Showing posts with label Literary Masterpieces. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Literary Masterpieces. Show all posts

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Summer of 1816, A Casual Writing Contest and the Birth of Three Literary Masterpieces

Miracles often happen when they are least expected. Ideas pop up out of the blue and even the creators fail to assess the brilliance of the thing they have conjured up. Such was tale behind the creation of three literary works of wonder.

We’ll come to the works later. Let’s hear a little story first.

It was the year 1816 – the ‘Year There Was No Summer.’ The climate around the Northern Hemisphere was at its worse. There were extreme weather conditions everywhere and heavy rainfall doomed lives across Europe.

Year Without a Summer
Source: Celebrate Boston
The dampness and gloom had cast a dark spell that was difficult to overcome. Mount Tambora had erupted somewhere in Indonesia and the Earth was gripped in a dreadful volcanic winter in summer.

Living amidst all the chaos were two great personas – poet George Gordon Byron and writer John William Polidori, trying to orient themselves to the adverse weather changes in Villa Diodati  near Lake Geneva.

And they were not the only sufferers. Equally disheartened by the strange summer were three other people – poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, his spouse Mary Shelley, and her stepsister Claire Clairmont, who came by to give them company and enliven their own dying spirits.

Mary and Percy Shelley, Byron, Polidori
Source: Pinterest
Rain and darkness make the perfect ambiance for ghost stories, don’t they? Thus, a plan was made amongst the rendezvousing for the sake of amusement. As the rain lashed on the window pane, the five of them took turns in narrating spooky tales to each other. Included amongst the stories was Fantasmagoriana – a French anthology of German ghost stories.

Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva
Source: Wikiwand
As the action unfolded, the excitement grew more and more intense. But, can writers ever conquer their boredom merely by reading out stories? Nay. So, it was decided that they would write their own ghost stories! What happened next is history.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was created. Polidori came up with The Vampyre (in fact, this is believed to be the onset of the literary genre; Twihards can thank him). And, who doesn’t know Lord Byron’s poem – Darkness?

Of course, Frankenstein didn’t happen in an instant. Mary Shelley had a tough time creating the plot. At times, she even went blank, unable to put her thoughts into writing.

Lord Byron was no better. He began with a story and ended up writing the poem, Darkness. The story, which narrated a dying man pledging to pay his friend a visit after death, was left midway. Polidori was the cleverest amongst them. He picked up Byron’s story and created The Vampyre out of it.

Ah, the mind-boggling ways literary masterpieces are born!