Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

How Mary Shelley made a monster… in her own words. Part 2

Here’s more from Mary Shelley’s 1831 Introduction, telling how she “then a young girl, came to think of and to dilate upon so very hideous an idea”…

Many and long were the conversations between Lord Byron and Shelley, to which I was a devout but nearly silent listener. During one of these, various philosophical doctrines were discussed, and among others the nature of the principle of life, and whether there was any probability of its ever being discovered and communicated. … Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things; perhaps the component parts of the creatures might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth.

Night waned up on this talk, and even the witching hour had gone by, before we retired to rest. When I placed my head on my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think. My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. 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 stir with an uneasy, half vital motion…. His success would terrify the artist; he would rush away from his odious handiwork, horror-stricken. He would hope that, left to itself, the slight spark of life which he had communicated would fade; that this thing; which had received such imperfect animation would subside into dead matter; and he might sleep in the belief that the silence of the grave would quench forever the transient existence of the hideous corpse which he had looked upon as the cradle of life. He sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold, the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes.

This is the passage that really made me want to write She Made a Monster! Tune in tomorrow for part 3, how Mary’s vision became the most famous monster story of all…

 

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