Frankenstein, A Swiss Character?

Once upon a time in Switzerland,  some English tourists spent an unusually cold, wet summer in Switzerland on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman).  The tourists weren’t just any old tourists, they were the romantics.  They wrote masterpieces, this dunce writes this blog.

English: Portrait of Mary Shelley

English: Portrait of Mary Shelley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One dark and stormy night, the literary group bet that they could write as a gothic fiction novel that was as good or better than the then-popular cheap works.  The others, Lord Byron, Percy Blythe Shelley and Claire Clairmont were all able to come up with a story quite quickly.  Mary Godwin was not.  After an evening of conversation about reanimating human bodies using electrical currents, 18 year-old Mary Godwin dreamt of corpses coming back to life and the image of Frankenstein.  She woke up and wrote a short story about her dream.

Percy Bysshe Shelley imbibed his radical philo...

Percy Bysshe Shelley imbibed his radical philosophy from William Godwin’s Political Justice. (Amelia Curran, 1819) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She ended up marrying Percy Blythe Shelley, becoming Mary Shelley.  He encouraged her to expand the short story into a full-length novel.  It became one of the greatest literary creations of the regency period and the first gothic novel.

Mary Shelley was taken with the area’s beauty, describing color of the lake, “blue as the heavens which it reflects.”  She visited many of the area’s tourist attractions and they feature in the story.

  • Victor Frankenstein is from Geneva.
  • She took the traditional iron tram from Chamonix to the The Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) on Mont Blanc.  According to legend, she used this spectacular, icy landscape as the backdrop for the meeting between Victor Frankenstein and his maker.
  • Victor Frankenstein’s home is called “Belrive.”  Villa Diodati, the manor where Byron, Shelley and company stayed, was originally named Villa Belle Rive.
  • Safie flees to Switzerland.

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Romantics Like Byron On Lake Geneva Write Masterpieces, This Dunce Writes This Blog

In the spring of 1816, Lord Byron left England in a self-imposed exile.  His aristocratic excesses, which included huge debts, numerous love affairs and rumors of a scandalous incestuous liaison with his half-sister, made London to hot for him.   He journeyed up the Rhine to Switzerland, ending up in time to summer on Lake Geneva (Lac Leman).

Percy Blythe Shelley, John Polidori, Mary Godwin (who later married Shelley becoming Mary Shelley), and her step-sister Claire Clairmont.  Because my nieces and nephews read this blog, let’s just say they were a bit scandalous.

Wanting to be away from gossipy English tourists, Byron rented Villa Diodati in Cologny on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman).  Due to the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia,  the weather turned from the typical gorgeous Swiss summer to storm clouds and rain.  It became known as the summer that never was.

They had an intense summer, staying up late talking.  It was also a productive period for them.  Byron finished the third canto of his epic poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” at Villa Diodati.

On the way back, they stopped in Ouchy for a night.  Freshly inspired Byron and Shelley (who visited with him), immediately began writing.  Byron worked on  “The Prisoner of Chillon” and Shelley the “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty.”