Summary and Analysis Introduction to the 1831 Edition


Five writers gathered in Switzerland during the summer of 1816: Mary Shelley, her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, Claire Clairmont, and John William Polidori, Byron's friend and physician. Mary's publishers have asked her to tell about how her novel came to be written. She was only 19 years old when she began the novel. By age 21, she was acknowledged as the author.

Being the daughter of two famous parents, she was not destined to be a writer; it was an avocation that she worked at. She recalls as a child writing stories to pass the time and to amuse friends. Her only audience was the select few she allowed to read her writing. But, through it all, she continued to write stories of imagination and of the fantastic. These stories were not meant to be personal but works of flight and fancy.

Percy Bysshe Shelley encouraged her work as a writer. She remarks that she was less than enthusiastic about writing. Instead, she worked at home, traveled, studied, and read. It was a trip to Switzerland, however, that changed everything.

Mary, Percy, and her stepsister Claire Clairmont rented a small cottage on the shores of Lake Leman (now called Lake Geneva), near Cologny, Switzerland during the summer of 1816. Byron was working on his major poetic work "Childe Harold;" Percy Shelley was working on his poem "Mont Blanc;" John William Polidori began his The Vampyre; a Tale (1819); and Mary began work on her future novel, Frankenstein. Only Mary and Polidori, the least known writers, produced a full version of their ghost tales.

Mary tells a little about each tale that was concocted and what happened to the end result. All the others abandoned their stories when the weather cleared, except Mary. Conversations between Lord Byron and Percy Shelley fueled her curiosity and desire to create a good story:"One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror done to make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart." And so she begins her novel.

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