Halloween is approaching…
So as part of our local heritage series we thought we would look at the iconic story of Frankenstein. As anyone familiar with Bournemouth’s literary history will know, the novel’s author, Mary Shelley, is buried in a family plot in St Peter’s Church. And of course the Mary Shelley public house is just across the road.
The Shelley home in Boscombe became Groveley Manor School in 1911 and was sold to Bournemouth council in 1936 to become a technical college.
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist and early travel writer who wrote the gothic tale Frankenstein, considered an early example of science fiction. She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Mary Shelley’s description of a figure of unnatural life, a stitched and hideous medical creation, was inspired by a nightmare while on holiday with Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and Dr John Polidori, at Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
When it was published in 1818, it was a great commercial success but also condemned for being ‘sensationalist and gruesome.’ Some reviewers praised the anonymous author’s powerful imagination. Others questioned their sanity. The main message that Frankenstein conveys is the danger in the pursuit of knowledge and advancement in Science and Technology.
Not so different then from discussions today about, for example, Artificial Intelligence. Frankenstein is of course the creator, not the creation. In the novel Victor Frankenstein tries to push the limits of science by creating a creature from old body parts.
The creation of the creature backfired on him, once the monster escaped. Though it initially seeks affection, the monster inspires loathing in everyone who meets it. Lonely and miserable, the monster eventually turns upon its creator, who eventually loses his life.
The name Frankenstein became attached to the monster himself over many decades, not least when the novel inspired many movies.
Perhaps the most famous Frankenstein’s monster was Boris Karloff but he was also played by, among others, Lon Chaney Jr, Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee.