Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Could we be in for a repeat of the Year without a Summer? This was 1816, when Europe and North America suffered incessant rain, cold and crop failures. In the West of England, it rained on 142 out of 153 days, there was snow in the Lake District in July, London's average 'summer' temperature was 13 degrees C, and soaring food prices led to riots. The principal cause of all this seems to have been the eruption of Mount Tambura on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, and the airborne ash from this event produced unusually spectacular sunsets - which are said to have inspired some of Turner's most striking images. Meanwhile, in Switzerland, the holidaying Shelleys and their friends, driven indoors by the relentless rain, competed to write the most frightening story, and the result was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. As for Keats - newly qualified as an apothecary - he spent the summer with his brother Tom in Margate (also a favourite resort of Turner's).
There have been no volcanic eruptions to account for the cold wet summer we're having now, so I guess we'll just have to put it down to global warming.