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The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein 1st Edition

18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0943742144
ISBN-10: 0943742145
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Editorial Reviews


Camille Paglia:
I read a fabulous book last week -- John Lauritsen's "The
Man Who Wrote Frankenstein".... Its thesis is that the poet Percy
Bysshe Shelley, and not his wife, the feminist idol, Mary Shelley,
wrote "Frankenstein" and that the hidden theme of that book is
male love.

As I sat there reading while proctoring exams, I tried
unsuccessfully to stifle my chortles and guffaws of admiring
laughter -- which were definitely distracting the students in the
first rows. Lauritsen's book is important not only for its
audacious theme but for the devastating portrait it draws of the
insularity and turgidity of the current academy. As an independent
scholar, Lauritsen is beholden to no one. As a consequence, he can
fight openly with myopic professors and, without fear of
retribution, condemn them for their inability to read and reason.

This book, which is a hybrid of mystery story, polemic and paean
to poetic beauty, shows just how boring literary criticism has
become over the past 40 years. I haven't been this exhilarated by
a book about literature since I devoured Leslie Fiedler's
iconoclastic essays in college back in the 1960s. All that cr*ppy
poststructuralism that poured out of universities for so long
pretended to challenge power but was itself just the time-serving
piety of a status-conscious new establishment. Lauritsen's book
shows what true sedition and transgression are all about.

Lauritsen assembles an overwhelming case that Mary Shelley, as a
badly educated teenager, could not possibly have written the
soaring prose of "Frankenstein" (which has her husband's intensity
of tone and headlong cadences all over it) and that the so-called
manuscript in her hand is simply one example of the clerical work
she did for many writers as a copyist....

The stupidity and invested self-interest of prominent literary
scholars are lavishly on display here in exchanged reproduced from
a Romanticism listserv or in dueling letters to the editor, which
Lauritsen forcefully contradicts in acerbic footnotes. This is a
funny, wonderful, revelatory book that I hope will inspire
ambitious graduate students and young faculty to strike blows for
truth in our mired profession, paralyzed by convention and fear. --Camille Paglia,, 14 March 2007.

Jim Herrick:

John Lauritsen is a gay scholar who has challenged many received
truths.... Now he has got his teeth into what he regards as
another myth. The powerful novel Frankenstein was not written by
Mary Shelley, as all the world's libraries will have you believe,
but by Percy Bysshe Shelley himself.

He presents mountains of evidence, much of which is
startlingly persuasive. He considers that Mary Shelley's lack of
formal education would not have fitted her for such a literary
composition. This ignores the intelligence of her parents Mary
Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. But the most stunning evidence
comes when you put Frankenstein, a masterpiece, beside her other
novels, for instance Valperga and The Last Man, the turgid,
pallid, banal novels she wrote after Percy Bysshe Shelley's death.
This argument is reinforced when the edition revised in 1831 by
herself and William Godwin is put beside the 1818 edition: almost
every alteration weakens the text of the original....

She did her husband's oeuvre great disservice by
bowdlerising later editions, turning him into a Victorian angel
"suitable for enshrinement among the gods of respectability and
convention". She prettified the radical, whose unorthodox beliefs
covered politics, sexual relationships, marriage, diet, and

Perhaps the summit of Lauritsen's case is the evidence of
ideas relating to revolution, forgiveness, science, revenge,
psychology, and nature, which are so characteristic of Percy
Bysshe Shelley. Mary Shelley showed no intellectual interest in
such topics.

The extra-textual evidence is examined carefully and I am
convinced that the three friends who in Switzerland agreed each to
write a story of the supernatural are Byron, Polidori and Percy
Bysshe Shelley. The original of Frankenstein is found in Mary
Shelley's handwriting, but this is no argument for her authorship,
because she often acted as scribe for Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The most substantial chapter deals with Male Love in
Frankenstein. Lauritsen is convincing that Percy Bysshe Shelley,
had homoerotic feelings and deep friendships for men....

The strongest argument for Percy Bysshe Shelley's authorship
is the imagination and ideas and poetry of Frankenstein, and
Lauritsen presents this powerfully. In the monster's discussion
with a blind old man, in the prayer for vengeance, in the
description of the craggy Swiss scenery (which demonstrates a
pantheistic tinge typical of Percy Bysshe Shelley) the novel has
enormous sweep. Lauritsen's book does readers a great service by
bringing out Frankenstein's stature as a "profound and moving
masterpiece". --Jim Herrick, Gay Humanist Quarterly, Spring 2007

Andrew Calimach:

The thesis of the work: it was Shelley himself, and not his
uneducated, prosaic, teenage wife, who wrote the profound,
complex, poetic and very masculine Frankenstein. Yes, I was
persuaded by his argument, but that is a determination that every
reader will have to make for himself. Instead I would like to
concentrate on his approach, which can best be described as
minimalist, and all the more effective for it.

The first part of the book has the quality -- rare for a
work of literary criticism -- of being a suspenseful page turner,
much like a good detective novel, for a detective is what
Lauritsen is, and he does it particularly well and with
understated humor. He is at his best when he lets academics who
argue for Mary Shelley's authorship undermine their own arguments.
In the excitement of it all one might almost miss the fact that an
enormous amount of research has gone into building this case,
research that pulls together correspondence, comments, and
manuscript evidence, and which convincingly recreates the mores
and ways of the world in which Frankenstein was conceived and

Even more eye-opening is the second part of the work, in
which Lauritsen reads the text from the perspective of a gay
historian pointing out instance after instance of homoerotic
imagery and encoded social commentary in a work heretofore thought
to be a mere one-dimensional horror story. It is a skillful
textual analysis, made all the easier by the fact that few have
preceded him, allowing Lauritsen to romp through virgin territory.
He does it well and thoroughly....

Not that this book is all about the Shelleys
and Frankenstein. It is also about Lauritsen himself, who allows his
personality, by turns cranky and profound, to shine through. It is
an eccentric touch, a fitting flourish for a work that is anything
but mainstream, and which aims to shake that mainstream by the
scruff of its stuffy scholarly neck. I personally hope it
succeeds. --Andrew Calimach, author of Lovers Legends: The Gay Greek Myths

About the Author

John Lauritsen studied English Literature and Social Relations at Harvard. A retired market research analyst, his writings, including ten books, have won him international acclaim.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Pagan Press; 1st edition (April 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0943742145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0943742144
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,197,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Tony on June 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
I will give this obviously bias author, and many like him, the assumption that Mary Shelly's narrative was shaped in part by many thinkers, e.g. Wollstonecraft, Milton, Coleridge, Godwin, and of course her husband Percy. Yet, what author hasn't been influenced by the knowledge and creativity of their family and/or time in history?

Now, Percy undoubtedly contributed to the Preface, and other facets of the book, but that does NOT make this his story, vision, or philosophy. Going on argument that Mary was too 'uneducated' has no basis. Who was her father again? Oh yeah William Godwin, an intelligent and successful novelist and philosopher in his own right. Mary did not go to the male dominated university of Oxford like Percy (of which was brief and he did not excel by any means), so that automatically means she did not have the intelligence to write Frankenstein?! How incredibly sexist and elitist. The argument that Mary's follow up work was not as brilliant, well, there have been many through out history and continue to be those who create genius works and their succeeding efforts are lacking in comparison. This is simply not enough to strip Mary of her achievement.

Frankenstein argubly contains, and this opinion is backed my a wealth of genuine scholarship, feminist thought in several regards. Feminism is itself very radical, as with the emotions and experiences Frankenstein daringly explores. I see no reason there would not be concurrent themes of homosexuality if one looked long enough, and Lauritsen certainly has.

Another example of a man trying to discredit the incredible (and apparently unbelievable) notion that a woman could write such a book of everlasting importance.
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40 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Pike on October 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
Edit and a note: You will notice this review has been voted down two times now (possibly four or more times by the time you see this). I am convinced most of these positive reviews are dummy accounts of the author. Notice that there are only eleven reviews yet in the course of six hours two people voted down my review. Seriously!? On a book where there are only eleven reviews and "three left in stock" for the last two months? With that in consideration my review got voted down two times in six hours? That's highly suspicious in and of itself. Also notice the similar writing style in most of these positive reviews. Keep this in mind, folks. Anyway, on to the review...


This is the most disgusting, sexist propaganda at it's finest. Those praising it have successfully turned my stomach. I had no idea that this degree of sexism actually still existed in the world. Have you people actually read this book?

The main argument this so-called book presents is that Mary Shelley, being self-educated, could not possibly have written Frankenstein, that it had to have been by a man. Yeah, let's just quietly ignore all of the motherhood, postpartum depression (as we know it to be now), and neglected child metaphors that fit Mary's psychological state at the time of the book's conception.

This book is a shameful and sexist mess which preaches a woman's inferior writing capabilities to a man's. I had thought the rumors of Percy Shelley having been the "True" author of Frankenstein had died over a century ago. I am disgusted by this.
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37 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Robinson on June 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
While this was an engrossing (if sometimes eye-rollingly ridiculous) read, it fails as scholarship. Lauritsen's argument is plausible on the surface, but he offers very little compelling evidence. He never makes his case. Rather, he suggests that a certain passage _may_ refer to this instead of that.

He absolves himself from responsible scholarship early in the book by proclaiming that as an independent scholar, he needn't always provide evidence for his claims, especially those that are obvious. The problem is, his claims are only obvious to those who share his agenda. To the rest of us they're interesting, but speculation and vague (and sometimes way over the top) suggestion will not convince most critical readers.

A typical tactic Lauritsen uses is quoting a passage of _Frankenstein_ and then making a statement like "Obviously this is Shelley and not Mary! Anyone who has read Shelley and recognizes his genius will recognize that he is the author!" Oh, okay. You got me! That really is incontrovertible proof.

I'd love to see this argument made and defended by an actual scholar rather than a hobbyist.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By othoniaboys on September 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
"All seems infected that th'infected spy, as all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye." Here you have a perfect example of this. Lauritsen is gay, so he sees homosexuality everywhere. He seeks to prove by a flimsy line of argument that Frankenstein is a gay novel written by Mary Shelley's husband. It remains to be seen why Percy would have allowed the world to suppose that his wife was the author if he himself wrote it. Lauritsen repeatedly says that Mary could not have written it as a teenager. Matthew Lewis wrote The Monk when he was a teenager. Francoise Sagan wrote Bonjour Tristesse when she was a teenager. Kenneth Martin wrote Aubade when he was a teenager. Arthur Rimbaud wrote all of his poetry when he was a teenager. Lauritsen says that Mary had no education. Wasn't she homeschooled by William Godwin? As for most of Mary's novels being mediocre, well, to say that therefore she was not the author of Frankenstein is rather like saying that 95% of Coleridge's poetry shows no signs of genius, and therefore he was not the author of Kubla Khan or the Ancient Mariner. If Percy was gay, then who was his boyfriend? Although some of the points that Lauritsen makes may be valid, his main argument borders on the crackpottish. I am reminded of the old books which sought to prove that Sir Francis Bacon was the real author of Shakespeare's plays, the idea being that Bacon was educated and Shakespeare was not.
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