By Melanie Ward
Two hundred years ago, in the summer of 1816, a group of friends gathered in a holiday home on the shores of Lake Geneva. The summer was wet, excursions were impossible, and to pass the time one of the group suggested that they occupy themselves by writing ghost stories.
By the end of the summer, the vampire had been introduced to the world, and one of literature’s most enduring monsters – Frankenstein – had been created.
Mary Godwin was eighteen in 1816. Her mother, who had died a few months after her birth, was Mary Wollstonecraft, an early feminist who had published ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’.
Her father was William Godwin, a journalist, philosopher and novelist.
Mary Godwin had eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the most famous poets of the day. Together with Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, they travelled through France and Germany to Geneva, where they were to meet up with another famous poet, Lord Byron, and his physician, John Polidori.
In the nineteenth century, poets were the rock stars of their day, and the arrival of the group caused a stir on the shores of Lake Geneva, where guests at nearby hotels took turns looking out for them with a rented telescope.
Byron had rented a property called the Villa Diodati, and Shelley a small chateau, called Montalegre.