Frankenstein, Impatience, and Precipitous Blogging…and a bit of Panic.
So, it has been pointed out to me, very correctly, the many flaws that pepper my last blog posting. I say “flaws” when really I should say, well, I’ll just call them “boo-boos.”
Okay, for the record… Mary Shelley did indeed write Frankenstein. Like most married people with supportive and pro-active spouses, she shared a lot of her work with her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley did help Mary, and encouraged her with her writing. She did not, in fact, credit him with writing any part of it, but I thought she had said something like this more as a sweet and romantic platitude, than as a statement of fact, ie “without him, my heart does not beat.” These are her exact words:
“At first I thought but a few pages–of a short tale; but Shelley urged me to develope [sic] the idea at greater length. I certainly did not owe the suggestion of one incident, nor scarcely of one train of feeling, to my husband, and yet but for his incitement it would never have taken the form in which it was presented to the world. From this declaration I must except the preface. As far as I can recollect, it was entirely written by him.” (Shelley ix).
So, Mary is saying here that she thought up Frankenstein all on her own. However, she is saying that it was due to Percy’s constant encouragement that it was finished and published. Where I messed up was in the last two sentences: “From this declaration I must except the preface. As far as I can recollect, it was entirely written by him.” Yeah, she’s talking about the Preface that Percy wrote for her novel under the pen-name “Marlow.” Nothing romantic about that. Just honest. And also a bit of an indication that Mary wanted it to be known, for the record, who did what. I have looked just a bit closer, and I see that there were some initial “discussions” about the authorship of Frankenstein. What is also interesting is that its first 1818 publication was published anonymously. It wasn’t until the 1823 edition that Mary’s name is actually affixed to the title. And it is the third edition published in 1831 that has become the standard read for the novel, although there are some 1818 editions still floating about for the Frankenstein aficionados out there. So, boo-boo number one.
Boo-boo number two is that Mary published the novel when she was not quite 21, but wrote it when she was younger. She began writing it during a holiday she spent with Percy, her step-sister Claire, Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Matthew Gregory “the Monk” Lewis at the Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva in the summer of 1816. Actually, Mary and Percy were renting a neighboring house, and Byron rented the Villa. But anyways… The story goes that this group of writers were stuck inside because of the awful weather. So, at night in the spookiness of stormy candlelight, they shared a number of German ghost stories and basically freaked each other out. Then Byron suggested they play a writing game–everyone was to write the scariest story they could think of and then share it with the rest of the group. Lots of creativity happened that weekend. What happens when the best writers of their era, with nothing better to do, and already scared of lurking ghosts, are challenged to write ghost stories? Essentially, they give birth to a genre. It’s like asking Einstein and his cronies to come up with some math. 🙂 Byron wrote his Fragment of a Novel. Inspired by Byron’s wicked character, Polidori wrote The Vampyre: A Tale. And, after a nightmare brought on, no doubt, by the German ghost stories, Mary sketched out the beginnings of Frankenstein. The genre was the “Gothic Horror Novel”, and Frankenstein became its flag ship. Mary was only 18 when she wrote it!! So, even more amazing.
Boo-boo number three is actually not really a boo-boo. It just needs some clarification. While there were a limited number of copies in the 1818 edition, the novel still attracted the notice of the critics. Among them was Sir Walter Scott who admired Mary’s writing style, and the underlying themes. He only criticized the implausibility of the Creature’s learning to read and write English by eavesdropping on the family of Felix, his sister, and their blind father. Another critic said that the novel and its author were both insane. Hahaha. I think it is safe to say that the book was immediately read, but gained in popularity until it became the irreplaceable piece of English literature that it is today.
With these boo-boos now tidied away, I can now get back to my reading. Lol. Not to say that I obsess over things…obsess over things…obsess over things…obsess over things…obsess over things…obsess over things…obsess over things…obsess over things…obsess over things…obsess over things…obsess over things…obsess over things…
I will also say a big thanks to my “pointer-outer” (you know who you are) for reading my blog AND paying attention AND giving me a head’s up. Perhaps a lesson (and reminder) on getting my facts straight first. We live and we learn.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.