Shelley, Mary

30 August 1797 - 1 February 1851

Daughter of writer and pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and philosopher/novelist William Godwin, wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley and friend of Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and her works occupy a crucial place in a number of literary traditions: Frankenstein (which grew out of the famed ghost-story sessions with Byron and Percy Bysshe) is widely regarded as the first modern work of SF as well as one of the more compelling Romantic novels, and of course its importance in the tradition of the Gothic is greater still — as is indicated, I believe, by the fact this file you're reading now is the most-accessed author file here at LitGothic.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Chronology and Resource Site
Includes a chronology, some contemporary reviews of various MWS works, and a brief select bibliography. [Shanon Lawson; Romantic Circles]
Mary Shelley page
Having, like Victor's creature, been neglected for some time, this once-excellent site is excellent again, with illuminating essays dealing with MWS's life and her most famous novel — and now some choice video clips. Thank goodness for revenants! [Kim Woodbridge]
Biographical note
Brief biographical note
[Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame]
My Hideous Progeny
Includes a biography, discussion and e-text of Frankenstein, a brief overview of Gothic fiction, and more. [Cynthia Hamberg]
This site also includes a page devoted to the literary works mentioned in Frankenstein, though it does not, alas, provide links to those (e)texts, many of which are available online. Two works not listed on Ms. Hamberg's page are books the Creature finds and reads: Constantin Francois de Volney's Ruins of Empire, available as a Project Gutenberg etext (614K), and Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, also at Project Gutenberg (4.2MB).
The Shelleys and their Circle: A Gothic Family
Part of the Sublime Anxiety exhibit at the U of Virginia.
Brief biographical note
[Keith Parkins]
Biographical note
[The Authors Calendar]
Brief biographical note
Part of the PBS website for the 2002 production of Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters.
Biographical note
Discusses MWS as a writer of "natural history" in the Romantic period. [Ashton Nichols, Dickinson College]
Biographical note
[Andreas Teuber, Brandeis U]
Brief biographical note
[Columbia Encyclopedia, Bartleby]
Brief biographical note
[John W. Cousins, A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, 1910]
Includes links. [Classic]
Wollstonecraft Hyper-Concordance
Part of the The Victorian Literary Studies Archive, this concordance allows you to search the etext of Frankenstein — and no, I don't know why Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's famous novel is listed under her mother's name.
Mary Shelley portrait(s)
[National Portrait Gallery, London]
  Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

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A special treat for LitGothic fans:

Be the first on your block to own a woodcut print of Boris-Karloff-as-Frankenstein by "woodcutting fool" Loren Kantor:

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Frankenstein [1818, 1831]
- at (ToC)
- at Project Gutenberg (440K or zipped version, 184K)
- at U Adelaide Library (ToC)

-- Front Matter for Frankenstein a LitGothic etext
These small bits of text, often omitted from e-texts of the novel (and from many hardcopy editions as well) are in fact critical to a full understanding of the novel.

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Resources for Frankenstein:
Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature
An exhibit sponsored by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, featuring illustrations from medical and scientific texts, as well as art works, of the late C18 and early C19, with some discussion of the historical and scientific contexts.
Frankenstein Study: Anatomy of a Story
Features various discussions of the novel and its influence; includes a Frankenstein FAQ [Arthur Paul Patterson]
Frankenstein Hypertext Project
A collaborative project, no longer being updated, at the U Saskatchewan.
Frankenstein chronology
Includes biographical and socio-cultural events of relevance to the novel. [Russell A. Potter, Rhode island College]
Thomas Edison's Frankenstein
Betcha didn't know that Thomas Edison (yup, the light-bulb guy) made a movie out of Mary Shelley's novel (heavily "adapted," as they say) in 1910. Learn a bit more and order it here. [Graveyard Records]
Brief summary and commentary
Another medical perspective. [Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database, NYU School of Medicine]
Title page
of the 1818 (first) edition [Corvey Women Writers on the Web, Sheffield Hallam U]
Frankenstein's Castle
Self-billed as "The Ultimate Frankenstein Film Site."

- See also Richard Brinsley Peake for his dramatic adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel, Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein.

The Nightmare by Henri Fuseli  [1781-82]
The famous painting (or one version of it; Fuseli painted it twice) that inspired the description of Elizabeth's dead body flung across her bridal bed just after her murder by the creature (in Chapter 23 of Frankenstein). This painting is also known as "The Incubus"—an incubus being a male demon or spirit that visits sleeping females in the night, usually for sexual purposes. As if this weren't enough, Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, had a relationship (not quite a sexual affair, apparently, to Wollstonecraft's disappointment) with Henri Fuseli, a fact which Mary Shelley knew. [Detroit Institute of Arts]
Here's the other version, less polished, darker — but note the leer on the demon's face; it looks much less like the befuddled munchkin that it resembles in the other version. The rendering of the horse is improved as well: it looks less like a merry-go-round pony, more like a tormented ghost of itself. What Fuseli sacrificed in color and clarity he gained, and then some, in sinister energy. [Carol Gerten's Fine Arts]
Here's a brief biographical note re: Fuseli. [Nicholas Pioche, Webmuseum]
Even more family romance: Sigmund Freud was known to have an engraving of this work in his Vienna apartment in the 1920s.
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Want more Creature?

The oft-neglected Other Stuff Mary Shelley wrote:

"The Dream" [1832]  (33K) a LitGothic etext

The Last Man buy this book at
More SF than Gothic, though not without some Gothic traces. A hypertext edition edited by Stephen Jones. [Romantic Circles]

"The Mortal Immortal"
- at Lit of the Fantastic (33K)
- hypertext edition ed. by Michael Laplace-Sinatra [Romantic Circles]

"On Ghosts"  a LitGothic etext
Mary Shelley's 1824 essay in which she discusses the loss of imaginative grandeur in the world (a favorite Romantic theme) and the belief in ghosts.  (17K)
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Relatively few people know that the Frankenstein they read is actually Mary Shelley's revised version of her novel, which provides the text used in most mass market editions. Here's an excellent and inexpensive edition of the original, 1818 text, complete with explanatory materials that help put this classic novel in its context.

This edition by J. Paul Hunter, part of the Norton Critical Editions series, is reviewed by Julia Paulman Kielstra at Romanticism on the Net
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Here's the counterpart to the above volume, the Norton Critical Edition of the 1831 text of Frankenstein, edited by Johanna M. Smith:
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"Frankensteinís Singular Events: Inductive Reasoning, Narrative Technique, and Generic Classification"
by Monique R. Morgan [Romanticism on the Net]
"'In the mean time, what did Perdita?': Rhythms and Reversals in Mary Shelley's The Last Man"
by Richard S. Albright [Romanticism on the Net]
"'Beyond the Usual Bounds of Reverie'? Another Look at the Dreams in Frankenstein"
by Jonathan C. Glance (Mercer U).

Frankenstein: A Longman Cultural Edition, ed. Susan Wolfson [2003]; Frankenstein: The 1818 Text, Contexts, Nineteenth-Century Responses, Modern Criticism. A Norton Critical Edition, ed. J. Paul Hunter [1996]; Making Humans: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, H. G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau., ed. Judith Wilt [2003]
A lot of book, reviewed by well-known Romantics scholar Laura Mandell. [Romantic Circles]
The Mental Anatomies of William Godwin and Mary Shelley by William D. Brewer (Fairleigh-Dickinson UP, 2001). Reviewer: Judith Barbour. [Romantic Circles] Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: An Introduction.
by Betty T. Bennett [Johns Hopkins UP, 1998]. Reviewer: Syndy M. Conger [Romanticism on the Net]
Brief review of Frankenstein
and a negative one, too, of Mary Shelley's "uncouth story." From an 1818 edition of The Monthly Review. [Corvey Women Writers on the Web, Sheffield Hallam U]
Mary Shelley's Fictions: From Frankenstein to Falkner   click for info at
Ed. by Michael Eberle-Sinatra (St. Martin's Press/Palgrave, 2000). Reviewer: Lisa Vargo. [Romantic Circles]
Iconoclastic Departures: Mary Shelley After "Frankenstein" click for info at
Eds. Syndy M. Conger, Frederick S. Frank, and Gregory O'Dea (Associated UP,1997). Reviewer: Rachel Wooley [Romanticism on the Net]
Gothic Feminism: The Professionalization of Gender from Charlotte Smith to the BrontŽs click for info at
by Diane Long Hoeveler (Penn State University P, 1998). Reviewer: Deborah Kennedy [Romantic Circles]
The same title is reviewed in Romanticism on the Net. Reviewer: Lauren Fitzgerald
One chapter of this work discusses Mathilda
In Search of Frankenstein: Exploring the Myths behind Mary Shelley's Monster
by Radu Florescu (Robson, 1996). Reviewer: Stephen Derwent Partington. [Romanticism on the Net]
Mary Shelley Revisited
by Johanna M. Smith. (Twayne, 1996). Reviewer: Julia Paulman Kielstra. [Romanticism on the Net].
(Smith's book is discussed in the second half of this joint review.)
'Dissecting Anatomy Literature': a review of Murdering To Dissect: Grave-robbing, Frankenstein and The Anatomy Literature
by Tim Marshall (Manchester and New York: Manchester UP, 1995). Reviewer: Mark Sandy [Romanticism on the Net]
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  "The Creation of Frankenstein": The Frankenstein Notebooks: A Facsimile Edition of Mary Shelley's Manuscript Novel, 1816-17.
Ed. Charles E. Robinson (Garland, 1966). Reviewer: Michael Laplace-Sinatra [Romanticism on the Net]
The Last Man and Lodore
Ed. Anne McWhir (Broadview, 1996), and ed. Lisa Vargo (Broadview, 1997), respectively. Reviewer: Nora Cook. [Romanticism on the Net]
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"Mary Shelley."