Mary Shelley [née Godwin]

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born, in London, on 30th August 1797.

Both her parents were authors and political philosophers, but her mother died of puerperal fever only 11 days after Mary was born.

Her upbringing was very unconventional for a girl in those times. She was undoubtedly precocious and experienced a high-level education. Then, through her parents (her father had re-married), she met many of the great intellectuals of the day.

Aged 17 she met, and fell in love with, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. He was married, but they ran away together to the continent. In late 1816 Shelley's wife committed suicide. He married Mary shortly afterwards, and they went to live on the continent in March 1818. In 1822 P B Shelley was drowned at sea. This, plus the fact that out of 4 children born only one survived beyond the first few years, left Mary in a considerable state of depression.

She returned to England in 1823 with her sole remaining son and set about earning a living by writing. Unfortunately, as an intellectual woman, most men regarded her with suspicion and even fear. In order to make her 'acceptable' they said that she had 'a masculine mind'. For these and other personal reasons life was not easy for her, but she was strong-minded and determined, and enjoyed a reasonable level of success. Sadly, much credit was only given to her writing long after her death.

Almost two hundred years later her works continue to be re-evaluated and appreciated but, to the public at large, she is known only as the author of Frankenstein.

During the last decade of her life she suffered intense headaches, but kept working, until eventually she went into a coma and died, of a brain tumour, on 1st February 1851 at her home in London, aged 53.

Whilst the name Frankenstein is known to many, there are those who assume it is the name of the monster itself. It isn't. Victor Frankenstein was the scientist who created the monster, which was never given the dignity of a name. It might have been clearer if Mary Shelley had entitled the book Frankenstein's Monster!

It has been the subject of at least 5 films for the cinema (the first in 1910) and 7 for Television.

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