¶ Night waned upon this talk; and even the witching hour had gone by, before we retired to rest.
It is impossible to determine if this “conversation about principles” preceded, precipitated, or followed the ghost-story competition proposed by Byron at this time—that is to say, the ghost stories could have begun (1), with the possibility that what Polidori recorded as a “conversation about principles” between PBS and Polidori was actually what MWS later remembered as one of the “conversations between Lord Byron and Shelley” on “the principle of life” (see 16 June below); or (3) then “‘We will each write a ghost story,’ said Lord Byron; and his proposition was acceded to.
There were four of us [MWS omitted Claire Clairmont as a participant although she may have contributed a story—see 6 October 1817 below].
28 December 1814 MWS recorded in her London Journal that she attended “Garnerin’s lecture—on Electricity—the gasses—& the Phantasmagoria” (MWS 22 February and 6 March 1815 MWS and PBS’s daughter was born prematurely and died.
[late August/early September] 1815 MWS, her step-brother Charles Clairmont, PBS, and Thomas Love Peacock journeyed from Windsor to Oxford and, while there, “saw the Bodleian Library, the Clarendon Press [i.e., the present Clarendon Building], & walked through Quadrangles of the different Colleges; We visited the very rooms where the two noted Infidels Shelley [PBS] & [his fellow-student Thomas Jefferson] Hogg …
(It is also possible that her “story” was a subject of discussion when MWS and PBS did “talk of our plans” on 3 August.) 8 August 1816 Charles Clairmont from the French Pyrenees wrote to MWS in Geneva that he had been improving his French, was learning Italian and Spanish, and planned to learn German by going to Frankfort and possibly to “Ingolstat” (, most likely to the “story” or ur-text (but possibly to the longer “book” or “novel” that she eventually began to draft into Notebook A—see 21 August 1816 below for the difficulty in determining this point).
13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 August 1816 MWS entries of “Write” or “write” in her Geneva Journal (MWS , I, 125, “[the Gothic novelist Monk] Lewis comes to Diodati” but MWS did not meet him at this time.
I certainly did not owe the suggestion of one incident, nor scarcely of one train of feeling, to my husband, and yet but for his incitement, it would never have taken the form in which it was presented to the world” (page xi).
Without further evidence, it is impossible to determine the nature and length of the ur-text: was it that MWS (1) merely “ but of a few pages—of a short tale [my italics]” and then, after writing just “a few pages,” quickly turned to the greater length of a novel, even as early as July?
Claire Clairmont from Paris wrote to Byron in Geneva that she and the Shelley party would soon arrive in Geneva and that she had “taken the name of Clairville because you said you liked the name of Clare but could not bear MWS, PBS, and their party arrived at Lake Geneva and temporarily resided at the Hôtel d’Angleterre at Sécheron. Fanny Imlay Godwin] that “The thunder storms that visit us are grander and more terrific than I have ever seen before.