Sunday, October 23, 2011

Frankenstein and Putney

In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in.

What's this? you are probably thinking. Has JP finally lost it? This quote is from Dickens not Shelley and those two bridges are down river in central London, not leafy Putney - where is this post going?

Hold on, we'll get to that. But lets focus on that image from Our Mutual Friend of the waterman on the Thames one autumnal evening, about to recover a body from the cold waters of the Thames, for that is what this tale is all about.

If you had been standing on old Putney Bridge in November 1795 you would have witnessed a very sad scene. A lady, her heart broken as she realised her beloved would never be hers, decided to kill herself. She went out in the pouring rain until her clothes were heavy with water then threw herself off that bridge, determined to end her sorry lot.

Fortunately two watermen spotted this attempt and were able to rescue her, and in time she recovered and was able to love again. Indeed she married and had two children, both daughters.

The eldest was Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin who later married the poet Shelley, It while she was on holiday by Lake Geneva with her husband and Lord Byron that she wrote that great novel, Frankenstein.

If it wasn't for those two unknown watermen who picked her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, also a writer, from the muddy, dark, cold waters of the Thames Frankenstein would never had been written and we would not have the monster in the photo above.

So you could say that in a way the monster came from that river: a disturbing thought as I peer out at the dark, listening to the wind howling in the trees.


Baydog said...

I can't help thinking of Peter Boyle:

If you're blue and you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where fashion sits,

Puttin' on the ritz.

JP said...

It was Mary Wollstonecraft's second suicide attempt - the first involved laudanum. The Ritz might have been better destination for her but it wasn't opened until 1906.

She had rather an intense life as you can see from her Wikipedia entry.