As writers, we constantly seek new sources of inspiration, and for me, I am fascinated by the events that sparked ideas leading to the creation of masterpieces in art and literature. Nothing lends to an understanding of a work of art more than knowledge of what inspired and influenced the artist. For this reason, I was intrigued by an article on the Huffington Post about events that influenced Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein.
The article tells the tale of George Foster, who was convicted of murdering his wife and child and thereby sentenced to death by hanging. But that was only part of the punishment. According to the Murder Act of 1752, the bodies of convicted murders were given to medical study where they were dismembered and dissected. This was designed to provide an additional deterrent for individuals contemplating murder.
After the execution, Foster’s body would be given to an Italian scientist named Giovanni Aldini. Aldini intended to use electric shock in an attempt to reanimate the body. His idea came from recent experiments that demonstrated that electrical shock caused the limbs of dead animals to twitch and react.
When Aldini performed his experiment, Foster’s “jaw began to quiver, the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted and the left eye opened.” News of the experiment made its rounds through the salons in England and was eventually discussed in a gathering at the home of William Godwin, Mary Shelley’s father. It is believed that young Mary overheard the story, and the rest is literary history.
There is no shortage of inspiration for writers and artists. One need only watch the news or look closer at events in our past. It makes me wonder what is happening right now that could spark the next great masterpiece.
Click here to read the article online.