Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

One of the most famous novels ever published (Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus) was written by the time its author, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, turned 19. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is the daughter of the famous intellectual rebels of the 1790s, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Mary Shelley was born August 30, 1797, and eleven days later her mother died of puerperal fever leaving Godwin to care for her and her three year old half-sister, Fanny. From an early age, their father encouraged both daughters to write, and Mary took an early liking to writing letters. She was mostly informally educated at home, having access to her father’s library, and with a governess and a daily tutor. At the age of fifteen, Mary was described by her father as “singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind. Her desire of knowledge is great, and her perseverance in everything she undertakes almost invincible” (EGS).

When Mary was about seventeen, she started a relationship with a married man and one of her father’s political admirers, Percy Shelley. They started secretly meeting, and when Mary’s father found out he (unsuccessfully) tried to end their relationship. Percy and Mary travelled to France with Mary’s stepsister Claire and did not return until their funds ran out. After they arrived back home, they found out that Mary was pregnant and that her father would not help (Percy’s wife was also pregnant at this time). Mary lost the baby soon after it was born. They left to go to Geneva in 1816 to spend the summer with Claire’s affair, Lord Byron. They unfortunately had terrible weather during their stay which kept them confined to the house, reading ghost stories; which is what prompted Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Later that year, Mary and Percy suffered the suicides of both Mary’s sister, Fanny and Percy’s first wife. In December of 1816, Mary and Percy were finally able to wed. It was just over a year later, in 1818, that Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus was published under an anonymous author. Many assumed that Percy Shelley was the author since he wrote its introduction.

While Mary and Percy’s marriage may have seemed to many an easy time, it was filled with hardships. Not only did the couple deal with many adulterous situations, but they also lost all but one of their children. Born in 1819, Percy Florence was their only child to live to adulthood. And Mary’s life was once again filled with sadness in 1822 when she got the news that her husband, Percy, had been out sailing with friends and drowned in the Gulf of Spezia. Shelley worked hard to make a life for her and her son after she was made a widow at the age of 24. She wrote several more novels, including Valperga (1823) and The Last Man (1826). She also made it a goal to promote her husband’s poetry and make way for his place in literary history.

Mary Shelley died of a brain tumor on February 1, 1851, at the age of 53. She was buried at St. Peter’s Church in Bournemouth near her mother and father’s graves and with the cremated remains of her husband’s heart.

Works Cited

BIO. N.p.. Web. 7 Nov 2013. <http://www.biography.com/people/mary-shelley-9481497?page=2&gt;.

EGS. N.p.. Web. 7 Nov 2013. <http://www.egs.edu/library/mary-shelley/biography/&gt;.

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