Background to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein ___________________________________________________________________________________________________ Gothic Literature part of the Romantic period in England (1798-1832) prominent features include: o o o o o o terror mysterious events the supernatural ghosts gloomy, remote settings haunted buildings o o o o o o castles chains & trap doors doom death & decay madness curses meant to show the dark side of human nature and evoke terror in readers common themes: characters’ inner emotional lives the struggle between good and evil “Gothic” is a reference to the barbaric Gothic tribes of the Middle Ages, or to medieval times in general with its castles, knights, and adventure Author’s Biography Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born in 1797 to William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, two distinguished English writers of the time Shelley’s mother died shortly after giving birth, and Shelley was raised by her father and her stepmother Mary Jane Clairmont (she and Shelley did not get along). Shelley’s father was always emotionally cool and distant, but he encouraged her intellect and considered her to be a very talented writer like himself. As a child Shelley was bookish and disciplined, and she enjoyed listening to her father and his literary friends read their works. At age 17, she met 19 year old Percy Shelley, a hot-headed, eloquent Romantic poet who was a disciple to her father. Percy and Mary became romantically involved, and although Percy was already married, he and Mary eloped to travel Europe together. Percy’s pregnant wife drowned herself, and he and Mary were legally married a few weeks later (this was obviously a very controversial relationship). Mary and Percy had four children, but only one child survived past the age of 3. On their second trip around Europe in 1816, Mary and Percy spent a dreary summer in Switzerland with well-known writers like Lord Byron. It was here that Mary thought up and wrote Frankenstein (she was only 19 years old!). Percy helped her edit the novel. Frankenstein was first published in 1818 (anonymously) and was a universal success The 1831 revised edition was more popular and is what we read today Percy died at sea in 1822, meaning that at 23, Mary had lost her mother, 3 children, and her husband. She continued to write and lived with her only surviving child, Percy Florence, until her death in 1851 at age 54.