The 1st of January 1818 AD
Mary Shelley was not yet 21 when her novel Frankenstein was published in London . The work appeared anonymously, though Mary’s husband Percy Shelley did append his name to the introduction, leading some to conclude erroneously he was the author.
The work originated as a way of passing the time during a stay in Geneva, the young couple joining a party centred on Lord Byron . The weather that summer was poor, and the group amused themselves with reading ghost stories aloud, an activity that led to the suggestion that each member produce his or her own tale of the supernatural. Mary Shelley , perhaps influenced by the death of her first child in infancy, and certainly by discussions about Erasmus Darwin and galvanism, was inspired to write a story of a man creating a monster from lifeless body parts, and the evils that the monster does to avenge himself on his creator. In spite of the murders the creature commits, one of them of a child, its loneliness and abandonment generate some sympathy in the reader.
Frankenstein is one of those English novels like Robinson Crusoe , Brave New World or Nineteen-Eighty-Four that, whether we have read them or no, form part of our common cultural landscape. This is not least in Mary Shelley’s case because of the film versions of Frankenstein, most particularly the 1931 movie starring Boris Karloff.
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