Saturday, 19 June 2010
On this day...
A gathering of literary significance took place at Lake Geneva in 1816. Lord Byron, together with his pregnant mistress Claire Clairmont and physician John William Polidori, met with 'another family of very suspicious appearance' - the Shelleys, Percy, wife-to-be Mary, and their young son William. The group congregated at the Villa Diodati, once inhabited by John Milton, which was described by Percy as 'a menagerie, with eight enormous dogs, three monkeys, five cats, an eagle, a crow, and a falcon; and all these, except the horses, walk about the house, which every now and then resounds with their unarbitrated quarrels, as if they were masters of it'.
Aside from being merely a voyeuristic exercise into some of the most remarkable literary minds of the day, interest in this meeting stems from the work it produced, with Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' conceived during a round of late night ghost stories. The work, to be published the next year, is now widely considered a forerunner to modern science-fiction, and remains popular with the readership and Hollywood audiences alike. Several years later, Shelley remembered the summer stay as the time 'when I first stepped out from childhood into life'.