24.06.

1767: French scholar who collected German ghost stories

1767: French scholar who collected German ghost stories
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ Jean-Baptiste Benoît Eyriès translated eight German ghost stories into French as Fantasmagoriana, including five of the tales from the first and second volumes of the Gespensterbuch. The image shows a scene from the tale "Der Freischütz" by August Apel (Gespensterbuch Vol. 1, Göschen, Leipzig 1811).

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 24 June 1767
  • Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont all read Eyriès’s book and it encouraged them to create their own stories about supernatural beings. Thus, the famous character Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley, was created, as well as the story The Vampyre by John William Polidori.

On this day, in 1767, the French geographer and translator Jean-Baptiste Benoît Eyriès was born.

According to his year of birth, he was almost the same age as Napoleon Bonaparte, François-René de Chateaubriand, and Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt. Eyriès was born in the French coastal town of Marseilles, as the son of a naval officer.

Already in the early period of his life, Eyriès has traveled a lot, to Germany, Denmark, Sweden and England among others. He supposedly spoke nine languages. By education, Eyriès was a geographer, although at that time sciences were still not as differentiated as they are today. Indeed, Eyriès’s scientific interests were broad, exceeding even the framework of natural sciences.

During the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, Jean-Baptiste Benoît Eyriès was sent to Germany as a kind of agent, probably because of his knowledge and abilities. He used that time to collect stories and books. His collection of translated German ghost stories titled “Fantasmagoriana” is particularly interesting. Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont all read this Eyriès’s book and it encouraged them to create their own stories about supernatural beings. Thus, the famous character Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley, was created, as well as the story The Vampyre by John William Polidori (one of the first vampire stories in English literature).

As a geographer, Jean-Baptiste Benoît Eyriès had a distinguished academic career. He was named honorary president of the French Geographical Society (Société de Géographie), the oldest geographical society in the world. During life, he assembled a library of about 20,000 volumes and was a collector of old maps. He died in 1846 in Le Havre, at the age of 78. Only a year after his death, the famous Bram Stoker, who popularized the vampire genre, was born.

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