The Aspern Papers Enflame

A True Sex Scandal During the Romantic Era

BY: Claire Connors

Based on the Henry James novel of the same title, the film The Aspern Papers is itself based on a true—and melodramatic—early 19th Century romance between two of the most important British writers at the time…and their very sexy girlfriend. Only the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

It doesn’t take long or much of a wiki dive to figure out who the famous couple is that James wrote about: Frankenstein gothic writer, Mary Shelley and her poet husband, Percy Shelley. A lot of books and movies have covered their romance, along with their close “friendship” with Claire Clairmont, Mary’s stepsister. Most recently, Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning as Mary, Douglas Booth as Percy, and Bel Powley as Claire, explored that notorious throuple.

Henry James takes that scandalous relationship and asks, what if Percy Shelley had written and wooed the young Claire with romantic promises of love and sex? And what if those letters had somehow disappeared or were being hidden by Claire? And what if someone could find those long-lost letters and publish them? It would be quiet a literary coup!

In the film, we meet American journalist, Morton Vint (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a hungry reporter on a mission to find the missing missives, no matter the cost. He finds the reclusive Juliana Bordereau (Vanessa Redgrave), likely based on the aged Claire, the keeper and protector of her lover’s correspondence. Her spinster daughter Miss Tina (played by Redgrave’s real daughter, Joely Richardson) offers to marry Vint in the exchange for those letters. What is in those clandestine notes? We may never know, but the trailer has plenty of sexy menage á trois scenes between the hot young threesome to spark our imaginations.

Will Vint succumb to Miss Tina’s blackmail and wed for the inevitable fame he’d get from publishing the letters? You’ll have to wait until January 11th, when The Aspern Papers opens nationwide, to find out.