Friday, May 25, 2012

Radicals and Free Love in Regency England by Guest Blogger Vicky Dreiling

Mary Shelley is well known for her novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, which she wrote in her late teens while in Switzerland with the likes of Byron and of course the renegade poet Percy Shelley. But she was the product of a couple who were regarded as radicals: Mary Wollstonecraft, the early ‘feminist’ who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and William Godwin, a radical political philosopher. Though Godwin and Wollstonecraft were certainly not traditionalists, but they married a few months before the birth of their daughter. Ten days after Mary’s birth, her mother died, and this death had a profound effect on her.

Growing up, Mary was surrounded by books and exposed to literary discussions among the likes of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Hazlitt. Little wonder, she began writing at an early age. Mary’s life took a downward turn, however, when her father married for the second time as her stepmother supposedly favored her own children. The discord proved too much for Godwin who sent his daughter to board with friends.

Upon returning home at age fifteen, she first met Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was expelled from Oxford for writing a tract about atheism. In 1814, Shelley encountered Mary again, and though he was married, he became infatuated with Mary. They apparently spent time at her mother’s grave and became intimate. When Godwin found out, he tried to forbid the relationship. But after Shelley threatened to commit suicide, Mary ran away with him to France. But this was not the love match that we all love to read in modern romance novels. Many associate the 1960’s as the decade of free love, but Shelley certainly ascribed to it and took other lovers. He also encouraged Mary to enter a liaison with his friend Hogg, but she was pregnant and refused.

She endured money troubles and the loss of five children. After Shelley drowned in a boating accident, Mary published several other articles and books, but her Frankenstein has endured the test of time. She died in February 1851.

Vicky Dreiling is a confirmed historical romance junkie and Anglophile. Frequent business trips to the UK allowed her to indulge her passion for all things Regency England. Bath, Stonehenge, and Spencer House are among her favorite places. She is, however, truly sorry for accidentally setting off a security alarm in Windsor Castle. That unfortunate incident led her British colleagues to nickname her “Trouble.” A native Texan, she holds degrees in English literature and marketing. She is a triple finalist in the RWA RITA awards, and her debut novel How to Marry a Duke won the HOLT medallion for best historical romance. Her most recent novel How to Ravish a Rake was published April 1!



Vicky Dreiling said...

Leslie, thanks so much for inviting me to blog. I find Mary Shelley's life fascinating.


Kati said...

Hi Vicky! Great post.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Thank you for visiting, Vicky! It's is interesting that the subject of last week's blog, Amelia Curran, was a good friend of Mary Shelley. What fascinating lives they led...