"I am a lover of mankind, a democrat and an atheist."When Shelley wrote these words in the hotel register at Chamonix, he was, as PMS Dawson has suggested deliberately, intentionally and provocatively “nailing his colours to the mast”. He knew full well people would see these words and that they would inflame passions. The words, however may require some context and explanation. Many people have sought to diminish the importance of these words and the circumstances under which they were written. Some modern scholars have even ridiculed him. I think his choice of words was very deliberate and central to how he defined himself and how wanted the world to think of him. They may well have been the words he was most famous (or infamous) for in his lifetime.
Haifaa Al-Mansour’s new movie Mary Shelley premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 9 September 2017. For those anticipating a nuanced, balanced and careful study of the relationship between two of the world’s authentic literary geniuses, Mary and Percy Shelley, I am sorry, you will be disappointed. For all of its pretensions, this movie seems pitched as a sort of thinking person’s Twilight or maybe Beauty and the Beast: two hot, beautiful young people with perfect skin and hair are thrust together by chance, torn apart by circumstance only to be at last happily reunited. It is riddled with factual errors and the plot involves an almost complete rewrite of history. The real Percy and Mary, as depicted in Mary Shelley are essentially props whose lives may be casually rearranged to allow Al-Mansour and her screenwriter to concoct a myth about the creation of Frankenstein. Were the movie to carry a warning, “based on a true story”, it would not go far enough. Mary and Percy have been done a disservice. The true story of Mary, Percy and Frankenstein deserves to be told – but it will await yet another day.