Frankenstein Background Notes


Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797): "Vindication of the Rights of Women" (1792)

William Godwin (1756-1836): m. MW (1779).  "Enquiry Concerning Political Justice" (1793), Caleb Williams (1794)

Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley (1797-1851)

2/15   Premature dgtr born to PBS; dgtr dies

1/16   Son William born (dies 3/18)

6/16   Frankenstein begun (by agreement w/ PBS, Byron & Polidori)

12/16  Harriet, 1st wife of PBS, commits suicide; MW & PBS marry on the 30th of the month

5/17   Frankenstein completed (1st bk of its kind, but see Gothic novel, Faust, and Golem legend)

3/18   Frankenstein published

1826   The Last Man published (plague) (cf. Jean de Grainville, The Last Man, 1805, Malthus [1766-1834; "An Essay on the Principle of Population," 1798])

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822; drowned w/ 'Ariel'), Prometheus Unbound (1820)

Claire Clairmont (1798-1879): child of Mrs. Clairmont's 1st marriage (Wm Godwin was her 2nd); bears Allegra (1817-1822) to the already married Byron

George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron (1788-1824; by plague supporting Greek revolution agst Turkey): Byronic heroes as in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-1818) (N.B.: father of Ada Lovelace, called "the first programmer" for her writing for Charles Babbage's hypothetical "analytical engine.")

Christopher Marlowe (1564-93; stabbed in bar): Doctor Faustus (prod., 1588; registered 1601; publ. 1604)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) (see text 127 + Aokigahara Forest after 1977 publication of Seicho Matsumoto's Kuroi Jukai (Sea of Trees) + "Eastenders," Mar 1986): epistolary novel, Werther commits suicide after Charlotte marries Albert; Faust begun 1770, Pt I publ 1808, Pt II publ 1832; Mephistopheles is antagonist, not Doppelgänger

Madame de Beaumont (1711-1780), b. Rouen, comes to England as governess (1745), writes "Beauty and the Beast" (1756 Fr; 1757 Eng) (remarries and emigrates to Switzerland, 1764); 1811 verse version (presumably by Charles Lamb), called "A Rough Outside with a Gentle Heart," published by Mrs. Clairmont

Johann Faust (1488-1541), wandering German conjurer

Golem of Prague's Rabbi Judah Loew (d. 1609)


Wm. Wordsworth & Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads (1798) (but also 1798: Thomas Robert Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population replies to Godwin’s Political Justice)

J.W. Polidori (1795-1821), "The Vampyre" (1819) (1st important English-language work in this development)

Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897) (journals, diaries, etc.: sort of epistolary)

Horace Walpole (4th Earl of Orford [1717-1797!]), creator of Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (1764!)

Ann Radcliffe (1764!-1823), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), Gothic expliqué

Matthew Gregory Lewis (1775-1818!), The Monk (1796)

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), The Heart of Midlothian (1818!)

Jane Austen (1775-1817), Northanger Abbey (1818!)


(see Carlos Clarens, An Illustrated History of the Horror Film, NY, 1967)

Frankenstein (1910) (Edison Company)

Life Without Soul (1915) (Ocean Film Corp)

Frankenstein (1931) (dir: James Whale w/ Boris Karloff & Colin Clive)

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) (dir: JW w/ BK, CC, & Elsa Lanchester)

The Vampire (1913) (dir: Robert Vignola)

Nosferatu (1922) (dir: FW Murnau)

Dracula (1931) (dir: Tod Browning w/ Bela Lugosi)

The Werewolf of London (1934)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) (dir: Robert Wiene w/ Conrad Veidt)

Key Topics  (most arise before the main narrative commences; page numbers refer to Oxford U Press World's Classics edition edited by M.K. Joseph and ending on p. 239)

Preposed SF justification makes this a new kind of book (Preface [13-14])

Gothic horror–8 (SF from Gothic expliqué)

Faust (seeker of knowledge) 28 & 167 & 210

Doppelgänger–25 + 28, 62, 222

Creator’s obligation-epigraph (1 + 34)

Noble Savage (see J.-J. Rousseau [1712-1778])–102 (birth) & 119 (critique of society) & 120-121 (archetype of modern man), 20-21

Oedipal structure-13 (The Tempest), 16 (uncle), 60 (father)

Suppressed sexuality (not in SF: ha!)–191

Highly literary work-13 (1818 Preface) plus lots of significant allusions (e.g., to Paradise Lost (139 and Epigraph), even including demon’s book list (127)

Hyperborea myth–15

bad writing–24 & 64 + timing (59-60! + 32 [+ SF/FT] + 142 + 166)