Mary Shelley, an English author, is well-known around the world. Shelley wrote Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) and was the daughter of the radical philosopher William Godwin, who described her as “singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind.
” Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a prominent advocate for women’s rights but passed away just days after giving birth to her. Mary was raised in Godwin’s eccentric but intellectually electric household alongside five half-siblings.
Mary ran away to Italy at the age of sixteen with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who wrote about “the irresistible wildness & sublimity of her feelings.” After Shelley’s wife committed suicide in 1816, they married and each supported the other’s writing. Only one of their many children made it to adulthood.
Frankenstein, often regarded as the first true work of science fiction, was sparked by a ghost-writing contest on a stormy June night in 1816. It was, on the surface, a Gothic novel inspired by Luigi Galvani’s research into the destructive potential of power combined with wealth.
The story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the creature he creates in an unconventional scientific experiment is well-known to academics, librarians, and readers everywhere thanks to Mary Shelley’s classic novel, Frankenstein. It became an overnight sensation, giving rise to legends that live on to this day.
Following the death of her husband, novelist, biographer, and travel writer Mary Shelley relocated to London and embarked on a highly successful writing career. Besides raising awareness for her husband’s work, she helped edit and publish his poetry and other works.
Mary Shelley Early Life
On August 30, 1797, Mary Shelley entered the world. Her birthplace was London. Both her parents were influential figures in the Enlightenment, so she grew up in a family with a good reputation.
Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote the seminal feminist text A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), which argues that women’s “inferiority” stems from their lack of education.
Her father, William Godwin, was a prominent political author known for his anarchist Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) and the groundbreaking fictional thriller Caleb Williams (1794).
When Wollstonecraft passed away on September 10, 1797, just days after giving birth to her daughter, she left Fanny and her half-sister Fanny Imlay, then three years old, in Godwin’s care. Fanny was the product of an affair Wollstonecraft had with the American author and businessman Gilbert Imlay.
Mary’s parents and the knowledge she inherited from them were influential factors throughout her life. In spite of her mother’s absence, Mary was profoundly influenced by Wollstonecraft and her writings, which she admired from an early age.
Godwin’s time as a widower was brief. Mrs. Mary Jane Clairmont, a neighbor of Mary’s father’s, was his second wife. He married her when Mary was four years old. She already had children Charles and Jane with her, and in 1803 she gave birth to another son, William.
There was tension between Mary and Mrs. Clairmont due to the latter’s jealousy of Mary’s close relationship with her father and her resemblance to her own mother. Mrs. Clairmont then ostensibly sent her stepdaughter to Scotland in the summer of 1812 for health reasons.
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Two of Mary’s years there were spent in that place. She did well in what amounted to exile in Scotland. She would go on to say that the rural setting was instrumental in the development of her creativity because of the time she had to devote to her imagination.
Escape And The Birth Of An Author
The beginning of Mary and Percy’s relationship was particularly tumultuous. The couple ran away from home and headed to Europe on July 28, 1814, using some of the money Shelley had promised Godwin. The couple brought along Mary’s stepsister Claire.
They spent six months in Lucerne, Switzerland, after traveling to Paris and then across the countryside. Their meager resources weren’t able to dampen their enthusiasm for one another, and Mary’s creative development during this time was exceptionally fruitful despite the challenges she faced.
Both partners were avid readers, and they also shared a journal. Mary’s travelogue History of a Six Weeks’ Tour was crafted from entries she made in her diary during her expedition.
After the three of them exhausted their last remaining dollars, they packed up and headed for London. Godwin refused to let Shelley into his house because of his anger.
There was talk that he had sold Mary and Claire to Shelley for 800 and 700 pounds, respectively, which was a terrible rumor to spread. Godwin disapproved of them getting together because it was disruptive to their finances and their social lives, and because he knew Percy was reckless and prone to
outbursts of rage. And he knew that Percy’s fatal flaw was that he was fundamentally selfish, even as he craved approval and approval from others by insisting that he was always doing what was good and right.
Mary Shelley Living As A Widow
In 1822, while sailing to meet Leigh Hunt and his wife, Percy Shelley perished at sea due to a storm. The Shelleys had recently settled near Lenci, Italy. Mary and John spent a year in Italy before permanently relocating to England.
Mary had difficulty providing for her child after Percy’s death. Her works were published without her name because, despite receiving some financial backing from Sir Timothy Shelley, he insisted that she keep the Shelley name out of print.
Mary published a number of short stories and made numerous contributions to Chamber’s Cabinet Cyclopedia, including biographical and critical sketches.
Mary Shelley wrote five more novels, all of which were poorly received due to their excessive wordiness and awkward plots. After Frankenstein, her most famous piece is The Last Man (1826).
This book is considered an early example of science fiction because of its innovative portrayal of the future and its description of the annihilation of humanity in the twenty-first century.
Because of an increase in Percy Florence’s allowance upon his coming of age in 1840, the Shelleys were able to take a trip to Italy and Germany, which is chronicled in Rambles in Germany and Italy in 1840, 1842, and 1843. (1844). Mary Shelley died at the age of 53, having never finished the biography of her husband which was her life’s greatest ambition.
After Mary Shelley’s death, her stories were compiled into collections, and her short novel, Mathilda, was published for the first time in the 1950s.
A fictionalized account of her romance with Godwin, it tells the story of an attraction between a father and a daughter. Mild praise has been given to the poetry of Proserpine and Midas (1922), verse dramas written to accompany one of Percy Shelley’s works.
Mary Shelley’s nonfiction works, such as her readable (if dated) travel books, her spirited essays for Chamber’s Cabinet Cyclopedia, and her notes on her husband’s poetry, have also been well received by critics.
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Shelley) met the aspiring poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1812 and subsequently eloped to France with him the following year, in July 1814. After his first wife committed suicide, he wed her again in 1816. His wife Mary returned to England after his death in 1822 to promote his works.