Historical & Cultural Setting

Historical and Cultural Setting

Gothic takes place in the middle of the Regency; in England, King George III’s illness had led to the Regency Act 1811, and his eldest son George, Prince of Wales, was appointed Regent to discharge royal functions. For the wealthy, the Regency era was a time of refinement and culture, but for those not of the Ton,  poverty was rampant.  As people came to the cities and larger towns for work, they increasingly found themselves living in slums; their lives made harder by the years of war, economic collapse, and mass unemployment.

The Romantic Movement

Our poets were a part of the Romantic movement which was characterised by its emphasis on what the poet William Wordsworth described as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” They were also radicals, revolutionaries even.  They held beliefs and ideas that went against the norms of Regency society, and so they stood outside of it. 

Byron, Mary Godwin and Percy Shelley were a central part of this movement, calling for free love and free exchange of ideas. Women’s rights, atheism, vegetarianism, and even revolution. They rejected many of the norms of society, particulaerly the social rules that governed interactions between the classes. This means that the servants in this larp will be an integral part of the story, rather than background functionaries.

Why has Byron left England?

In 1812, after the publication of the first two cantos of his poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Byron became “the most brilliant star” in the dazzling world of Regency London.  His notoriety and fame led to a series of affairs, the first with Lady Caroline Lamb (who called him “mad, bad and dangerous to know”) and with other lovers. Deeply in debt he married the heiress Annabella Millbanke in September 1814.   That would have been the end of it, except for his continual affairs with actresses. 

In January 1816 Annabella left Byron, taking their daughter Ada with her. By April of the same year the scandal of the separation, ever increasing debut, and the rumours about an incestuous affair with his half-sister, Augusta, forced Byron to leave England. He was never to return. 

The Year Without a Summer

In April 1815 Mount Tambora — a volcano on the island of Sumbawa in present-day Indonesia, then part of the Dutch East Indies — erupted.  This catastrophic event was the most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded human history.  Tens of thousands of people died as a result of the eruption. 

The following year, whilst Europe was still recuperating from the Napoleonic Wars which had ended but a year earlier, the whole world suffered from the effects of a Volcanic winter, and 1816 became known as the Year Without A Summer. 

This is the summer Claire turned up with Percy and Mary at Byron’s villa. It is unseasonably cold and dark and there is nothing to do except stay inside and write, drink, and tell each other ghost stories which soon start to feel all too real.