Danse Macabre quote
Posted by Lesley on April 03, 1998 at 02:03:28:
In response to Lesley, written by Carolyn on April 02, 1998 at 16:40:11
Although the gathering which ultimately resulted in Mary Shelley's writing of Frankenstein took place on the shores of Lake Geneva, miles from the British soil; it must still qualify as one of the maddest English tea parties of all time. And in a funny way, the gathering may have been responsible for not only for Frankenstein, published that same year, but for Dracula as well, a novel written by a man who would not be born for another thirty one years.
It was June of 1816, and the band of travelers- Percy and Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, and Dr. John Polidori- had been confined to quarters by two weeks of torrential rains. They began a joint reading of German ghost stories from a book called Fantasmagoria, and the gathering began to get decidedly weird. Things really culminated when Percy Shelley threw a kind of fit. Dr. Polidori recorded in his diary, "After tea, 12 o'clock, really began to talk ghosts. Lord Byron read some verses of Coleridge's ‘Christabel,' [the part about] the witch's breast; when silence ensued, Shelley suddenly shrieking, and putting his hands to his head, ran out of the room with a candle. [I] Threw water in his face and gave him ether. He was looking at Mrs. Shelley, and suddenly thought of a woman he had heard of who had eyes instead of nipples; which, taking hold of his mind, horrified him.
Leave it to the English.
An agreement was made that each member of the party would try his or her hand at creating a new ghost story. It was Mary Shelley, whose work as a result of the gathering would alone endure, who had the most trouble getting to work. She had no ideas at all, and several nights passed before her imagination was fired by a nightmare in which "a pale student of unhallowed arts created the awful phantom of a man." It is the creation scene presented in chapters four and five of her novel.
Percy Bysshe Shelley produced a fragment called "The Assassins." George Gordon Byron produced an interesting macabre tale titled "The Burial." But it is John Polidori, the good doctor, who is sometimes mentioned as a possible link to Bram Stoker and Dracula. His short story was later expanded to novel length and became a great success. It was called "The Vampyre."
In point of fact, Polidori's novel isn't very good...and it bears and uncomfortable resemblance to "The Burial," the short story written by his immeasurably more talented patient, Lord Byron. There is perhaps a breath of plagiarism there. We do know that Byron and Polidori argued violently shortly after the interlude at Lake Geneva, and that their friendship ended. It is not entirely without supposition that the similarity between the two tales was the cause. Polidori, who was twenty-one at the time he wrote "The Vampyre," came to an unhappy end. The success of the novel he developed from his story encouraged him to retire from the doctoring profession and to become a full-time writer. He had little success at writing, although he was quite good at piling up gambling debts. When he felt his reputation had become irredeemably impugned, he behaved as we would expect of an English gentleman of the day and shot himself.
- Thanks, Lesley nfm Carolyn 08:01:36 4/07/98 (0)
Posting followups to old messages is disabled; instead go to the main index and post a new message which mentions this one.