A Night at the Villa Diodati and the Birth of Frankenstein

Villa Dioti

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A double bill of horror, enchantment, music and poetry

During a ‘wet, ungenial summer’ of 1816 on Lake Geneva in 1816, Percy and Mary Shelley found themselves confined for days in Villa Diodati with Lord Byron, John Polidori and Claire Clairmont. Sitting by the fireplace, the group would amuse themselves with a book of German ‘ghost stories’ translated into French and entitled Fantasmagoriana. Byron then challenged the group to write their own stories. Although Mary Shelley initially struggled for inspiration her story would become the literary masterpiece Frankenstein, published 200 years ago this year.

A double bill event begins with an exploration of Fantasmagoriana and powerful influence it held over those readers. The second half is devoted to a performed reading of the long poem Villa Diodati by leading British poet Andrew Mitchell, to live music accompaniment and illustrations.

Part One: Horror, Enchantment, and the Genesis of Frankenstein

Through stories, research and illusion, Gothic expert Fabio Camilletti and illusionist and historian of magic Mariano Tomatis explore and recreate how the friends would have been affected these amazing German ghost stories and also by the spectacle of phantasmagoria, the now lost art of thrilling audiences with macabre illusions created through trickery and science. Prepare to be shocked and amazed.

In association with the University of Warwick

Part Two: Villa Diodati

Villa Diodati is a new long-form poem by leading British poet Andrew Mitchell which explores the story of the strange summer of 1816 and events at the Villa which led to the writing of Frankenstein.  His performed reading will be accompanied by illustrations by artist Mary Kuper and a live music score provided by an improvisation trio of cello, violin and flute. 

Fabio Camilletti is Reader at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Warwick. He is an expert of Gothic and Romantic literature from a European and comparative viewpoint. In 2015 he published the first contemporary edition of Fantasmagoriana, the book that inspired Frankenstein, and is currently working on a project on early 19th-century anthologies of the supernatural, funded by the British Academy.

Mariano Tomatis, 'Wonder Injector', is a writer, illusionist, and historian of magic. His work embraces all the possible aspects of 'wonder', from stage magic to everyday life. He actively collaborates with writing collective Wu Ming and is the curator of the online People's Magic Library. In 2017 he was an IAS fellow at the University of Warwick.

Andrew Mitchell is a narrative poet with experience of incorporating music, dance and song into poetry performance. His current project, A Paradise of Exiles, is a sequence of poems based round the lives and work of the younger English Romantic Poets. Villa Diodati is one of the poems from the sequence, with current writing on John Keats. He looks forward to working with Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance from 2019, preparing for performances based round his Keats poem, to mark the bicentenary of Keats’s death in 2021. Andrew is an Honorary Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester.

Mary Kuper is an acclaimed artist, illustrator and teacher, whose detailed work is often inspired by nature. She has worked with The Observer, The Times, The Folio Society, Pan Books, Methuen, Victor Gollancz, Oxford University Press, Kelly Hoppen, The National Trust and many others.

Katie MacDonald (flute) and Beatriz Rola (violin) both studied classically at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and at The Royal Academy of Music, and are currently on the Leadership course at the Guildhall School, which questions artistic identity and encourages inter disciplinary collaboration.

Part of Frankenreads: An international celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for Halloween 2018 organized by the Keats-Shelley Association of America.


Name: A Night at the Villa Diodati and the Birth of Frankenstein
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546