the origin of The Modern Prometheus


There is likely something to be said for the way that a story starts. By this, I do not mean the beginning that we are handed, but rather where the story truly began, the original seed of an idea that began the writing of the tale in the first place. It’s always interesting to see where someone gets their inspiration from. One novel with quite an interesting story is the one of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which was first known as the modern Prometheus.

Firstly, perhaps, we should look at the writer of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. She was born Mary Wollstone Godwin in the year 1797 in London. Her parents were prominent philosophers and feminists, and her father was also a political writer. Shelley unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet her mother as Mary Wollstone died soon after Shelley’s birth and so did not get to have a hand in raising her own daughter. Shelley’s father, William Godwin, in an attempt to provide Mary with a mother, married another woman, Mary Jane Clairmont, who had children of her own. While Shelley got on with her step-sister, she and her step-mother tended not to get along. While Clairmont sent her own daughters away to boarding school, she did not wish the same for Shelley, leaving the young girl uneducated. Despite being out of formal education, Shelley found great use of her fathers library and the literary visitors that would often come and visit her father. During her stay at the Baxton home in 1814, she began a relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley, who would later become her husband. He offered a large amount of encouragement for Mary Shelley’s writing and even facilitated the trip which inspire the novel the Modern Prometheus.

One stormy night in June, Mary Shelley and her partner Percy Bysshe Shelley was in a manor with a group of creative writers, gathered together and reading ghost stories. Amongst these writers were John Polidori and Lord Byron as well as Byron’s lover. John Polidori suggested that as a way to pass the time, they should write their own horror and gothic stories. Predictably, Polidori and Byron wrote stories that featured the use of vampires, while Mary’s was the most original story amongst the group. It was inspired by many factors, one being a dream she had after the birth and, shortly after, the death of her first child, which she wrote about in her diary, about her child coming back to life after being rubbed in the fire. Perhaps this idea of the fire or life reentering that which had already lost life is what inspired Shelley’s story’s central character of the monster? 

Every day, more books and stories are written and published, with each writer or storyteller having their own story, one that has inspired and brought its own personal inspiration to the characters or the setting or even a theme that the narrative is designed to tackle, no matter how that problem is faced. There is more to a book than just its cover, but there is also more than just that we are treated to in the pages. 


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