3 facts about writer Mary Shelley that made her a gothic icon

She learned to write at her mother

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, is best known for her work Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus, from 1818, a famous Gothic horror novel that is considered the first science fiction work in history. But Mary Shelley’s gothic life is more than just her work, and her story brings several very interesting curiosities that help to understand who this very famous author was and why she is considered an icon in Gothic culture.

3 Facts That Made Mary Shally A Gothic Icon

1- She learned to write at her mother’s grave

She learned to write at her mother's grave

Mary Shelley was born in London in 1797, the daughter of the philosopher William Godwin, known for being considered one of the creators of the anarchist movement and Mary Wollstonecraft, best known for her fight for women’s rights. Mary even has a famous work called “A Claim for the Rights of Women”, from 1972. That is, we can say that Mary did not have a very “traditional” blood running through her veins.

Mary’s mother died ten days after her birth, so she was raised by her father, who later married Mary Jane Clairmont, with whom Mary never got along very well. So he constantly visited his mother’s grave. So, as they both had the same name, Mary traced the letters of her mother’s grave several times with her fingers and learned to write.

Years later, his mother’s grave was the place where he met his great love Percy Shelley, one of the most important English romantic poets.

2- Frankenstein wrote in a short story competition with his friends

Frankenstein Book

Mary had a daughter in 1815 with her boyfriend, but the daughter died less than a month old. This caused Mary to plunge into a deep depression. Shortly thereafter, he married Percy Shelley. However, this only happened when the poet’s ex-wife committed suicide.

Due to the conditions in which such a marriage was established, Mary’s family disapproved of the relationship, along with the society in which they lived. At the age of 18, after fleeing to Paris, Mary and her husband spent the summer of 1816 in Geneva. There, together with her friends Claire Clairmont and Lord Byron, a great and famous poet with Gothic influences, and John William Polidori, was where Mary began to write Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus.

According to records left by the writer, the summer of 1816 was extremely rainy. So they had to spend most of their time indoors. So, one night, when they were reading horror stories, they decide to do a kind of scary story competition, in which each of the writers should show a story.

Mary says that Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus, appeared to her in a dream. But the full story was not published until 1818, after Percy encouraged her to write more about the short story created in the summer.

3- Kept Percy Shelley’s heart in his office

Mary Shelley painting by Richard Rothwell

By 1822, Mary already had a close relationship with death, as she had to deal with it from a very young age, and throughout her life, since her children died when she was very young. In such a year, Mary has to deal with death again, when her husband drowns after the boat in which they were being hit by a strong storm.

So Mary requested that her husband’s body be cremated. However, Mary kept Percy’s heart, keeping it with her until her death.

This fact was discovered because, after Mary’s death, her only son who reached adulthood finds Percy’s heart on his work table wrapped in a tissue paper, written on it one of his poems, in addition to part of the ashes of husband, and hair of his deceased children.

Mary died relatively young, at 54, a victim of a possible brain tumor. The writer had a life that can be considered, by many, sad, because she dealt with death, with betrayal and with financial, social and family problems throughout her life. But that caused Mary Shelley to develop a strange relationship, an affection with “Gothic” themes such as death, cemeteries and the like – which led Mary to live in a totally different way from what was considered traditional in her time.

Mary Shelley, a great writer, and a Gothic icon.