|Portrait of Mary Shelley, |
painted by Richard Rothwell in 1840.
Percy Bysshe Shelley and his first wife Harriet often visited Godwin's home and bookshop in London. At the age of 16 Mary eloped to France and then Switzerland with Shelley. During May of 1816, the couple travelled to Lake Geneva. Apparently inspired by a ghost tale contest among her friends, Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont Mary had what she called a waking dream that became the manuscript for her most famous work, entitled ‘Frankenstein' or 'The Modern Prometheus'.
It tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who tries to create a living being for the good of humanity but instead produces a monster. Frankenstein creates his monster by assembling parts of dead bodies and activating the creature with electricity. The monster, which has no name in the book, is actually a gentle, intelligent creature. However, everyone fears and mistreats him because of his hideous appearance. Frankenstein rejects the monster and refuses to create a mate for him. The monster's terrible loneliness drives him to seek revenge by murdering Frankenstein's wife, brother, and best friend. Frankenstein dies while trying to track down and kill the monster, who disappears into the Arctic at the end of the novel.
Film Posters for Universal Studios 1931
version of 'Frankenstein'
Mary and Shelley married in 1816 after Shelley's first wife committed suicide by drowning. In 1818 the Shelleys left England for Italy. The Italian adventure was, however, blighted for Mary by the death of both her children Clara, in Venice and their son Will died from malaria in Rome. Mary suffered a nervous breakdown after the death and almost died of a later miscarriage. It was followed by the birth of her only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley. In July 1822, Percy Bysshe Shelley sailed up the Italian coast and was caught in a storm on his return. He drowned on the 8th July along with his friend Edward Williams and a young boat attendant.
To support herself and her child, Mary wrote novels, including Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), and the autobiographical Lodore (1835). She spent much of her life in promoting her late husband's work, including editing and annotating unpublished material. She returned to England, never to re-marry.
|The Grave of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly|