Sunday, October 11, 2009

The co-authored Frankenstein

Thanks to Cinema Retro for the link:

Cinema Retro: The original 1818 edition of the novel Frankenstein was published anonymously. Five years later, its author - Mary Shelley- decided to put her name on all future editions of the work, capitalizing on the sensation it caused in the literary world. From the start, however, there were skeptics who doubted that an 18 year-old woman could have conceived such sinister goings-on. Shelley tinkered with future printings of the novel and never hid the fact that her husband Percy gave her advice and editorial assistance. The extent of his participation has long been debated among scholars. A new edition of the book from Random House will list Percy as a contributing writer, albeit in parentheses next to his wife's name. For the full, fascinating story click here

Ed here: I remember when certain academics insisted that Zelda Fitzgerald had helped to write some of husband Scott's work. Anybody who'd read Zelda's work--she was an accomplished writer--knew that any such collaboration was unlikely but the theory was pushed forth with great defiance until, I believe, it crashed back to earth. The Frankenstein case seems more logical but we'll see. Victoria Rosner's column makes its case perfectly.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Fitzgerald seemed to borrow heavily from Zelda's life, but not her words.
The writing style (if I remember and I have her novel upstairs but am too lazy to go look) was distinctly different.

Rick Ollerman said...

Based on the article, I'm not convinced by Dr. Robinson's opinion. If Percy Shelley contributed 5,000 (upper estimate) out of 72,000 words, and if much of this is doubling the length of three or four word phrases without changing their meaning, it sounds as though he did more polishing or editing than he did writing.

I would like to see an expert's opinion of what may possibly have motivated Percy to forego actual credit. As jealous as he apparently was of Byron, it seems more logical that he would have staked a claim as soon as the book proved itself a success. Also, if I'm not mistaken, he abandoned his only real attempt at a novel while Mary went on to write more of them.

I guess I'm just not seeing the justification for the revised credit.

Evan Lewis said...

Yikes. Revisionist authorship. Next they'll be giving credit to her entire critique group. Scary what this could mean for future editions of Shakespeare.

Ed Gorman said...

Patti's right. Fitzgerald used a good deal of Zelda's life. He put his life into his books. Everybody was fodder for his work. People who knew him would read his stories and novels and say Why that's so-and-so. apparently he didn't disguise his characters much.

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

Frankly, I become more than a little irritated when it's suggested a woman couldn't write a work and that a man has to be involved somehow. It's shades of the school that insists that the dissolute Branwell Bronte wrote all the Brontes' works (snort). It has also been suggested that Truman Capote wrote _To Kill a Mockingbird_ rather than his friend Harper Lee (double snort). In the latter case, it's far more likely he acted as an editor, which is also the more plausible role for Percy Shelley on _Frankenstein_.

Re Zelda: There's a new theory that the medication she was taking for eczema made her mentally unstable. Go to:

Anonymous said...

In response to Elizabeth Foxwell's comment: I've never heard those theories about Branwell being all the Brontes or Capote being responsible for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but I do know of the reports that Dick Francis's novels were largely the work of his late wife and that Queen Elizabeth I was Shakespeare. Biographies claim Hammett was a big influence on Hellman's early plays, but also that roles were reversed and she carried him when he did the screenplay for WATCH ON THE RHINE. So the revisionist allegations aren't necessarily gender exclusive. As a lover of whodunits, I am always fascinated by the question of who really wrote what. In most cases, we'll never know.
Jon Breen