FRANKENSTEIN is one of the most mythologized stories in modern history. Whether the name evokes the bumbling monster played by BORIS KARLOFF, or the overzealous doctor of the novel version, Frankenstein is a patched together mish-mash of cultural references and horror touchstones.
Including the strange and persistent rumor that MARY SHELLEY didn’t even write it.
The original novel — written for a scary story contest during an unseasonably rainy summer on Lake Geneva — is a genre-defining meditation on man as God, and the inevitable rebellion of all creations. Part of the story’s popular mythos derives from the fact that it was written by then 18-year-old Mary, who was in the company of the prodigious poet PERCY (her lover and soon-to-be husband after his wife committed suicide) and the iconic LORD BYRON.
Many accounts also place the creation of the vampire novel at the scene — supposedly at the hand of Byron’s personal physician, John William Polidori — but that dark and stormy night is mostly remembered for Mary and her monster.
Knowing that the story’s content would be met with controversy — least of all written by a woman — the young Mrs. Shelley first published it anonymously. People soon started pointing their fingers at Percy and the couple eventually went public to confirm that Mary had in fact written it. Critics weren’t so sure — and they remain skeptical to this day.
To quote from CHRONICLE REVIEW‘s recent article “The Birth of Frankenstein”: “an uneducated, teenaged girl could not have written the book but her husband — one of the greatest poets and prose stylists in the English language — could have.” While most academic criticism favors Mary — and points to the fact that it is similar in tone to her other work — there is increasing acknowledgment that her doting husband was more than just the EZRA POUND to her T.S. ELIOT. That is, he was probably like a stay-at-home dad — nurturing the story into maturity after Mary popped out the deformed little tyke.
At least that’s the version we’re going with — what do you think?
– Chelsea Bauch