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English writer Mary Shelley is best known for her horror novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (1818). She was married to poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
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The group entertained themselves one rainy day by reading a book of ghost stories. Lord Byron suggested that they all should try their hand at writing their own horror story. It was at this time that Mary Shelley began work on what would become her most famous novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.
Later that year, Mary suffered the loss of her half-sister Fanny who committed suicide. Another suicide, this time by Percy's wife,
occurred a short time later. Mary and Percy Shelly were finally able to wed in December 1816. She published a travelogue of their escape to Europe, History of a Six Weeks' Tour (1817), while continuing to work on her soon-to-famous monster tale. In 1818, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus debuted as a new novel from an anonymous author. Many thought that Percy Bysshe Shelley had written it since he penned its introduction. The book proved to be a huge success. That same year, the Shelleys moved to Italy.
While Mary seemed devoted to her husband, she did not have the easiest marriage. Their union was riddled with adultery and heartache, including the death of two more of their children. Born in 1819, their son, Percy Florence, was the only child to live to adulthood. Mary's life was rocked by another tragedy in 1822 when her husband drowned. He had been out sailing with a friend in the Gulf of Spezia.
Made a widow at age 24, Mary Shelley worked hard to support herself and her son. She wrote several more novels, including Valperga and the science fiction tale The Last Man (1826). She also devoted herself to promoting her husband's poetry and preserving his place in literary history. For several years, Shelley faced some opposition from her late husband's father who had always disapproved his son's bohemian lifestyle.
Mary Shelley died of brain cancer on February 1, 1851, at age 53, in London, England. She was buried at St. Peter's Church in Bournemouth, laid to rest alongside her father and mother and with the cremated remains of her late husband's heart.
It was roughly a century after her passing that one of her novels, Mathilde, was finally released in the 1950s. Her lasting legacy, however, remains the classic tale of Frankenstein. This struggle between a monster and its creator has been an enduring part of popular culture. In 1994, Kenneth Branaugh and Robert De Diro appeared in a film adaptation of Shelley's novel. Her work has also inspired some spoofs, such as Young Frankenstein starring Gene Wilder. Shelley's monster lives on in such modern thrillers as I, Frankenstein (2013) as well.
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Meet legendary writers of the horror genre whose vivid descriptions have have kept us on the edge of our seats, chapter after chapter. Some of their most gruesome creations and plot devices, from blood-sucking creatures of the night to the demons trapped within our own minds, continue to live on in the imaginations of readers. Explore Biography.com's list of "fright writers," including "Master of Suspense" Alfred Hitchcock, Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Washington Irving and many more.
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