Mary Shelley, Albert Shilman

Mary Shelley is very best known for her science fiction novel of Frankenstein which was written in the early 1800s. However, her personal life and the issues she faced in society at the time are not widespread despite the major impact it had on her professional writing career. Mary Shelley, Born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was largely overshadowed by her poet husband Percy Bysshe Shelley. At age 16 Mary had fallen in love with one of her father’s 21-year-old protege’s. Percy had been married at the time and had an affair with his wife and had abandoned her when he impregnated Mary and run off to Europe. Her father disapproved of the relationship and refused to communicate with his daughter for two years. Mary had given premature birth to her first daughter Clara in 1815 who would die two weeks later. However, a year later she would have a successful birth of her son William. Mary would again try for daughter in 1817 which she named Clara. Following the faith of Clara before her, she would die just after her first birthday and the demise of William would come the same year. The death of all three of her children was intriguing as Mary would try again for the fourth time and coming away with successful childbirth to Percy in 1819. An interesting fact that was mentioned is that at the time of publication of Frankenstein the author was unknown. The first edition of Frankenstein had a preface by Percy Shelley, causing some to believe he in fact had written the book. Could this have been done on purpose to hide the fact that the work was written by a woman to gain more publicity? What is most intriguing is that Mary would continue to write novels under the alias of “Writer of Frankenstein” after the loss of her husband Percy in a boating incident in 1822. Mary decided to support herself and her son by writing more novels. Percy Shelley’s father, Thomas Shelley, would offer his financial support for Mary and her son but would threaten to cut her off if she had published any more of his son’s unpublished poems. Mary’s intention for publishing her late husband’s poems was to salvage his legacy and to try to write anew. What I found most interesting is that “In 1838 he finally gave Mary permission to publish her husband’s poems, as long as no memoir of Percy’s scandalous life was included.” Thomas Shelley wanted to hide his son’s antic lifestyle to preserve his family’s reputation. Mary would work around this by including a preface and biographical notes to the poems. Mary Shelley would then continue to write more novels and poems until her death in 1851 at her london home. 

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