Talk:Mary Shelley/Archive 2

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Archive 1 Archive 2 Archive 3


Although it has been mentioned before, I'd like to recall attention to the fact that the language used in this article - though generally erudite and well thought-out - is still unencyclopedic. As a notable example, cf the following quote:

Can one miss the darkling reflection of the Beckford character's "insolent desire" to "penetrate the secrets of heaven" in both "Alastor" (...) and Mary's acclaimed piece (...)?

While quite appropriate in an essay, the use of rhetorical questions seems out of place in an encyclopedia. I would have liked to have taken a stab at editing this (and other similarly unencyclopedic sentences) myself; however, I am experiencing some trouble in the conversion of these "essayist" paragraphs into factual paragraphs, since I have no references to cite and no expert knowledge on the topic.

Can someone with references/expertise take a stab at de-essay-fying the article? Mip | Talk 01:25, 1 January 2007 (UTC)


I am in the process of expanding on and improving the article as much as I can, because it was very incomplete and inaccurate before. Once I've done the spadework, I'll run through and put references for the more speculative aspects of it. I just want to get a reasonably "final" version before I work through all my Shelley biographies and cite all the sources, especially as changes beget changes on Wikipedia. I'd appreciate any comments or corrections that people might wish to make.

I finally signed up for an account too. For some reason, my university wouldn't let me do so before.

Stillusio 07:57, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

This is much appreciated. It will need extensive footnotes even for the unspeculative parts if it is to be a feature article.--Grahamec 09:27, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Yes. I'm going to sit down and footnote it all eventually. :) Stillusio 18:19, 15 April 2007 (UTC)


You might want to check out John Lauritsen's soon to be published "The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein" in which Lauritsen argues fairly convincingly that Shelley, not his wife, was the author of that work. It's listed at Amazon. -- "4 tildes is not my name" —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 00:25, 15 March 2007 (UTC)

I will certainly pick up the book, because Frankenstein is part of my research interests. That argument is one that crops up sporadically in the field of Romanticism, however, and I've never been particularly convinced by it. Frankenstein seems to depend too much on Mary Shelley's own life experience for its content and its themes for it to be her husband's work. The detailed scientific knowledge and the parallels with Percy's work can be explained by his editing. Stillusio 18:19, 15 April 2007 (UTC)

It should be noted that John Lauritsen is considered an "independent scholar" and spent much of his career claiming that the HIV virus is not the cause of AIDS (which goes against scientific fact). His main thesis is that Mary Shelley couldn't have written Frankenstein because she was not educated enough, which is entirely incorrect. She had no formal education, but with an intellectual father and mother, the assertion that she was too dim-witted to have written is absurd, since we have writings from her when she was eleven. The hypothesis that Mary Shelley did not write Frankenstein is not at all new. When Frankenstein was first published anonymously with a preface written by Percy, it was thought that Percy was the author. However, most scholars say that Frankenstein is very different in tone and style from Percy's earlier works, and that it would be much more convincing to say that Mary Shelley had a hand in Percy's later works, as we know that Percy died before much of his work was published and that Mary did indeed heavily edited this work. Moreover, we have manuscripts in Mary's handwriting with editorial notes in the margin in Percy's handwriting, which make clear that he is not the author. Lulurascal 19:48, 9 May 2007 (UTC)

A really short synopsis of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus would be:

A young Swiss student discovers the secret of animating lifeless matter and, by assembling body parts, creates a monster who vows revenge on his creator after being rejected from society.

A more detailed summary would go like this:

An English explorer, Robert Walton, is on an expedition to the North Pole. In letters to his sister Margaret Saville, he keeps his family informed of his situation and tells about the difficult conditions on the ship. One day when the ship is completely surrounded by ice, a man in bad condition is taken aboard: Victor Frankenstein. As soon as his health allows it, he tells Walton the story of his life. He grew up in Geneva, Switzerland as the eldest son of a higher class family. He was brought up with an orphan, Elizabeth and also had two younger brothers. He did not have many friends, Henry Clerval being the only exception. At the age of nineteen, Frankenstein became interested in natural philosophy, electricity, chemistry and mathematics. After the death of his mother, who succumbed to scarlet fever, Frankenstein left for Ingolstadt, Germany, to attend university. There, his interest in natural philosophy quickly became an obsession. He was particularly fascinated with the human frame and the principle of life. After four years of fanatic studying, not keeping in contact with his family, he was able to "bestow animation upon lifeless matter" and created a monster of gigantic proportion from assembled body parts taken from graveyards, slaughterhouses and dissecting rooms. As soon as the creature opened his eyes, however, the beauty of Frankenstein's dream vanished: it became a horrible creature. He realised he made a mistake in creating this monster and fled from his laboratory. On his return the next day, the monster had disappeared. Victor was consequently bedridden with a nervous fever for the next months, being nursed back to health by his friend Clerval. On the eve of the return to his parental home, he received a letter that his youngest brother had been found murdered. On his way home, Frankenstein saw the dæmon he has created and immediately realised that it is he who is responsible for his brothers death. Frankenstein decided not to tell his family about the dæmon because they would simply dismiss it as insane. As he arrived home, he was informed that the murderer of his brother had been found. The accused was Justine, a good friend of the family. When Justine has been found guilty and has been hanged, Frankenstein's heart was tortured. He could not stay in the house and started wandering in the Alpine valleys. There, Frankenstein was confronted with his creation who tells him his life story. After leaving Frankenstein's laboratory, he went to the village where he was insulted and attacked by the frightened villagers. He eventually went to the country and found refuge in a hovel next to small house inhabited by a old, blind man and his two children. By observing the family and by reading their books, the monster learnt how to speak and read. He felt compassion for the family who have to struggle to get by, and anonymously did chores for them. Longing for some kindness and protection, he decided to meet his hosts. He got into a pleasant conversation with the blind man but his children return unexpectedly. Horrified by his appearance, they beat him and he fled the house. Completely disillusioned, the monster was filled with rage and decided to find his creator. By chance he met Frankenstein's younger brother in the forest. As soon as he discovered that the boy "belongs to the enemy" he choked him. He also placed a portrait in the lap of a sleeping young girl, Justine, thereby incriminating her with his crime. The dæmon's only request from Frankenstein was that he should create another being: a female to accompany him. If Frankenstein complies, he and his bride will stay away from other people and keep to themselves in the wild. Frankenstein saw some justice in the monster's arguments and also felt that he has a duty towards his fellow-man, so he agreed to the dæmon's request. Victor left for England to finish his work accompanied by his friend Clerval, promising to marry Elizabeth on his return. When the work on his second creation was advanced, he started to question his promise. He was afraid that they might hate each other, or that they might produce a whole race of these creatures. When the monster visits to check on the progress, Frankenstein destroyed his work. The monster swore revenge and promised to be with him on his wedding night. The following day a body was found and Frankenstein was accused of murder. He was taken to the body which he identified as Henry Clerval. He was eventually cleared of all charges and returned to Geneva in a very bad condition. Frankenstein married Elizabeth after promising her to tell her his horrifying secret the following day. Remembering the monster's threat, Frankenstein was convinced that he would be killed that night. The monster, however, kills Elizabeth instead. Frankenstein lost another family member as his father died after hearing the news about Elizabeth's death. Frankenstein had now lost every sensation except for revenge. He followed the monster everywhere which eventually led him to the Arctic region, where he was taken aboard Walton's ship. After telling Walton his story, Victor asks him to kill the monster if he dies before he can do it himself. The ship has in the mean time been freed from the ice and pressured by his crew, Walton has decided to abandon his trip and return home. Victor's health eventually deteriorates and he dies. Just after his death, Walton finds the monster hanging over Victor's body. The dæmon speaks of his sufferings. Because of all the murders he has committed, he now hates himself. Since his creator is dead, he decides it is time that he too will rest in death. After stating that he will build a funeral pile for himself, he leaves the ship and disappears on his ice-raft in the darkness.

Recent Controversy

I read a newspaper article recently about a theory that PB Shelley wrote Frankenstein. I wante to know if anyone else heard this ro read of it, and should the controversy be included? Thanks. Odin 10:55, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

I don't think it should. The book has yet to be published. But the author, Lauritsen, is most famous for trying to claim that the retrovirus HIV is not the cause of AIDS, going against scientific fact. He is a gay rights "activist," and wants to make Frankenstein an example of male love. This book would not have gotten so much attention if it hadn't been for Paglia's praise in Salon. We should be wary of this guy, and his claims. He's not so believed when science can prove him wrong, but now we are discussing something that is a little harder to prove false the negative. Let's let the book come out and see how the Shelley experts handle this. Lulurascal 20:02, 9 May 2007 (UTC)

I am on a listserv of Romantic scholars - the people who participate on that listserv tend not to respond positively to the "Percy wrote Frankenstein" argument. It has very little evidence to go on. One of the important things to keep in mind when writing about a book like Frankenstein is that wikipedia articles are supposed to represent what the majority of critics agree upon. I can tell you right now that the majority of critics agree that Mary Shelley is the primary author. Percy edited a bit, but the arcane disputes over which words don't belong here, in my opinion. Awadewit | talk 12:34, 16 September 2007 (UTC)


When she wrote Frankenstien, didnt they have all have sex with each other?? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 13:06, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

Probably she was probs a lady of the night... they all were. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:01, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

Place of death

From "Authors & Artists for Young Adults Volume 20" (Editor Thomas McMahon, Patricia Campbell, et al.) p. 193, it states Mary died in Bournemouth, England. I have made the change accordingly.

Enigma55 (talkemail) 02:25, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that Mary died at home, 24 Chester Square, London on February 1, 1851 and was buried in St Peter's Church, Bournemouth on February 8, 1851. -Steve Cottrell 08:56, 14 September 2007 (UTC)

Mount Chamonix ?

At the time the sentence "Je vous n'entends pas" probably meant ("I don't understand you") rather than ("I don't hear you") moerover I have not read Frankenstein, but the sentence "a very famous scene in Frankenstein set on Mount Chamonix" seems dubious, Chamonix is a town on the slopes of the Mont Blanc. Chris CII 15:24, 25 September 2007 (UTC)

moved from top by Jclerman 04:38, 26 September 2007 (UTC)

Check on these other un-wikipedic mounts [1] Jclerman 04:45, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
And the neuro-ophtalmologists saw the place: "The next day, there were excursions to the famous Château de Chillon (where Byron was inspired to write his famous poem “The Prisoner of Chillon”), to Mount Chamonix, to the vieille ville of Geneva, or to the recently opened Patek-Philippe museum, which features more than 2,000 treasures of Geneva’s renowned watchmakers, known as 'la Fabrique.'” [2]Jclerman 04:51, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
Ok, it looks like there are a 54 references to a "Mount Chamonix", of which some 17 point to the death of an american climber (Richards). The scarcity just tells that they are mistakes, compare to the 6.6 million references to Chamonix of which the first is [3] and look up also Chamonix Chris CII 22:33, 12 October 2007 (UTC)

The Frankenstein text (see Wikisource or Gutenberg) does not name Mount Chamonix (and spells the valley village Chamounix), but chapter 10's second paragraph has Viktor ascending by mule the margin alongside the Montanvert glacier (then much larger, part is called the Mer de Glace) along its margin with the mountainside. He then crosses the field of ice "almost a league" to the perpendicular rock on the other side, and there the creature approaches him over the ice and converses with him. So not on any Mount, but maybe that was an old name for the mountain face on that side of the Mer?-Wikianon (talk) 05:54, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

Ok, that is consistent with what I know from the geography of the Mont Blanc. Chamounix was a village in the valley and the glacier des bois (now mer de glace) could be crossed at the locality of Montenvers, as also indicated in the .fr article on the Mer de Glace Chris CII (talk) 14:58, 26 February 2008 (UTC)

Internal Inconsistencies

In the penultimate paragraph of the section titled “Shelley” it states that the first-born child of Mr. and Mrs. Percy Shelly, Clara, died in March of the year 1815. However, in the penultimate paragraph in the section titled “Return to England,” it states that an infant named Clara died outside of Venice, inferably sometime between March, 1815 and the summer of 1822. Unless the Shelleys named two of their children Clara, this is a glaring internal inconsistency that casts doubt on the factual accuracy of the article. Indeed, it is claimed in at least one other internet source that Shelley bore four children, not three as implied in the article.

Odietamo 07:21, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

How could Shelley possibly have learned to read and write from Louisa Jones if Louisa left when Mary was three? I mean, c'mon.

Jenniearcheo 10:34, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

6th grader

do you know what i have been wondering? i am a sixth grader and i recently read a book by mary shelley called frankenstein. it was a facinating book. actually this morose tale had a myriad of words that helped me obtain a knowledge o words into my own personal lexicon. i found out that the little boy william was based on her son william that died at the age of 3. what my friends and i were wondering though is when she was writing this why did she have her son die? why did'nt she keep her son alive in the tale. i mean if your kid died and you were writing a story i mean this is me but i would keep my kid alive. and also was frankenstein her and if so why did she make william die in such a cruel way like strangling. also her mom really did die like victor frankensteins mom. why did'nt she make william go like the mom. was it to add suspense or merely just because she wanted the story to go like that. those are some of the questions and comments i have for this story HOPE YOU LIKED IT. TUNE IN ON OTHER DISSCUSIONS FOR MORE FROM ME !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 00:27, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

Sorry, this isn't a discussion board about Mary Shelley or Frankenstein. Instead, this is just a discussion about how to write an encyclopedia article about Mary Shelley. --lquilter 01:24, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

Did Mary have TWO children named "Clara"?

There are two separate mentions of an infant Clara, with two separate death dates. Please clarify within the article that this was a repetition of the same name for a new child, or correct the date inconsistencies if it is only one child. Thanks. Softlavender 01:35, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

Vandalism or experimentalism

Has it appeared only to me that the article has been hit with an unusual number of vandalism or mistaken edits lately? Sorry I can't add any detail to the article at present. (My name is also not Nfette (talk) 01:33, 7 December 2007 (UTC))

No there has been a high level of vandalism/test edits of late - unfortunatly they appear to come in quick succession and getting back to a clean version without loosing real edits can be a pain. Keith D (talk) 11:30, 7 December 2007 (UTC)

Missing section in biography

It seems that there is nothing between Shelley's joining the Baxter family and her trip with her husband to Switzerland. The portion of her life when she met Percy and married him is missing. Perhaps this was mistakenly removed at some point? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:06, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

Yes, it was removed on January 8. I have restored it. This article has been hit by a lot of vandalism, and does not seem to have many people watching it and making sure vandalism is properly cleaned up. Anyone with an account (get one! it's easy) who is interested is encouraged to add it to their watchlist by clicking this link or the "watch" link at the top of the page. Chick Bowen 06:56, 1 February 2008 (UTC)

Filling out the article

I've sketched in Mary Shelley's life from Percy Shelley's death until her own. I haven't gone over the earlier material, which needs a good overhaul, since at least it's there. I've mainly used Spark, trying to avoid her weirder stuff. When more passes over the material are made, using different sources, perhaps some of it will have to change. I regard Spark as a first port-of-call (useful because she is so brief), to be put aside later.

I'm aiming to continue downwards until a full article, however rudimentary, is in place. This seems the best service to give the readers for the moment. Not sure what the best section names would be from here on. I'm thinking vaguely along the lines of:



(covering novels, then stories, then drama)


(covering travel writing and the Lives. And journals/letters?)


Covering issues to do with editing Percy Shelley


Reception history


Then list of works, etc.

What am I missing out?

Should there be style or themes sections, or can those be covered under the works? What about publication history, editions, revisions, etc?

Any suggestions on a good structure (I'll get stuck in roughly, anyway, and things can always be changed later)? qp10qp (talk) 23:15, 9 February 2008 (UTC)

  • After I've read the basic literary criticism, I'll weigh in on the "works" section (unless someone else on this talk page has read literary criticism about Mary Shelley - call for help?!). It might be better to arrange it as a "Style and themes" section and discuss the works in passing - I think we should leave that possibility open for the moment. Awadewit | talk 01:17, 10 February 2008 (UTC)
  • Publication history, etc. can be left for the articles on individual works. That kind of detail is usually too in-depth for an author article. Only something like the writing history of Frankenstein might be important enough to include. We must be very selective. Awadewit | talk 01:19, 10 February 2008 (UTC)
So far, I've read Spark's critical section (90 pages), some essays in the Companion, and a couple of introductions to Frankenstein, so I'll start with these as a base. Beyond Frankenstein, I can put in some superficial regurgitations on the novels, but obviously I won't be happy until I've read them myself (gulp; I may be some time). There are lots of sources I can look into online, too. I've ordered good editions of Lodore, Valperga and The Last Man, and Bennett's introduction to Mary Shelley, to help me along the way. In addition, the biographies are useful for the travel writing and the editing aspects. If anything, there is too much material to go on (erk!). qp10qp (talk) 15:57, 10 February 2008 (UTC)
I would caution against using criticism sections from biographies, as most tend to be "biographical criticism", which will not reflect the mainstream critical view of the works. I think that our "works" section should be solidly based on the work of literary critics. Of course, I will admit to being biased on this point, but I do happen to think they are the experts. :) Awadewit | talk 18:18, 10 February 2008 (UTC)
No, you are quite right. But when it comes to the editing and the travel writing, there is an overlap with biography. For example, many of Mary Shelley's editing decisions about Shelley's poems were influenced by the threats of Sir Timothy Shelley to her son's allowance and the fear that he might suffer from bad publicity: so there's a narrative aspect to that work.
I think it is OK to block in the remaining sections with the help of Spark, since she edited a decent literary magazine when she first wrote the book and strikes me as more interested in the critical side than the biographical (her essay on Frankenstein is actually quite brilliant). But once a rough outline is in place, we can supersede this later with scholarly criticism. It is not an easy thing to take material here and there from criticism of Mary Shelley, which largely takes the form of individual chapters and articles, and construct a sure-footed read. In the short term, I am going to proceed on the basis of "Literary Life", taking the works in chronological order (by type). We can always redesign all this later, but I will find this easier than a more fragmentary approach to begin with. I will be happy to see references to Spark slowly lost over time, like the memory of water. qp10qp (talk) 18:49, 10 February 2008 (UTC)

Mary Jane Clairmont

We are going to have to temper the portrait of Mary Jane Clairmont/Mrs. Godwin that is currently on the page. See what I did at Fanny Imlay. Also, the issue of the education of the girls is coming up again. Again, see the competing theories at the Fanny article. How many caveats do we want to include? Awadewit | talk 01:33, 10 February 2008 (UTC)

In my opinion, we should ignore everything the biographers say unless we know they are referring to original sources. I would look in particular for anything sourced by them or other scholars to Mary Shelley's letters or journals, while checking that such comments are correctly framed and not anachronised. We should certainly adjust what is at present a fairy-story narrative of the wicked stepmother. Louisa Jones's role in that narrative seems overstated to me, since Seymour says (p 116) that after the elopement, Jones was among those who sent Mary Godwin to Coventry.
I've noticed, also, that as soon as Mrs Godwin drops from the picture, the biographers start picking on Jane Shelley in a similar manner, making her the butt of their ridicule and distrust. It is true that we should treat her testimony with caution, but I caught my breath when Seymour accused Jane Shelley of inventing that Mary Shelley said, "I would like to rest at Bournemouth near you, but I would like to have my father and mother with me". Seymour says bluntly "Jane probably made this up". But it seems quite plausible to me (not that Mary meant her parents to actually be dug up!). I don't see why the Shelleys would have gone to all that gruesome and laborious trouble if she had not said anything like that. The biographers also routinely vilify Claire, but I say she had every right to be outraged at her mother's husband being moved away from her mother's grave to Bournemouth. I would go ballistic if that happened to my mother. In all these cases, the balancing factor, for me, is that Mary Shelley was willing to be involved with Mrs Godwin, Claire Clairmont, and Jane when she did not have to be, so there must have been more to them than pantomime villains and figures of fun. Either that or she was saintly; and she wasn't. qp10qp (talk) 15:20, 10 February 2008 (UTC)
St Clair seems to me to be the most straightforward about these matters. He is more interested in the philosophical clash between Godwin and Shelley, so his speculation comes in other areas. Handy, that. Do you have The Godwins and the Shelleys? The chapter on "The Second Mrs Godwin" is quite good compared to the other portraits, I think. Awadewit | talk 18:21, 10 February 2008 (UTC)
Yes, I've just blagged a battered copy of it for pennies, and it reads well, though he makes up a quartet of biographers that do not have academic posts, which is why I have sent in desperation for the Bennett. I approve of your note to his view in the Fanny Imlay article, by the way. qp10qp (talk) 18:36, 10 February 2008 (UTC)

Stumble at the first hurdle

Thought I'd check out the first item on the list of writings at the bottom of the article: Mounseer Nongtongpaw; or, The Discoveries of John Bull in a Trip to Paris, Juvenile Library, 1808. St Clair says, p 297, "At the age of ten, Mary prepared a version of the poem Mounseer Nongtongpaw that was so good that Godwin published it as one of the new comic picture books". But Seymour (2000), in her much later book, says, p 55: "Mary herself was thought at one time to have been the eleven-year-old author of another publication on the Library's list, a reworking of Charles Dibdin's genial Mounseer Nongtongpaw . . . This was an error: her contribution has now been shown to have extended to some spirited ideas for extra verses which Godwin proudly forwarded to the author he had employed." Her note is not illuminating, however, being just a reference to Godwin. So who has shown this? Seymour herself? Sussman in Cambridge Companion (2003) credits it to Mary Shelley. So does Mellor (1990), who says she was eleven, and Christine Alexander (2005), who says she was ten. J. A. Carlson (2007), however, says that the attribution is mistaken. It would be easy to pass over it, but the matter of Mary Shelley's first literary efforts is required content. Time for fudge cake, I fear. qp10qp (talk) 18:28, 10 February 2008 (UTC)

I've found the Godwin entry, and it proves nothing. He sends material to the writer, written in Mary Shelley's own words (so it is not just ideas). Trouble is, we don't know if the writer used it or not. A recipe for the fudge, however, occurs to me. qp10qp (talk) 21:49, 10 February 2008 (UTC)
Oo-er! St Clair calls it a poem, Sunstein a song, and Sussman a story. Help, I want to go suck on a history article! qp10qp (talk) 22:15, 10 February 2008 (UTC)
Any references to original sources I can track down. I have a feeling that is what we are going to be doing quite frequently here. Awadewit | talk 03:28, 11 February 2008 (UTC)
By the way, my edition of Seymour references an article by Sunstein in the Keats-Shelley Journal saying "for a full account, see". Yours doesn't say this? Awadewit | talk 04:49, 11 February 2008 (UTC)
It does. I don't know if Sunstein changed her mind, then, but in her biography, p. 42 (which I've reffed for the pro side!), she says: "Mary's own writing was first published when she was ten and a half—a feat that she omitted, typically, from her Frankenstein preface. In late 1807, she wrote an expanded version of the popular comic song 'Mounseer Nongtongpaw,' from Charles Dibdin's 1796 musical comedy The General Election, about a dense John Bull who goes to France and ludicrously misunderstands the language. Godwin sent it and another manuscript to an acquaintance on January 2, 1808. 'That in small writing is the production of my daughter in her eleventh year,' he wrote, 'and is strictly modelled, as far as her infant talent would allow, on Dibdin's song'. 'Mounseer Nongtongpaw,' illustrated by young William Mulready, was published that month . . ."
I am surprised therefore that Seymour refers to Sunstein to back her position: but Sunstein's later article may show a change of mind. My own instinct, if the above is the basis of the scholarly judgements, is that it is opaque whether Mary Shelley's version was published or not. If the wording published by Godwin was different from Dibdin's, then I would be inclined (unless, as Seymour says, the "acquaintance" was Godwin's writer) to think that it was hers. Looking at the first several hits on Google books on the matter, it is not obvious that a view that the attribution is wrong has superseded the view that her version was published—which is why I have phrased it and referenced the issue fudgily. To use one of your phrases, what a mess.
By the way, I think Wikipedia comes into its own in matters like this, because books often take one view, whereas Wikipedia is obliged to be neutral. qp10qp (talk) 14:33, 11 February 2008 (UTC)
I too have read Miranda Seymour's assertion on page 55 of Mary Shelly that Shelley did NOT, in fact, author the poem "Mounseer Nongtongpaw", but merely aided or inspired Godwin. I am inclined to believe Seymour and revise the article accordingly. IAmAgentMunky (talk) 02:45, 12 February 2008 (UTC)
Well, I get the impression it's not finally provable either way. qp10qp (talk) 22:12, 12 February 2008 (UTC)
I've removed the following piece from the biography. I think someone did start to work on the article and had decided to thread analysis of the works among the biographical details. At the moment, that might lead to duplication, so I removed this passage to clear the way for more narrative about the education. We'll have to decide whether we need to go into detail about Nongtongpaw further down, but, given how much else there is to fit in, my instinct is against that. qp10qp (talk) 22:12, 12 February 2008 (UTC)
(cut)In particular, she was encouraged to write stories, and one of these early works "Mounseer Nongtongpaw" was published by the Godwin Company's Juvenile Library when she was only eleven. "Mounseer Nongtongpaw" was a thirty-nine stanza expansion of Charles Dibdin's five-stanza song of the same name. Written in iambic tetrameter it tells of John Bull's trip to Paris, where all of his questions about the ownership of everything he sees meet with the same response: Je vous n'entends pas ("I don't understand you"). He takes this phrase as referring to a Monsieur Nongtongpaw, whose wealth and possessions he greatly envies.

Unreferenced material

There is still unreferenced material in the article. Do we want to pull it out and place it here until it is referenced so that we don't become confused or what? Awadewit | talk 03:29, 11 February 2008 (UTC)

I don't think we need to. I have cited everything I have added after Percy's death; the material before his death needs totally rewriting. So we should not get confused. It is a matter of either you or me working down through the lead and early life until we meet with the referenced stuff. But for the moment, I'm going to work down from where I am so that the whole article is blocked in. I think it would be unfair on the readers to rip the top part out, however questionable it is in places; in my opinion it would be better to improve and reference it until the unreferenced parts are no more. qp10qp (talk) 13:56, 11 February 2008 (UTC)

Editions of Seymour

  • Jones fell in love with one of Godwin's disciples, John Arnot, and Godwin did not approve of the relationship, cutting off all contact between her and his daughters. Mary was three years old when Louisa left. - Do we not have the same pagination? (That would be so annoying) I don't see references to this claim on pages 44 and 49 (I added John Arnot from page 38). Let me know and we'll decide what to do. Awadewit | talk 03:57, 11 February 2008 (UTC)
No, we do have the same edition. I haven't edited that part, as such, but I tried to meet a citation request there for the last sentence you quote. I have no idea why p 44 is there: I must be going crazy. Page 49 says that Mary Jane replaced Jones after she arrived at No. 29; which would have been when Mary was three. qp10qp (talk) 13:43, 11 February 2008 (UTC)

Removed film section

I don't think it's necessary to say here what films have portrayed Mary Shelley. Normally I would place this stuff on a "cultural depictions of" page, but there isn't enough to justify one. I'm placing it here for consideration (it's unsourced, as well).

|==Film==| The Shelley circle and the genesis of the Frankenstein story in 1816 have been popular subjects for filmmakers, and Mary Shelley has been portrayed in a number of films:

qp10qp (talk) 15:48, 15 February 2008 (UTC)

Feminist criticism

I've deliberately not said much about feminist criticism of Frankenstein: I've read some of it in the last few days, including Mellor and Hoeveler's essays in the Companion. But it makes sense for me to leave this for Awadewit or others more familiar with the larger context of feminist scholarship. qp10qp (talk) 16:04, 15 February 2008 (UTC)

  • Thanks, I will get to this, but it is going to be awhile. I am currently swamped with "real" academic work. :) By the way, I think structuring the page by genre might be better than by work. We will run out of space this way, I think, as Shelley wrote so much. Awadewit | talk 00:41, 16 February 2008 (UTC)
Oh, that wasn't urgent, just explaining why I'm leaving it for the moment. There is no rush at all, because though I am trying to block in the whole article, I will not feel happy until I have read all the novels, which will take time, particularly if I get overcommitted in real life (very likely). At the moment, I have read Frankenstein and Matilda and started Valperga and Lodore (Matilda reads really well, as does Lodore so far).
On the structure, don't worry, I am intending to say much less about each of the other novels than about Frankenstein. I've just read several articles and introductions about Matilda, and the necessary boils down to a few points, in my opinion, unlike the monstrous Frankenstein criticism, which is uncontainable. I don't intend to go into much in the way of reception for the other books either, since there isn't really much variety to draw on, to judge by the Companion and the introductions. If I do overdo anything, we can slice it off into the individual articles.
I am, in a way, doing this by genre, because I'm going to stick with novels now until Falkner, then toss in a few shards on the poetry, drama, and stories, and finish off with her editing work and last travel book. I feel as if I am going painfully slowly, but I am doing a lot of reading at the same time, and tending to get sidetracked into reading things like the Frankenstein play, and Polidori's and Byron's horror stories, which aren't really to the purpose.qp10qp (talk) 01:31, 16 February 2008 (UTC)
I'm starting to get nervous about the reliance on book introductions as sources for the "literary life" section. Book introductions are generally not good sources. Many of them old and are deliberately simplified. I promise I'm going to help out with this section - it will just have to wait a few weeks. I would hate to see you pour tons of work into this section only to have it completely rewritten. Awadewit | talk 05:52, 22 February 2008 (UTC)
Well, I have been thinking about this carefully as I go; and there is no difference I can see between the material in the introductions and the material in the articles. In fact, they often overlap: for example, Stuart Curran's introduction to Valperga is extremely similar to his article on Valperga in the Companion. Lisa Vargo's introduction to Lodore is echoed by other articles she has written on the novel. The scholars writing the introductions do seem to be among those involved in other scholarship on these books, by and large. These particular introductions are not, as far as I can see, more simplified than articles on the books. In the case of Vargo, for Lodore, and Wolfson for Frankenstein, there is other material provided in their editions than just their introductions: Wolfson comments at length among her extensive background sources and is one of the best commentators on Mary Shelley that I have come across. Bennett's An Introduction to Mary Shelley, as you know, is an introduction to all the works and has been revised and published independently at book length. The only old introduction I've reffed is Nitchie's, which I felt it was essential to use, if passingly, since it was seminal, hers being the first edition of Mathilda, and a wonderful act of scholarship. I have not reffed those judgements of Nitchie's that have dated.
However, the time for using introductions is over, because I am at Falkner now, for which I don't think there is a properly introduced edition. If you like, we can substitute the references to introductions with references to other articles (very easy to do: I now have a lot of notes); but I am confident the points will remain somewhat the same because, apart from on Frankenstein, commentary on each book tends to be much of a muchness. I would mention, though, that I always try to take into account, where there is a choice of sources, accessibility and affordability for the average reader. These edited editions with introductions and notes tend to be much cheaper than the volumes of essays, and I have not been able to fault their scholarship.
As far as the whole thing being rewritten, I wouldn't mind, so long as it is improved. It makes it easier for you if there is material already laid down to edit.qp10qp (talk) 15:55, 22 February 2008 (UTC)
You are absolutely right that essays in something like the Cambridge Companion would probably look similar to a good introduction. Both of those were written to introduce readers to scholarship on Shelley. However, I was thinking of the actual scholarship itself - Poovey, Gilbert and Gubar, Clemit, etc. Sometimes the summaries and simplifications are quite different from the original. I always think it is best to read the original rather than the redacted version, if possible. I also think it is a courtesy to make it clear to the reader where the major lines of criticism appear. The notes and the bibliography should resemble a starting place for Shelley research and should therefore contain all of the basic books on Mary Shelley. Awadewit | talk 20:03, 22 February 2008 (UTC)
Well, the list grows by increments: I added Poovey yesterday, whom I've been reading on the Proper Lady theory, which will be reffed for Falkner. Yes, I agree we should compile a bibliography that includes the key scholarship; but the introductions and introductory articles are, for me at least, a guide to the most notable issues in that scholarship. It would be laborious to try to reinvent the wheel and ourselves decide what we think are the key points in those books. Much of that Poovey book (Shelley section) seems to have been challenged and eclipsed now; and Clemit goes on so much about the Godwinian novel that one needs to cut to the chase and identify, with the help of summative scholarship, the points most useful for this short article. That's my approach, for the time being, anyway; but I am getting my teeth into a surprising amount of the longer material, as the days slip by.qp10qp (talk) 21:04, 22 February 2008 (UTC)
I agree that using the introductory articles is a good way to find the key scholarship, but I like to read that scholarship itself and reference the scholarship it in the article. Poovey has indeed been challenged, but her book is still recommended reading. Anyway, I generally like to read a substantial amount of material before I start writing, so it will be a few weeks before I can start adding to this section. Awadewit | talk 21:39, 22 February 2008 (UTC)


File:Mary shelley.jpg
Mary writing

I've removed the following image, pending some sourcing for it. My reason for removing it is only that it does not appear in Seymour, Sunstein, or St Clair. Since Seymour throws in every last scrap of illustration, some which she regards as only possibly of Mary Shelley, it seems odd for her to leave this out. If it is of Mary Shelley, I should think it is a late and derivative or imagined work. That wouldn't rule it out as an illustration for the page, but we need a decent source that says it is her. I can only find it reproduced on poor quality websites: one credits the picture to East Tennessee University and another to the Hulton Picture Library, but I have been unable to track it down at those venues (may just be me). qp10qp (talk) 20:07, 28 February 2008 (UTC)

NPG has a colour version, with the text: "Unknown woman, formerly known as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, by Samuel John Stump: oil on canvas, 1831".
I find this odd, as it looks to me partly derivative of the Rothwell of c. 1840 (but that resemblance, which I suspect may be the only reason for the attribution, along with the fact she is holding a pen) dissolves on close inspection). On the other hand, the sitter looks younger and about the right age. Anyway, I think it is best kept out of the article if the gallery no longer believes this is Mary Shelley (especially since galleries incline to the credulous as far as their own pictures are concerned). qp10qp (talk) 18:53, 12 March 2008 (UTC)
Ah, yes. I see that Seymour says in an appendix that this picture has now been discredited. qp10qp (talk) 05:35, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
I'm trying to get this image deleted, but I've never tried to delete an image before, so it might not work out. Awadewit | talk 23:27, 15 March 2008 (UTC)

Jane Clairmont/Claire Clairmont

Rather than first call Claire "Jane", I have called her "Claire" throughout and added the note below. I am not sure if I have exceeded my editorial limitations in this, so I would be prepared to use something like "Jane, later known as Claire", if this is thought inappropriate. The names in this article are a right challenge. Comments welcome.

In December 1801, he married Mary Jane Clairmont, a well-educated woman with two young children of her own: Charles and Claire.<|ref>Claire's first name was "Jane", but from 1814 (see Gittings and Manton, 22) she preferred to be called "Claire" (her second name was "Clara"), which is how she is known to history. To avoid confusion, this article calls her "Claire" throughout.</ref|>

qp10qp (talk) 17:59, 2 March 2008 (UTC)

  • I agree with this decision - it is the least confusing route. (There is enough confusion with names in this saga!) Awadewit | talk 21:13, 2 March 2008 (UTC)


For information: I've paused for a moment because for the first time in a couple of years I'm not too well. I need to be 100% to edit properly, so I'll wait till I'm feeling up to it again—hopefully soon. qp10qp (talk) 23:06, 6 March 2008 (UTC)

  • I hope you feel better soon. I'll be able to edit in a couple of weeks - after my conference paper abstracts are finished. :) Awadewit | talk 23:46, 6 March 2008 (UTC)

I'm done for a bit

Apart from occasional copyedit runs, particularly on the list of works, I'm done here for a while. It will be nice to go for FA, or whatever, sometime, but the main thing is that the readers now have something to get their teeth into.

The article is of course rather long and has reached Joseph Priestley proportions for readable text! I hoped this wouldn't be the case, but, to be honest, I'm relieved it's not longer, given all the material. I'll be better placed to cut after I've taken a break here. qp10qp (talk) 04:47, 15 March 2008 (UTC)

  • And I'll just take over. :) Nice how that worked out. I'm drowning in Frankenstein criticism, though! Drowning! I'm having the same problem with this article as I had with JP - the less I know, the worse it is. Mary Wollstonecraft was easier because I knew so much more. I'm starting to know more about Jane Austen, so it is becoming easier over there, but this is like Priestley - learn as you go. It's good for me, though. I keep looking at everything I haven't read and wondering what we're missing and I'm very, very scared. :) Awadewit | talk 19:14, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
Don't be. It's impossible to be comprehensive. I've found that the core criticism gets recycled around an interlinked group of scholars who keep referencing each other. In a sense, they have decided for us what is the notable criticism. The only problem with this is that in my opinion they are becoming less and less critical of her with time. It seems to be unthinkable now to write about her even as harshly as Poovey, and Poovey was cleverly synthesising elements of the old and new criticism. Sooner or later there is going to have to be a reaction against this tsunami of pro-Shelley criticism, and someone will have to do the job of pointing out that Frankenstein, however original in conception, is crudely and longwindedly written and leaves loose ends that cannot all be put down to Mary Shelley's deliberate ambiguities and complexities. qp10qp (talk) 20:04, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
Well, the core is just bigger for Mary Shelley than for other people. :) By the way, nobody really makes that sort of aesthetic judgment anymore. Someday we'll have to get on Skype and I'll tell you all about the history of literary criticism. If we hear that kind of criticism, it'll be after I have tenure. Way after. :) Awadewit | talk 20:21, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
I think this is because too much criticism has become effete, by growing too far away from its original function of advising people what are good books and what are bad, and what is good in particular books and what is bad in them. You would imagine from reading the criticism that all Mary Shelley's novels are wonderful reads: they are not. James Wood (critic) makes aesthetic judgements, by the way. I have his books, and I've read every word of them and discovered new writers through them. qp10qp (talk) 20:57, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
Well, this is not really the place to talk about this anymore, but I disagree with you a bit there. I don't think that scholars should be telling people what to read, I think they should be showing people how to read. But this is for another place than the talk page of this article. My talk page or your talk page? Awadewit | talk 21:04, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
On Wood, his Wikipedia page says he is a critic and a journalist. Is that correct? If so, that is very different from being a scholar these days. The two roles have diverged quite a bit (except for Harold Bloom, whom most people inside the academy view with disdain). Again, another long explanation. Awadewit | talk 21:07, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
No, I understand. He teaches in university too, though. But don't worry, I wouldn't touch Dale Peck with a bargepole. qp10qp (talk) 21:18, 15 March 2008 (UTC)


I'm just throwing images up there at the moment. I think it would be nice to have a quote box or two (she is a writer, after all) and perhaps a title page? Awadewit | talk 20:45, 15 March 2008 (UTC)

I'm not sure about the death of Shelley painting; it's so inaccurate. Mary Shelley is kneeling to the left (in fact she was not present). Also, Byron stayed in his carriage, and Percy Shelley's body was unrecognisably decomposed.
I am hoping to scan in a better version of the Claire Clairmont portrait, which is so distorted.
The pictures have really given a boost to the article, though. Great stuff! qp10qp (talk) 17:37, 16 March 2008 (UTC)
See what you think of the picture of the Shelley Memorial. I think I can scan the Willmouse picture out of Seymour. Would that be good to include? Awadewit | talk 23:18, 16 March 2008 (UTC)
I think Willmouse would be good. I'm not struck on that memorial photo, though, to be honest; it's just not very well taken. qp10qp (talk) 23:54, 16 March 2008 (UTC)
It's gone. I'll try to scan Willmouse tomorrow. Awadewit | talk 23:59, 16 March 2008 (UTC)
Willmouse is up. Awadewit (talk) 21:18, 19 March 2008 (UTC)