Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Life of Mary Shelley

Most famous for writing the classic book, 'Frankenstein', Mary Shelley lead a life that could be referred to as one that should be a novel itself! She was born August 30, 1797 to William Godwin, a revolutionary writer, and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, a feminist. Her mother September 10 from postpartum hemorrhage, being the first of many deaths in Mary's life. Her father remarried and when times got tough for his publishing business he was forced to send Mary to family friends to live in Scotland. In 1812, while living with the family friends she first met Percy Shelley. At this time, he was with his wife, Harriet Westbrook. After they met they fell deeply in love, so much so that in 1814, when Mary was 17 years old, they eloped to France and Switzerland. When they return Harriet gives birth to her second child, Charles. In 1815, Mary gives birth to her first child, a premature female. This was the second death in her life of someone very close to her related to childbirth. By 1816, Mary gave birth to her second child, a son named William. By their second anniversary, Mary had given birth twice and had been pregnant twice.
It was during this time that Mary and Percy Shelley traveled to meet up with a Lord Byron and then end up around a campfire discussing ghost stories. They came up with a contest to see who could come up with the best ghost story. It is here that Mary Shelley first conceives the idea of Frankenstein's Monster. She came up with Frankenstein's monster from a dream she had of a large dark figure hovering over her in bed, a famous scene from her book. Naturally, she had the best ghost story. Her husband and Lord Byron both encouraged Shelley to expand her book and create a full book out of it. But she complied and she completed a transcription of Frankenstein on April 17th, 1817. Before finishing, Mary and Percy moved back to England in 1816. As a result Mary's half-sister, Fanny Imlay commits suicide and the body of Harriet Shelley, Percy's sister, are found drowned with her unborn child.
When Mary Shelley completed her transcription of Frankenstein, her and Percy tried to get it published but were rejected twice until being accepted by Lackington, Allen & Co, (Publishers). Later that year, Mary gave birth to her second daughter, Clara, born September 2, 1817. She died September 24, 1818. In 1818, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was published anonymously. In 1818, the small family leaves England and moves to Italy, where Clara dies. In 1819, Mary's one remaining son, William dies. Later on that year she gave birth to her one and only child that would end up surviving, Percy Florence Shelley.
In 1822, Mary Shelley had two more big losses in her life. The first was a miscarriage on June 16 that almost cost Mary her life. Then on July 8, her husband, Percy, went out sailing with a friend and never came back. A few days later their decomposed bodies washed up on shore. Even worse, at his funeral, the body was placed on a pyre and set on fire, but someone run up and stole his heart. It is rumored that his heart is still on display somewhere (nasty, right?!).
The rest of Mary Shelley's life was so normal and uneventful, if might seem like it belongs to another person. She kept writing throughout her life, though none of her later books were nearly as widely read as Frankenstein. She lived until she was 54 years old, and died on February 1, 1851.

That was what I learned in class about Mary Shelley. She really had a quite sad life in my opinion, much like that of her characters in Frankenstein, which is filled with symbolism of childbirth and pregnancy being difficult and detrimental. One big example being Frankenstein himself bringing a monster into being and then abandoning it because it didn't turn out to be what he expected and in turn the monster ravaged his family.
What have you guys been reading lately? Who wrote it? What do you know about them? You might be surprised!
Sara :)

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