Frankenstein Synopsis & Publication Info.


Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus is the most famous novel by Mary Shelley, wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. It has been done considerable damage thanks to its innovation and its author�s audacity in confronting issues of such a controversial nature as artificially creating life in the early nineteenth century. The novel was immediately enormously successful, spawning a stage production that made Frankenstein�s creation - the so-called "monster" - mute for the first but not only time. The novel was published initially in 1818 although later versions exist in which the author succumbed to pressures to tone down certain elements. This is the more polished 1831 edition, which is the most common edition of the text. The original is a masterpiece of Gothic literature however. It is narrated by an explorer, Walton, who writes the story in letters home. However, the bulk of the story is told by Victor Frankenstein who narrates his own creation of a man from bones he has stolen and with the power of electricity. In the center of the concentric circles of narrative is the creature himself, by far the most sympathetic of the narrators, who is forced by an unsympathetic world to acts of violence and cruelty and finally the murder of Frankenstein�s wife when the "father" refuses to create a companion for the creature. The novel�s settings of Swiss mountains and Arctic desolation are perfect for Mary Shelley�s tale that was originally conceived abroad in the wet summer of 1816 with Byron and her husband in a night telling ghost stories. None of the narrators are wholly to be trusted or liked, but each learns from the others and their mental torment is mimicked in the "sublime" or rugged and vast landscapes Shelley describes so vividly. Film adaptations and bowdlerized versions have reduced Frankenstein�s creation to a ludicrous monster and in a sense the world has reacted to the creature in precisely the way the author predicted. We look away in horror.


Publication Information:

See also introductory material to the Longman Frankenstein or Stuart Curran's extensive Website here: (

Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones) is published in three volumes in 1818. Both PBS's publisher, Charles Ollier, and Byron's publisher, John Murray, had declined to publish the novel.

"Lackington & Co.'s handwritten account of expenses for printing and publishing Frankenstein in January 1818 indicates that of the 500 copies printed, 459 (41 were given gratis to the author [6 copies], reviewers [16], copyright libraries [11], and booksellers who bought more than 25 copies [8]) were sold at 10/6 (ten shillings and six pence) per three-volume set. After deducting printing expenses, Mary Shelley's share was one-third of the profits, which came to �41.13.10 (forty-one pounds, thirteen shillings, and ten pence). Forty-one pounds is not a large amount of money, but the distribution of money on the basis of the retail cost of the book compares quite favorably with modern-day contracts between authors and publishers." (from Curran's site)

July 1821, the first translation of Frankenstein is published in France: Frankenstein; ou le Prom�th�e Moderne (Paris: Corr�ard), translated by Jules Saladin.

July 28, 1823, Presumption; or The Fate of Frankenstein, a play by Richard Brinsley Peake, opens at the English Opera House for a run of 37 performances. MWS sees a production on 28 August.

August 11, 1823, a second edition of Frankenstein (London: G. and W. B. Whittaker) is published in two volumes. The text is probably corrected by William Godwin, and the title page names "Mary W. Shelley" as the author. 

August 18, 1823, Frankenstein; or, the Demon of Switzerland, a play by Henry M. Milner, opens at the Royal Coberg Theatre for a run of eight performances. 

September 1, 1823, Humgumption; or, Dr. Frankenstein and the Hobgoblin of Hoxton, opens at the Royal Coburg Theatre for a run of six performances.  Presumption and the Blue Demon opens at the Davis's Royal Amphitheater for a run of two performances. 

October 20, 1823, Another Piece of Presumption, by Richard Brinsley Peake, opens at the Adelphi Theatre for a run of nine performances.

December 13, 1824, Frank-in-Steam; or, The Modern Promise to Pay opens at the Olympic Theatre for a run of four performances.

June 10, 1826, Le Monstre et le magicien, by Jean Toussaint Merle and Antoine Nicolas Beraud, opens in Paris at the Th��tre de la Porte Saint-Martin for a run of 96 performances. A translation by James Kerr opens at the New Royal West London Theatre on 9 October for an estimated run of four performances. 

July 3, 1826, The Man and The Monster; or The Fate of Frankenstein, by Henry M. Milner, opens at the Royal Coberg Theatre for a run of eight performances.

October 31, 1831, the 1831 edition of Frankenstein (London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley) is published as part of Bentley's Standard Novels. the title page names "Mary W. Shelley" as the author. This one-volume version includes several revisions, although she claims, in a new Introduction, that they are "confined to such parts as are mere adjuncts to the story, leaving the core and substance of it untouched." 

For further information on dates, see our TechnoRomantic Timeline (Google Docs)