Friday, October 6, 2017

"Two hundred years ago, the greatest eruption in Earth’s recorded history took place"


For three years following Tambora’s explosion, to be alive, almost anywhere in the world, meant to be hungry. In New England, 1816 was nicknamed the “Year Without a Summer” or “Eighteen-Hundred-and-Froze-to-Death.” Germans called 1817 the “Year of the Beggar.” Across the globe, harvests perished in frost and drought or were washed away by flooding rains. Villagers in Vermont survived on porcupine and boiled nettles, while the peasants of Yunnan in China sucked on white clay. Summer tourists traveling in France mistook beggars crowding the roads for armies on the march.


On the northern and western slopes of the volcano, whole villages, totaling perhaps 10,000 people, had already been consumed


It was in this literally electric atmosphere that the Shelley party in Geneva, with Byron attached, conceived the idea of a ghost story contest, to entertain themselves indoors during this cold, wild summer.


Thus it was that the unique creative synergies of this remarkable group of college-age tourists—in the course of a few weeks’ biblical weather—gave birth to two singular icons of modern popular culture: Frankenstein’s monster and the Byronic Dracula.