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The Lady and Her Monsters

A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece by Roseanne Montillo

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1:11pm, March 7, 2013

If the makers of Downton Abbey want to capitalize on the popularity of costume dramas, they might look for their next Lady Mary in Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. Shelley’s life needs no em­bellishment, complete with preposterous plots and love triangles set in an era of intense scientific curiosity about the human body. In this biography, Montillo explores how the science of that time inspired Shelley’s work.

In her 1831 update of Frankenstein, Shelley wrote that the story she had penned 15 years earlier emerged from a summer telling ghost stories on Switzerland’s Lake Geneva. Montillo paints a more detailed picture of the book’sorigins.

A key character in the backstory is Italian physician Luigi Galvani, who spent years studying “animal electricity,” the idea that an electric shock or

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