Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Birth of a Monster

By annamercer90


A piece I wrote last year summarising the timeline for the conception and composition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Sources: Letters of Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley, Mary Shelley’s Journal, and the text available here via Romantic Circles and the Shelley-Godwin Archive.

All images from Shelley’s Ghost.

I shall thus give a general answer to the question, so frequently asked me—”How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?”

– Mary Shelley, 1831 Introduction to Frankenstein

Switzerland, 1816: an eighteen-year-old girl has a nightmare, and the ‘grim terrors’ in her ‘waking dream’ deliver a flash of inspiration. The teenager is a would-be writer in search of a story, and this night terror coupled with her literary prowess will produce two of the most enduring figures in English literature: Victor Frankenstein and his monstrous creation.

The Villa Diodati (Bodleian Libraries)

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, later Mary Shelley, is spending the summer by the shores of Lake Geneva. She is accompanied by the poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley – the latter being her lover and eventual husband, who during 1816 is still married to another woman. Percy and Mary …read more