Frankenstein, most popular novel by Mary Shelley, is considered to be one of the best horror stories written in literature history. But you do you know the history behind this amazing novel? Here are some little know facts about the novel that took hold on our greatest fears: the consequences of playing God.
Mary Shelley Wrote Frankenstein When She Was a Teenager
Shelley’s teenage years were very active. She ran away with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. And in two years, she gave birth to two children. But that didn’t stop Mary Shelley from starting to write the Frankenstein when she was just 18 years old. It got published in 1818 when she was 20.
The Novel Came Out of a Ghost Competition
In 1816, Mary Shelley and her husband Percy, traveled to Switzerland to visit Lord Byron at his house Villa Diodati. Due to terrible weather, Byron and his guests were stuck inside the house. So Byron proposed a competition to see who could come up with the best ghost story. Of course, Mary won.
Mary Got the Idea for Frankenstein From A Dream
Mary was having a hard coming up with a ghost story. But she had an interesting dream, which she discussed in the introduction of the 1831 edition of Frankenstein:
I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life. … He sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold, the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes.”
When she woke up, she knew she found her story. “I have found it! What terrified me will terrify others; and I need only describe the spectre which had haunted my pillow.”
Frankenstein Was the Doctor, Not the Monster
Don’t let Hollywood and pop culture fool you! Victor Frankenstein, the main character of the novel, was the scientist. The monster was never given a name, just called “monster”, “creature”, or “demon”.
The Novel Shares Its Name With A Castle
There is a Castle Frankenstein! It is located in Darmstadt in Germany. The meaning of the word “Frankenstein” is “stone of the Franks”. There is a chance Mary and Percy passed through the castle while on their way to Switzerland and chemist Konrad Dippel allegedly experimented with human bodies, which may have cause Mary’s dream and inspiration of her story.
A Tragedy Brings Inspiration
Mary gave birth to a daughter, Clara, who unfortunately died six weeks later in 1815 (only one Mary’s children lived to adulthood, Percy Florence Shelley). She wrote in her journal about the tragic passing:
Dream that my little baby came to life again—that it had only been cold & that we rubbed it by the fire & it lived—I awake & find no baby—I think about the little thing all day.”
Based on that statement, this tragedy may have inspired her to write Frankenstein.
Many Thought Percy Shelley Was The Original Author
Like most works written by women in the 19th century, Frankenstein was published anonymously. It was dedicated to William Goodwin, Mary’s father, and Percy Shelley wrote the preface. These familial connections caused most to assume that Percy was the original author of this masterpiece. A myth that still continues to this day. But all Percy did was help Mary edit the novel and provide encouragement to expand the story.
The Book Was Not Well-Received
When Frankenstein was released, it was quickly panned by critics. John Crocker, of the Quarterly Review, was not forgiving:
Our readers will guess from this summary, what a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity this work presents.—It is piously dedicated to Mr. Godwin, and is written in the spirit of his school. The dreams of insanity are embodied in the strong and striking language of the insane, and the author, notwithstanding the rationality of his preface, often leaves us in doubt whether he is not as mad as his hero.”
But Gothic literature was the new trend in the 19th century, so fans could not get enough of it. In 1831, a new edition was published, this time, with Mary’s name on the cover.
Thomas Edison Made It Into a Movie
The first adaptation of Frankenstein was made by Thomas Edison in 1910. It is considered to be one of the first horror movies ever made. The film was seen as blasphemous and consider lost until rediscovered in the 1950s.
Frankenstein Considered To Be the First Science Fiction Novel
Mary didn’t realize but when she wrote Frankenstein, Mary authored a novel that is considered to be the first form of science fiction. The impact of the book was so big, the name “Frankenstein” became synonymous with something horrendous and terrible. Mary went on to write more science fiction novels, like The Last Man, a tale about an only survivor of an apocalyptic world destroyed by a plague.