Who hasnít heard of Frankenstein? The frightening entity made up from the stolen body parts of corpses was based on the Gothic novel by the novelist Mary Shelley. Here I am outside her home in Chester Square in Belgravia in London where she died from a brain tumour aged 53.
She was the daughter of the famous writer Mary Wollstonecraft but she never got to know her mum - she died shortly after Mary's birth from a haemorrhage sustained during childbirth or by mistakes made by the midwife. Aged 16 eloped to France with her one and only love the poet Percy Shelley (he was already married but his pregnant wife drowned herself.) They'd go on to have four children but only one survived into adulthood.
Mary was 18 and travelling at Lake Geneva with her husband when she had a disturbing waking dream which later became Frankenstein. She wrote the novel quickly while still a teenager and it was published when she was 20 without making a splash (only 500 copies were printed.) While in Rome son William died resulting in Mary having a nervous breakdown. A second son was born following her near-death from a miscarriage. When she was 25 her Percy drowned in a storm off the Italian coast. Afterwards Mary continued writing novels but spent much of her life in promoting her late husband's poetry. He'd always been the focal point of her love and when she returned to London and a more sedate life she never thought to remarry. She died here at this grand house, probably on the second floor.
She was buried at St Peter's Church in Bournemouth (near her new cliff-top home.) After her death her box-desk was opened and inside was found a silk parcel containing some of her husbandís ashes and the remains of his heart. After drowning heíd been cremated on the beach but his heart refused to burn (probably due to being calcified from a bout with tuberculosis) and taken to Mary in England.
I walked around the square and didnít see anyone except men sweeping up leaves and a woman in uniform sweeping a first floor terrace. You hardly ever see anyone leaving these houses. I'm sure the owners are so wealthy they live abroad and keep a place in London for tax purposes. These charming terraced houses wrapping around Chester Square cost a fortune. Number 24 where Mary died was bought in 2014 for £14 million. They now sell for £20 million.
I looked up at the front bedroom and wondered if Mary died there. She died young but at least Frankenstein became commercially popular in her life. When she was 34 the film version of the book came out and was a sensation. It must have pleased her as the first edition was published anonymously and barely sold. Can she ever had thought a novel about a monster made up from a body parts stolen from different corpses would do well? It was mercilessly bashed by the critics but this is always a good sign. It was good see to the owners of house don't mind a blue plaque on the wall (some refuse them.) I did a salute a left.