Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Author of Frankenstein -- Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley always wanted to be a great writer.  Of course, considering her parents there is possibly little else she could have wanted to be.  She was born to literary celebrity parents on August 30, 1797 in London.  Her father was renowned novelist and essayist William Godwin, her mother a pioneering feminist writer named Mary Wollstonecraft.    The two had never married believing that marriage was simply a form of prostitution.  

In an event that would foreshadow the tragic life she would endure her mother died when she was only day’s old due to complications from giving birth.   Her father was crushed but quickly married the next door neighbor Mary Jane Clairmont in order to provide a mother for Mary and her older sister Fanny.  The relationship between Mary and her step mother was never a good one and her father appears to have emotionally removed himself from the equation as well. 

Mary did have a luxury that few young children have.  Because of the status of her father as a prominent author and thinker there was a constant stream of intellectual giants visiting the household.  She was able to rub shoulders with men such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sir Humphry Davy and Charles Lamb.  These figures played a large role in her education as well due to the fact that she was home educated.  

Although her father was emotionally distant he was still an attentive and involved father.  It was he who took time to educate his daughter at home.  He also worked to develop and encouraged her love for writing.  When Mary was only 11 years old he helped her to publish her first short book of poetry titled Mounseer Nongtonpaw.  Little did he know that in less than 8 years she would conceive and write what would become one of the most famous novels in history.

One of the famous men that made trips to visit Mary’s father starting in 1814 was a rising poet named Percy Shelley.  The attraction between the two was almost immediate and they fell deeply in love.  The fact that he was a married father of 2 apparently made little difference to either of them.  When Mary’s father discovered the relationship he was furious.  Shelley’s family was obviously unhappy as well.  So, in keeping pace with what young stupid people do, they ran away together to mainland Europe.  

In 1815 Mary delivered her first child but tragedy struck when the baby died only a couple of days later.  

Mary’s spirits were lifted a year later when she delivered a healthy baby boy named William.  Her spirits were lifted even further when her step sister Claire told her that she and Percy had been invited to spend the summer with famous poet Lord Byron in a villa in Switzerland.  It was in this villa that the story for Frankenstein would be born (more on this event on Monday).

Frankenstein was published on the last day of 1817 and would mark the beginning of a series of events which few could withstand.  First her half sister Fanny committed suicide.  Shortly after this Percy Shelley’s ex-wife committed suicide as well.  These events were followed by the birth and death of another baby and in June of 1819 her three year old son William died of malaria.  Her husband Percy passed in July of 1822 when a freak storm popped up while we was sailing as well.  These tragedies also go alongside the various friends that passed early, including almost everyone who spent that summer in the Swiss villa where Frankenstein was born.  In fact, the events following the publishing of Frankenstein were so terrible that many have called it a curse.  After reading the history I may have to agree.

Mary lived alone for most of the rest of her life.  She spent her time writing her own books, and publishing work that she found of her husband’s.  She never remarried or seemed to find any happiness.  She dies on February 1, 1851 at the age of 53.  Of all that she wrote throughout the remainder of her life nothing ever came close to her first major work, Frankenstein. 


  1. When you get a chance, youtube Frank Caliendo's impersonation of Robert Deniro's rendition of the Frankenstein monster. I promise you won't be disappointed. Thanks for the author info. This is really good stuff.

  2. This was really interesting. I didn't know all of this.