The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

In search of the Villa-Diodata

When I was taking my Junior Year abroad at Exeter University in England, I spent a long spring break traveling through Europe, first to Prague, then to Venice, and finally to Paris. But I had to decided that I wanted to make a stop in between Paris and Venice. I hadn't been sure where to go, thinking maybe Barcelona would be nice, but a bit out of the way.

At the time I was trying to catch up on my reading for my 19th century literature class, reading through Dracula, Tennyson's In Memorium and Bronte's Villette. While in Venice, though, trying to decide on where to go next, I was finishing up Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Among the Appendices to my edition were a short story called Vampyre by John Polidori and a fragment of a novel by Byron. As I read, I discovered the reason why these were included in the appendix. At the time of the composition of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley was 18 and her name was Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. She was the daughter of notable political thinker William Godwin and early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Her father had attracted a follower in poet Percy Shelley, and at the age of 16, Mary Godwin started a romantic relationship with this married man. In the interim, Mary's stepsister, the energetic and beautiful Claire Clairmont began a relationship with Lord Byron, and through her Percy and Byron became acquainted. Byron grew tired of Claire quickly, but she continued to pursue him, now pregnant with his child, and sought to visit him at his villa in Switzerland, the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva. In 1816, to persuade Byron, Claire brought along Mary and Percy so the three could meet. The four of them, along with Byron's physician John Polidori spent the summer there, initiating a rather productive period of writing for Byron, Percy and Mary. One night after reading some ghost stories, Byron suggested they write their own horror stories. Byron himself started a story, which he quickly abandoned, and it was picked up by Polidori who created Vampyre, the first vampire story in English, featuring a Lord-Byron-like vampire, which would influence later horror writers, like Bram Stoker. But even more notable was the story that Mary would start to write, a story that Percy would encourage her to continue and would eventually become Frankenstein. Later in 1816, Percy's first wife committed suicide and Percy and Mary were finally able to marry, and she changed her named to Mary Shelley from then on.

Reading about this while I was in Venice, I thought that it would be interesting to visit Geneva and make a pilgrimage to this literary site. I took the train to Geneva and stayed at a hostel in the city. I tried to visit the Villa Diodati, finding the neighborhood where it was located in the northeastern part of the city. I'm sure I saw the villa, but I wasn't able to determine which, among several villas in the vicinity was the Villa Diodati, and eventually gave up, walking down the Chemin Byron towards the edge of Lake Geneva.

No comments:

Post a Comment