Five days later and the two poets had seemingly abandoned the ghost story writing competition, preferring instead to indulge in an eight-day lads-on-tour getaway to Montreaux, complete with a near-death sinking of their boat during a stormy return journey. Mary, meanwhile, beetled along with Frankenstein, attracting the untoward attentions of Polidori, who, having fallen out with both Shelley and Byron, developed The Vampyre along with his unrequited love while nursing a sprained ankle.
The trip produced a lot of work: aside from the two horror stories, Shelley wrote two of his best poems, "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" and "Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni". The latter made its way into History of a Six Weeks' Tour, a travelogue released by Mary, and prefaced by Shelley, the following year. Byron wrote the third canto of Childe Harold, the narrative poem that had made him a star. Claire gestated, and gave birth to their daughter, Allegra, in January (Byron was a reluctant father, famously asking: 'Is the brat mine?').
Frankenstein (published title, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus), was birthed a year later, with a preface by Shelley. Mary's name was taken off, and those critics who didn't know she wrote it were considerably kinder than those who did. The book proved divisive in reviews but readers devoured it, and Frankenstein found its way onto the stage, a precursor to the film and television adaptations that have maintained Mary's legacy ever since.
Eventually, the Geneva gang went their separate ways. While there were future trips to Switzerland, the ostentatious dramas and tragedies that surrounded its members continued to swirl in the years that followed. Within the first half of the 1820s, the men all died: Polidori of self-inflicted cyanide poisoning in 1821, Shelley a year later while sailing in an Italian storm and Byron in 1824, of sepsis caused by bodged bloodletting in Greece.
Mary suffered the debilitating loss of her children, in two consecutive summers from 1818. It left her profoundly depressed, and increasingly removed from her husband. As a result, the Frankenstein holiday remained one of the highlights in a life marred by suffering. Writing about it later, Mary reflected on the whole affair with fondness, stating her “affection” for Frankenstein, “the offspring of happy days, when I was not alone.”
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Image: Mica Murphy/Penguin