Thursday, February 03, 2011

Mary Shelley

Born on August 30th, 1797 in London, England, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin - more commonly known as Mary Shelley - was in Switzerland with her with her second husband, romantic poet and philosopher, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and good friend Lord Byron amusing each other with German ghost stories. The group then decided that they should each write a romance or tale involving the supernatural. This was in 1816, and Mary was nineteen years old. By 1818, her novel - FRANKENSTEIN - was published, not only was it an incredible piece on its own but even more impressive to be the first work of such a young woman.

"I wrote then—but in a most common-place style. It was beneath the trees of the grounds belonging to our house, or on the bleak sides of the woodless mountains near, that my true compositions, the airy flights of my imagination, were born and fostered. -Mary Shelley"

Mary's father was a philosopher, novelist, and journalist named William Godwin. Her mother was a feminist philosopher, educator, and writer named Mary Wollstonecraft. Tragically, her mother died eleven days after giving birth to her of a puerperal fever. Her father raised Mary and her half-sister, Fanny Imlay, giving Mary an unusual and advanced education for a girl at that time.

Amazing to think how many women through the generations never had the opportunity to have their voice heard because of their gender. To be shot down not based on right or talent but rather on a judgement that women are inferior to anything a man could do. This isn't an angry, 'I hate men' statement. It's just sad to see that women have had these creative ideas and stories that could have changed the world - and we will never know because they lived and died in a time where no one respected them. It's important to remember what we came from, all the people who fought for our human rights, and what we have to do today to make them proud - men and women.

"No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks." - Mary Shelley

How original is the concept for Frankenstein? Such unbridled creativity in a woman so young. She says that has inspired by a waking dream -

"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. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world." -Mary Shelley

"Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it." -Mary Shelley (Frankenstein)

Her life was difficult and filled with sadness. She suffered the deaths of her children, with only one son remaining in the end. She spent her last days making sure that he would be taken care before her death - she suffered from many illnesses up until her death at 53. Most likely due to the brain tumor that eventually killed her. Many believe this sadness with offspring and death contributed to the story of Frankenstein, citing Victor Frankenstein a failed 'parent'. The protagonist goes against tradition and creates life - in a way, he is consumed by his own ambition - as his actions are not portrayed in a positive manner.

"Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos." -Mary Shelley

"Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change." -Mary Shelley (Frankenstein)

"I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves." -Mary Shelley

Who was this woman? A writer, a feminist, someone who wrote a story that took on even more of a life than she probably ever anticipated. Because she had such an education, because of the forward thinking she was surrounding in because of her mother and father, she created a story that still holds up today.

There are creations and there are abominations. What I always think of when it comes to monster is this - it was told to me by my mom, so I know it's true - not everyone who seems to be a monster on the outside is, and not everyone who looks safe is not a monster. Mary had it right in the early Eighteen Hundreds with her intelligent, macabre work. Now she and her work remains a strong influence for the men and women of today. Amazing how art can transcend time.



  1. Very well put-together organized blog. The illustrations are very appealing, as well, and cultivate even more interest thus. Useful! Thanks for posting!

  2. Great work! Not only was she a woman of horror - she wrote the greatest horror story of all time!