Thursday, 30 June 2016

Publication Day!

Life in the Georgian Court is released today in the UK and as you can imagine, I'm terribly excited!

I am absolutely thrilled that the book has been named Book of the Month for July by Majesty Magazine and I really do hope that readers enjoy it. Thank you everyone for your support, friendship and encouragement. To readers and guest posters and everyone who has taken the time to visit the blog, which turned three years old this week, I salute you. I've made so many wonderful new friends - here's to the next adventure!


Life in the Georgian Court is a breathless romp through the world of Georgian nobility in the company of the crowned heads of Europe. Stops along the red carpet will include the opulent court of the doomed Bourbons, the absolutist powerhouse of Romanov Russia and the epoch-defining family whose kings gave their name to the Georgian era, the House of Hanover. 

Life in the Georgian Court is available now!

Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

An Unequal Marriage – The People Behind the Fiction

Take a trip to Calke Abbey in the company of Joana Starnes, Jane Austen and some illustrious residents!
Amid the rolling countryside of South Derbyshire, there is a great house, Calke Abbey, home of the Harpurs for over 360 years. The family fortunes were founded in the middle of the 16th century by Richard Harpur, a successful lawyer who rose to be one of the judges of the Court of the Common Pleas at Westminster and the Chief Justice of the County Palatinate of Lancaster. To the considerable estate built during the course of his career, he added through an auspicious marriage that established the Harpurs as one of the most notable landowners in the area. 

Calke AbbeyHis descendants did not fail to make him proud and the family fortunes grew and grew. By the 18th century, in the words of the historian William Wooley, the Harpurs were ‘reckoned the best landed Family of any Commoners in this or any of the neighbouring Countys’.

Enter Sir Henry Harpur-Crewe, the 7th baronet, who inherited the estate at only 25 years of age, and thus became one of the richest and most eligible landowners in Derbyshire, with an income of £10000 a year. (‘Ten thousand a year, my dear, and very likely more!’)

His portrait catches the visitors’ eye as soon as they walk into the saloon. On a background of sun-tinted clouds and imposing columns stands the future baronet alongside his mother. He was only three when the portrait was painted so, as was the custom of the time, he was immortalised wearing long cream skirts adorned with a wide sash. The attire, along with the very delicate features and the angelic smile, could easily lead the unsuspecting to think it was the portrait of a very beautiful little girl. 

Sir Henry Harpur-CreweHis features retained their delicate beauty as he grew older and a 1784 pastel shows him as a good-looking albeit rather solemn young man. 

And solemn he was indeed. His French tutor remarked during his Grand Tour that while he had an unusual amount of knowledge for a young Englishman of his age, he also had an equally unusual taste for solitude. To his relations’ dismay, this did not change when he came into his inheritance, but it was not long until they had a great deal more to worry about. Sir Henry Harpur fell in love with a young lady well beneath his station – a lady’s maid no less, with whom he lived in a small house in Calke Park before committing the ultimate impropriety and marrying her. There is great gentleness and outstanding beauty in Lady Harpur’s likeness (Miss Nanette Hawkins as was), so the romantic might choose to believe that she was as sweet and kind as the portrait shows her and that, regardless of what society thought, she was a blessing for the very sensitive and unsociable young man. For the world at large the union was a mésalliance, but Sir Henry cared little for their disapproval and spent his life in isolation at Calke with his pheasants, his wife and their eight surviving children.

He was not the first nor the last to cross class boundaries. Some chose to cross even wider gulfs, as was the case with Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh of Uppark who married his dairymaid in 1825, when he was over seventy and she barely twenty. Compared to the strong reaction such unequal marriages must have elicited in fashionable circles, a gentleman of ten thousand a year marrying a lady’s companion, a gentlewoman fallen on hard times, would have caused far less noticeable ripples. 

This is the premise I have chosen for my latest Pride & Prejudice variation, ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’

The gentlewoman fallen on hard times is of course Miss Elizabeth Bennet who, after her father’s passing, felt compelled to make her own way into the world. Thus she gets to see Mr Darcy’s Pemberley persona first, his best side, rather than the one he would present to strangers at a country town assembly. As for Mr Darcy, he gets to appreciate Miss Bennet’s sterling qualities and her bewitching self without the millstone of her loud-mouthed and mortifying relations. But what of the burden of expectations placed on him, what of the duty to his lineage and estate? Would Mr Darcy cross boundaries to follow his heart, despite all the obstacles of which he is well aware?
* * * *
“So what now?”

“What are you asking?” Darcy parried the question with another, although he knew precisely what Fitzwilliam’s meaning was, just as well as his cousin knew that he was stalling. But he was indulged nevertheless and the other elaborated:

“Will you marry her?”

Darcy sighed.

“I have not had a chance to put two thoughts together. This is all… very sudden. And there is much to consider, Georgiana’s prospects high up on that list. How would it look on her coming out if her former companion had become her sister? Several years ago Sir Henry Harpur of Calke married his mother’s lady’s maid, and still no one receives them. Harpur could not care less, but then he had always been somewhat of a recluse and kept his distance from society, fashionable or otherwise. I do not have that luxury. Still, having said that, there is a world of difference between a lady’s maid and a lady’s companion.”

The sigh was echoed from the other side of the large desk.

“Not to some. And, needless to say, my relations would be of no assistance. Pater would be as mad as snakes and my brother’s sweet wife would be spitting feathers,” Fitzwilliam chortled ruefully.

“As would Lady Catherine, but that is no surprise. Even your mother, for all her understanding kindness, would say that I could have chosen a vast deal better.”

“And so you could. There is no doubting that.”
(Miss Darcy’s Companion ~ Chapter 11)

* * * *

If this premise intrigues you, dear readers, please leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle copy of ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’, available internationally, and thanks for stopping by to meet Sir Henry.

Many thanks, Catherine, it was so kind of you to welcome me here today to talk about the people who, to some extent, have inspired my fiction. I say to some extent because unlike Sir Henry Harpur-Crewe, Mr Darcy would never be an eccentric recluse, nor would he set up house with a mistress, somewhere on the estate. But it is reassuring to know or at least imagine that there was a real-life Georgian gentleman of ten thousand a year who followed his heart and married someone who made him happy.
(History of Calke Abbey and the Harpurs – from the National Trust guidebook, 1989, pp.34-39)

About the author:

Joana Starnes lives in the South of England with her family. She has published six Austen-related novels:

  • From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of Pemberley ~ A Pride & Prejudice sequel
  • The Subsequent Proposal ~ A Tale of Pride, Prejudice and Persuasion
  • The Second Chance ~ A Pride & Prejudice – Sense & Sensibility Variation
  • The Falmouth Connection ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation set in Poldark territory
  • The Unthinkable Triangle ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation, where loyalty comes at loggerheads with love
  • Miss Darcy’s Companion ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation

They are available on all Amazon sites. 

You can connect with Joana Starnes on 
Or visit ‘All Roads Lead to Pemberley’ on Facebook, for places, events and titbits that have inspired her novels.

Written content of this post copyright © Joana Starnes, 2016.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Austen Alumni at the National

Last year I was lucky enough see The Seagull at Chichester not once but twice. This marvellous production took my breath away and is without a doubt the finest play I have ever seen, with a cast and staging to die for. The Seagull is coming to the National Theatre this summer with Platonov and Ivanov as part of the Young Chekhov season. Among the cast are plenty of Austen alumni including the wonderful Adrian Lukis (who teated me to wine and whitebait during my Chichester Chekhov pilgrimage), Anna Chancellor and Peter Egan.

Don't miss the remarkable trilogy.

The Chichester Festival Theatre productions
YOUNG CHEKHOV Olivier Theatre
Previews from 14 July, press day 3 August, booking until 3 September with further performances to be announced. 

The YOUNG CHEKHOV trilogy opened to overwhelming acclaim at Chichester Festival
Theatre last year. The company now come to the National, offering a unique chance to explore the birth of a revolutionary dramatic voice. The production is directed by Jonathan Kent, with set designs by Tom Pye, costumes by Emma Ryott, lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Jonathan Dove, sound by Paul Groothuis and fight direction by Paul Benzing. Performed by one ensemble of actors, each play can be seen as a single performance over different days or as a thrilling all-day theatrical experience. Cast includes Emma Amos, Pip Carter, Anna Chancellor, Jonathan Coy, Mark Donald, Peter Egan, Col Farrell, Beverley Klein, Adrian Lukis, Des McAleer, James McArdle, Mark Penfold, Nina Sosanya, Geoffrey Streatfeild, Sarah Twomey, David Verrey, Olivia Vinall and Jade Williams. 

David Hare has written over thirty original plays, including The Power of Yes, Gethsemane, Stuff Happens, The Permanent Way (a co-production with Out of Joint), Amy’s View, Skylight, The Secret Rapture, The Absence of War, Murmuring Judges, Racing Demon, Pravda (written with Howard Brenton) and Plenty for the National Theatre. His other work includes South Downs (Chichester Festival Theatre and West End), The Judas Kiss (Hampstead and West End) and The Moderate Soprano (Hampstead). His adaptations include Behind the Beautiful Forevers and The House of Bernarda Alba at the NT, The Blue Room (Donmar and Broadway) and The Master Builder (The Old Vic).

Jonathan Kent’s productions for the NT include Emperor and Galilean, Oedipus and The False Servant.  Previous productions at Chichester Festival Theatre include Gypsy (also West End) A Month in the Country, Sweeney Todd and Private Lives (also West End). As joint artistic director, with Ian McDiarmid, of the Almeida Theatre for over ten years, his productions included Ivanov, The Tempest, Medea (also West End and Broadway), Richard II and Coriolanus (Almeida at Gainsborough Studios), Phèdre, Britannicus and Plenty (Almeida at the Albery Theatre) and Lulu, Platonov and King Lear (Almeida at King’s Cross).  In 2008 he directed Marguerite, The Sea and The Country Wife at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket.

Schoolteacher Mikhail Platonov has a problem – he’s irresistible to women. Set in the blazing heat of a rural summer, this freewheeling comedy is a cry of youthful defiance against the compromises of middle age. Previews from 14 July, press day 30 July. 

Nikolai Ivanov is only 35, a radical and a romantic, but already he’s feeling that he’s thrown his life away. Determined not to become a small-town Hamlet, he hopes one last desperate romance may save him from a society rotten with anti-Semitism and drink. This electric play is powered both by hilarious satire and passionate self-disgust. Previews from 19 July, press day 30 July.

The Seagull

On a summer’s day in a makeshift theatre by a lake, Konstantin’s cutting-edge new play is performed, changing the lives of everyone involved forever. Chekhov’s masterly meditation on how the old take revenge on the young is both comic and tragic, and marks the birth of the modern stage. Previews from 23 July, press day 3 August. 

Monday, 27 June 2016

The Long Weekend

Once in a while, one is lucky enough to find a book that is quite simply breathtaking; it pulls you into another world and keeps you there, immersed in a time long-since gone. Adrian Tinniswood's magnificent, The Long Weekend, is one such book. It is a definitive and unique work on life in the English country house between the wars and I really can't recommend it enough. Everyone should read this stunning work!

The Long Weekend 
Life in the English Country House Between the Wars 
Adrian Tinniswood 

Published 2nd June 2016 | Jonathan Cape | £25 | Hardback | eBook also available 

The definitive social history of England’s stately homes, by the acclaimed social and architectural historian Adrian Tinniswood. 

Containing over 60 illustrations. 

There is nothing quite as beautiful as an English country house in the summer. And there has never been a summer quite like that Indian summer between the two world wars, a period of gentle decline in which the sun set slowly on the British Empire and the shadows lengthened on the lawns of a thousand stately homes. 

Real life in the country house during the 1920s and 1930s was not always so sunny. By turns opulent and ordinary, noble and vicious, its shadows were darker. In The Long Weekend, Adrian Tinniswood uncovers the truth about a world half-forgotten, draped in myth and hidden behind stiff upper lips and film-star smiles. 

Drawing on hundreds of memoirs, on unpublished letters and diaries, on the eye-witness testimonies of belted earls and unhappy heiresses and bullying butlers, The Long Weekend gives a voice to the people who inhabited this world. 

In a definitive social history which combines anecdote and narrative with scholarship, it brings the stately homes of England to life, giving readers an insight into the guilt and the gingerbread, and showing how the image of the country house was carefully protected by its occupants above and below stairs, and how the reality was so much more interesting than the dream. 

Adrian Tinniswood is the author of fourteen books of social and architectural history. A Senior Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham and a Visiting Fellow in Heritage and History at Bath Spa University, he has worked for and with the National Trust at local, regional and national level for more than thirty years. In 2013 he was awarded an OBE for services to heritage. 

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet

It's my pleasure to host Caitlin Williams today to celebrate the release of The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet. Don't miss the giveaway beneath Caitlin's fabulous and scandalous post and please join me in wishing Caitlin a very happy birthday for today too!


“I am proud to say that I have a very good eye at an Adultress,” 
Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra on 12 May 1801
Did you hear the rumor that Fitzwilliam Darcy, one of Austen’s most principled and honorable heroes, was once involved in an outrageous scandal during his lifetime? Well, not actually Austen’s fictitious character himself, but the man that one scholar believes was the inspiration for Austen’s beloved character, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire. Dr. Susan Law asserts that Austen’s wildly popular hero was based on the intense, charming and somewhat controversial, 1st Earl of Morley, John Parker.  
Dr. Susan Law
Dr. Susan Law
Dr. Susan Law, who has spent a lot of time during recent years investigating scandals from long ago throughout England, says that Jane Austen spent time at the Earl's home in Saltram House in Plymouth, Devon, during a period when she wrote “Pride and Prejudice,” in the early 1800s. The Earl's second wife, Francis, was also known to be a very close friend of Jane Austen.
Earl of Morley, John Parker and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (images courtesy of National Portrait gallery and BBC)                            (Image via National Portrait Gallery)
Earl of Morley, John Parker and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy
(images courtesy of National Portrait gallery and BBC)
However, before he became acquainted with Francis, the brooding and handsome, 1st Earl of Morley, John Parker, was embroiled in a sordid sex scandal that led to a divorce for his first marriage. The Earl of Morley sued his first wife, Lady Augusta Fane, for adultery after she eloped with a family friend, after finding out he had three illegitimate sons by his married mistress, Dr. Law’s book reveals.
Saltram House, where Austen stayed when she wrote parts of Pride & Prejudice
Saltram House, where Austen stayed when
she wrote parts of Pride & Prejudice
His divorce became widely circulated amongst the press and led to a media frenzy, making it likely that Jane Austen was well aware of the scandal. "The original adultery is generally believed to have been behind the adultery plot in Mansfield Park,” claims Dr. Law, a journalist and historian, who spent five years researching her book,  Through the Keyhole: Sex, Scandal and the Secret Life of the Country House, which involved the process of unearthing old letters, diaries and newspapers, including many hours spent in archives reading material on John Parker, the 1st Earl of Morley.

John Parker, 1st Earl of Morley                     Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, BBC
John Parker, 1st Earl of Morley                     Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, BBC

Dr. Law says “We don't have the concrete evidence, but I have discovered there were a lot of rumors about at the time and it is a convincing argument. There is a massive intriguing web around it.” For Austen fans, it’s almost scandalous to think that her most famous and proper hero may be based on a man formerly involved in such an outrageous scandal during his lifetime.
"It is clear that Jane Austen had very close links with the family. She sent Frances one of the first editions of Emma - when she only had 12 printed, states Susan Law. It is also known that Jane Austen's brother, Henry, was also a university friend of the Earl of Morley. They were contemporaries and he then become a banker to his regiment and later the domestic chaplain to the Earl of Morley's family. Even though we can’t say with 100% certainty that Ms. Austen based Mr. Darcy’s character on the 1st Earl of Morley, isn’t it fun imagining the possibilities?
Jane Austen

Yet, Jane Austen herself was no stranger to scandal; after all, her lifetime took place during an era that became known as the Age of Scandal. Even as clergymen were preaching about the virtues of fidelity and morality, citizens of the Regency era were well aware that adulterous relationships were taking place throughout the country, including amongst the royals, the peers and peeresses of the realm, admirals as famous as Lord Nelson himself, society hostesses, and politicians. Was it any wonder that even Parliament became concerned about these behaviors and passed several laws in an attempt to curtail the amount of scandals erupting throughout England?

From the very first volume of The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet, Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves facing the threat of a looming scandal. Due to both of their hasty actions, rumors are swirling throughout the ton regarding both of them, leaving them to speculate about what can be done to maintain both of their reputations? However, once it becomes clear that a scandal may be inevitable, they find themselves forced to make a life-altering decision. What becomes of their young lives once this decision is made provides the backdrop for this coming-of-age story, told through four poignant volumes filled with delicious tension, youthful indiscretions and a love story that will leave any Pride and Prejudice fan longing for more… Can the threat of a scandal lead anyone to everlasting happiness?

I want to say thank you to everyone who followed Caitlin Williams’ first blog tour! It’s been amazing reading each and every comment from her readers and it’s been a thrill for me to support such a mesmerizing and romantic story that takes us back to Darcy and Elizabeth’s earlier years. However, today, I also wanted to wish Caitlin Williams a very “Happy Birthday” and encourage her to relax and savor the hard work and achievement that she’s been part of for the last several months. When she said “Yes” to a blog tour, I had no idea I would have the honor of working with such a gracious, kind and humble person. Whatever is coming your way in the future, I will ardently support and admire you! With fond regards, Claudine 

Fullerton, Susannah, Jane Austen and Adultery

“The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet”

About the Book
The very worst has happened. Mr Bennet has died, leaving his wife and five young daughters bereft. The family estate, Longbourn, is now lost, entailed away and fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Bennet is to go two hundred miles away to live with strangers. George Darcy, repaying a debt of gratitude, has offered to take her to Pemberley, to live under the mantle of his care and be raised alongside his own daughter, Georgiana.

But on the day she is to leave Longbourn forever, young Elizabeth, grieving and confused, runs off into the Hertfordshire countryside. Fitzwilliam Darcy gives chase, telling his father he will have her back in an hour or two. Luck and fate, however, are not on his side and capturing Elizabeth Bennet turns out not only to be more difficult than he could ever have imagined, but events conspire to turn her little adventure into his worst nightmare.

The prideful man and the girl prejudiced against him, meet much earlier in this rethinking of Jane Austen’s masterpiece. Elizabeth grows up under the ever-watchful eye of Mr Darcy, from fifteen to twenty-one.  She errs and falters, there are stumbles and trips, but could this ‘disobedient little hellion’ one day become mistress of Pemberley and the keeper of his heart?

Meet the Author
Caitlin Williams lives in Kent, England, with her family. She fell in love with all things Regency as a teenager, but particularly admires the work of Jane Austen and the way she masterfully combines humour and romance, while weaving them through such wonderful stories and characters.

Pride and Prejudice is Caitlin’s favourite novel and she finds Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet so deliciously entertaining that she likes to borrow them from Ms Austen and enjoys the challenge of putting them in different places and situations. 

Her debut novel, Ardently, was written as a hobby, usually with her laptop balanced on the kitchen worktop, typing with one hand, a glass of wine in the other, while she also attempted to cook dinner and keep her children from killing each other. The success of Ardently was as much a surprise to her, as it was to anyone else, and she has been thrilled and genuinely thankful for the positive responses and reviews it generated.

Her second novel, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, is a portrait of a much younger Elizabeth, who is thrown into an extraordinary set of circumstances due to the premature death of Mr Bennet, and she hopes you all enjoy it very much.

June 13/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post/“Happy Birthday Fanny Burney & The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet” & Giveaway
June 14/ So Little Time... / Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 15/ Just Jane 1813/An Exclusive Interview with Caitlin Williams
June 16/ Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway
June 17/ Margie's Must Reads/ Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 18/ The Calico Critic/Book Review & Giveaway
June 19/ Babblings of a Bookworm/“The Education of a Young Lady” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 20/ Half Agony, Half Hope/Book Review
June 21/ More Agreeably Engaged/ Book Review & Giveaway
June 22/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice /Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 23/ Liz's Reading Life / “A Nod and A Wink to Austen” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 24/ Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review
June 25/ Laughing With Lizzie/ “The Young Master” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 26/ A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/ “A Most Scandalous” Guest Post

Written content of this post copyright © Caitlin Williams, 2016.


Saturday, 25 June 2016

The Salon's Third Birthday!

FragonardOn 28th June, the salon celebrates its third anniversary and what a wonderful three years it has been. 

My book, Life in the Georgian Court, is out on 30th June and to each and every one of you, thank you for visiting my site and being a part of this whirlwind three years. During that time I have signed a book contract, worked with an actor I have admired for twenty years, started an online novel and made some marvellous friends. You have truly helped to make a dream come true and for that, I am more thankful than I can ever say.

I'm just wrapping up my second book of royal tales, for release in March 2017... have a glorious Georgian day!

Friday, 24 June 2016

‘On This Day in 1816’: The Bicentenary of Frankenstein’s Composition

‘On This Day in 1816’: The Bicentenary of Frankenstein’s Composition

A public reading of Romantic poetry and prose to be held at the Keats-Shelley House, Rome, on Saturday 23rd July 2016 (start time 18:30).

The same event will also be held at King’s Manor, University of York on Thursday 14th July 2016 (start time 19:00).

In May 1816, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin and Claire Clairmont moved to Geneva where they would live near Lord Byron and his physician-companion, Dr John William Polidori. Over the next few weeks, this group of young intellectuals spent almost all their time together, sailing on Lake Geneva by day and reading and conversing in the evenings. One night in late May or early June, a ghost-story writing competition began. Inspired by this, the 18-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Mary Shelley) conceived what is now one of the most iconic tales in English literature. Frankenstein was published anonymously nineteen months later.

On the wet afternoon of 24 July 1816, Mary notes in her journal, ‘write my story’: this is her first reference to the composition of Frankenstein. Percy Shelley was also writing his poem ‘Mont Blanc’ on this day. Both authors were inspired by their visits to Chamonix and the Mer De Glace, subjects of awe for many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century travellers. These shared experiences and subsequent discussions resulted in descriptions of the landscape in individual journal entries and letters that are strikingly similar. For example, the immensity of the mountains produce a similar image of alienation: ‘The summits of the highest were hid in Clouds but they sometimes peeped out into the blue sky higher one would think than the safety of God would permit’ (Mary); ‘They pierce the clouds like things not belonging to this earth’ (Percy). Even scenes that lack grandeur still induce feelings of admiration: ‘there is som[e]thing so divine in all this scenery that you love & admire it even where its features are less magnificent than usual’ (Mary); ‘there is a grandeur in the very shapes and colours which could not fail to impress, even on a smaller scale’ (Percy). These shared impressions would become the basis for ‘Mont Blanc’ and also the pivotal scene in Frankenstein in which Victor encounters his creation for the first time since his ‘birth’.

This event at the Keats-Shelley House in 2016 celebrates the bicentenary of the composition of the Romantic period’s most famous novel, and this fruitful period of creativity for both Shelleys in 1816. The event will take place almost exactly 200 years later to the day that Mary Shelley began writing. The evening will include a reading of the preface and the introduction to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the most famous scene in the novel when the creature awakens (‘It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils’), and excerpts from Percy Shelley’s ‘Mont Blanc’. Two scholars (Anna Mercer and David Higgins) will give short talks on the Shelleys’ collaborative literary relationship, and 1816 as ‘the Year Without a Summer’.

The event will also take place on 14 July 2016 at the King’s Manor, University of York, in collaboration with the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies (CECS) at York, and the University of Leeds. The York event will provide an alternative venue for those who want to attend the event but who cannot travel to Rome. Both events are public ticketed events. We hope to produce an invigorating atmosphere that will allow attendees to consider the history of Frankenstein during this exciting bicentenary month. The events are supported by the British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS), the British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (BSECS), CECS at York, the FR Leavis Fund at York, and the Keats-Shelley House.

The talk by Anna Mercer will focus on her research as a PhD candidate at the University of York. Her thesis considers the Shelleys’ collaborative literary relationship and seeks to provide an unprejudiced study of both authors and their influence on each other. Frankenstein is now understood as a crucial example of collaborative writing from the Romantic period, as Percy Shelley edited Mary’s manuscript draft. Percy’s alterations and corrections were not an imposing corruption of his wife’s writing; instead, the way the Shelleys worked together in 1816 can be understood and analysed as an example of reciprocal creativity. As Neil Fraistat observed at the launch of the Shelley-Godwin archive in 2013, Frankenstein was part of ‘a two-way collaboration […] this wasn’t just about him supervising her’. The Frankenstein scholar Charles E. Robinson has identified the possibility of the Shelleys ‘at work on the [Frankenstein] Notebooks at the same time, possibly sitting side by side and using the same pen and ink to draft the novel and at the same time to enter corrections’. This event will present to the public a reading of the work of both authors, including the preface and the introduction to the novel: the former written by Percy and published in 1818, and the latter written retrospectively in 1831 by Mary. These extracts provide the notorious details of the Shelleys’ experiences in Geneva in 1816 that stirred Mary Shelley to give life to her ‘hideous progeny’. The event therefore looks to celebrate such a moment of literary inspiration and invites readers to learn more about the history of the novel’s author(s).

David Higgins’s talk will draw on his research on Romantic writing and environmental catastrophe. Cultural historians have recently explored how the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Mount Tambora in 1815 caused severe disruption to the global climate and, in particular, the ‘Year Without A Summer’ of 1816 (e.g. Wood 2014). However, what has not been properly investigated is the extent to which Byron, Mary Shelley, and Percy Shelley were responding as a creative community to the unusual environmental conditions. The grim summer of 1816 heightened their apprehension of the sublimity of the Alpine landscape and led them to contemplate the frightening power of the natural world. This talk will bring together ‘Mont Blanc’, Frankenstein, History of a Six Weeks’ Tour, and ‘Darkness’ to examine the shared ways in which they address the problem of dwelling with environmental catastrophe.


The Rome event is on the Keats-Shelley House website here:

To buy tickets (€10 each) for the event in Rome on 23rd July 2016, please email:

The York event is on the CECS website here:

It is free to attend at York on 14th July 2016 but you must register on eventbrite. 

Refreshments will be served at both events.

For enquiries please contact Anna Mercer (

Event Team:

  • Anna Mercer, University of York (speaker and main organiser)
  • David Higgins, University of Leeds (speaker and co-organiser)
  • Lucy Hodgetts and Duncan Robertson, University of York (readers and co-organisers)