Contents Index

Shelley's Contribution to Mary's Frankenstein

E. B. Murray

Keats-Shelley Memorial Bulletin, 29 (1978), 50-68

{50} THE TWO manuscripts of Frankenstein on deposit at the Bodleian Library bear variable but significant witness to the fact that Shelley's hand was well into his wife's major work even before she gave him 'carte blanche' to correct it further in proof.1 The rough draft, which embodies over half the novel, contains about one thousand words written by Shelley, while the last thirteen pages of the fair copy, which is transcribed from and sometimes recasts about a quarter of the rough draft, are in his handwriting.2 Recent general assessments of the poet's creative contribution to the novel range from James Rieger's statement that Shelley's emendations are substantive enough to tempt one to regard him as a 'minor collaborator' in the novel to Leonard Wolf's concessive qualification that the changes Mary accepted, 'though they are sometimes substantive, are no more or less valuable than those that working writers accept from their editors'.3 While the intent of these assessments may set them apart, they may be reconciled by the reminder that some working writers (one thinks of Thomas Wolfe) do accept enough from creative editors with whom they have a close rapport to justity these latter as 'minor {51} collaborators', though their names do not appear on the title page, much less their words in a prefatory note.

My purpose here will be first of all to provide a representative and generous sampling of the words Shelley wrote into Mary's rough copy -- if the epithet is apt4 -- with some attempt at rationalizing their effect and merit. I shall then try to suggest what might have been Shelley's contribution to the fair copy he transcribed.


Some of the thousand or so words added by Shelley in the rough draft merely rewrite what Mary had written in order to provide a context for a given correction or addition. Others are merely dictional, grammatical, or syntactical variations that anticipate and perhaps justify Shelley's later statement to Lackington et al. that he had 'paid considerable attention to the correction of such few instances of baldness of style as necessarily occur in the production of a very young writer'.5 But many of the changes are creative additions which (in spite of Mary's later suggestion to the contrary)6 help to shape atmosphere, incident, character, reader-response, and, consequently, aid in establishing the moral and aesthetic tone of the novel.

Shelley's hand does such variable service in a given context that I shall make only the most rudimentary attempt at setting up categories to distinguish its function, and I shall ignore them when it seems convenient to say all there is to say about a contribution when it first occurs. There is first of all a relatively small group of marginal, interlinear, and verbal additions which enhance the Gothic atmosphere of the tale. Shelley's eye for the Gothic had been creatively focussed, if only in the most conventional direction, with his Zastrozzi and St. Irvyne, the clichéd rhetoric of which appears in some of his more perfunctory expansions or heightenings of Mary's phrasing -- e.g., her merely informative 'the moon arose, and shone . . . upon the daemon who fled' is gothicized as 'upon his ghastly and distorted shape, as he {52} fled with more than mortal speed' (175R, 203J). At other times, Shelley follows up Mary's suggestions with more imaginative renditions of their Gothic potential. Mary notes, for example, that the monster supplied wood to the De Laceys without their knowledge. A bit later Shelley adds to Mary's statement that Felix De Lacey 'brought the wood from the outhouse' 'where to his perpetual astonishment he found his store always replenished by an invisible hand' (21R, 113J). Shelley elsewhere adds to the ghostly character of the monster when he has Frankenstein tell Walton, 'I knew the vessel in which he was concealed and he escaped I know not how' (175R, 203J). Mary here, as at times elsewhere, attempts to improve on the Shelleyan effect when in the fair copy she asks for a further suspension of disbelief by changing Shelley's addition to 'I took my passage in the same ship but he escaped I know not how' (137F). Shelley expands, clarifies, and, in the process, heightens with concrete Gothic epithet Mary's rather understated conditional rendering of Frankenstein's fears that if the monster 'suspected that I delayed it [the marriage with Elizabeth] on his account he would certainly revenge himself some other way'. Shelley's marginal change, one of his longest, reads: 'My destruction might indeed arrive a few months sooner but if my torturer suspected that I postponed my marriage on account of his menaces he would surely find other, and perhaps more dreadful means of revenge' (155R, 189J slightly changed). The Gothic heightening is sometimes merely rhetorical, sometimes descriptive, with the following a mixture of both, concluding with the monster balancing his period with a flourish which marks him as a creature of his times: 'Everything is related in them which bears reference to my accursed origin the whole detail of that series of disgusting circumstances which produced it . . . is given, in language which painted your own horrors, and has rendered mine ineffaceable' (66R, 130J slightly changed). Shelley's Gothic, metaphysical, psychological, and even poetic associations combine in a characteristic phrase when he inserts a ghost into the 'mechanical impulse' inspiring Frankenstein's quest by deriving it from 'some power of which I was unconscious' (177R, 204J). Shelley perhaps dubiously refused to allow a single Gothic verb to do double service when he changed Mary's 'and do you not feel your blood congeal with horror, like mine often did' to the received 'like that which even now curdles mine' (184R, 209J). Paradise Lost is an indirect source of quasi-Gothic allusion and sublime association for both Mary and Shelley, as a single illustration may serve to demonstrate: Mary had written 'as exquisite and divine a retreat as Pandaemonium appeared to the dominions [daemons, 1818] of hell' and Shelley added 'after their suffocation [sufferings, 1818] in the lake of fire' (7R, 106J). Finally, one of Shelley's happier Gothic touches appears in the word 'bridal' he inserts before 'bier' to turn the screw yet a notch tighter on the palpable mental and emotional anguish Frankenstein experiences on discovering Elizabeth slain by the monster on their wedding night (165R, 195J).

{53} Shelley's possible direct and indirect influence on the eighteen- year-old Mary, itself conditioned by what they read and experienced in common, is evident throughout Frankenstein and has been often commented on.7 Except as such influence appears in the manuscripts, I shall not consider it here. In the rough draft Shelley provides several examples of additions to or recasting of Mary's words -- and even motivations -- which we would recognize as Shelleyan were we to find them running wild in the desert, even without the brand of his 'd's, 'f's, 'g's, 'r's, 'x's, and 'y's to assist us in separating his words from Mary's.

Conventional social formulas, at times with a predictable Godwinian bias, humanize the monster and heighten the Caleb Williams complex which perverts his good to evil. Mary had written that the monster's vicarious association with the De Laceys inspired him with a wish to 'make one' in their affectionate social union. Shelley assisted Mary's intention when he enlarged the familial frame of reference by supplying the monster with a 'desire to become an actor' in the 'busy scene' because of the 'views of social life' which he observed and learned . . . to admire' (62R? [the pagination here is confused], 127J). A page later, another concept they doubtless shared takes on a specifically Shelleyan cast in the phrasing: 'The gentle and domestic manners [The Sorrows of Werther] described . . . which had for their object something out of self, accorded well with my experience among my protectors. . .' (63R [?], 128J). One of several Alastor motifs recurs in a rhetoric more representative of the times and conventions but in Shelley's hand, when the monster speaks of the 'wants which were for ever alive within my own bosom' (63R[?], 128J).8 Metaphysical queries which Shelley reiterated from his early letters through the 'Life' essay to their still unanswered culmination in the final question of The Triumph of Life receive their typically Shelleyan formulation when the monster asks 'Whence did I come? What was my destination?' (64R 128J).9 Kindred changes or additions in Shelley's hand echo his poetry or anticipate the {54} 'mental imagery' of Prometheus Unbound: 'make desolate', though later changed by Mary to 'create desolation' (a neat oxymoronic effect Shelley must have approved), suggests the departure of Intellectual Beauty from this vale of tears (89R, 143J); Mary's original 'gentle shadow' placed around the graveyard mourner's head shares even more obviously in the awful shadow of some unseen power when Shelley expands her suggestion with a recollected phrasing: . . . 'to cast a shadow which felt but seen not' (173R, 202J); 'Mont Blanc', the other significant poem composed during Frankenstein's early gestation period, receives at least one verbal acknowledgement when Mary's prosaic 'the real beings that he saw and conversed with' becomes 'the real beings who visit him from the regions of a remoter world' (186R, 210J slightly changed).10 Mary wrote of the 'horrible curse' which Frankenstein felt he had drawn down upon his head, 'which I in vain endeavoured to shake off', and Shelley created a brilliantly suggestive simile to replace her clause with a state of mind -- 'as mortal as that of crime' (114R, 162J); also Shelley's are the similes 'as imposing and interesting as truth' (186R, 210J) and 'as your hearts might be' (192R, 215J). Other locutions and ideas which are in Shelley's hand and may to some readers seem his contribution include the phrase 'uttered the words of which it is composed' (184R, 209J radically changed), the change from 'honor and glory' to 'honor and the benefit of mankind' (191R, 214J) -- Frankenstein's knockdown argument to the crew would only gain Shelley's approbation if 'glory' was meant to mean approximately what he replaces it with here. Finally, one may note, either to qualify or confirm inferences about Shelley's influence, the fair copy change from 'and his eyes closed while a gentle smile played on his lips' (196R) to 'and his eyes closed forever while the irradiation of a gentle smile past away from his lips' (176F, 218J). At times, and this may be one of them, Mary will seem to out-Shelley Shelley in phrasings which may indicate his influence but appear in her hand.11 As indicated, at other times Shelley will take up Mary's suggestion or locution and weave it into a later or different context.12 Nor is Mary always willing to abide a Shelleyan effect, as may be demonstrated when she elides it by removing 'visions' from Shelley's 'visions of my working hours' (177R, 204J).

Other changes, rhetorical, syntactical, and grammatical, serve to clarify Mary's occasional tendency towards vagueness or indiscrimination. Shelley seems to have recognized its inappropriateness to the monster's real and self-imputed alienation when he replaced Mary's 'fellow creatures' with 'any other being that wore the human form', (83R, 139J), a subtlety perhaps meant as well to distinguish between the form and essence of the monster; though, as has been noted, in prospect and later in fact Frankenstein himself shares with his creature the pariah-Cain-Wandering Jew syndrome which justifies Shelley's addition to his retrospective wish that he had better have 'wandered a friendless outcast over the earth' (158R, 191J) than have hastened the death of a 'far dearer victim' (ibid.). Shelley comparably enforces Mary's intention when he recasts 'exiled them for ever' as 'condemned them to a perpetual exile' (63R, 125J). Rhetorically apt, if conventionally sentimental, is 'I stretched my failing limbs upon the sandy plain' for 'did I lie' (173R, 201J). Another sentimental flavouring, with perhaps a more specific source in Shelley's reading, appears in the second of two sentences he inserts to describe the monster's reaction after he had been turned out by the De Laceys: 'The agony of my grief allowed me no respite. No incident occurred from which my rage and misery could not extract its food'13 (84R, 140J slightly changed). Here and elsewhere Shelley grooms Mary's characterizations to his own sense of their representative likeness, as again later when describing Walton's increasing interest in his guest, {56} 'which this tale, and his own elevated and gentle manners have created' (185R, 210J).14 How far verbal characterization may support a bibliographical case for Shelley's creative contribution to the fair copy he transcribed is an intriguing question to pose and a tricky one to answer. But it is Shelley who changes Mary's description of the monster's 'hideous form' to read 'the distorted proportions of a well-known form' (181R, 207J). And it is Shelley who certainly transcribes at least Walton's first view of the monster 'distorted in its proportions' (177F, 218J). Mary in the rough draft from which Shelley may well be 'transcribing' had written merely 'distorted' (197R).15

Since there often seems to be a mutual interchange of rhetorical and verbal effects, the whole matter of deciding who is responsible for what word or phrase or ideological bias is sometimes best sidestepped by the reminder that during the period of Frankenstein's composition, through to its publication, Mary and Shelley were effectively two bodies with but one soul; or, if that seems a bit overstated, we do have journal and letter evidence, direct and inferential, to prove that the concrete matter of revising the text was left to Shelley, and manuscript evidence to prove that he had been assigned that role much earlier. In fact, Mary trusted Shelley to make changes that would correspond with her intentions. To restrict my point to verbal matters, we may note that while it is Mary who first refers to the 'mountain of ice' which threatened 'to crush my vessel' (212J), it is Shelley who later inserts 'mountains of' between Mary's 'by ice' and further emphasizes the sublime peril in which Walton finds himself by alliteratively iterating the danger 'of being crushed in their conflict' (190R, 213J). Conversely, Mary seems to pick up a Shelleyan effort at distinguishing 'vengeance' from 'revenge' which he supplied by deletion and {57} insertion on 169R and she on 172R (198J, 200J).16

As her share of the fair copy indicates, Mary did not accept Shelley's changes without question, though the questions she put were generally stylistic. Shelley emended Mary's rough draft 'not die untill my adversary should lie senselessly lay at my feet' to 'not relax the conflict that impended untill my own life, or that of my adversary were extinguished' (163R). Mary retained the last part of the sentence but made the first part less awkward in the 1818 edition with 'not relax the impending conflict' (116F), which later became 'not shrink from the conflict' (194J). Again, Mary does not keep intact a change where Shelley appears to have had some grammatical difficulty -- perhaps because he misread Mary's 'To' as "as': 'To you are just (?) entering on life, and care is new to you and agony unknown, how can you understand I describe' (175R). The line under 'I describe' is Shelley's indication to Mary that he provides her with the option of her verb and person or his -- she chose his -- while for those interested in Shelley's concerns with jots and tittles, it is worth noting that Shelley supplied the comma after 'life'. Mary's change in the fair copy reads 'To you who are first entering on life to whom care is new new to you and agony unknown' (137F, 203J). The importance of the strike-overs here is that they indicate that Mary and, even more importantly for present purposes, Shelley were transcribing directly from the rough copy -- i.e., her changes here and Shelley's in his thirteen-page share in the transcript are very probably made in the act of transcribing from that copy and not from an intermediate copy.17 Since Shelley generally retains his own corrections in his fair copy transcription, it seems likely that Mary was responsible for reducing Shelley's conventionally flatulent 'qualities with which I was so eminently capable of bringing forth' (200R -- reproduced without the 'with' in 182F) to 'I was capable of bringing forth' in 1818 and to 'I was capable of unfolding' in the final recension (221J). One fair copy change that {58} has a better than fair chance of being more than merely Shelley's transcription appears on 176F, where Mary's 197R 'death' becomes 'untimely extinction'. Taken with the 'blasted' he has just transcribed from 196R (218J) and the 'Blasted' he himself had supplied as an emphatic trochee to replace Mary's 'miserable' in 203R, Shelley might well have been responsible for ringing an additional change on the Alastor hero's solitary life and death, which is so epitomized in the 'Preface' to that poem: 'Blasted by his disappointment, he descends to an untimely grave'.

A few short but generally effective changes may stand for several such that Shelley made, not all of them eventually retained by Mary. The change from 'the devil' to 'an abortion' (201R, 222J) is a tellingly descriptive variant on the rather deadening repetition of devil words used to describe the monster. Shelley's adjectival clause 'which shattered the flesh and bone' adds a species of hardcore Gothic realism to Mary's 'pains of a wound' (86R, 141J). On 18R 'go to the wood' becomes 'go to the forest' (111J), perhaps because 'wood' in the general context here is used to mean 'firewood'; on 58R 'warm' becomes 'kindle' (123J); on the same pages an ambiguous adjective is exchanged for a verb when 'expressive gestures' becomes 'gestures expressed'; on 63R an awkwardly ambiguous 'his deliverer was poor and harmless' is clarified as 'reduced to poverty and impotence' 125J changed); on 61R Shelley perhaps predictably changed 'Christian lovers' to 'youthful lovers' (124J), though the original epithet would, in context, have protested too much; on 174R Shelley circumspectly inserts 'tread the' before 'green' into Mary's 'behold the sun and green herbage' (202J). Other changes are less successful; they exhibit a recurrent tendency to fall back on the trite rhetorical fillers the Gothic novels of the seventeen-nineties had taken over from their sentimental predecessors ('every enjoyment which virtue or refinement of intellect and taste accompanied with a competent fortune' (57R, 122J)), or to tinker with a phrase that Mary had trouble with or aborted only to accept at last a rather indifferent alternative, such as the sentence-ending provided on 155R -- 'death was inevitable' (189J). Shelley at least once tries to qualify a contradiction Mary provides when he changes the monster's statement that 'cold is sweeter to me than heat' to 'cold . . . to which I am impassive' (177R, 204J). One of the monster's earliest empirical discoveries is that he very much likes warmth, though conceivably we are to suppose that the cold-hearted treatment he had received since his creation had rendered him impervious to external weather as to internal weather, and so inspires this taunting expression of his lately acquired inhumanity.

Shelley's editorial ability at the most pedestrian level is sporadically in evidence through most of the rough draft, surprisingly so, perhaps, to those familiar with the rougher drafts of his own work.18 His changes are economical and dextrous, {59} as witness his refurbishing of Mary's 'But I saw no trace and began to consider what was my best mode of proceding'. Shelley supplied 'of him' after 'trace', put 'was' after 'and', changed the 'a' of 'began' to 'i' and appended an 'ing' to form 'beginning', and then added a major contribution after 'consider': 'that some fortunate chance had intervened to prevent the execution of his menace' (164R, 195J slightly changed). Shelley is clearly alive to the minute particulars of contemporary rhetoric, illustrating in correcting Mary what apparently was his training in certain such matters and what perhaps should be considered his preferable practice even when he does not himself seem to follow it consistently. He regularly changes Mary's 'that' to 'which', he will sometimes supply a 'that' in introducing a subordinate clause, and he is very nearly pedantic in his implicit criticisms of Mary's indefinite 'this' (and comparable) references.19 Again, while consistency in practice cannot be established, one may infer from the pointing he supplies and amends, that he would in theory be punctilious in following the rhetorical manuals he was familiar with, though perhaps willing as well to abide the decisions of others when the case in point was a matter of indifference to him. He also shifts sentence elements around to accord with his sense of relationship, which the reader will generally approve, as Mary apparently did.20 Finally, he rarely if ever corrects even the more flagrant violations of customary spellings, with the sign of his indulgence in such matters left endearingly implicit in his pencilled comment after Mary's initial rendition of 'enigmatic' as 'igmmatic' -- 'o you pretty Pecksie!' (16R).

But Shelley's advice to Mary, explicit and implicit, is generally more constructive. The most important single concrete example of the explicit variety appears in a marginal note on 100R: 'I think the journey to England ought to be Victor's proposal -- that he ought to go for the purpose of collecting knowledge for the formation of a female. He ought to lead his father to this in the conversation -- the conversation commences right enough'. On the back of a part of an envelope presently pinned to {60} 98R Mary has in effect made the suggested change, but she has only paraphrased briefly the result of a conversation Shelley apparently felt should have been developed in dialogue. Why Shelley required the change is conjecturable. Perhaps he felt it dramatically apt that Victor's free will should be exercised in so crucial a decision because of the dire events consequent upon it; or perhaps he felt it might serve as a cue to develop further Victor's disinterested motives in drawing the monster after him, and so leaving his loved ones in safety. The Gothic irony and moral tone of the tale are enhanced if either motive, or, better, both of them were behind Shelley's advice, which was taken at the time and even added to later (see 152J: 'The duration of my absence was left to my own choice. . .'). The two most important implicit changes are conjecturable as well, though from different causes. They relate to two lengthy omissions from the printed versions, both of which concern Frankenstein's dismal reflections on the trivial concerns of the professors and students he observes at Oxford.21 The first eventually focusses on the expulsion of two students for wearing 'light coloured pantaloons' (111R), the other concludes with an anecdote concerning their professor-guide who refused to enter Friar Bacon's Oxford quarters because of a prophecy that the room would collapse when a man wiser than that philosopher should enter it' (111-12R). With one exception,22 these passages are the only substantial segments of the extant manuscript omitted without replacement from the printed text. The reasons for their omission may also be inferred. The early publishing history of the novel recounted in the letters and viewed retrospectively in Mary's 1831 'Introduction' is very largely a systematic disavowal of Shelley's share in its composition. Two such digressive anecdotes would hardly have helped these reiterated disclaimers when an easily deducible source of their clearly satirical reflections had been expelled from Oxford (for a matter he might have regarded as trivial as the shade of his pantaloons) and was at Mary's elbow to fill in for her lapses on the subject of Oxonian trivia. When Mary wrote of the room in which 'the Lord Chancellor Bacon had inhabited', Shelley provided the marginal gloss by way of correction: 'No sweet Pecksie -- 'twas friar bacon the discoverer of gunpowder' (112R). And it was Shelley who refused to let the 'short, round faced prating professor' who accompanied the visitors escape with his hybris merely implied, adding to Mary's 'although we ventured inside in perfect security' a marginal 'and probably he might have done the same' (112R).


The fair copy manuscript in Abinger deposit c. 534 consists of 71 pages, thirteen {61} of which are in Shelley's hand, the rest in Mary's, including two pages in which she apparently either rewrites part of Shelley's transcription or transcribes herself part of the rough copy which he also transcribed. Since my concern here is with Shelley's contribution to the fair copy, I shall make only two general statements about Mary's share in it. First, there are hardly a half-dozen changes of any consequence between the forty-six pages (I exclude the recopied pages) Mary transcribed and the rough draft from which they have been transcribed.23 Secondly, nowhere does Mary provide new material, as Shelley does in his thirteen-page part of the transcription. But it is still true that substantive variations in Shelley's transcription are largely concerned, as they are to a lesser extent in Mary's, with rephrasings and rewordings which are more a matter of aesthetic adjustment than creative contribution. The fact that Shelley felt free to adjust and even to add to Mary's text in the act of transcribing simply indicates that he took legitimate advantage of a prerogative which Mary had granted and would continue to grant him. The fact that Mary's transcript indicates much less variation from her own rough copy should occasion no surprise: she had not assigned herself the same -- probably counterproductive -- prerogative, nor was she likely inclined to feel that what Shelley had passed on in her work required further scrutiny and revision. To save space and a further proliferation of my own words, I should like to list in parallel columns representative substantive and stylistic differences between Shelley's transcript and Mary's rough draft, with a minimum of parenthetical comment as it may seem helpful. For convenience, I shall number not only the manuscript and transcript pages but also parallel pages in the Joseph 1969 reprint of the 1831 text, though I shall not normally note minor variants.

  {62} Rough Copy   Fair Copy   1831  
196 a means of misery 175 an instrument of mischief 217
shining distinguishing yourself 217-18
and his eyes closed while a gentle smile played upon his lips 176 and his eyes closed forever while the irradiation of a gentle smile past away from his lips 218
197 No parallel What can I say that will make you understand the depth of my sorry? 218
Again there is a sound and it comes Again there is a sound as of a human voice but hoarser 218 [only the printed versions place a semicolon after 'Again']
my miserable guest 177 my ill-fated and admirable friend 218
but his extended hand appeared like those of the mummies for to nothing else can I compare its colour and apparent texture but one vast hand was extended, in colour and apparent texture like that of a mummy 218
involuntarily while I called on him to stay involuntarily, as recollecting what were my duties with respect to this destroyer, I called on him to stay 219
wildest rage 178 wildest rage of some uncontrollable passion 219
No parallel the miserable series of my being is wounded to its close 219
198 pardon me -- I who destroyed thee by destroying those thou lovedst pardon me -- Wherefore do I seek to perish in thy stead after I have irretrievably destroyed thee, by destroying those thou lovedst 219 [But this and all printed texts read: 'pardon me? I, who irretrievably destroyed thee by destroying all thou lovedst']
which had been to obey the dying request which had suggested to me the duty of obeying the dying request 219
were overwhelmed in were suspended by 219 [Shelley here would seem to emend his own correction]
approached him approached this tremendous being 219
yet I dared not look on him I dared not again raise my looks upon his face 219 'I dared not again raise my eyes to his face' [the change does not appear in 1818]
{63} speak but the words died away on my lips speak, but his presence was as a burthen which held me dumb and the words 219 [A nearly unique but indicative instance of Mary (or Shelley) returning to the rough draft, since it is the rough not the fair copy that appeared in 1818 and all later editions]
At length I said Your repentance is now useless. If you had felt the stings of remorse before you had urged 179 At length I gathered resolution to speak, in a pause as if it were in the tempst of his passion -- your repentance is now superfluous: I said, If you had listened to the voice of conscience and heeded the stings of remorse before you had urged 219 [slightly varied from the fair copy]
And do you think, said the daemon that I was then dead to anguish and remorse And do you dream -- said the Daemon, do you think that I was then dead to agony and remorse 219 [The italicized 'I' in the rough draft is rhetorically apt and probably should be restored as Mary's first and best intention]
suffered not more in the completion of the deed that [sic] I did in its execution suffered not more in the consummation of the deed; oh not the ten thousandth portion of the anguish that was mine during the lingering detail of its execution 219
my heart was torn with agony my heart was poisoned with remorse 219 [The change seems vintage Shelley]
199 I pitied Frankenstein, and his bitter sufferings -- my pity 180 I pitied Frankenstein. My pity 220 [The omission from the rough draft might have been accidental, but it also avoids a clash with another 'bitter' a few lines on and may be in keeping with a tendency in these latter pages to play down somewhat the sympathetic side of the monster]
But when I saw that he again dared hope for happiness -- that while he heaped wretchedness and despair on me But when I discovered that he -- the author at once of my existence and of all its unspeakable torments dared to hope for happiness -- that whilst {64} he accumulated on me wretchedness and despair 220
I was again rouzed to indignation and revenge the impotent envy and bitter indignation filled me with an insatiable thirst for vengeance 220
to execute it that it should be accomplished 220
No parallel I knew that I was preparing for myself a deadly torture but I was the slave not the master of an impulse which I detested but could not obey 220
Yet when she died -- I cast off all feeling and all anguish I rioted in the extend of my despair and being urged thus far -- I resolved to finish my demoniacal design. And it is now ended. Yet when she died! Nay then I was not miserable. I had cast off all feeling, subdued all anguish to riot in the excess of my despair. Evil thenceforth became my good. Urged thus far I had no choice but to adapt [to 181] nature to an element which I had chosen willingly. The completion of my demonaical design thenceforward became an insatiable passion. And now it is ended 220
200 still would you pursue him with your accursed vengeance It is not pity that you feel -- it is sorrow that your mischief is annihilated 181 still would he become the victim of your accursed vengeance. It is not pity that you feel -- you lament only because the victim of your malignity is withdrawn from your power 220 [But 'still lived, still would he be the object, again would he become they prey']
misery. I feel it deeply and truly and for sympathy that I may never find misery. No sympathy may I ever find 221
virtue, it was feelings of happiness and content that I wished to be participated virtue. I desired that the feelings of happiness and affections with the hope of which my whole being once overflowed, should be participated 221 [But a conflation]
self-devotion 183 lf devotion 221 devotion [The progressive loss of self is probably not an attribute of perfectibility in this instance. See my discussion of this and other marginal omissions below, p. 66]
{65} No crimes can equal mine No malignity no misery can be found parallel with mine 221
201 visions of loveliness visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness 221
Yet he even Man's enemy Yet even that enemy of God and man 221
his door or the man who would have destroyed the saviour of his child? 184 his door with contumely? Why do you not execrate the rustic who sought to destroy the saviour of his child? 221-22
I devoted my creator to misery and have followed him even to his destruction. You hate me I have devoted my creator, the select specimen of all that is worthy of love and admiration among men, to misery. I have pursued him even to that irremediable ruin. There he lies white and cold in death. You hate me 222
the heart that formed the plans and I loathe myself 185 the heart in which the imagination of it was [co]nceived, and long for the moment when they will [m]eet my eyes, when it will haunt my thoughts no more 222 [But 1831 reads 'these hands will meet' and 'when that imagination will haunt']
202 It needs not yours or any mans death to consumate it Neither yours nor any mans death is needed to consumate the series of my being, and accomplish that which must be done; 222
Do not think Do not fear 222 [Another rare instance of rough copy being preferred in print]
If a desire for revenge remains to you in death it would be better satisfied in my life 186 If thou wert yet alive and yet cherished a desire of revenge against me, it should be better satisfied in my life 223
and now you will not desire my life for my own misery and if yet in some mood unknown to me, thou hast not ceased to think and feel, thou desirest not my life for my own misery. 223 ['in some mode . . . thou wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greater than that which I feel']
rankle in my woulds and tortures me to madness rankle in my wounds until death shall close them forever 223
he cried clasping his hands he cried with sad and solemn enthusiasm 223
203 {66} triumphantly and the flame that consumes my body will give enjoyment or tranquillity to my mind 187 triumphantly; and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away. My ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace; or if it thinks will surely not think thus. Adieu 223 [The received transposition 'not surely think thus' would be stronger and clearer if in the fair copy original]
vessel and pushing himself off he was carried away by the waves and I soon lost sight of him in the darkness and distance vessel; he was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in the darkness of distance 223 [Again, one might prefer 'in the darkness of distance' to the now-received 'in darkness and distance', but Mary apparently chose to return to the rough copy]

The two pages that Mary transcribed from the rough draft or recopied from Shelley's transcript, numbered 185 and 186, contain with very slight variation the same part of the novel that appears on Shelley's transcript pages 184 and 185. While it is clear that her pages represent part of a larger segment, the fact that, using the same size paper, she writes an average of seventeen lines per page to Shelley's consistent twenty-one or twenty-two lines makes it correspondingly clear that that segment could not have begun at about the point where Shelley began his transcription on page 175. The likely inference is that she transcribed six pages (181-186) in Shelley's transcript which have been clipped diagonally in the margin with the occasional consequence (as noted in the collation above) of foreshortening or curtailing a word.

Other evidence is slight, sometimes ambiguous, but even alone would suggest that Mary is here transcribing Shelley. The 1818 edition has Mary's 'trampled on', not Shelley's trampled upon' (222J); it has Mary's 'Do not think', not Shelley's 'Do not fear' (222J): it has Mary's 'the deed', not Shelley's 'that deed' (222J). Mary in each case returns to the R reading which Shelley had apparently changed in transcription. This may seem to indicate that she was revising from R and that Shelley was transcribing her copy. But why should he have done that when it is clear Mary's copy was the one that was used for the printer's copy -- not only for substantives but preferably for accidentals as well? the ambiguity I refer to has to do with strikeovers and false starts, which in themselves are divided between the transcribers to prove nothing either way, though, taken with the other evidence, they might seem to suggest that Mary copied out only those pages from Shelley's transcription that had been cut diagonally down the margin. Because she was transcribing from a slightly imperfect copy, she quite probably referred to the {67} rough copy as she proceeded, though still (I conjecture) missing one substantive in the process -- the curtailed 'self'.

The last word on Shelley's contribution to the fair (as to the rough) copy of Frankenstein can only be provisionally spoken until further study of available manuscripts are related materials has elicited more subtle inferences than I have attempted here. The tentative overall inference from the foregoing consideration may be converted into a working hypothesis that the poet's contribution -- particularly to the last few pages of the novel -- may well have been substantial enough to require Mary's editorial carte blanche, whenever first given, and original enough to suggest that at times his creative impulse added its own initiative to the novel's effect, though always in keeping with Mary's conception and with her implicit sanction.


The three following passages from the rough draft were omitted from the printed versions, probably because they seemed either too derivative (from Shelley) or too digressive, with II and III open to both criticism.

I. [after 'aid us' 157J] We now arrived at very different country. The soil was sandy and the wheels sunk deep in it. The towns of this country are the most pleasing part of the scene. The Dutch are extremely neat but there is an awkwardness in their contrivances that often surprised us. In one place, I remember, a wind mill was situated in such a manner that the postillion was obliged to guide the carriage close to the opposite side of the road to escape from the sweep of its sails. The way often led between two canals where the road was only broad enough to allow one carriage to pass and when we met another vehicle which was frequently the case we were rolled back some times for nearly a mile untill we found one of the drawbridges which led to the fields down on which one carriage remained while the other passed on. They soak their flax also in the mud of their canals and place it against the trees along the roadside to dry. When the sun is hot the scent which this exhales is not very easily endured. Yet the roads are excellent and the verdure beautiful (106-07R).

The entire passage, which appears in variant forms in History of a Six Weeks' Tour, was shortened to 'Our journey here lost the interest arising from beautiful scenery. . .'.

II. [after 'proceeded to Oxford' 159J] We were charmed with the appearance of the town. The colledges were antient and picturesque, the streets broard [sic] and the landscape rendered perfect by the lovely Isis which spreads into broard and placid expance of water and runs south of the town. We had letters to several of the professors who received us with great politeness and cordiality. We found {68} that the regulations of the university were much improved since the days of Gibbon. But there is still in fashion a great deal of bigotry and devotion to established rules that constrains the mind of the students and leads to slavish and narrow principles of action. Many enormities are also practiced which although they might excite the laughter of a stranger were looked upon in the world of the university as matters of the utmost consequence. Some of the gentlemen obstinately wore light coloured pantaloons when it was the rule of the colledge to wear dark The masters were angry and their scholars resolute so that during our stay [Shelley] two of the students were on the point of being expelled on this very question. The threatened severity cuased a considerable change in the costume of the gentlemen for several days.

Such to our infinite astonishment, we found to be the principal topic of conversation when we arrived in town. Our minds had been filled with etc. (110-11R -- some of this does appear recast in 160J).

III. [After 'Gower' (1818) 'Goring' (1823, 1831) 159J] but we found it [Shelley] filled with gownsmen and students who think of nothing less than these events. Yet there are some relics to remind you of antient times; among others we regarded with curiosity the press instituted by the author of the history of the troubles We were also shewn a room which Friar Bacon the discoverer of gunpowder had inhabited and which, as it was predicted, would fall in when a man wiser than that philosopher should enter it. A short, round faced prating professor who accompanied us refused to pass the threshold: although we ventured inside in perfect security and probably he might do the same [Shelley] (111R).


1. Abinger Dep. c. 534. Excerpts from the manuscripts are printed here by kind permission of Lord Abinger. I do not use manuscript materials I have seen only in microfilm, though the more than 1200 words in Shelley's hand which they contain abundantly confirm my present inferences.

2. The rough draft (R) is numbered 1-203, with pages 22-56 missing. It corresponds with pages 102-223 (the end) of the novel in M. K. Joseph's edition (J) of the 1831 revision, which I shall use because of its general availability (London: Oxford University Press, 1969). The missing pages are represented in J by only 8 pages (113-121), which indicates that they contained additional material. The fair copy (F) is numbered as follows (I include corresponding initial pages in R and J): 99-100 (153R, 188J); 105-140 (157R, 190J); 143-44 (178R, 205J); 153-56 (184R, 209J); 167-68 (191R, 214J); 175-87 (196R, 217J). The fact that the pagination in the two manuscripts is not proportionally congruent with the material contained in them is probably due to their representing different plans for volume number and division. It is also relevant that Mary began her novel by plunging in medias res and that the page sizes in the two manuscripts vary, though the number of lines Mary writes in pages of the same size also varies considerably. There are two page sizes in the rough draft, both of which are larger than the size used in the fair copy. There are all told five watermarks and three dates visible on the sheets. One of the watermarks looks -- deceptively? -- like an intertwined 'L.B.'; the larger of the rough draft sheets are dated 1806, while the dated fair copy sheets are 1809, with the exception of the last sheet (in Shelley's hand) which is dated 1814. There are redundant (sometimes unnumbered) sheets in the general vicinity of 62-65R, 96R, and 102-106R. I shall italicize Shelley's rough draft contributions.

3. Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus (The 1818 Text). ed., James Rieger. New York. 1974. p. xliv. and The Annotated Frankenstein, ed., Leonard Wolf; New York, 1977, p. 3. For other qualified but often more clearly specified views of Shelley's varied share in the novel, see M. A. Goldberg, 'Moral and Myth in Mrs. Shelley's Frankenstein, Keats-Shelley Journal, 8 (1959), 35; Elizabeth Nitchie, Mary Shelley, New Brunswick, 1953, pp. 57-58; Christopher Small, Ariel Like a Harpy, London, 1972, pp. 100-102; Muriel Spark, Child of Light, Essex, 1951, pp. 134-5, 145, 193-4; William A. Walling, Mary Shelley, New York, 1972, pp. 46- 47, 50.

4. The text was apparently first written nearly without emendation, though it is worth recalling that Mary's original conception of a 'short tale' suggests an earlier draft (J, 10); for a detailed discussion, see Walling, pp. 31-32.

5 F. L. Jones ed., The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 2 vols, Oxford, 1964, I, 565

6 See J, 10, where Mary nonetheless echoes Shelley in noting that she has mended the language where it was so bald as to interfere with the interest of the narrative. . . .' Even her statement that she did not 'owe the suggestion of one incident, nor scarcely of one train of feeling, to my husband' is surrounded by the qualifications that 'Shelley urged me to develop the idea at greater length' and 'but for his incitement, it would never have taken the form in which it was presented to the world'. Mary's lapses of memory in 1831 have been demonstrated more than once. See, James Rieger, 'Dr. Polidori and the Genesis of Frankenstein', Studies in English Literature, 3 (1963) 461-72 with the strongest statement appearing on 465: 'When Mary Shelley admits to forgetting particulars, we may usually assume she remembers nothing'. But in this application, as noted later, we must remember that both Mary and Shelley were from the start intent on keeping the poet's share in the novel even more secret than its authorship.

7. Extreme conclusions about Shelley's influence (such as Rieger's above) may seem to have the sort of empirical backing Richard Garnett suggests when he states that 'Frankenstein was written when her brain, magnetized by [her husband's] companionship, was capable of an effort never to be repeated' (Tales and Stories by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, London 1891 p.v). But, again, the negative assumptions of such a position must be qualified by the comparably empirical fact that 'one novel' authors are not uncommon.

8. Our view of Shelley's contribution to the monster as 'Noble Savage' must be qualified by his corrections here: the 'wants' are perhaps 'alive' innately in his bosom but they are 'developed' by the 'views of social life' he observes. For different perspectives on this crucial moral characterization, see Goldberg, op cit., 34; Milton Millhauser, Notes and Queries (June 15, 1946), 248-50; Nitchie, op. cit., pp. 34-35.

9. While the frequency of these latter changes may suggest that Shelley was quite busy in correcting Mary's pages, he seems in fact to have varied his attention or fault- finding considerably from segment to segment. Certain quite lengthy portions of the rough draft have little change either by him or by Mary (e.g., 116R-153R), though Mary's are relatively more in evidence, perhaps because there is no fair copy for these pages.

10. See 'Mont Blanc', '. . . gleams of a remoter world / Visit the soul in sleep. . . .' This is one of several manuscript readings which should probably be preferred to the received reading (or at least collated), not simply because, as here, they have a tempting allusive potential, but also because they make better aesthetic or common sense and could well have been accidentally overlooked in an initial transcription and never restored. Shelley replaced an indefinite 'this' reference in 5R with 'this deficiency' which was then followed by Mary's 'obtained my serious consideration for several hours.' to which Shelley added, as italicized, 'but I was obliged to relinquish all attempts to supply it' (6R). Mary -- perhaps misreading 'deficiency' -- replaced it in 1818 with 'difficulty'. We are therefore presented in the received reading with a construction which seems to make little sense ('I was obliged to relinquish all attempt to supply this difficulty'); whereas if one retained Shelley's word in his context, he would be backed by the absolute sanction of Webster's New World Dictionary which demonstrates the use of 'supply', meaning to 'compensate for', which 'you must supply the deficiency' (105J). Again, 126R has Frankenstein 'tying it up'. referring to the basket in which he has put the 'relics' of his work in the Orkneys, but this becomes 'laying them up' in print, with an apparent reference to whatever is in the basket (170J). The change from 'it' to 'them' may justify a word the OED does not easily sanction in this context, but the chance still remains that the Ms. was miscopied. Finally, 129R's 'flew with the wind' seems to justify the slight change to 'flew before the wind' in 1818 but aids the argument for a dropped preposition in 'flew the wind', which is received in the 1831 version, though one could no doubt argue the poetic license of the 'clouds that flew the wind' with sufficient staunchness to abet a bibliographical argument for retention (172J).

11. Mary in 1818 qualified 68R's 'my shadow in the moonshine' to read 'my shadow in the moonshine even as that frail image and that inconstant shade' (131J), though one should allow the possibility that Shelley had indeed had an actual hand in the change. But that inference may be balked by a comparable change from Shelley's 'living being' (95R) to the 'sensitive being' of 1818 (147J), where the Shelleyan overtone is perhaps as faint as that in the 'enkindled' (140J) which replaced Shelley's 83R 'kindled'.

12. See, e. g., the 'mountains of ice' passage, p. 56 below.

13. There are no reading lists for Shelley's earliest years but one may assume that among the 'scores of novels of this [Gothic] type' (N. I. White, Shelley, New York, 1972, p. 24) he then read he would have come across and effectively retained a crucial (and characterizing) admonition the dying St. Aubert bestows on Emily in Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho: 'Those who really possess sensibility ought early to be taught that it is a dangerous quality, which is continually extracting the excess of misery or delight from every surrounding circumstance' (Everyman's Library edition, two vols, London, 1931, vol. I, 82).

14. If one can read such characterizations as attempts at shifting the moral calculus more obviously to Frankenstein's advantage, corresponding changes (apparently by Mary) between the rough draft and the printed versions (no fair copy extant) not only reflect a more 'gentle-mannered' Frankenstein but also diminish our sympathies with the monster. For example, 94R's 'Begone, I cannot consent' is modified to 'This may not be: cease to argue the point, for I cannot consent' (l46J), though the change may also be meant to suggest a Frankenstein weakening from his initial 'Begone! I have answered you; you may torture me, but I will never consent' (145J). Mary herself was responsible for changing the monster's 95R and 1818 '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' to 1831's 'How is this? I must not be trifled with: and I demand an answer' (147J). As Mary noted, she and her husband talked about the novel -- doubtless more than once -- and the safest assumption may be that such changes, though separately made, sprang from a mutual sense of a dramatically appropriate character interaction.

15. The possibility of a draft intermediate (between the rough and fair copy) from which Shelley might have copied seems slight. See section II below, particularly pp. 61 and 66.

16. In 1818 Mary changed Shelley's 180R insertion of 'a just revenge' to 'a just retribution' (207J), which may gloss her understanding of Shelley's stipulated meaning of 'revenge' as distinct from 'vengeance'. Single word corrections in the Ms. are often difficult to assign definitively to either Mary or Shelley. Here, for instance, the 169R 'revenge' is lightly blotted so that only Shelley's characteristically well-tailed 'g' marks it as his, though Mary's abbreviated version of the same letter in the 172R 'revenge' is clear enough. I have probably assigned a few words to Shelley that will seem to other eyes Mary's but these are very few and at worst arguable either way.

17. Mary was at first apparently willing to rectify Shelley's solecism 'are' by adding 'who' but thought better of it and recast the sentence in the received version. There are other examples of strikeovers and false starts in the fair copy to indicate that the rough draft was its immediate source, though it is perhaps worth noting here that Shelley's correcting pen seems seldom at work in those parts of the fair copy which Mary transcribed ('and carried about' in 137F does not really correct 'bore about' in 175R, since Mary had simply left the verb out in transcription and Shelley, in a cursory proofreading, supplied one that fitted [203J]).

18. The Bodleian manuscripts of 'Mont Blanc' and The Triumph of Life are familiar examples of Shelley's script at its editor-defying worst, but even his prose manuscripts (e.g., choice parts of the 'On the Devil, and Devils') occasionally evidence his roughest hand. The point is -- and it is reaffirmed in fair copies he made of his own works -- that he could be and, in the final proof, cared to be scrupulous, according to his lights, about minutiae.

19. E.g., Mary wrote 'after this', which Shelley changed to 'after the arrival of Elizabeth's letter' (156R); for the change from 'that' to 'which' see 106R and 107R; for the subordinating 'that', see its insertion between 'I know' and 'you will' (156R) -- but such changes are legion in these pages, as are changes in mood and tense. Sometimes Mary balked, usually with good reason. In 181R Shelley changed Mary's not really indefinite 'gained on it' to 'gained on the object of my pursuit,' but Mary returned to her short but requisite pronoun in 1818, perhaps because she felt Shelley thought she meant the monster when, as her other 'it' references indicate, she meant the sledge (207J). Though generally willing to defer to Shelley's editorial judgement, Mary would occasionally exercise her stylistic good sense to rid her printed text of the more fatty rhetorical tissue Shelley at times would have padded it with.

20. A simple but characteristic example appears in 132R, where 'and in horror and despair extinguish' is recast as 'and extinguish in horror and despair' (174J).

21. See Appendix II and III.

22. See Appendix I.

23. The nature of these changes may be briefly indicated: 'that should dare invade it' (161R) to 'who should wish to enslave it' (111F, 193J), 'tingling in my feet' (164R) to 'tingling in the extremities of my limbs' (117F, 195J -- the euphemism removes an effective sentence balance Shelley had introduced here), 'deathly coldness of the body' (165R) to 'deathly languour of the limbs' (118F), finally conflated as 'the deadly languour and coldness of the limbs' (196J); 'lower' (168R) to 'lour' (123F -- which reverts to 'lower' in 197J); 'plain exhausted and far from success, and prayed for death' (173R) to 'plain and prayed for death' (133F, 201J -- the omission could be an oversight); 'I hoped soon to intercept him' (179R) to 'I hoped to intercept him before he should reach the beach' (144F, 206J).