Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read
At the age of eighteen, Mary Shelley, while staying in the Swiss Alps with her lover Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and others, conceived the tale of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the monster he brings to life. The resulting book, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, is a dark parable warning against the risks of scientific and creative endeavor, the corrupting influence of technology and progress, and the dangers of knowledge without understanding. Frankenstein was an instant bestseller on publication in 1818 and has long been regarded as a masterpiece of suspense, a classic of nineteenth-century Romanticism and Gothic horror, and the prototype of the science fiction novel. Though it has spawned countless imitations and adaptations, it remains the most powerful story of its kind.
About the Author
The daughter of Mary Wollestonecraft, the ardent feminist and author of A Vindication on the Right of Women, and William Goodwin, the Radical-anarchist philosopher and author of Lives of the Necromancers, Mary Goodwin was born into a freethinking, revolutionary household in London on August 30,1797. Educated mainly by her intellectual surroundings, she had little formal schooling and at sixteen eloped with the young poet Percy Bysshe Shelly; they eventually married in 1816.
Mary Shelly’s life had many tragic elements. Her mother died giving birth to Mary; her half-sister committed suicide; Harriet Shelly–Percy’s wife dr5owned heself and her unborn child after he ran off with Mary’ William Goodwin disowned Mary and Shelly after the elopement, but–heavily in debt–recanted and came to them for money; Mary’s first child died soon after its birth; and in 1822 Percy Shelly drowned in the Gulf of La Spezia–when Mary was not quite twenty-five.
Mary Shelly recalled that her husband was “forever inciting” her to “obtain literary reputation.” But she did not begin to write seriously until the summer of 1816, when she and Shelly we in Switzerland, neighbor to Lord Byron. One night following a contest to compose ghost stories, Mary conceived her masterpeicve. Frankenstein. After Shelly’s death she continued to write Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), Ladore (1835), and Faulkner (1837), in addition to editing he husband’s works. In 1838 she began to work on his biography, but owing to poor health she completed only a fragment.
Although she received marriage proposals from Trelawney, John Howard Payne, and perhaps Washington Irving, Mary Shelly never remarried. “I want to be Mary Shelly on my tombstone,” she is reported to have said. She died on February 1, 1851, survived by he son, Percy Florence.