Shelley spent the greater part of the summer of 1816, when she was nineteen,
at the Chapuis in Geneva, Switzerland. The entourage included her stepsister,
Claire Clairmont, Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidori, Byron's physician.
Byron rented the Villa Diadoti on the shores of Lake Geneva, which
John Milton, the author of Paradise
Lost, had visited in the 1600's . Rousseau
had also resided on these shores. Mary considered the area to be sacred
went from being beautiful and radiant to melodramatically tempestuous.
Torrential rains and incredible lightning storms plagued the area, similar
to the summer that Mary was born . This incredible meteorological change
was due to the eruption of the volcano, Tambora, in Indonesia. The weather,
as well as the company and the Genevan district, contributed to the genesis
events that summer intensified on the night of June 16th. Mary and Percy
could not return to Chapuis, due to an incredible storm, and spent the
night at the Villa Diodati with Byron and Polidori. The group read aloud
a collection of German ghost stories, The Fantasmagoriana. In one
of the stories, a group of travelers relate to one another supernatural
experiences that they had experienced. This inspired Byron to challenge
the group to write a ghost story.
wrote an forgettable story, Byron wrote a story fragment, and Polidori
began the "The
Vampyre", the first modern vampire tale. Many consider the main character,
Lord Ruthven, to be based on Byron. For some time it was thought that Byron
had actually written the story but over time it was realized that Dr. Polidori
was the author. Unfortunately, Mary was uninspired and did not start writing
evening the group continued their late night activities and at midnight
Byron recited the poem, Christabel by Samuel
T. Coleridge. Percy became overwrought during the reading and perceived
Mary as the villainess of the poem. He ran out of the room and apparently
created quite a scene. This incident undoubtedly affected Mary, leading
to feelings of guilt that contributed to the story ideas she later developed.
next couple of days Mary was unable to begin her story. The poets dropped
theirs but Mary persisted in her creative endeavor. She felt that her ambitions
and her value were at stake and attempted to turn the pressure and frustration
into creative energy.
22nd, Byron and Shelley were scheduled to take a boat trip around the lake.
The night before their departure the group discussed a subject from de
Stael's De l'Allemagne: "whether the principle of life could be discovered
and whether scientists could galvanize a corpse of manufactured humanoid".
When Mary went to bed, she had a "waking" nightmare:
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, then,
on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life...His success
would terrify the artist; he would rush away...hope that...this thing...would
subside into dead matter...he opens his eyes; behold the horrid thing stands
at his bedside, opening his curtains...
morning Mary realized she had found her story and began writing the lines
that open Chapter IV of Frankenstein - "It was on a dreary night in November"-
She completed the novel in May of 1817 and is was published January 1,