The history of classic literature has seen many anonymous writers. But that one who lived upto the classic idea of love, romance and agony in her real life was Mary Shelley. Now when we hardly go back to the novels of that age to soothe our reader’s digest, why not explore the pen behind the novel than the novel itself?
Mary Shelley is one of the most anonymous famous authors to ever live. Born to two of the foremost thinkers of the 18th century- William Godwin, the political philosopher and Mary Wollstonecraft, the pioneer feminist who is best known for ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’. Not given her due credit in the field of English literature, she was the wife of one of the most revered romantic poets- P.B Shelley, and the writer of one of the most influential and widely adapted Gothic classics, ‘Frankenstein’.
The life of Mary Shelley is perhaps the most intriguing of all, if evaluated from the perspective of a woman who despite being born in 18th century had the guts to be unconventional at a time when women had no say in the society. Mary Shelley, a girl from a remarkable family of pioneer thinkers and philosophers was strongly influenced by her father’s intellectual circle. Mary can rightly be said as the true heir of her mother Mary Wollstonecraft’s principles of intellectual and sexual freedom for women.
Her aspirations were exceptional for a woman born in 1797 and she was a true heroine for the contemporary woman’s movement. Mary Shelley was the epitome of passion and rebellion. She was a woman who followed her heart without any regrets. At the age of 16, she fell in love and eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley who frequented the intellectual circle of her father, William Godwin and was his political follower. P.B Shelley was an unhappily married man who was madly in love with Mary. Both of them are said to have eloped much to the dislike of William Godwin who severed ties with his daughter until both of them got married, on lay after the suicide of Shelley’s first wife. In going away with Shelley, Mary believed she pursued happiness following her mother’s footsteps. Upon their return to England, Mary was pregnant with Percy’s child. Mary suffered miscarriage and her life was marred by debt, the death of her unborn children and had to face ostracism.
She was constantly in the company of learned men, writers and poets such as Coleridge, Lord Byron. It was during one of the conversations with Lord Byron and his challenge for each one to write a ghost story that Mary conceived the idea of her novel ‘Frankenstein’. Mary Shelley devoted her life in producing her editions of Shelley’s poetry, novels, stories, travel books, journals, essays and poems.
It was her life after the death of her husband that she seems most contemporary in her struggles to support her family, her fight against society’s opposition and ostracism, lack of money and loneliness. Her works openly confront the customs, power and unjust authority. Till the day she died, the widow of Percy Byssche Shelley kept Shelley’s heart (snatched hastily from his funeral pyre) wrapped in a linen cloth. As we read about this unconventional woman, we may speculate that P.B Shelley was not the only one who was a visionary and a great poet.
Mary Shelley’s greatness not only lies in her most famous work- ‘Frankenstein’, but in the way she lived her life as a heroic pioneer and shining brightly even in her shadowy world.
The readers can check out her documentary here.
About the Author:
Work in progress. Ambivert. Books are my best friend and writing gives me immense pleasure…
“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” – Virginia Woolf