13 Pieces for Halloween, no.7. The name “Marschner” isn’t well known today. He was an important figure in German opera during the 19th century, and he was admired by Beethoven and Mendelssohn, and became an influence to Wagner. His opera Der Vampyr is based off of the book “The Vampyre” by John William Polidori, a Romantic writer who is considered to be the father of Vampire fiction. Before Count Dracula, there was Lord Ruthven. Polidori worked with Lord Byron, and while in Switzerland they hung out with another major poet, Percy Shelley, his fiancee Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, and her step sister Claire Clairmont. Famously, the group were stuck in a lodge because of a thunderstorm, and after reading ghost stories, Lord Byron suggested they all make up scary stories to tell to each other. The most iconic work to be born out of this evening would be Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. The other was Polidori’s The Vampyre. If this doesn’t fit for Halloween, I don’t know what does. Like most Gothic novels, the work follows a young woman who has been seduced by a mysterious figure, and she grows suspicious of him. The more time she spends with him, the slowly she starts to uncover the dark secrets he’s been hiding. Spoiler alert: he’s a vampire. Shocking I know. Marschner’s setting of the work keeps the novelty drama that comes with the new retelling of old legends, and the overture opens with a very dramatic, chromatic, and unstable theme [no surprise that Wagner would be inspired], before switching to a more noble and lighthearted theme. The two contrasting ideas wrestle with each other through grand orchestral writing until the rocking climax that then begins the story.
mary wollstonecraft is a very important lady and you should know some things about her:
she’s considered to be one of the founding feminist philosophers of the 18th century and wrote a vindication for the rights of woman which said that women, then thought to be naturally inferior, only seemed this way because of a lack of education
in her other works, she also attacks aristocracy, the patriarchy, slavery, and the church of england
while most feminists of the time agreed with a lot of what she wrote, they found her personal life too wild and liberal and “passionate”
she once tried to woo a married man/convince him to run away with her and he was all “but i’m married” so wollstonecraft asked his wife if she wanted to come along too and be in a polyamorous relationship (the wife said no)
she was passionately anti-marriage, but when she did get married it was to famous feminist anarchist william godwin (who was also anti-marriage), and they only married because she was pregnant and they wanted their child to have a better life/have the rights of a legitimate child
that child was mary shelley, author of frankenstein and inventor of science fiction
Happy birthday, Mary Wollstonecraft (b. 27 April 1759)
“My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.“ - A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), Mary Wollstonecraft
The greatest feminists have also been the greatest lovers. I’m thinking not only of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley, but of Anais Nin, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and of course Sappho. You cannot divide creative juices from human juices. And as long as juicy women are equated with bad women, we will err on the side of being bad.