Friday 6 January 2012

Frankenstein and The Love Child

I'm very much enjoying your many and varied reading challenges/aspirations for 2012, do keep them coming!

Today I just wanted to share an amusing coincidence that I came across whilst preparing for my thesis.  I've just started writing up my latest chapter (I make enormously detailed plans - this chapter had an 18,000 word plan - and then build them into proper paragraphs) and it includes a little bit on Frankenstein.  Quite a few of you will probably be familiar with Mary Shelley's account of how the inspiration for Frankenstein came to her, courtesy of the 1831 Preface she wrote to her 1817 novel:
When I placed my head on my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think. My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. 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. […] On the morrow I announced that I had thought of a story. I began that day with the words, It was on a dreary night of November, making only a transcript of the grim terrors of my waking dream.

At first I thought but of a few pages of a short tale; but Shelley urged me to develope [sic] the idea at greater length.
Well, having read that, check out what Edith Olivier wrote about The Love Child in her autobiography Without Knowing Mr. Walkley:
Ten or eleven years ago I woke up in the middle of the night with the idea of a story in my head.  I had not thought of it before that moment, but it struck me as being a very good subject, and I immediately sat up and scribbled away for three or four hours.  I thought at first that it would be finished in one chapter, but when I began to write I found that it was going to be a much bigger thing than that.  Before morning I had finished two chapters of The Love Child – my first book. […]  I was sleeping badly at that time and I wrote practically the whole of that first book during those feverish wakeful hours when the body is weary but the mind seems to let loose to work abnormally quickly.  I have often thought that in wakeful nights one is quite another person to one’s ordinary everyday self.  One ceases to be human and becomes a tangle of the super-human and the sub-human.
Curiously similar, no?

Just thought that might be of interest... well, it beats telling you about all the sheep puns my friend Clare and I made up today.  Actually, that sounds equally interesting, now...


  1. Ah sleepless nights. The authors used this dreary time to be productive. I love the Rumi quote "the morning breeze has secrets to reveal, do not go back to sleep"
    Helen xx

  2. On first reading the title of your post I thought you'd been reading one of those mashup books, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

  3. Come on, tell us some sheep puns!

    Although I did enjoy the Mary Shelley/Edith Olivier coincidence. Interesting that in each case that was their great work (I think in Shelley's case her only work, but I can't actually remember).

  4. Helen - what a lovely quotation, thank you for sharing!

    Joanne - haha, yes! There have been plenty of those for Frankenstein, I discovered... mostly in films.

    Helen - I also found it interesting that both of them thought it would be a short piece... Shelley also wrote 'The Other Man', but I haven't read it - apparently it's very good. I found Frankenstein a bit of a struggle, to be honest!
    Ah, the sheep puns... they were barely puns, actually. We were trying to think of sheep puns to use in a job interview: "I won't fleece you"; "I won't pull the wool over your eyes"; "It would be sheer stupidity not to hire me" etc. etc.. (!!) I also suggested bringing a copy of Charles Lamb into the interview...


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