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Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature

A Dark and Stormy Night

In the summer of 1816, nineteen-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and her lover, the poet Percy Shelley (whom she married later that year), visited the poet Lord Byron at his villa beside Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Stormy weather frequently forced them indoors, where they and Byron's other guests sometimes read from a volume of ghost stories. One evening, Byron challenged his guests to each write one themselves. Mary's story, inspired by a dream, became Frankenstein.

Color painting of the side view of the manor house Villa Diodat and the surrounding area. A woman is sitting in the foreground with a view of the lake in the background. The Villa Diodati. Courtesy of The Granger Collection, New York.
The Villa Diodati. Courtesy of The Granger Collection, New York.

When I placed my head upon my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think. . . . I saw — with shut eyes, but acute mental vision — I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous Creator of the world.

— Mary Shelley, from her introduction to the third edition of Frankenstein.