Others review Frankenstein

Gentleman's Magazine, Percy Bysshe Shelley & Edinburgh Magazine discuss  

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Volume II: Chapter V

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Poetry explication

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It would have been difficult for Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley to have predicted how the public would receive her novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.  It is only after it was published in 1818 that she began to hear how her words affected her reading audience. Reviews were plentiful, although they were not always in agreement as to the excellence of her writing capability. The shorter reviews, for example the one found in Gentleman’s Magazine, kindly calls her work “strikingly good” and says that, “the description of the scenery is excellent” (Wolfson 389). As we know, nature was a popular theme at the time and this must have pleased Mary Shelly to get such a mention.  

The longer reviews, such as the one in The Anthenaeum by Percy Bysshe Shelley delve into the themes and meaning of the novel. Shelley agrees with the previous reviewer in that the story is good, calling it “one of the most original and complete productions of the day” (399). He goes further however, and states the reasons for his claim. He states that the “novel rests its claim on being a source of powerful and profound emotion” (400). The human emotion found in Frankenstein is indeed what drives the story along and our compassion for the creature comes from that emotion. Shelley also notes that the creature’s bad behavior is simple to explain and merely a part of the human condition. He explains this theory with, “Treat a person ill, and he will become wicked.” (400)

The review found in (Scots) Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany was useful in that it made reference to two other literary characters for comparison. By contrasting the pair of Frankenstein and the Creature with Shakespeare’s Caliban and Prospero, the reader is able see what this reviewer calls a fault in Shelley’s story. The “wild and irregular theories of the age” (384) are blamed for Shelley’s “monstrous conceptions,” and this, as we now know is true. Technological advances did in fact drive Shelley to imagine such horrors. This reviewer feels that Shelley’s creature, constructed by the hands of Victor Frankenstein, takes away from the story’s content by making it unbelievable. In comparison, the same reviewer states when speaking of The Tempest, “we should not have endured him (Caliban) if Prospero had created him” (385) and that it is a much better situation for the reader that Caliban simply appears on the island without detail of origination. Comparing Shelley to Shakespeare however is unfair as they are two different stories of equal, but different importance.
While all three reviews give us an insight into the reception of the novel at the time it was written, they only serve to prove that Shelley did not receive an overall consensus one way or the other as to the reception of her novel.