Changes in the 1823 Edition of Frankenstein

E. B. Murray

The Library, 3:4 (December 1981), 320-27

{320} The fact that there are a good many substantive changes in the 1823 (second) edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein seems so far to have escaped editorial scrutiny. M. K. Joseph refers to this edition as 'simply a page-by-page reprint of the first [1818 edition], rearranged in two volumes', while James Rieger both concurs with Joseph and adds that the volumes were so 'rearranged' by Godwin because Mary was in Italy.1 Exclusive of spelling variants, I note 114 substantive changes in the 1823 edition, nearly all of which reappear in the 1831 (third) edition, but less than a hundred of which are so noted in Rieger's quite helpful 1818-1831 collation. I shall list these changes below and then assess their pattern, their relative significance, and their probable origin. Because it is the most generally available scholarly text, I shall use the page numbers in the Joseph (J) edition, listing the 1818 reading first and the 1823 correction second.2 Asterisks (except in 103 and 156) indicate changes not in Rieger.

[Following Murray's double citation, links are here provided (1) to the 1818 edition, and (2) to the variants screen on which all differences between the 1818 and 1831 texts are recorded -- Ed.]

101 * bloody as they may be] bloody as they are
remembrance] remembrance,' I rejoined [2.2.6 / 2.2.6]

103 trees] trees*
] * The moon footnoted [2.3.2 / 2.3.2]

106 like] like. Then [2.3.4 / 2.3.4]

116 *what I was] what I had been
him -- I observed] him -- that I observed [2.5.1 / 2.5.1]

117 * recurrence of one sound] recurrence of some sound [2.5.2 / 2.5.2]

118 * treatment as I had] treatment I had [2.5.4 / 2.5.4]

119 subsequent degeneration] subsequent degenerating [2.5.4 / 2.5.4]

120 endowed with] endued with [2.5.5 / 2.5.5]
* known or felt] known nor felt [2.5.6 / 2.5.6]

122 Felix had been] Felix had accidentally been [2.6.2 / 2.6.2]

123 servant of her father's] servant of her father
toward her father] towards her parent [2.6.2 / 2.6.2]

124 and the being immured] and being immured
puerile amusements] infantile amusements
he had quitted prison] he quitted his prison [2.6.3 / 2.6.3]

126 when this distress] while this distress
would have gloried] gloried [2.6.5 / 2.6.5]
* return with him to her native] return to her native [2.6.6 / 2.6.6]

130 * rendered mine ineffaceable] rendered mine indelible
horrid from its very] horrid even from the very [2.7.4 / 2.7.4]

133 *Are these Germans] Are they Germans [2.7.8 / 2.7.8]

137 * by degrees have discovered] by degrees to have [2.8.2 / 2.8.2]

142 close; and, two months] close; and, in two months [2.8.8 / 2.8.8]
he would punish] he will punish [2.8.9 / 2.8.9]

144 * you must not refuse] you must not refuse to concede [2.9.1 / 2.9.1]

145 you curse] you shall curse [2.9.2 / 2.9.2]

147 How is this? I thought I had moved your compassion; and yet you still refuse to bestow on me the only benefit that can soften my heart, and render me harmless] How is this? I must not be trifled with: and I demand an answer [2.9.4 / 2.9.4]

154 than to listen] than in listening [3.1.5 / 3.1.5]

156 * Leigh Hunt's 'Rimini'] omitted footnote to 'very poetry of nature' [3.1.7 / 3.1.7]

158 dejected mien] dejected mind [3.2.1 / 3.2.1]

159 Gower] Goring [3.2.3 / 3.2.3]

160 abhorrent to myself] intolerable to myself [3.2.3 / 3.2.3]

164 *sequel of my labour] consummation of my labour [3.2.8 / 3.2.8]

167 weakness is past] irresolution is past
* confirm me in a resolution] confirm me in a determination [3.3.4 / 3.3.4]

170 pack] pack up [3.3.6 / 3.3.6]

171 little] slenderly [3.3.7 / 3.3.7]

172 eagerly] carefully

173 gruff] hoarse [3.3.9 / 3.3.9]

175 upon examination] on examination
He appeared] It appeared [3.4.1 / 3.4.1]

176 agony, that faintly reminds me of the anguish of the recognition. The trial]
agony. The examination
support the agonizing suffering] support the agonies [3.4.3 / 3.4.3]

178 with you; but you will be hung when the next sessions come on. However, that's] with you. However that's [3.4.5 / 3.4.5]
at long intervals] with long intervals
One day, when] One day, while [3.4.6 / 3.4.6]

179 seek death than remain miserably pent up only to be let loose in a world replete with wretchedness] seek death than desire to remain in a world which to me was replete with wretchedness [3.4.6 / 3.4.6]

184 during which he first lived] in which he first lived [3.4.11 / 3.4.11]

185 * consider it as caused by delirium] consider it as the offspring of delirium [3.5.1 / 3.5.1]

186 My Dearest Friend] My dear Friend [3.5.3 / 3.5.3]

188 was victorious] were victorious [3.5.5 / 3.5.5]

189 concentered in you] centered in you

190 * thought on what] thought of what [3.5.6 MS variants / 3.5.6]
spoke or looked, but] spoke, nor looked at any one, but [3.5.6 / 3.5.6]

192 only observed] only recognised [3.5.9 / 3.5.9]

194 not relax the impending conflict] not shrink from the conflict
were extinguished] was extinguished [3.6.1 / 3.6.1]

196 deathly languor] deadly languor [3.6.2 / 3.6.2]
conjured by] conjured up by [3.6.3 / 3.6.3]

{322} 198 but awoke] but I awoke
But liberty had been a useless gift] Liberty, however, had been a useless gift [3.6.5 / 3.6.5]

199 *and provisionally reconciled] and for an interval reconciled [3.6.6 / 3.6.6]

200 and that, while every] and thus, while every
you should endeavour to make up] you should make up [3.6.7 / 3.6.7]

201 modelled] moulded
around the confines] round the confines

202 but seen not] but not seen [3.7.1 / 3.7.1]
and by the spirits] and the spirits
thee, I swear to pursue] thee, to pursue [3.7.2 / 3.7.2]

203 all trace I] all trace of him, I
die, often left] die, left
may not doubt] will not doubt [3.7.3 / 3.7.3]

204 or bringing with] or I brought with [3.7.4 / 3.7.4]

205 will I omit] will I give up
those who even now] my departed friends, who even now [3.7.5 / 3.7.5]

207 when once, after] Once, after
that carried me] that conveyed me [3.7.8 / 3.7.8]

208 Yet, I do dare ask] And do I dare ask of
woes, and live] woes, and survive [3.7.9 / 3.7.9]

209 *congealed with horror] congeal with horror

210 demoniacal enemy? Or to what do your questions tend? Peace] demoniacal enemy? Peace [Walton 1 / Walton 1]
shattered feelings] shattered spirit
real beings who visit him] beings themselves who visit him [Walton 2 / Walton 2]
felt as if I were destined] believed myself destined

211 But this feeling] But this thought [Walton 3 / Walton 3]

212 invaded with suspicion] contemplated with suspicion [Walton 4 / Walton 4]

213 sickening failings] sickening failing
expectations are] expectations is
* each day's expectation] each day of expectation [Walton 5 / Walton 5]
who desired admission] who demanded admission

214 make me a demand] make me a requisition
They desired, therefore] They insisted, therefore [Walton 6 / Walton 6]
these dangers you were to brave] these you were to brave

215 * hearts might be] hearts may be [Walton 7 / Walton 7]

216 September 19th] September 9th [Walton 8 / Walton 8]
eyes, but he breathed] eyes; he breathed [Walton 9 / Walton 9]

217 towards my fellow-creatures] towards the beings of my own species [Walton 10 / Walton 10]

219 * may not answer] cannot answer [Walton 12 / Walton 12]
looks upon his face] eyes to his face
he suffered not more in] he suffered not in [Walton 13 / Walton 13]

221 capable of bringing forth] capable of unfolding
call over] run over
I am he whose] I am the same creature whose
* I am quite alone] I am alone
whilst I destroyed] while I destroyed [Walton 15 / Walton 15]

{323} 222 they will meet] these hands will meet
it will haunt] that imagination will haunt

223 chirping of the birds] warbling of the birds [Walton 16 / Walton 16]
thou hast not] thou hadst not
not yet ceased] not ceased
feel, thou desirest no my life for my own misery] feel, thou wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greater than that which I feel
remorse may] remorse will [Walton 17 / Walton 17]

All of the above 1823 changes were made in chapters of the 1818 volumes which correspond to chapters X through XXIV of the 1831 edition. There were no 1823 substantive changes made in volume I, 1818, or in the first chapter of volume II of that edition.3 A chapter-by-chapter listing of the changes first made in 1823, relative to the total changes appearing in 1831, will help indicate both their pattern and the extent to which the 1823 text was allowed to stand as definitive when (as must have been the case) Mary used it as the basis of her copytext for her third edition revisions. While I use the Rieger collation as a basis for totalling up the number of changes between 1818 and 1831, I should note a) that I have therefore allowed the same numerical value to a single word change as to a several paragraph change -- each counts as one -- and b) I none the less vary somewhat from the figures inferable from his collation because, as noted, I list several substantive changes which he omits.

Chapter 1823 changes 1831 totals
(i.e. inclusive of the
1823 changes)
X 2 7
XI 3 3
XII 0 0
XIII 7 10
XIV 9 11
XV 3 7
XVI 3 11
XVII 3 5
XVIII 2 10
XIX 4 6
XX 6 8
XXI 9 16
XXII 8 21
XXIII 9 21
XXIV 47 56
All chapters 114 191

{324} First, it should be reemphasized that nearly all of the 1823 changes are brief -- usually single words -- while the 1831 additions to these changes are quite lengthy, particularly those made in the 1818 volume I, which was changed only in accidentals in 1823.4 Having emphasized that, we may nonetheless note that over half of the changes separately listed as 1831 changes actually appeared first in 1823. It is clear that a scrupulous editor was responsible for them.

Some were made either to emphasize a reference in context or to avoid repetition. E.g., 'parent' (123) replaced 'father' to avoid repetition; 'slenderly' (171) may seem a dubious expedient to replace 'little' as a modifier of 'acquainted', but the reason for the change is clear enough: 'little benefit' appears at the end of the same sentence; 'requisition' (214) replaced the more obvious 'demand' because of a previous change from 'desired' to 'demanded' (213), which was changed to emphasize the character of the crew's request, further emphasized by the change from 'desired' to 'insisted' (214) a few lines below, the change from 'fellow-creatures' to the rather inflated 'beings of my own species' (217) was clearly made to avoid confusion with two 'creature' references to the monster in the same context. The omission of a sentence -- 'Or to what do your questions tend' (210) -- removes a redundancy from a series meant to be terse.

{325} A felt need for verbal, grammatical, and syntactical correctness provides the rationale for changes in tense and mood -- e.g., 'quitted' (124), 'gloried' (126), 'shall curse' (145), 'was extinguished' (194). Clarity is established when the speaker is distinguished by 'I rejoined' (101), and, in a more formal fashion, with the footnoted 'moon' (103), which seemed to the editor ambiguously implied by the 'radiant form' which the monster describes on his first encounter with a celestial body which could, from its vagueness here, be the sun. Comparably, the change from an uncertain 'those' reference to 'my departed friends' (205) clarifies the pathos which Mary would herself have been willing to emphasize in this context. These and other changes, such as the change to 'these hands' and 'that imagination' (both 222) from 'they' and 'it' respectively, confirm an inference one draws from Shelley's comparable changes in Mary's rough draft that Mary was frequently given to imprecise reference of pronouns.5 At times, as in the lengthy change beginning 'thou wouldst not desire' (223), the change eliminates the confusion consequent on awkward clausal constructions.

In one or two cases the correction was necessary because Mary (even with Shelley's proofreading to abet her) did not catch an 1818 error as egregious as 'Gower' for 'Goring' (159);6 'Then' (106) must fill in for a typographical omission, since 1818 does leave a space for the word. Changes to effect greater precision of diction ranged from the obvious through the indifferent to the quite subtle. These latter are often changes from words that serve well enough in a general sense to words that specify and focus meaning in a given context or relation, viz: 'some sound' for 'one sound' (117 -- because more than one sound is repeated); 'endued' for 'endowed' (120); 'return' for 'return with him' (126 -- because Safie is not to return with but after her father); 'irresolution' for 'weakness' (167 -- 'resolution' was probably then replaced by 'determination' to avoid an echoic effect); 'gruff' to 'hoarse' (173 -- apparently because 'hoarse' refers only to voice); 'It appeared' for 'He appeared' (175 -- the corpse is not yet identified as a 'He' by Frankenstein); 'examination' for 'trial' (176 -- here, the formal implications of 'trial' are misleading); 'warbling' for 'chirping' (223, again the change is to a word more restrictively descriptive -- of birds here). Sometimes the changes correct syntactical or grammatical solecisms (cf. 119, 123 'servant . . . ,' 145, 154, 207 'when once . . .').

Certain of the most interesting changes sometimes participate in one or the other of the above categories but with a specific justification which deserves special notice. 1818's 'puerile' becomes 'infantile' (124) because the 'amusements' being described take place in a harem, where 'puer' would seem anomalous to a reader conscious of word origins. Another incongruity is {326} removed by the introduction of 'accidentally' (122), which avoids a question we might otherwise have had about Felix's being in the courtroom before he knew Safie and her father. The most extensive and intriguing change occurs in 147, where whatever sympathies we may be on the point of extending to the monster in his demands on Frankenstein are purposely alienated by the harshness of his revised response. A change from 'mien' to 'mind' (158) may seem less attractive until one recalls that the context requires the concealment of whatever is being denoted -- far more possible to a 'mind' than to a 'mien'. Several changes eliminate ineffective or confused verbiage (cf. 176, both references, and 179), while others are necessary for syntactical or idiomatic good sense (cf. 190, 196, both references, and 214, where the original 'dangers' was both redundant and inexact in its reference). The omission of an entire clause in 178 eliminates an incongruous 'but' and the contextual contradiction it introduces. At least two words -- 'ineffaceable' (to 'indelible', 130) and 'abhorrent' (to 'intolerable', 160) were likely changed because of their status in 1823: the first was a neologism (1804 is the first usage recorded in the OED); the second contained current meanings (e.g., 'opposed to') which would have rendered it ambiguous in context.

A final category of changes may be made up from those which reword corrections, additions, or transcriptions appearing in Shelley's hand in the Bodleian rough (R) and fair (F) copies previously noted.7 Taken with other evidence, a few of them are especially helpful in establishing the most likely authority behind the changes, partly by suggesting that it is extremely unlikely Mary herself was responsible for them. Consider, for instance, the series of changes originating in Mary's rough draft 'not die', which is the archetype for 194 above ('not relax . . .' 'not shrink from'). The absoluteness of 'not die' might have struck Shelley as a rather fatuous and overstated prediction, since he changed it in the rough draft to 'not relax the conflict that impended' (163R). Mary received the substance of the change but apparently decided that the construction itself was awkwardly managed, since she groomed it to 1818's 'not relax the impending conflict' in her fair copy transcription (116F). And this, as noted, became in 1823 the still clearer 'not shrink from', the now-received reading. This progressive movement away from Shelley's correction tends not only to eliminate Shelley as a later corrector of his own emendation but also, and more to the point of the real question, provides some probable evidence that Mary did not make the 1823 corrections, since she had already reconstructed the phrase into acceptable {327} form in 1818. A comparable series of changes stems from Shelley's rough draft expansion of Mary's 'I displayed' to 'I was so eminently capable of bringing forth' (220R), which in turn was trimmed by Mary to 'I was capable of bringing forth' in 1818, and appears in 1823 as 'I was capable of unfolding'.8 Once again, a probable inference is that Mary had, in substance, accepted Shelley's change in 1818, as the corrector of the 1823 volume did not. Finally 'ineffaceable' (changed to 'indelible' in 130) was Shelley's, as was 'seen not' (changed to 'not seen' in 202).

There are several other reasons to suppose that someone other than Mary -- most likely Godwin -- was responsible for the 1823 changes. Perhaps most to the substantive point is the change from 'invaded with suspicion' to 'contemplated with suspicion' (212). Assuming that Mary knew what relation she wanted to set up in this sentence when she first wrote 'invaded by suspicion' (188R), we may further assume that the 1823 corrector did not. It does make a radical difference in point of view whether the 'friend' referred to in this context is 'invaded with suspicion' or 'contemplated with suspicion'. The general assumption -- that Godwin arranged for the publication of Frankenstein in 1823 -- is confirmed by his own journal, by Mary's residence on the Continent until after the volumes were published, and by her perfunctory reference to them when she first noted their appearance. The admitted liberties that Godwin took with Mary's Valperga, also published by G. and W. B. Whittaker in 1823, are presumptive evidence that he took kindred liberties with the 1823 Frankenstein.9 All in all, it seems most probable that in future considerations of the Frankenstein text, one must not only accept the 1823 text as the basis for the 1831 copytext but also accept the great majority of the 1823 changes as definitive, though very likely made by Godwin.


1. Mary W. Shelley, Frankenstein, ed. M. K. Joseph (London, 1969), xix; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein (The 1818 Text) (Indianapolis, 1974), xxii. All editions or commentators I have seen either tacitly or explicitly discount the 1823 edition as merely a reprint of the first edition.

2. Since, as this essay demonstrates, the 1831 edition reprinted by Joseph derives most immediately from the 1823 (not the 1818) edition, it contains the 1823 corrections.

3. I should also note that 1818's 'such a wretch' (206 Rieger) became 'such wretch' in 1823 but the phrase was replaced altogether in 1831 (see Rieger, 258). 209J's 'replete with anguish' appeared as 'replete with agony' in 1818 and 1823.

4. Variant spellings of certain words consistently recur -- e.g., 'woful' (1823) for 'woeful' (1818), 'show' for 'shew', 'ay' for 'aye', 'by' for 'bye' -- but seem to indicate house style rather than editorial change. There are besides about sixty punctuation changes, only a few of which are of sufficient semi-substantive consequence to equivocally suggest that an editorial rather than compositorial decision was involved in them (e.g., 'delight -- so deeply' for 'delight, so deeply' [95, 1818; 56J] 'that time!' for 'that time?' [142, 1818; 74J]). 1823 prefers hyphens in words like 'charnel-houses' and 'hiding-places', omitted in 1818. Possessives like 'yours' and 'theirs' are almost always modernized from 'your's' and 'their's'. I note two instances where an 1818 cap has been lower-cased in 1823 ('cousin' and 'mamma'). I can think of no demonstrable reason why volume I remained substantively intact in 1823, though Mary's large-scale dissatisfaction with that volume (evident in her 1831 changes) may indicate that she had advised Godwin that she herself would attend to it in a later edition, if, as I suggest below, Godwin was responsible for the changes in volumes II and III. The fact that there are proportionally fewer (about seventy) punctuation changes in these two volumes may indicate that the compositor understood the substantive changes to mean that they had undergone an editorial scrutiny which volume I had not received. However, as a general (but not absolute) rule such changes seem consistently made in all three volumes. Again, II and III contain a few semi-substantive pointing changes -- e.g., 'sorrowful!' for 'sorrowful?' (1818, III, 13; 54J), 'Man! you may hate . . .' for 'Man, you' etc. (1818, III, 47; 68J), 'change, without torture such as' for 'change without torture, such as' (1818, III, 182; 220J -- a questionable change); lowercase is capitalized in predictable instances ('Heaven', 'Christianity'); a few emphases are added ('even you', you are the cause'); 'De Lacey' is normalized from 'De Lacy' where necessary; as in volume I, hyphens are preferred when possible (e.g., 'ice-caves'); and spelling varied or modernized (e.g., 'control' for 'controul'). A curious lapse in both editorial and compositorial proofreading appears in the retained 'scene labours', 1818, III, 35, which was not emended in print to 'scene of my labours' until 1831 (163J), though some copies of both 1818 and 1823 do have the emendation penned or pencilled in. One may also care to speculate on the interim authority of two pencilled changes in the Gisborne copy of 1823 (British Library), where II, 74 (144J), has a marginal 'fiend' for an underlined 'being' at the start of chapter IX (XVIIJ), probably to avoid confusion with the 'being' in the previous sentence, which referred to the monster's requested mate; and II, 267 (218J), has three asterisks placed after 'my sister', doubtless meant to suggest a time lapse before Walton's discovery of the monster. Both changes have rhetorical merit but neither appears in 1831.

5. See my article, 'Shelley's Contribution to Mary's Frankenstein', Keats-Shelley Memorial Bulletin, 29 (1978), 50-68.

6. A like attempt at removing a dating discrepancy (216) is not really successful.

7. Since Mary began correcting Frankenstein as early as December, 1818 (Mary Shelley's Journal, ed. F. L. Jones (Norman, 1949), p. 114), it is barely possible that Shelley had a hand in corrections appearing in 1823, if indeed Mary herself was responsible for transmitting a corrected text to Godwin from Italy. One could argue that the lost 1818 corrections are in fact the corrections which appear in the 1823 volume. As I suggest below, I do not believe that such was the case. The corrections which appear in the Pierpont Morgan copy of the 1818 text do not appear in either 1823 or 1831. For those latter corrections and their place in the textual history of Frankenstein, see Rieger.

8. It may be worth noting that Shelley retained his correction in transcribing this portion of the fair copy. The fact that it was slightly changed in the 1818 text perhaps indicates that Mary did herself make at least some corrections in the proofs, though probably most of that chore was (as Mary herself suggests and Shelley confirms) left to the poet.

9. Godwin's journal entries indicate that he was a frequent visitor at Whittaker's from April 1823 (after the publication of Valperga) until the publication of the second edition of Frankenstein, which he dates 11 August. He was often in correspondence with Mary around the times of these visits -- which may indicate that he was in receipt of her corrections but more likely indicates that he was simply keeping her informed of the progress of the negotiations. Mary returned to England 25 August, and, with a bit of italicized irony, wrote to Leigh Hunt soon after that 'my father had published for my benefit a new edition of F[rankenstein]' (The Letters of Mary W. Shelley, two vols, ed. F. L. Jones (Norman, 1944), September 9 [1823], I, 260). For a detailed account of Godwin's stylistic changes in Valperga, see Betty T. Bennett, 'The Political Philosophy of Mary Shelley's Historical Novels: Valperga and Perkin Warbeck' in The Evidence of the Imagination, ed. Donald H. Reiman, et al. (New York, 1978), pp. 361-62.