The Original Frankenstein
The Original Frankenstein
Or, the Modern Prometheus: The Original Two-Volume Novel of 1816-1817 from the Bodleian Library Manuscripts
Vintage Books USA, Paperback, 9780307474421, 448pp.
Publication Date: September 8, 2009
For the first time we can hear Mary's sole voice, which is colloquial, fast-paced, and sounds more modern to a contemporary reader. We can also see for the first time the extent of Percy Shelley's contribution some 5,000 words out of 72,000 and his stylistic and thematic changes. His occassionally florid prose is in marked contrast to the directness of Mary's writing. Interesting, too, are Percy's suggestions, which humanize the monster, thus shaping many of the major themes of the novel as we read it today. In these two versions of Frankenstein we have an exciting new view of one of literature's greatest works.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (4 August 1792 - 8 July 1822) was one of the major English Romantic poets and is regarded by critics as amongst the finest lyric poets in the English language. A radical in his poetry as well as his political and social views, Shelley did not achieve fame during his lifetime, but recognition for his poetry grew steadily following his death. Shelley was a key member of a close circle of visionary poets and writers that included Lord Byron; Leigh Hunt; Thomas Love Peacock; and his own second wife, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. Shelley is perhaps best known for such classic poems as Ozymandias, Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark, Music, When Soft Voices Die, The Cloud and The Masque of Anarchy. His other major works include long, visionary poems such as Queen Mab (later reworked as The Daemon of the World), Alastor, The Revolt of Islam, Adonais, the unfinished work The Triumph of Life; and the visionary verse dramas The Cenci (1819) and Prometheus Unbound (1820). His close circle of admirers, however, included some progressive thinkers of the day, including his future father-in-law, the philosopher William Godwin. Though Shelley's poetry and prose output remained steady throughout his life, most publishers and journals declined to publish his work for fear of being arrested themselves for blasphemy or sedition. Shelley did not live to see success and influence, although these reach down to the present day not only in literature, but in major movements in social and political thought. Shelley became an idol of the next three or four generations of poets, including important Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite poets such as Robert Browning and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He was admired by Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy, Michael Bay, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, W. B. Yeats, Karl Marx, Upton Sinclair and Isadora Duncan. Henry David Thoreau's civil disobedience was apparently influenced by Shelley's non-violence in protest and political action.
“Charles Robinson, more fi nely tuned to the authorship of Frankenstein than any scholar living or dead, has produced two versions of Mary Shelley’s prepublication manuscript: as she first wrote it, then as it was marked with Percy’s additions and alterations. With as much certainty and in as much detail as superhumanly possible, Robinson reanimates the beginnings of this vibrant novel in an authoritative, smartly accomplished, reader- friendly edition that will delight its fans no less than it will stimulate its students. An original work of imagination itself, The
Original Frankenstein, by illuminating the genesis of this novel, is now an invaluable part of its intriguing editorial history.” —Susan J. Wolfson, Professor of English, Princeton University and President, Association of Literary Scholars and Critics
“Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was famously inspired by telling ghost stories with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron during a cold, wet summer in the Swiss Alps. It continues to serve as shorthand for the dangers of reckless scientific advance, yet literary historians have never been able to agree on its origins. Could Mary Shelley, an unpublished 18-year-old, really have written the novel? Or was Frankenstein’s monster her future husband’s creation? . . . Charles E Robinson presents a convincing case for crediting the novel to ‘Mary (with Percy) Shelley’,
revealing the major changes PBS made to Mary’s first draft. . . . The novel the Shelleys wrote together represents a remarkable act of literary homage and collaboration and Charles E Robinson’s revealing new edition allows modern readers to be there at its creation. .” —The Independent (London)
“Th e novel’s textual instability is explored in the impressive introduction to Charles Robinson’s new edition. His honourable aim is not to give us another text of the novel we know—or think we know—but to strip away nearly two centuries of revision and appropriation in order to return to what he describes as the ‘original’ Frankenstein. . . . The value of Charles Robinson’s edition lies in the confi rmation of Mary Shelley’s assertion . . . that ‘Every thing must have a beginning—and that beginnings matter—and in its affirmation of community, cooperation and collaboration as fundamental to literary production.” —The Times Literary Supplement
“Thanks to the dogged textual work of Charles E. Robinson . . . readers will now be able to see for themselves what Mary wrote before she turned it over to Percy’s editorial ministrations. . . . [This] version of the novel . . . probably comes as close as it’s possible to get to the draft that Mary first handed Percy to read.” —The Chronicle of Higher Education