the German book of ghost stories that inspired Frankenstein

the German book of ghost stories that inspired Frankenstein
25 March 2024 J.W.H

The story of Frankenstein's birth is well-known and is basically based on Mary Shelley's account in her preface to 1831 edition to her novel. She and her (soon to be) husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, spent summers on the shores of Lake Geneva, near Lord Byron and his personal physician John Polidori. The yr was 1816 – the so-calleda yr with no summer”, and the inclement weather meant that the party was held indoors, and reading ghost stories was their entertainment.

In some of the famous theorems within the history of literatureLord Byron suggested that every of them try their hand at writing a supernatural story. Ironically, the works of two emerging writers, Mary Shelley and Polidori, survive. From almost nothing, the pair invented the trendy horror film. Polidori's story “The Vampire” inspired Bram Stoker to write down “Dracula” 80 years later, and 18-year-old Shelley wrote “Frankenstein” – which will also be considered the primary science fiction novel.

À lire aussi: Older than Dracula: seeking the English vampire

The book that the Shelleys, Byron and Polidori read through the trip was called Phantasmagorian. It was an anthology of eight supernatural stories, published in Paris in 1812, but translated from German. No clues about authors or original sources got, and readers were asked to consider the stories as embellished versions of actual supernatural cases. The title happily played with this ambiguity, bringing to mind the so-called performances popular at the moment. phantasmagorias.

A Victorian performance of phantasmagoria, or a magic lantern show.
William Heath (1794–1840)

Based on the magic lantern (an ancestor of cinema), these shows allowed viewers to see ghosts floating within the air, devils appearing and disappearing, and young girls turning into skeletons. At the top, the impresario got here on stage and explained that it was only a trick. But in Paris, around 1798-99, the police briefly stopped such performances when a rumor spread that phantasmagoria might bring King Louis XVI to earth. come back from the dead. An identical gallery of horror stories was offered by a book read by our holiday writers. As Mary Shelley recalls:

There was the Story of the Fickle Lover Who […] he found himself within the arms of the pale spirit of the one he had left. There was a story of the sinful founding father of his race whose unlucky fate was to bestow the kiss of death on all of the younger sons of his destined house […] he approached the sofa of the blooming youth, lulled by sound sleep.

It's value visiting the impact of such stories on Frankenstein. At one point in Shelley's novel, Victor Frankenstein dreams of holding the “pale ghost” of his future bride in his arms, which can remind us of a story that Shelley described as The story of an unstable lover (actually La Morte The Bride or Corpse Bride, creator Fryderyk August Schulze).

Frankenstein's “creature” is a big creature that causes the extermination of a whole family – a plot idea that will have been inspired by what he calls “the story of the sinful founding father of his race“, who “gives the kiss of death” to his descendants (actually the history of the so-called Family portraits – or Family portraits, incl Johann August Apel).

However, if we read Frankenstein with Fantasmagorian in mind, we’ll see that the influence of those stories goes much deeper than mere inspiration.

Illustration from the 1922 edition of Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.
Cornhill Publishing House

Trying to explain in foreword to the book: “How I, then a young girl, came up with such a terrible idea and pondered over it” – Shelley describes her thought processes as a phantasmagoric spectacle. Imagination, in her view, is the screen on which stories display impressions. In the evening, lying in bed, Shelley sees “with closed eyes but keen sight” the central scene of his novel – the thought of ​​u200bu200bthe novel is primarily a picture, not a plot.

It is a picture that he knows full well will not be real, and yet it’s terrifying: just like the ghosts in phantasmagoria or Phantasmagorian shows, which were explained to be tricks of the mind, and yet left an unnoticeable impression of the uncanny. In Les Portrais de Famille, Shelley read of a ghost “approaching the couch of a blooming youth, lulled by sound sleep” – half asleep he imagines a person in bed, observing “this terrible thing” he has created, “stand(ing) by his bed, revealing drapes”. In other words, the history we read reflects and anticipates the history to be written.

Shelley can also be visited by a ghost at her bedside – on this case, the ghost of the novel:

The next day I announced that I had made up a story.

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  • J.W.H

    About John:

    John Williams is a Reincarnationist paranormal Intuitive freelance writer...he is living proof of reincarnation existence, through his personal exploration, he has confirmed its authenticity through visits to the very lands where these events transpired.

    Through guided meditation/s using hemi-sync technology he has managed to recollect 3 previous lives to his own, that go back to the Mid to Late 19th century.

    JWH - "You are the GODS! - Inclusion of the Eternal Light of Love and you shall never die”.

    “Death is Just the Beginning of Life”