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Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley (Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin; 30 August 1797 – 1 February 1851) was an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818).

 

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David Watkins

David Watkins

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Shelley gets little recognition from her own work. When not known as the wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, she is recognized as the daughter of the celebrated radical writer Mary Wollstonecraft and the equally well-known novelist and political philosopher William Godwin.

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Her recognition from Frankenstein is tainted as well. It is tainted by popular associations with stage and cinema versions of the monster which have little to do with her "Modern Prometheus."

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Mary Shelley grew up around great poets. Her father's friends included the two most important early Romantic English poets, William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge. At 16 she ran off with poet Percy Shelley.

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1816 was a year of death for the Shelley’s. Mary's half sister committed suicide and Percy Shelley's very pregnant ex-wife committed suicide.

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The Napoleonic wars were consuming Britain's economic output, and the increased burden of the war lead to domestic civil unrest. It is in this climate that the Luddite movement flourished, and it was this movement that provided Mary Shelley with the plot of Frankenstein.

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Her father, William Godwin, was a highly controversial, philosopher. Shelley's whole education, including her socialization, was liberal, to the point of being labeled 'radical' and 'revolutionary.

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Victor Frankenstein digging up corpses for body parts was a common occurrence during Shelley’s lifetime. The only legitimate way to acquire a corpse was through judicial executions.

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As Mary Shelley grew older, however, she abandoned her carefree attitude towards life and attempted to conform to the proper standards for a lady in the 1800s. This contrasts with her actions earlier in life.

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After a discussion with Percy and Lord Byron about reanimated corpses, Shelley went to bed. She had a nightmare that would serve as the inspiration for Frankenstein.

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Death played a significant role in Shelley's life and writing. Her mother's death is said to manifest itself in Frankenstein and Percy and three of their four children would die before she was 24.

Article: Mary Shelley (British Lib...
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