As Frankenstein was first published anonymously and dedicated to William Godwin, the novel was politically defined for most readers before they opened the covers: this was a production of one of Godwin’s disciples, and many thought it the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley. We must remember the political climate when Frankenstein was published. Only the previous year, there was the Pentrich rising; five years before, 17 Luddites had been executed after a mass trial, at York, while working-class disturbances spread right across the country during the teens decade. The Government of the time was one of the most reactionary of the nineteenth century, and set its face firmly against the rising clamour for reform, a radical and reforming movement that had already been strong in the 1790s. Stringent and oppressive measures restricting freedom of speech had been brought in after the French Revolution, and maintained while Britain was at war with Napoleon’s France. Godwin’s Political Justice, and his courageous publications and appearances supporting the accused in the treason trials of 1794, had made him famous as a rallying-point for radicals and reformers. Therefore, in a period when politics was at its bitterest and most polarized, to dedicate a novel to Godwin was a radical political act.
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