The Fantasmagoriana & Mary Shelly Wollstonecraft

MrRING

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#1
I'm sure most of us are familiar with the infamous summer of 1816 where Mary Shelly, Lord Byron, Percy Shelly and John Polidori birthed the world of Frankenstein and (I believe) the first literary vampire tale.

THIS SITE will help set the scene:

The Summer of 1816

The weather went from being beautiful and radiant to melodramatically tempestuous. Torrential rains and incredible lightning storms plagued the area, similar to the summer that Mary was born . This incredible meteorological change was due to the eruption of the volcano, Tambora, in Indonesia. The weather, as well as the company and the Genevan district, contributed to the genesis of Frankenstein.

All contributing events that summer intensified on the night of June 16th. Mary and Percy could not return to Chapuis, due to an incredible storm, and spent the night at the Villa Diodati with Byron and Polidori. The group read aloud a collection of German ghost stories, The Fantasmagoriana. In one of the stories, a group of travelers relate to one another supernatural experiences that they had experienced. This inspired Byron to challenge the group to write a ghost story.

Shelley wrote an forgettable story, Byron wrote a story fragment, and Polidori began the "The Vampyre", the first modern vampire tale. Many consider the main character, Lord Ruthven, to be based on Byron. For some time it was thought that Byron had actually written the story but over time it was realized that Dr. Polidori was the author. Unfortunately, Mary was uninspired and did not start writing anything.

The following evening the group continued their late night activities and at midnight Byron recited the poem, Christabel by Samuel T. Coleridge. Percy became overwrought during the reading and perceived Mary as the villainess of the poem. He ran out of the room and apparently created quite a scene. This incident undoubtedly affected Mary, leading to feelings of guilt that contributed to the story ideas she later developed.

For the next couple of days Mary was unable to begin her story. The poets dropped theirs but Mary persisted in her creative endeavor. She felt that her ambitions and her value were at stake and attempted to turn the pressure and frustration into creative energy.

On June 22nd, Byron and Shelley were scheduled to take a boat trip around the lake. The night before their departure the group discussed a subject from de Stael's De l'Allemagne: "whether the principle of life could be discovered and whether scientists could galvanize a corpse of manufactured humanoid". When Mary went to bed, she had a "waking" nightmare:

I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life...His success would terrify the artist; he would rush away...hope that...this thing...would subside into dead matter...he opens his eyes; behold the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains...

The next morning Mary realized she had found her story and began writing the lines that open Chapter IV of Frankenstein - "It was on a dreary night in November"- She completed the novel in May of 1817 and is was published January 1, 1818.
And of course these events were famously made into a few films, the most famous by Ken Russell called GOTHIC

Now that the scene is set, on to my questions: What exactly was the publication they read which inspired them, The Fantasmagoriana? What were the stories contained within? Were they folktales or fictions? And has a modern edition been published with the stories as they read them in the summer of 1816?
 
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#2
Mr. R.I.N.G. said:
Now that the scene is set, on to my questions: What exactly was the publication they read which inspired them, The Fantasmagoriana? What were the stories contained within? Were they folktales or fictions? And has a modern edition been published with the stories as they read them in the summer of 1816?
It appears to be a German book translated into French:

Fantasmagoriana, ou Recueil d'Histoires d'Apparitions de Spectres, Revenans, Fantomes, etc.; traduit de l'allemand, par un Amateur (Paris: Lenormant et Schoell, 1812). Rictor Norton from the walpole-onelist provides the following bibliographical information:

"As Mary Shelley made clear, the book read that fateful day at the Villa Diodati was a French translation of a German collection of ghost stories (i.e. they did not read either an English or a German book). The book they read was Fantasmagoriana, ou Recueil d'Histoires d'Apparitions de Spectres, Revenans, Fantomes, etc.; traduit de l'allemand, par un Amateur (Paris: Lenormant et Schoell, 1812); the anonymous translator was in fact Jean Baptiste Benoit Eyries (1767-1846).

The German ghost stories originally appeared in the first two of the five- volume Gespensterbuch edited by Friedrich Schulze (though he actually authored three of the stories) (under the pseudonym of Friedrich Laun) and Johann Apel (Leipzig: G. J. Goeschen, 1811-1815). The English translation appeared in 1812: Tales of the Dead (London: White, Cochrane, & Co.) The anonymous translator was in fact Mrs Sarah Elizabeth Brown Utterson, about whom little is known.

The details become complicated enough to delight any bibliographer, in so far as three of the stories in the French edition do not appear in the German edition, and one story in the English edition does not appear in the French edition. The most famous story of the collection, "The Spectre-Barber," is by Musaeus. Matthew Gregory Lewis in 1816 related five ghost stories to Percy Bysshe Shelley, one story that seems to derive from the French edition, and one story that seems to derive from the English edition, and three other stories are so far untraced.

The 1813 edition of this English translation was republished by The Gothic Society (Chislehurst, Kent) in 1992. The above bibliographical information and many other interesting details are provided by Terry Hale's Introduction to this edition.

All of the German stories are based on German folktales which circulated for many years prior to the German publication, so there could be a common ur-source for those in the first Gespensterbuch (1811) and those in the various English chapbooks (1801 and 1802), but I don't think any systematic links have been suggested." --Rictor Norton
http://www.georgiasouthern.edu/~dougt/shelley.htm

Also:

They read from a book entitled, Fantasmagoriana by Jean Baptiste Benoit Eyries. The book was a collection of ghost stories which had been translated from German into French. The book included a story called "Les Portraits de Famille," in which each member of a family had to compose a supernatural tale. This gave Byron, Shelley and their guests an idea, and they decided they would do the same.
http://www.acrimony.org/article_the_vampyre.php

Amazon appear to only have a recent Spanish version (or something by that name):

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/8483071371/
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/8483071371/

[edit: Actually I'm unsure if that is even right this page:

http://www.cyberdark.net/ver.php3?cod=6903

suggests its actually just a collection containing the stories influenced by it:

"El vampiro", de J.W. Polidori
"Los asesinos", de P.B.Shelley
"El sueño", de Mary W. Shelley
"El entierro",de Lord Byron
which would be a wrong turn.]

Ah ha the reason it is difficult to find as it goes under another name:

Tales of the Dead

Mrs Utterson (Translator), Terry Hale (Introduction)
Paperback - 140 pages

This highly influential book was the first English translation of the famous Fantasmagoriana, ou Recueil d'Histoires d'Apparitions de Spectres, Revenans, Fantomes, etc., which was of such critical importance in the development of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Polidori's The Vampyre. Lord Byron, Mary and Percy Shelley, Claire Clairmont and Dr Polidori were all inspired by this book to write their own ghost stories.
http://www.theadamsresidence.co.uk/gothsoc/gothsoc.html

but it is out of stock at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1874100039/
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1874100039/

And the link suggest the Gothic Society only ran between 1990-1998 so there might not be a chance to republish it.

ABE only have the Spanish versions:
http://dogbert.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?tn=Fantasmagoriana

And there the trail runs rather cold I'm afraid :(

Ooooooooo hold on not quite - if you know anyone at the University of Pennsylvania then there might be a copy available to them via:

http://www.english.upenn.edu/~jlynch/Frank/V1notes/lackingt.html

Let us know how you go.

I do think it would be cool if someone like FT could make a reasonably priced copy of some of these obscure, out of print, etc. but still seminal volumes available.
 

MrRING

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#3
Great info, Emperor - I'll check and see if my library actually has the book, or if I can get it through inter-library loan..
 

MrRING

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#4
I just found it on WorldCat - will hopefully get it in a few weeks, and I'll report back as far as what it's like....
 
A

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#5
My understanding was always that they were reading German Ghosts stories which hand been translated into French. Then Byron quoted Chistabel and that sent poor Old Percy into his funk.

So there is a possibility that it could have been some of Huysmans stuff?
 

MrRING

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#6
Just got it through ILL! The stories are part of the nineteenth-century German popular fiction genre called the "shudder" story. Jean Baptiste Benoit Eyries put it together out of the writings of Friedrich Schulze and Johann Apel, though the translater into French added a story all her own (her name being Sarah Elizabeth Brown Utterson). The stories are:

The Family Portraits
The Fated Hour
The Death's Head
The Death-Bride
The Storm
The Spectre Barber


More after I read them!
 
A

Anonymous

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#7
Great set of story titles! Xmas ghost story indulgence for me again this year I hope, I usually get something in my stocking.

Mr R.I.N.G? is it illustrated? and if it is any idea when the illustrations joined the venerable text?
 

MrRING

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#8
Athena - this is a low-budget version, so I don't know what kind of art the original had. There is a B&W cover photograph by Simon Marsden on the cover that is a haunted looking manor house, and there is a single (unattributed) illustration at the begining of the book that looks to be from that time, an engraving of a man unveiling a skeleton with beams coming out it's eyes like flashlights.

The info on the publishing (if anybody's interested):

The Gothic Society
Chatham House
Gosshill Road
Chislehurst
Kent B57 5NS

Printed by Anthony Rowe Ltd.
ISBN 1-874100-03-9
 

MrRING

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#9
Turns out it was a rather famous year, weather-wise, and is known as the Year Without A Summer:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_A_Summer
Description
The unusual climate aberrations of 1816 had the greatest effect on the American northeast and northern Europe. Typically, the late spring and summer of the American Northeast are relatively stable: temperatures average about 68–77 °F (20–25 °C), and rarely fall below 41 °F (5 °C). Summer snow is an extreme rarity, though May flurries sometimes occur.

In May of 1816, however, frost killed off most of the crops that had been planted, and in June two large snowstorms resulted in many human deaths as well. In July and August, lake and river ice were observed as far south as Pennsylvania. Rapid, dramatic temperature swings were common, with temperatures sometimes reverting from normal or above-normal summer temperatures as high as 95 °F (35 °C) to near-freezing within hours. Even though farmers south of New England did succeed in bringing some crops to maturity, maize (corn) and other grain prices rose dramatically. Oats, for example, rose from 12¢ a bushel the previous year to 92¢ a bushel.

Effects
Many historians cite the year without a summer as a primary motivation for the rapid settlement of what is now the American Midwest. Many New Englanders were wiped out by the year, and tens of thousands struck out for the richer soil and better growing conditions of the Upper Midwest (then the Northwest Territory). (A specific instance of this was when the family of Joseph Smith, eventual founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, moved from Sharon, Vermont to Palmyra, New York in far western New York state after several crop failures.) While crops had been poor for several years, the final blow came in 1815 with the eruption of Tambora.

The eruption of Tambora also triggered Hungary to experience brown-colored snow, Italy also experienced something similar, with red-colored snow falling throughout the year. The cause of this is believed to be volcanic ashes in the atmosphere.

Europe, still recuperating from the Napoleonic Wars, suffered from food shortages. Food riots broke out in Britain and France and grain warehouses were looted. The violence was worst in landlocked Switzerland, where famine caused the government to declare a national emergency.

Huge storms, abnormal rainfall and floodings of the major rivers of Europe (including the Rhine) are attributed to the event, as was the frost setting in during August 1816.

The lack of food inspired Karl Freiherr von Drais to research new ways of horseless transportation which led to the invention of the velocipede and the Draisine, a predecessor of the modern bicycle.

In July 1816 "incessant rainfall" during that "wet, ungenial summer" forced Mary Shelley, John William Polidori and their friends to stay indoors for much of their Swiss holiday, leading Shelley to write Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus and Polidori to write The Vampyre. High levels of ash in the atmosphere led to unusually spectacular sunsets during this period, a feature celebrated in the paintings of J. M. W. Turner. (A similar phenomenon was observed after the 1883 Krakatoa eruption, and on the west coast of the United States following the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.)

A BBC documentary using figures compiled in Switzerland estimated that fatality rates in 1816 were twice that of average years, giving an approximate European fatality total of 200,000 deaths
 

rynner2

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#10
Frankenstein's hour of creation identified by astronomers
Mary Shelley had idea for famous novel in response to a challenge from Lord Byron to begin a ghost story
Tim Radford The Guardian, Monday 26 September 2011

Texas astronomers have used the light of the moon to highlight the hour of creation for Victor Frankenstein and his notorious monster – and defend the memory of their teenage creator, Mary Shelley.
The inspiration came in a waking dream between 2am and 3am on the morning of 16 June, 1816, during a stormy summer on Lake Geneva, they explain in the November issue of Sky and Telescope.

In the preface to the third edition of Frankenstein Shelley described a villa party: Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, herself and Byron's physician Polidori, and the famous challenge by Byron that each of them should begin a ghost story. She also described her repeated inability to come up with an idea until a moment of inspiration during a sleepless night in her dark room, behind closed shutters "with the moonlight struggling to get through".

And then, she continued: "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 stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life …"

The two poets soon lost interest. Polidori picked up an idea of Byron's and much later launched another genre with a Gothic thriller called The Vampyre. He also kept a diary of his days with Byron and some enigmatic entries have prompted scholars and biographers to suggest that to enhance sales Mary Shelley might have composed yet another fiction about the chronology of literary creation. Did Byron make his famous challenge on 16 June? Was Mary Shelley, only 18 at the time, writing the next day?

Or did she spend several days agonising and think of her tale on 22 June?
"Our calculations show that can't be right, because there wouldn't be any moonlight," says Donald Olson, from Texas State University in San Marcos. Just as astronomers can predict sunrise, lunar cycles and tides decades ahead, they can say when they happened centuries in the past. Prof Olson has already used astronomical tables and geographic reference points to fix the time, date and location of paintings by Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh; to propose revised timings for the Battle of Marathon in 490BC and Caesar's invasion of Britain in 55BC; and even to confirm a freak Breton tide mentioned in Chaucer's The Franklin's Tale.

In August 2010, Professor Olson, two colleagues and two students went to Lake Geneva to discover when moonlight would have hit the windows, and penetrated the shutters, of Mary Shelley's bedroom. The answer required a visit to the villa, still in private ownership, a study of the terrain, and perusal of weather records.

Shelley reports that she stayed up beyond the "witching hour" of midnight. By 22 June, the moon would then have been a waning crescent, masked by a hillside. But a bright, gibbous moon would have cleared the hillside to shine into Mary Shelley's bedroom window just before 2am on 16 June.

So Shelley's version of events is supported by evidence. Byron probably made his famous ghost story challenge somewhere between 10 and 13 June, 1816. On 15 June, according to both Polidori and Mary Shelley, the party talked about the "principle" of life. The monster and the tormented scientist were dreamed up in the small hours of that night.

"Mary Shelley wrote about moonlight shining through her window, and for 15 years I wondered if we could recreate that night," says Prof Olson. "We did recreate it. We see no reason to doubt her account."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/se ... stronomers
 
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