You might have been edgy in high school, but you’ve got nothing on Mary Shelley. She basically invented science-fiction before she was 20 thanks to her fascination with bringing the dead back to life, got it on in graveyards, kept her dead husband’s heart in a box on her desk, and generally ruminated on love and death more than a century before Siouxie Sioux ever contemplated the height of her hair. Your fave could never.

Her Fascination With Reanimation

It’s obvious why Mary Shelley’s most famous work ended up concerning creating life from death, and in her time, that was thought to be possible with this newfangled technology of electricity. Her father counted the era’s foremost electrical scientists as friends, and public experiments that involved things like making dead frogs dance by sending currents to their legs were what counted as entertainment before YouTube. Mary was almost certainly aware of such exhibitions and presumably thought they were cool as shit.

She Ran Away From Home

There’s no goth rite of passage like running away home because your parents, like, totally don’t get you, and Mary was no different. Her father disapproved of her relationship with Shelley for a bunch of valid reasons, so at age 16, she ran away with him to bounce around Europe.

The Year Without a Summer (But With a Frankenstein)

The Year Without a Summer

(Alte Nationalgalerie/Wikimedia Commons)

Mary wrote Frankenstein, appropriately, during an unusually wet and dreary time known as the Year Without a Summer that left the Shelleys cooped up in Lord Byron’s villa during what was supposed to be a nice vacation. Byron challenged everyone to write a ghost story because he was a man who really knew how to party, and suffice it to say Mary understood the assignment.

The Frankenstein Nightmare

Draft of Frankenstein

(Mary Shelley/Wikimedia Commons)

Mary actually had some trouble coming up with a story to satisfy her captor until she was struck by a “waking nightmare” during a rainstorm. With “shut eyes but acute mental vision,” she saw “the pale student of the unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together” and “the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion.” In other words, some fucked up shit.

Her Continued Acquaintance With Death

William Shelley

(Amelia Curran/Wikimedia Commons)

Frankenstein was also almost certainly inspired by the death of the Shelleys’ first child, who died after only a few weeks, leaving Mary tortured by dreams of bringing the child back to life. Within the next decade or so, Mary also experienced the deaths of two more children and her half-sister, so it’s a good thing she was so comfortable in graveyards.

She Kept Her Dead Husband’s Heart

Percy Shelley's funeral

(Walker Art Gallery/Wikimedia Commons)

According to witnesses at Percy Shelley’s funeral pyre, his heart wouldn’t burn, which can apparently happen for all sorts of perfectly unromantic reasons, though it might have been his liver or kidney. In any event, what was believed to be his heart was returned to Mary, and it’s not like you can just throw out something like that. After her own death, their son found it in a box on her desk wrapped in one of his father’s poems.

She Edited Her Husband’s Poetry

Poetry is essential to the goth lifestyle, and although Mary was never much of a poet herself, it’s hard to argue that becoming the keeper of a dead man’s poetry isn’t at least as good. After his death, Mary put herself in charge of her husband’s legacy, determined to write his biography and going so far as to edit and even “enhance” his poetry.

Her Other Writings Were Just As Dark

Although none of them reached the notoriety of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley wrote dozens of novels and short stories in her life, some of which were just as dark. The 1826 novel The Last Man is about a plague that nearly wipes out humanity, and the novella Mathilda is about a young woman whose father is driven to madness by his creepy obsession with her, which is arguably much more disturbing than an electricity baby man.

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