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No-one in the grip of Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN, with its mythic-minded hero and its highly sympathetic monster who reads Goethe and longs to be at peace with himself, can fail to notice how much more excellent the original is than all the adaptations, imitations and outright plagiarisms which have followed in its ample wake. In her first novel, written at the instigation of Lord Byron and published in 1818 (and revised in 1831) , Mary Shelley produced English Romanticism's finest prose fiction.



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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

(née Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, often known as ) was a British novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, travel writer, and editor of the works of her husband, Romantic poet and philosopher . She was the daughter of the political philosopher and the writer, philosopher, and feminist Mary Shelley was taken seriously as a writer in her own lifetime, though reviewers often missed the political edge to her novels. After her death, however, she was chiefly remembered only as the wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley and as the author of . It was not until 1989, when Emily Sunstein published her prizewinning biography , that a full-length scholarly biography analyzing all of Shelley's letters, journals, and works within their historical context was published. The well-meaning attempts of Mary Shelley's son and daughter-in-law to "Victorianise" her memory through the censoring of letters and biographical material contributed to a perception of Mary Shelley as a more conventional, less reformist figure than her works suggest. Her own timid omissions from Percy Shelley's works and her quiet avoidance of public controversy in the later years of her life added to this impression. The eclipse of Mary Shelley's reputation as a novelist and biographer meant that, until the last thirty years, most of her works remained out of print, obstructing a larger view of her achievement. She was seen as a one-novel author, if that. In recent decades, however, the republication of almost all her writings has stimulated a new recognition of its value. Her voracious reading habits and intensive study, revealed in her journals and letters and reflected in her works, is now better appreciated. Shelley's recognition of herself as an author has also been recognized; after Percy's death, she wrote about her authorial ambitions: "I think that I can maintain myself, and there is something inspiriting in the idea". Scholars now consider Mary Shelley to be a major Romantic figure, significant for her literary achievement and her political voice as a woman and a liberal.



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