Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born in London in 1797, the child of writer William Godwin and the well-known feminist educator and writer Mary Wollstonecraft.
In 1814, Mary Godwin began a romantic relationship with the very dashing (and very married) Percy Shelley, a poet of the Romantic persuasion. They married in 1816 following the suicide of Shelley's wife.
That same year, the couple spent the summer with the poet Lord Byron in Geneva, along with John Willim Polidori and Mary's older half-sister Claire Clairmont. Claire was pregnant at the time with Byron's child.
Though she and Shelley would not marry until later in the year, Mary was already calling herself Mrs. Shelley. The friends spent their time writing, boating on Lake Geneva, and talking late into the night.
It rained a lot that summer and they found themselves confined inside, mostly at Byron's villa. During this time, the writers talked about many things, but one night the conversation turned to the supernatural. They talked of the poet Erasmus Darwin, who was said to have animated dead matter. They talked of "galvanism" and debated the feasibility of returning a corpse or assembled body parts to life. OoooooooEEEEEooooooo....
They began to amuse themselves by reading German ghost stories. Then Byron suggested they each write their own supernatural story, as a sort of competition. And so they did just that.
Later, Mary said the concept for her short story came to her in a kind of "waking dream":
"I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world."
Mary's story won the friendly competition. In fact, Percy thought it was so good he encouraged her to develop the short story into a full novel, which she did.
Thus, in the summer of 1816, conjured up in the mind of an 18-year-old girl, the story of Frankenstein was born. Or shall we say "re-animated."
So, the many movies that scared us as children in theaters and on television over the years of the dreadful monster Frankenstein (actually the monster had no name) turns out to be classic literature.
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. The monster is closing in on 200 years old this summer.
[Thank you to Stephanie B for the sort of idea for this post. At least for making me think of Lord Byron.]
I recommend you the the dark gothic art of New Zealand artist Sarah Dolby.
Canterbury film trailer
2 years ago