View Full Version : Chris Grayling on Frankenstein

04-17-2018, 07:21 PM
I went along to a local library to watch Chris Grayling (quite famous academic) give a lecture on Frankenstein, the first 200 years. It turned out the lecture was being streamed from the British Library and projected onto a screen. I am not sure I could not have watched it at home on YouTube, but I suppose it saves me a bit of bandwidth on my bill. The lecture was schedule for 90 minutes, which had me worried, but actually it was very interesting. He even made his answers to some of the rubbish questions his audience asked him quite interesting. Anyway, some of the points I thought were interesting:

When it was first published it cost 16 shillings and 6 pence, which would be about 85 in today's money, so expensive.
Mary Shelley had difficulty finding a publisher. Eventually it was published by Lackington, who specialised on books on the occult.
There were only about 450 odd first edition books available to public (I wondered if Pip from Great Expectations was reading one when Magwich came up to meet him).
Mary and Percy Shelley were both vegetarians.
There have been suggestions that Percy Shelley did a lot of the writing. Chris Grayling said he'd examined the manuscripts and said Percy had done a 'blue pencil job' (whatever that means), that he'd corrected the grammar. About 4000+ words were his, but Grayling described it only as 'close editing'.
The book took a little while to take off, but by the late 1820's, there were about 15 stage versions in London and Paris.
Right from the first stage versions, the monster is changed from an over-talkative, sensitive soul to a dumb brute. An idiot assistant was introduced, and a lot more paraphernalia was added to the lab.
Mary Shelley wrote a second edition of Frankenstein in 1832. Certain parts of the original were abridged, and I think she added the galvanization aspects (electricity) for bring the creature to life.
Mary Shelley somehow knew the curriculum and what life was like for a student at Ingolstadt University.
According to Grayling, Sir Walter Scott recognised the book was a new genre for which there was no name to describe. Later it would be called Science Fiction.
Mary Shelly never made a lot of money out of the book. She sold the rights for the first edition for about 45, and the second edition for about 55.