BARS Exchange

BARS Exchange

Aggregated blogs on Romantic Studies – please click through to read full posts.

The origins of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

By annamercer90

Terrifying night visions: the origins of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

I shall thus give a general answer to the question, so frequently asked me— “How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?”

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote this in her introduction to the third edition of Frankenstein in 1831. Her account of the novel’s inspirations takes us back to her experiences as an 18-year-old girl (then still named Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin). Mary spent the wet summer of 1816 close to the shores of Lake Geneva; she had travelled there with her lover, the married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and her step-sister, Claire Clairmont. The group arrived in Geneva in order to meet with Lord Byron, an already successful author (albeit one mired in controversy), who had taken lodgings at the Villa Diodati. Claire had begun an affair with Byron back in England. Also present was the personal physician to Byron, John William Polidori. This group of young intellectuals spent their time reading and discussing literature and philosophy, including ghost stories from Fantasmagoriana (1812), as Mary explains:

[…] it proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house. …read more