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A Short History Of Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley

September 13, 2019

 

Mary Shelley is yet another Mary/Marie who changed the face of history in a male dominated world. The English novelist is famous for writing the Gothic classic Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus in 1818 and has inspired many famous movies, TV shows, and scientific outlooks since it's publication.

 

Mary Shelley was born on 30 August 1797 to a political philosopher named William Godwin and a philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who unfortunately died less than a month after her child was born. Mary Shelley was primarily raised by her father who adhered to anarchist political theories, but began a turbulent relationships with him when he remarried a neighbour that butted heads with Mary Shelley.

 

In 1814, Mary Shelley's rebellious nature continued when she began a romance with a married man named Percy Bysshe, who was one of her father's political followers. She and Percy, as well as Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont, ran away to France together, returning to England with Mary being pregnant with Percy's child. The couple faced ostracism, debt, distaste and eventually the death of their prematurely born daughter. Percy Bysshe's wife Harriet committed suicide in 1816 after to toll of Mary and Percy's relationship, and the two then married.

 

Famously, the couple spent a summer in Switzerland with Lord Byron, an English romantic poet famous for his movement in romantic literature, where Mary Shelley famously conceived the idea of the Frankenstein novel. However, as was the general societal implications at the time, Mary Shelley spent most of her time editing and working to publish her husband's works of writing, which became her dedication after her husband drowned in 1822 when his sailing boat sank in a storm off the coast of Viareggio, Italy. After this time, she devoted herself to upbringing her third and only remaining child, Percy Florence Shelley and developing a career as an author. 

 

In 1818, Mary Shelley successfully published Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, which is credited as the earliest example of science fiction, philosophical gothic novels, and as a feminist prose. Mary Shelley's works often argue that cooperation and sympathy, particularly as practised by women in the family, were the ways to reform civil society. This view was a direct challenge to the individualistic Romantic ethos promoted by Percy Shelley and the Enlightenment political theories articulated by her father, William Godwin.

 

Mary Shelley also went on to publish other novels, including Valperga, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck, Lodore, Falkner, The Last Man and a travel book entitled History of a Six Weeks Tour, as well as publishing her late husband's works Posthumour Poems and Poetical Works.

 

Eventually, Mary Shelley died at the age of 53 by a brain tumour.

 

Since her death, Frankenstein has been regarded as one of the most classic works of literature that has inspired many different science fiction and horror characters, stories, ideas, and works and has even inspired conferences two hundred years on. Two recent movies depicting Mary Shelley's life have also been recently created, including the 2017 movie Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning as Mary Shelley.

 

 

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