by Jesse Marinoff Reyes:
MONSTER UNLEASHED: Happy Birthday Mary Shelley 1797-1851
It was a “wet, ungenial summer” in Switzerland when Mary Godwin (traveling as “Mrs. Shelley”) went to Lake Geneva with Percy Bysshe Shelley and their son, and Claire Clairmont to spend that summer with Lord Byron, who brought along his physician John William Polidori. However, as the days progressed, and the rains made their retreat rather confining—often for days on end—instead of frolicking it was conversation that ruled the day and evenings.
They talked about the work of the 18th century natural philosopher (and poet) Erasmus Darwin—who was said to have animated dead matter; and of galvanism (named for the scientist Luigi Galvani who investigated the effect of electricity on dissected animals, using electric current to stimulate muscle movement); and whether it was feasible to reanimate corpses. Sitting around a log fire they read ghost stories (German ghost stories!) to presumably, freak each other out, prompting Lord Byron to suggest that they each write their own supernatural tale…!
Mary Shelley began what she thought would be a short story, just a bit of fun. But with Percy Shelley’s encouragement she fleshed it out into a full-blown novel. That summer, as dramatized in the prologue to James Whale’s film Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Ken Russell’s film Gothic (1986) the still teen-aged Shelley wrote “I stepped out from childhood into life.” She also stepped into the ages with Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus.