Mary Shelley to get blue plaque at last

James Morrison
Sunday 14 September 2003 00:00 BST

For decades she has been in the shadow of her husband. But now Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, is finally to be given a blue plaque after a 28-year battle to recognise her achievements as a writer.

Plans to place a commemorative plaque on the side of the house where she died in Belgravia, central London, were first mooted in 1975. However, they were shelved indefinitely after the building's then resident, a Rev DB Tillyer, objected to the unholy name "Frankenstein" being written on the wall of his vicarage.

In a letter to the Greater London Council, which at the time was responsible for placing blue plaques, he wrote: "I'm not keen to have the phrase 'author of Frankenstein' emblazoned across the plaque, especially as the house is a vicarage. I would rather that it were re-worded to read 'author(ess) and wife of the poet'."

Mr Tillyer's concerns were subsequently backed up both by the London Diocesan Fund and the Keats-Shelley Society, which also wrote expressing reservations about the wording.

Now, English Heritage is about to re-open old wounds by putting up a plaque using the dreaded "F" word after all. It will read: "Mary Shelley, 1797-1851, author of Frankenstein. Lived here 1845-1851."

Mary Shelley's most recent biographer, Miranda Seymour, who will unveil the new plaque, said: "It's very good to have it plain and clear that she's not only the wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley, but an author in her own right. I think it's dreadful that the church refused this."

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