Happy Birthday, Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley, Authoress of "Frankenstein"It’s the birthday of Mary Shelley, born Mary Godwin in London on this date in 1797. Her mother — feminist advocate Mary Wollstonecraft — died of complications after giving birth to young Mary. Her father, philosopher and author William Godwin, raised her. She grew up surrounded by literary luminaries of her day, including Wordsworth and Coleridge, and she loved to write stories.

When she was 16, she fell in love with one of her father’s students, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who happened to be married. The lovers ran off to Europe, where they conceived a daughter who died shortly after she was born. In the summer of 1816, they spent some time in Switzerland with Lord Byron, John Polidori, and Jane Clairmont.

Byron and Percy Shelley spent long hours debating philosophical topics like the nature of life, and whether it might be possible to reanimate the dead. Mary Godwin became obsessed with the question, to the point that it disturbed her sleep. She later wrote, “I saw — with shut eyes, but acute mental vision — I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together; I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out; and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion.” That gave rise to her most famous novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, published in 1818.

Frankenstein begins: “It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. … It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the pains, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.”

Thanks to The Writer’s Almanac for the above.


About The Word Of Jeff

I'm a freelance writer and blogger who has written for, among others, Tribune Media Services, Suite101 and Athena Guides. As an intrepid traveler I have chronicled some of my travels at The Verbal Vagabond, my travel blog. And, being an avid amateur photographer, I also have a photography blog spotlighting photos I have taken of areas around my hometown at Postcards From Maggie Valley. Speaking of Maggie Valley, that is where my wife, our Golden Retriever/Border Collie mix, Bella, our Orange Tabby, Tigger and I live in a log cabin on a mountain in Western North Carolina, just at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I enjoy hiking, camping, art, travel, photography (as mentioned above), and an occasional glass of good wine while reading or writing in front of the fireplace.
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