Mary Shelley was born in London in 1797. Her parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, were both famous radicals of their day. Mary's mother died ten days after her birth, and although under her father's tuition her childhood was intellectually stimulating, she was emotionally undernourished and often lonely. In 1814 Mary met and soon fell in love with Percy Bysshe Shelley, and in July of that year they eloped to the Continent. Her life, however, continued to be haunted by tragedy: of her four children only one survived, and in 1822 Shelley himself was drowned off the coast of Italy. In the following year Mary returned to London, where she proceeded to pursue a professional writing career.
The idea for Frankenstein had come to her during a sojourn with Shelley on the shores of Lac Leman, where Lord Byron was also staying. Byron suggested that they each write a ghost story, and while he wrote the Vampyre fragment Mary Shelley wrote her powerful tale of Gothic horror, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, which was published in 1818. She wrote six other novels: Mathilda (1819), a semi-autobiographical novella not published in her own lifetime: Valperga (1823); The Last Man (1826), set in the twenty-first century; Perkin Warbeck (1830); Lodore (1835): and Falkner (1837). She also contributed numerous articles and stories to various magazines and journals, including the London Magazine, the Westminster Review and the Keepsake; and between 1835 and 1839 wrote five volumes of biographical essays for Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia. These included Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of France (1838-9), with essays on such writers as Pascal, Rousseau and Voltaire. Her other works include an edition of Shelley's Poetical Works (1839) and Rambles in Germany and Italy (1844), based on the Continental tours Mary made with her son, Percy Florence, and his friends between 1840 and 1843. Mary Shelley died on 1 February 1851 in London.
Maurice Hindle was born in 1944 near Birmingham. He studied at the Universities of Keele and Durham, graduating in 1972 with an Honours degree in Social Anthropology from Durham. He subsequently became involved in teaching adults for the Worker's Education Association in Mid-Wales. Since 1976 he has taught at the Tower Hamlets Adults Education Institute in East London, where he is Lecturer in Literature and History. He also teaches part- time for the Open University. His forthcoming book, Dracula's Magic, is an exploration of desire and power in the dynamic of Gothic literature and its context of production. He has also edited William Godwin's Caleb Williams for Penguin Classics. Maurice Hindle lives near Victoria Park In London, with his friend Sharon DeHond and his son Matthew.
EDITED WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY MAURICE HINDLE
Mary Shelley's powerful tale of Gothic horror has been criticized and imitated since its publication in 1818.
Her electrifying story of an ambitious young scientist, Frankenstein, and the monster he unleashes questions the mystery of nature and the elusive 'principle of life', and in it Mary Shelley displays an astonishing ability to synthesize the prevailing philosophic attitudes of her day.
In his excellent introduction Maurice Hindle gives the biographical and literary background to Mary Shelley's work -- which includes the radical influence of her famous parents and the romantic idealism of her husband.
Chilling, prescient, compulsive and haunting, Frankenstein has become part of our mythology -- a prophetic warning of the dangers of overweening and isolated scientific ambition.
The cover shows a detail from 'A Hermit Studying Anatomy' by Joseph Wright of Derby in Derby Art Gallery