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“A dream, which was not all a dream”: dark reflections from June 1816

June 16, 2016

An excerpt from an OUPblog article published on Thursday 16th June 2016, authored by Nicholas Halmi, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of University College, Oxford, and an editorial board member for Oxford Scholarly Editions Online.

'Two hundred years ago, on 16 June 1816, one of the most remarkable gatherings in English literary history occurred in a villa just outside Geneva. Present at the occasion were Lord Byron, who had left England in April to escape (unsuccessfully, in the event) the scandal surrounding his separation from Lady Byron; John Polidori, whom Byron had engaged as his personal physician; Percy Bysshe Shelley; the eighteen-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, with whom Shelley had eloped two years earlier and whom he was to marry in December 1816 (after the suicide of his first wife, Harriet Westbrook); and Godwin’s eighteen-year-old stepsister Claire Clairmont, who was hoping to resume a relationship with Byron that had begun in March (resulting in her pregnancy) and ended with his departure for the Continent. As Mary Shelley recalled in 1831, the group, confined by “incessant rain” to Byron’s rented villa in Cologny, had been reading Fantasmagoriana, a collection of ghost stories translated from German into French, when Byron proposed that each (possibly excluding Clairmont) should write an original ghost story.'

Discover more: Read the rest of this article on the OUPblog


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