Percy Bysse Shelley and Purple Prose

It may have occurred to someone reading my writing that Iam not a big fan of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Today, rather than focusing on his myriad personal flaws, let’s focus on his numerous professional failings. From The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley:

Percy Shelley, while editing one of the most influential novels in the English language, kind of mucked it up a bit. The parts that modern readers find most annoying, egregious and intractable are arguably the bits Shelley shoved in there. To break it down more simply, Shelley overloaded the text with pretentious and wordy purple prose:

He also edited the book to be less critical of victor Frankenstein‘s character, and way harsher on the monster itself, making the creature more villainous and vile while Frankenstein became softer and more sympathetic. Some scholars have said this is because of Frankenstein’s similarities to Shelley, so of course either consciously or subconsciously Shelley didn’t want a man he saw as himself portrayed in an unflattering light. Others say this is because Shelley misunderstood, and thus cut, the theme that nurturing and kindness would have made the monster more gentle (and so Frankenstein is ultimately at fault for making the monster a monster). Others still suggest that Shelley either underestimated or just didn’t ‘get’ the inherent subtlety of the novel and worked to make it more starkly obvious. Ultimately, Shelley’s biggest change may be how he edited the final line of the novel to make it less likely that the monster survived.

In summary, Shelley was 5 years older than Mary, already a critically acclaimed author and poet, and his contributions to one of the most influential English language novels of all time mostly make people the people of today cringe.

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