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English Literature

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Frankenstein was dreamed up (literally) by Mary Shelley while she was staying in Switzerland in 1816. This was a time of great scientific, political and social change. Knowledge of these developments, and Shelley's eventful life, will help you understand the novel:

Mary Shelley

  • Born in 1797, Mary was the daughter of William Godwin - a famous writer with revolutionary [revolutionary: Bringing about a complete or radical change. ] ideas - and Mary Wollstonecraft, herself a writer and arguably the world's first feminist.
  • Her mother died days after giving birth to her - the first of many tragedies in Shelley's life. Some of these tragedies would later inspire events in Frankenstein.
  • In 1812, Mary met the poet Percy Shelley. Percy and his wife Harriet were frequent visitors to the London home of Mary's father.
  • Mary ran off to France with Percy in 1814. She gave birth to his child in 1815 - but the baby died just 12 days later.
  • Harriet drowned herself in 1816, allowing Percy to marry Mary soon after. The general public was outraged.
  • After coming up with the idea for her novel in Switzerland, Frankenstein was published two years later in 1818 - Mary was still only 20.
  • Mary's second son, William, died aged three in 1821.
  • Percy drowned in 1822.
  • Mary and Percy's great friend, the writer and poet Lord Byron, died in 1824. Mary was devastated by this, and the loneliness caused by the death of so many of her friends and family.
  • Mary died in 1851. Although she wrote many other books, none matched the success of Frankenstein.

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