The first Read Great Books discussion on Pride & Prejudice went great. Frankenstein is the second book and I'm looking forward to the discussion on Monday, March 16. RSVP here. Check out the full list of books here.
If you want to feel old and unaccomplished, just know that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was just 18. Shelley had been traveling through Europe with friends as a teen, and while in Switzerland had gotten caught up in the occult ideas that were swirling around. The group - which included her lover and future husband Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron - made a bet over who could write the best horror story. Frankenstein and his monster were born.
Frankenstein was published anonymously in 1818 when Shelley was just 20. In 1822, it was published in France, this edition bearing the author's name. These first two runs broke the story into three small editions, a common format at the time. In 1831, Shelley heavily revised Frankenstein and they were merged into one volume. From its first appearance, the critical reviews have been mixed, but it has always been popular. Stage show adaptations cropped up immediately, spreading the story throughout Europe.
Mary Godwin Shelley was the product of two radical thinkers. Both writers, her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote a manifesto of sexual equality, "A Vindication of the Right of Woman," and her father, William Godwin, was a known political philosopher, churning out justice commentary as well as novels. Mary was born in August of 1797, and her mother died from complications of the birth in September.
William Godwin encouraged his young daughter to take part in the lively conversations around their family table, with noted writers and philosophers. At the age of 11, she wrote and published a children's booklet through her stepmother's newly formed publishing house.
When Mary met the poet Percy Bysse Shelley, he was already married to a woman named Harriet. In spite of this, two years after first meeting, Mary and Percy "eloped," though technically he was still married to Harriet. The new couple spent months traveling Europe, meeting with friends and writing.
The next few years brought a supreme amount of grief. Mary's stepsister Fanny committed suicide, and not long after so did Harriet, Percy's first wife. Harriet's death by drowning left Mary and Percy free to marry, by then they can endured one baby born premature who would not survive, and rejoiced with the birth of one son and later a daughter. By 1820, both of those children had died in separate incidents, and in 1822 Percy drowned while sailing.
Only 25, Mary Shelley had written several novels and was encountered debilitating grief. Her fourth and last child, Percy Florence Shelley, became her reason for living, and though she continued writing for the rest of her life - everything from travel journals to biographies - she never remarried.
There is much more to say about Mary Shelley, but I think it's important to read the book first. We'll be discussing Frankenstein on Monday, March 16. You can RSVP here to the discussion.