Inventions of the Monsters
March 18, 2013 8:20 AM   Subscribe

"It was John Polidori's misfortune to be comic without having a sense of humor, to wish to be a great writer but to be a terrible one, to be unusually bright but surrounded for one summer by people who were titanically brighter, and to have just enough of an awareness of all of this to make him perpetually uneasy. Also, he couldn't jump."
posted by Iridic (107 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is hilarious, and immediately makes me wonder if I am the Polly Dolly of my group. Yikes.
posted by Think_Long at 8:37 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Poor Polidori.

Fantastic read.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:37 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Everyone needs to go out and watch Gothic right fucking now!!?!
The film is a fictionalized tale based on the Shelleys' visit with Lord Byron in Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva, and the famous challenge to write a horror story, which ultimately led to Mary Shelley's writing Frankenstein and John Polidori's writing The Vampyre.
Oh I should mention that the film is terrible, but in a good way.
posted by Fizz at 8:44 AM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Her book was simultaneously a work of revenge and a provocation to renew an affair that had ended four years before: I hate you, let's do that again. (It worked as neither. Instead of a 'kiss and tell,' Byron called it a 'fuck and publish.)


FTW.
posted by chavenet at 8:49 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


That film is terrible and wonderful.

Mostly terrible in a wonderful way.
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh I should mention that the film is terrible, but in a good way.

You could have just said that it was a Ken Russell movie.
posted by octothorpe at 8:54 AM on March 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


I enjoyed the shit out of Gothic. Also, Polidori figures prominently in the uneven but lovingly detailed Hide Me Among the Graves, by Tim Powers.
posted by Mister_A at 8:59 AM on March 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


I always thought it was obvious that Polidori, being the youngest man, an employee and probably a bit awkward due to being a prodigy, was just getting the shit bullied out of him by older, wealthier men.
posted by mobunited at 9:01 AM on March 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yes, The Stress of Her Regard and Hide Me Among the Graves! Good times if you're a fan of creeping melancholia.
posted by rewil at 9:06 AM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Speaking of Vampire novels and the Gothic tradition. I've never understood people's obsession with Bram Stoker, I much prefer Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. It's far more sinister and not as slow moving.
posted by Fizz at 9:11 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I quite like the Radio 4 adaptation of Carmilla they trot out every other year, with David Warner playing the father.
posted by Kitteh at 9:20 AM on March 18, 2013


I was not aware there was a radio adaptation, thanks for that Kitteh. Googling.
posted by Fizz at 9:29 AM on March 18, 2013


A fine essay. It reminds me once again: there are people I would love to watch, but with whom I would not care to associate.
posted by mule98J at 9:30 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


This stood out for me:

Shelley was actually 24, not 26, to Polidori's 21. Mary was 16; although already she'd lost a child born prematurely and her second child with Shelley, William, had been born that January. Claire was newly 18. Lord Byron, the old man of the group, was 28. You can forget that about them—how astonishingly young they all were that summer.

So basically, Byron was the Matthew McConaughey character in Dazed and Confused: "That's what I love about this Romantic poetesses—I get older, they stay the same age."
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:43 AM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


What are the other good dramatizations of the time spent in the house in Switzerland? Cause it just seems like perfect drama fodder. Byron! A man who would pretend to eat nothing in public and gorge himself in private! Claire! Fangirl of the first order! Shelly! Whom after his death was widely believed to be killed by God for being too amoral! Mary! Just back from the first of many stillbirths and health problems that would lead to creating one of the first major horror AND sci-fi novels! Poor Polidori who probably had idea everyone kinda hated him! And they're all stuck in the house cause of weather patterns caused by a Volcano erupting in Indonesia! And they're all basically still college (or less!) aged!

The romantic period was just too much, man.
posted by The Whelk at 9:48 AM on March 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


I keep imagining Polidori as Mr. Chater in Arcadia.
posted by Peevish at 9:52 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


What are the other good dramatizations of the time spent in the house in Switzerland?

Holy shit let's pitch a Tudors style sexy drama to a cable network right fucking now.
posted by Think_Long at 10:06 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes yes yes the narrative/audience insert character can be Polidori, all hapless and unaware and full of bad poetry!
posted by The Whelk at 10:07 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


PLAYED BY RUPERT GRINT
posted by Think_Long at 10:08 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I see Sofia Coppola directing this.
posted by Cash4Lead at 10:10 AM on March 18, 2013



I see Sofia Coppola directing this.

I'd even be okay with a new wave soundtrack if we get to have "Go Wild In The Country" somewhere on there.
posted by The Whelk at 10:12 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Shelley was actually 24, not 26, to Polidori's 21. Mary was 16; although already she'd lost a child

Mary Godwin was 18 in summer 1816. She was 16 when her affair with Shelley began, two years earlier.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:27 AM on March 18, 2013


re: the gang: there's a play called Bloody Poetry you might want to check out.
posted by curious nu at 10:35 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are more Polidori novels out there, including Paul West's Lord Byron's Doctor and Benjamin Markovits' Imposture (first volume in his Lord Byron trilogy). I taught "The Vampyre" a few weeks ago, and it has a little more to recommend it than the author lets on--in particular, the amusingly genre-blind nature of its protagonist, Aubrey, whose love for Gothic fiction completely fails to alert him to the fact that, um, he's in a Gothic fiction.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:39 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh my god, I love Polidori in all of his patheticness so much, and all the hot mess of that lake trip company. Poor Polly!

For this year's Yuletide one of my fic requests was Literary RPF with Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, & Percy Shelley (Polidori wasn't an option), with this prompt:

"I need the infamous Byron-Shelley lake trip written as it was always meant to be: a loosely-based-on-a-true-story-if-you-squint-at-it, hysterically melodramatic French farce black comedy, with elaborate rounds of revenge-plotting and cock-blocking and people having the vapors. FOR GREAT LITERATURE!"

Sadly nobody wrote it, so this is your chance, Internet!

And now that I know that this movie Gothic exists I MUST HAVE IT IMMEDIATELY
posted by nicebookrack at 10:39 AM on March 18, 2013


"This is the true story of 6 strange people picked to live in a lake house..to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start being Romantic."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:40 AM on March 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


So basically this is the nineteenth-century version of The Breakfast Club except there is no asshole principal?

Somebody tell me there's an asshole principal analogue. Please.
posted by mightygodking at 10:42 AM on March 18, 2013


Can we include a majorly put-upon homeowner or Majordomo or such?
posted by The Whelk at 10:51 AM on March 18, 2013


More quotes from my Yuletide Polidori prompt, because srsly guys COMEDY GOLD:

"This prompt is brought to you by the letter CRACK, Hark A Vagrant's Byron-snark, and Dover's Three Gothic Novels, which I bought a few years ago from a clearance bin for $1. The last has hands-down been the best cost-to-entertainment-ratio book purchase I have ever made in terms of unfiltered cracktastic melodrama. And it also contains E.F. Bleiler's introductory essay to The Vampyre by John Polidori, who accompanied Lord Byron on the infamous trip to Lake Geneva. Bleiler presumably wrote the essay while high, drunk, and/or giggling maniacally, because it reaches new heights of lit-crit-comedy in describing how all these literary legends meeting in Geneva were also, historically speaking, HILARIOUS CRAZY PEOPLE. A few highlights:
  • "By the beginning of 1816 it was inevitable that the great poet Lord George Gordon Byron and his wife Anne were to separate, and Byron announced his decision to leave England. [...] Byron caused a gigantic coach to be built containing in compressed form all conveniences for life on the Continent, including a bed, a library, a plate chest, and even a dining area. In this anticipation of a modern trailer, he planned to work his way across Europe to Switzerland, where he would meet the Shelleys, and from there proceed to Italy, and perhaps ultimately to points farther east."
  • "Difficulties arose almost as soon as [Byron and Polidori] reached the Continent, and the remainder of the trip soon became a succession of tantrums and retreats by Polidori. One incident will suffice to show the personalities of the two men: When the entourage reached Cologne and the Rhine, Polidori, who had been musing over the inequities of fate, said unexpectedly to Byron, "Pray, what is there excepting writing poetry that I cannot do better than you?" Byron calmly faced him and replied, "Three things. First, I can hit with a pistol the keyhole of that door. Secondly, I can swim across that river to yonder point. And thirdly, I can give you a damned good thrashing." Polidori stalked out of the room."
  • "The Byron party reached Geneva on May 25, 1816; there they met the Shelleys--the poet, his wife Mary Godwin Shelley, and Claire Clairmont (Mary's half-sister), who had been Byron's mistress in England and was anxious to resume the relationship. [...] The two companies saw much of each other, and while details are not known, certain areas of their conversation can be recreated. [...] We know that Byron spoke much of the London literary men that he had met or knew by reputation, and that Shelley told of the Godwin circle. Both men were interested in contemporary science, particularly galvanism, which seemed to give a semblance of life to dead limbs, and there was speculation about the possibility of reviving the dead with electricity. Byron sang a wild Albanian song for the Shelleys, and in solitary moments wrote scraps of "Childe Harold" on odd pieces of paper, which he stuffed into his pockets. Shelley and Byron, on the whole, talked. Polidori glared at Shelley, to whom he had taken a violent dislike. Mary Shelley listened shily and quietly, while Claire Clairmont was visibly annoyed that the others, particularly the thick-skinned Polidori, would not leave her alone with Byron."
  • "One evening, while Byron was reciting lines from Coleridge's "Christabel," Shelley suddenly shrieked and ran from the room. The other followed him and found him near collapse, leaning against a fireplace. Polidori administered ether, which was considered a restorative in small doses, and Shelley then told of envisioning a woman, perhaps Mary Shelley, with eyes instead of nipples."
HILARIOUS CRAZY PEOPLE
posted by nicebookrack at 10:53 AM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


/....eyes without a faaaaaaace..../
posted by The Whelk at 11:04 AM on March 18, 2013


So I didn't see this addressed, but the article mentions Byron liked dudes as well as ladies. Would a young, clueless Polidori possibly not been one of those? They act a bit like a hookup gone wrong, don't they? Or perhaps Byron thought Polidori was up for it, and he wasn't, so Byron was stuck with him...which seems unlike Byron.

Why wouldn't Byron just have abandoned him if there was so little appealing about him?

Aside from the Shelleys, and only sometimes them, I really enjoy reading about the Romantics more than I enjoy what they wrote. I have never been able to get into Byron, at all.

However, I will never forget Angela Carter's essay describing his apparent tendency to swim the canals of Venice (which functioned as sewers at the time), in which she remarked that he must have emerged from the canals at his villa "like a clubfoot Titan wreathed in turds."
posted by emjaybee at 11:04 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


He also carried a torch while swimming in said sewers which I can;t imagine would've made him ....less conspicuous
posted by The Whelk at 11:08 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: What are the other good dramatizations of the time spent in the house in Switzerland? Cause it just seems like perfect drama fodder.

Not "good" in the conventional sense perhaps, but yet another film about that heaving summer on Lake Geneva was Rowing with the Wind (1988), with Hugh Grant as Lord Byron and Spanish actor Jose Luis Gomez as poor Polly Dolly.

Trivia buffs and anyone who has ever written a swiftly remaindered biography of Hugh Grant (I am in both categories) will remember the movie mainly because Byron's sexy fangirl lover, Claire Clairmont, was played by a then rising young British actress called Elizabeth Hurley.

The fact that Byron and his young mistress became a celebrity couple in real life was considered fairly adorable by the British press.

(Hugh was unknown outside the UK when he made Rowing with the Wind- his breakout movie, 4 Weddings and A Funeral (1994) was still a few years away.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:08 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh oh oh and Byron's habit of ordering elaborate articles and clothing from craftsmen and then refusing to pay. Apparently this was something of a common aristocratic coming-of-age ritual but Byron took it to ...Byronic extremes
posted by The Whelk at 11:26 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Byron and other writers, such as his friend Hobhouse, described his eating habits in detail. At the time he entered Cambridge, he went on a strict diet to control his weight. He also exercised a great deal, and at that time wore a great number of clothes to cause himself to perspire. For most of his life he was a vegetarian, and often lived for days on dry biscuits and white wine. Occasionally he would eat large helpings of meat and desserts, after which he would purge himself. Although he is described by Galt and others as having a predilection for "violent" exercise, Hobhouse makes the excuse that the pain in his deformed foot made physical activity difficult, and his weight problem was the result.
posted by The Whelk at 11:28 AM on March 18, 2013


Byron later described Polidori as "exactly the kind of person to whom, if he fell overboard, one would hold out a straw, to know if the adage be true that drowning men catch at straws."

I... have met people like this, but the Byron-Polidori relationship seems so uncomfortably codependent, that I, like emjaybee, wonder if there wasn't some relationship guilt going on.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:40 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


As hot a mess as this is, it mainly points out just how staid my life is and how little I've accomplished, compared to any of that crowd. Then again, I've outlived a number of them, though to what effect I don't know.

(Also, if this was a modern story, people would be screaming about "pedophilia," as inaccurate as that would be. Also also, rock stars are the modern Byrons, aren't they? Almost Famous seems like it could be a Polidori story. Also also also, "Polidori" is a wonderful surname.)

Lovely essay.
posted by maxwelton at 12:09 PM on March 18, 2013


it mainly points out just how staid my life is and how little I've accomplished, compared to any of that crowd.

In my English Novel class junior year, the professor said something like, "Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 18. Go ahead and get feeling like a failure out of the way."
posted by nicebookrack at 12:17 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some thoughts regarding Byron's original "fragment":

-It's not obviously a vampire setup.
-It was Byron, not Polidori, who initiated the Roman à clef. Byron's narrator is basically Polidori, and Byron's monster is basically Byron as he thought himself perceived by Polidori.
-So is Aubrey, the narrator of "The Vampyre," basically Polidori as he thought himself perceived by Byron?
-"Hot mess" doesn't begin to describe this.
posted by Iridic at 12:24 PM on March 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Wow. The only thing I can think to add after reading the fragment is "At least the social networking dramas of today's narcissistic 20-somethings will hopefully be lost to the ages." Hot mess, indeed.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:38 PM on March 18, 2013


I feel like I need a flow chart for infatuations, grudges, secret marriages, etc.
posted by The Whelk at 12:42 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


(basically if you make this a mini-series on Showtime with some nudity and laudanum trips then I can follow it better, k?)
posted by The Whelk at 12:43 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I didn't see this addressed, but the article mentions Byron liked dudes as well as ladies. Would a young, clueless Polidori possibly not been one of those?

I've always assumed that Byron and Polidori were banging too, but now I think of it, I don't think there's actually any evidence one way or the other. The whole thing seemed like such a hot mess and clusterfuck of unhappy relationships. I totally want to see a sexy Showtime-style TV show about it!

What are the other good dramatizations of the time spent in the house in Switzerland?

Ugh, I can't believe I know this but: while I wouldn't call it good, per se, there's an episode of Highlander that features Byron as an immortal that has a few flashbacks to the house in Switzerland. I don't remember much about it other than that Byron got his head chopped off in the end.

If you're interested in some nonfiction about Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, and Byron in all their fucked up glory, I liked The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. Really unstinting in showing Byron and Percy Shelley's flaws, and makes an interesting case for the ways the real monsters in her life found reflections in fiction.
posted by yasaman at 12:46 PM on March 18, 2013


The only way we can make this better is to throw in some genre with our crazysexypoetic soap opera, a la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or a War of the World-style alien lake invasion, or the Shelleys & friends solving murder mysteries very ineptly Clue-movie-style.

In a similar vein, if Kate Beaton should like to create a book-length comic narrating the hot lake mess, I pledge an entire month of my salary upfront to the Kickstarter.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:56 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Whelk: See also Haunted Summer, with Eric Stolz as Percy and Laura Dern as Claire Clairmont. I can't say I've seen it, though, but this quote from IMDB is rather telling...

Dr. John William Polidori: I have written a play. I think it quite good.
Lord Byron: Do shut up, John.
posted by Sparx at 1:01 PM on March 18, 2013


or the Shelleys & friends solving murder mysteries very ineptly Clue-movie-style.


I mean we have accusations of literal vampirism right in the text here people.
posted by The Whelk at 1:03 PM on March 18, 2013


consider this:

We owe the entire literary genre of "sexy brooding manwhore vampire" to Polidori's plagiarized hate-on for Byron.

Edward Cullen, Lestat, Spike, the two rows of Paranormal Romance at Barnes & Noble—we would get none of that without Polidori's attempt at "Look at me, the evil fiend, Lord Anonymous Myron! Aren't I awful?" that backfired spectacularly into "HEY BABY, I DRINK YOUR BLOOD AND YOU LIIIKE IT."

Suck it, Byron's contributions to formal epic poetry! Polidori knows true literary fame!
posted by nicebookrack at 1:08 PM on March 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


You just know Byron would totally sit on a chair on a stage getting his highlights done.

I mean - wait where am I?
posted by The Whelk at 1:18 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


We owe the entire literary genre of "sexy brooding manwhore vampire" to Polidori's plagiarized hate-on for Byron.

And that is absolutely my favorite thing about the entire hot lake mess. MY FAVORITE THING. All douchey brooding vampires are Byron! Polidori was SO ANGRY about Byron's emotional vampirism, and lo, it lives on in literary actual vampirism form centuries later.

I just think that's endlessly hilarious. I never took the brooding sexy vampires all that seriously before, but when I learned this, I ceased to take them seriously at all and now I just find them sad and hilarious.
posted by yasaman at 1:47 PM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


This was a a fun read, thank you for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:51 PM on March 18, 2013


Tim Powers first used Polidori as a character in The Stress of Her Regard, iirc, which also ties Bryon and his circle to literal (fictional) vampires.
posted by mwhybark at 2:26 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Polidori's Lord Ruthven is also resurrected, so to speak, in Varney the Vampyre, which ruined several of my students' lives this semester. Or so I was informed. (If you think Polidori's prose leaves something to be desired...) Which, I suppose, makes Varney the knockoff of a knockoff. In any event, if you're talking about vampires and sex, the opening scene of Varney is pretty eye-popping in that regard; the original illustration to that scene doesn't mend matters any. (I suspect the novelist, who is either James Malcolm Rymer or T. P. Prest, depending on the time of day, is thinking about this painting.)
posted by thomas j wise at 2:54 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Suddenly I want nothing so much as your standard saving-the-world-from-supernatural-evil action-comedy novel with the supporting cast led by reluctant sidekick Polidori the Vampire, who has been sulking for 200 years somewhere suitably non-Byronesque like Australia, and who when dragged protesting into world-saving nearly botches the rescue by hurtling blithely into disaster like a knowitall Leroy Jenkins. But in the end Polidori grows as a vampire-person by developing a smidgen of people skills and a trace of a sense of humor, and he gets the girl (or boy (or sentient lifeform)) and helps save the day with his outdated medical skills, giant bottle of ether, and ability to walk underwater in a sewer without breathing. THE END
posted by nicebookrack at 2:54 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, and Lord Byron's Doctor does represent the Byron/Polidori relationship as occasionally sexual, although Polidori is not particularly enthused.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:55 PM on March 18, 2013


So for our Showtime miniseries, we've got Byron laid out - rich amoral arrogant beautiful emotional vampire celebrity who really just wanted a vacation but is quickly bored by what he thught he wanted. Percy and Mary, right off the heady rush of eloping and being terribly romantic moral anarchists and the slow growing realization that the bloom may be off the rose cause Percy's belief in Free Love is mostly free love for Prcy and Mary's health is starting its roller coaster ride and then thier stepsister show up having STALKED Byron around England being all " oh hey cos I thought I'd show up and see what's going on oh wow is that Byron WHAT A COINCIDENCE . All the while Polly Dolly , all obtuse and cheerful, is unaware that he's in the center of a three way lovers spat and that his codependent boyfriend is trying to make him leave by being as unpleasant as humanly possible.

Add ghost stories, some gaslighting, maybe a mysterious death, and lots of opium.

I say 11 hour long episodes, and one two hour finale, and Bowie's latest single " The Stars Are Out Tonight" is the theme.

Now go do casting.
posted by The Whelk at 2:59 PM on March 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yes, let's continue to turn great art into gossip and soap opera! Who needs to actually read Lord Byron's poems when we can turn him into another interchangeable character in a tawdry drama? Lord Byron suffered enough of the chatterings of small-minded fools in life - must we continue the indignity in death?

It reminds me of that stupid Young Romantics or Dangerous Romantics show about the pre-Raphelite Brotherhood. I may be more Polidari than Lord Byron but at least I recognize my inferiority and know that my place is to honor those great spirits that Byron wrote about and embodied.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:12 PM on March 18, 2013


Lighten up Francis.
posted by The Whelk at 3:15 PM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


What if we got that guy from The Hold Steady to play Polidori?
posted by padraigin at 3:32 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


1 "Fell like a thunderbolt upon the chambermaid." It's so strange for us now to read of such things written about, not flippantly, but as factual, with no sense of involvement with the victim.
2 Alfieri, to whom his father was secretary, is one of THE greats of Italian literature. His poem on the death of his brother is beautiful, but a lot of his work now, while beautiful, is heavy to read due to the old language. So his family seem to have been very literary
posted by maiamaia at 3:42 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pshaw! I have read Byron & Percy Shelley & Mary Shelley & Polidori's Vampyre and written term papers on all of them except poor neglected Polly; I have read Varney & Camilla & Dracula to continue Ye Olde Vampyre Hat Trick; I have more books than room in two houses to hold them; I have a degree in English Literature and have worked in four bookstores; I think the pale-consumptive-with-lace aesthetic is sexy I have flung myself dramatically (but carefully, mindful of the headstone) on Yeats' grave during a thunderstorm. I MOCK BECAUSE I LOVE.
posted by nicebookrack at 3:44 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I say 11 hour long episodes, and one two hour finale.

I say we foreshadow the Greek war in the first episode at least, draw the viewers in with the promise of violence. Then we show Polly Dolly jumping off the wall to impress Mary (or did Byron push him? Dramatic ambiguity!?!).
posted by Think_Long at 3:47 PM on March 18, 2013


In the middle of this, i read the wikipedia article on PBShelley & it was gripping too!
posted by maiamaia at 3:47 PM on March 18, 2013


Yes, let's continue to turn great art into gossip and soap opera! Who needs to actually read Lord Byron's poems when we can turn him into another interchangeable character in a tawdry drama?

Also oh my god, do you know what Byron's contemporaries actually spent their time talking about?
posted by Think_Long at 3:48 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


HOW DARE YOU ALL HAVE FUN
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:49 PM on March 18, 2013


It's no good unless we get all the Romantics in there. We need a series-long myth arc in which Blake's apparently senseless ramblings about Urizen slowly take on a horrific and unexpected significance. Also we could spend a couple of eps in Xanadu, and in the finale Yeats arrives from the future to prevent the birth of the Rough Beast. (Yeats is played by Alexis Denisof with a portentous Irish accent and a pince-nez.)
posted by Iridic at 3:50 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


nicebookrack, I already thought you were swell but this thread has made me a full-blown fan. :)
posted by daisyk at 4:01 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeats travels from the future in a steampunk time machine courtesy of Ada Lovelace, Byron's computer-genius bastard daughter with his half-sister! (Or maybe I'm conflating the bastardry with the incest? Too much effort to look up the Wiki article. Make it TWO steampunk daughters-Byron from the future!)
posted by nicebookrack at 4:03 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, ALL THE ROMANTICS. it would be the Velvet Goldmine of the 18th century.
posted by The Whelk at 4:16 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've never found Byron's poetry to be particularly noteworthy, really. It stands up well within the genre, but compared to Keats, for example, it's just, a bit meh.

The persona of Byron on the other hand, is fucking amazing. So having a good solid wallow in the melodrama of his eccentric private life is totally appropriate. Especially given that his "bad character" lead to his daughter being forbidden poetry and taught math instead, leading to the first real computer programmer. ALL THESE WEIRD LITTLE LINKS, MAN. IN a roundabout way Byron gave us Edward Cullen and the computer age, just by virtue of his total rakehell lifestyle.

nicebookrack: Byron had a few bastards, but Ada was entirely legitimate. The child he allegedly sired with his half sister was Elizabeth Medora Leigh.
posted by Jilder at 4:17 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I say we foreshadow the Greek war in the first episode at least, draw the viewers in with the promise of violence. Then we show Polly Dolly jumping off the wall to impress Mary (or did Byron push him? Dramatic ambiguity!?!).

Frame work device of people following the political news from the region and trying to bring it up in thier dreadfully boring morning conversations ( ugh this rain!) and Byron being all dismissive cause we like historical irony and all that.
posted by The Whelk at 4:22 PM on March 18, 2013


Chamber Maid: Have you heard? The Greeks are revolting from the Ottomans, they say a war is looming!

Lord Byron (shirtless in bed): Don't fill your pretty head with such nonsense, we've got an uprising of our own to deal with!

CAMERA PANS TO Polidori peering in through a crack in the door, face a mix of jealousy and arousal. CUE I don't know, a Smiths song or something.
posted by Think_Long at 4:43 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]




oh yes, and it continues to play over a seedy montage of Byron fucking all manner of folk before the song is suddenly smash cut to a somber meeting of the Shelleys receiving news of their recent miscarriage.

I may be taking some historical license with the chronology here.
posted by Think_Long at 4:50 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which should segue into a musical montage of aborted Longing. Mary for Shelly, Claire for Byron, etc
posted by The Whelk at 4:51 PM on March 18, 2013


We are totally in the same page someone call Showtime.
posted by The Whelk at 4:51 PM on March 18, 2013


It's okay, we'll throw in more Bowie and claim it's "history rock" a la A Knight's Tale
posted by nicebookrack at 4:52 PM on March 18, 2013


We are totally in the same page someone call Showtime.

We could tweet them, let's work on the 140 character pitch:

The Romantics: Sexy twenty-somethings at a lake; it's fucking, poetry.
posted by Think_Long at 4:54 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Romantics: Lord Byron and the birth of horror/scifi in a lakeside villa with Bowie and fucking.
posted by The Whelk at 4:56 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


A Knights Tale is very underrated, BTW, I know a medieval historian who adores it.
posted by The Whelk at 4:57 PM on March 18, 2013


Of course A Knight's Tale is fabulous, it has Wash and Sir Joker the Knight and Jarvis-as-Chaucer!
posted by nicebookrack at 5:02 PM on March 18, 2013


I haven't seen it in years, I just remember someone staring at a tent wistfully and saying "bed him well, milady. Bed him well. . . " which was creepy as hell.
posted by Think_Long at 5:04 PM on March 18, 2013


I remember after I saw A Knight's Tale I said to myself, "man, that guy's going to be a massive star." I was talking about James Purefoy.
posted by Iridic at 6:31 PM on March 18, 2013


Also oh my god, do you know what Byron's contemporaries actually spent their time talking about?

Gossip. And many of them are forgotten, while Byron endures. This just forces everything into the same template, like how the new Hitchcock movie focuses on his home life as much as his movies or how most music biopics have the same Walk Hard dramatic arc.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:44 PM on March 18, 2013


You know Walk Hard wasn't a biopic, right?

Anyway, I think the Byron/Shelley circle is prime for some kind of adaptation that really digs into all the fuckery of their deal. YMMV.

For what it's worth, I backed this Kickstarter for a YA novel that places Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley in the same timeline, and they start a detective agency. I'm super stoked, the first chapters are amazing! I recommend watching for it.

And I will use this space to mention that my daughter chose Ada Lovelace as her historical character to re-enact for the 3rd grade Wax Museum. With some help, her memorized speech notes that Ada's father was mad, bad, and dangerous to know.
posted by padraigin at 6:53 PM on March 18, 2013


For the final scene of the series:

Upon receiving news of Lord Byron's death, Mary Shelly retrieves a poem from the journals of her husband, many years dead.

MARY SHELLY (VO): I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,

CUT TO flashbacks of group laughing by the lakeside

(VO) Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

CUT TO a scene of the Shellys sharing a quiet and tender moment alone

(VO) Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

CUT TO Byron's comically large carriage, lumbering along the track, Polly Dolly running after it trying to catch up

(VO) And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'

CUT TO the endless vista of the Aegean sea, spotted with islands, a lazy sun slinks down beneath the horizon while Shelly's voice rounds out the series:

(VO) Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The camera lingers, then fades to black.

The first draft is not the time for subtlety.
posted by Think_Long at 7:32 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


You know Walk Hard wasn't a biopic, right?

Well, sure, but in CIS's defense, it parodied the structure of Ray, Walk the Line, and the like.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:46 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: See also Haunted Summer, with Eric Stolz as Percy and Laura Dern as Claire Clairmont. I can't say I've seen it, though, but this quote from IMDB is rather telling...

I'm a big fan of Ken Russell, and 'Gothic' was lots of fun in the kind of phantasmagoric plotless drug-party way that one would expect...

But, 'Haunted Summer' was a more interesting movie. A more detailed script, and subtler acting. The story plays out Shelley and Byron's artistic rivalry quite well, with the hotshot new kid on the rebel-poetry scene giving the proud older master a daunting taste of real genius...
posted by ovvl at 8:57 PM on March 18, 2013


Plot twist: at some point Polidori and time-traveling Ada Lovelace hook up because having never read any poetry before she thinks Polidori is a literary genius. In return he nods when she talks math like he understands what she's saying. Then they make out. Byron is AGHAST.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:32 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know guys, this sounds great. Seriously, how about this as a graphic novel on Kickstarter? I'd happily volunteer as an artist. (I've painted my share of Regency fops.)
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 12:41 AM on March 19, 2013


I've painted my share of Regency fops.

That's like the best missing Pet Shop Boys lyric ever.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:24 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, right, like you don't know what Smiths song that line is from...

I've painted my share of Regency fops
But heaven knows I’m miserable now


&c.
posted by dersins at 8:47 AM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't it Belle and Sebastian? The title track from the Lazy Fop-Painter Jane EP?
posted by Iridic at 9:01 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure it was The Decemberists, y'all, the next line a rhyme with "quaintrelle"
posted by nicebookrack at 11:10 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know guys, this sounds great. Seriously, how about this as a graphic novel on Kickstarter? I'd happily volunteer as an artist. (I've painted my share of Regency fops.)

I'd be happy to get involved in the writing aspect, though I'm more likely to turn anything I work on into an outright satire whether I mean to or not.
posted by Think_Long at 11:19 AM on March 19, 2013


Im only holding off cause it would require me to read diaries and a lot of epic poetey
posted by The Whelk at 11:22 AM on March 19, 2013


I've tried to read "The Revolt of Islam," but my eyes jump around the stanzas and I wish for haiku and iambic trimeter.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:54 AM on March 19, 2013


I volunteer for the "turning everything into iambic pentameter or whatever" part, god knows that listing that skill on my résumé hasn't much impressed many potential in employers in the history of ever. "I write Twitter fiction and villanelles and really excellent fanfic; give me full-time employment with benefits!"
posted by nicebookrack at 2:45 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


"My Twitter fiction and my villanelles
are both surpassed by my abundant fanfic;
please hire me, for I could use a check-up."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:52 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


And I resent you, iPhone autocorrect, for auto-Frenchifying résumé and lending me artificial fanciness thereby. Resume, resume, resuuuume
posted by nicebookrack at 2:52 PM on March 19, 2013


Sadly none of my fanfic is smut from which I can file off the serial numbers and republish it as bestselling mainstream romance. Perhaps I should attempt Byron/Polidori hatesex.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:56 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I should attempt Byron/Polidori hatesex.

Oh, pleeeeease!
posted by daisyk at 3:24 PM on March 19, 2013


See also Haunted Summer, with Eric Stolz as Percy and Laura Dern as Claire Clairmont. I can't say I've seen it, though, but this quote from IMDB is rather telling...

I forgot to add that Doctor Polidori is portrayed by Alex Winter in this movie, who some might recognize as Keneau's sidekick in the 'Bill & Ted' series...

I find the essential story fascinating. The Age of Enlightenment made possible the freedom of lateral thinking, which allowed The Romantic Movement to move away from the rationalism of Enlightenment into something new and strange...
posted by ovvl at 4:02 PM on March 19, 2013


LOL, yes. I am a fan of the Pet Shop Boys and Belle and Sebastian... how can you all tell? :P

Seriously, this would be an awesome project, and if we combined all our powers, I bet we could get significant funding. The Whelk and Nicebookrack: would you guys consider working together? The Whelk could bring his comic book writing know-how to the table; and Nicebookrack, you seem to know a lot about the period.

Anyway, I'm not sure if this is kosher to discuss this on the thread... should we take this to MetaTalk?
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 5:15 PM on March 19, 2013


The Awl Network Is Under Attack!
posted by homunculus at 5:12 PM on March 20, 2013


If this turns into anything I can only commit to an advisory role - I can't take on another historical research project so soon.
posted by The Whelk at 5:14 PM on March 20, 2013


Dear The Whelk, please advise us how to be awesome ASAP, love Metafilter.

p.s. at some point we will be needing you to model Byronic outfits so stick around and look brooding.

Now then, who would like to adopt a bear for research purposes?
posted by nicebookrack at 9:03 PM on March 20, 2013


The Lady And Her Monsters - "Real-lIfe Frankensteins And How Mary Shelley's Masterpiece Came To Life
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:19 AM on March 27, 2013


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