Mary Shelley

(1797-1851) – Author

Author of Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818), Shelley is widely considered to have produced the first work of science fiction. She was the daughter of the radical philosopher William Godwin, who described her as ‘singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind’. Her mother, who died days after her birth, was Mary Wollstonecraft, the famous defender of women’s rights. At the age of sixteen, Mary eloped to Italy with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. They had several children, of whom only one survived. A ghost-writing contest on a stormy June night in 1816 inspired Frankenstein. Superficially a Gothic novel, influenced by the experiments of Luigi Galvani, it was concerned with the destructive nature of power when allied to wealth. After Percy Shelley’s death in 1822, she returned to London and pursued a very successful writing career as a novelist, biographer and travel writer. She also edited and promoted her husband’s poems and other writings.

Sarah Sanders

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