Coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein in 1818, a prize-winning poet delivers a major new biography of Mary Shelleyas she has never been seen before.
We know the facts of Mary Shelley’s life in some detailthe death of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, within days of her birth; the upbringing in the house of her father, William Godwin, in a house full of radical thinkers, poets, philosophers, and writers; her elopement, at the age of seventeen, with Percy Shelley; the years of peripatetic travel across Europe that followed. But there has been no literary biography written this century, and previous books have ignored the real personwhat she actually thought and felt and why she did what she diddespite the fact that Mary and her group of second-generation Romantics were extremely interested in the psychological aspect of life.
In this probing narrative, Fiona Sampson pursues Mary Shelley through her turbulent life, much as Victor Frankenstein tracked his monster across the arctic wastes. Sampson has written a book that finally answers the question of how it was that a nineteen-year-old came to write a novel so dark, mysterious, anguished, and psychologically astute that it continues to resonate two centuries later. No previous biographer has ever truly considered this question, let alone answered it.
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About the Author
Fiona Sampsonis a poet who has been shortlisted twice for the
T.S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize. She has received the Cholmondeley
Award, the Newdigate Prize, and the Writer’s Award from the Arts Councils of England and Wales.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations xi
Part 1 The Instruments of Life
1 The Instruments of Life 11
2 Learning to Look 29
3 Through a Door Partly Opened 54
4 Elopement 75
5 Becoming a Couple 97
6 At Villa Diodati 118
7 A Young Writer 137
8 Emigrants 160
Part 2 Borne Away by the Waves
9 Le rêve est fini 185
10 The Mona Lisa Smile 213
Further Reading 292