Spring break is the time to go re-read a classic I haven’t picked up in 25 years or so. Seeing my old notes in the margin from my teenage self is like a window to the past of earnest contemplation. I had forgotten the backstory of Mary Godwin Shelley herself. She was born 1797 to two of the most famous writers/philosophers of the day, William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Her mother died days after her birth, and Mary grew up in an unconventional radical anarchist writing salon. At 16, she eloped with the poet Perce Bysshe Shelley, despite him being much older and married. She got pregnant nearly immediately, but the baby was born prematurely in February 1815 and soon died. She got pregnant again almost immediately thereafter, and her son William was born January 1816. That summer while visiting with Lord Byron, Shelley and others at a villa on Lake Geneva the idea was born. After long discussions on the possibility of “creating life” and recent scientific works of Luigi Galvani on “galvanism” aka “biological electricity,” how electric current “animates” muscles and Erasmus Darwin (Charles’ grandfather) writings on the seeming spontaneous birth of life “vorticellae” from lead rain gutters, coupled with a challenge to write a “ghost story” the idea of “Frankenstein” was born. Shelley encouraged her to turn the story into a novel, and over the ensuing months she did just that, despite tragedy striking again and again. In October, Mary’s sister Fanny committed suicide. A month later, Shelley’s wife, Harriet, committed suicide. In December 1816, in order to get custody of his two children by Harriet, despite both of their philosophical misgivings on marriage, they married. All of this tragedy must have infused itself into the novel, which was finished by the Spring of 1817. In the ensuing few years, her son William would die, her daughter Clara would die, and then Shelley himself would drown while sailing in the Bay of Lerici. She was 25. The novel was not loved by many critics, “it will not even amuse its readers unless their tastes be deplorably vitiated.” Of course, it was an instant best seller. The elite always misjudges the basket of deplorables.