1816 – The Year of No Summer by Mary Irvine
In May, 1816, the poet, Shelley and his lover, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin,travelled to Switzerland to meet Lord Byron. Byron and Shelley had both rented houses near Lake Geneva and were constantly in each other’s company. Shelley recorded that being with Byron inspired him.
It was a strange summer for that year summer was non-existent. Spring was as normal in Europe and Northern America but the promised warm, sunny days of summer never arrived. It was so cold people called it ‘The Little Ice Age’. The rain was incessant. Crop failure led to famine. But it did result in some of our greatest literature, for, unable to go out, Byron challenged the others to write a ghostly tale each.
Mary Shelley, as she became, wrote the highly moral Gothic horror ‘Frankenstein’. Originally published anonymously, it has never been out of print. It tells of the scientific creation of a man and its dire consequences. She claimed the idea came to her ‘in a waking dream’.
Shelley produced ‘Fragment of a Ghost Story’. Byron wrote the beginning of a vampire story. His travelling, personal physician, Polidori, later used this to write what is recognised as the first vampire novel, ‘The Vampire’.
And what caused the demise of that summer? Scientists now believe the 1815 eruption of Mt. Tambour in the Indian Ocean was responsible as its dust had shrouded the entire Earth, blocking all sunlight and causing the climatic changes.
Mary Irvine, June, 2016.