Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

Frankenstein Sundae, 201

On August 12, 1823, Mary and her son, Percy, arrived in Paris, where Mary received a letter from her father that brought some surprising news: Frankenstein (sort of) had reached the stage. On August 14, she wrote a long letter to her friends Leigh and Marianne Hunt, still in Italy, about the news—news she’d also heard from a friend in Paris:

The playwright and producers, she said, vivified the Monster in such a manner as caused the ladies to faint away & a hubbub to ensue […] and it is having a run ….[1]

In another letter to Leigh Hunt a few days later, she communicated some further news—and alterations of the “old news”—about Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein:
I found out, she wrote, that it was not true that the ladies were frightened at the first appearance of Frankenstein— [… but] that the first appearance of the Monster from F.’s laboratory down a dark staircase had a fine effect—but the piece fell off afterwards—though it is having a run.[2]

(An aside: It’s interesting to me to see that Mary Shelley herself referred to the creature her as “Frankenstein”—something that remains common to this day. In her novel, the creature has no name, but Victor Frankenstein was, in a scientific way at least, the father—so the creature’s surname is, in fact, Frankenstein.)

Yet another Frankenstein knock-off appeared on the London stage (the New Surrey Theatre) on September 1—a parody (the sort of thing filmmaker Marlon Wayans has been doing; as I type this, his Fifty Shades of Black is in the theaters). Entitled Hungumption; or Dr Frankenstein and the Hobgoblin of Hoxton ran for six performances only, and yet another one, Presumption and the Blue Demon, had a two-performance run at Davis’ Royal Amphiteatre.[3]

And there was yet another surprise: Her father had arranged for the publication of a new edition of Frankenstein, a decision most Shelley scholars agree was motivated by the various stage versions beginning to appear on London’s stages.

[1] Letters, vol. 1, 369. The friend was Horace Smith, a writer and stockbroker who was a strong ally of Bysshe Shelley.
[2] Ibid., 374.
[3] Martin Garrett, A Mary Shelley Chronology (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 64.

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