Sunday, April 17, 2011

6 Degrees of Dracula: George Lambert and Frankenstein

When this exploration of Charles Street, Berkeley Square started, I was trying to figure out the degrees of separation from Queen Victoria and from Bram Stoker (proxy for Dracula) for each of the residents.

To continue, then, with George T. Lambert, later Sir George, of 3 Charles Street in 1871.

George Lambert and Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria died on January 22, 1901.

George Lambert was knighted in 1903 (but I haven't checked this very carefully. I'm prepared to accept it was 1902 or 1903). Since the Queen was already gone, we can't say they met on this auspicious occasion.

However, that was not Lambert's first honour. In 1897 (another date I'm taking on faith), he was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath. Bingo! Queen Victoria number of 1, though not while he was living on Charles Street.

Given his long service in the top offices of the Admiralty, it's possible but by no means guaranteed that Lambert met the Queen before 1897. She was notably reclusive for many years.

George Lambert, Dracula and Frankenstein

Now if you have been following along, you can close your eyes for a second, or perhaps you'd like to recite these by now somewhat shopworn facts with me.

George Lambert had six sisters. One was Julianna Margaret Lambert.

In about 1860, Julianna Margaret married Edward Gerald More O'Farrell. One of their children was John More O'Ferrall. In 1901, John married Cesira Polenghi, who had been born in Italy.

Cesira, it appears, lived for a long time (at least she was in the same place in the 1891 and 1901 censuses, so I am hypothesizing she was there in the intervening years as well) in Kensington, London, with her uncle, Major John Taaffe. Exactly how he was related to her, I don't know. I've guessed that the Major's sister married Cesira's father, but this is only a guess.

The Major was born in about 1820 (from the censuses of 1891 and 1901). By 1860 he was a Captain of Dragoons in Piedmont, Italy. By 1891, he had retired to London. The Major's father was also called John Taaffe.

This John Taaffe is the one who sent guinea pigs to Mary Shelley when he was hanging out with the Shelleys, Lord Byron, and a few other literary types in Pisa, Italy, in the 1820s. That he was a part of this social group seems well-documented, though perhaps opinions vary as to exactly who liked him and who found him a bit of a bore. He distinguished himself in other ways, but the guinea pigs are rather hard to forget.

Born in 1787, Taaffe senior died in Italy on September 28, 1852.

The leaps in the Dracula and Frankenstein directions (for they take a common path to begin with) are:

George Lambert
1. Major John Taaffe.
I am making a reasonable assumption that both George and the Major would have been guests at the wedding of the Major's niece Cesira and Lambert's nephew John, or at related social events.
2. John Taaffe senior (Major's father).
3. Lord Byron and Mary Shelley, associates of John Taaffe senior in Italy in the 1820s.
Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Thus, George has a Frankenstein number of 3. But what about Dracula?

I must admit to a big gap in vampire knowledge here. I thought Bram Stoker's Dracula was a literary descendant of Le Fanu's Carmilla (1872). That luscious lady, however, is not the only vampire in English literature to predate the Count.

This story will be well-known to English Lit majors. Not being one, I had to learn it recently.

In 1816, a group of friends and not-so-close friends were together in a house in Switzerland, apparently cooped up by the rainy weather of that year.

In addition to the Shelleys (not yet married then) and Lord Byron, there was Byron's personal physician, named John William Polidori, and Mary's step-sister Claire Clairmont.

To dispel the ennui, they set themselves a competition to write a Gothic story similar to one they'd been reading aloud to each other.

The products of this stay were:

1. the beginning of Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein;
2. a fragment of a story by Byron, discarded and picked up by Polidori as the germ of his own story;
3. The Vampyre, by Polidori, credited by some as the first modern vampire story in English literature;
4. Allegra, the illegitimate child of Claire and Lord Byron. (Byron didn't like Claire, even while he was assisting in the creation of Allegra. But it was a long, wet, summer without much else to do, and as Byron wrote to his half-sister, Claire threw herself at him and eventually he weakened.) At least one account I've read says that Claire was already pregnant by Byron, thanks to a short liaison in England, before she went to Switzerland, and her trip to Switzerland with Mary and Percy was with the design of tracking Byron down. He had that effect upon some women.

Tragedy ensues over the next few years. The Vampyre causes a rift between Polidori and Byron, perhaps contributing to the doctor's sad end in suicide in London, 1821.  Allegra dies on April 20, 1822 at the age of five at convent school, placed there by Byron against Claire's wishes; Percy Shelley drowns, July 8, 1822.

Taaffe arrived in Pisa on November 1, 1821, the same day as Byron. Taaffe had been living in Italy since 1815.

As an aside, not everyone in Byron's circle was thrilled with Taaffe. Here's a link to p.361 of Lord Byron's Life in Italy by Byron's mistress at that time, Teresa Guiccioli.

It's tempting to say that Taaffe and Polidori knew each other, but I have no evidence of that. I can say that Taaffe knew Byron and Byron was the originator of Polidori's story, and also a model for its main character: Byron is the vampire.

George Lambert gets a Dracula number of 3: George -> Major Taaffe -> Taaffe senior -> Byron the vampire.

And who knows, it may later transpire that George and Bram were drinking buddies.

Any questions?

(You can find all three of these as public domain books if you look on the Web.)


  1. Sorry Jill, I think the provable degree of separation for GTL from Q Vic is 2 - or at a pinch, 1.5.....

    Using the Times Digital Archive (subscription only), We find the following entries:

    The Times, Tuesday, Mar 16, 1886; Court Circular: Levee at St James’s Palace by his RH Prince of Wales on behalf of Her Majesty. Presentations to his RH at this court are, by the Queen’s pleasure, considered as equivalent to presentations to HM - GTL was presented

    The Times, Thursday, Jul 22, 1897: Order of the Bath was conferred on him by the Prince of Wales acting on behalf of Her Majesty.

    The Times, Monday, Jul 20, 1903 HM The King held Investiture at 11 o’clock today…. Knighthood conferred on George Thomas Lambert

    The 1.5 bit could be construed by using the declaration that, PoW was equivalent to HM in 1886

  2. Great detective work, Elaine! Thanks.

    HM wasn't out and about much, was she?

    I wonder if there were any events, e.g. St George's Day at Windsor Chapel type of things, where HM might have presided over a gang of knights.

    I suppose too that we could start a degrees from the reigning monarch and get poor George a 1 that way!

    Thanks again for the facts.

  3. Haha!

    I take it all back - GTL definitely qualifies for a 1!

    A little further digging using the search term:

    lambert and "her majesty" and greenwich

    has come up with the goods:

    The Times, Thursday Jul 05, 1894. Court Circular, Windsor Castle July 4.

    "The Queen yesterday afternoon inspected at Windsor Castle the boys from the Royal Hospital School at Greenwich.....
    Her Majesty was received with a Royal Salute, the band playing the National Anthem. The boys with their officers then marched past and afterwards formed up in open interval formation in front of the Queen and performed a series of dumb-bell practices and pole drill to musical accompaniment by the Band of the School...
    The following Gentlemen had the honour of being presented to Her Majesty by General Viscount Bridport (Lord in Waiting): Captain G Noel (Lord of the Admiralty), Mr Edmund Robertson MP (Lord of the Admiralty) and Mr G.T. Lambert (Director of Greenwich Hospital at the Admiralty."


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