Frankenstein Chronology

Compiled by Russell A. Potter

1797: Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin born (30 August); her mother Mary Wollstonecraft dies on 10 September.

1814: Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin elopes with Percy Bysshe Shelley (28 July)

1815: Birth (22 February) and death (6 March) of Mary Godwin's first daughter

1816: Soiree with Mary Godwin, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and Polidori in Geneva at which the ghost-story contest is proposed (May); Mary begins Frankenstein (16 June); suicide of Percy Shelley's wife Harriet (10 December); Mary Godwin marries Percy Shelley (30 December).

1817: Goodwin publishes Mandeville.

1817: William Scoresby, pioneer Arctic whaler, publishes his treatise The Polar Ice, in which he argues that the polar ice cap is nearing its lowest extent in fifty years.

1817: Sir John Barrow, having read Scoresby's book, urges that Britain, flush with victory in the Napoleonic Wars, send her ships to discover the Pole or the North-West Passage. Scoresby volunteers to lead such an expedition, but is turned down by the officious Barrow.

1817: Completion of Frankenstein, proofs read by Percy Shelley. The ms. is sent to John Murray, but he rejects it; it is eventually accepted by Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones.

1818: Publication of Frankenstein (January). Other books this year include Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, Percy Shelley's The Revolt of Islam, Keats's Endymion, and Bowdler's infamously expurgated "Family Shakespeare."

1818: Departure of two Arctic Expeditions sponsored by the British Admiralty -- one led by Captain William Buchan, which is turned back by ice north of Spitsbergen, and another, led by John Ross, which explores the northern reaches of Baffin's Bay in search of a North-West Passage. Ross turns back at Lancaster's Sound, claiming the way is blocked by mountains he names the Croker Mountains after John Wilson Croker, First Lord of the Admiralty.

1818: John Wilson Croker pens a hostile review of Frankenstein in The Quarterly Review

1819: Some anonymous wit publishes a satire on Ross entitled Munchausen at the Pole; or, The surprising and wonderful adventures of a voyage of discovery consisting of some of the most marvellous exploits ever performed by man ; together with a correct list of the curiosities brought home and deposited in the Museum and Tower of London.

1819: Sir John Barrow, the Admiralty secretary responsible for planning Buchan and Ross's voyages, writes a scathing review of Ross's book about his expedition, accusing him of 'want of fortitude' and dereliction of his written instructions.

1819: Birth of Percy Florence Shelley to MWS and PBS.

1819: Henry Aston Barker's "Panorama of Spitzbergen," depicting the voyage of Captain Buchan's vessels, opens at the Panorama-Royal in London's Leicester-Square.

1819-1822: John Franklin, second-in-command to Buchan in 1818, completes an ambitious yet disastrous Arctic land expedition, in which two-thirds of the men in his command die of starvation and exposure, and there is evidence of cannibalism among some of his guides.

1819-1820: William Edward Parry sails through the imaginary "Croker Mountains" and leads HMS Hecla and and Griper on a record-breaking journey into Arctic waters, completing almost two-third of a Northwest Passage before being turned back by ice and forced to spend a winter camped in utter desolation in an ice-filled harbor off Melville Island.

1820: Parry's account of his expedition is published by John Murray. Percy Shelley publishes Prometheus Unbound.

1821-29: Parry sails on two more attempts at the North-West Passage, and one attempt at the North Pole with ships and sledges -- but is unable to reach either goal.

1821: The Messrs. Marshall's "Peristrephic Panorama of the Frozen Regions" begins a tour of the British Isles.

1822: Death of Percy Shelley

1823: Richard Brinsley Peake's play Presumption: or, the Fate of Frankenstein, debuts in London. John Franklin's account of his Arctic expedition is published by Murray.

1829-33: John Ross departs on a private expedition to the Arctic, funded by London gin magnate Felix Booth, and discovers (with hie nephew James Clark Ross) the North Magnetic Pole. The Rosses are given up for lost, but return in 1833 after having abandoned their ship and survived the winters with the help of their Eskimo neighbors.

1831: Second edition of Frankenstein