- Dec 2019
Shelley’s Poems.—“On Mutability.”
In the Thomas copy, a note at the foot of the page attributes these lines as "Shelley's Poems. -- "On Mutability." The citation does not appear in the 1831 edition.
Audiences and reviewers first took the novel to be written by Percy Shelley. According to Mary Shelley in her 1831 edition of the novel, Percy wrote the entirety of this 1818 Preface, which would reappear in all future editions. We now know that he also revised passages from Mary's manuscript before printing in 1818. For details of his revisions, see Charles Robinson, ed., The Original Frankenstein (New York: Vintage Classics, 2009): 44-252.
sometimes rise above the dome of Mont Blânc
Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Swiss Alps, the highest in Europe west of Russia's Caucasus peaks, at about 15,000 feet. It is situated between the regions of Aosta Valley, Italy, and Haute-Savoie, France. It gave Percy Shelley the title of one of his most powerful poems.
The Shelleys visited Mont Blanc, located in the Swiss Alps, the site of Percy Shelley's great poem "Mont Blanc; Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni" (1816). Compare the following lines from the poem: "Mont Blanc yet gleams on high:—the power is there, The still and solemn power of many sights, And many sounds, and much of life and death. In the calm darkness of the moonless nights, In the lone glare of day, the snows descend Upon that Mountain; none beholds them there, Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun, Or the star-beams dart through them."
Percy Shelley especially singles out Milton among the most important classic literature, indicating his strong influence in the novel.
Tempest and Midixsummer Night’s Dream
Two of Shakespeare's more fanciful plays, The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream explore the limits of the human form through its characters: the grotesque monster-human hybrid Caliban in The Tempest and the comical Bottom from Midsummer, a human with the head of an ass.
Shelley is conscious of Frankenstein's play with generic convention, and the role genre has in its agreement with representation of reality. In his review of the first edition in 1818 for Edinburgh Magaizine, Sir Walter Scott seems cognizant of the shift in consciousness. He notes: "The real events of the world have, in our day, too, been of so wondrous and gigantic a kind--the shiftings of the scenes in our stupendous drama have been so rapid and various, that Shakespeare himself, in his wildest flights, has been completely distanced by the eccentricities of actual existence."
THE MODERN PROMETHEUS
The novel’s subtitle invokes the trickster hero of Greek mythology, Prometheus, who defies the Gods by stealing fire (a symbol of knowledge) and giving it to humanity. Akin to Victor Frankenstein, Prometheus is also credited with the creation of man, which he fashions out of clay. As punishment for the disobedience, Zeus condemns Prometheus to eternal torment: he is chained to a rock for eternity while an eagle feeds on his liver. Shelley’s husband Percy would later take up the Prometheus myth in the closet drama Prometheus Unbound, published in 1819. Reading the novel against the myth, we can understand Prometheus’s punishment for the Gods akin to Victor’s psychological torment for defying nature.
“‘Enter,’ said De Lacey;
In his review, "On Frankenstein," published in The Athenaeum in 1831, Percy states that "The scene between the Being and the blind De Lacey in the cottage is one of the most profound and extraordinary instances of pathos that we ever recollect. It is impossible to read this dialogue--and indeed many other situations of a somewhat similar character--without feeling the heart suspend its pulsations with wonder, and 'the tears stream down the cheeks!'" (Shelley, Percy Bysshe. "On Frankenstein." The Athenaeum: Journal of English and Foreign Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, Saturday, November 10, 1832, p. 730).
Elizabeth was also the name of Percy Shelley's mother.
Nought may endure but mutability!
This stanza from Percy Shelley's poem "Mutability" (1816) may have helped convince readers of 1818 that the novel's author was indeed Percy rather than Mary since it is not attributed to its author. However, it also, of course, is far outside the novel's fictional eighteenth-century setting.
- Percy Shelley
- Mont Blanc
- Swiss Alps
- John Milton
- The Tempest
- Sir Walter Scott
- percy bysshe shelley
- A Midsummer Night's Dream
- Jul 2016