Quick birthday shout out today to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.
Born in the triangle of London between Kings Cross, Euston and Camden on August 30th in 1797, Mary Goodwin was the daughter of the feminist philosopher, educator, and writer Mary Wollstonecraft, and philosopher, novelist, and journalist William Godwin.
With such a progressive family, Mary was destined for an interesting life. Her mother died though less than a month after Mary was born of a post-natal infection, and Mary was raised by her father in a pretty flexible and liberal manner. This 500 words won't do justice to her full life, but there was no shortage of drama and family strife in her 53 years before she succumbed to a brain tumour.
Her father had a political student for example, and you might have heard of him. Percy Shelley, the romantic poet. He was 22 years old and married at the time he met 16 year old Mary. They ran away together travelling around Europe and, back home, London was awash with gossip. Mary's father wasn't happy, even though he was no fan of marriage, only marrying Mary's mother when she was pregnant, and Percy's wife Harriet wasn't too pleased either.
While they travelled, Harriet gave birth back in London to Percy's second child. Percy and Mary returned to London when she was pregnant, and were shunned by society, Percy then went into hiding to avoid those he owed money to.
Still with me? Good, it gets better...
17 year old Mary gave birth to a daughter in February 1815, although the child sadly died a few weeks later. Within a year she gave birth to the couple's second child, William. At this point Mary's half-sister was romantically involved with another poet, Lord Byron. Again, you may have heard of him...
Anyway, in this whirlwind soap opera of the early 19th Century, Mary, Percy, Lord Byron and Mary's half-sister Claire, travelled to Lake Geneva, and on a rainy day, with Mont Blanc in the background, 18 year old Mary started moulding a ghost story of a monster made up from real human remains, and the legend of Frankenstein was born.
Now, I'm a huge fan of encouraging younger people to be brave and take on the world. Mary Shelly writing Frankenstein at the age of 18 is 'right up there' when looking to inspire younger people to embrace now as their time to shine.
The book was published anonymously in 1818 and was an immediate hit. People thought it was written by a man (how could a woman create such gruesome fiction?) and it spawned many copycat works in the genre.
The soap opera continued. Family suicides, the death of 3 of her 4 children, Percy's death aged 29 in a boating accident. Three separate blackmail threats, threats of personal letters being published and court injunctions to prevent publication. All very modern, and if not real possibly too dramatic to be believed.
Anyway, my 500 words is up, so if I've piqued your interest to find out more, please feel free to read about Mary Shelley here, or maybe watch this film. It's not a classic, but it's worth a watch! Perhaps tomorrow I'll scribble a few words about someone who started at 50. Any ideas? I'd love to hear who inspires you and look into them.
Thanks for reading, and Happy Birthday Mary!