What if Byron and the Shelleys had live tweeted from the Villa Diodati?

It’s one of the most famous – indeed infamous – episodes in English literary history. In the summer of 1816 Lord Byron took a villa on the banks of Lake Geneva. He was attended by his doctor, John William Polidori, and another nearby house was rented by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, with whomContinue reading “What if Byron and the Shelleys had live tweeted from the Villa Diodati?”

Frankenstein: Mary, monster, myth

“When I placed my head upon the pillow, I did not sleep…. My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me…. I saw – with shut eyes but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretchedContinue reading “Frankenstein: Mary, monster, myth”

Bringing the Shelleys back to life

The Frankenstein Monster is a fictional recreation of the lives of the Shelleys – the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who drowned at the age of 29, and his wife Mary, author of Frankenstein. Anyone who resurrects real people in fiction faces some complex challenges, both technical and, if you like, ‘ethical’, but when your subjects are someContinue reading “Bringing the Shelleys back to life”

‘This fatal catastrophe’: The sad life and strange death of Harriet Shelley

Early in the morning of 10th December 1816 a man called John Levesley, a pensioner of the Chelsea Hospital, was making his way to Kensington across Hyde Park when he saw something floating in the waters of the Serpentine. It was the body of a young woman. It looked, he later told the inquest, asContinue reading “‘This fatal catastrophe’: The sad life and strange death of Harriet Shelley”

Fictionalising 1816: The suicide of Fanny Imlay

The lives of the Shelleys are incredibly rich material for a novelist. There’s so much we simply don’t know. From what Richard Holmes calls the “two great biographical mysteries” of the assassination attempt in Tremadoc in 1813 and the Shelleys’ adoption and abandonment of a baby in Naples in 1819, to the relationship between Shelley and ClaireContinue reading “Fictionalising 1816: The suicide of Fanny Imlay”

Fictionalising 1816: The death of Harriet Shelley

The Shelleys and their circle have inspired hundreds of books, plays and films over the last two centuries, and there have been many accounts of that famous summer they spent together in 1816, when Frankenstein was conceived. But all the same there remain many inexplicable gaps and strange silences, where the biographers can offer usContinue reading “Fictionalising 1816: The death of Harriet Shelley”

Was Mary Shelley a feminist?

You’d think so, wouldn’t you. A woman whose father was a radical philosopher who believed in the equality of the sexes, and whose mother was a pioneering vindicator of women’s rights. How could the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin not be every inch the feminist her parents would have wanted her to be?Continue reading “Was Mary Shelley a feminist?”

The Gothic novel, then and now

One thing you can say about Gothic –whether you’re a reader or a writer – it’s the gift that keeps on giving – from Hammer to The Hunger to the seemingly endless series Frankenstein remakes. And of course we have the vampire vibe that refuses to die – not just Twilight and True Blood, butContinue reading “The Gothic novel, then and now”