The anonymous narrator received a name - Aubrey - and a back-story. The meeting with the strange gentleman came not in a university, but in a drawing room, surrounded by high class society and the implication of royalty.
But the elements were all there. Two men taking the Grand Tour was central to the narrative. The latter part of the plot hinged upon the death, and an oath not to mention it for a year.
The vampire looked and acted as an English nobleman. Lord Ruthven had the titles to prove it. He was not the decaying corpse of Eastern European legend, but recognizably that envisaged by Byron. More than that. He was Byron.
In 1816, Lady Caroline Lamb had based a character on Byron in her novel Glenarvon. In reality, she and the poet had been lovers. She was married to William Lamb at the time, but the affair was public knowledge and the scandal of the day. When he spurned her, she took her revenge in literature.
His eponymous character in Glenarvon is an immoral seducer of women. His charisma appears almost supernatural. He betrays all who encounter him, from his lovers to his country. Eventually the ghosts of the women he destroyed appear to him on a ship. He's overcome by remorse and throws himself overboard to his death.
Those who read it called it a kiss and tell Gothic novel. Byron himself was more blunt. He called it a 'f**k and publish' story.
When The Vampyre was published in 1819, no-one was in any doubt about the real life identity of the vampire. He was called Lord Ruthven. In Lamb's book, Byron's character had been called Ruthven, Lord of Glenarvon. John Polidori was hardly being subtle here.
Moreover, the tale begins with Ruthven seducing a married woman, under the scandalized gaze of the English aristocracy. He proceeded to destroy the reputation of every woman he met on the Grand Tour. Some of them lost their lives too.
By now, the gossip surrounding the real and imagined exploits of the 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' Lord Byron had reached such a crescendo, that readers may have been forgiven for believing that Byron really was vampiric. He had done (or was supposed to have done) so much that what was draining the blood of ladies beside that?
The Vampyre may have been regarded as yet another semi-biographical kiss and tell tale, but for one key fact. They all thought that Byron himself had written it.
When John Polidori dropped it off at the publishing house, he was recognized as one of Byron's associates. As he was a physician, not a writer, the not unsurprising conclusion had been drawn that Polidori was delivering a manuscript from the poet. He hadn't thought to clarify that at the time.
So the original publications of The Vampyre, in 1819, were credited as 'a tale by Lord Byron'. Polidori rushed to correct the publishers. Byron raged. Both told anyone who'd listen that the novel was by John Polidori. No-one believed them. It took years for its readership to accept that the author was John Polidori, not Lord Byron. By then, the vampire literary tradition had been born.
It was as far from the folklore of the Levant as it was possible to be. It included English aristocrats, oozing sex and seduction, destroying reputations, as well as lives. Zombie-like life-sucking corpses were replaced by cold noble men, who cut the throats of the women they attracted, then drank their blood.
The view of the vampire in the West would never be the same again.