Celebrating Mary Shelley’s Birth Date, August 30, 1797
“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos …” Mary Shelley
Every year, the most ardent Mary Shelley fans remember this author on August 30. Frankenstein is still one of the most popular and enduring novels since its publication in 1818. We spend time reading her short stories and browsing her biographies, maybe discovering a new fact about her life and writing.
Did you know Frankenstein was inspired by a nightmare? In the preface of the third edition of the novel, Mary says that Frankenstein came to her in a dream. During a sleepless night in her dark room, behind closed shutters “with the moonlight struggling to get through … I saw with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts…
Before I write anything else, let me get one thing straight: contrary to widespread belief, Frankenstein is not the name of the monster. It’s the name of the scientist who created him. Frankenstein’s creature is never actually named at all in the book.
‘Frankenstein’ is a macabre Gothic story in which Frankenstein creates a monster from spare parts and manages to bring it to life without thinking about the consequences of his experiment. It raises interesting ethical and moral questions like “Just because we can do something, does that mean we should?” and “How far is too far in the interests of Science?” which are just as relevant today as they were two hundred years ago when Syhelley wrote this most excellent book.
Expertly crafted with a bit of horror, a bit of science fiction and a lot of suspense, ‘Frankenstein’ is a story with a great deal to offer for a wide range of readers.
At the beginning of February, celebrated as Women in Horror Month, I wrote about Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, as one of my literary inspirations.
On this last day of the month, a friend shared with me a post from smithsonian.com titled ‘Frankenstein’ Manuscript Shows the Evolution of Mary Shelley’s Monster’ which speaks of a British publisher releasing 1500 facsimile copies of Mary Shelley’s original manuscript notebooks, complete with revisions and edits, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the book’s first publication.
Oh, my heart! I know I’ll never be able to own one of those 1500 copies, but how I would love to read that manuscript!
Even just looking at the photograph of two pages, my author-heart swelled. Here is the work of a woman I have admired almost all of my life, showing that her work, too, needed editing and revising. She understood that no piece of writing is perfect the first time, even if the story itself is brilliant.
This is so incredibly encouraging in the moments when I doubt myself, or my story, or my ability to communicate my ideas the way I want to. It reassures me when the words don’t flow for a time. And it reminds me that I’m by no means the first, or last, to experience these things. The doubts and writers block don’t make me any less of a writer; instead, it’s working through them and in spite of them that makes me a better one.
Through these images, Mary Shelley inspires me all over again.