Two of the most important women in history in Britain, feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter, author Mary Shelley never met in person. Mary Shelley was born on August 30, 1797, but after a grueling labor was necessary to call a doctor who, for lack of hygiene, infected his mother of an infectious disease. Ten days later, he died the author of “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman ‘. And that baby grow and not only write with only 19 years one of the most fascinating novels in the history of literature, ‘Frankenstein’, but devote his life to preserve and promote the legacy of his mother.
“The memory of my mother has always been the pride and joy of my life.” (Mary Shelley).
Mary Wollstonecraft Goodwin (adopted as the name Wollstonecraft Shelley when she married the poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley) was born in London in the late eighteenth century. His father was William Goodwin, political and anarchist thinker who also go down in history as the author of the first novel by British detectives, ‘Caleb Williams’ in 1794.
At home, he presided over by a large portrait of Wollstonecraft, lived with his father and sister Fanny and both always had access to the works of her famous mother, who devoted several manuals to education for girls. As stated in the book ‘Romantic Outlaws: The extraordinary lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley’ (Charlotte Gordon), “his radical philosophy molded Shelley, precipitating his determination to be somebody and create a masterpiece in itself”.
The girl grew inside creating their own literary world, isolating himself with the literature of grief over the loss of her mother, lack of understanding with the second wife of Goodwin and, already in adolescence, his absence during the two years he was sent to Scotland that influenced the development of his own imaginary universe.
“It was under the trees belonging to our house, or on the shady slopes of the treeless mountains near where my true compositions, the airy flights of my imagination, were born and encouraged”. (Preface to the English edition of “Frankenstein” in 1831)
Mary Shelley wrote 11 years since his first stories and at 15 she met her future husband, Percy Shelley, then married another woman. Two years later they began a relationship without he were still divorced, revolutionizing the conservative upper class Londoner. Together they made a tour of Europe and with all the material, Mary wrote her first adult play “Story of a six-week tour ‘, published in November 1817.
Several biographies of Mary narrate how the origin of the creature ‘Frankenstein’ took place during a trip to Geneva with her little sister Jane Clairmont and Percy Shelley to meet Lord Byron, concerning the romantic literature of the time. During his stay, from June to August, between discussions and literary games, Lord Byron proposed to his guests a challenge: write a ghost story in the style of German stories. And in a few weeks, Mary Shelley wrote a short story that would be the germ of his masterpiece.
Now back to England, a series of tragic episodes, including the suicide of his sister Fanny and woman Percy Shelley, Harriet followed. In this gloomy environment, in May 1817, Mary Shelley finished writing “Frankenstein”, to be published in 1818 in London on condition of anonymity. Shelley’s authorship itself appear in the first French edition in 1823. The success of the work, considered one of the first science fiction novels, was immediate. And his myth and interpretations, also feminist, still present today in day.
Shelley marriage settled in Italy in 1818, and Mary cared for her only living son (three previously died) and, especially, continued to write. Most of his efforts and talent poured into the historical novel ‘Valperga’, 1823, but also after the death of Percy in a boat accident, returned to London and gave full edit the lyrical work of her husband .
Among other own works, in 1826 he published ‘The last man’, post-apocalyptic novel, considered his other great masterpiece, and a new foray into the genre of gothic fiction, which is the most important representative.
In February 1851 (1 or 21, depending on the consulted biographies), Mary Shelley dies at 53 years in London, after a decade sick for a brain tumor.
(Sources: ‘Romantic Outlaws: The extraordinary lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley’, Charlotte Gordon, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley biography in Poetry Foundation).