Saturday, 5 February 2011


Before the Roman Baths here in Bath were properly excavated, the site was surrounded and built over with 17th and 18th century domestic buildings (not shown in this postcard). In one of these, overlooking the Great Bath, Mary Shelley wrote the book, 'Frankenstein'.

I woke up thinking about Frankenstein this morning for some reason - actually, the postman woke me up, delivering the latest Georgian drinking glass, but I sat there in the kitchen shortly afterwards trying to wake up, with Mary Shelley's book going through my head.

Thanks to Boris Karloff (another erstwhile Somerset resident), it is easy to forget the context in which Mary Shelley wrote the book, and what a good job she made of highlighting the fears and apprehensions of of a society at a time when science and theology were beginning to overlap and - seemingly - contradict each other. The ghastly apparition of sentient human being, thrown together and brought to life by another human, using bits and pieces of others which have been procured by morally dubious means, has been brought back into relevance recently though, with the unstoppable advance of genetic manipulation. There are quite a few 'Frankensteins' out there right now, all pushing the boundaries of acceptability by preying on the most basic fears of the rest of us - the fear of death and the fear of dying childless.

When 'Hammer Horror' made those Frankenstein films, they decided to ignore the main emotions inspired by the book (once you have recovered from the horrific aspects of it) - pity and compassion. At least Boris showed a bit of pathos before he chucked the little girl into the river.

At the end of Mary Shelley's original version, the 'monster' ends up wandering off into an Arctic wilderness - an outcast who has had no parents, has had no death, has no history and has no future, but is - nevertheless - cursed with the knowledge that the rest of us inherited from Adam and Eve.

In Philip K Dick's 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' (made into the film 'Blade Runner') the scientists had the decency/expediency to program a fake history into the android's organic brain. I wonder which is more cruel in the long run?


  1. What a strange thing to wake up thinking about. Too much cheese before bedtime? Modern medicine is wonderful in many ways but genetic engineering and the like frightens me. "In the pursuit of producing babies without any genetic defects or hereditary disorders, we may end up producing super humans. These humans may spell doom to those who are not genetically modified." Scary stuff.
    Are we going to see a photo of your latest glass acquisition?

  2. It's not that much of an interesting glass, Sue - a straightforward little rummer from around 1800, but not bad for £10. I will make a bit of money out of it - to finance other glass... I'll show you a picture of another though, when it arrives. That one should be very impressive to an impressionable old romantic like me.

  3. whenever I even think of the Roman Baths, it reminds me of the outrageous parking ticket I received. Vowing never to return! And I haven't!! I haven't paid it either!!!

  4. I know Grouch. You already mentioned it a few times. If you ever want to come back, then I'll pay the ticket. Stop fretting about it now - it is (hot) water under the bridge.

  5. Oh and by the way, I mean parking ticket, not the airplane ticket.