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What was Mary Shelley reading when she wrote, "Frankenstein"? 
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Post What was Mary Shelley reading when she wrote, "Frankenstein"?
A few readers of, "Frankenstein", have commented on the beautiful language that Mary Shelley incorporates into her writing. A glimpse of what Shelley may have been reading at the time she wrote, "Frankenstein" may shed light on her grasp of English language and her appreciation of beautiful prose.

Novels from 1813:

Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice
Willem Bilderdijk – A Short Account of a Remarkable Aerial Voyage and Discovery of a New Planet
Adelbert von Chamisso – Peter Schlemihl
Barbara Hofland – The Daughter-in-Law
Regina Maria Roche – The Monastery of St. Columb
Shikitei Sanba – Ukiyoburo (publication completed)
Sarah Elizabeth Utterson – Tales of the Dead

Novels from 1814:

Jane Austen (anonymously) - Mansfield Park
Fanny Burney - The Wanderer: or, Female Difficulties (her last novel)
Mary Brunton - Discipline
Adelbert von Chamisso - Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte ("Peter Schlemihl's Miraculous Story")
Selina Davenport - The Hypocrite
Maria Edgeworth - Patronage
Pierce Egan - The Mistress of Royalty
Jane Harvey Auberry Stanhope
Ethelia: a Tale
Ann Hatton - Conviction
Laetitia Matilda Hawkins - Rossane; or A father’s labour lost
William Henry Hitchener - The Towers of Ravenswold
Barbara Hofland - Emily and Her Friends
Christian Isobel Johnstone - The Saxon and the Gaël
Mary Meeke - Conscience
Lady Morgan - O'Donnell
Anna Maria Porter - The Recluse of Norway
Regina Maria Roche - Trecothick Bower
Honoria Scott - The Castle of Strathmay
Walter Scott - Waverley
Mary Martha Sherwood - The History of Little Henry and his Bearer
Louisa Stanhope - Madelina: A Tale Founded on Facts
Elizabeth Thomas - The Prison-House
Jane West - Alicia de Lacy

You may want to look for these titles on free book sites such as; Project Gutenberg.



Sun Jun 22, 2014 10:13 pm
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Post Re: What was Mary Shelley reading when she wrote, "Frankenstein"?
I think it is somewhat universally agreed among scholars, that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a modern (er, crica 1818) --a modern and feminist retelling of Milton's "Paradise Lost," (circa 1667).

Of course books were expensive in the early 1800's --nothing at all like today. One of the big cues we often miss in historical pieces are the houses which contain libraries. If you had ten books in 1800, you were middle class, and if you had 100 books, you were quite wealthy. If you had a library, you were probably choosing from what part of the world you wanted to import the marble for your floors. The Shelleys were quite wealthy.

If you had two books in your house at the beginning of the nineteenth century, one of them was the Bible, and the other was Paradise Lost.

All printing presses were hand-operated until 1814 --when the London Times acquired a steam-powered press, and began to publish (for the first time in history) to a mass-audience. So the only books that were widely read were books that had been around long enough to see several hand-printings.

Anyway, Mary Shelley was clearly a feminist, and had certainly read Milton. The fallout from "Paradise Lost" in English society is still being discussed today. Virginia Woolf wrestled with Milton's work, and felt its weight, both as high art, and a somewhat chauvinist legacy. Frankenstein's epigraph is a quote from Milton, and the Monster, himself, learns to read when he finds a copy of --yup, "Paradise Lost." Of course there are those who make a very good argument for the notion that Paradise Lost itself is a very feminist work, but that is only analyzing the text, and not its legacy. It seems clear, however, that Mary had a bone to pick with the great John Milton.



Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:21 am
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Post Re: What was Mary Shelley reading when she wrote, "Frankenstein"?
Good question. Mary was a voracious reader, so she might have read a couple books in the time she wrote Frankenstein.

On that fateful summer, she and others were reading Fantasmagoriana, German ghost stories. This is where they got the idea to write their own stories--out of it came Polidori's the Vampyre and of course, Frankenstein.

By the way, Fantasmagoriana is now in English and can be bought on Amazon.



Sat Jul 12, 2014 11:19 am
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Post Re: What was Mary Shelley reading when she wrote, "Frankenstein"?
Interesting points; I have now read through Chapter 12, and find Mrs. Shelley's writing to be quite representative of her period. The use of (IMO) flowery language, and extensive descriptions clearly reflects this period in literature. In (I believe) Chapter 9, Victor's description of the Swiss countryside as he travels through it, reads almost like a traveler's handbook.


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Tue Jul 15, 2014 9:32 pm
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Post Re: What was Mary Shelley reading when she wrote, "Frankenstein"?
Several works are mentioned here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankenst ... 7s_sources



Tue Jul 29, 2014 5:14 am
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Post Re: What was Mary Shelley reading when she wrote, "Frankenstein"?
Just wondering: do readers here like Frankenstein as a novel? I've read this book a few times, but each time I like it less! I think that I find the plot a bit labored or tedious, and I find Victor's denseness with regard to the intentions of the monster annoying. Victor is also excessively effusive, for my taste. Shelley first wrote this as a tale, and for me it would have more concentrated impact had it stayed in that shorter form.



Fri Aug 01, 2014 7:28 pm
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Post Re: What was Mary Shelley reading when she wrote, "Frankenstein"?
DWill, I am with you on this point; I find the language 'over the top' in its excessive, drawn-out descriptions, etc. :no: I intend to go into more detail for the various chapters (I am up to Chapter 20).

Interestingly enough, I am simultaneously reading H. Rider Haggard's "King Solomon's Mines," which was written about in 1885, about sixty years after "Frankenstein." Yet, I find the same (to me) overly detailed descriptions of land, peoples, etc. :?


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Sat Aug 02, 2014 3:09 pm
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