Deemed as the world’s first science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, inspired a whole new side to literature, plays, and films, significantly impacting current pop culture. With that said, it’s significant to acknowledge the brilliant novelist behind the captivating novel.
Mary Shelley began writing the world’s first science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, at the age of 18 when Lord Byron suggested to their group that they should try writing their own horror stories. At 19 years old, she published the iconic literary work.
Mary Shelley and Her Father’s Library
Born on August 30, 1797, in London, Mary Shelley emerged as the daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. Her father, William Godwin, was a philosopher and a political writer. Meanwhile, Mary Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a pioneer of feminism, famous for her 1972 work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Structures on Political and Moral Subjects.
Tragically, Mary Shelley didn’t have the opportunity to get to know her mother personally as Wollstonecraft passed after the birth of Shelley. Soon, William Godwin would move on to remarry to Mary Jane Clairmont in 1801. Mary Jane Clairmont already had children before Godwin, who she favored over Mary Shelley and Shelley’s half-sister, Fanny.
Mary Jane Clairmont only devoted her time and effort to educating her children, neglecting the presence of Shelley. To teach herself, Shelley spent most of her time in the library her father owned, reading books near her mother’s grave.
Not long after, Shelley began writing her literary works. In one of her works, The Life and Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley quotes how she used her free time during her childhood years.
As a child, I scribbled; and my favorite pastime, during the hours given me for recreation, was to write stories.Mary Shelley
With the inspiration Shelley acquired from the books in her father’s library and her newly-found drive to create stories, Shelley marked the beginning of her career in literature at the young age of 10 with the first poem she published in 1807, entitled Mounseer Nongtongpaw. (Source: Oxford Open Learning)
The Creation Story of the Modern Prometheus
At 17 years old, Mary Shelley married Percy Bysshe Shelley, a Romantic poet who had a wife when he and Mary escaped to England with Jane, Mary’s stepsister. A year after, everything went downhill; Mary and Percy’s illegitimate child died quickly after birth, and following that, both Mary’s half-sister, Fanny, and Percy’s first wife committed suicide. (Source: Origins)
On a rainy summer night during their stay in Switzerland, Jane Clairmont, John Polidori, Lord Byron, and the Shelley’s amused themselves with a book of ghost stories. With that, Lord Byron proposed that each of them should attempt to write a horror story, an idea that would eventually establish Mary Shelley’s legacy.
With Lord Byron’s suggestion, Mary Shelley began working on what we know now as Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, at 18 years of age. The following morning, Mary had already written an outline of her story, which centered on Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a mad scientist who created an 8-foot tall being from various body parts of unearthed graves.
At 19 years old, Mary Shelley published Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, making it the world’s first science fiction novel. (Source: Oxford Open Learning)