Read The Monsters Online

Authors: Dorothy Hoobler

The Monsters

Copyright © 2006 by Dorothy Hoobler and Thomas Hoobler

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including
information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may
quote brief passages in a review.

Little, Brown and Company

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at
www.HachetteBookGroup.com
.

First eBook Edition: May 2006

ISBN: 978-0-316-07572-5

Contents

COPYRIGHT PAGE

CONCEPTION

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

CHAPTER ONE: LOVE BETWEEN EQUALS

CHAPTER TWO: “NOBODY’S LITTLE GIRL BUT PAPA’S”

CHAPTER THREE: IN LOVE WITH LOVING

CHAPTER FOUR: CRACKLING SPARKS AND FREE LOVE

CHAPTER FIVE: THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN EUROPE

CHAPTER SIX: THE SUMMER OF DARKNESS

CHAPTER SEVEN: “A HIDEOUS PHANTOM”

CHAPTER EIGHT: “I SHALL BE NO MORE . . .”

CHAPTER NINE: THE GHOSTS’ REVENGE

CHAPTER TEN: A DOSE FOR POOR POLIDORI

CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE LITTLEST VICTIM

CHAPTER TWELVE: THE HATEFUL HOUSE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: GLORY AND DEATH

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: MARY ALONE

NOTES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Also by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler

Nonfiction

Captain John Smith: Jamestown and the Birth of the American Dream

Vanity Rules: A History of American Fashion and Beauty

We Are Americans: Voices of the Immigrant Experience

Vietnam: Why We Fought

The Voyages of Captain Cook

The Trenches: Fighting on the Western Front in World War I

Photographing History

Photographing the Frontier

The Chinese American Family Album

The Italian American Family Album

The Irish American Family Album

The Jewish American Family Album

The African American Family Album

The Mexican American Family Album

The Japanese American Family Album

The Scandinavian American Family Album

The German American Family Album

The Cuban American Family Album

Novels

The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn

The Demon in the Teahouse

In Darkness, Death
(Edgar Award winner)

The Sword That Cut the Burning Grass

CONCEPTION

I
T ACTUALLY WAS
a dark and stormy night. All through that chilly summer of 1816, ominous gray clouds had swept across the skies, bringing
fierce thunderstorms to much of Europe and North America. Earlier in the year, astronomers had seen unusual sunspots through
their telescopes. By June, the spots were plainly visible, and people began to fear that they were portents of doom. A pamphlet
that was passed from hand to hand in Paris warned that the end of the world was near. In some parts of Europe and New England,
snow fell in July. It would long be remembered as a year when summer never came.

So it was that a violent thunderstorm was raging on a frigid June night as five young people gathered inside the Villa Diodati,
a luxurious summerhouse on the southern shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. One of the group would have been instantly recognizable
to most people in Europe or America. His imposing profile aroused the envy of young men, who obsessively imitated his clothes
and hairstyle, and the secret admiration of young women, who had heard it whispered (in the words of Lady Caroline Lamb, his
onetime lover) that Lord Byron was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” And in fact Byron had fled here to escape the scandal
caused by the allegation that he had committed incest with his half-sister Augusta—a rumor that had caused Byron’s young wife
to leave him.

Though only twenty-eight, Byron was already the most famous English poet of the time—an era when writing verse was the equivalent
of playing in a rock band today. Two years earlier, some ten thousand copies of Byron’s book-length poem,
The Corsair,
had been sold the day it was published, and it went through seven printings in the following month, a record that has probably
never been equaled for a book of verse.

At least two of the other members of the group assembled in his villa were also poets, though neither had anything like the
reputation that Byron did. One was Byron’s companion, the brilliant Dr. John Polidori, who had graduated from the medical
school of the University of Edinburgh two years before at the tender age of nineteen. Polidori would have gladly given up
his medical career for poetry, but Byron mocked Polidori’s artistic efforts and made the earnest young man the butt of jokes.
The third youthful poet in the room, however, had done what few men—and no women—had been able to do: earn Byron’s respect
as an intellectual equal. This was Percy Bysshe Shelley, age twenty-three, whose work was then known only to a small circle
of literary friends. In contrast to the dark, brooding, cynical Byron, Shelley was angel-faced, blond, and ethereal. He felt
he could change the world through the power of his words, despite the fact that the world had so far shown virtually complete
indifference to his efforts.

The two women in the room were both in their teens. One was Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, who had become Shelley’s lover two
years earlier despite the inconvenient fact that he had been (and still was) married to someone else. Mary’s parents, Mary
Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, two of the most famous radicals of their time, had condemned marriage as a form of prostitution.
Nevertheless, Godwin regarded it as a betrayal when his sixteen-year-old daughter ran off with Shelley, a man who had declared
himself Godwin’s disciple. Mary hoped to placate Godwin by writing some great work that would prove her worthy of being not
only his child, but also the child of the famous mother who had died giving birth to her. Thus far, Mary had not found a subject
that would justify that sacrifice.

The last person in the circle was Mary’s stepsister, the beautiful and seductive eighteen-year-old Claire Clairmont (as she
currently called herself), the catalyst who had brought the group together. In the spring of 1816 she had boldly written Byron
to request a meeting at his London townhouse. Though he received countless such appeals from young women, Byron was touched
by Claire’s declaration that her future was in his hands and “the Creator ought not to destroy his creature.” That sparked
a sexual tryst which resulted in less abstract creative activity: as the five listened to the thunderstorm raging outside,
only Claire was aware that she was now carrying Byron’s child.

To entertain his guests on that rainy summer evening, Byron opened a volume of German horror stories translated into French,
and began to read aloud from it. Flickering candles and burning logs in the fireplace provided the only light, other than
the flashes of lightning that abruptly illuminated the windows. Byron liked to frighten people, and as the others became increasingly
agitated by the jarring crashes of thunder and the howling of the wind outside, his enjoyment increased. Upon finishing, Byron
closed the book and proposed a contest: each of them would try to write a ghost story. He could hardly have imagined that
his challenge would result in a novel that was destined to become more famous than his own work or that Mary Godwin, eventually
to be known as Mary Shelley, would be the author.

Mary’s novel
Frankenstein
first appeared in print two years later. It immediately attracted readers, soon appeared in a stage production, and has retained
its hold on people’s imaginations for almost two centuries. The novel has been translated not only into other languages but
also other forms—stage, movies, television, comic books, breakfast cereals. The 1931 motion picture version of the tale made
Dr. Frankenstein and his creation famous throughout the world, and for many, the movie’s star Boris Karloff provided the truest
image of the creature that sprang from Mary’s imagination that summer.

A second modern myth was born that evening: the story of a creature (also resembling a human) whose fame rivals Mary’s monster.
As a result of Byron’s challenge, Dr. Polidori wrote
The Vampyre,
the first and most influential novel about a human vampire; it was the model for all subsequent authors in the genre, from
Bram Stoker to Anne Rice. Everyone at Byron’s villa that night would have recognized the person Polidori portrayed. The aristocratic
vampire who preys on the lifeblood of others was undoubtedly Byron himself.

A dark star hung over all the brilliant young people who listened to Byron read horror stories that night. Though their futures
seemed limitless, early deaths or stunted lives awaited each of them. It almost might be said that the writing of
Frankenstein
placed a curse on the lives of those who were present at its birth. Only Mary and her stepsister survived for long, bearing
the heavy memory of those with whom they had shared a unique moment that produced two masterpieces of the imagination.

Our book concerns the creation of monsters, literary and human, and the tragic consequences of those generative acts. We will
delve into the wellsprings of inspiration that produced the works of literature that were begun at Villa Diodati in the summer
of 1816 and try to discover the relationship between the creators and their creations. In the process, we hope to reveal the
name of the nameless monster that has fascinated readers and audiences ever since.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We are indebted to the many scholars who have paved the way for us by assembling the letters and journals of the subjects
of our book. To Betty T. Bennett, Paula R. Feldman, W. Clark Durant, Frederick L. Jones, Ernest J. Lovell, Jr., Leslie A.
Marchand, Diana Scott-Kilvert, Marion Kingston Stocking, and Ralph M. Wardle—thank you for the work that will forever benefit
all who study Mary Shelley and those who influenced her.

Thanks also to those who personally helped us with advice and information, including Stephen Wagner, curator of the Carl H.
Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle at the New York Public Library; Dr. Murray C. T. Simpson of the National
Library of Scotland; Haidee Jackson, curator at Newstead Abbey; Virginia Murray of the John Murray Archive; and Martin Mintz
and Sandra Powlette of the British Library. We appreciate the help we received from the staff of the New York Public Library’s
Map Division, who found us a detailed map of London at the time the Godwin family was living on Skinner Street. As always,
we are grateful for the help of the staff of the Deborah, Jonathan F. P., Samuel Priest, and Adam Raphael Rose Reading Room
of the New York Public Library; the staff of the Elmer Bobst Library of New York University; and to the staff of the Cohen
Stacks of the City University of New York for pointing the way to a scarce and important volume.

Special thanks to Dr. Stephen Lomazow, world’s greatest magazine collector, for lending us his copy of the September 1818
issue of
The Port Folio,
which contained the first American notice of Mary Shelley’s
Frankenstein
.

We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge gratefully the heroic and skillful efforts of Little, Brown editor Geoff Shandler
and copyeditor Jen Noon to improve our manuscript, and we thank Al Zuckerman, our agent, for his support and hard work on
our behalf. Our daughter Ellen, who was not yet born when we published our first book, is now a doctoral candidate at Columbia
University who critiqued this manuscript for scholarship and style. Any mistakes, of course, are all ours.

CHAPTER ONE
LOVE BETWEEN EQUALS

Mary moves in soft beauty and conscious delight,

To augment with sweet smiles all the joys of the night,

Nor once blushes to own the rest of the fair

That sweet love and beauty are worthy our care.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

And thine is a face of sweet love in despair,

And thine is a face of mild sorrow and care,

And thine is a face of wild terror and fear

That shall never be quiet till laid on its bier.

—“Mary,” William Blake, c. 1801-1803

T
HIS STORY BEGINS,
as many tales do, with a love affair. It involved two brilliant yet very odd people who seemed utterly unsuited for each
other. William Godwin was painfully shy, given to intellectualizing, and apparently a virgin at the age of forty, when he
fell in love with Mary Wollstonecraft. She was passionate to the point of recklessness, heedless of the opinions of the world,
and insistent that she never take second place to anyone, male or female. What brought them together was their common interest:
revolution.

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