fbpx

The Real Dr Frankenstein?

The scientist who inspired Mary Shelley and the publisher who turned down Frankenstein -  All on one Mayfair street.

On 25 April 1801 the 22 year old Humphry Davy delivered his first public lecture at the Royal Institution (RI) in Albemarle Street Mayfair.  The handsome and romantic young Cornishman had already made his name via his dramatic public experiments in Bristol, not least demonstrating the effects of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) on himself and willing young ladies.  He was employed by the RI to help make the reputation of the new institution to attain the objective of making science more publicly accessible.  

Sir_Humphry_Davy,_Bt_by_Sir_Thomas_Lawrence Credit: Wikipedia

Davey’s first public experiment in Albemarle Street was on galvanism, causing movement in a dead frog using electricity.  It was only a short step to consider what running an electrical current through a dead human body would look like.  In 1803 executed criminal George Foster from Newgate Prison, had just this done to him (not by Humphry Davy!).  Reports of the day stated,

“On the first application of the process to the face, the jaws of the deceased criminal began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye was actually opened. In the subsequent part of the process the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion”

Further down Albemarle Street stands the publisher Murray & Co, originally founded in 1768, it moved to its current Mayfair address in 1812.  Five years later an unknown author submitted her manuscript to Murray & Co., which was promptly rejected.  This was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus.  Victor Frankenstein uses electricity to reanimate a stolen corpse, and while the cheerful, dashing Davy inspired what little science there was in Frankenstein he was quite unlike the remorseful and gloomy Dr Frankenstein.

Albemarle Street is famously London’s first one-way street.  Due to the hordes who packed out Davy’s RI lectures the congestion was terrible, and having the carriages arrive from one direction was a logical solution to ease the problem.

This part of London is full of literature’s monsters. St James’s Square’s London Library provided much of the research for Dracula, while Dr Jekyll’s house lies in Soho.  But you will need to join my Scientists and Monsters walking tour to learn more!

 

I liked the article
Share this article with your friends via through social media
Linkedin
London History Podcast:
November 12, 2021
71: Georgian Dentistry
February 19, 2021
43: London Fog

Comments:

Leave a Comment

Read also:

Tachbrook Street Market, Pimlico SW1

Just south of the hustle and bustle of Victoria Station, built in the great Victorian railway age, is as a long-established shopping area and market.
June 15, 2022
Read more

Things to do in London: Borough Market

Hidden behind the world-famous Borough Market is one of London’s most historic quarters. The streets south of London Bridge teem with 2,000 years of history. Borough Market is an excellent place to start to explore this history and is London's oldest food market - sounds like a win-win for us!
June 9, 2022
Read More

Pepys in Clapham

The famous diarist Samuel Pepys, while a City gent, has a strong and very final link with Clapham Common.
June 7, 2022
Read More

Book a private tour

Book a private tour
See All Tours

Guided Walks Calendar

Calendar of Events

M Mon

T Tue

W Wed

T Thu

F Fri

S Sat

S Sun

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

3 events,

Featured - Recurring

Georgian London Walk

3 events,

- Recurring

Best of Blackfriars Walk

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

4 events,

Featured - Recurring

Heretics and Horrors City Walk

2 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

1 event,

0 events,

3 events,

2 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

1 event,

1 event,

1 event,

0 events,

0 events,

2 events,

Featured - Recurring

Heretics and Horrors City Walk

- Recurring

Best of Blackfriars Walk

1 event,

2 events,

2 events,

0 events,