Dear Mary Shelley

Dear Mary Shelley,


You grew up in a household of writers. Even though you never knew your mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, her legacy inspired you growing up. She was famous across Europe for her feminist works, especially her push for women’s education. You were known for idolizing her works, and yet you chose a completely different form of writing. Even your father was a philosopher who was known for his radical ideas about extreme individualism. What was it like to grow up in a household where writing was a central theme of life? Did you ever feel pressured to continue the writing legacy of your mother?

Even once you became older, you still found yourself in company with writers. You fell in love with Percy Shelley, who himself was a writer. Additionally, you were close friends with Lord Byron, who supposedly inspired you to write Frankenstein. The community of writers that you surrounded yourself with encouraged writing. I wonder how your peers treatment of you varied from how they treated each other. Did they believe that you could write as well (or better) than they could, or did they look down on you because you were female?

Once you began writing, what aspects of your life inspired you to write Frankenstein, one of your most famous works? The detail is so intricate, and the characters are so fascinating, that it leads me to wonder who inspired the characters. I am aware that you had a lot of tragedy in your life, and that is reflected in your writing. Was Victor based on the men you knew in your life? He is egotistical, vain, and incredibly intelligent, and I wonder if you wanted to honor the person you based him on or point out his flaws. Was Victor’s mother based on your own, or at least what you imagined her to be? Did your father find a representation in Victor’s father? When William died, did that remind you of other losses in your life?

What was the publishing process like for you? Nothing that I have read has discussed what the publishing process was like specifically for Frankenstein. Even though you were around many writers, was the process as easy for you as it was for your male counterparts? Did you have to hide your works like Jane Austen? Or disguise your name like the Bronte sisters? Even though there were many women writers during this period of time, many of them did not write in the Gothic style with a combination of horror and science fiction. In fact, there were not many science fiction writers at all, and your work is regarded as one of the first early science fiction novels. Were you aware of the trail you were blazing? Or was writing more of an outlet for you, meant to channel the sadness in your life, not to change the world?



Katherine Hendry


Works Cited

Kuiper, Kathleen. “Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 26 Aug. 2018,

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “William Godwin.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 31 Mar. 2018,

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Mary Wollstonecraft.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 6 Sept. 2018,

“Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation,