Mary Shelley And Frankenstein

Godwin Shelley was the only daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollenstonecraft,
a quite dynamic pair during their time. Mary Shelley is best known for her novel

Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus, which has transcended the Gothic and
horror genres that now has been adapted to plays, movies, and sequels. Her life
though scattered with tragedies and disgrace, was one of great passion and
poetry, which I find quite fascinating, but not desirable. Shelley’s other
literary works were mildly successful their time, but are little known today.

Her reputation rests, however, on what she once called her "Hideous

Progeny," Frankenstein. To understand her writing you must first know her
background starting from her parent’s lives prior to her birth. Her mother,

Mary Wollenstonecraft an early feminist, who, in1792, published A Vindication of
the Rights of Man. This was an excellent book that showed Mary W. was way ahead
of her time. Two years later she had an illegitimate child Fanny Imlay by the

American industrialist Gilbert Imlay. After her failed relationship with Imlay,

Wollenstonecraft met the political philosopher and novelist William Godwin in

1796. Five months into her next pregnancy with Mary, she and William decided to
marry to ensure their child’s legitimacy even though they were both opposed to
the institution of matrimony. They were married on March 29, 1797 at St. Pancras
church in London. Their daughter Mary Godwin (later Shelley) was born on August

30, 1779. Her mother died ten days later of infections and complications from
her delivery, despite expert attention. It was said by certain religious writers
that " It was not unfitting that Mary Wollenstonecraft should die in
childbirth, a suitably primitive punishment for one who presumed to challenge
the ordained place of women in society ." Such a thing would be said probably
because that same year (1798) Godwin published Memoirs of the Author of "A

Vindication of the Rights of Woman" which revealed Mary Wollenstoncraft’s
extra martial affairs (including their own) and her suicide attempts. Godwin was
widely criticized for this publication, and Wollenstonecraft’s influence
drastically diminished for years to come. Mary Shelley’s father remarried in

1801 to his neighbor, the widowed Mary Jane Claremont, who brought two children
to the Godwin household, Charles and Claire Claremont. A fifth sibling was added
in 1803 with the birth of William Godwin, Jr. Like other girls, Mary was
educated at home, in spite of her own mother’s persuasive arguments for the
institutionalized education of girls in The Rights of Woman. So, she absorbed
the intellectual atmosphere created by her father and many of England’s
leading writers and thinkers, including the poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor

Coleridge, scientists like Humphry Davy, and her father’s dear friend William

Nicholson. Importantly, Davy and Nicholson were the two foremost experimenters
with galvanic electricity in the early nineteenth century who later had a
noticeable impact on the writing of Frankenstein. Mary’s reading included
popular gothic novels like William Beckford’s Vanthek (1786) as well as books
by her own mother, whom she idolized. At the age of ten Mary had her first
experience with publication, when the Juvenile Library printed her witty poem,

Mounseer Nongtonpaw: or, The Discoveries of John Bull in a Trip to Paris. By

1812 it was in a fourth edition. In 1812, when she was fourteen, Mary was
exposed to yet another broadening influence. That year when, in order to
distance Mary from the stepmother whom she resented and disliked, Mary’s
father sent her on an extended vacation to the Baxter family in Dundee,

Scotland. She stayed there from June to November of 1812 and, again, from June

1813 to March of 1814, developing a strong friendship to the Baxter’s teenage
daughter Isabel, who became her first close friend. Shortly after her return to
the family home, she became reacquainted with her father’s youthful admirer,

Percy Bysshe Shelley, whom she first met in the company of his wife Harriet in

November of 1812. Now, he became a frequent visitor to the Godwin household, and
the two of them (although not attracted to one another at first) fell in love.

At the time, Shelley was twenty-two and he and his wife were expecting their
second child. But like Godwin and Wollenstonecraft, Percy and Mary felt ties of
the heart outmoded legal ones. In July 1814, one month away from her seventeenth
birthday, Mary and Percy along with Claire eloped to the continent. They
continued on to Switzerland, Holland, and Germany. During this time, Mary kept a
journal of their escapades, which she turned into a travel book, and published
as History of a Six Weeks’ Tour in 1817,