Reviews of the Reviews of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Much of the class discussions seem to be validated in the old reviews of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. What was initially striking was John Wilson Croker’s suggestion that Victor Frankenstein is “a modern day Prometheus” (Croker 373) in his 1818 Quarterly Review. It brings up once again (from an old reading response) the question of hubris and it’s manifestation in Victor. Croker also references Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, comparing Caliban (Shakespeare’s well-intentioned, but outcast creature,) with Victor’s creature. Both arouse questions of nature versus nurture and man’s intrinsic desire to be good. Croker seems right on track with his depiction of the novel as a commentary on hubris as well as human nature.
Walter Scott in the Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 12 review focuses more on the novel’s theme of science versus nature. “The author has deduced, in the course of his narrative, the probable consequences of the possession of such secrets upon the fortunes and mind of him who might enjoy them (Scott 379.) Similar to our discussion in class, it seems that Scott is addressing the issue of the sublime and man’s capacity to harness it. Scott also references Shakespeare’s Caliban, pointing out both his and the creature’s turn towards evil after much rejection from mankind. This reference is so perfect in its depiction of two creatures owned and rejected by a God-like figure.
Finally, an unidentified author of “The Literary Panorama and National Register” had a few negative things to say. He found the story to be inconsistent in many places that our class has actually identified as well. For example, he asks how the writer can assume that just because Victor can infuse life into the creature that it will have morality. This seems similar to a previous class debate in which the creature’s possession of a soul was disputed. While a bit harsh, this review addressed many of the unfilled holes in he stories that the other reviews did not mention.