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One day Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidori decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. The result was Polidori’s The Vampyre, featuring that suave Byronesque bloodsucker Lord Ruthven, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.


A sample of Mary Shelley’s manuscript for Frankenstein. Source: shelleygodwinarchive.org. Click to go to the site.

How fitting that the new Shelley Godwin archive is set to open this evening (Halloween) at eight p.m. It will give online access to a collection of manuscripts by members of an amazing family: pioneering feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, anarchist philosopher William Godwin, atheist vegetarian Romantic poet Percy Shelley, and Gothic visionary Mary Shelley. The Shelleys believed in free love, and Mary Shelley conceived the idea for Frankenstein in an opiate-induced waking dream. Altogether, a group of bohemian freethinkers with enough radical ideas to scare the bejesus out of their bourgeois contemporaries! I’m looking forward to the delight of savoring all their Dangerous Ideas in the original manuscripts.