Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley For Women in Horror Month

mary shelley

What can I say about the woman who wrote Frankenstein? That novel is so ahead of its time, but then again, the debate about reanimating dead tissue was going on in her lifetime. She paid attention and, with her creative genius, gave the world a remarkable novel.

We all know of that remarkable weekend in Lord Byron’s Villa Diodati, but do we know that she actually finished Frankenstein in her lodgings at 5 Abbey Church Yard, Bath?

Frankenstein or the Dream of Prometheus was published when she was just 21, while married to Percy Shelley.

She wrote other books after it, but the one I’m going to mention seems as remarkable as Frankenstein. Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (1826) is well-ahead of its time also. I venture to say it’s a post-apocalyptic fiction. I don’t think that term would have existed in her day.

Its theme is death. Death was a pretty big player in the early part of the 19th century and death was something she knew all too well. She suffered through her share (more than) of tragedies. And it seems to me she turned her personal grief into the End of the World. In The Last Man, The deaths of her husband, her children, and her friends are transformed into the complete extinction of the human species.

In 1816, her step-sister, Clare desperately in love with Byron who took their child, committed suicide. And there was more. Mary and Percy lost their two young children. Then in 1822, Percy was drowned in a shipwreck. Lord Byron, with whom Mary had a troubled but close friendship, died in 1824, when Mary was already working on her novel.

Most of The Last Man is taken up with Mary’s recreation of her close friends and family. Set in England in the late 21st century, it features a set of main characters who form close bonds of friendship.

Actually, it can be seen today as somewhat prophetic what with all the diseases and food epidemics that have occurred. Take Ebola as one.

I think all great writers are instinctual beings, greatly sensitive and unusually thoughtful. I believe they have to be. Creating fiction that withstands time is not an easy thing.

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