'The Creation of Frankenstein'Charles E. Robinson, Ed., The Frankenstein Notebooks: A Facsimile Edition of Mary Shelleys Manuscript Novel, 1816-17. 2 vols. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996. ISBN: 0 8153 1608 9 (hardback). Price: US$340.[Notice]

  • Michael Laplace-Sinatra

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  • Michael Laplace-Sinatra
    St. Catherine's College, Oxford

One hundred and eighty years ago, on 26 May 1817, Mary Shelley wrote the following entry in her journal: "Murray likes F". 'F' stands of course for Frankenstein, Shelley's first novel and one of the most famous novels in the history of English literature. As Brian Aldiss comments, with Frankenstein, Mary Shelley accomplished something unique: the creation of a new archetypal figure. And Professor Robinson's remarkable edition of The Frankenstein Notebooks allows for the first time any reader the possibility to trace the creation of Shelley's famous "hideous progeny". 1996 will certainly remain in the memory of scholars working on Mary Shelley's works as it witnessed the publication of The Novels and Selected Works of Mary Shelley, the first ever collected edition of Shelley's long fiction, and The Frankenstein Notebooks, the first holograph text of the manuscript of Frankenstein as it survives in draft and in fair copy in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. 1997 will witness several events celebrating the bicentenary of Mary Shelley's birth, with two major international conferences taking place in New York and Cambridge, and two exhibitions devoted to Mary Shelley and her times in New York and Grasmere. No doubt that Professor Robinson's edition will be eagerly discussed around the world as its impact on Shelleyan scholarship cannot be underestimated. Keeping up with the series The Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics, published by Garland under the general editorship of Professor Donald H. Reiman, The Frankenstein Notebooks consists of 400 manuscript photofacsimile on the versos and Robinson's transcription on the rectos. This allows the reader to see the actual manuscript and to read Robinson's extremely accurate and scholarly transcription. Though Mary Shelley's hand proves to be quite similar to Percy's, Robinson's long-standing study of manuscripts grants him an assurance which never verges on egotistical excess of confidence as Robinson scrupulously indicates all the uncertain attributions with a question mark. If it was not enough to provide a meticulous transcription of Shelley's manuscript, Professor Robinson innovates in incorporating alongside his transcription a literal transcript of the 1818 edition of Frankenstein. As Robinson comments, "such a procedure makes possible for the reader to see the transformations of one text into another and, at the same time, see the degree of [Percy Bysshe Shelley's] involvement in these transformations" (xxvii). Robinson's use of two different fonts to distinguish Mary Shelley's emendations to the manuscript from Percy's allow the reader to appreciate visually the importance of Percy's contribution to Frankenstein. This point has obviously been the subject of numerous discussions amongst Shelleyan scholars in their attempt to define the extent in which Percy Shelley was involved in the writing of the novel. Until the publication of The Frankenstein Notebooks , scholars had to rely on periodically innaccurate presentations of the manuscript evidence. Robinson's edition makes explicitly clear for the first time exactly what words or suggestions Percy Shelley introduced into the novel. Robinson devotes an entire section of his introduction to the delicate question of Mary's and Percy's collaboration in the Frankenstein Notebooks, in which he presents past scholarship and provides a new starting point for future studies of the Shelleys' collaboration. Indeed, from now on, as Robinson points out, "A reading of the evidence in these Frankenstein Notebooks should make clear that PBS's contributions to Frankenstein were no more than what most publishers editors have provided new (or old) authors or, in fact, what colleagues have provided to each other after reading each others works in progress" (lxvii). Though, at first, one might feel a bit surprised by the unfamiliar presentation of the transcription in …

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