Friday, August 29, 2008

Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein"

Did she or didn't she ... that is the question. Did Mary Shelley write this gothic masterpiece .... or did she have help.

According to an article appearing in the Telegraph, Mary Shelley did not write "Frankenstein" on her own - she had help - from her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. So says Professor Charles Robinson of the University of Delaware in the US, who attributes no less than 5000 "amendments" to the novel to Mr Shelley.

From the article by Stephen Adams:
"The Romantic poet made some 5,000 changes to a pre-publication script of the classic novel, according to Professor Charles Robinson of the University of Delaware in the US.

He changed key descriptions that helped paint a more vivid picture of scientist Victor Frankenstein's monster, the professor found.

They include his addition that the monster's hair be described as "lustrous black" and that Victor should refer to him as "beautiful" rather than "handsome".

Prof Robinson made the discoveries by methodically working through the handwritten text, lodged at Oxford University's Bodleian Library.

The academic, who is to publish his research this October in a book, The Original Frankenstein, said: "He made very significant changes in words, themes and style. The book should now be credited as 'by Mary Shelley with Percy Shelley'."

The professor postulated that the couple may have added their comments to the manuscript while sitting in bed together.

"It seems they were using the same pen and very likely were often writing in bed together," he said.

He claimed Percy Shelley's additions often clarified his young wife's writing, making it more lucid.

While Mary originally wrote that Victor was "unable to endure the aspect of the creature I had created", Percy changed it to the more direct "unable to endure the being I had created".

Prof Robinson said it was highly likely that the Romantic poet, famous for such works as Ozymadias and Ode to the West Wind, had a great influence on the overall direction the novel took.

Frankenstein, published in 1818, remains one of the most enduring horror stories.

The tale of a scientist who makes a living being by assembling the limbs of the dead, only to see his creation turn on him, remains as potent in today's world of genetic engineering as it did almost 200 years ago.

First published anonymously, it has come to be seen as one of the first major novels by a woman, and one of the world's first science fiction books.

Mary wrote the novel after she and Percy, who was still married to his first wife, travelled to the Geneva villa of fellow poet Lord Byron in the summer of 1816.

Imprisoned indoors by unseasonably foul weather, they started discussing the supernatural. After reading a collection of German ghost stories they decided to hold a competition to write their own pieces.

The first edition was panned by most critics but it nevertheless sold fast. Its popularity was enhanced by early theatrical adaptations and subsequent editions were published in 1823 and 1831."

Judge for yourselves - I have also included a couple of links to Mary Shelley's famous mother, herself, quite the author!

Frankenstein -
Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus
The Life of Mary Shelley

Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Mary Shelley
Mary Wollstonecraft - The History Guide
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman - Mary Wollstonecraft

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