Mary Shelley movie - trailer

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Mary Shelley movie - trailer

Postby Saturn » Sun Apr 15, 2018 7:44 pm

"Oh what a misery it is to have an intellect in splints".
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Re: Mary Shelley movie - trailer

Postby Ravenwing » Fri Apr 20, 2018 7:45 pm

One of my thoughts whilst watching that trailer for a second time:

Did Mary Shelley keep Percy's heart in the hope that someday it could be transplanted into a corpse, and then reanimated, so that he could love her once again?

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Re: Mary Shelley movie - trailer

Postby Saturn » Fri Apr 20, 2018 7:56 pm

No, don't think so, that's a bit far fetched. Mary was a very rational and scientifically curious, and learned person. She didn't actually believe that what Frankenstein was able to achieve in her novel could, or should actually be done - that's kind of the point of the whole book...

Also, from what I've read Byron just fished any old organ out of Shelley's remain as they were burning. It was probably part of his liver or another organ apart from the heart. We'll never know, it was buried with her.
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Re: Mary Shelley movie - trailer

Postby Ravenwing » Fri Apr 27, 2018 1:53 pm

Actually, it was Edward Trelawny, and not Byron, who did the deed. He later wrote a book titled "Recollections of the last days of Shelley and Byron (1858)", which can be downloaded here: https://archive.org/details/recollectionsofl00trel

This is an excerpt from that book:

Recollections of the last days of Shelley and Byron (1858), by Edward Trelawny, pages 135 to 138:

"Three white wands had been stuck in the sand to mark the Poet's grave, but as they were at some distance from each other, we had to cut a trench thirty yards in length, in the line of the sticks, to ascertain the exact spot, and it was nearly an hour before we came upon the grave.

"In the mean time Byron and Leigh Hung arrived in the carriage, attended by soldiers, and the Health Officer, as before. The lonely and grand scenery that surrounded us so exactly harmonized with Shelley's genius, that I could imagine his spirit soaring over us. The sea, with the islands of Gorgona, Capraji, and Elba, was before us; old battlemented watch-towers stretched along the coast, backed by the marble-crested Apennines glistening in the sun, picturesque from their diversified outlines, and not a human dwelling was in sight. As I thought of the delight Shelley felt in such scenes of loneliness and grandeur whilst living, I felt we were no better than a herd of wolves or a pack of wild dogs, in tearing out his battered and naked body from the pure yellow sand that lay so lightly over it, to drag him back to the light of day; but the dead have no voice, nor had I power to check the sacrilege—the work went on silently in the deep and unresisting sand, not a word was spoken, for the Italians have a touch of sentiment, and their feelings are easily excited into sympathy. Even Byron was silent and thoughtful. We were startled and drawn together by a dull hollow sound that followed the blow of a mattock; the iron had struck a skull, and the body was soon uncovered. Lime had been strewn on it; this, or decomposition, had the effect of staining it of a dark and ghastly indigo colour. Byron asked me to preserve the skull for him; but remembering that he had formerly used one as a drinking-cup, I was determined that Shelley's should not be so profaned. The limbs did not separate from the trunk, as in the case of Williams's body, so that the corpse was removed entire into the furnace. I had taken the precaution of having more and larger pieces of timber, in consequence of my experience of the day before of the difficulty of consuming a corpse in the open air with our apparatus. After the fire was well kindled we repeated the ceremony of the previous day; and more wine was poured over Shelley's dead body than he had consumed during his life. This with the oil and salt made the yellow flames glisten and quiver. The heat from the sun and fire was so intense that the atmosphere was tremulous and wavy. The corpse fell open and the heart was laid bare. The frontal bone of the skull, where it had been struck with the mattock, fell off; and, as the back of the head rested on the red-hot bottom bars of the furnace, the brains literally seethed, bubbled, and boiled as in a cauldron, for a very long time.

"Byron could not face this scene, he withdrew to the beach and swam off to the "Bolivar." Leigh Hunt remained in the carriage. The fire was so fierce as to produce a white heat on the iron, and to reduce its contents to grey ashes. The only portions that were not consumed were some fragments of bones, the jaw, and the skull, but what surprised us all, was that the heart remained entire. In snatching this relic from the fiery furnace, my hand was severely burnt; and had any one seen me do the act I should have been put into quarantine."


Yes, there is the late 19th century theory that it was not Percy's heart which Mary Shelley held onto for many decades and until the very last of her living days. The following link leads to an article from 1885 in the NY Times, stating, as you did point out, that it might have been Percy's liver which was retrieved from the fire: https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesm ... 782157.pdf

However, during the mid-20th century Arthur M. Z. Norman did question the validity of that theory, and thus he did postulate otherwise. In the process, he shed new light onto the cause of "Percy's hypochondriacal troubles": https://academic.oup.com/jhmas/article- ... edFrom=PDF

Journal of the History of Medicine (1955), by Arthur M. Z. Norman, page 114:

"The Shelley scholar is aware of Shelley's hypochondriacal troubles; Shelley's unburnable heart suggests a physical basis for some of his complaints. It seems very probable that Shelley suffered from a progressively calcifying heart, which might have caused diffuse symptoms with its increasing weight of calcium and which indeed would have resisted cremation as readily as a skull, a jaw, or fragments of bone. Shelley's heart, epitome of Romanticism, may well have been a heart of stone."


That NY Times article does beg the question: If Percy's liver was "saturated with sea water", then why couldn't it be supposed that his heart was, too?

When Percy's calcified heart or liver was finally laid to rest, it was buried with his son, as after Mary Shelley's funeral and before their son's death, it was discovered that she had kept it in a drawer of her writing desk.

After having watched the "Mary Shelley" trailer for a third time, I noticed it portrayed her as having smoked what seemed to be opium. I have yet to find a DVD copy of "Bright Star", though I hope to do so. Did that film portray Keats as having smoked opium, too? The movie "Total Eclipse" portrayed Rimbaud and Verlaine as each having drank absinthe and smoked hashish.

In regards to the new "Mary Shelley" film itself, its director is a female film director from Saudi Arabia, which is a horribly oppressive country towards women and non-Muslims. As a female director, she suffered from worse discrimination in Saudi Arabia than Mary Shelley did as a female novelist in England hundreds of years ago. It will probably be interesting to perceive her "Mary Shelley" movie, in part, as a criticism of the evil that is Islamic authoritarianism.

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Re: Mary Shelley movie - trailer

Postby CasaMagni » Sat Apr 28, 2018 7:45 pm

Unfortunately, Trelawny was such an unreliable witness that we do not know to what degree his account of the cremation is true or not.

Branching off a little, Guido Biagi's 1893 book The Last Days of Shelley contains interviews with some local inhabitants of Viareggio, who could allegedly remember the episode. But since it was common practice for those washed up on shore to be cremated (afaik) I wonder how they could distinguish between the ceremony involving the Englishmen and those others which may have taken place...

As for the movies, I'm not a big fan. Dramatic licence tends to diverge from the truth, so I generally avoid.
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Re: Mary Shelley movie - trailer

Postby Saturn » Sun Apr 29, 2018 8:47 pm

Ah of course, it was Trelawny, the 19th century Walter Mitty.

I've read and own 'The last days of Shelley and Byron' and that in itself is like a really over the top Hollywood movie.

Hard to trust anything Trelawny said, but I was basing my theory of Shelley's 'heart' from the research in Miranda Seymour's excellent biography of Mary Shelley.
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Re: Mary Shelley movie - trailer

Postby Ravenwing » Mon May 28, 2018 6:40 pm

CasaMagni wrote:Unfortunately, Trelawny was such an unreliable witness that we do not know to what degree his account of the cremation is true or not.


Saturn wrote:Ah of course, it was Trelawny, the 19th century Walter Mitty.

I've read and own 'The last days of Shelley and Byron' and that in itself is like a really over the top Hollywood movie.

Hard to trust anything Trelawny said, but I was basing my theory of Shelley's 'heart' from the research in Miranda Seymour's excellent biography of Mary Shelley.


To cast doubt upon Trelawny’s testimony is to cast doubt upon Mary Shelley’s testimony, and Leigh Hunt’s testimony, as it was also each of them who, for several decades, testified to that relic being Percy’s heart.

As Saturn himself has said in a previous post of this thread:


Saturn wrote:Mary was a very rational and scientifically curious, and learned person.


If so, then surely Mary Shelley, the celebrated author of Frankenstein, knew the difference between a liver and a heart!

As for Miranda Seymour's "Mary Shelley", from what little I was able to read of that book via Google Books, it seems that her opinion of the object in question is based merely on an unexamined acceptance of Algernon Sidney Bicknell’s 19th century theory.

The aforementioned New York Times article from 1885 was itself about an article by Algernon Sidney Bicknell that was published in a magazine called "The Athenaeum", in which he claimed that Percy’s liver was saturated with sea water, from which he supposed that sea water must have shielded it from the cremation flames. It seems that Bicknell did completely ignore the fact that Percy’s lungs were themselves filled with sea water from his having drowned, and that the lungs of every human almost completely surround their heart, and therefore that Percy’s sea water-filled lungs probably did also shield his heart from the cremation flames, and if so, then quite possibly far more than his liver was shielded from its having been saturated with sea water, if it was.

Furthermore, if a heart has calcified, that means it looks like it is completely covered in eggshell, whereas if a liver has calcified, that means it did form spots of calcium deposits. Therefore, we can reasonably postulate that if a calcified heart has been cremated, it continues to look like a heart—albeit, a stone heart—whereas if a calcified liver has been cremated, it looks like a bunch of pebbles, and that if Trelawny had grabbed through the flames a calcified liver, it probably would have been as though he had grabbed a handful of sand, and not a shape of any kind.

Furthermore, it should go without saying that much of what passed for science during the late 19th century does not pass for science in the early 21st century, and that it is simply bad science for anybody to compare the results of an open-air cremation that required two days for the corpse to be incinerated, with a reverberatory furnace that required 70 minutes.

On page 823 of "The Athenaeum", No. 3009, June 27th, 1885, in the centre column, is the following article titled 'The "Cor" Cordium' by A.S. Bicknell, which is what the aforementioned NY Times article is based on. This issue of "The Athanaeum" is where the theory that it was Percy's liver and not his heart was first published.

https://books.google.ca/books?id=WmNIAA ... art&f=true

The "Cor Cordium" by A.S. Bicknell.
Reform Club, June, 1885.

Mr. J.C. Jeaffreson in his book 'The Real Shelley' writes: "All the world knows how Shelley's torn and disfigured corpse was reduced to ashes and a few fragments of bone (with the exception of the heart that would not be burnt) on the pyre"; and probably since Trelawny, shortly after the poet's death, reported that "his heart remained entire," his statement has been unhesitatingly accepted. I have, however, reason for thinking that the story does not rest on trustworthy evidence.

When a body is burnt the part which longest resists the action of the fire, after the base of the skull and one or two of the most solid portions of bone, is the liver. The heart, being hollow and smaller, is easily destroyed; but the liver, a moist and solid mass, repels intense heat, and ultimately deposits an ash of pure carbon, which no continued burning or increase of temperature can further change. In the cemetery of Milan, where I have seen human cremations completely carried out in seventy minutes by Signor Venini's reverberatory furnace, the best method known, I also learned that the liver, perhaps from its containing this element of carbon, can endure for a considerable time even that concentrated whirlwind of fire, and remain almost intact after the heart has totally disappeared. Moreover, in Shelley's case the liver would have been saturated with sea-water, and thereby rendered still more incombustible.

It is extremely improbably that Byron, Leigh Hunt, or Trelawny knew enough anatomy to identify accurately the charred substance they took to be the heart, and it is more likely, owning to the thin edge of the liver being consumed, and its size consequently being much reduced, that they mistook the shrunken remains of the one organ for the whole of the other.

From observing the Milanese cremations alluded to I think it barely possible that the human heart is ever capable of withstanding fire for more than a brief period; but since Mr. J.A. Symonds asserts, to my surprise, that Shelley's heart was given by Leigh Hunt to Mrs. Shelley, and is now at Boscombe, the seat of the present baronet, it would be easy for some competent anatomist to determine the question I have raised.

In any case, the hero-worshipping and sentimental tourists who go in crowds to that lovely spot beneath the pyramid of Caius Cestius to mourn over Shelley's untimely fate have been strangely deceived for more than sixty years in believing that beneath the marble graven with the touching words "Cor Cordium" lies the flame-proof heart of their favourite poet.

A.S. Bicknell.


It seems to me that Algernon Sidney Bicknell's theory on the object in question rates alongside other conspiracy theories such as that Jesus of Nazareth was black, that the Mona Lisa is a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci as a transvestite, and that William Shakespeare did not write his own plays.

As for returning the conversation of this thread to the new "Mary Shelley" movie, and as it is due to soon be in theatres, there have recently been a slew of new articles and reviews about it:

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists ... ts-1110105

https://www.elle.com/culture/movies-tv/ ... ina-jolie/

http://www.vulture.com/2018/05/mary-shelley-review.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/23/movi ... stein.html

https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/mary-shelley-2018

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Re: Mary Shelley movie - trailer

Postby CasaMagni » Thu May 31, 2018 9:49 pm

Pity Keats wasn't there, he would have known...

Presumably the most accurate account is that written nearest in time to the actual events being described. Here is the relevant portion of Trelawny's letter written in that very week of August 1822, and yes, he does insist on the enduring heart...

Although we made a tremendous fire it
burnt exceedingly slow ; and it was three hours before
the body separated - it then fell open across the breast -
and the heart, which was now seen, was likewise small.
The body was much longer consuming than the other -
it was nearly four o'clock before the body was wholly
consumed, that part nearest the heart being the last
that became ashes - and the heart itself seemed proof
against fire, for it was still perfect and the intensity
of heat everything now even the sand on which the
furnace stood the furnace itself being red hot and
[an intense] fierce fire still kept up [yet] the largest
bones reduced to white cinders and nothing perfect
distinguishable - but the heart [placed on] which although
bedded in fire - would not burn - and after
awaiting an hour continually [replenis] adding fuel
it becoming late we gave over by mutual conviction
of its being unavailing - all exclaiming it
will not burn - there was a bright flame round it occasioned
by the moisture still flowing from it - and
on removing the furnace nearer to the Sea to immerse
the iron I took the heart in my hand to examine it -
after sprinkling it with water : yet it was still so hot
as to burn my hand badly and a quantity of this oily
fluid still flowed from it - we now collected the dust
and ashes and placed them in the box made for the occasion,
and shipped it on board Lord Byron's schooner.

The editor of Trelawny's letters adds the following note :

This higgledy-piggledy sentence is a veritable prize from the point of view of evidence - so clearly is it an attempt to describe
an incident which has more than once been pronounced incredible. For my part I see no good reason to doubt it ; and, if it were uncor-
roborated even, I should feel it impossible to dispute what is so earnestly and artlessly set forth. People do not tell lies about
imaginary prodigies in this sort of language ; and the man who set down these details while still smarting from the physical and
mental horrors he had gone a through on that desolate shore evidently meant to tell the simple truth.
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Re: Mary Shelley movie - trailer

Postby CasaMagni » Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:03 pm

Hmmm the plot thickens... the editor of Trelawny's letters was none other than H.B Forman, the forger, and as the late Peter Cochran pointed out in a 2008 work, the manuscript of the above letter has not been located. A letter from Byron to Moore dated August 1822 and published in 1830, does however state that 'the heart would not take the flame'.
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Re: Mary Shelley movie - trailer

Postby Ravenwing » Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:29 am

So we have Mary Shelley, Hunt, and Byron whom are trustworthy, and Trelawny as well as H.B. Forman whom are not. That's three trustworthies to two not-trustworthies. Methinks that doth meaneth the trustworthies are thus far winning the debate.

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