With news that scientists have succeeded in growing a mini brain in a Petri dish, Mary Shelley’s “creature” might well be on the way to being created in a lab.
Mary Shelley was an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818).
For our purposes, she was also married to the man who wrote a rather soppy poem about the guitar to Jane Williams with whom he was infatuated when his marriage was on the rocks.He was particularly taken by her musical gifts and skill as a housewife. Gadzooks! What a piece of male chauvinist lumber!
He was even too cheap to buy her what she really wanted, which was a harp from his friend Horace Smith in Paris, and when this proved too expensive gave her a guitar made in Pisa by Ferdinando Bottari around 1815. ‘I have contrived to get my musical coals at Newcastle itself’, he told Smith.
Zut, alors – I managed to get my hands on this guitar a long time ago, but it wasn’t really playable, or I would have used it in a charity concert held in New College (probably playing Walton!).
Oh, and talking about Frankenstein, there is an interesting passage in Mary Shelley’s book where the creature (who is never named) decides to reveal himself to the blind man De Lacey from the inside of his sty: “In one corner, near a small fire, sat an old man, leaning his head on his hands in a disconsolate attitude” (II:3:15). He further describes the
old man, who, taking up an instrument [a guitar], began to play, and to produce sounds, sweeter than the voice of the thrush or the nightingale. . . . The silver hair and benevolent countenance of the aged cottager, won my reverence. (II:3:15)
Earlier on, this guitar is passed around
the Arabian sat at the feet of the old man, and, taking his guitar, played some airs so entrancingly beautiful that they at once drew tears of sorrow and delight from my eyes. She sang, and her voice flowed in a rich cadence, swelling or dying away, like a nightingale of the woods.
When she had finished, she gave the guitar to Agatha, who at first declined it. She played a simple air, and her voice accompanied it in sweet accents, but unlike the wondrous strain of the stranger.
The old man appeared enraptured, and said some words, which Agatha endeavoured to explain to Safie, and by which he appeared to wish to express that she bestowed on him the greatest delight by her music.
Shame that the creature did not stop to take lessons because when the others return
“Who can describe their horror and consternation on beholding me? Agatha fainted; and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father, to whose knees I clung: in a transport of fury, he dashed me to the ground and struck me violently with a stick. I could have torn him limb from limb, as a lion rends the antelope. But my heart sunk within me as with bitter sickness, and I refrained. I saw him on the point of repeating his blow, when, overcome by pain and anguish, I quitted the cottage and in the general tumult escaped unperceived to my hovel.
So unfair! But interesting that the guitar is mentioned, and that the creature is introduced to human kindness and foibles in its presence. Is this what we all see in the guitar?
A return to our humanity when we feel monstrous?
I am anticipating a new piece called “Frankenstein’s Tango” from one of our illustrious guitarist composers.
To get you going, here is Michael Jackson with EVH on the “Frankenstrat”