#71 = Volume 24, Part 1 = March 1997
Frankenstein’s "Conversion" from Natural
Magic to Modern Science—and a Shifted (and
Converted) Last Draft Insert
Over the past four years I have been much occupied by, and
become increasingly familiar with, the Frankenstein manuscripts in Oxford’s
Bodleian Library. These manuscripts, part of "The Abinger Deposit" of
Shelley and Godwin papers, consist of most of the Last Draft and most of the
concluding fifth of the Fair Copy of that draft. In 1992 and 1993 I made what I
believe to be the first complete transcriptions of the extant Last Draft and
Fair Copy. Shortly thereafter, I collated my transcriptions with each other and
with the first published text of Frankenstein, the 1818 edition.1
My collation work led to the publication of "The Corrected Frankenstein:
Twelve Preferred Readings in the Last Draft" (which also describes a few
errors traceable to the Last Draft).2 In order to make available a
detailed description of the manuscripts and to give an account of what I learned
from them (aside from the preferred readings and the matter, previously
discussed by E.B. Murray and others, of Percy Shelley’s contribution to Mary
Shelley’s novel), I wrote an article of some length entitled "(De)Composing
Frankenstein: The Import of Altered Character Names in the Last
Draft" which appeared in 1996.3 In that second article I
speculate about, but pass rather hurriedly over, the two portions of the
manuscript (and the corresponding portions of the published novel) which relate
particularly to Frankenstein’s claim to be a work of sf, possibly the
first genuine such.4 These portions of the Last Draft are especially
illuminating and call for the rather more detailed attention that I shall give
1. In Chapter I of the published novel,
Frankenstein gives an account of the first stage of the "conversion"
from his enthusiasm for ancient occult philosophers to modern science, a
"conversion" which hinges upon his experience of seeing an oak tree
destroyed by lightning when he was fifteen years old. I have placed the word
"conversion" within qualifying quotation marks for reasons that will
become increasingly apparent as this analysis proceeds. For the moment, it is
sufficient to know that, in the Last Draft, this first phase of Frankenstein’s
exposure to modern science exists in the form of an unpaginated insert (which
corresponds approximately to what is in the published Chapter 1 of Volume One5
but minus the paragraph about the lightning blasted tree and the first clause of
the following sentence [Rieger 32.15-36.19/1.1:51-59 minus Rieger 35.3-16
["When I was ... astonishment;"]) on a conjunct bifolium and a single
leaf of white paper of British manufacture, the leaf dimensions of which are
rather larger than the light blue leaves of Continental manufacture on which
approximately the first half of the Last Draft is written. When Mary Shelley
wrote that half (ending with what corresponds to Chapter VI of Volume Two of the
1818 edition) the light blue leaves (now for the most part separated bifolia)
were part of a bound notebook as were the now disbound white British leaves on
which the surviving second half of the Frankenstein Last Draft was
written. After the Last Draft was completed, the leaves of both notebooks were
separated and the hardboard covers are no longer extant. The insert, which is
written on British paper different from the British notebook paper, is headed
"Chapt. 2" in the same insert ink.6
The surviving Last Draft begins on page 41, in the midst of
what must have been originally styled "Chapter 1" or "Chapter
2." This ambiguity derives from the fact that the next chapter is
designated "Chapter [2 cancelled]3" (page 47 of Volume I of the
Last Draft) and the one after that simply "Chap. 4" (Vol. I, p. 55).7
Last Draft chapters "[2 cancelled]3" and "4"
correspond to Chapter II of Volume One of the 1818 edition; the preceding
manuscript fragment corresponds to most of the last two-thirds of Chapter I of
the 1818 Volume One. Last Draft "Chap. 4" and the corresponding
portion of the 1818 Volume One, Chapter II (["The next morning"]
Rieger 40.18 to the end of the chapter), comprise the second portion of the
novel dealing with Frankenstein’s "conversion" to modern science—his
experience at the University of Ingolstadt with professors Krempe and Waldman.
The missing first 40 pages of the Last Draft must, in some way, have
corresponded to the apparently somewhat shorter corresponding pages of the 1818
text (approximately 18 pages in the Rieger edition as opposed to the
approximately 21 Rieger pages which correspond to the next 40 Last Draft pages—i.e.,
up to and including page 72, and counting the larger insert pages as equivalent
to eight of the Continental pages): Walton’s opening frame letters and the
first third of Chapter I. If we assume a now lost Last Draft version of the
opening Walton frame preceding "Chapter 1" as in the 1818 edition,8
there are two ways to account for "Chapter [2 cancelled]3" and
both involve the insert. Either the insert was first conceived as a new chapter
immediately preceding the original lengthy "Chapter 2," or the
original "Chapter 1" was divided into two separate chapters when, as I
shall demonstrate, Mary Shelley decided the insert belonged in that chapter (the
"Chapt. 2" heading now marking the break). After the new "Chapter
3," she numbered the next four chapters in sequence—although not, in the
case of chapters 4 and 6, at the time those chapters were written. (Two chapter
7s follow; she did not correct the second to "8" presumably because
she decided, as she ultimately did with the preceding Last Draft chapters 3 and
4, that they might better be combined as one chapter.)
It is necessary to be as clear as possible about all of this
because of a rather enigmatic entry in Mary Shelley’s journal for 27 October
1816: "Write Ch. [3 cancelled]2½" (Journals I: 142;
noted under "Words Obscuring Recovered Matter," II: 700,9
and confirmed by my examination of the actual journal in the Bodleian Library).
This is a reference to the writing of the Last Draft of Frankenstein but
what exactly does it mean? Does it mean she wrote "Ch. [3 cancelled]2"
and half the next one? Or is it a reference to just the next half chapter? Or
should it be understood as a reference to the insert material headed "Chapt.
2" (actually half a chapter in the sense that it became part of a chapter)?
In "(De)Composing Frankenstein" I opted for either the second
or the third of these possibilities. As it happens, the insert and the possible
half chapter—which I supposed (mistakenly, I now believe) to be "Chap.
4" (a heading added at some point after the chapter was written; Vol. I, p.
55), the Last Draft material corresponding to the last half of the 1818 Chapter
II (Rieger 40.18/1.2:69 ["The next morning"] to the end of the
chapter)—are the two portions of the Last Draft concerned with Frankenstein’s
"conversion" to modern science. This fits with the fact that the
"Ch. [3 cancelled]2½" journal entry is immediately followed on
28, 29, and 30 October, and on 2 and 4 November by references to Mary Shelley’s
reading Sir Humphry Davy’s "Chemistry" (Journals I:142-44).
This reading was undertaken with relation to her writing at the time.
What needs to be accounted for here, and what I may have
incorrectly accounted for in "(De)Composing Frankenstein," is
the relationship between Mary Shelley’s chapter designation "[2 cancelled]3
and her journal reference to writing "Ch. [3 cancelled]2½." In
"(De)Composing Frankenstein", with misplaced confidence, I
claimed that "the fact that the same numbers are involved makes it a
well-nigh certainty that the confused ‘Ch. [3 cancelled]2½’ refers
to ‘Chapter [2 cancelled]3’ plus its originally
non-chapter-designated continuation" (245). This was part of an argument
for preferring the "Chap. 4" identification to the insert
Pursuing a line of argument that did not occur to me when I
wrote (and some six times revised) "(De)Composing Frankenstein,"
I am now convinced that the "Ch. [3 cancelled]2½" reference is
to the insert, and I now favor the likelihood that the cancelled "3"
and the replacement "2" refer to two different chapters and to the
momentary confusion in Mary Shelley’s mind of those chapters. What the
original journal entry—"Write Ch. 3½"—meant was that Mary Shelley
had written an addition to Chapter 3. The revised journal entry— "Write
Ch. 2½"—is to the same addition but it is now an addition to the
But it seems that the insert was originally to be a new "Chapt.
2" immediately preceding the original "Chapter 2," the chapter
that was subsequently renumbered "Chapter 3" and that corresponds to
Chapter II of the 1818 Volume One. The opening sentence of "Ch. [2 cancelled]3"
and of the corresponding 1818 chapter—"When I had attained the age of
seventeen my [father cancelled] [parents inserted by PBS, i.e., Percy
Bysshe Shelley] resolved that I should [go to cancelled] [become a
student at inserted by PBS] the university of Ingolstadt" (Vol. I,
p. 47; cf. Rieger 37.9-10/1.2:61))—follows (as the original placement
of the insert intended) directly on the insert "chapter" (which, with
revisions, corresponds approximately to Rieger 32.15-35.2/1.1:51-56
("Natural philosophy...place in my mind.") and 35.18-36.19/1.1:57-59
("He replied... various literature"), the gap being the blasted oak
tree business). The reference to "the age of seventeen" towards the
end of the published version of the insert (Rieger 36.17/1.1:59)—corresponding
to Percy Shelley’s substitution "age of," with the age unspecified
(for Mary Shelley’s "that time"), in the manuscript insert (folio 3
verso)—dovetails with "the age of seventeen" reference quoted above
at the beginning of the next chapter. Mary Shelley headed the insert "Chapt.
2" (at the time of writing) because it was to figure as a new "Chapter
2" or, on second thoughts perhaps, as a new opening section of the original
"Chapter 2." But when she wrote "Write Ch. 3½" in her
journal she had realized that that "Chapter 2" should actually be
"Chapter 3." Later, she decided that it was more appropriate to shift
the insert back into the preceding chapter and. perhaps later again, to divide
it into two segments in place of deleted material on either side of the
description of the blasted tree incident which then becomes a dramatic fulcrum.
As a consequence of that realization and decision, she corrected her journal
entry to read "Write Ch. [3 can-elled]2½." Thus can all the
available, initially very confusing, data be accounted for. According to the
scenario here outlined, "Chap. 4" of Last Draft Volume I was most
probably written very shortly after the insert material (rather than
shortly before) on one or more of the days that she was boning up on Sir Humphry
Davy’s work. However, it should be emphasized that when Mary Shelley wrote the
"Ch. 2½" insert she was able to anticipate what would transpire in
what became "Chap. 4" partly because the Last Draft is something like
a rough copy of a previous draft that no longer exists. But that rough draft
version of what became the Last Draft "Chap. 4’ would have been
consistent with a version of Frankenstein’s early exposure to science that the
insert significantly alters.
The following chronology is intended to clarify the crowded
sequence of Mary Shelley decisions here reconstructed:
(1) 26 October 1816: Mary Shelley finishes, or almost
finishes, the original "Chapter 2" (the first half of the 1818 Chapter
II) and is contemplating her rewrite of the chapter dealing with Frankenstein’s
exposure to the science taught by professors Krempe and Waldman at the
University of Ingolstadt when she realizes that she has not provided sufficient
background for what is now to be a "conversion" experience.
(2) 27 October 1816: about to place Frankenstein in the
"chaise" (Vol I, p. 53; Rieger 39.32/1.1:67) that is to convey him to
Ingolstadt,10 or having already put him there, Mary Shelley deletes
material on either side of the blasted tree paragraph in "Chapter 1"
and, with some reference to the deleted material, writes the "Chapt.
2" insert (intended as a complete chapter to follow "Chapter 1").
Consequently, the "Chapter 2" completed the previous day will be
renumbered "Chapter 3." But almost immediately Mary Shelley considers
combining her new "Chapt. 2" and her new "Chapter 3." The
new "Chapt. 2" would become the opening section of "Chapter
3"—hence the confused journal entry "Write Ch. 3½."
(Alternatively, "Chapt. 2" was originally written as a new opening
section to "Chapter 2" which, for whatever reason, was the same day
changed to "Chapter 3.")
(3) By 28 October 1816 (see note 9 below), the decision to
move the insert into "Chapter 1" is made. "Chapter 1" will
be split into chapters 1 and 2 (unless, as speculated in note 8 below,
"Chapter 1" was actually a first "Chapter 2" and the Walton
letters constituted "Chapter 1"). The journal entry is corrected to
"Write Ch. 2½."
(4) 28 October-4 November 1816: Mary Shelley writes
what will become "Chap. 4" but she does not initially number the
chapter because she is considering
(maybe since 27 October) moving the insert back into
"Chapter 1" and turning "Chapter 1" into two chapters.
Consequently, she cannot be sure what the number of the chapter she is writing
(5) By 5 November 1816 "Chap. 5" (Vol. I, p. 61),
the first half of the 1818 Chapter III (up to Rieger 48.18/1.3:87 ["nature
will allow."]) is begun and so numbered at the time of writing and the
previous chapter is numbered "Chap.4."
(6) On some unknown subsequent date—perhaps near the
beginning of the Fair Copy stage (18 April-13 May 1817)—the insert is revised
to fit its new split location.
(7) Finally, perhaps around 24 September 1817, a new
transitional paragraph introducing the insert (see pages 14-15 below) is
written. This was necessary since the beginning of the insert no longer marks
the point at which "Chapter 1" was to be divided into two chapters.
For sf scholarship, the journal entry for 27 October 1816 now
assumes extraordinary importance. If, as Brian Aldiss famously argues, Frankenstein
is the first genuine work of sf, then 27 October 1816 is the birth date of sf.
The insert marks the transition from the gothic novel to sf; it decisively tips
2. An understanding of the relationship
between science and magic, or science and alchemy/the supernatural, in Frankenstein
depends upon a close scrutiny of the manuscript variants to be found in the two
relevant portions of the Last Draft and any variants in the corresponding
portions of the three editions of Frankenstein (the 1818, the 1823, and
the 1831) as well as the marginalia variants to be found in the copy of the 1818
edition that Mary Shelley gave to her friend Mrs. Thomas in 1823 (variants
recorded in Rieger’s and Crook’s editions).11 All this evidence
supports the conclusion that, although Frankenstein supposedly eschews the
supernatural, magic, or alchemy in favor of modern science as a means of
instilling life into dead tissue, the distinction between natural magic and
alchemy on the one hand and natural philosophy and chemistry on the other, and
that between religion and science, is blurred at every surviving stage of the
text. Likewise, generically speaking, at every stage, Frankenstein blurs
the distinction between the gothic romance form and sf. Mary Shelley seems to
have envisaged a supernatural-magical-alchemical-scientific continuum and the
most one can say about the published book is that the 1831 edition emphasizes
the supernatural/alchemical end rather more than the 1818 and 1823 editions. In
this respect it is well to remember that Frankenstein was written,
according to the 1818 Preface, as the result of an agreement "to...write a
story, founded on some supernatural occurrence" (Rieger 7/xii).
What follows is a review of the relevant evidence. In its
original, pre-cancelled form, the Last Draft included this pre-blasted tree
paragraph about Frankenstein’s early occult/scientific interests:
In this account of my early youth I wish particularly to
[mention cancelled] ^record^ those circumstances which led to and
nourished my taste for that science which was the principal amusement of my
boyish days and in the end decided my destiny. I mentioned before my taste for
old books of chemistry and natural magic and I remember very well that I learned latin principally that I might read Pliny’s Natural History my father refusing
to allow me to read a translation. I used when very young to attend lectures of
chemistry given in Geneva and athough I did not understand them the experiments
never failed to attract my attention. (Vol. I, p. 43; throughout I have not sic-ed
spelling mistakes and carets indicate above-the-line ^inserts^)
This paragraph follows one which appears in the 1818 edition
and which concludes with the phrase "when Clerval was absent" (Vol. I.
p. 43; Rieger 32.4/1.1:50). After that phrase, the published text diverges from
the original Last Draft version until the account of the blasted tree in the
Last Draft paragraph which follows immediately on the one I have just quoted.
Note in the quoted paragraph the conjoining of "chemistry and natural
Frankenstein previously alludes to his "taste for old
books of chemistry" in this original Last Draft sentence: "my
amusements were studying old books of chemistry and natural magic those of
Elizabeth were drawing & music" (Vol. I, p. 41; a sentence that is
later cancelled and replaced in the margin by Percy Shelley’s "I
delighted in investigating the facts relating to the actual world, she busied
herself in ^following^ the aerial creations of the poets.- The world was to me a
secret which I desired to discover,-to her it was a [haven cancelled]
vacancy which she sought to people with imaginations of her own" [cf.
Rieger 30.20-24/1.1:47-48]). Twice, then, Mary Shelley, in the original Last
Draft, uses the term "natural magic" to indicate the nature of
Frankenstein’s interests and twice she indicates that his interest in natural
magic went hand in hand with his interest in chemistry. There are no further
references to "natural magic" in the Last Draft. And the term is
entirely absent from all three editions of Frankenstein but, as we shall
see, what is involved—especially the invocation of natural but non-personal
spirits, forces, or virtues to achieve some desired result—is alluded to at
least twice in all three editions (as in the Last Draft).
The paragraph in the Last Draft describing the blasted tree
corresponds to that in the 1818 and subsequent editions up to "The
catastrophe of the tree excited my extreme astonishment" (Vol. I, p. 44; cf.
Rieger 35.16/1.1:57). Thereafter the texts again diverge. The original Last
[and caused cancelled] ^induced^ [me to aply with
fresh cancelled] diligence to the study of [chemistry cancelled by
PBS] [^natural philosophy^ inserted by PBS] which promised an
ex[clamatio cancelled]planation of th[i cancelled]ese sort of
phænomena. On Elizabeth and Clerval it produced a very different effect. They
admired the beauty of the storm without wishing to analyze its causes. Henry
said that the Fairies and giants were at war and Elizabeth attempted a picture
As I grew older my attempts in science were of a higher
nature. I [endeavou cancelled] produced little earthquakes and tried
every kind of combination of gasses [to cancelled] and elements to
ascertain the results. (Vol. I, pp. 44-45)
The next paragraph in what may be presumed was Last Draft
"Chapter 1" corresponds with the last two paragraphs of the 1818 first
volume Chapter I. The published text rejoins the Last Draft with the words
"Another task soon ^also^ devolved upon me ..." (Vol. I, p. 45; cf.
Rieger 36.20/1.1:59). Clearly, in the original version of the Last Draft’s
"Chapter 1," Frankenstein was interested in both ancient occult
science and modern science from his boyhood onwards.
As Mary Shelley reconceived the chapter dealing with
professors Krempe and Waldman at the University of Ingolstadt, these professors
were to be instrumental in diverting Frankenstein from his early interest in only
the occult sciences to a new interest in modern science. This plot change
necessitated her writing the insert which she planned on placing at the
beginning of the Chapter 2 of the Last Draft and her deleting (by a vertical
line) both of the extended passages that I have quoted above. The insert was
written to replace those passages and was in fact composed with those passages
before her. We know this because in the midst of the portion of the insert which
rewrites in expanded form the first cancelled passage (the complete paragraph)
Mary Shelley accidentally began a sentence which corresponds to the sentence
which begins the paragraph describing the blasted tree: "[When I was about
fifteen my f cancelled]" (folio 2 verso). The corresponding Last
Draft first Chapter 2 sentence begins as follows: "When I was about [twelve
cancelled] ^fourteen^ years old ..." (vol. I, p.43). The
corresponding 1818 sentence begins as follows: "When I was about fifteen
years old . . ." (Rieger 35.3/1.1:56). The earlier sentence related to the
"old books of chemistry" statement in the first cancelled passage was
taken care of by the Percy Shelley substitution that I have already noted.
The decision to fit the insert into the previous chapter
necessitated some revisions. Most probably, it was Percy Shelley who, after 24
September 1817 wrote this transitional paragraph (which is not in the Last
Draft) to introduce the insert:
I feel pleasure in dwelling on the recollections of
childhood, before misfortune had tainted my mind, and changed its bright
visions of extensive usefulness into gloomy and narrow reflection upon self.
But in drawing the picture of my early days, I must not omit to record those
events which led, by insensible steps to my after tale of misery: for when I
would account to myself for the birth of that passion, which afterwards ruled
my destiny, I find it arise, like a mountain river, from ignoble and almost
forgotten sources; but swelling as it proceeded, it became the torrent which,
in its course, has swept away all my hopes and joys. (Rieger
There is one significant adjustment to the insert itself (in
addition to splitting it into two portions which replace the two cancelled
passages) that Mary Shelley probably made earlier, at the Fair Copy stage (18
April-13 May 1817; Journals I:168-69). In order to directly relate
Frankenstein’s father’s explanation of electricity to the blasted tree, Mary
Shelley follows the original Last Draft’s "The catastrophe of the tree
excited my extreme astonishment" (Vol. I, p. 44; Rieger 35.16/1.1:57) with
this new continuation from the original insert: "[And cancelled]
[^Among other questions suggested by natural objects^ inserted by PBS] I
[as cancelled] eagerly enquired of my father [what cancelled]
[^the nature & the origin of^ inserted by PBS] thunder and lightning.
[was. cancelled by Percy]" (folio 3 recto; cf. Rieger
35.17-18/1.1:57). With the shifted, slightly revised insert in place, the
blasted tree dramatically signals Frankenstein’s "conversion" from
alchemy and the occult to modern science, a distinction which does not exist in
the two cancelled passages which the now divided insert replaces.
As a result of the Last Draft insert and the related Chapter 4
which follows, Frankenstein is supposedly "converted" from his passion
for such ancient philosophers as Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus
Magnus to modern chemistry in particular. But in fact significant traces of
Frankenstein the alchemist and natural magician remain in the Last Draft and in
the three editions of Frankenstein.
3. As we have seen, the main purpose
of the insert that Mary Shelley composed on 27 October 1816 was to establish—in
place of what she had earlier written about Frankenstein’s interest in both
the ancient philosophers and modern science—that in his youth Frankenstein was
interested pretty much exclusively in the ancient philosophers and only after
the blasted tree incident did he become interested in modern science and
supposedly dismiss the ancient "sciences." A corollary purpose of the
insert was to set up what became "Chap. 4" of the Last Draft (and the
corresponding second half of the 1818 Chapter II) by explaining how any possible
early interest in modern science was forestalled.
The reference to Frankenstein’s attending "lectures of
chemistry" in his youth in the Last Draft "Chapter 1" had to go
because Chapter 4 of the Last Draft has him attending an equivalent set of
lectures given by Professor Waldman of Ingolstadt University. In what became the
pre-blasted-tree portion of the insert, Frankenstein explains his ignorance of
chemistry by observing that "our family was not scientifical[, supplied
by PBS] and I [did cancelled] [^had^ inserted by PBS] not
attend[ed added by PBS] any of the lectures given at Geneva" (Vol.
I, folio 2 recto; cf. Rieger 34.5-7/1.1:54). Subsequently, in what became
the post-blasted-tree portion of the insert (and what constitutes the toughest
to read portion of the Last Draft), Frankenstein explains how it was that the
one scientific lecture he did attend made little impression on him:
My father expressed a wish that I should attend a course of
lectures upon natural philosophy, to which I [^cheerfully^ inserted by PBS;
the words which follow, until the conclusion is noted, are cancelled by PBS’s
zigzag line:] [and one evening cancelled by PBS] that I spent in
town at the house of Clerval’s father I [heard that Mr.— was
left at cancelled]
met M. [O P cancelled] a proficient in Chemistry who left the company
at an early hour to [h cancelled] give his lecture upon tha[n cancelled]t
science enquiring as he went out [PBS’s zigzag cancellation ends here]
[if any one would cancelled by PBS followed by words that may be
conjectured as like to come or follow him also cancelled by PBS].
[I went but this lecture was unfortunately nearly the last cancelled by PBS]
[^Some accident prevented my attending the
series of these
lectures until they were nearly over they it
was nearly finished. The lecture which I attended being thus the
almost the last in his^ inserted with cancellations by PBS]
the [las cancelled]t in his course [^was entirely incomprehensible to
me.^ inserted by PBS] the professor talked with the greatest fluency of
potassium & Boron [zinc bismuth cancelled] - of sulphats and oxids
[and displayed so many words cancelled by PBS] [^terms^ inserted by
PBS] to which I could not affix [any cancelled by PBS] [^no^ inserted
by PBS] idea [: inserted by PBS] [that cancelled by PBS] I
was disgusted with [the appearance of cancelled by PBS] a science that
appeared to me to contain only words. (Vol. I, folio 3 recto and verso; cf.
As a result of Percy Shelley’s zigzag cancellation, the
lecture that Frankenstein attended was on natural philosophy rather than
chemistry. In "Chap. 4" Professor Krempe gives the Ingolstadt
university course on natural philosophy while Professor Waldman gives that on
chemistry. The old term "natural philosophy"’ was the common
eighteenth-century (and earlier) term for the physical sciences, especially
physics but including chemistry. Four times, the term "natural
philosophy" is linked with Professor Krempe in the Last Draft (Vol. I, pp.
55, 56; Rieger 40.20/1.2:69, 40.23/1.2:69, 41.8/1.2:70, and 41.11/ 1.2:70) and,
in the same chapter, chemistry is described as a "branch of natural
philosophy" (Vol. I, p. 59; Rieger 43.13/1.2:76). There are three occasions
in the insert where "chemistry" is corrected to "natural
philosophy." In addition to the Percy revision above, there is the earlier
statement (in the second sentence of the insert) that "[Chemist cancelled]
natural philosophy [has cancelled] is the genius that has regulated my
fate... (Vol. I, folio 1 recto; cf. Rieger 32.15/1.1:51) and the later one to
"my formerly adored study of ^the science of^ [chemistry cancelled]
[^natural philosophy^ probably inserted by PBS]..." (Vol. I, folio 3
verso; cf. the abbreviated Rieger 36.7-8/1.1:58). The emphasis here that
Frankenstein was not preoccupied in his early years with chemistry but with
natural philosophy is consistent with the likelihood that the insert was drafted
before "Chap. 4" and corrected afterwards.
Victor’s early interest was the ancient natural philosophers
(including the natural magicians) as opposed to the modern ones; "natural
philosophy" is a term which covers both categories. Note that his Last
Draft "contempt for the uses of modern [chemistry cancelled]
[natural philosophy inserted]" (Vol. I, p. 57) becomes "a
contempt for . . . modern natural philosophy" in 1818 (Rieger
41.20/1.3:71). Like the term "natural magic," "natural
philosophy" allows for a fusion of the metaphysical and science. The insert
provides an explanation (which is excised in the 1831 edition) for what
Professor Krempe in "Chap. 4" regards as the unlikely circumstance of
his coming across "a disciple of Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus"
(natural magicians or ancient natural philosophers) "in this enlightened
and scientific age" (Vol. I, p. 56; Rieger 41.4-5/1.2:70). Victor’s
father had an opportunity to set his son straight when he came across Victor
reading a volume by another ancient philosopher, Cornelius Agrippa:
My father looked carelessly at the title page of my book—[Ah
cancelled] and said Ah! Cornelius Agrippa!—My dear Victor do not
waste your time upon this-it is sad trash. If instead of this remark or rather
exclamation my father had taken the pains to exp[ound cancelled]lain to
me that the principles of Agrippa had been entirely exploded. [and aan cancelled]
and that [another cancelled] ^a modern^ system of science had been
introduced which possessed much greater power than the ancient because the
powers of the ancient were pretended and chimerical,14 while those
of the moderns are real and practical; under such circumstances I should
certainly have thrown Agrippa aside, and with my imagination warmed as it was
[w cancelled sh supplied by PBS]ould probably have aplied myself
to [m cancelled] the more [ra cancelled] rational theory of
chemistry which [has at present the approbation of the learned cancelled]
[^has resulted from modern discoveries It is even possible that the train of
my ideas might never have recieved that fatal impulse which led to my ruin.^ inserted
by PBS] But the cursory glance my father had taken of my volume by no
means assured me that he was acquainted with [the cancelled] ^its^
contents; and I continued to read with the greatest avidity. (Vol. I, folio 1
recto and verso; cf. Rieger 32.28-33.14/1.1:52-53)
Maxianne Berger points out (40) that Victor’s indifferent
response here is rendered more plausible in the 1818 text by changing the
subsequent reference to Victor’s father’s "definite censure of my
favorite Agrippa" (Vol. I, folio 2 recto) to "indefinite" (Rieger
There is an inconsistency in the inserted material that is
noted in the copy of the 1818 text that Mary Shelley gave to Mrs. Thomas in 1823
and which she corrected in 1831. In spite of the statement that "our family
was not scientific" (folio 2 recto; Rieger 34.5-6/1.1:54), it is Victor’s
father who explains the power of electricity after Victor witnessed the oak
destroyed by lightning. At the bottom of that page in the Thomas copy an unknown
backward-slanting hand penciled the comment, "you said your family was not
sientific [sic]" (Crook 27, footnote "d"15)
and, in the revised 1831 edition, after the new specification "My father
was not scientific" (Joseph 4016), a convenient visitor, "a
man of great research in natural philosophy" (Joseph 41) does the
explaining. No doubt for the same reason, the more scientific references in what
became the pre-blasted-tree portion of the insert—especially
"Distillation, and the wonderful effects of steam" (Rieger
34.21-22/1.1:55; only the word "distillation" appears on folio 2 verso
of the insert) and Percy’s "some experiments [electrical machine cancelled]
on an air-pump" (Vol. I, folio 2 verso; cf. Rieger 34.24/1.1:56)—along
with all of the post-stricken-tree portion of the insert, are excised in
the 1831 rewrites of Rieger 33.19-34.8/1.1:54 ("and although I...by
reality; and"), 34.20-35.2/1.155-56 ("The natural phænomena ...in my
mind."), and 35.16-37.8/1.1:57-60 ("The catastrophe of...of each
other."). At the end of the next chapter in the Thomas copy—Chapter II of
the 1818 Volume One—Mary Shelley emphasized the need for a thorough rewrite:
"If there were ever to be another edition of this book, I should re-write
these two first chapters. The incidents are tame and ill arranged—the language
sometimes childish.—They are unworthy of the rest of the [w book deleted]
narration" (Rieger 43, asterisked footnote; Crook 34, footnote a).
In the 1831 revision of the first two 1818 and 1823 chapters
(which includes Victor’s family history as well as his intellectual history)
it appears that Victor did study the modern natural philosophers—Sir
Isaac Newton is mentioned—as well as the ancient ones. There is a hint at this
even-handedness in the post-blasted-tree-portion-of-the-insert statement that
"I still read with delight Pliny [A.D. 23-79] and Buffons [1707-88] authors
[that stood about on a par cancelled, above which is PBS’s ^ar of^ cancelled]...in
my estimation. [of nearly equal interest & utility added by Percy]"
(Vol. I, folio 3 verso; cf. Rieger 36.9-10/1.1: 58-59). But, according to
the 1831 rewrite, "In spite of the intense labour and wonderful discoveries
of modern philosophers, I always came from my studies discontented and
unsatisfied" (Joseph 39). And while his experience of the power of
electricity overthrows Victor’s ancient idols in both the 1818 and 1831
editions, in the latter Victor dismisses the modern natural philosophers as
well: "It seemed to me as if nothing would or could ever be known"
(Joseph 41). Consequently instead of turning to both mathematics and languages,
as in the 1818 insert, in 1831 he devotes himself solely to mathematics because
"that science" was "built upon secure foundations..."
These changes in Frankenstein’s early interests result in
changed interactions with both professors Krempe and Waldman. Whereas in 1818
Krempe "received me with politeness" (Rieger 40.21/1.2:69), in 1831
Krempe impresses Victor as "an uncouth man" (Joseph 45) whose
questions on natural philosophy cause Victor to respond with the virtual reverse
of the 1818 "fear and trembling" (Rieger 40.23-24/1.2:69): "I
replied carelessly; and partly in contempt, mentioned the names of my alchymists
as the principal authors I had studied" (Joseph 45). He goes on to
reiterate in an 1831 insert that "As a child," he had "retrod the
steps of knowledge along the paths of time, and exchanged the discoveries of
recent enquirers for the dreams of forgotten alchymists" (Joseph 46). After
attending Waldman’s lecture in the 1831 text, Victor, in a state of turmoil,
resolves "to return to my ancient studies, and to devote myself to a
science for which I believed myself to possess a natural talent" (Joseph
48). That "science"—alchemy—has just been implied in the 1831
edition by the two references to "alchymists," a term nowhere used,
albeit clearly implied by the ancient philosophers named, especially Paracelsus,
in the Last Draft and the 1818 edition. Alchemy, like "natural magic,"
to which it is allied, is the somewhat suppressed foundation of Frankenstein’s
ambitions in the 1818 edition. In 1831, Victor is simply more "up
front" about his plan to yoke the modern science of chemistry and the work
of the modern natural philosophers to the grand ambitions associated with the
Consequently it is a rather more devious Victor who in 1831
approaches Professor Waldman for what he can get out of him: "I expressed
myself in measured terms, with the modesty and deference due from a youth to his
instructor, without letting escape (inexperience in life would have made me
ashamed) any of the enthusiasm which stimulated my intended labours"
(Joseph 49). Any interest in chemistry is strictly subservient to Victor’s
alchemical ambitions. In Maxianne Berger’s words, "In 1831, Mary replaces
the naive, assiduous, would-be chemist of 1818 by an avowed alchemist..."
4. It is appropriate at this point
to recall the overlap between alchemy and "natural magic," a term
twice introduced and then twice deleted in the Last Draft insert. As I have
noted, it appears nowhere else in the surviving Frankenstein manuscripts
and nowhere in the three published editions. It is, of course, implicit in
Frankenstein’s recollection (originating in the shifted insert) that his
enthusiasm for the ancient philosophers began at age 13 when he "chanced to
find a [fo cancelled] volume[s cancelled] of the works of
Cornelius Agrippa" (Vol. I, folio 1 recto; cf. Rieger 32.20-21/1.1:51; cf.
Joseph 39), the German physician and occultist (1486-1535). No doubt that volume
was De Occulta Philosophia libra tres (1533), translated into English by
John French in 1651, a revision of the first part of which translation appeared
in 1897 as Three Books of Occult Philosophy or Magic: Book One—Natural
The very nebulous term "natural magic" has a long
and complicated history. In Kitty W. Scoular’s words, During the sixteenth
century it stood as a descriptive term on the borderline between a mystical
Paracelsan alchemy involving a supposed communion with the hidden forces of
nature, and a more modern conception of scientific effort.... the suspicion of
magic among the early Fathers of the Church gave place gradually to the
acceptance of ‘natural magic’ which was lawful and distinct from the evil
practices of the necromancers.... (4)
In her eight volume History of Magic and the Experimental
Sciences, Lynn Thorndike devotes two chapters to natural magic, the first in
her sixteenth century coverage and the second in her coverage of the
seventeenth.17 She defines natural magic as "the working of
marvelous effects, which may seem preternatural, by a knowledge of occult
forces in nature without resort to supernatural assistance" (VII: 272)—and
especially without resort to diabolical assistance. Thorndike gives an account
of professor Matthias Mairhofer’s famous "philosophical disputation"
regarding natural magic in 1581 at the University of Ingolstadt (VI: 414-18)—the
university that Frankenstein would attend—and mentions a citation of "the
artificial production of human beings" as V. Rasis and Giulio Camillo’s
particular natural magic project (VI: 431). Frankenstein seems to have begun as
a natural magician like Sir Francis Bacon whose interest was "harnessing
nature for the practical benefit of mankind" (Scoular 4).
There are two occasions when the spirits or dæmons of natural
magic (as opposed to, or—in my second quote—in addition to, the spirits of
the dead) are alluded to. In the first instance, Clerval, in the company of
Frankenstein, exclaims as follows: "Oh Surely the spirit that inhabits
& guards this place [somewhere alongside the Rhine] has a soul more
in [sympathy cancelled] ^harmony^ with man than those who pile the
glacier or retire to the inaccessible peaks of the mountains of our own
country" (Vol. II, p. 106; cf. Rieger 153.24-27/3.1:17). In the
second instance, Frankenstein is speaking: "I knelt on the earth and with
[a deleted] quir[v cancelled]ering lips exclaimed - By the Sacred
earth [^on which^ inserted by PBS] I kneel [on deleted], by the
shades [I deleted] ^that^ wander near me. By the deep & eternal grief
that I feel I swear—and by thee oh night and by the spirits that preside over
thee I swear to pursue the dæmon who caused this misery . . ." (Vol. II,
p. 174; cf. Rieger 199.31-200.1/3.7:136-37). The same exclamation and
invocation are also to be found in the 1823 and 1831 editions. Frankenstein’s
frequent use of the term "dæmon" for the monster here and elsewhere,
links the monster with the benevolent spirits of natural magic.18
(The secondary meaning, "evil spirit" or "devil," is more
commonly associated with the alternative spelling "demon.") Of
possible relevance here is the monster’s reflection at the narrative’s
conclusion that after his body has been immolated, "My spirit will sleep in
peace" (PBS Fair Copy Vol. III, p. 187; Rieger 221.8/3.7:192; in place of
this in the Last Draft, Vol. II, p. 203, is the reassurance that "the flame
that consumes my body will give [rest & blessings cancelled by PBS]
[^enjoyment or tranquillity^ an agnostic replacement inserted by PBS]").
This reflection seems less a reference to his Christian soul than an allusion to
one of the benevolent spirits of natural magic which imbued him with life.
The most vital spirit in Frankenstein—at all stages
of its textual history—is the natural spirit of magnetism/electricity. Under
the heading "Magnetism" in Frankenstein’s Creation I argue
that electro-magnetism is the symbolic link between "Walton’s quest for
the North Pole and Frankenstein’s interest in animating dead flesh..."
(78). At the North Pole (where, according to a revealing Thomas copy
substitution, "the aspect of nature differs ensentially from
anything of which we have any experience" [Crook, "Textual
Variants" 183 n3; cf. Rieger 10.11-12; my emphasis]), Walton hopes
to "discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle" and
"the secret of the magnet" (Rieger 10.12-13/1.1:3 and 10.26-27/1.1:4;
the portions of the Last Draft and Fair Copy which would have contained
corresponding statements are no longer extant). Frankenstein, we are led to
believe, uses the natural power of electricity to imbue his assemblage of
natural human remains with life. In Frankenstein’s Creation I also
argue that the dæmon "is at least as much a creation of the" sublime
Alpine setting as of the laboratory (70). Thus it is the partially suppressed
notion of natural magic—evident as the natural spirits or powers of Mont Blanc
and other mountains, and the moon, in addition to magnetism, and
electricity—which provides the foundation for all of Frankenstein’s
supposedly more modern scientific endeavours.
The sequence of textual changes relating to ancient and modern
natural philosophy reveals a fluctuating elision of the distinction, and a
circular development from Frankenstein as natural magician/alchemist to
Frankenstein as alchemist/natural magician. His intermediate career as a
would-be modern chemist, while present in the 1831 text is more valued and
clearly distinguished in the 1818 edition, partly as a consequence of the
replacement— mainly by Percy Shelley—of the word "chemistry" by
the term "natural philosophy" in the Last Draft insert and other
places, whereby chemistry can be understood either as virtually synonymous with
natural philosophy or, more accurately, distinguished as an aspect of modern
natural philosophy. By 1831 however, "natural philosophy" has in
effect more thoroughly displaced chemistry to the extent that the inclusive term’s
embracing of both natural magic and alchemy has been emphasized. Summarily put,
the distinction between magic and science which first comes into sharp focus in
the 27 October 1816 insert (and then again in the encounters with professors
Kempe and Waldman as written immediately afterwards) was, in the corresponding
places, blurred in the pre-27 October manuscript novel, and became somewhat
blurred again in the revised 1831 edition.
Throughout its history, sf has repeatedly intermingled or
fused the metaphysical/supernatural and the scientific. For such works to be
persuasively categorized as sf, it is only necessary that the scientific
elements predominate over the metaphysical. In the case of Frankenstein,
the metaphysical and the scientific (as represented in the shifted insert which
is divided into two by a lightning bolt) achieve an ambiguous balance or perhaps
near balance. Thus one might conclude that the 1818 and 1823 editions (and the
Last Draft) are sf and the 1831 edition (at least without Mary’s
"Introduction") is not. The 1831 "Introduction," with its
references to "the experiments of Dr. Darwin," "galvanism,"
and "the working of some powerful engine" in Mary Shelley’s
night-time vision, affects the interpretation of the novel by providing it with
what might be construed as an sf frame (see Sutherland 25, 31).
In all three editions of Frankenstein the fusion of the
natural and the "supernatural," the physical and the metaphysical is
embodied in the power of electricity which is apparently used to animate
the monster. There is no direct statement to that effect, only young
Frankenstein’s witnessing an oak tree blasted by lightning and in the 1818
text (but not the 1831) his father’s subse-uent electrical experiments; film
directors have concretized and elaborated on what Mary Shelley ambiguously hints
at. But to the extent that electricity in the novel is a spirit, a dæmon, it
operates within the realm of natural magic, the term that Mary Shelley,
according to the extant manuscript evidence, first used (alongside chemistry) to
characterize Frankenstein’s early studies.19
To a notable degree there is a correlation, on the one hand,
between the scientific/rationalistic aspects of Frankenstein (evidenced
especially by the influence of Davy’s chemistry and Locke’s empirical
philosophy) and the first half of the Last Draft, which is on Continental paper
(except for the insert which is on British paper) and which ends with Safie’s
story (the 1818 Chapter VI of Volume Two) and, on the other hand, between the
supernatu-ral/superstitious/religious aspects of the novel and the second half
of the Last Draft, which is all on British paper. Frankenstein’s contrasting
attitudes towards graveyards are paradigmatic of this difference. In the first
half of the Last Draft, Frankenstein offers this rationalistic
I do not ever remember having trembled at a [ghost story deleted
by PBS] [^tale of superstition^ inserted by PBS], or to have feared
the apparition of [^a^ inserted by PBS] spirit [ligh deleted]
darkness had no effect upon my fancy and a churchyard was to me merely [^as^ inserted
by PBS] the receptacle of [rotten b deleted] bodies deprived of
life and [becoming deleted by PBS] [^which^ inserted by PBS]
from being the seat of beauty & strength [^became^ inserted by PBS]
food for the worm. (Vol. I, p. 64; cf. Rieger 47.2-7/1.3:83)
In the second half of the Last Draft it is a markedly
superstitious Frankenstein who visits the graves of his brother, wife, and
father: "The spirits of the [d deleted] ^departed^ seemed to flit
around, and ^to cast^ a [gentle hallow deleted by PBS] [shadow which was
felt but seen not added by PBS] around ^the^ head of the mourner."
This is followed by his invocation to elemental powers and "the spirits of
the dead" that I have previously quoted (Vol. II, pp. 173-74; cf.
Rieger 199.25-200.8/3.7:136-37). (It is also anomalous—as John Sutherland
points out —that the guilty creation of the monster’s mate on a remote
Orkney island, described in the second half of the Last Draft, seems
mysteriously [preternaturally?] ex nihilo, seems not to require the
availability of corpses, an essential aspect of Frankenstein’s first
In "(De)Composing Frankenstein," I note the
difficulty of proving that the Continental paper, first half of the Last
Draft was written, as one would naturally suppose, before the British paper
second, and discuss evidence suggesting that the second half of the Last Draft,
or a large portion thereof, may, in fact, have been written before the first (Ketterer
249-50, 252-64). Of course, the sense, based on intrinsic data, that the second
half of the Last Draft represents an earlier conception of the novel can equally
well, or perhaps better, be explained by the indications that the second
half of the Last Draft is closer than the first to the no-longer-extant rough
draft ur-Frankenstein of which it is largely a rough copy, and that the
first half is a much more heavily revised rough copy of the same ur-Frankenstein.
Certainly, the second half of the Last Draft is much cleaner than the first. In
either case, the portion of Frankenstein which corresponds to the second
half of the Last Draft reflects what appears to be Mary Shelley’s original
gothic, supernatural, Faustian, "orientalist,"20
"ghost story" conception of the novel, and the portion of Frankenstein
which corresponds to the first half of the Last Draft, including especially the
"Chapt. 2" insert, her subsequent much more rational and scientific
conception. In short, the manuscript evidence indicates that the sf Frankenstein
was, in significant ways, an overlay—a dramatic and revolutionary overlay—initiated
on 27 October 1816.
1. All references to, and quotations from, the 1818 text of Frankenstein
are cited by page and line numbers in James Rieger’s edition followed, after a
slash, by volume, chapter, and page numbers in the 1818 edition itself. My
argument in this article will be much clearer if it is read with Rieger’s
edition, or Nora Crook’s new scholarly edition, close at hand. Once it is
available in paperback, Crook’s edition will replace Rieger’s. For the
moment, however, the ready availability of Rieger, along with its useful line
numbering, make it the obvious citation choice. At the same time, my post-slash
(/) volume, chapter, and page citations from the original 1818 edition (e.g.:
/1.1:51) can be easily located in Crook since she includes the corresponding
1818 pagination within brackets at the top of each page and a page-change
indicating "/"in her 1818 text. The 1818 pages are small. Crook gets
almost four of them to one of her pages. Consequently, quotations from 1818
pages are locatable almost as quickly in Crook as in Rieger.
In between my returning the page proofs of this article and
its publication, Charles E. Robinson’s facsimile edition of the Frankenstein
manuscripts, The Frankenstein Notebooks, will become available. The
comparative 1818 text in The Frankenstein Notebooks also includes the
1818 pagination in brackets. I am most grateful to Charles E. Robinson for
reading the first version of this article, for making suggestions, and for
correcting errors in the quotations from my transcription of the Last Draft.
Such quotations are published with the kind permission of Lord Abinger.
I am also grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council of Canada for a 1992-95 Research Grant which enabled my work on
the Frankenstein manuscripts.
2. This article provides me with an opportunity to correct an
error on pages 24-25 of "The Corrected Frankenstein" noted by
Brian Aldiss (letter to Ketterer, 15 April 1996). In the article, I trace what I
mistakenly read as an omitted "n" in the following quote to the same
"error" in the Last Draft: "[Safie] sickened at the prospect of
again returning to Asia, and the[n] being immured within the walls of a haram..."
(Rieger 119.23/2.6:89). I persistently misread this; "the being immured
within the walls of a haram" is, of course, a perfectly acceptable gerund
construction. There are unfortunately a number of typos in my article because
the page proofs were mistakenly sent to Canada while I was in England. The only
substantively significant of these occurs on page 30. After note number
"19," the following sentence should be inserted: "‘Five years’
is, in fact, the period specified in the Last Draft" (Vol. I, p. 115).
Six of the twelve preferred Last Draft readings that I draw
attention to are adopted in the new scholarly edition of the 1818 Frankenstein
edited by Nora Crook (the others appear as footnoted possibilities). I now wish
to propose three more. (1) The Last Draft "She was no longer that happy
creature [she had been when I last saw her canceled by PBS] [who in
earlier youth had added in margin by PBS] - [PBS had over MWS
who] wandered with [on cancelled] me... (Vol. I, pp. 142-43) becomes
"She was no longer that happy creature, who in earlier youth wandered with
me... (Rieger 88.1-3/2.1:8). The 1818 text was not changed in 1823 or 1831 but
it seems likely that Percy Shelley’s "had"—because of the
overwritten additional "had"—was accidentally omitted at the fair
copy or typesetting phase and should be restored. (2) The Last Draft "I who
have so disinterested an affection for you" (Vol. II, p. 152; the monster
is addressing Frankenstein) becomes "I, who have so interested an affection
for you" in the 1818 and 1823 editions (Rieger 185.19-20/3.5:99; II: 168).
Only in the 1831 edition is "disinterested" restored (Joseph 188). But
there is a previously unnoted correction in the copy of the 1818 edition that
Mary Shelley gave to Mrs. Thomas (see note 15 below): Mary Shelley’s
correction "dis" appears before "interested." It seems clear
that "interested" was an error introduced either at the Fair Copy
stage or by the compositor. (3) There is a further preferred reading in the Last
Draft which I overlooked in Frankenstein’s exhortatory address to Walton’s
crew:" You were to ^be^ hereafter hailed as ^the^ benefactors of your
species - Your names adored as the brave men who encountered death for honor...
(Vol. II, page 191; carets indicate above the line insertions). In the 1818
one-sentence equivalent, the singular form "name" appears (Rieger
212.13/3.7:169). Although Crook points out that the plural form appears in the
Last Draft, as a correction in the 1818 Thomas copy, and in the 1823 and 1831
editions (Crook c n26, 227 n17), "name" is not amended in her text.
For whatever reason, Crook does not cite the Fair Copy where the plural
"names" also appears (page 167). That is surely the clinching evidence
for emendation. The plural form appears everywhere except in the 1818 edition.
3. On pages 256 and 274 of "(De)Composing Frankenstein"
I give the impression that the alternative name "Amina" for a
character finally named "Safie" only occurs twice. It actually occurs
five times in total, all in the same manuscript paragraph.
Also in "(De)Composing Frankenstein" I
hypothesise about a puzzling notation in Mary Shelley’s journal for 23 October
1817: "[write cancelled] translate F." (I: 182). Editors
Feldman and Scott-Kilvert point out that "‘F’ is written clearly in the
manuscript, but is probably a mistake for ‘S.’ [Spinoza] or ‘A’ [Apuleius],
both of which they were translating at this time" (Journals I:182
n4). Feldman and Scott-Kilvert are mistaken. So too is Mary Shelley’s
biographer, Emily Sunstein, who supposes that the entry refers to Mary Shelley’s
translating some of Frankenstein, "probably into French" (146).
I suggest in the continuation of my footnote 11 on page 242 that
"translate" here means "transfer" and refers to duplicate
Fair Copy pages in Mary Shelley’s hand. I have now realized (thanks
largely to a telephone conversation with Charles E. Robinson) that
"translate" here also means "alter" and "improve,"
and refers to a revision of the Last Draft account of Frankenstein and Clerval’s
stay in Oxford, a revision that, in part, draws directly on an experience three
days previous that Mary Shelley records in her journal entry for 21 October
1817: "On Monday [20 October] go to Hambden in a gig with Papa-see Hambdens
[John Hampden’s] monument" (I: 181). The revised account in the 1818
edition includes three sentences related to a visit to "the tomb of the
illustrious Hampden" (Rieger 158.14-22/3.2:28). The entire revised account
amounts to just over three paragraphs (replacing just under two Last Draft
paragraphs); it begins "As we entered this city" (Rieger 157.4/3.2:25)
and ends "We left Oxford with regret, and proceeded to" (Rieger
158.23/3.2:29). Percy Shelley is referring to this very revision in his letter
to the publisher of Frankenstein dated 28 October 1817: "I thought
it necessary to add that I shall not find it necessary in future to trouble the
printer with any considerable alterations such as he will find in the present
sheet & that which immediately preceded it" (Letters of Percy Bysshe
Shelley I:565). The Oxford rewrite, then, "the present sheet,"
would seem to have been the last extended revision that Mary Shelley made
to her manuscript. As for the preceding sheet—which I assume was sent on a
date in between Percy Shelley’s letter to Lackington dated 23 October (with
its reference to his correcting the "few instances of baldness of
style" only) and the next extant, the above-noted letter of 28 October 1817—that
must have been the sheet including the last six paragraphs of the preceding
chapter (Chapter I of Volume Three), the first three of which (Rieger
153.28/3.1:17 ["Clerval! beloved friend!"] to 154.25/3.1:19) are not
in the Last Draft. A paragraph which is in the Last Draft (in between the Rieger
paragraph ending at 154.28 ["to aid us."] and the next one beginning
at 154.29 ["Our journey"]) was deleted and a variant (a revision?) of
it appears in the Shelleys’ History of a Six Weeks’ Tour (see
Ketterer, "(De)Composing Frankenstein" 254 n19; Mary Shelley
last records working on that book on 12 October 1817 [Journals I:181]).
The above reconstruction lends some support to my hypothesis in "(De)Composing
Frankenstein" (264 n26) that nine "translate" entries in
Mary Shelley’s journal between 7 and 16 August 1816 (I:123-26) might
refer to her transferring, or changing, rough draft material into Last Draft
material in her British notebook (and not to her translating Tacitus’s Annales,
which Percy Shelley was reading at the time).
A new question now arises. Were the alterations in the
preceding sheet—the three new paragraphs (including, at the end of the first,
the extract from Wordsworth’s "Tintern Abbey")—contributed by
Percy Shelley? My colleague, Gerald Auchinachie, who is knowledgeable about
Percy Shelley, informs me that instances of Percy Shelley’s vocabulary and
ideas are prominent in the paragraphs concerned. According to Auchinachie’s
note to me, Frederick Ellis’s Lexical Concordance to the Poetical Works of
Percy Bysshe Shelley indicates that "There are 22 instances of ‘overflow’
plus variants; ‘ardent’ and variants equal 6; ‘ardour’ 9; ‘gentle and
x’ is a Shelleyan phrase and the word ‘gentle’ occurs over a hundred
times. There are 93 ‘divines’ (not counting cognates like ‘diviner’ etc.
The entries under ‘bright’ are virtually endless—it must be the
Shelleyan word; ‘gush’ is used twice and with cognates 9 times; ‘ineffectual’
is there only twice (cf. Arnold’s calling Shelley a ‘beautiful
ineffectual angel’). The phrase ‘human sympathies’ is there but only once.
There are countless entries under ‘world.’ The idea of the mind perishing
with the body is a frequent Shelleyan speculation." For Auchinachie’s
report on another paragraph which Percy Shelley may have contributed see note 12
4. See Chapter 1 ("The Origins of the Species: MARY
SHELLEY") in Aldiss, Billion Year Spree, 7-39. Revised—more
confidently—as "On the Origin [singular] of Species: Mary Shelley"
in Trillion Year Spree, 29-65.
5. Here and elsewhere, I spell out the three volume numbers of
the 1818 edition (as in Rieger’s edition but not in the original) to
distinguish them from volumes I and II of the Last Draft.
6. Although the heading is in the same ink as what follows,
the fact that it slightly overlaps the first line of what follows suggests that
it was inserted—squeezed in—at some point while the insert was being
drafted. Dr. Bruce C. Barker Benfield, Senior Assistant Librarian at the Bodleian Library’s Department of
Western Manuscripts, has examamined the heading under a magnifying glass. His
conclusions are as follows: "The combined evidence of layout and
overlapping strokes makes it more or less certain that MWS did not write the
heading before she began drafting, but the similarity of the ink probably
indicates that she put it in at the same sitting. It could be that she inserted
the heading fairly soon, after writing no more than a few lines of fol. 1r [1
recto]; but my confidence in this is somewhat shaken by the observation of the
return of the nib to something like its original thickness by the end of fol. 3v
[3 verso], allowing the alternative possibility that she inserted the heading at
the end of the sitting rather than near the beginning" (letter to Ketterer,
12 August 1996).
7. The Last Draft is divided into two volumes which do not
coincide with the two notebooks used. The beginning of Volume II (which is in
the first notebook) corresponds to the beginning of Chapter III of Volume Two of
the three-volume 1818 edition.
8. This is also to assume that the missing opening 40 pages
were not all part of an extraordinarily long "Chapter 1" or that Mary
Shelley did not mistakenly number two chapters "Chapter 2" (just as
she later headed two successive chapters "Chapter 7th"
and "Chap. 7" [Vol. I, pp. 75 and 85]) after giving the Walton opening
frame a "Chapter 1" designation.
9. Actually misnoted as "2½] over 3" (Journals
II:700)—it is only the "2" which is over the "3." Dr.
Barker Benfield, having examined the change under a magnifying glass, writes,
"The over-written ‘2’ is in a stronger tint of the same grey ink as the
surrounding letters; the stronger tint could be simply because the pen
had just been redipped, but perhaps more likely because the same ink had been
restirred—i.e. slightly but not much later." He thinks it most probable
that Mary Shelley "originally wrote ‘Write Ch.3 ½.-Fin|ish...’
["the ½ has definitely not been squeezed in later"] and then came
back only slightly later—during the period of her restir—and altered the ‘3’
to a ‘2’.... MWS might have come back and made this alteration at any time
during the two days 27 and 28 Oct. when the same ink-mix was evidently in use
(with occasional restirring), but not later" (letter to Ketterer, 22 August
10. There is a pagination glitch here which may mark the exact
moment when Mary Shelley turned to writing the insert—the previous page (which
ends with "a mother’s blessing would have accompanied me.") is
numbered 51; at the top of the following page, which is numbered 53, with a
newly sharpened nib, Mary Shelley wrote: "I threw myself into the
11. My study of the variants which follows is indebted to a
paper which Maxianne Berger (see Works Cited) wrote for my Fall 1993 graduate
course "Contemporary Critical Approaches, Textual Scholarship, and Frankenstein."
Although my arguments differ in places from hers, we arrive at essentially the
For the variants in the 1823 edition of Frankenstein
(for which Mary’s father, William Godwin, seems to have been responsible and
none of which bear on the present "conversion" issue), see the list in
E. B. Murray’s 1982 article (320-23). Because my collation of the 1818 and
1823 editions in the British Library revealed eight variants additional to
Murray’s 114, I record them here. Murray somewhat confusingly keys his list to
"the page numbers in the  Joseph edition [which contains the
corrections of the 1823 edition which Mary used as the copytext basis for her
1831 revision], listing the 1818 reading first and the 1823 correction second.
Asterisks... indicate changes not in [the 1874] Rieger" (320). My listing
is keyed to the Rieger page and line numbers/the 1818 volume, chapter, and page
numbers [the 1823 chapter and page numbers, which are all in Volume II/the 1831
Joseph page references appear in brackets after the 1823 reading]:
Rieger 112.28/2.5:73 *or herself]nor herself [1:4/117]
Rieger 115.29/2.5:79 acquisitions]advantages [1:11/120]
Rieger 124.11/2.7:101 *unlike]unlike to [3:33/128]
Rieger 125.17/2.7:104 *created apparently]apparently
Rieger 156.30/3.2:25 *packed]packed up [7:113/159]
Rieger 170.16-17/3.3:60 *very much]much [8:148/173]
Rieger 172.10/3.4:65 *all]at [9:153/174]
Rieger 206.8/3.7:153 *still pursue]pursue [12:241/208]
The correction at Rieger 125.17 is among the thirteen
"Additional 1818/1831 Variants" on the final page 288 of his 1982
edition. The "Endnotes: Textual Variants" in Crook’s new scholarly
edition of the 1818 text, which provide for the first time a properly sequential
collation of the 1818 edition, the Thomas copy autograph corrections, the 1823
edition, and the 1831 edition, add nine substantive differences in the 1823
edition to Murray’s list (see Crook xcvi). Missing, however, are the two
variants above at Rieger 170.16 and 206.8 (see Crook 220, superscript 12; and
Crook 226, superscript 15; in the second case, the corresponding superscript
number 15 which should be in the text is missing at Crook 159, line 8 [1818:
12. This paragraph, like the three possible Percy Shelley
paragraphs discussed in note 4 above, weds water and recollection. Gerald
Auchinachie writes: "I realize as do you that the metaphor comparing the
cycles of life to a fountain-spring-river-sea is not exclusive to Shelley though
that it should occur in Alastor (almost contemporaneous) is of some
interest. The Concordance reports that in Queen Mab there occurs the line
"Poisoned the spring of happiness and life." The entries under ‘taint,’
‘taintless’ and ‘poison’ are interesting: e.g., ‘taintless infancy,’
‘Taintless body and mind.’ The phrase ‘mountain river’ occurs twice in
Shelley: ‘Hymn to Intellectual Beauty’ and ‘Laon and Cyntha.’ The phrase
‘hopes and joys’ is there once in the fragment ‘Home,’ though Shelley is
littered with ‘hopes and fears’ and ‘hopes and x’; ‘life’s dark
river That time’ etc. is Shelleyan; ‘torrent’ also bulks large in Shelley.
The ‘ideas’: stainless innocence spotted by an obsession is there in Alastor
as is the river-life comparison." Should this early added paragraph in Frankenstein
be understood as repairing one of the "abruptnesses" that Mary Shelley
mentions in her letter to Percy Shelley of 24 September 1817? "I send you
my dearest another proof—which arrived tonight in looking it over there
appeared to me some abruptnesses which I have endeavored to supply—but I am
tired and not very clear headed so I give you carte blanche to make what
alterations you please" (Letters I:42). (The three paragraph
"eulogy" discussed in note 4, of course, prepares for the abruptness
of Clerval’s imminent death.)
13. On page 28 of her 1818 text, Crook’s footnote
"a" glossing the list of scientific terms points out that "The
first two are anachronistic, being the names of elements isolated by Humphry
Davy in 1807 and by Gay-Lussac in 1808; the last two were coined by Lavoisier
and others and made current c. 1787. The terms are probably derived from Mary
Shelley’s reading of Davy. The spelling [in the 1818 text] ‘oxyd’ was
favored by English scientists, ‘oxide’ [the Last Draft spelling except for
the "e"] by the French." But, according to the OED, ‘oxide’
(the original French spelling) has been the preferred English spelling since the
14. Mary Shelley’s reference to the "chimerical"
powers of the ancients here is recalled in the "Chap. 4" encounter
with Professor Krempe by her reference (again speaking for Frankenstein) to the
ancient’s "expulsion of chimera...." Although Percy Shelley deleted
this phrase and its immediate sketchy context, he "picks up the term ‘chimera’
from Mary’s original" (Berger 43) in his revision in the margin:
the [utmost cancelled] ambition of [the]
enquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilation of those visions on which
my interest in science was chiefly founded. I was required to exchange
chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth. (Vol. I, p. 57;
cf. Rieger 41.23-26/1.2:71)
Percy Shelley here considerably sharpens Frankenstein’s view
of the choice between ancient philosophy and modern science.
16. Rieger 35 n8 quotes the same Thomas copy comment and
opines—wrongly— that "The hand is probably Mrs. Shelley’s . . .
." There are errors in both Rieger’s and Crook’s transcriptions of the
Thomas copy variants and comments. Crook mentions (182) using the 1962 microfilm
and Rieger probably also worked from the microfilm. My recent examination of the
actual Thomas copy in the Pierpont Morgan Library has resulted in an
article-in-progress entitled "The Thomas Copy of Frankenstein: A
Full Description and (Almost) Complete Transcription of Revisions, Notes, and
Under-linings." For example, what is represented as a slash in "the
illustrious Hampden,/and the field" (Rieger 158.14-15/3.2:28; Crook 220 n6)
is actually a cut in the page which bisects the "n" of "and"
and which continues either side as a curving indentation made by a sharp
implement. And both Rieger and Crook overlook the marginal "dis" added
before "interested" (the first word in the line) on 3.5:99 of the
Thomas copy (one of only three Thomas copy changes to be exactly reproduced in
the 1831 edition; see also note 2 above). The pencilled additions on 1.1:42 (in
the backwards-sloping hand in the lower left margin and at the foot of the page)
and on 1.1:43 (at the foot of the page, perhaps in Mary Shelley’s hand) of the
Thomas copy, which have been almost entirely erased, are not noted by Rieger or
Crook. Unfortunately, they remained indecipherable to me (except for a
line-beginning "to" and a line-beginning "of" on 1.1:43) in
spite of the application of a magnifying glass and ultra-violet light.
17. Crook’s list of "Unauthorized Variants" (229)
demonstrates the unreliability of Joseph’s edition of the 1831 Frankenstein.
Consequently, all the quotations from Joseph in this article have been checked
against the 1831 original. I cite Joseph simply because his edition of 1818 is
among the currently most easily available.
18. See the chapters entitled "Natural Philosophy and
Natural Magic" (VI: 390-436) and "Natural Magic" (VII: 272-322).
19. Mary Shelley has a number of different names for
Frankenstein’s creation. According to one person’s count in the 1831
edition, "A simple word-tally shows ‘monster’, with 27 appearances, to
have won by a short head from ‘fiend’ (25), followed by ‘dæmon’ (18),
‘creature’ (16), ‘wretch’ (15), and ‘devil’ (8); ‘being’ (4) and
‘ogre’ (1) also ran (Baldick 10 n1). Naming is a central issue in the novel,
and the naming of Mary Shelley herself can also be problematic. The title
itself, Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus, is the outstanding and
representative example of periphrastic naming in the novel (see Duyfhuizen).
Famously, Frankenstein’s name is often confused with the unnamed monster. The
author of the 1818 edition of Frankenstein was also unnamed. See my
article, "(De)Composing Frankenstein: The Import of Altered
Character Names in the Last Draft," for the variant names Carigan/Clerval,
Myrtella/Elizabeth, Amina/Maimouna/Safie, etc. And, of course, then there is the
problem of generic naming. Is Frankenstein best described as sf or as
something else? Like the monster, the novel was something different, something
new, something unnamed, perhaps something unnamable.
19. After writing this article, I was pleased to come across
the 1994 article "Frankenstein and Natural Magic" by Crosbie Smith, a
Reader in the History of Science at the University of Kent at Canterbury. Smith
states, "By setting the text against a broad context of ‘Enlightenment’
ideology, I argue that the persistent subversion of that ideology by
Frankenstein’s personal inclination towards natural and even demonic magic,
adapted to his ‘Romantic’ character, underpinned a major textual
preoccupation with questions of human knowledge and power" (40). Smith
arrives at this conclusion without any reference to, and presumably without
having read, the Last Draft. That is to say, he connects Frankenstein with
natural magic in spite of the fact that the term does not figure in the three
editions. As I have emphasized, it appears only as two Last Draft cancellations.
20. For the "orientalist" Frankenstein, see
Lew; and Ketterer, "(De)Composing Frankenstein 266-72. There is at
least one further aspect to this reading. The idealized mating in the monster’s
narrative of Felix and Safie (an anglicization of the Arabic Safiyyah), the
woman at least six times referred to as "his Arabian" (Rieger 112.33/
2.5:73), or qualified variants thereof, cannot but suggest that they inhabit a
metaphoric "Arabia Felix." It was Ptolemy who geographically
distinguished Happy or Flourishing Arabia (the comparatively fertile
southwestern and southern region) from "Arabia Petræa" (Stony) and
Agrippa, Henricus Cornelius. De Occulta Philosophia libra
tres. Cologne, 1533. English translation by John French, 1651. Rev. trans.
as Three Books of Occult Philosophy and Magic: Book One—Natural Magic,
ed. Willis F. Whitehead (1897, books two and three were not published; rpt. New
York: Samuel Weizer, Inc., 1971).
Aldiss, Brian W. Billion Year Spree: The True History of
Science Fiction. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1973. Revised
(with David Wingrove) as Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction
(1986; London Paladin, 1988).
Baldick, Chris. In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth,
Monstrosity and Nineteenth-century Writing. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987.
Berger, Maxianne. "The Frankensteins: Collation
and Discussion from [Rieger] 30.13 to 45.17." Graduate seminar paper
(November 1993). 49 pp.
Duyfhuizen, Bernard. "Periphrastic Naming in Mary Shelley’s
Frankenstein." Studies in the Novel 27 (Winter 1995): 477-92.
Ellis, Frederick Startridge. A Lexical Concordance to the
Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley: An attempt to classify every word
therein according to its signification. 1892; New York: Burt Franklin, 1968.
The Frankenstein Notebooks: A
Facsimile Edition of Mary Shelley’s Manuscript Novel, 1816-17 (with
alterations in the hand of Percy Bysshe Shelley), as it survives in draft and
fair copy deposited by Lord Abinger in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Dep. c.
477/1 and Dep. c. 534/1-2). Transcribed and ed. Charles E. Robinson. 2 vols. New
York and London: Garland Publishing, 2 December 1996 (announced publication
The Journals of Mary Shelley, 1814-1844 .
Ed. Paula R. Feldman and Diana Scott-Kilvert. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press,
Ketterer, David. "The Corrected Frankenstein:
Twelve Preferred Readings in the Last Draft." English Language Notes
33 (September 1995): 23-35.
—————. "(De)Composing Frankenstein: The
Import of Altered Character Names in the Last Draft." Studies in
Bibliography 49 (1996): 232-76.
—————. Frankenstein’s Creation: The Book, the
Monster and Human Reality. English Literary Studies Monograph Series, no.
16. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria, 1979.
The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley .
Ed. F. L. Jones. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964.
Lew, Joseph W. "The Deceptive Other: Mary Shelley’s
Critique of Orientalism in Frankenstein." Studies in Romanticism
30 (Summer 1991): 255-83.
Murray, E. B. "Changes in the 1823 Edition of Frankenstein."
Library, Sixth Series, 3 (1981): 320-27.
—————. "Shelley’s Contribution to Mary’s Frankenstein."
Keats-Shelley Memorial Bulletin 29 (1978): 50-68.
Scoular, Kitty W. Natural Magic: Studies in the
Presentation of Nature in English Poetry from Spenser to Marvell. Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1965.
[Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft.] Frankenstein; Or, The
Modern Prometheus. 3 vols. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor and
Jones, 1818. (Facsimile text: The Annotated Frankenstein, ed. Leonard
Wolf [New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1977].)
—————. Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus.
2 vols. London: G. and W. B. Whitaker, 1823. (Facsimile edition, introduced by
Jonathan Wordsworth: Oxford and New York: Woodstock Books, 1993.)
[—————.] Frankenstein, Or, the Modern Prometheus,
Revised, Corrected, and Illustrated with a New Introduction, by the Author.
No. IX in Bentley’s Standard Novels. London: Henry Colburn and Richard
Bentley; Edinburgh: Bell and Bradfute; Dublin: Cumming, 1831.
—————. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus (The
1818 Text). Ed. James Rieger. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.,
1974. (Reprinted by the University of Chicago Press, 1982.) Cited as "Rieger."
—————. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. The
1831 text. Ed. James Kinsley and M. K. Joseph. 1969; Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1980. Cited as "Joseph."
—————. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus
[the 1818 text]. Ed. Nora Crook. Vol. 1 (of 8) of "The Novels and Selected
Works of Mary Shelley." London: William Pickering, 1996. Cited as
—————. The Last Draft and the Fair Copy of Frankenstein.
Dep. c. 477/1 and Dep. c. 534/1 and 2; The Abinger Deposit: Papers of P. B.
Shelley, W. Godwin, and Their Circles; The Bodleian Library, Oxford.
Smith, Crosbie. "Frankenstein and Natural Magic." In
Frankenstein, Creation and Monstrosity, ed. Stephen Bann (London:
Reaktion Books Ltd., 1994), 39-59, 196-98.
Sunstein, Emily W. Mary Shelley: Romance and Reality.
Boston: Little, 1989.
Sutherland, John. "How does Victor make his
monsters?" In Sutherland, Is Heathcliff a Murderer? Great Puzzles in
Nineteenth-Century Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996),
Thorndike, Lynn. A History of Magic and Experimental
Science. 8 vols. New York: Columbia University Press, 1923-58.
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