Mary Shelley (1797-1851) was a British writer, recognised worldwide thanks to the Gothic novel Frankenstein. Daughter of the philosopher and writer Mary Wollstonecraft (pioneer of feminist thought) and the philosopher and journalist William Godwin, lost his mother at birth because an infection after childbirth ended his life, so his father raised it. His first years were happy but his father, being overwhelmed by debts, decided to remarry. This new wife, Mary's stepmother, was not a fan of his devotion and came to detest it.
The father of Mary, on the other hand, offered her an education of the most varied and with contact with a significant number of intellectuals like Samuel Taylor Coleridge or Aaron Burr, the former vice president of the United States. Thus, Mary was educated with an open mind and a courageous personality.
She fell in love with the poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was 17 (He 22), and although his father was against the relationship, she ended up escaping with Percy (who was already married) and fleeing to France in 1814. Far from living a happy marriage, Percy had a son with his wife at the same time that she was pregnant.
Finally, her daughter, born prematurely, passed away, an event that plunged Mary into a deep depression that she would not overcome until she had her second child, whom they named William. The suicide of Percy's first wife enabled Mary to become Mrs Shelley.
In a house near Lake Geneva in Cologne (France), the Villa Diodati, she had been together with Claire Clairmont, his stepsister and Lord Byron, who had made her pregnant, was precisely where Mary conceived the idea of her most famous novel: Frankenstein. The forced closure because of the rains led to a deep and exciting conversation that led to what was to be a short story. With the help of Shelley, he expanded the story to become his first novel, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, which was published in 1818 and whose master story became a classic of the Gothic fiction.
On a personal level, Mary's misfortunes were not over. Percy drowned while sailing on a sailboat and her second and third children died before she gave birth to her last child. The rest of the years of her life would be plagued by equally excellent writings at a professional level and diseases, because she developed a brain tumour, which would end her life on February 1, 1851, at 53 years of age.
Experts have recently shown increasing interest in their latest novels Lodore and Falkner or the historical fiction The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck.
In this article, we review her best-known works.
FRANKENSTEIN; OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS
Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus was published in 1818 is considered a classic in the genre of the Gothic novel and the first science fiction text of literature. In the book, topics such as objective morality and the creation and destruction of life are treated. It was conceived as a horror story, and in it, we see how it evolves with a scientific, moral and philosophical concept about the human being's right to create intelligent life and what consequences an action of such characteristics can bring.
The Last Man
The last man on earth is an apocalyptic science fiction novel published in 1826 (when Mary Shelley was 29 years old). The book tells the story of a world of the future that has been devastated by a plague. The novel was not very well received in the society of the time (it was described as 'disgusting') and did not resurface from its ashes well into the 20th century. The work includes semi-biographical portraits of Percy Bysshe Shelley, her husband and even Lord Byron.
Valperga or Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca was published in 1823. The book tells the adventures of the despot of the early fourteenth century Castruccio Castracani, a real historical figure who became the prince of Lucca and conquered Florence, threatening the fictional Valperga fortress, led by Countess Euthanasia. A historical novel about politics and love.
Lodore (or The beautiful widow) was published in 1835. The story shows a great commitment to the text with ideological and political themes, centred on the life of the wife and daughter of the character that gives the title to the work, Lord Lodore. The female characters are the protagonists here. The critics praised this work for 'depth and variety of ideas' (Fraser's Magazine).
Matilda was written between 1819 and 1820 and recounts themes such as incest or suicide, in this order. Although it is not an autobiographical story, the critics have linked the work to itself with three main characters: William Godwin, Mary Shelley, and Percy Shelley. However, many voices refuse to take this story as autobiographical. After Frankenstein, it is probably her most famous novel. Due to its content, it could not be published until 1959.
The fate of Perkin Warbeck: A romance
The fate of Perkin Warbeck: A Romance is a historical novel published in 1830 and tells the story of Perkin Warbeck, a pretender to the English throne during the reign of Henry VII of England who claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York, but that, in fact, he was a phony, a flamenco born in Tournai around 1474. This historical novel referred to the political system and human nature, personalised in this aspirant to the throne of King Henry VII. Despite its value, it does not usually appear among Mary Shelley's most outstanding works.
Falkner, published in 1837, is the last novel published by Mary Shelley. In Falkner, Shelley tells the story of the education of a woman under the tyrannical figure of her father. Hence, she remembers her other work Lodore. Fortunately, it is Mary Shelley's only novel in which the heroine triumphs. Thus, feminine values triumph over masculine values, violence and destruction.
History of A Six-Week Excursion
Account of a six-week excursion by a part of France, Switzerland, Germany and Holland; with detailed letters of navigation by the lake of Geneva and the glaciers of Chamouni was published in 1817. One is a work framed in the sort of travel books written Mary Shelley and her husband, in whom two trips of Mary are related to Percy and the stepsister Claire Claremont: one across Europe and the other across Lake Geneva. Although it received good reviews, it was not a sales success.
Walks in Germany and Italy
Walks in Germany and Italy, in 1840, 1842 and 1843 was published in 1844. This travel book was the last of his works to be printed. It narrates two trips by Europe of Mary Shelley next to its son, Percy Florence Shelley, and several of its friends from the university. Critics praised his independence of thought, his great ingenuity and passion when talking about politics. When feminist literature was raised in the 1970s, writings by Mary Shelley like this one, resurfaced with great interest on the part of the public, remember that the author challenged the social conventions of the 20th century in which, for example, the fact of A woman talking about politics was very frowned upon. But Shelley is more than just Frankenstein, as we have seen.