16 Amazing Facts in the Life of Frankenstein Author Mary Shelley

By Natasha sheldon

Mary Shelley was born on August 30, 1797, the daughter of radical authors William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. Today, Mary is remembered as the lover and wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley and the author of Frankenstein. However, Mary Shelley was much more than the wife of a romantic poet- and Frankenstein was by no means her only book. For Mary was a devoted mother and a prolific author of many works of fact and fiction and had an imagination ahead of her time. She bucked convention- and suffered for it, losing social standing, children, and friends. Yet she never let circumstances defeat her. Here are just 16 insights into the incredible life of Mary Shelley.

Young Mary Shelley. Google Images.

1. Mary Godwin’s Brain, as well as her Beauty, attracted Percy Shelley

From 1812 onwards, Percy Bysshe Shelley had become a regular visitor at the home of the writer and publisher William Godwin. The young poet was initially drawn to Godwin by the older writer’s radical ideas. Just two years later, however, Shelley’s admiration would shift to another member of the family when Godwin’s daughter, Mary returned home from an extended stay in Scotland.

Mary Godwin had been staying in the highlands with friends, the Baxters, because of her fragile health. By the summer of 1814, she was sufficiently recovered to return to London and her father’s house in Skinner Street. Mary was now a striking looking sixteen-year-old; slender, pale and with a high forehead and- in the words of her stepsister Jane “Claire” Claremont- light auburn hair of “burnished brightness like the autumnal foliage when played upon by the rays of the setting sun.”

Twenty-two-year-old Shelley already had a wife, Harriet, who had been an equally pretty sixteen-year-old when he married her. However, his attraction to Mary was not governed by her looks alone. For Mary Godwin had a precocious intellect, which had been carefully nurtured. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, an early feminist and writer of Vindication of the Rights of Women had been a fierce believer in education for girls. William Godwin shared his dead wife’s beliefs -and had applied them to their daughter.

Godwin instructed Mary himself, ensuring she studied the same curriculum as an educated young man- and not just embroidery, dance and the art of conversation taught to most young ladies. Godwin’s position in the radical community also ensured that his daughter was exposed to some of the leading minds of her day. The poet and essayist Charles Lamb was a regular visitor to the Godwin house, as was Samuel Taylor Coleridge- and Aaron Burr, the former US Vice President who fled to Britain after he killed the secretary for the treasurer Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

Mary’s exposure to this knowledge and fresh, radical ideas fed her fierce intelligence and provided food for her abstract way of thinking. She was also quietly but firmly confident of her own ideas and opinions, characteristics that led her father to describe her as   “singularly bold” and “somewhat imperious.’ Her perseverance in everything she undertakes {is} almost invincible.” Godwin later wrote.  It was this and the  “originality and loveliness of Mary’s character that made her shine in Shelley’s eyes.