Monster Creation; THEATRE Frankenstein Is One of the Most Famous Works of English Fiction and One of the Grandaddies of the Horror Genre. but It Was Written by a Young Women, Mary Shelley, the Subject of a New Play Coming to the Region. David Whetstone Reports
How many people know that Frankenstein, one of our most famous works of fiction, was written by an 18-year-old girl? It sounds extraordinary but then Mary Shelley, ne Wollstonecraft, was an extraordinary young woman.
She is the subject of a fascinating new play by Helen Edmundson which is coming to Northern Stage in Newcastle.
Edmundson's interest in her subject was sparked by the question you might already have asked yourself: "How did Mary Shelley, aged only 18, come to write a novel of such weight and power as Frankenstein?" The book, first published anonymously in London in 1818, is more than just a spine-chiller, argues the playwright, who says in fact it is "a novel of ideas".
Shelley dedicated the novel to her father, William Godwin, a political philosopher whose radical ideas (he passionately believed in a more egalitarian society) fell out of favour after the French Revolution, when the British authorities were alert to any potential copycat uprising here.
Godwin's relationship with his daughter is the main focus of the play.
It was a complex relationship, we learn. Godwin had fallen in love with Mary's mother, the feminist writer Mary Wollstonecroft, and they had married when she became pregnant.
But Mary died in childbirth leaving Godwin, stricken with grief, to care for the baby and his late wife's three-year-old daughter Fanny, result of an affair in Paris.
Godwin married again but Mary didn't get on with her stepmother. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley came on the scene initially as an admirer of Godwin's views.
He had written to introduce himself at the age of 19 after he had been expelled from Oxford University and when he was already married and with a child.
When he met the teenaged Mary, they were mutually smitten. Godwin hoped the young man would help him out of his financial problems but he did not approve of his affair with his daughter.
When the couple eloped - Mary was just 16 - he refused to see or even communicate with his daughter, which hurt her deeply. …