, in my weakened state, was unable to leave the room.

He suggested an unusual form of massage to 'relax' me.

I declined.


May 18

Am feeling much improved and have written some poetry. Gave it to Byron to review and am quite excited to see what his opinions will be.


May 19

No word yet from Byron. Am sure he will tell me soon his opinion of my work.


May 25

Perhaps he is intimidated by my talent. After all, while he is a great poet, I have read he is sensitive to criticism, and every artist must worry about the man who will inevitably take his place.


June 2

"Oh, those poems?" he said. "I thought you gave them to me as a joke."


June 3

Apparently he fed them to the dog.


June 4

The dog them vomited them back up.

"A fair assessment of the poems," Byron said.


June 5

I hate him.

Still, our lodgings are all a man could ask for. The house is large enough even to accommodate the contents of Byron's oversized carriage, and the dog has enjoyed being able to roam freely. There is also a lovely, well-stocked library to accompany the volumes Byron brought with him on the journey. I have retreated there a few times to escape Byron's maddening moods.

I am sure the sticky material I discovered on the library shelf was….

I am not entirely sure what I discovered. Must remember to tell the maid to clean the shelves.


June 7

We are joined by new companions, renting a house nearby: Percy Shelley, a writer of some small note, his 'friend' Mary, a thin, pale girl with dark hair and a nervous affect, and her stepsister Claire, a round-faced girl who moons over Byron at the slightest opportunity. He says there was a 'miscalculation' in his relationship with her, and will not see her alone, only in the company of Shelley and Mary. Claire will clearly not stand for this.


June 17

Was heating water for the bath when confronted by Claire, wearing nothing but an extremely thin towel.

She is with child. No doubt Byron's.

"Oh," she said. "I mistook you for...someone else."

Had one of the servants chase her out with a broom.


June 18

"She's like a barnacle," Byron says. "Pray she will not find your hull."


June 20

Tonight we dined together and spoke of art. Was a pleasant enough evening until Shelley suggested we share our creative work.

Claire read several soppy poems clearly aimed at Byron. I read several new sonnets on the topics of love and healing. Company laughed uproariously until informed the work was not comedic. They do not understand any genius beyond their narrow views. I should feel sorry for them, I suppose.


July 3

I have begun a novel. Poetry is a waste of my talents. I have things to say that cannot be confined by the narrow path of stanzas and rhyme.

Last night everyone got very drunk, and after a few rounds of "guess where I haven't put my penis yet," even the rest of the guests were ready for a new entertainment. We chose a literary competition to see who might write the most frightening story.

I have chosen to write a tale of a vampyre, something horrifying and dark. I think the vampyre will travel in a large carriage and have the desire to put its penis in everything it encounters.

It will be horrifying.


July 5

Mary has begun a first draft of what she says will be a novel. She shuts herself in her room and refuses to speak with anyone. Even Shelley cannot persuade her to come out. "Just go f--k someone else," I heard her cry. "I'm busy."

Shelley then approached me and suggested something unspeakable.

I declined.

3 pm

I believe Shelley and Byron are currently engaged in something unspeakable. I do wish they'd be more quiet about it.

7 pm

Byron appears to have resumed his relationship with his barnacle. They are currently engaging in noisy congress in the drawing room.

I loathe this place.

2 am

How can they manage to keep going at this hour?


July 7

Another day, another tedious round of Byron’s favorite game. This time Mary suggested the dog. “The only thing less likely than that,” Byron laughed, “is Polly Dolly.”

I left in disgust.


July 10

There are many visitors these days. Byron may be attempting to impregnate all of Geneva.


July 14

Have sprained my ankle. Pain is terrible. Byron carried me to the house and installed me on the couch with a carafe of water and a tremendous assortment of pillows. He is not entirely heartless.

July 15

Pain is more manageable today. Byron has brought me a generous dose of laudanum from his own supply.

3 pm

A second dose of laudanum. It does take the sharp edges from the day.

4 pm

Byron suggested something unspeakable.

I accepted.