Mary Shelley was born on 30th. August 1797.
She was the only child of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Her
mother Mary was one of the earliest feminists in an era when feminism was
strongly condemned. She died shortly after her daughter; also named Mary
was born, of an infection. Her father was a prominent philosopher and
novelist. She was born in a period known as the Romantic Era. She was the
contemporary of other famous poets like Byron, Keats and Shelley. She
lived long enough to see the transition from the Romantic to the Victorian
Since the time she was born, she was
treated as a unique individual as she was the daughter of two prominent
people of the period. Her father made sure that she was surrounded from an
early age by intellectuals like Cooleridge and Charles Lamb. Mary had a
half sister, Fanny Imlay, who was born of her mother’s earlier liaison
with an American called Gilbert Imlay. After the death of their mother it
was William Godwin who devoted his life to bringing up the two girls. From
her earlier days, Mary was intellectually inclined.
When she was hardly 16 years old she met
Percy Shelley. Shelley was a prominent poet of that era and was a great
admirer of William Godwin, who he found, fulfilled all his visions of his
ideals. That is how he came in contact with Mary. He fell in love with
Mary and confessed his love for her. Mary also realized that she loved
him. But Shelley was then married to Harriet Westbrook. They confessed
their love to her as well as to William Godwin, Mary’s father. Godwin
was appalled by this and asked Shelley to stop visiting their house. But
their affair still continued. Shelley’s wife committed suicide and they
were married soon after. They had three children; two, which died shortly
after birth, and one named Percy who survived. They were together only for
six years when Shelley drowned. She was left a widow at the young age of
25. Mary never remarried and spent the remaining 29 years of her life
struggling to make ends meet by working as a professional writer in order
to support her son and old father. She became an invalid at the age of 48
and died in 1851 of a brain tumor.
The idea of Frankenstein was conceived in
the villa Diodoti in Geneva, Switzerland. The weather was most
inhospitable due to eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia. The
weather worsened on the 16th. Of June and they were confined to the villa
along with Byron and Polidori. All night they read aloud ghost stories,
which promoted Byron to challenge the others to a ghost story writing
competition. At first Mary had no ideas. Then on the night of 22nd. June,
Mary had a dream where she saw a medical student working on a hideous
looking monster and bringing it to life. The next morning she decided she
had found the subject for her book and started on her famous work Frankenstein. It is said she derived inspiration for this novel from two
famous works, Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘The Metamorphosis’.
She completed her novel in the May of 1817 and it was published on 1st.
January 1818, when Mary was just about 19 years old.