A Year: Day to Day Men: 30th of August, Solar Year 2018
The One Budded Cross
August 30, 1797 was the birthdate of English author, Mary Shelley.
Writer Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin on August 30, 1797, in London, England. She was the daughter of philosopher and political writer William Godwin and famed feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. While Shelley didn’t have a formal education, she did make great use of her father’s extensive library. Shelley found a creative outlet in writing.
In 1814, Mary began a romance with one of her father’s political followers, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was already married. Together with Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont, Mary and Shelley left for France and travelled through Europe. Upon their return to England, Mary was pregnant with Percy’s child. Over the next two years, she and Percy faced ostracism, constant debt, and the death of their prematurely born daughter. They married in late 1816, after the suicide of Percy Shelley’s first wife, Harriet.
In 1816, Mary and Percy Shelley famously spent a summer with Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont near Geneva, Switzerland, where Mary conceived the idea for her novel “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus”. The Shelleys left Britain in 1818 for Italy, where their second and third children died before Mary Shelley gave birth to her last and only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley.
In 1822, Percy Shelley drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm near Viareggio, in northern Tuscany, Italy. A year later, Mary Shelley returned to England and from then on devoted herself to the upbringing of her son and a career as a professional author. The last decade of her life was dogged by illness, probably caused by the brain tumor that was to kill her at the age of 53 in February of 1851.
Until the 1970s, Mary Shelley was known mainly for her efforts to publish her husband’s works and for her 1818 anonymously published “Frankenstein” novel, which remains widely read and has inspired many theatrical and film adaptations. Recent scholarship has yielded a more comprehensive view of Mary Shelley’s achievements.
Studies of her lesser-known works support the growing view that Mary Shelley remained a political radical throughout her life. Mary Shelley’s works often argue that cooperation and sympathy, particularly as practiced by women in the family, were the ways to reform civil society. This view was a direct challenge to the individualistic Romantic-era ethos promoted by Percy Shelley and the Enlightenment political theories articulated by her father, William Godwin.