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200px-RothwellMaryShelley
Mary Shelley
(1797 – 1851)

VIDEO BIOGRAPHIES

Short version:

Full length version:

Audio version:

brief audiobook (31:51)click here

FRANKENSTEIN, A MODERN PROMETHEUS (the prequel to “The Frankenstein Chronicles”)

1931 version with Boris Karloff (trailer):

1994 version with Kenneth Branagh (trailer):

– the closest to the original story by Mary Shelley –

2010 cartoon summary from SparkNotes:

– a complete and entertaining 9 minute summary of the book –

LIST OF WORKS BY MARY SHELLEY:

Mary_Shelley_by_Reginald_Easton.

Wikipedia articleclick here

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“THE FRANKENSTEIN CHRONICLES”

AND NOW, FOR THOSE WHO DARED SCROLL TO THE END, WE PRESENT…

WHEN SHELLEY MET AUSTEN (a short one act play)[1]

SETTING:                MARY SHELLEY, the presently unpublished author of Frankenstein or a Modern Prometheus had recently sent a rough draft of her book to JANE AUSTEN for private consideration. [2]  Now, anxious for a response, she arrives unannounced at JANE’s home in Chawton, as an out of the way detour from her trip from Bath to London, where she is to meet her husband. 

The time is late January, 1817. [3]  Four months before MARY’S soon to be famous book is completed and ready for publication, [4] and sadly, only six months before JANE will die[5] from the illness that, even now, is slowly sifting away all of her strength and stamina.

AT RISE:                CASSANDRA, JANE’S sister, and closest confidant, has already answered the door, and now leads MARY into the Parlor, where she will meet JANE.

 

CASSANDRA

Here we are, my dear; right there.  Yes, please be seated, and if you’ll give me a moment, I’ll bring out my sister, and chase down a bit of refreshment for the two of you.

 

MARY

Thank you.  I – thank you.

 

MARY seats herself where indicated by CASSANDRA, at the end of a large couch, which faces the audience.  A brief interval then occurs with MARY remaining seated, and looking about at different articles in the room.

 

Finally, JANE enters the room, walking slowly, with CASSANDRA stepping closely behind her.

JANE

Good morning.  Oh, no, please don’t get up.  There, now.  Ah.  Ah, yes.[6] 

 

[JANE seats herself at the opposite end of the couch.]

 

So – So you are she; Mary Godwin.

 

MARY

Actually, it’s Mary Shelley.  I was just married a few weeks ago, the day before New Year’s Eve. [7]

 

JANE

Oh!  Wonderful!  What wonderful news; and I am so privileged to receive it from so great a personage.

 

MARY

Thank you, but the greatness belongs to my husband, although I cannot deny my delight in now being known as his wife.

 

JANE

Yes, Percy Shelley; a poet and idealist most profound; I enjoyed his “Queen Mab” immensely.  I cannot say that I agree with either his theological or marital perspective, [8] but I certainly do share many of the sentiments expressed in his Address to the Irish People. [9]

 

Ah, but Mary – you are presently further known for your famous parents, [10] and yet, I predict will soon be recognized as one of the foremost authors of our time.

 

MARY

Then… you have read my manuscript.

 

 

Read?  I devoured it.  Such insight, such depth of compelling thought, and a story line of immense value; three tales woven into one; three souls, yet the greatest in that of a so-called monster.

 

MARY

Yes.  That’s – that’s it.  You see it then.  How wonderful!  I was so afraid that people might see him as a villain only; judging him by his deeds, without comprehending his heart.

 

JANE

Ah!  So I was right.  His is the voice of the author.  He speaks for you, does he not?  Not by his actions, of course, but by his yearnings, and… and what else?

 

MARY

… by all that he has to offer the world; and yet by his sheer inability to be accepted. 

 

JANE

Yes, and what more?

 

MARY

… and by his father’s refusal to nurture him; to speak to him; and to give him the love and guidance parentally due.  Yes, there is no excuse for villainy, but such dark deeds must certainly be accompanied by explanation and device.

 

JANE

Indeed, we creatures, carved where no man seeth, into the image of God, are complex unto a magnitude no mortal shall ever fathom.

 

Mary, your book is pure genius.  Both in the weight of the characters you have developed, and in the power of the discussion you provide.

 

MARY

So… you don’t find it dull, or redundant; just another gothic tale of woe.

 

JANE

Hah! No, my dear.[11]  The first book I ever wrote (which still needs to be published) was a satire mocking such overly regarded works as those. [12]  No, your book is of a different stalk altogether.  True, it gives preference to the power of human feeling, as do other contemporary works, yet poetically uses this form of literature to set lessons before us which we need to confront.[13]

 

Outward appearance versus inward perfection; the definition of beauty challenged; and the obligation of each conscience to all; this and more are presented?  This and more is charged to our hearts.

 

MARY

Yes… Jane.  Yes, this is what I sought.  This is what I wanted to express.

 

CASSANDRA enters the room with tea and biscuits, which she serves to both women.

 

CASSANDRA gives JANE a look with a raised eyebrow, to which JANE replies with a nod, before turning back to MARY.

JANE

Mary…  Cassie and I had a question that we wanted to ask you; one that is a very important to us.

 

MARY

Please, by all means.

 

CASSANDRA

Mary, Jane’s authorship of her novels is a closely guarded family secret.  Yet, from your first letter you revealed your knowledge of her having written Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma.[14]  How?  This is something that no one is supposed to know.[15]

 

MARY

Forgive me, I – I had been aware that the author wished to remain anonymous.  Of course; why else replace her name with the phrase ‘By A Lady.” [16]

 

You see, having become such a lover of your sister’s work, and then having so earnestly desired her to now consider mine, I asked my husband to seek out her identity.  Of course, as you may realize, he has many ties among the book makers at large.  I do not know exactly who, but someone within that circle of business finally provided him with both your sister’s name, and this address, to which I then wrote, and to where I have here arrived today.  Yet, let me assure you that neither Mr. Shelley nor I have divulged this information to anyone else, nor shall we ever.

 

JANE

I knew it.  Crosby![17]  [Turning to CASSANDRA]  You see, Cassie?  I knew it had to be Crosby, that swindler!  I bet he made a profit on the deal, too.

 

[Turning back to MARY]  Do not be concerned, my dear.  The betrayal was Mr. Crosby’s alone.  Yours was an innocent inquiry; one that I am flattered to know you made.

 

MARY

Jane, please permit me to tell you that your books are fast becoming wildly popular.  And the fact that you, a woman, wrote such wonderful stories; why, were my mother alive today, I am sure she would be equally as proud of you as I am.  You have done much to both distinguish and inspire our gender.[18]  I for one am glad that you at least let it be known that “A Lady” wrote these novels.

 

And if I may say so, much of what you have so generously declared of my work may be equally applied to yours; particularly, your dexterous use of romance as an effective tool to vividly illustrate a path to a more morally complete use of wisdom and common sense.[19]

 

[Sighs]  Yes, I – even I must admit to having gained personal rebuke and revelation from at least one of your characters.[20]

 

JANE

Really; which one?

 

MARY

Hmm, I suppose I shall tell you, though it is a bit embarrassing to say.

 

Lydia, from your book, Pride and Prejudice; architected as a sufficient discouragement to female vanity.  If I didn’t know any better, I would think that my father and you had collaborated to create in her a caricature of certain portions of my own life.  I have and shall continue to often consider her path and her plight.[21]

 

Ah, you see – it is such things as this that have brought me to appear so rashly before your door this morning, as a wide detour from Bath, and before proceeding to meet my husband in London.

 

Which reminds me; I really must be going now.

 

CASSANDRA

Oh, why… Mary!  Must you go, right now?

 

JANE

Yes, we are enjoying your company so much; and were hoping that you’d stay to lunch with us.

 

MARY

Please forgive me.  I must go.  I am meeting my husband in London this afternoon.  He will be expecting me.

 

CASSANDRA

Yes.

 

JANE

Yes, we understand.  But you will write, I hope, and more often now that we have met and begun this wonderful knitting of hearts.

 

MARY

Oh, you may depend on it.  You shall hear from me perhaps more than you desire. 

 

JANE

Let there be no limits then between us.  I sense in you a spirit as wild as mine.  [She smiles]

 

MARY

[She laughs and replies…]  Nay, wilder; I believe much wilder.

 

JANE

Cassie will see you out to the door.  You have been kind in not mentioning it, but as you see, I am not well these days.

 

MARY

Yes, I did observe you, Jane.  I – Please take care of your self.  I begin to feel the need to have you always in my life.

 

MARY leans down and the two women embrace.

 

JANE

I’m sure I will recover soon, my dear.

 

MARY

Well, good bye, for now.

 

JANE

For now, my dear; for now – farewell.

 

MARY

Farewell.

 

JANE remains seated, as CASSANDRA walks MARY out of the room.

 

(end of scene)


Source

 

Abrams, M. F., Ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 6th ed. 2. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1993. 1053. Print.

Austen, J. Jane Austen’s Letters. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.

Brown, Julia. “The Narrator’s Voice.” Readings on Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Print.

Deresiewicz, William. A Jane Austen Education, How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, And The Things That Really Matter. Penguin Press, 2011. Print.

Fergus, Jan. “The Professional Woman Writer.” The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen. Ed. Edward Copeland and Ed. Juliet McMaster. 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.

Fergus, Jan. “Sex and Social Life in Austen’s Novels.” Readings on Jane Austen. Ed. Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1997. Print.

Gilbert, Sandra, and Susan Gubar. The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. 1st. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1985. Print.

Honan, Park. Jane Austen: Her Life. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987. Print.

Nokes, David. Jane Austen: A Life. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997. Print.

Smith, Lori. The Jane Austen Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman. Guilford, Connecticut: Globe Pequot Press, 2012. Print.

Sunstein, Emily. Mary Shelley: Romance and Reality. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1989. Print.

Tomalin, Claire. Jane Austen: a Life. New York: Vintage Books, 1999. Print.

Tomalin, Claire. Shelley and His World. London: Thames and Hudson, Ltd, 1980. Print.

Van Ghent, Dorothy. The English Novel: Form and Function. New York: Harper & Row, 1961. Print.

Warren, Ann. “Lecture 1: The Romantic Movement”, SoManyBooks.org, 2012. Web. 19 Sep 2012.

Warren, Ann. “Lecture 4: The Victorians”, SoManyBooks.org, 2012. Web. 19 Sep 2012.

Wright, Andrew. “Techniques and Devises in Jane Austen’s Novels.” Readings on Jane Austen. Ed. Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1997. Print.

 


[1]This play sets forth two presumably fictitious propositions.  First, that Mary Shelley sent the rough draft of her then unpublished book, Frankenstein or a Modern Prometheus, to Jane Austen for private consideration and review; and secondly, that both women met in person soon after that.

No historical record exists to support that this correspondence and subsequent meeting ever took place.  Yet it does remain possible that both occurred.  Shelley did indeed travel alone from Bath to London at this time, (Tomalin: Shelley 64) and the letter and book presumed sent by her would doubtlessly have been later destroyed by Austen’s sister, Cassandra, along with many others which she so famously burned years after Austen’s death; (Tomalin: Jane 6) especially in light of the highly scandalous portions of Shelley’s reputation.  (Abrams 845) (Tomalin: Shelley 64, 75)   In fact, the last surviving letter from Austen was written from Chawton on “Friday 24 January 1817”, a few days before this meeting there is proposed to have occurred. (Austen 341)

[2]“[Cassandra, Jane Austen’s sister] destroyed the bulk of the letters in her possession, a niece did the same for those preserved by one of her brothers, and only a handful more have turned up from other sources.” (Tomalin: Jane 6)

[3]“Shelley took Mary back to Bath and then returned to London to fight the Westbrooks.  Mary joined him again at the end of January.” (Tomalin: Shelley 64)

[4]“In May, entering her sixth month of pregnancy, Mary emerged from completing Frankenstein.” (Sunstein 134)

[5]Jane Austen died in her sister, Cassandra’s arms “at about 4:30 a.m., on   18 July 1817.” (Honan 405)

[6]“Jane… was allowed to walk from one room to another, and insisted that she was getting better.  It did not seem so to Cassandra.” (Tomalin: Jane 265)

[7]“Shelley and Mary were married quietly at St Mildred’s Church, Bread Street, on 30 December 1816.” (Tomlin: Shelley 62)

[8]“God is shown as a projection of man’s pride and cruelty, organized religion as contributing to rather than reducing human suffering, the current view of marriage and chastity as encouragement to hideous hypocrisy.” (Tomalin: Shelley 38)

[9] “An Address to the Irish People, couched in the simplest language, urged them to patience, sobriety, hard work, religious tolerance and the avoidance of violence.” (Tomalin: Shelley 26)

[10] “William Godwin, the leading reformer and radical philosopher of that time, and Mary Wollstonecraft, famed as the author of A Vindication of the Right of Woman.” (Abram 844)

[11]“[Jane Austen] loved the gothic novel.  But she understood that any art or idea or pattern of behavior, left unexamined, hardens into cliché.  Once you begin taking it too seriously, you’re only a step away from taking yourself too seriously, and before you know it, you start to sound like Mr. Collins, ‘lecturing’ and ‘instructing’ instead of laughing and surprising.” (Deresiewicz 94-95)

[12]Northanger Abbey (begun in 1797 and completed in 1803 but not published in her lifetime)… satirizing not only the female tradition in literature but also its effects on the growth and development of the female imagination: focusing either on the sentimental romance and the epistolary form or the Gothic novel.” (Gilbert 207)

[13] It is in the opinion of this playwright, that Shelley’s famous story, as well as all six of Austen’s popular novels provide a blend between the literature of the Romantic Period and the Victorian Age.  Both authors hold human sentiment in high regard, yet both also use their art to definitively provide moral lessons to their readers and the world around them.  (Warren: Romantic) (Warren: Victorian)

[14]Sense and sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), [and] Emma (1816).” (Gilbert 206)  See also Jane Austen’s “grand royal dedication.” (Honan 371)

[15] “No one outside of her family and close friends was to know that Jane Austen was a writer.” (Smith x)

[16]Sense and Sensibility at last appeared in late October.  It was published in three volumes at a price of 15s, and written, as the title-page declared, ‘By A Lady.” (Nokes 388)

[17]Cadell and Davies, respectable publishers, had refused George Austen’s offer on 1 November 1797 of the manuscript of First Impressions.  Austen had sold the manuscript of Susan to the London publisher B. Crosby and Company and had received 10 pounds for it by ‘the Spring of the year 1803’, according to her angry letter to the firm on 5 April 1809 (L 174).  She adopted the pseudonym ‘Mrs. Ashton Dennis’ for this enquiry to Crosby about the delay in publishing Susan; this name allowed her to sign herself ‘MAD.’  Her letter makes clear her determination to publish.” (Fergus: Cambridge 8)

[18]“Yet Jane’s success, it seemed, was tolerable enough to serve as an inspiration to Anna Austen [her niece], who now took it into her head that she, too, would set ups as an authoress.  Throughout July and august, the girl sent Jane the fist eager drafts of her novel for comment and correction.” (Tomalin: Jane 444)

[19]“[Jane Austen’s] letters show in her the ironical mentality and the eighteenth-century gusto that are the reverse of the Puritanism and naïveté that might be associated with the maidenly life.” (Van Ghent 99)

[20]“By waking up to the world, by renouncing certainty and cynicism, by opening herself to new experiences – all of which take real courage, real strength – she turned her life into an adventure that would never end.  This, Austen told us, is the true heroism.” (Deresiewicz 116)

[21]“Histories tell us what happened, but a novel can teach us something even more important: what might happen.  The opening line of Northanger Abbey was a joke about gothic fiction and a way of calling attention to Austen’s own use of convention.” (Deresiewicz 115)

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