c)The Public and the reading public's reception
Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus had 3 publications, at different times.
The first one, in three volumes, with a preface written by Percy Shelley, was published January 1st 1818 in only 500 copies by the small London publishing house, because the novel was first rejected by Percy Shelley and Byron's editors. This first edition was published anonymously, that is why there were different speculations about the author's real name (people thought for a long time that Percy Shelley was the real author), hence a negative criticism.
Frankenstein's first edition.
The second edition was published on August 11th 1822 in two volumes, just after the success of Richard Brinsley Peake's play: Presumption or the Fate of Frankenstein, which had contributed to the novel's renewal. Finally, these two first editions had a lukewarm success in regards to the public's reaction.
However, on October 31st 1831, the third edition was published, and it is this one which still is a huge success nowadays. It results from Mary Shelley's heavy revision: she had to make the story more conservative, and she wrote the preface herself this time.
Currently, we are still able to find the 1818's edition: in fact most scholars prefer this edition because it preserves the spirit of Shelley's original production.
Nevertheless, we should not forget that this story was written within the framework of a suggestion from Lord Byron: he suggested to his friends to write a ''ghost'' story. And it was Mary Shelley's one which was the most successful and a source of satisfaction for her. Moreover, her novel’s writing lasted around one year (May 1816 – Spring 1817), which is very fast for a consequent work. It shows that Mary Shelley was very motivated and implied in the writing.
Due to her parents' fame as writters, Mary Shelley started to write very early. However, in 1818, she was only 19 years old, and not self-confident. That is the reason why she published her novel anonymously.
Despite her young age, she was very lucid and she did not expect such a great and rapid success. On the contrary, she was quite satisfied with the reading public’s reception.
Moreover, in the preface of 1831, she writes: ''It is true that I am very averse to bringing myself forward in print''. Then she wrote that this novel really helped her to grow up: she had difficulty in having children, that is why she considered the novel as ''hideous offspring''.
Furthermore, she had thought about many scientific notions she had been familiar with thanks to her father who was a scientist and that she transmitted to her characters, such as: science like hubris (it means the excess that the monster is representative of, the gathering between two strengths, which are the research of knowledge and his cruelty to humans), researcher's psychology (what was Victor Frankenstein’s aim? Did he want to bring that ‘material’ back to life?), the power of God as a Creator (finally, how and why the monster is created)...
What is more, she lived at a time when women were considered inferior to men, so they were not supposed to be writers let alone ''ghost'' story writers. Therefore, she always remained in her husband's shadow.
If she had lived in our century, she would be shocked and surprised by the book's fantastic success.