Saturday, March 24, 2007

Did Mary Shelley NOT write Frankenstein?

Sounds like a pretty convincing case to me...

From The Sunday Times
March 25, 2007
A monstrous lie: Mary Shelley’s claim to Frankenstein disputed

THE conventional account of how Mary Shelley, a teenager, came to invent Dr Frankenstein and his monster is of a “waking dream” brought on by a drinking session with some of Britain’s most notorious Romantic poets.

However, a forthcoming book, The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein, claims that Shelley, an icon of modern feminism, was a fraud who did not dream up the gothic monster in response to a challenge by Lord Byron by Lake Geneva. It claims the credit for the world’s first science fiction novel should go to Percy Bysshe Shelley, her future husband.

John Lauritsen’s book, due out in May, builds on debates that have surrounded Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus since it was published anonymously in 1818. Even the older Mary seemed amazed by it. Nearly a decade after her husband died in a boating accident she wondered “how I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea”.

Loyalists are rallying to defend Mary while iconoclastic scholars such as Camille Paglia praise Lauritsen for his “fresh and convincing outsider’s challenge to the orthodoxies of today’s lazy and overpaid academics”.

Lauritsen, a Harvard-educated “independent scholar” who has spent seven years comparing the texts of Shelley’s great works such as Ozymandias with his wife’s subsequent books, says that Frankenstein was too profound to have been created by an “ill-educated 19-year-old whose later writings were just ordinary”.

He says some of the language, with lines such as “I will glut the maw of death”, were pure Shelley.

Lauritsen said Shelley had many reasons to disguise his authorship, including hints of “free love” that had driven him out of England and an undertone of “Romantic, but I would not say gay, male love”. Another factor may have been the critics, who hated it.

The Quarterly Review of 1818 said the story of Frankenstein, the Swiss scientist who creates a monster from body parts, only to see it run amok, was a “tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity”.

Yet after Shelley drowned off Tuscany in 1822, Frankenstein defied the critics to return to life and become a massive hit, first on the stage and then in many sexually censored editions overseen by Mary. She was unable to recreate such a blockbuster.

Paglia said: “There are serious questions here that feminists who have turned Mary Shelley into a saint need to address. This is very exciting stuff that will infuriate scholars who cannot accept that Mary was a second-rate writer.”

Hilary Bailey, author of the forthcoming novel Frankenstein’s Bride, said: “The style of Frankenstein is, to be brutal, clotted and pedestrian. Shelley didn’t write it and, if he did, it would be kinder not to say so.”

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