Tuesday, March 2, 2010

An 1818 Review of Frankenstein from The Morning Chronicle (London)

A facsimile of The Morning Chronicle, a London paper published on Saturday, August 15, 1818, announcing the first editon of Shelley's Frankenstein (seen at left).  Though small, the advertisement reads:


In Three Volumes, price 16s. 6d. a Work of Imagination, entitled


"Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?-- PARADISE LOST

"In Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine for March 1818, may be seen, a very forcible commendation of this work, from the pen (it is presumed) of a highly celebrated northern writer and critic--the article concludes thus--: "Upon the whole, the work impresses us with a high idea of the author's original genius, and happy power of expression.  We shall be delighted to hear that he has aspired to the pallo majora; and in the mean time, congratulate our readers upon a novel which excites new reflections and untried sources of emotion.  If Gray's definition of Paradise, namely, to lie on a couch, and read new novels, come any thing near the truth, no small praise is due to him, who, like the author of Frankenstein, has enlarged the sphere of that fascinating enjoyment." 

Printed for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mayor, and Jones, Finsbury-square. 

Note that the work was sold in three volumes for 16 shillings, 6 pence (a typical book went for around 6 shillings, so getting 3 books for 16 shillings was a bargain).  After finding a publisher only with much difficulty, Shelley placed the work with Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mayor, and Hones, publishers of cheap sensational or "occult" novels, such as "The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer--a complete system of occult philosophy, being a summary of all the best Writers on the subjects of Magic, Alchemy, Magnetism, the Cabala, and etc. Cornelius, Agrippa, Paracelsus, Van Helmont, Hermes Trismegistus, & c., with an Account of their Lives and a great variety of new matter, and rare and curious experiments" (ironic, considering Victor's early reading interests!)  The book was cheaply bound and had no illustrations or any other distinguishing feature.  That it survived this very humble birth is a supreme testament to its literary power and ability to capture the popular imagination.

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