Frankenstein's ghost(writer)

April 30, 2019

For many years, scholars have questioned whether Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley had a little help writing her masterpiece Frankenstein, the full title of which is actually Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus

That’s a mouthful of a title, so we’ll just call it Frankenstein from here on out.

(Much like everyone calls Frankenstein’s monster Frankenstein, for short, although my mother would have called him “a tall drink of water.”) 

Mary, of course, was married to Percy Bysshe Shelley, a fine writer in his own right, the great Romantic poet perhaps best known for Ozymandias, which you may have memorized in school or heard Bryan Cranston, as Walter White, recite on television’s Breaking Bad. 

During the “wet, ungenial summer” on Lake Geneva, upon the challenge of the gathering’s host, the poet Lord Byron, for everyone to write a ghost story, Mary came up with quite a satisfying response to Byron’s guest request. (since there are so many poets involved, I figured it was time for a rhyme)


Did Mary Shelly use a ghostwriter for her ghost story? Legend has it that she and Percy wrote the story together in bed, which must have made for some interesting dreams, or perhaps nightmares. Or perhaps it was written during her “waking dream”, when she could not sleep thinking of reanimated corpses and such. 


However it was written, it’s one of the most influential works in literature, having launched an entire genre of romantic horror and about a zillion films and television shows. 

Here's a few things you may not know about the creator of Frankenstein: 

Her mother, one of the world's first feminists, died not long after she was born. 

Her father was the founder of philosophical anarchism, believing, as human beings gained knowledge, that governments would become unnecessary, although he later accepted a government pension. He also believed as man developed his mind, he would eventually become immortal. (like Frankenstein?) 

She published her first poem at the age of 10. 

She ran away with a married man when she was 17, not long after his estranged wife committed suicide while eight months pregnant by throwing herself into the Serpentine River in Hyde Park. (no wonder Mary couldn’t sleep!) 

Her husband, who two years later would write a play called Prometheus Unbound (maybe Mary ghostwrote him), wrote The Masque of Anarchy, which inspired Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, which in turn inspired Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., who is admired by Kevin Bacon. (How’s that for six degrees of Kevin Bacon?) 

She wrote Frankenstein when she was only eighteen years-old. 


The modern Vampire was also born during that stormy night on Lake Geneva. While Mary was writing about Frankenstein, another guest, John William Polidori, wrote about a Vampyre.  Polidori was Lord Byron's doctor. Both stories became novels, published within a year of each other. Bram Stoker would, of course, pick up the mantle some years later with his book Dracula, but you could say that both Frank and the Count were born on the same day. 

I mean, that dark and stormy night. 

Before she wrote the book, one of her teachers at Eton showed her the technique of using electric shocks to stimulate the nerves of dead frogs. She also knew Charles Darwin's grandfather, who had supposedly animated a piece of vermicelli, which was referenced in her book and parodied to great effect (along with everything else) in Mel Brooks' film, Young Frankenstein. 

She later wrote an apocalyptic novel titled The Last Man, which was universally panned. It was one of her favorite works, however, and was later republished to more favorable reviews. (over a hundred years later) 


So was Frankenstein, a monster raised from the dead, actually created by a ghost? 


We’ll never know for sure, but regardless, the book and its protagonist were both stitched together quite well. 


If you’ve got a story that needs a stitch or two, give The Best Ghostwriters a call at 323-539-7635 or send us an email. 

Consultations are always free and our prices aren't too scary, either!