August 1817 – Frankenstein Rejected!

history_six_weeks_cover_fdThe Six Weeks Tour Begins

200 years ago in August of 1871 Percy Bysshe Shelley was submitting Frankenstein to publishers and Mary began working on her diary of the 1814 elopement – The History of the Six Weeks Tour.

On August 3rd 1817 Percy Shelley wrote to his publisher Charles Ollier from Marlow to ask him to publish Frankenstein.

“I send you with this letter a manuscript which has been consigned to my care by a friend in whom I feel considerable interest.  I do not know how far it consists with your plan of business to purchase the copyrights, or a certain interest in the copyrights of any works which should appear to promise success. I should certainly prefer that some such arrangement as this should be made if on consideration you could make any offer which I should feel justified to my friend in accepting. How far that can be you will be the better able to judge after a perusal of the MS. Perhaps you will do me the favour of communicating your decision to me as early as you conveniently can.”

Shelley also wrote on that day to his friend Leigh Hunt, who might be seeing Ollier to inform him not to mention that the book Hunt knew was written by his wife.

 “Bye-the-bye, I have sent an MS to Ollier concerning the true author of which I entreat you to be silent, if you should be asked any questions.”

Ollier apparently very quickly rejected the manuscript. Shelley possibly asked him for fast response.  Just 3 days later on August 6th 1817 Shelley added a postscript to a letter Mary wrote to Marianne Hunt from Marlow.

 “Poor Mary’s book came back with a refusal, which has put me rather in ill spirits. Does any kind friend of yours Marianne know any bookseller or has any influence with one? Any of those good tempered Robinsons? All these things are affairs of interest & preconception”

On August 8 Shelley ended a letter to Ollier with a remark about the book.

“I hope Frankenstein did not give you bad dreams.”

Mary’s diary in Marlow indicated that she had gone on to the writing of her journal of the 1814 trip into the first part of the History of a Six Weeks’ Tour with entries between August 6 to August 17, “write the journal of our travels” and “write journal of our first travels”.

On August 9 Mary’s half-brother Charles Clairmont wrote to Mary from France.

“You say nothing more of your novel. Do not neglect it on any account, and send me one of the first copies.”

On August 24 Mary made an entry in her diary at Marlow “A letter from Lackington” which apparently referred to a letter Shelley answered on August 22. Lackington’s interest in the novel may have been because they were then publishing other books on the occult and alchemy and felt Frankenstein might fit in the catalogue.

Publisher friend Thomas Hookham visited the Shelleys in Marlow from August 24 to 29 when he likely had a chance to read the Six Weeks Tour draft and apparently looked favorably on publishing, though he may have wanted to wait for the second half which would include the writings in letters of Percy Shelley from the 1816 Chamonix trip appended to it, probably to make it more marketable rather than just the hand of then unpublished Mary. Mary inquired about prospects for the book on September 28 in anticipation of its release. Hookham and Charles & James Ollier jointly published the History of the Six Weeks Tour on November 6, 1817 as Mary Shelley’s first published work.

Mary would revise it 31 years later in October of 1848, but the revisions would not published for another 200 years as the Secret Memoirs.