Mary Shelley

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Mary Shelley. This painting was made in 1840

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (30 August 1797 – 1 February 1851) was an English author best known for writing the novel Frankenstein. She was in her teens when she wrote the book that is now a classic. She later edited the poems of her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Biography[change | change source]

Mary Shelley was born on 30 August 1797 in London. She was the second daughter in her family. Her parents were Mary Wollstonecraft, a feminist, and William Godwin, a philosopher. Her mother died in childbirth. Her father was quick to marry again. Mary got a great education, something most girls did not have at the time.

Early life[change | change source]

After her mother's death, Mary lived with her older half-sister Fanny Imlay and their father. Fanny Imlay was Wollstonecraft's daughter from an affair she had with a soldier. Mary's dad married Mary Jane Clairmont in 1801. She brought her two children and had one son with Godwin. During that time, Mary's stepmother thought Mary need not be educated, but she didn't give up because of that. She used her father's extensive library and was often found reading by her mother's grave. Mary's father Godwin often had visitors like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. Mary use those chances to learn from them.[1]

During May of 1816, Mary and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley traveled to Lake Geneva. They spent the summer near the famous poet Lord Byron. In terms of English literature, it was a great summer. Percy began work on "Hymn To Intellectual Beauty" and "Mont Blanc". Mary was inspired to write her classic work.

Frankenstein[change | change source]

One evening, the group of young writers decided to have a contest telling horror stories. Another guest, Dr. John Polidori, came up with The Vampyre. This later had a strong influence on Bram Stoker's Dracula. Other guests told scary stories, but Mary could not think of one. But that night, she dreamt of the story she had wanted to tell. She wrote it down, and in time, her story would be published as Frankenstein. It became more successful than any of the other writings produced that summer.

The year she published "The Modern Prometheus", known as Frankenstein was 1818. Mary was only 20 years-old. It is sometimes called the world's first science fiction novel. The ideas for both "Frankenstein" and Polidori's "The Vampyre" were from the famous poet, Lord Byron. The books "Frankenstein" and "The Vampyre" were both published on the same year. Once Mary Shelley published Frankenstein, her life became more interesting[2]

Mary had many different sources for her work; one was the Promethean myth from Ovid. The influence of John Milton's Paradise Lost (the book the 'monster' finds in the cabin) is also seen in the novel. Also, both Shehad s had read William Beckford's Vathek.

Marriage and Family Life[change | change source]

In Mary Shelley's life, her romances led her father to disown her. When she was sixteen, Shelley met Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was 22 at the time. They both fell in love and ran away in 1814. By the time they returned to England, Mary was pregnant and her father wanted nothing to do with her.[3] Returning to England in September of 1816, Mary and Shelley stunned their two families. First, in November, Mary's older half-sister, Fanny Imlay, left the Godwin home and took her own life at a distant inn. Only weeks later, Shelley's first wife drowned herself in London's Hyde Park. She did not welcome Shelley's invitation to join Mary and himself in their new household.

Shortly after Harriet's death, Shelley and Mary married, now with Godwin's blessing. Their attempts to gain custody of Shelley's two children by Harriet failed. Even though this happened, their writing careers enjoyed more success. In the spring of 1817, Mary finished Frankenstein. Mary had two sons and a daughter. The daughter died in infancy and the elder son when he was two.[4] Mary and Percy were both vegetarians, and strong advocates for animal rights. One can see references to vegetarianism in her writing. For example, in her novel Frankenstein, the 'monster' was a vegetarian. After Percy's death in 1822, she returned to England to finished Shelley's writings. Also educating their only surviving child.

End Of Life[change | change source]

Mary Shelley died of brain cancer on February 1, 1851 in London. Her body got buried at St. Peter's Churchyard in Bournemouth, in the English county of Dorset

In Popular Culture[change | change source]

Four films have shown Mary Shelley, and the basic idea of the Frankenstein story in 1816: Gothic directed by Ken Russell (1986), Haunted Summer directed by Ivan Passer (1988), Remando al Viento (English title: Rowing with the Wind) directed by Gonzalo Suárez (1988) and Mary Shelley directed by Haifaa al-Mansour (2017)

Reginald Easton painted this miniature portrait of Mary Shelley,

References[change | change source]

  1. "Mary Shelley". Biography. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  2. Editors, History com. "Frankenstein published". HISTORY. Retrieved 2019-05-13.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  3. "Why "Frankenstein" Author Mary Shelley's Life Was Darker Than Her Fiction". All That's Interesting. 2016-08-30. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  4. "Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley | British author". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-04-29.

Other websites[change | change source]