Mary Shelley is a name that is synonymous with one of the most iconic works of horror fiction of all time, “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus”. But who was the woman behind this seminal novel, and what else did she accomplish in her life?
Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin on August 30, 1797, in London, England. She was the daughter of two prominent intellectuals: her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a feminist writer and philosopher, and her father, William Godwin, was a political philosopher and novelist. Tragically, Mary’s mother died shortly after her birth, and she was raised primarily by her father and stepmother.
As a young woman, Mary was interested in writing and literature, and often attended literary salons hosted by her father. It was at one of these gatherings that she met Percy Bysshe Shelley, a poet and radical thinker who would become her husband. The two began a passionate affair, which scandalized society at the time, as Percy was already married and Mary was only 16 years old.
In 1816, Mary and Percy traveled to Switzerland with a group of friends, including the poet Lord Byron. It was during this trip that Mary began writing what would become “Frankenstein”. The novel was published in 1818, and was an instant success, both critically and commercially.
Despite the success of “Frankenstein”, Mary faced many challenges in her personal life. She and Percy had several children, but tragically, only one survived to adulthood. Additionally, Percy died in a boating accident in 1822, leaving Mary a widow at the age of 24.
After Percy’s death, Mary continued to write and publish, but she never achieved the same level of success as she had with “Frankenstein”. She also edited and annotated her husband’s poetry, and wrote several biographies of him after his death. Mary herself died in 1851 at the age of 53, from what is believed to have been a brain tumor.
Today, Mary Shelley is remembered as one of the most important writers of the Romantic era, and “Frankenstein” is considered a masterpiece of horror fiction. In addition to her literary accomplishments, she was also a pioneering feminist and an advocate for social justice. Her legacy continues to inspire and influence writers, scholars, and readers around the world.