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Mary Shelley Biography

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Mary Shelley (c.1840) by Rothwell

Mary Shelley (c.1840) by Rothwell

Credit: Richard Rothwell (1800-1868)

(1797-1851) British writer. Famous for Frankenstein, Mary Shelley was a writer all of her life. Her most famous work may have been a representation of her own sense of alienation and isolation, but put her on the map as a writer. The novel was an important work for the acceptance of women as credible contributors to literature.

Although Shelley continued writing, none of her later works are well-known (or as beloved) as her Frankenstein. She wrote Lodore (1835), Faulkner (published in 1937), Mathilde (1819), published in 1959), Valperga or the Life and Adventures of Castruccia, Prince of Lucca (1823), The Last Man (1826), and The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck (1830). She also wrote short stories, travel writings, and other works.

Mary Shelley Birth:

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born on August 30, 1797, in London. Her mother was Mary Wollstonecraft, a writer famous for A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) and The Wrongs of Women. Mary's mother only lived ten days after giving birth.

William Godwin was Mary's father; and he became famous for "An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice" (1793). In some sense she was born and bred to be a writer...

Mary Shelley Death:

Mary Shelley died in her sleep at the age of 54, on February 1, 1851. She was living in London at the time of her death. It is believed that the cause of her death may have been a brain tumor. Her final resting place is: Saint Peter's Churchyard/Bournemouth Cemetery in Bournemouth, Dorset, England.

Mary Shelley Education:

Mary Shelley was a self-educated writer and student of literature, with famous men like Charles Lamb, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Percy Bysshe Shelley making up her father's intellectual group of friends and acquaintances. With influences like these, she published her first poem when she was ten years old. And she continued writing a variety of different types of works throughout her life.

Mary Shelley Marriage:

Mary Shelley met Percy in 1812, when he came to see her father. Their romance was rather torrid and controversial, though... Percy was married when Mary ran away to France and Switzerland with him, at the age of 16. The couple only married in 1816, after Percy's wife, Harriet, committed suicide by drowning. Mary gave birth to a daughter (1818), and a son, William (1819). Both babies died, and she had a nervous breakdown. She also had a miscarriage in 1822, the year Percy drowned.

Mary Shelley's Achievements:

Mary Shelley's most lasting, and most memorable achievement is her creation of the monster, Frankenstein. The tale is said to have come out of a dare by Lord Byron that she write a ghost story. She drew from state-of-the-art medical experimentation, and her own dream to create a enduring legacy, which has transcended time and space.

More About Mary Shelley's Dream:

In her "Introduction," Mary Shelley says that she 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 a uneasy, half vital motion."

Mary Shelley Quotes from Frankenstein:

"You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you,as mine has been."

"Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world."

"the moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places."

Mary Shelley More Quotes from Frankenstein:

"My spirits were elevated by the enchanting appearance of nature; the past was blotted from my memory, the present was tranquil, and the future gilded by bright rays of hope and anticipations of joy."

"I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must create."

Critical Reception:

"...it is said to be written by Mr Percy Bysshe Shelley, who... is son-in-law to Mr Godwin... written in plain and forcible English, without exhibiting the mixture of hyperbolical Germanisms with which tales of wonder are usually told." - Sir Walter Scott

"the dreams of insanity are embodied in the strong and striking language of the insane, and the author... often leaves us in doubt whether he is not as mad as his hero." - Wilson Croker

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