In early February, Betty and I were having an odd exchange about the term corn rubber, a term that both Lord Byron and Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont use in their letters. I was wondering if it meant some kind of eraser or scraper of some kind. Betty said she thought it might be something to help with foot problems.
Today, I looked on the site of the Oxford English Dictionary and found Byron cited as one of the sources for the term, a term which, according to the OED, means related to the treatment or cure of corns. So … Betty was right (no surprise!).
I did write to her on February 10 and say that I now agreed with her: I just read in that new biography of Byron from last year that he was wearing ill-fitting Italian boots, thus the requests [for corn rubbers]. I also told her I’d found a brand-name—Acton’s Corn-Rubbers! I was hoping today that I’d get lucky and find a Google image of the product. Nope.
Something more consequential came up later in February 2000. I’d found an account of a trip along the Rhine published in 1806—just eight years before Mary and Bysshe and Claire had done the same thing, the trip that, supposedly, had given her the view of the ruins of Castle Frankenstein and, thus, her the name for her most famous novel and its eponymous lead character.
But the guy who’d made the trip and written that travel book—John Carr—did not mention the ruins at all. Here’s part of what I wrote to Betty: So … nothing of positive use here, but there is some negative evidence: A contemporary traveler was virtually on top of the castle [Frankenstein] and said nothing about it. A few days later, I found an account by another traveler through Darmstadt—a friend of Mary’s (Crabb Robinson)—who also did not mention the ruins at all, even though he was there after the publication of Frankenstein and surely (?) would have commented about the name to the author of the novel? Something like—Hey, I visited your Castle Frankenstein today … didn’t see any monsters, though. LOL.
A bit later, Betty wrote to say that she was heading off to Italy. And I was off to Niagara Falls on yet another quest to see if I could find any confirmation(s) of Trelawny’s claim about swimming the rapids.