While Mary Shelley wanted to call her novel, ‘the Modern Prometheus,’ the name never really stuck and we all know her as the author of ‘Frankenstein.’ In this article, you will learn who (or what) encouraged the author to pen the novel that would become the subject of countless horror films, as well as a popular television sitcom.
Written with hints of Romanticism and Gothic novel characteristics, the title of Frankenstein actually refers to the scientist in the book , Victor Frankenstein, who finds a way to create life. He decides to produce a creature in the likeness of man, who is much larger and stronger than average. In some circles, the novel is considered one of the first attempts at science fiction since the scientist is ‘playing God’ with his creation of bringing something to life with the use of dead flesh.
How Frankenstein Came to Be
Thanks to a rainy summer in 1816 that would become known as the ‘Year Without a Summer,’ people found themselves inside due to the cold temperatures , prompting some to tap into their creative genius. At the time, Mary Shelley was Mary Wollstoncraft Godwin and at the time, the lover of Percy Shelley, who she would later take as her husband. Mary and Percy were visiting Lord Byron at the Villa Diodati located in Switzerland, where they planned a holiday filled with activities, but the weather sent them inside.
Gathered around a log fire, the group conversed on topics, including whether or not it was possible to bring the dead or parts of their body back to life. They also chatted about the experiments that an 18th century natural philosopher and poet Erasmus Darwin and how he claimed to have animated dead matter. Afterwards, they read German ghost stories, which gave Byron the idea that they each write their own supernatural story. It was shortly after this that Mary would describe her idea for Frankenstein, which occurred during a waking dream.
Mary Shelley would start writing her novel at the age of 18 after Percy encouraged her to turn what she thought would become a short story into a full-length novel.
The Finished Product
It took Mary nearly two years to complete her novel, but she did in May of 1917. Under the title of ‘The Modern Prometheus,’ it was published on January 1, 1818 with the help of a small London publishing house called Harding, Mavor & Jones. When issued, it was distributed under anonymity. Percy had written a preface for Mary and inserted a dedication in the novel to philosopher William Godwin, who was Mary’s father. The novel was published in an edition that consisted of 500 copies , arranged in three volumes. This was the standard format, called a ‘triple decker,’ which was common for first edition published during the 19th century.