Mary Shelley
Answer to Name This Famous Person Game - June 2016
by Mike McLeod

By looking at this peaceful and dignified face, one would not think that such a person could be a master of the macabre. But then, you canít tell a book by its cover.

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born on August 30, 1797 in London, and she married the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816. She was the author of Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, published in 1818. She also penned The Last Man, a story about a plague ravaging the world in 2092 wherein the survivors fight each other for food, eventually leaving one inhabitant.

In the early 19th century, death was relatively common, as Mary experienced rather often. Her mother died soon after she was born, and she lost two children early in their lives. Her husband drowned when a storm sank his boat. Her half-sister committed suicide, as did her husbandís first wife.

This is not to say these experiences were the cause for the creation of Frankenstein since only the loss of her mother and one child happened before she wrote it. Perhaps there was an influence, but Dr. Frankenstein and his monster arose from a parlor game when Mary and those on a vacation together (including her husband and poet Lord Byron) decided to each write a ghost story. Nothing came to Maryís mind for a few days until the thought of reanimation arose.

Frankenstein was a success, and it continues to be so in its many reincarnations. After the book came the movies: 1910, a short; 1931, the original movie; 1935, Bride of Frankenstein; 1939 and 1979, Son of Frankenstein; 1943, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man; 1948, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein; 1974, Young Frankenstein; 2004 a mini-series and a TV movie; 2014, I, Frankenstein; 2015, Victor Frankenstein; and more - lists 55 Frankenstein movies. Then the Frankenstein movie posters followed.

The Bride of Frankenstein one-sheet (27 x 41 inches) Style D sold for $334,600 in 2007.

Mary Godwin Shelley

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein

The Frankenstein poster from the 1931 movie, a huge three-sheet (41 x 78.5 inches), Style C, hit $358,500 in 2015óone of the highest prices ever paid for a movie poster. It was found in a boarded-over projection booth in the 1970s. Both sold at Heritage Auctions. Other original versions of the 1931 movie poster and lobby card sell for thousands of dollars.

The book itself is very valuable. A first edition of Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus sold for $11,250 in 2014, also at Heritage Auctions.

Mary Shelley died at the age of 53 from a brain tumor on February 1, 1851. But her story of a reanimated dead man lives on.

Julie Kimbrell of The Old School Antique Mall in Sylva, N.C., and Ted Carlton of Utah correctly identified Mary Shelley. 


All photos public domain, PD-US.

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