How strange it is to think that the subject of the VV’s previous post, with its scenes of abandoned adventure ships doomed to rot in the frozen Arctic wastes should reflect such a vivid image from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

And yet, that idea was conceived almost forty years before when, in 1817, Mary Shelley completed her gothic novel, what has since gone on to become one of the enduring classics of English literature. Frankenstein begins with a striking scene where a ship has been trapped in ice-bound seas and, much like the real-life Franklin and McClure, its captain and crew have set out to explore the frozen North  in the hope of achieving wealth and fame.
Mary Shelley’s stranded crew catch sight of a distant dog sleigh, driven by a man of monstrous size. He is closely followed by another desperate man who manages to climb on board the ship and then, when recovered sufficiently, begins to tell his story.
He is the tragic Victor Frankenstein, a scientist whose ambition and lust for knowledge has driven him to the edge of hell – a wonderful analogy of the future plight of those mariners who hoped to find notoriety, but instead found themselves in the nightmare grip of the treachorous North-West Passage.
Frankenstein is available to read online, accessed for free from Project Gutenberg.


  1. This is one of those "I didn't know that!" reactions. I recently read that a rumor circulated that Percy had a heavy hand in authoring the book. But rumors will be rumors! Very interesting - thanks, I enjoyed it.

  2. Can you just imagine the first telling of this chilling tale?
    Gas light, heavy curtained windows, firelight, women corseted in long dresses, men wearing spats, vests,shirts with starched collars and long coats.
    Victorians rigid not only in clothing but with fright as the story unfolds.
    Quick, pour me another brandy.


  3. I remember getting up at 6am each day to read Frankenstein (my life was hectic at the time and I was angry at not getting time to read). The silence coupled with the single purpose was like meditation. I was transported to another period, not just because of the story but the style of writing, unmistakably from another time. And didn’t she do this at 18 or 19 years old if I recall?

    The edition I read was also illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, in amazing pen and ink detail. I highly recommend pairing his name with ‘Frankenstein’ on a Google Image search, he’s really captured the heart of the tale, IMO.