Close up portrait of Shelley

This Classic Author Was the First True Goth

Mary Shelley’s biggest contribution to literature was Frankenstein, which some call the first horror story. However, she accomplished several other moody, dark, and brooding things in her lifetime. Mary Shelley was the first goth.


Mary Shelley

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Gothic literature happens when you combine romance, horror, and, just overall, death. While Shelley’s books certainly fit in this genre, there are many more gothic things about her.


She wrote Frankenstein as a moody teenager. She was 18-years-old, stuck in a cabin with Lord Byron, physician John Polidori, and husband Percy Bysshe Shelley. They decided to have a competition to see who could write the best ghost stories after being inspired by the book Fantasmagoriana.


Image of book cover

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Mary Shelley won, though Polidori was not without his own achievements. The story he wrote was called “The Vampyre” and went on to inspire Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula.


If the story seems like a bad nightmare, it might be because it was. Sprung from a dream after having writer’s block, Shelley wrote, “I saw with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together.” From that dream came the story of the monster and his creator.


Frankenstein's monster

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The story, first published anonymously, didn’t have the rave reviews it does today. The Quarterly Review says it was “a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity,” which kind of sounds like they’re describing the monster in the story.


After her husband’s death, she continued to carry his heart around in a tissue. That’s pretty metal. That’s probably the most terrifying and romantic thing involving death I’ve ever heard. That’s pretty darn gothic.


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