Lord Byron’s “Fragment of a Novel” is a fascinating piece because of its striking ambiguity, combined with the fact that its unsolicited publication angered Byron. The name of the work implies its incomplete nature, and indeed, the ending may be viewed as inconclusive. Byron’s outrage regarding the work’s publication could likely have been attributed to his conception that the tale was “incomplete.” He may have thought that without foreknowledge of the theme, it may not be clear that the piece is centered on a vampire. However, Byron is renowned for his vast expanse of knowledge, which he liked to employ in his writing in order to showcase his intelligence. With this in mind, the reader should pay close attention to this work, as it is rife with clues that identify Augustus Darvell as a vampire. The cryptic nature of the dialogue gives some indication that Darvell is more than meets the eye. Moreover, there are elements of symbolism in the work that further conclude that Darvell is undead. In essence, if one pays close attention to the cryptic diction that takes place between Darvell and the narrator, and combines it with the enigmatic use of symbolism, a conclusion for the story is not necessary to identify the theme of vampirism. In light of this, Byron’s anger at its publication was unwarranted
The diction between Darvell and the narrator begins to pique the reader’s curiosity in the opening section of the work. The narrator’s references to Darvell’s “irreconcilable contradictions” are indicative of Darvell obscuring his true history and identity. In addition, it was significant that Darvell mentioned that he “had been here before” upon the character’s entry into the cemetery. This was suggestive of the fact that vampires, as myth would have it, rise from their place of rest and re-enter the world of the living. The curious request of having his death “conceal[ed] from every human” further exemplifies that Darvell was deceased beforehand – he required that his death be concealed because his death in years past would raise unwanted questions.
The symbolism of the Fragment of a Novel does much to reveal Darvell as a vampire. Firstly, Darvell requests that his ring be thrown into the “salt springs which run into the Bay of Eleusis.” The engagement with classic Greek myth in this instance is very characteristic of Byron; in this instance, it is significant that Eleusis is mentioned because it was there that the annual festival of the Mysteries was held, which honored the goddesses Demeter and Persephone. In Greek myth, these goddesses are recognized for their associations with harvest, life, death, and the infinite cycle that surrounds them. This notion ties in well with vampire legend, which characterizes them as neither living or dead. Building on this, Byron includes the symbolism of the stork with a serpent in its mouth, which further indicates that Darvell is a vampire. The stork is a classic symbol for life, and renewal, whereas the snake has associations pertaining to death, the infinite cycle (Ouroboros), and regeneration. The combination of these symbols, if not overlooked by the reader, suggest once more that Darvell exists in between the living or the dead.
As a general rule, one must always take time and consideration when reading Byron, because his works tend to be chock full of literary symbols and allusions to myth. With these elements in mind, one may argue that “the Fragment of a Novel” is sufficiently complete. Therefore, the anger that Byron expressed toward Murray could be viewed as a symptom of his vanity and high writing standards, rather than misgivings over the lack of ending.