The Year without a Summer

villa-diodatiIn these early days of June, my wife has been complaining about the cold and wet weather. We have been lucky to avoid the floods that have driven many people from their homes, not only here in France but even worse in Germany, Holland and parts of the United States. It is not very cold, about 13°C, but very damp with cloying drizzle.

I suggested to her that we could go to Switzerland and rent a villa by Lake Geneva. Of course, we would not be able to afford it, but I did suggest that we would light a hearty log fire and write horror stories and poetry. I had to explain to her what I was alluding to: the year without a summer of exactly two hundred years ago. The foul climate, partly caused by an extremely big volcanic eruption in Indonesia, caused one of the greatest events of English literature, the summer months spent at the Villa Diodati near Geneva by Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin (Shelley’s future wife) and Lord Byron. The most enduring piece of prose fiction was of course Frankenstein written by such a young and fair lady. Lord Byron waxed melancholic as he wrote Darkness. Percy Shelley perished at sea six years later in 1822.

Mount Tambora in Indonesia

Mount Tambora in Indonesia

I think it would be a gross exaggeration to compare our present miseries with that blighted year in the Romantic era. The present outlook shows a gradual improvement over the next week or so as a south-westerly wind chases away the static thunderstorm cells over central and eastern Europe. Temperatures will remain a little under average for the time being, and we wait for the next anticyclone. There have been many volcanic eruptions this year in the world, but I have not read a scientific opinion to the effect that we were in some kind of “nuclear” winter like in 1816 because of Mount Tambora.

I ask your prayers for the many people forced to evacuate from their homes, for families and for those who have lost relatives and friends in the floods. We are not yet at the end of the world, not by a long chalk, and I am sure that this year’s summer will be little different from the ones of these last few years.

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One Response to The Year without a Summer

  1. Jim of Olym says:

    Sorry about all the floods in France and Germany! My prayers for all those afflicted.

    Here in the Pacific Northwest it is HOT! 80 to 90 Fahrenheit! And dry. We just got back from a week’s trip to lower British Columbia, look on the map: Nelson on the east, a lovely little town with its own food co-op, Penticton at the lower end of Lake Okanagan, and then down to our very own ‘German town’ of Leavenworth here in WA US where we ate real ‘german’ sausages and drank real German beer. Lovely time and loverly people, especially in Canada.

    Incidentally I’m reading a book about the ‘Loyalists’ who had to leave the US for foreign parts after the American Revolution: ‘Liberty’s Exiles’ by Maya Jasanoff. They enduired many hardships for their loyalty to George III and were not always rewarded for that, especially the blacks who fought on the English side.

    Fr. Anthony, I wish I were a Canadian but I’m too old and feeble to move there. More civilised but has its own problems.

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