Monday, August 30, 2010

‎"My dreams were all my own; I accounted for them to nobody; they were my refuge when annoyed - my dearest pleasure when free... My dreams were at once more fantastic and agreeable than my writings."

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley

"Independence I have long considered as the grand blessing of life, the basis of every virtue; and independence I will ever secure by contracting my wants, though I were to live on a barren heath."

This second quotation is attributed to Mary's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, who was born in Victoria's London on the 25th of April, 1759. Incidentally, just for you to know, the baby who'd grow up to be the national poet of his nation, was born this year as well; Robert Burns of Scotland. And the composer, George Friedrich Handel died this year, but I digress. As usual. Why? I enjoy it, quite a lot.
Denied formal education, Mary educated herself by way of many a book, as did many a female back in the day. Those of us who know that Mary once lived, know of her because we've got her placed in a dusty pigeonhole labeled Early Feminist, Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Mary W. published her manifesto in 1792, some five years before she gave birth to a girl, August 30, 1797. [Early in President John Adams' one and only term in office. Napoleon on the rise. Two future fabulous composers born that year, Gaetano Donizetti and Franz Schubert...] Mary W. and her reform-minded politician husband, William Godwin, named their daughter Mary. Alas, Mary Sr. died not two weeks later, never to know what a passionate teenager her child would become.
Every bit as strong minded as her long-lost mother, 16-year-old Mary ran away with her lover, Percy Shelley, 23, in 1814. They married later on, in 1816, after Percy's first wife killed herself. Horrible and dreadful, absolutely, for poor drowned Harriet Westbrook Shelley, but pretty romantic, no? After all, romance, no less than comedy, is firmly linked with tragedy. And too, none of this would we ever have heard about had not Percy been such an admired poet (who'd also die by drowning, in 1822. go figure) - and had not his bride conceived of a story, a thoughtful, horrifying story. Two years later, in 1818, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley published it, her masterpiece: Frankenstein.

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