Early in September 1999 I asked Betty if she’d ever seen Tim Burton’s short film Frankenweenie. She had not. And that occasioned some amusing exchanges. I was asking, of course, about the original version of Frankenweenie, just about thirty minutes long, made by Tim Burton for Disney in 1984, well before Burton’s celebrity ignited and roared off. In 2012 Burton released a full-length version of the film (eighty-seven minutes) that grossed over $100 million worldwide. The story—for those of you who are culturally deprived: Victor Frankenstein is a young boy (today) whose dog is killed; he re-animates the animal, and there is a great scene at the end at a miniature golf course—featuring a windmill (a key location in the 1931 film Frankenstein, though not in Mary’s novel). As I write these words, the entire film is available on YouTube.
Betty wrote to say that the film seems to have be the one that eluded my collection. Ooops.
I let her know in my next note, about a week later, that I was sending her a copy of Frankenweenie. I sit here this August afternoon in 2014, fifteen years after our exchange, and picture Betty Bennett—Shelley scholar nonpareil—curled up with a glass of wine watching Frankenweenie and wondering after a few minutes what kind of relationship she’s gotten into with this retired Ohio teacher who just has the oddest tastes.
In my note about Frankenweenie I also told her that I’d decided to apply for a Pforzheimer Research Grant, money available for Shelley scholars to support various kinds of research. I asked Betty for a recommendation—but added If you don’t feel you can do this—and I certainly would understand if you cannot (we’ve not known each other all THAT long!)—please let me know so that I can twist another arm somewhere. I told her that I wanted the money to retrace Mary’s “six-weeks’ tour.”
But she wrote back a couple of days later with the sad news that because she was involved with the Board of the Keats-Shelley Association, she couldn’t recommend people for grants. I am very sorry …. So was I.
In subsequent exchanges, our correspondence drifted to lighter matters. She thanked me for Frankenweenie (it had arrived) and shared some news about her little Century pear tree [that was] filled with almost-ripe fruit. She talked about her reading habits (multiple books open); I told her I was the same. I mentioned a few things about the various books I was reading—then quipped It’s a good thing we have two eyes, eh?
Our correspondence then turned to two women named Frances—Wright and Trollope. They were marginal characters in Mary’s story, but both of them intrigued me, so I ended up reading a lot about them both, visiting important sites in their stories, all the while realizing, of course, that I would probably not have more than a sentence or two about either of them in my biography of Mary.