"As far as I can recollect, it was entirely written by him."
Mary Shelley, 1831
PREFACE TO THE 1831 EDITION OF FRANKENSTEIN
PREFACE TO THE 1818 EDITION OF FRANKENSTEIN
Anonymously penned by Percy Bysshe Shelley
The event on which this fiction is founded has been supposed, by Dr. Darwin, and some of the physiological writers of Germany, as not of impossible occurrence. I shall not be supposed as according the remotest degree of serious faith to such an imagination; yet, in assuming it as the basis of a work of fancy, I have not considered myself as merely weaving a series of supernatural terrors. The event on which the interest of the story depends is exempt from the disadvantages of a mere tale of spectres or enchantment. It was recommended by the novelty of the situations which it develops; and, however impossible as a physical fact, affords a point of view to the imagination for the delineating of human passions more comprehensive and commanding than any which the ordinary relations of existing events can yield.
I have thus endeavoured to preserve the truth of the elementary principles of human nature, while I have not scrupled to innovate upon their combinations. The Iliad, the tragic poetry of Greece—Shakespeare, in The Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream—and novelist, who seeks to confer or receive amusement from his labours, may, without presumption, apply to prose fiction a licence, or rather a rule, from the adoption of which so many exquisite combinations of human feeling have resulted in the highest specimens of poetry.
The circumstance on which my story rests was suggested in casual conversation. It was commenced partly as a source of amusement, and partly as an expedient for exercising any untried resources of mind.
Other motives were mingled with these as the work proceeded. I am by no means indifferent to the manner in which whatever moral tendencies exist in the sentiments or characters it contains shall affect the reader; yet my chief concern in this respect has been limited to avoiding the enervating effects of the novels of the present day and to the exhibition of the amiableness of domestic affection, and the excellence of universal virtue.
The opinions which naturally spring from the character and situation of the hero are by no means to be conceived as existing always in my own conviction; nor is any inference justly to be drawn from the following pages as prejudicing any philosophical doctrine of whatever kind. It is a subject also of additional interest to the author that this story was begun in the majestic region where the scene is principally laid, and in society which cannot cease to be regretted.
I passed the summer of 1816 in the environs of Geneva. The season was cold and rainy, and in the evenings we crowded around a blazing wood fire, and occasionally amused ourselves with some German stories of ghosts, which happened to fall into our hands. These tales excited in us a playful desire of imitation. Two other friends (a talemost especially Milton, in Paradise Lost, conform to this rule; and the most humble from the pen of one of whom would be far more acceptable to the public than anything I can ever hope to produce) and myself agreed to write each a story founded on some supernatural occurrence.
The weather, however, suddenly became serene; and my two friends left me on a journey among the Alps, and lost, in the magnificent scenes which they present, all memory of their ghostly visions. The following tale is the only one which has been completed."
"Let us be clear about one thing up front, Frankenstein is not a horror story. It is not merely a contest-winning tale born from a stormy summer in Geneva.
Frankenstein was not conceived in a dream nor in the mind of a young woman who had run away from her father to join her life to a radical young poet.
Frankenstein’s iconic status in the feminist canon of English literature has made the question of authorship as closed as that of Moses’ authorship of the Bible’s Pentateuch among evangelical Christians.
Cursed are those who suggest a reexamination of the evidence, and damned are those who dare trample underfoot the sacrosanct agenda which has become more important than the historical evidence.
Nonetheless, history is a far more astute judge of truth than those who create and protect agendas.
Frankenstein is the work of human hands, its message is earthly, its authorship is fair game, and though the critics will gnash their teeth in the face of the following evidence, the time has come for Frankenstein’s anonymous author to be given credit for his tale. It is humanity’s duty to inquire after truth and to assign credit where credit is due, for our goal is advancement rather than entrenched ignorance.
Frankenstein is an autobiographical story of Percy Bysshe Shelley."