Discover the Life and Works of Mary Shelley
Discover the Mind Behind Frankenstein
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Godwin, born on August 30, 1797, in London, England, was an English novelist whose work has left a profound impact on literature worldwide. Today, she is best remembered as the author of "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus," a novel that blends elements of gothic horror and science fiction to create a story that remains timeless even after two centuries12.
The Making of a Literary Icon
Mary Shelley was the daughter of two great intellectual rebels of the 1790s, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft3. Her mother, a pioneer of feminist thought, died shortly after her birth, leaving young Mary to be raised by her father and his second wife. Despite the tragedy, Mary's intellectual curiosity was encouraged from a young age, a factor that undoubtedly contributed to her later success as a writer4.
Shelley's life took a dramatic turn when she eloped with the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 18144. Their relationship, while fraught with personal loss, including the death of their children, was also intellectually stimulating. It was during their stay in Geneva with Lord Byron in 1816 that Mary conceived the idea for Frankenstein5.
The Novels of Mary Shelley
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus - 1818 & revised 1831
The novel that placed Mary Shelley in the annals of literary history was "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus." Written when she was just eighteen years old, the story revolves around Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a grotesque creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment5. Shelley's novel is a profound exploration of themes such as the hubris of science, the complexities of creation, and the consequences of abandonment1.
The Last Man - 1826
Shelley's lesser-known novel, "The Last Man," is an apocalyptic science fiction novel set in the late 21st century. It explores the themes of isolation, loss, and the indomitable human spirit in the face of disaster6. Though not as celebrated as Frankenstein, it showcases Shelley's ability to weave complex narratives that reflect on the human condition.
Valperga - 1823
"Valperga: or, the Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca," is a captivating historical novel penned by the romantic novelist Mary Shelley in 1823. The narrative delves into the life of Castruccio Castracani, a 14th-century prince of Lucca. The novel merges historical fact with Shelley's unique storytelling prowess, offering readers a vivid exploration of political, psychological, and sexual power set against the backdrop of war-torn Italy. Shelley's ability to weave intricate narratives around complex characters shines through in this novel, making it a must-read for those interested in historical fiction and the Romantic literary tradition.
"The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck: A Romance" is a historical novel by renowned author Mary Shelley, published in 1830. The novel provides a fictionalized account of the exploits of Perkin Warbeck, a claimant to the throne of King Henry VII. Shelley's narrative adopts a Yorkist perspective, adding an intriguing layer to the historical events. The novel is heavily influenced by the works of Sir Walter Scott, further enhancing its appeal to fans of historical fiction. This deeply researched and beautifully written book offers a unique blend of history and romance, making it a compelling read.
Lodore - 1835
"Lodore" is a novel written by Mary Shelley, published in 1835. The story revolves around the life of the protagonist, Lady Lodore, and her daughter Ethel. It delves into the complexities of societal expectations and the struggles of women during that time. The novel also explores themes such as love, power, and the role of women in society, making it an engaging read for those interested in both historical fiction and feminist literature. "Lodore" is considered one of Shelley's more popular works, showcasing her ability to weave intricate narratives with compelling characters.
Falkner - 1837
"Falkner" is a novel written by Mary Shelley and was published in 1837. This work focuses on the tumultuous relationship between Elizabeth Raby and her guardian, Rupert Falkner. The novel explores themes of guilt, redemption, and the pursuit of atonement as Falkner struggles with a haunting past. It is also notable for its exploration of female roles, relationships, and the effects of social norms. "Falkner" is a testament to Shelley's storytelling prowess, offering readers a blend of romance, adventure, and psychological depth. This novel is a must-read for those interested in Romantic literature and the exploration of human emotions.
History of a Six Weeks' Tour - 1817
"History of a Six Weeks' Tour" is a travel narrative written by Mary Shelley and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley. The book was first published in 1817 and documents the couple's six-week journey through France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. This trip, which they undertook in 1814 following their elopement, included experiences such as a sail around Lake Geneva.
The narrative not only offers readers a fascinating glimpse into the Shelleys' travels and the landscapes they encountered but also provides insights into their personal lives and relationships. It was during this tour that Mary began work on her famous novel "Frankenstein". Today, "History of a Six Weeks' Tour" continues to be valued for its literary merit and as a historical document of the Shelleys' life together.
Mary Shelley's Writing Style and Storytelling Technique
Shelley's writing exemplifies the Romantic movement's emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature7. Her use of descriptive language creates vivid images that immerse readers in the story. Additionally, her novels often feature complex narrative structures, with stories within stories, that deepen the plot and engage the reader on multiple levels8.
Her storytelling approach often includes a philosophical underpinning. In Frankenstein, for instance, she uses the story to question the ethical boundaries of scientific exploration and the moral responsibility that comes with creation1.
Discover the World of Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley was more than just the author of Frankenstein. She was a woman ahead of her time, crafting narratives that challenged the status quo and explored complex philosophical issues. Her works remain relevant today, offering valuable insights into the human condition.
If you haven't yet delved into the world of Mary Shelley, there's no better time than now. Pick up a copy of Frankenstein or The Last Man, and prepare to be captivated by her unique blend of horror, science fiction, and philosophical thought. You'll not only be reading great literature but also getting a glimpse into the mind of one of the most influential women in literary history.