Imposture by Benjamin Markovits

Markovits and his Polidori would have done well emulating Byron's more direct nature

Book Review by Keir Hind | 12 Mar 2007
Book title: Imposture
Author: Benjamin Markovits
The imposture referenced here is literary imposture, specifically the way in which Dr John Polidori (1795-1821), author of what is probably the first modern vampire story, The Vampyre, passed his work, and himself, off as Lord Byron. The first part of this fraud, the obscuring of authorship, was perpetrated more by greedy publishers than Polidori. But posing as Byron in life is here Polidori's idea alone, and motivated by desire for a fictitious character, one Eliza Esmond. The book itself purports to be imposture, in that Markovits claims in a deftly-woven fabricated prologue that the book is the work of an old university colleague of his. The fact that this book is to be the first in a trilogy centred around Byron proves this false. Byron does make a few appearances here, in Polidori's memories, but to no great effect – the legendary storytelling competition that produced The Vampyre and Frankenstein isn't explored to any great depth. Imposture does do 19th Century London well, but the rather interesting question of the plot (when will Polidori be found out?) is dragged out by Polidori and Eliza's overdone internal monologues, which augment their rather dull courtship. Both Markovits and his Polidori would have done well emulating Byron's more direct nature; the narrative should be more succinct, like poetry, and the romance would have been best (for characters and reader alike) had it been finished with by the end of the first chapter. Ultimately, this is a patchy book that doesn't live up to its lofty promise. [Keir Hind]
Out Now. Published by Faber and Faber. Cover Price £10.99.