For , the Year Without a Summer, Mackenzie recorded no clear days at all. The dismal, often terrifying weather of the summer of is a touchstone of the ensuing correspondence between the sisters.
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On their alpine descent days later, a snowstorm ruined their view of Geneva and its famous lake. Beginning in June , these annual storms attained a manic intensity not witnessed before or since. The lake was lit up—the pines on Jura made visible, and all the scene illuminated for an instant, when a pitchy blackness succeeded, and the thunder came in frightful bursts over our heads amid the darkness. In fact, the year remains the coldest, wettest Geneva summer since records began in That unforgettable year, days of rain between April and September swelled the waters of Lake Geneva, flooding the city.
Up in the mountains the snow refused to melt. Clouds hung heavy, while the winds blew bitingly cold. In some parts of the inundated city, transport was only possible by boat.
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A cold northwest wind from the Jura mountains—called le joran by locals—swept relentlessly across the lake. The sky is changed—and such a change! Oh night, And storm, and darkness, ye are wondrous strong What caused the terrible weather conditions over Britain and western Europe in —18? The relation between volcanism and climate depends on eruptive scale. Volcanic ejecta and gases must penetrate skyward high enough to reach the stratosphere where, in its cold lower reaches, sulfate aerosols form.
These then enter the meridional currents of the global climate system, disrupting normal patterns of temperature and precipitation across the hemispheres. But ejecta of smaller size—water vapor, molecules of sulfur and fluorine gases, and fine ash particles—remained suspended in the stratosphere, where a sequence of chemical reactions resulted in the formation of a mega- ton sulfate aerosol layer.
Over the following months, this dynamic, streamer-like cloud of aerosols—much smaller in size than the original volcanic matter—expanded by degrees to form a molecular screen of planetary scale, spread aloft by the winds and meridional currents of the world. In the course of an month journey, it passed across both south and north poles, leaving a telltale sulfate imprint on the ice for paleo-climatologists to discover more than a century and a half later.
From there, its planet-girdling aerosol film continued to scatter shortwave solar radiation back into space until early , while allowing much of the longwave radiant heat from the earth to escape. The first extreme impact of a major tropical eruption is felt in raw temperature.
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But in western Europe, biblical-style inundation during the summer growing season wrought the greatest havoc. Because of the tilt of the Earth in relation to the sun and the different heat absorption rates of land and sea, solar insolation of the planet is irregular. Uneven heating in turn creates an air pressure gradient across the latitudes of the globe. Wind is the weatherly expression of these temperature and pressure differentials, transporting heat from the tropics to the poles, moderating temperature extremes, and carrying evaporated water from the oceans over the land to support plant and animal life.
The major meridional circulation patterns, measuring thousands of miles in breadth, transport energy and moisture horizontally across the globe, creating continental-scale weather patterns. Meanwhile, at smaller scales, the redistribution of heat and moisture through the vertical column of the atmosphere produces localized weather phenomena, such as thunderstorms.
Slower-churning warm waters north of the Azores pumped over-loads of moisture into the atmosphere, saturating the skies while enhancing the temperature gradient that fuels wind dynamics. Meanwhile, air pressure at sea level plummeted across the mid-latitudes of the North Atlantic, dragging cyclonic storm tracks southward. Pioneering British climate historian Hubert Lamb has calculated that the influential Icelandic low-pressure system shifted several degrees latitude to the south during the cold summers of the s compared to 20th-century norms, settling in the unfamiliar domain of the British Isles, and thus ensuring colder, wetter conditions for all of western Europe.
Both computer models and historical data draw a dramatic picture of Tambora-driven storms hammering Britain and western Europe. Back at the ground level of observed weather phenomena, an archival study of Scottish weather has found that, in the —18 period, gale-force winds battered Edinburgh at a rate and intensity unmatched in over years of record keeping.
In January , a particularly violent storm nearly destroyed the beloved St. The slowing of oceanic currents in response to the overall deficit of solar radiation post-Tambora had left unusual volumes of heated water churning through the critical area between Iceland and the Azores, sapping air pressure, energizing westerly winds, and giving shape to titanic storms.
It was in this literally electric atmosphere that the Shelley party in Geneva, with Byron attached, conceived the idea of a ghost story contest, to entertain themselves indoors during this cold, wild summer. In his movie about the Shelley circle that summer, British film director Ken Russell imagines Shelley gulping tincture of opium while Claire Clairmont performs fellatio on Byron, recumbent in a chair.
Group sex in the drawing room might be implausible, even for the Shelley circle, but drug taking is very likely, inspired by Coleridge, the poet-addict supreme. For Mary, the lurid events of this stormy night gave literary body to her own distracted musings on the ghost story competition, instituted two nights earlier. She would write a horror story of her own, about a doomed monster brought unwittingly to life during a storm. A week after the memorable night of June 18, Byron and Shelley almost came to grief sailing on Lake Geneva, caught unawares as another violent storm swept in from the east.
The pyrotechnical lightning displays of June ignited the literary imagination of Mary Shelley. In Frankenstein , she uses the experience of a violent thunderstorm as the scene of fateful inspiration for her young, doomed scientist:. When I was about fifteen years old It advanced from behind the mountains of Jura; and the thunder burst at once with frightful loudness from various quarters of the heavens.
I remained, while the storm lasted, watching its progress with curiosity and delight. As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak, which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump.
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As a result of the prolonged poor weather, crop yields across the British Isles and western Europe plummeted by 75 percent and more in — Farmers left their crops in the field as long as they dared, hoping some fraction might mature in late-coming sunshine. But the longed-for warm spell never arrived and at last, in October, they surrendered. Potato crops were left to rot, while entire fields of barley and oats lay blanketed in snow until the following spring. In Germany, the descent from bad weather to crop failure to mass starvation conditions took a frighteningly rapid course.
Meanwhile, back in England, riots broke out in the East Anglian counties as early as May In his magisterial account of the social and economic upheaval in Europe during the Tambora period, historian John Post has shown the scale of human suffering to be worst in Switzerland, home to Shelley and her circle in Even in normal times, a Swiss family devoted at least half its income to buying bread. Already by August , bread was scarce, and in December, bakers in Montreux threatened to cease production unless they could be allowed to raise prices.
Bakers were set upon by starving mobs in the market towns and their shops destroyed. The English ambassador to Switzerland, Stratford Canning, wrote to his prime minister that an army of peasants, unemployed and starving, was assembling to march on Lausanne. Most shocking of all was the fate of some desperate mothers. In horrific circumstances repeated around the world in the Tambora period, some Swiss families abandoned their offspring in the crisis, while others chose killing their children as the more humane course. For this crime, some starving women were apprehended and decapitated.
Thousands of Swiss with more means and resilience emigrated east to prosperous Russia, while others set off along the Rhine to Holland and sailed from there to North America, which witnessed its first significant wave of refugee European migration in the 19th century.
The numbers of European immigrants arriving at U. Devastated by famine and disease in the Tambora period, the poor of Europe hurriedly buried their dead before resuming the bitter fight for their own survival. In the worst cases, children were abandoned by their families and died alone in the fields or by the roadside. The well-born members of the Shelley circle were never reduced to such abysmal circumstances.
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They did not experience the food crises that afflicted millions among the rural populations of western Europe in the Tambora period. Most of them were crooked, and with enlarged throats. Like the hordes of refugees on the roads of Europe seeking aid in —18, the Creature, when he ventures into the towns, is met with fear and hostility, horror and abomination. As remarkable a feat of literary imagination as Frankenstein is, Mary Shelley was not wanting for real-world inspiration for her horror story, namely the deteriorating rural populations of Europe, in the climatic upheaval of Mount Tambora.
Copyright by Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission. Coleridge had learned German on a trip to Germany in his younger days, along with his friend William Wordsworth. Coleridge had encamped for a few months at Gottingen University, where he learned the language and listened to lectures and made side trips. Shelley had even expected his wife and son might come and live with them in an egalitarian communal paradise. Coleridge was struggling with his own particular demons at the time, his long addiction to Laudanum, and his doubts about his own work with a tendency to begin brilliant works and never quite finish them, like Kubla Kahn , even going so far as to add: Or, a Vision in a Dream, A Fragment to the title, after Byron and friends convinced him publish it.
The German authors had been translating works of Shakespeare and Cervantes into their language, as Coleridge had been the German works to English. Goethe, born in Frankfurt had served briefly as a magazine editor in nearby Darmstadt with Merck, before trying to revitalize his legal career in Wetzler, where he was inspired by the suicide of a friend and his own passionate attraction to an unattainable girl to write Young Werther.
Had Coleridge heard of the story of the strange activities of the one-time inhabitant of the Frankenstein Castle at Darmstadt, the college lecturer-alchemist and occult dabbler, Johann Conrad Dippel, from his travels in Germany? Coleridge never published his English version of Faust in his lifetime and only later has what is believed may be his unfinished work been discovered. Mary Godwin also began a book before Frankenstein that she never finished, she called Hate , and what secrets of her sixteen year old heart it held may never be known. Wallenstein , Wolfstein , Frankenstein , and some smelly creepy medicine for a pregnant young woman author, expressing her exposure to the lofty thoughts and influences of the circle of contemplative minds surrounding her.
Constantly pressed for an explanation of where she got the idea for her story, if a vision in a dream worked for Coleridge to explain Kubla Khan , why not for Frankenstein? But who were they? He focused on selling books to all classes of society. The building housed a collection of publishers and assorted shops. An advertisement of the time reported that the bookseller had a half million volumes for sale at any one time and by , the printed catalogue listed , works available.
Its scale was demonstrated at its grand opened by a mail coach and four horses driving around underneath its central dome. Intended to represent a temple to reading, the poet John Keats recalled visiting the Temple of the Muses as a schoolboy to wonder at the towering shelves of books and read for free in the lounges, and eventually met his publishers among the stacks.
James Lackington retired in , the year Mary Godwin was born. George Lackington, a third cousin to James, who had worked in the shop as an apprentice since the age of 13, borrowed funds from his successful merchant father to buy a share in the company. Then, through a series of deaths or life misfortunes, the partners changed over the next years.
Robin Allen died in and it took a succession of partners to replace him. Richard Hughes, Joseph Harding, A.
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It was supposed to be published on December 30 of , but the printing was late. The three volumes sold poorly, blamed on the late delivery and mix up in advertising. The novel was re-published officially on March 11, An interesting question, as these two most prominent women authors who have survived in popularity to today were being published as contemporaries.
The short answer is probably not. There is no record or mention of one another and they were not in the same circles. But it is a tantalizing question anyway. Mary Shelley recorded most of what she read in her diaries, and there is nothing regarding anything of Austen. And they were almost polar opposites in life experience and artistic sensibility.
Austen came from a country life and wrote of themes of obtaining a good marriage and keeping a good name, in a comedic tone. Mary Shelley spent her formative life in a city environment surrounded by radical philosophers and her work was intellectual and dark, with tragedy at its core.
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Yet, there are intersections of commonalities. Mary Shelley wrote her famous work when she was eighteen years old and revised it over years. Jane Austen wrote the first drafts of her most prominent works when she was twenty to twenty-two and revised them over years. Austen began her first novels in the form of a series of letters. Shelley begins Frankenstein as a series of letters. Okay, these are curious intersections, more having to do with the nature of women authors in their times. Could they ever have been in the same society?
Austen was being published in her lifetime beginning in until But yet, there are some connections where, if not encountering in person, they could have been aware of one another. It had favorable reviews and the novel became fashionable among the young aristocratic class and the first edition sold out. Pride and Prejudice followed in January , was widely advertised and sold well. Mary Shelley was the daughter of publishers and surrounded by writers.
She was beginning her early attempts at writing at least by After Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility , Mansfield Park came out in May of , at about the time Mary and Percy Shelley were becoming involved and her step-sister Jane Claire was taking an avid interest in the fashions of the time.
Austen resided at 23 Hans Place in Knightsbridge while in London corresponding with Murray regarding a special limited edition of Emma dedicated to His Royal Highness, to be issued before public distribution of the novel. Whether she visited the publisher while in London is not recorded, but Murray was well known for his salons of prominent writers gathering for meetings at his 50 Albemarle Street address in Mayfair.
It was nearly the epicenter of the London publishing world. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, friend of the Godwins and the Shelleys was also being published by John Murray II, and William Godwin had many dealings with him as a writer and publishing competitor. John Murray was the publisher of Lord Byron. She completed two revision drafts of Persuasion by August of She began another work, Sandition , but stopped writing in March of She died on July 18, in Winchester.
First offering it to Murray, then to Charles Ollier, both of whom declined to publish. Shelley did not reveal to who the author was, only saying it was the work of a friend. So, did Mary Shelley meet Jane Austen, not likely, but she must have known of her work. Could she have been encouraged or inspired by the success of a woman author of her day like Jane Austen? She never mentioned it. William Godwin published his memoir about Mary Wollstonecraft, Memoirs of the Author of the Vindication of the Rights of Woman in , when Jane Austen was at the height of her creative energy, writing about the fear of loss of reputation, when one of the pre-eminent woman authors of the day found her reputation sent her into the dustbin by the resulting scandal of the baring of her affair with Gilbert Imlay and illegitimate birth of her daughter.
But she never mentioned it. After all, it was far from her country world of polite manners, and probably best not to mention it. It was an eventful and turbulent two and half year romance up until then. Curiously for a couple to be defined by their hurried and long delayed marriage, neither of them really believed in the institution of marriage, but could not avoid the social consequences of the institution.
The modern version of Brad and Angelina at first avoided the artifice of official marriage, but ultimately fell to its hold on the concept of society. Curiously the divorce bill for the dissolution of Mr. The tabloid scandal which had launched the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie romance to the headlines was contest between Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Anniston.
Mary always rejected this idea until her dying day, but Shelley struggled with a dependence on laudanum for much of his life. It seems unlikely they would be broken up by the minor skirmishes of a modern day relationship. The story has been told over and over, repeated by journalists, films and bloggers for almost years. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.
I opened mine in terror. The idea so possessed my mind, that a thrill of fear ran through me, and I wished to exchange the ghastly image of my fancy for the realities around. But is this story the full truth? An idea, a concept, a vision, surely, but invariably informed by a personal past, a connection to something deeper in a lived experience.
Mary drew for her characters and setting the world of Switzerland around her, the streets of the Plain Palais of Geneva and Mont Blanc outside her window. Yet, from where would the inner life of such a collection of characters of passion and betrayal come from in a young woman of eighteen?
The author could infuse and develop these themes as the story took shape over time. But did Mary draw upon an earlier work to shape her first published book? She never finished it or published it, and this seminal work of a young budding author of remarkable talent has never seen the light of day and Mary Shelley did not reveal its themes or content.
There has been considerable academic discussion over the years about how much her husband, Percy Shelley, may have contributed to the writing of the Frankenstein novel. Certainly, he encouraged her in the writing of it, and he may have offered some editing of it, but how much does he actually appear in the characters of the novel, and who else is represented in the pages? This suggests a thematic origin of something well beyond a ghost story about the hubris of science born in an instant from the image of a waking dream.
Did that waking image really come from a past experience and more deeper personal meaning than just a casual story competition. Why did she never reveal from where she derived the unusual title name? Filming has been spotted around the Collins Barracks in Dublin. The film should be released late in , at least to the festival circuit. Most people casually familiar with Frankenstein who have not read the novel, usually seem to get the idea that the creator of the monster was German and the events happened there.
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