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On this day in history in 1797, was born Mary Shelley.
Shelley was a romantic novelist famous for her novel Frankenstein, which became twisted by a succession of Hollywood scripts.
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born on 30th August 1797, at London, the only daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Her mother died 11 days after her birth, and her father soon married again. She received a superior education, unusual for girls at the time, from a succession of governesses.
In 1814, Mary met the young poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, when he and his wife Harriet visited Godwin's home. In July 1814 she eloped with him to France, and the couple were married in 1816, after Harriet had committed suicide. Mary evidently came as close as any woman could to meeting Percy Shelley's requirements for his life's partner, that is ‘one who can feel poetry and understand philosophy.’ In 1816, the Shelleys visited the poet Byron, on the shores of Lake Geneva. One night, she had a dream in which she saw ‘the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together’. She set herself to write the full story, which developed into the novel Frankenstein. The novel narrates the horrendous consequences of a scientist’s artificial creation a human being, and dwells on the characteristics which make a person human, and those features of humanity which betray the human race. Her synthetic fiend became the material for several Hollywood movies of the 1930s.
In 1818, The Shelleys moved to Italy. They had 3 children, 2 of whom died tragically. In 1822, they moved to Lerici, a fishing village close to La Spezia. In July 1822, Percy Shelley sailed up the coast to Livorno, to meet his friend and publicist, Leigh Hunt, who had just arrived from London. On the return journey, he drowned at sea on 8th July 1822, aged 29. Mary returned to London and devoted herself to publicizing her late husband’s works. She published Posthumous Poems in 1824, and edited his Poetical Works in 1839. She also found time to write more novels, including Valperga, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck, and The Last Man, a pioneering science fiction novel set in the future. Mary Shelley died on 1st February 1851, and is buried in Bournemouth. [St Peters Church, Hinton Road, Bournemouth, Dorset BH1 2EE]
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus (Penguin Popular Classics)
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. The Last Man (Wordsworth Classics)
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