Happy Birthday, Mary Shelley!
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus, has a birthday on August 30. To celebrate the life of this remarkable writer, Dover Publications shares some of her remarkable work.
Mary Shelley (1797–1851) was the daughter of the English political philosopher William Godwin and the feminist pioneer and author, Mary Wollstonecraft. While still in her teens, Mary Shelley became the lover and eventual wife of the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
The 1931 film of her most famous book (there was another in 1910 from the Edison Studios) features bolts-in-the-neck Boris Karloff as the monster. Since then, the creature’s been informally tagged with the creator’s name and has appeared in a thousand permutations. We’ve seen him battling Count Dracula, the Mummy, Abbott and Costello, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc. We’ve seen him parodied (Young Frankenstein) and rehabilitated into a poetry-loving philosopher with a tormented soul (Penny Dreadful).
But this riot of monsters overshadows Mary Shelley’s work, which lives beyond gross-out horror. Shelly was ahead of her time, writing science fiction that included a miracle wrought by electricity in Frankenstein as well as the specter of a cruel dystopia, as in her apocalyptic vision of life in the 21st century, The Last Man.
And if you’re going to Switzerland any time soon, be sure to check out the temporary exhibit at Foundation Martin Bodmer, in the town of Cologny, where Mary Shelley began to write 200 years ago this summer.
Dover wants to keep the intellectual discussions going about this unique writer, as well as the fun. You can start with a handsome hardbound Calla edition reprint of all of Nino Carbe’s pen-and-ink drawings and end pieces from an early illustrated edition of the novel.
Bonus illustrations include five full-color paintings by Carbe, who was a Walt Disney artist in the 1980s. The artist’s daughter, Elizabeth Carbe, has written a new foreword. We also have Lynd Ward’s version from the 1930s. You might know Ward for his work on children’s books, like The Newberry Honor book, Spice and the Devil’s Cave, but Ward was a fearsome artist and writer in his own right.
Dover also has a Color Your Own Graphic Novel of the Frankenstein story, in which each page features multiple panels and an abridged text of the novel detailing “a ghastly, ungodly experiment that goes horribly wrong.”
For readers interested in the historical and philosophical contexts of the story and its author, Dover has the Frankenstein Thrift Study Edition. This guide contains the complete text, chapter summaries, plot discussions and explanations, and a biography of Mary Shelley.
Mary Shelley: The Dover Reader contains a generous sampling of her writing, including the full-text Frankenstein and Mathilda. The Reader also includes her essay, “On Ghosts,” as well as six short stories.
For further historical context of Mary Shelley’s time, read A Vindication of the Rights of Women, a manifesto by Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. This work was originally published in 1792 and is considered an important discussion of women’s rights, including an early argument calling for the education of women. Clearly, being ahead of one’s time ran in the family.