Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Frankenstein Sundae, 251


Last evening (October 25, 2016), returning from a drive over to Kent, Joyce told me that the night before—at ten o’clock—she’d been awakened by the sound of our cuckoo clock announcing the hours. She had been so soundly asleep that she had not recognized the friendly offerings from that clock that had once belonged to my great-grandfather Warren A. Lanterman (1866–1963) but instead heard what she thought were the cries of a child. It alarmed her so much that she had difficulty returning to sleep.
Her story reminded me of an experience I had (and which I’ve mentioned here earlier) at the former home of Lord Byron, Newstead Abbey, a home in Nottinghamshire, England, now open to the public. It had indeed been an Abbey (built in the twelfth century), until Henry VIII, in a rage about the Pope’s denial of a divorce request (he was hot for Anne Boleyn and wanted to move on and marry her—which, of course, he subsequently did, until he tired of her, at which time Anne lost her head) dissolved all Roman Catholic Church property between 1536–1541 and declared that England was now a Protestant nation.
That’s a lot. Let’s simplify …
On Saturday, April 17, 1999, I planned to visit Newstead Abbey. That spring, I was, as you may recall, in Europe chasing the Mary Shelley story—from England to Italy. And Byron had been a key player in her life—in fact, he was the indirect cause of her husband’s drowning in Italy. Bysshe Shelley had been so intent on matching Byron in so many ways—creatively, financially (no chance there!)—that when the men began talking about building boats to play with (and in) during the summer of 1822, well, Bysshe was in (in more ways than one, it would, sadly, turn out).
Mary had seen the return of Byron’s remains from Greece (where he died on April 19, 1824, of illness) and had been among the myriads of grieving fans who had watched his body transported by wagon from London to Newstead Abbey. That body, by the way, had been soaked in wine as a preservative (appropriate), just before handlers placed it aboard the ship Florida, which then transported it from the Greek island Zante (or Zakynthos). The body quickly acquired the wine’s correspond1ng color.[i] But when Mary visited the undertaker’s, she saw only the casket. The closed casket.
By the way, Bryon’s great biographer, Leslie A. Marchand, informs us that, after an especially brutal and crude autopsy, Byron’s viscera and heart and brain were stored in a container separate from the coffin.[ii]
Well, I have rambled on, haven’t I? Next time … we’ll finish the story about the cuckoo clock that startled Joyce—and learn why it prompted my memories of Newstead Abbey.

Greek island of Zante

[i] Details here from Leslie A. Marchand, Byron: A Biography, 3 vols. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957), 1233, et. seq.
[ii] Ibid., 1234.

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