Mary Shelleyby Miranda Seymour
“A thoughtfully considered, lifelike portrait of a complex, often misunderstood character . . . sensitive and intelligent.” –Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times
A daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, who authored the daring Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and the radical philosopher William Godwin, Mary Shelley grew up amid the literary and political avant-garde of early-nineteenth-century London. Her escape to France at seventeen with the married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley caused great scandal at home. The couple’s stormy relationship unraveled as they journeyed across Europe. They ultimately settled in Switzerland where, in 1816, they rented a villa near Lord Byron’s on Lake Geneva. In a famous night of eerie thunderstorms, they told ghost stories and tales of horror, giving birth to the idea of Frankenstein, a monster who has haunted imaginations for nearly two hundred years. The Mary we meet here, brilliantly brought to life by Seymour from previously unexplored sources, is flawed, brave, generous, and ultimately struck by tragedy: she came to lose three of her four children in infancy, and when she was twenty-four Shelley drowned off the coast of Italy.
Gracefully moving through the dramatic life of the woman behind history’s most legendary monster, Miranda Seymour unbuttons a world of brilliant literary figures and vividly re-creates the imaginative time in which Frankenstein was born.
“British literature is blessed at the moment in having an impressive team of scholarly but strenuously non-academic biographers, all at the top of their writing form. Miranda Seymour is in the first rank. . . . [Mary Shelley] is a harrowing life, wonderfully retold.” –John Sutherland, Washington Post Book World
“Affectionate and well-written.” –Claude Rawson, The New York Times Book Review
“A thoughtfully considered, lifelike portrait of a complex, often misunderstood character. . . . sensitive and intelligent.” –Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times
“[A] splendid biography.” –The New Yorker
‘seymour finds nuance and novelty everywhere in this haunted life, where death cast its shadow early and often.” –Zofia Smardz, WashingtonPost.com
“In Miranda Seymour, [Shelley] finds a biographer both meticulous and sympathetic. . . . Seymour is adept at conjuring up the cultural climate and social context of the early 19th century in the major English and Italian settings of Shelley’s life story.
” –Laura Demanski, The Baltimore Sun
“An entertaining, detailed and well-researched study of this hitherto enigmatic author.” –Time Out New York
“A warm, lively and minutely detailed account.” –The Economist
“Miranda Seymour understands the monster’s magnetism, and with Mary Shelley offers a book that is part biography, part literary criticism, part social history. It is a scholarly work, soothing in its attention to the smallest details of the lives of the literary and political elite of 19th-century London. It is also a riveting story in its own right.” –Washington Times
“Seymour’s lively writing, penetrating critical insights, and attention to detail elevate this to one of the finest and most significant literary biographies of recent years.” –Library Journal (starred review)
“A splendid biography.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Evocative, well researched, as readable as a novel and as utterly compelling as its subject.” –The Sunday Tribune (Ireland)
“Mary Shelley is the most dazzling biography of a female writer to have come my way for a decade. . . . Here for the first time [Shelley] steps off the page as a living, thinking, suffering woman, fraught and caught in the web of her own intelligence.” –Financial Times (London)
“Seymour’s scrupulous, almost anxiously tender portrait peels away the myths like layers of tissue paper shrouding a lost relic. This is a fine biography that gives us the dense background to Mary Shelley’s work while losing none of the searing glamour and pain of her sad, extraordinary life.” –The Sunday Times
“This is a book to be savored for its vivid and sympathetic re-creation of the tragic life and brilliant times of the gifted Mary Shelley.” –Time Literary Supplement
“A wonderfully vivid, human and learned portrait of the woman who created Frankenstein, married Shelley, and, amazingly, survived.” –The Spectator
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
One of The Washington Post’s Best Books of 2001
New York Public Library’s 25 Books to Remember, 2001