Thursday, 22 January 2015
A Gothic classic
The Wounded Philoctetes by Nikolaj Abraham Abildgaard, 1775, now in the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, is used as the front cover for the Penguin Classics edition of the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Last September, I went to see Frankenstein performed by local theatre company C&D Productions. It was an excellent night out, not least because I knew several people in the cast. Until then, my only experience of this story had been through some creaky old films, and although I knew there was much more to it than a scary monster lumbering about groaning, I didn't know the full story. Having seen it performed, I asked for the book for my birthday.
Then I saw a couple of TV programmes about the novel, one as part of BBC4's season The Secret Life of Books, and another about the goings on at Byron's Villa Diodati in 1816. Stranded by bad weather, a challenge is laid down by Byron for his guests - among them Mary (then Godwin) and her lover Shelley - to write a ghost story. Frankenstein was Mary's tale. I am finally reading the book and it's an astonishing piece of work, especially given that Mary was only 18 when she wrote it. I'm thoroughly enjoying it.
The cover image of the edition I have is shown above. Is it just me or is there something rather strange about the shape of the spine? Is the lumbar region rather stiff-looking? There's nothing else for it: I shall have to hire a hunk and try to reproduce the pose.