“We shall each write a ghost story” was Lord Byron’s challenge to his guests at Villa Diodati near Geneva in the summer of 1816. This competition would eventually produce two of the greatest gothic novels; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819).
The John Murray Archive contains a wealth of material related to that famous and literary productive summer. It was a year of darkness, known as the year without summer, due to the after-effects of the massive volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia.
Some of the original manuscripts, letters and business records are on display at the National Library in the display ‘Monster making in the summer of 1816’. The exhibition title was inspired by an anonymous and disgusted contemporary commentator who described them as the “monster-making coterie … the Vampyre family – or that knot of scribblers, male and female, with weak nerves, and disordered brains, from whom have sprung those disgusting compounds of unnatural conception, bad taste, and absurdity, entitled ‘Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, the ‘Vampyre’ etc, etc.”
Other archive items have been loaned to exhibitions in Switzerland; with ‘1816-2016 Byron is back!’ at the Castle of Chillon and ‘Frankenstein: Creation of Darkness’ at the Fondation Martin Bodmer.
Closer to home the critical reception and review of some of these works are examined in a collaborative exhibition at Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott; ‘Rave Reviewer; Scott on Frankenstein, Emma and Childe Harold’.
To learn more about those archives which help cast light on that summer of darkness why not attend the free illustrated talk by curator David McClay at the National Library on Tuesday 14 June at 6.00 pm booking