Posted in Know Your History

Know Your History – 31 October 1831, the first popular edition Frankenstein published.

know your history - writingOn this day… 31 October 1831, the first “popular” edition Frankenstein published.

Shelley completed her writing in May 1817, and Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was first published on 11 March 1818 by the small London publishing house of Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones. It was issued anonymously.

On 31 October 1831, the first “popular” edition in one volume appeared. This edition was heavily revised by Mary Shelley, partially because of pressure to make the story more conservative, and included a new, longer preface by her, presenting a somewhat embellished version of the genesis of the story. This edition tends to be the one most widely read now, although editions containing the original 1818 text are still published. Many scholars prefer the 1818 text, arguing that it preserves the spirit of Shelley’s original publication

On Writing Frankenstein

In the summer of 1816, Mary Godwin, her lover Percy Bysshe Shelley, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont (Mary’s step-sister) visited Lord Byron in Geneva, Switzerland. The idea was to relax and enjoy the mild Swiss summer, but that summer was especially dreary. Unable to enjoy the outdoors, the group mostly read German ghost stories to entertain themselves. It was that reading that inspired Byron to propose that the group write their own supernatural stories and see who could come up with the best one.mary shelley - fearless

Mary retired for the evening and had a dream of a corpse that came back to life. Based on that dream she wrote Frankenstein. Percy concentrated on facilitating his soon-to-be-wife’s story. She imagined it as a short story, and wrote the first few chapters in a relatively short time. With Percy’s encouragement and editing, she fleshed out the story over the next year or so and turned it into a full-fledged novel.

Did You Know?..

That the writing contest amongst friends also produced the first vampire story The Vampyre by John William Polidori

 This story introduced the seductive vampire, which invites you into his home and sucks your blood. Polidori based his creation on his buddy, Lord Byron.

A further strange and interesting fact of this trip was that all four writers died tragically young. John William Polidori committed suicide in 1821, Percy Shelley drowned in 1822, Lord Byron died of sepsis in 1824 and Mary died in 1851 of a brain tumour. Before drawing conclusion though, we must remember that at that time people were dying young all over the place – but it makes for a good horror story doesn’t it?


KL Caley specializes in writing fictional short stories. She recently embarked on the adventure of writing a historical fiction novel (coming soon).

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