On this day in 1851, esteemed Frankenstein writer, Mary Shelley died of brain cancer. She was 53 years old.
Who would have guessed that Frankenstein, published anonymously in 1818 to unfavorable critical reception, would become a classic of literature, that is recognized the world over!?! For no one can doubt the significance that this novel has had on our popular culture, art and human psyche.
Shelley was, of course, the wife of the famous Romantic writer Percy Bysshe Shelley and so, was in common friendship with fellow writers John Keats and Lord Byron.
To say that her life was tragic, would certainly be something of an understatement. Only one of her three children survived childhood, her sister was known to be her husband’s mistress and even became pregnant by him. Not to mention, she survived her husband, who drowned at the age of 29! She herself, was plagued with ill health until she finally succumbed to what is thought to be a brain tumor at the relatively young age of 53.
It is unfortunate that more people are not aware of Shelley’s other writings, as they are quite good and certainly worth a read if you are a fan of her rich, gothic style. in fact, one of our favorite works by Shelley, apart from her masterpiece, is her science fiction novel, Last Man, published in 1826. If you’ve not read this apocalyptic treasure, we’ll not spoil it here… suffice it to say, that the characters are almost certainly semi-biographical and based off of people that were in Shelley’s social circle. She also wrote a large amount of historical novels, short stories and poetry.
Today… think about Frankenstein’s monster…a creature who was created to be both, a warning about the fearsome power of modern science and a nod to the responsibility of a creator to his creations. If you were to rewrite this classic tale… given the times we are living in, what would your monster be comprised of? And how would your monster fare when flung into this world without guidance?
And of course, do not forget to pay your respects to the wonderfully talented, though too often overlooked, Mary Shelley.
Write on in peace, Mrs. Shelley!
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