Fun Facts About Mary Shelley

The Strange Tale of Miss Victoria Frank is the first novella in a series which pays homage to the great gothic/horror writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. This first was inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

 

Here are some fun facts about Mary Shelley:

Her maiden name is Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Her mother was famed and controversial women’s rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft and her father was the philosopher William Godwin. Mary’s mother died weeks after giving birth to Mary, and William remarried. William’s new wife and Mary did not get along, but the union included Mary’s cherished step-sister, Claire Clairmont.

Mary changed her name to Shelley when she married famed poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Bysshe Shelley was married when Mary started her affair with him, and they only married after Shelley’s first wife committed suicide. It is almost certain Shelley was also sleeping with Mary’s step-sister Claire as well.

Mary was only 18 years old when she started writing Frankenstein and 20 when it was finally published two years later. She started it at Lord Byron’s chalet in Switzerland in 1816 during the famed ‘year without a summer’, a result of a volcanic eruption in Indonesia that year. After reading ghost stories aloud, Lord Byron suggested a competition: who could write the best horror story. The rest is history!

Mary published her first edition of Frankenstein anonymously, and many thought Percy had written it. To this day there are many who still claim he wrote it, not Mary.

The book was panned when it first came out. “What a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity this work presents,” one critic wrote. But gothic novels were very popular at the time, and the critics were ignored.

Thomas Edison made a short film of the novel. You can view it here:

The storm and lightning scene, in every movie made about Frankenstein, didn’t actually occur in the novel. Shelley glossed over that part, merely mentioning Dr Victor Frankenstein’s interest in electricity.

Frankenstein is thought by many to be the first science fiction novel. Often forgotten, however, is Margaret Cavendish’s The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World, written in 1666.

After Percy died, Mary was left with a child to support and no income. In a shocking decision for the time, she decided to become a full time writer. Other works include Mathilda (1819), Valperga; or, The Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca (1823), and The Last Man (1826) among others. The Last Man is about the only survivor of a global pandemic, and is the template for other stories such as I Am Legend and The Road.

Legend has it that Mary learned to write by tracing the letters on her mother’s headstone. She is also rumoured to have lost her virginity to Shelley on her mother’s grave.

There was a REAL Dr. Frankenstein! Well, sort of. A castle named Castle Frankenstein existed in Germany, and the alchemist who lived there, Johann Conrad Dippel, is believed to be the inspiration for Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

After her Percy’s death and cremation, Mary carried her husband’s calcified heart around with her. A year after her own death, Percy’s heart was found wrapped in one of his poems in her desk.

 

The Strange Tale of Miss Victoria Frank is Available Here

 

Copyright Kelly Evans (2020)

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