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"A Forced Solitude": Mary Shelley and the Creation of Frankenstein's Monster

Marcia Tillotson

From The Female Gothic, ed. Julian E. Fleenor (Montreal: Eden, 1983), 167-75

{167} The story of how Mary Shelley came to write Frankenstein usually begins where she herself began it, in Switzerland, in the summer of 1816, when Lord Byron proposed to her, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori, "We will each write a ghost story." Shortly thereafter, Shelley had her "waking dream": "I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life."1

This dream may explain how Shelley got the idea for her novel and for its hero, Victor Frankenstein. It does not, however, explain how the monster became the novel's second protagonist. For the plot that the dream suggests requires that only Frankenstein be sympathetic yet awesome, admirable yet pitiful: in trying to benefit mankind, he created a monster. Frankenstein's tragedy was sufficiently horrifying to be the basis for a tale of terror, and Shelley knew that: "Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world" [introduction 10]. The second tragedy, the monster's, does not seem to have been part of Shelley's original idea; at least her dream gives no hint that the monster's situation would be as pitiable as the scientist's, and as important to the novel.2 The monster developed into a second hero because Shelley imagined his isolation and his resentment with special vividness.

It has often been been pointed out that Shelley shared with the monster a loneliness that began with life itself.3 If a child may see a parent's death as a deliberate desertion, then she had been abandoned by her mother at birth just {168} as the monster was abandoned by Frankenstein: thus, Shelley had Frankenstein do to the monster what she, on some unconscious level, may have felt Mary Wollstonecraft had done to her. But this similarity between Shelley's life and the monster's helps to explain only Frankenstein's desertion of his "baby" on the night he gave it life, not the monster's subsequent behavior or his ability to justify himself. In other words this similarity may help us understand why Shelley sympathized with the monster but not how she compelled her readers to do the same thing.

Why the novel has two protagonists, and why the monster is so unmonstrous, are questions that no one, from Shelley herself to Ellen Moers, has answered -- or even asked. Calling Frankenstein a "birth myth" and attributing much of the novel's originality and power to its author's experience of motherhood, Moers does not deal with the monster's qualities.4 Like Shelley's own comments on her novel, Moers' ideas help us to understand Frankenstein but not the monster. Moers' basic argument, however -- that women writers used Gothic mechanisms to express feeling and beliefs and even facts about their existence that they could communicate in no other way -- is as enlightening about the monster as it is about Frankenstein. For the experiences women drew on to create the Female Gothic were not all as profoundly affecting as childbirth. Less elemental experiences were still powerful or painful or terrifying enough to be transformed by a woman's imagination into Gothic fiction. From this more ordinary kind of Gothic source material -- social neglect and unkindness, and the consequent feelings of exclusion -- came the pitiable monster, the novel's second hero; at least, this is how I shall try to account for the monster and his ability to win our compassion. The question I cannot answer is whether Shelley was fully aware of what she was doing: did she deliberately use the monster's self-defense to protest against men's behavior toward women, or did she merely make the monster speak for her without knowing herself that the source of his rage was her own?

In any case, Shelley had been lonely all her life, but there is evidence that at the time she conceived of and began writing Frankenstein, she was subjected to a new and particularly painful isolation: she was excluded from the companionship of Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. A similar exclusion is, of course, the devastating experience that turns the monster into a murderer. For the monster was not innately evil, nor was he driven to crime by a vague and general loneliness. The agony that makes him kill is quite specifically the agony of a creature whose best hopes for himself and others cannot be realized or even communicated. This was how Shelley saw herself by the end of that summer in Geneva: her lover and his brilliant, fascinating friend ate, talked, drank, {169} and sailed together, but she could not join their conversations or share their amusements.

Although she was by no means ugly, her problem, like the monster's, was her appearance: her strong mind was housed in a woman's body. With interests and aspirations resembling those of the men with whom she associated, she was isolated from them by her sex. Her exclusion may not have been as violent or as absolute as the monster's but it was as real. Leslie A. Marchand understood her situation when he told how, in Pisa during the winter of 1821-22, she and Teresa Guiccioli would walk or ride out to meet Byron, Percy Shelley, and their male companions as they were returning from their daily pistol-shooting excursions: ". . . it was for Mary, strongly attracted by the intellect and charm of Byron, almost the only opportunity to associate in this man's world, for which by temperament and intellectual proclivities she was eminently fitted."5 Writing to Marianne Hunt from Pisa on 5 March 1822, Shelley complained about this exclusion: "Our good cavaliers flock together, and as they do not like fetching a walk with the absurd womankind, Jane [Mrs. Williams] and I are off together, and talk morality and pluck violets by the way."6 Marchand contrasts Shelley's exclusion in Pisa to the closer association with the two poets that she had enjoyed five and a half years earlier in Geneva. But the surviving information about how the two households passed their time during the summer when Frankenstein was begun indicates that she did not always share in the companionship of the two poets. Writing about that summer six years later, on 19 October 1822, three months after her husband's death, she attributed her onlooker's role to her own diffidence:

I have seen so little of Albé [the Shelleys' name for Byron] since our residence in Switzerland, and, having seen him there every day, his voice -- a peculiar one -- is engraved on my memory with other sounds and objects from which it can never disunite itself. . . . [S]ince incapacity and timidity always prevented my mingling in the nightly conversations of Diodati, they were, as it were, entirely tête-à-tête between my Shelley and Albé.7
The important fact is not that if she was too shy to intrude her ideas, the men did not ask her for them. The important fact is that even this silent participation in the men's conversations did not last long.

The two poets lived near each other on Lake Geneva for three months, from 25 May 1816, when Byron arrived (the Shelley party had been there since 13 May), to 29 August, when the Shelley party returned to England.8 With Percy Shelley were Mary, who was not yet his wife; Claire Clairmont, who was {170} already Byron's mistress; Percy's and Mary's infant son, William; and a nursemaid. Byron was traveling with Dr. John Polidori and three servants. Soon after the two groups met a routine of afternoon sails and evening conversations began, in which the two poets, the two women, and the doctor all took part. On 3 or 4 June the Shelley party moved across the lake to Montalegre, where they had rented a house. They still saw Byron daily, and on 10 June he moved into the Villa Diodati, a ten-minute walk away. Byron probably suggested the ghost stories on 15 or 16 June, for on the 17th Polidori recorded in his diary that everyone but he had started writing.

The first interruption in the closeness of the group came when they had spent nearly a month together: on 22 June the poets began a sailing trip around Lake Geneva, leaving the women and Polidori behind. After their return on 1 July, the intimacy that all five had shared began to disintegrate. Polidori's foolish vanity had begun to annoy the poets even before their trip together, and when he sprained his ankle, they were both glad to go off without him. Then Madame de Stael, whom Byron had met in England in 1813, arrived at her house across the lake from Diodati, and early in July he began visiting her. Although he occasionally took Polidori there, Byron never brought any member of the Shelley party along. Finally, Clairmont began to be a problem. Byron let her copy the poetry he had been working on since the trip around the lake, but in mid-July he decided he could no longer tolerate her presence, so he got his fellow poet to keep her away from Diodati. Within a few days of this break, Percy, Mary, and Claire went on a tour of Chamonix. They were gone from 21 to 27 July. True, they stopped at Diodati the night they returned, and spent three hours with Byron before going home to see their baby. But the temporary separation did not bring Byron and Clairmont back together. By August her pregnancy as well as her personality were causing more difficulties; Byron agreed to support the child but became more and more determined to have nothing to do with its mother.

But whatever happened to the others, Mary Shelley's closeness to the two poets diminished as the summer of 1816 progressed. Her journal indicates that after 20 July she was no longer included in their sails on the lake, which they took almost daily and often twice a day. After 14 August, when "Monk" Lewis arrived to visit Byron, she never again went to Diodati, although her lover continued to go there most evenings. When Lewis was followed by John Cam Hobhouse and Scrope Davies on 26 August, Percy Shelley passed that evening at Diodati, and he dined, sailed, and talked with Byron and his friends the following day. In the two weeks between Lewis' arrival and the Shelley party's departure on 29 August, Byron occasionally spent an hour or so at Montalegre but he did not bring his guests along, and Mary Shelley never met them. {171} Clairmont went to Diodati three times during this period, but only to copy Byron's poetry and not to participate in supper parties and conversations. Once Hobhouse and Davies were there, she did not go to Diodati at all. The company at Byron's house had become exclusively masculine.

Thus, as far as Mary Shelley was concerned, the last part of the summer at Geneva was very much like the winter at Pisa; she was cut off from the society "for which by temperament and intellectual proclivities she was eminently fitted." The first month or so in Switzerland, when she was included in the poets' pastimes, far from making up for the subsequent neglect, would only make her feel it more. Furthermore, Ernest J. Lovell, Jr., argues persuasively that she was seriously attracted to and fascinated by Byron, but was unconscious of the nature of her interest in him.9 Uncomplicated by guilt, her pain at being excluded from his company would be all the stronger. Byron's dislike of dining with women, his disgust with Clairmont, and his desire to entertain his friends without introducing them to any embarrassingly free females left Shelley more and more out of things. She must have suffered from her isolation -- or, more accurately, from her relegation to the company of Clairmont, whom Shelley called "the bane of my life since I was three years old."10 Looking back nearly fifteen years later, when both her husband and Byron were dead, Shelley said that the period in Geneva had been the happiest in her life, and Lovell suggests that this was because Clairmont's infatuation with Byron had at last removed her from rivalry for Percy Shelley's attentions.11 After the first month Byron's presence often meant not that Mary Shelley had her lover to herself but that she had Clairmont.

In order to see how likely it is that the monster's pain and anger express what Shelley went through during the last part of that summer on Lake Geneva, we must remember that she only began the novel in Switzerland. The longest sustained bout of writing took place later, back in England. Her journal shows that she wrote nearly every day from 18 October to 13 December 1816, that she worked irregularly in January and March 1817, and that she corrected and copied her finished manuscript between 10 April and 13 May. She had plenty of time to come to terms with her feelings of exclusion, to comprehend them and give them shape, so that she could draw on them to create first the motivation for the monster's violence and then the arguments with which he justifies himself and wins our compassion. Furthermore, from 6 to 9 December, while she was working daily on Frankenstein, she recorded in her journal that she was reading her mother's Vindication of the Rights of Women. The monster's assertion that his impulses were benevolent until Frankenstein's desertion and other people's cruelty drove him to crime resembles Wollstonecraft's {172} argument that women's education turns potentially virtuous, sensible, and loving creatures into vain, foolish, selfish ones.

To see the similarity between the loneliness and frustration to which an intelligent, educated, serious-minded woman is subjected on account of her sex, we need only remember that both suffer because of the disparity between the nature of their minds and forms of their bodies. The monster regrets having the germs of an intelligence, for his "sorrow only increased with knowledge." He says, "I wished sometimes to shake off all thought and feelings; but I learned that there was but one means to overcome the sensation of pain, and that was death . . . ." [2.5.6]. The monster insists that he suffers because he has the capacities to think and feel, but cannot use them. He curses the creator who "had endowed me with perceptions and passions, and then cast me abroad an object for the scorn and horror of mankind" [2.8.5]. Having failed to win companionship by helping people, by learning their language, by asking for their understanding and good will, he turns to his creator. The monster explains that inside he is just like the people who despise him, with the same desires, the same affections: he sympathized with the cottagers he had watched and listened to, and he identified with the feelings in the books he had heard them read. But after developing all these ideas and emotions, he learned that there was no context in which he could express them. The world has no more use for a loving monster than it has for a thinking woman. So the monster asks Frankenstein to make him a mate, justifying this request by saying, "My vices are the children of a forced solitude that I abhor; and my virtues will necessarily arise when I live in communion with an equal" [2.9.4].

Percy Shelley had offered Mary "communion with an equal" when she ran off with him in the summer of 1814.12 She expected her lover to treat her as a companion and not just a mistress. Whatever William Godwin's deficiences as a father were, he had brought her up to read and think; she used his library, went with him to lectures and the theater, and met the literary men who came to the house. Certain facts about her education are disputed: some writers see her as neglected by her father, others as indulged by him.13 But one fact emerges clearly: a great part of her childhood misery was caused by her claiming for herself the intellectual stimulation that the men around her took for granted.

Godwin's second wife, however, expected all the girls of the household, including Wollstonecraft's daughter, to sew and cook and clean, not to talk or read or write. There is a story that the girls hid behind a chair one night to hear Coleridge read "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"; Mrs. Godwin discovered them and would have sent them to bed if Coleridge had not pleaded for them. If this apocryphal story is not true -- it appears without any source in most {173} lives of Mary Shelley 14 -- it seems to have been invented to illustrate the conflict about Shelley's education, Mrs. Godwin believing that daughters should be trained to be wives and mothers, Godwin and his friends, admirers of Wollstonecraft, believing that if daughters were not to be brought up like sons -- sent away to school and prepared for professional careers -- they should at least be allowed to exercise their understanding and expand their imagination.

Because of the influences of her father and her dead mother, Shelley did not accept the intellectual separation between women and men that was the rule in her society. She had always resisted domestic tasks while growing up, and she naturally expected more from her relation with her lover than to keep his house and bear his babies. In the summer of 1816, when Byron was around, she suddenly found herself treated like other women, as an inferior. By the end of August she was not even a silent auditor of the poets' conversations. She came closest to being with the two of them on 24 August, when she wrote in her journal: "Write. Shelley goes to Geneva. Read. Lord Byron and Shelley sit on the wall before dinner; after, I talk with Shelley, and then Lord Byron comes down and spends an hour here. Shelley and he go up [to Diodati] together." This laconic description lets us see not only the two men talking to each other outdoors but also the woman watching them hungrily, unable to hear what they are saying.

For a while that summer there had been none of the customary segregation of the sexes. The women were included in the men's talk about art and politics, science and religion. True, Byron seemed to have taken such segregation for granted when he first met the Shelley party in Geneva: after Clairmont introduced both of her traveling companions to Byron, he invited only Percy Shelley to dine with him and Polidori that night. However, the next day both women began to be included in the daily breakfasts and sailing parties, and the pattern of sexual segregation seemed to be broken. Clairmont knew how universal that pattern was, writing to Byron while on her way to Switzerland "that she had ten times rather be his male friend than his mistress." It was obvious to her that a male friend would enjoy an intellectual intimacy that a mistress, admitted only to physical intimacy, would never know. Polidori is a good example of the difference sex made. He was automatically included in that first dinner party with Percy Shelley although Byron already thought him a fool by the time they got to Geneva. At the end of August, without having improved in anyone's opinion, Polidori was still taking part in the gatherings at Diodati from which the women were excluded.15

We cannot know for certain that Shelley used the monster to express her own pain and resentment. But when a literary character is, against all expectations, as sympathetic and "real" as this monster, we recognize that the author {174} was doing more than mechanically constructing a figure to meet the needs of her plot. The monster's terrifying solitude and frustrated rage, which make him the novel's second protagonist and Mary Shelley's most original and fascinating invention, must have had their source in her own strongest emotions. After all, she made his arguments so convincing that Percy Shelley found "the direct moral of the book" in the monster's defense of himself:

Nor are the crimes and malevolence of the single Being, though indeed withering and tremendous, the offspring of any unaccountable propensity to evil, but flow irresistibly from certain causes fully adequate to their production. They are the children, as it were, of Necessity and Human Nature. In this the direct moral of the book consists.16
Percy did more than accept the monster's ideas. Although Mary Shelley based the character of Frankenstein on Percy, the poet identified not with the scientist but with the monster. Applying the moral he had found, "Treat a person ill and he will become wicked," Percy came to this conclusion:
It is thus that too often in society those who are best qualified to be its benefactors and its ornaments are branded by some accident with scorn, and changed by neglect and solitude of heart into a scourge and a curse.17
While the monster cannot really be described as "best qualified" to benefit society, that is indeed how Percy Shelley saw himself.18 That he found the impulse to identify with the monster so powerful is a sign of Mary Shelley's success in creating him.

If Shelley tried to make her novel a complaint to her husband about her treatment in Geneva, she failed when he saw himself as the victim rather than as the victimizer. In another way, however, she succeeded in using her novel to oppose the intellectual isolation of women. Except for Polidori, the others who were present when Byron made his suggestion put their ghost stories aside almost as soon as they began them. Shelley, unlike Clairmont, wanting to be a writer and not just the mistress or wife or daughter of a writer, went ahead to complete her novel, imitating her mother as well as her father and husband.19 Frankenstein should not be seen as an aberration -- the grotesque product of the morbid imagination of a woman not yet twenty -- but as the first achievement of a professional writer. The publication, the good reviews, and the general success of Frankenstein gave her something she wanted, something her {175} husband never achieved in his lifetime. The daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin was only doing the natural thing when she wrote her tale. It was just as natural for her to continue writing: she wrote a travel book, two dramas, a long story, and a second novel before her husband's death, and as a widow she supported herself and her son by her writing. She never produced anything else as good or successful as Frankenstein, but she achieved a small amount of independence in what was, for her as it had been for her mother, the only profession open to women besides governess or schoolmistress.

Naturally diffident, serious, quiet, she was called cold by her husband, and she has since been called cold by modern students of her works and his.20 She denied the charge: "A cold heart! Have I a cold heart? God knows! But none need envy the icy region this heart encircles; and at least the tears are hot which the emotions of this cold heart force me to shed." But the best refutation is in her first novel and its monster. That monster is finally a collection of ideas. He owes his origin at least as much to books as he does to the experiences Shelley shared with him -- the loss of a mother and the experience of motherhood.21 But the monster comes from nowhere but her own imagination. As an abstract conception, he may be related to Adam or Lucifer or the Noble Savage, but when he begins to move and speak, the compelling logic of his demand for understanding and pity proves that he expressed something that Shelley herself felt deeply. And what else could that be if it was not her experience of a similarly unjust, painful, and unremitting isolation?


1. Mary W. Shelley, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, ed. K. Joseph, Oxford English Novels (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1971), Introduction, p. 9. All subsequent quotes are from this text.

2. Not until she wrote the introduction to her tale for its second edition, published in 1831, did Mary Shelley tell how the idea came to her after she had stayed up late listening to the two men, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron, talking about galvanism. In The Mutiny Within (New York: Braziller, 1967), James Rieger questions her story of the dream, arguing on the basis of an entry in Polidori's diary that she overheard him and not Byron discuss galvanism with Percy Shelley (pp. 243-44). If Shelley did indeed invent her dream, then we are more justified than ever in looking elsewhere for the origin of the novel. Rieger does just that, but he finds his answer not in Mary Shelley's mind but in Percy's: "His assistance at every point in the book's manufacture was so extensive that one hardly knows whether to regard him as editor or minor collaborator" (Introduction, Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley [Indianapolis: Bobbs, Merrill, 1974], p. xviii). Once again, a man is given credit for a woman's achievement.

3. It has long been a critical commonplace to see the monster, Frankenstein, and Walton as expressions of Shelley's lifelong loneliness. See, for example, M.G. Lund, "Mary Godwin Shelley and the Monster," University of Kansas City Review, 28 (1962), 253-58; Elizabeth Nitchie, Mary Shelley: Author of "Frankenstein" (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1953), pp. 13-21; and Sylvia Norman, "Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley," Shelley and His Circle, 1773-1822, ed. Kenneth Neill Cameron, III (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1970), 399.

4. Ellen Moers, Literary Women (New York: Anchor Books, 1977), pp. 141-51.

5. Leslie A. Marchand, Byron: A Biography (New York: Knopf, 1957), III, 947-48.

6. Mary Shelley, Letters of Mary Shelley, ed. Frederick L. Jones (Norman, Oklahoma: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1944), I, 158; the italics are Shelley's.

7. Mary Shelley, Mary Shelley's Journal ed. Frederick L. Jones (Norman, Oklahoma: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1947), p. 184.

8. My sources for the events of the summer of 1816 are Marchand, II, 620-36, 643-46; Richard Holmes, Shelley: The Pursuit (New York: Dutton, {299} 1975), pp. 319-46; Newman Ivey White, Shelley (New York: Knopf, 1940), I, 438-64; John Buxton, Byron and Shelley: The History of a Friendship (London: Macmillan, 1968); and Mary Shelley, Journal, pp. 50-61. Her journal for the period 14 May 1815 to 20 July 1816 is missing. Polidori also kept a diary, but he made only sketchy entries from 25 May to 2 July 1816, and then wrote nothing at all until 5 September (The Diary of John William Polidori, ed. William Michael Rossetti [London: Elkin Mathews, 1911] ). Clairmont's journal for this period has not survived. Thus, there is no daily record of the first two months of the Geneva summer, and the letters of the two Shelleys and Byron from that period are not very numerous or very helpful.

9. Ernest J. Lovell, Jr., "Byron and Mary Shelley," Keats-Shelley Journal, 2 (1953), 35-49.

10. W.E. Peck, Shelley: His Life and Work (Boston: Houghton, 1927), I, 401, quoting Mrs. Julian Marshal, The Life and Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1889), II, 312. Clairmont had come along when Mary and Percy ran off to France in July 1814, and continued to live with them until 13 May 1815, when they found a place for her away from them. She was, however, back with them early in 1816 (White, I, 383-85,402-4, 434).

11.. Lovell, pp. 38-39.

12. Percy's letter to Mary of 28 October 1814 shows how he talked to her about their relationship: "Your thoughts alone can waken mine to energy. My mind without yours is dead and cold as the dark midnight river when the moon is down. . . . How divinely sweet a task it is to imitate each others excellencies -- and each moment to become wiser in this surpassing love. . . ." (Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Frederick L. Jones [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964], I 414). He justified his betrayal of his first wife by saying that she could not give him such companionship. On 5 October 1814 he wrote to Harriet Shelley: "I shall watch over your interests, mark the progress of your future life, be useful to you, be your protector, and consider myself as it were your parent; but as friends, as equals those who do not sympathize can never meet" (Shelley, Letters, I, 404).

13. Those who see Godwin as paying a great deal of attention to his daughter's education include Holmes (Shelley, p. 170) and Muriel Spark (Child of Light [Hadleigh, Essex: Tower Bridge, 1951], p. 17). Those who take the opposite view include Rieger (Introduction, Frankenstein, p. xiii) and Richard Church (Mary Shelley [New York: Viking,-1928], p. 32).

14. Nitchie, p. 29; Spark, p. 17; Church, p. 28. R. Glynn Grylls tells the story but calls it a legend in Mary Shelley: A Biography (1938; rpt., New York: Haskell, 1969), p- 17.

15. Holmes, pp. 325, 372, 324-344 passim; Marchand, II, pp. 619-51 passim.

16. Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Review of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," Shelley's Prose, or The Trumpet of a Prophecy, ed. David Lee Clark (Albuquerque, N.M.: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1954), p. 307. Apparently this review was never published in Percy's lifetime.

17. "Review of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," pp. 307-08.

18. Holmes makes this point about Percy's view of Frankenstein, attributing "extraordinary premonition" to Mary because she exploited the theme of exile that would be so important in her husband's poetry several years later (pp. 333-34). Knowing that in Italy the poet saw himself as a social outcast because of his beliefs, Holmes does not recognize that in Switzerland Mary Shelley was an outcast because of her sex.

19. Byron published the fragment of his vampire story with Mazeppa in 1819. Polidori completed not only his own tale, Ernestus Berchtold, which he published in 1819, but also Byron's; Polidori's version of The Vampyre was published as the poet's in April 1819. Nothing is known about Percy Shelley's and Clairmont's attempts. In her introduction to the second edition of her tale Mary talked about how she had always thought of being an author: "It is not singular that, as the daughter of two persons of distinguished literary celebrity, I should very early in life have thought of writing. As a child I scribbled; and my favourite pastime, during the hours given me for recreation, was to 'write stories' "(Frankenstein, p. 5).

20. See Percy Shelley's description of his wife in Epipsychidion, 277-307. Among modern writers, Spark (pp. 120-21) and Moers (pp. 143-44) talk about Shelley's coldness, and Rieger says that "Shelley's spiritual dalliances slowly embittered his wife and froze a temperament that had always been cool" (Introduction, Frankenstein, p. xv). As Doris Langley Moore shows in Lord Byron: Accounts Rendered (London: Murray, 1974), pp. 487-95, Percy's dalliances were not always just spiritual, and Mary had a difficult life both with and without him.

21. The most stimulating and enlightening recent studies of the novel concentrate on the similarities between Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, and especially on the fact that both were mothers. See Moers, pp. 141-51, and Robert Kiely, The Romantic Novel in England (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1972), pp. 155-73.