Revision 1831

Growing popularity

In spite of the reservations of some of the reviewers, Frankenstein became a popular novel:

  • a second edition was published in 1823, supervised by William Godwin, as a distraction for Mary Shelley following the death of her husband in 1822
  • the popularity of the novel is further confirmed by the appearance of two stage adaptations, both produced in London in the summer of 1823:
    • one was Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein by Richard Brinsley Peake
    • the other was Frankenstein; or, The Demon of Switzerland by H. M. Milner.
  • These versions were the first in a long line of adaptations of the novel, for stage, cinema and television that continues to the present day (see Resources and further reading).


Also in 1823, Mary Shelley had prepared an annotated copy of the novel, presumably with a view to publishing a revised version. She gave the copy to a friend and these revisions were never used. However, in 1831, a revised version of the text did appear.

This study guide is based not on this 1831 text, but on Mary Shelley's original novel, as published in 1818. In the world of literary studies it is frequently the case that scholars preparing modern editions of a text favour the last to be revised by the writer, on the grounds that this represents the author's ‘final intentions'. But in the case of Frankenstein, there are good arguments for returning to the earliest published text. More on the case for the 1818 text?

In order fully to understand the differences between the two versions, you would need to read the 1831 text side by side with the earlier text. This later version is available in at least two paperback versions (see Resources and further reading) and has indeed been the basis for most editions of the novel. The earlier text, however, has a number of advocates and several editions based on this version have appeared in the last thirty years.

Original text preferred

This shift of interest has partly to do with following:

  • the fact that Mary Shelley changed the text in numerous places and removed some key passages and references
  • the emergence of new theories of literary criticism that argue that no text can be regarded as ‘fixed' or ‘final' and that where two distinct texts exist both should be available, so that readers can make up their own minds. More on some differences between the texts of 1818 and 1831?
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