Mary Shelley has some serious staying power. The author was born a whopping 215 years ago today, and her work is more relevant now than ever. Not only is Frankenstein, which Shelley began writing when she was eighteen years old, still ubiquitous in classrooms, but the cultural phenomenon of the cobbled-together monster has and continues to inspire and inform artists of every stripe (Tim Burton’s rebooted Frankenweenie is only the most recent example, we think you’ve probably heard of a few more). To celebrate the life and legacy of this fantastic author, we’ve but together a list of a few 19th century writers who are continually — and sometimes exponentially — culturally relevant in our time. Though some of these authors did garner some amount of acclaim during their own lifetimes, we’d venture that they’re all much more famous and more important to the culture at large today. Click through to check out our list, and as always, add any writers you think we’ve missed in the comments.
Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851)
Though Shelley is most famous for Frankenstein, she was a writer all her life, entertaining herself as a child by writing stories, reading everything she could get her hands on. she even managed to make a living of it. But for a long time after her death, she was largely remembered as Percy Shelley’s wife — in the introduction to a 1945 publication of her letters, editor Frederick Jones wrote, “a collection of the present size could not be justified by the general quality of the letters or by Mary Shelley’s importance as a writer. It is as the wife of [Percy Bysshe Shelley] that she excites our interest.” It was not until the 1970s that her work really started to garner serious critical attention, due in large part to the rise of feminist and psychoanalytic criticism, and not until 1989 that a serious biography of the writer was published.