Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born in England on August 30, 1797. Her parents were two celebrated liberal thinkers, William Godwin, a social philosopher, and Mary Wollstonecraft, a women's rights advocate. Eleven days after Mary's birth, her mother died of puerperal fever. Four motherless years later, Godwin married Mary Jane Clairmont, bringing her and her two children into the same household with Mary and her half-sister, Fanny. Mary's idolization of her father, his detached and rational treatment of their bond, and her step-mother's preference for her own children created a tense and awkward home. Mary's education and free-thinking were encouraged, so it should not surprise us today that at the age of sixteen she ran off with the brilliant, nineteen-year old and unhappily married Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley became her ideal, but their life together was a difficult one. Traumas plagued them: Shelley's wife and Mary's half-sister both committed suicide; Mary and Shelley wed shortly after he was widowed but social disapproval forced them from England; three of their children died in infancy or childhood; and while Shelley was an aristocrat and a genius, he was also moody and had little money. Mary conceived of her magnum opus, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, when she was only nineteen when Lord Byron suggested they tell ghost stories at a house party. The resulting book took over two years to write and can be seen as the brilliant creation of a powerful but tormented mind. The story of Frankenstein has endured nearly two centuries and countless variations because of its timeless exploration of the tension between our quest for knowledge and our thirst for good. Shelley drowned when Mary was only 24, leaving her with an infant and debts. Mary died in 1851 at the age of 54 from a brain tumor.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1890 - 1937 H. P. Lovecraft was born on August 20, 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island. His mother was Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft and his father was Winfield Scott Lovecraft, a traveling salesman for Gorham & Co. Silversmtihs. Lovecraft was reciting poetry at the age of two and when he was three years old, his father suffered a mental breakdown and was admitted to Butler Hospital. He spent five years there before dying on July 19, 1898 of paresis, a form of neurosyphillis. During those five years, Lovecraft was told that his father was paralyzed and in a coma, which was not the case. His mother, two aunts and grandfather were now bringing up Lovecraft. He suffered from frequent illnesses as a boy, many of which were psychological. He began writing between the ages of six and seven and, at about the age of eight, he discovered science. He began to produce the hectographed journals, "The Scientific Gazette" (1899-1907) and "The Rhode Island Journal of Astronomy" (1903-07). His first appearance in print happened, in 1906, when he wrote a letter on an astronomical matter to The Providence Sunday Journal. A short time later, he began writing a monthly astronomy column for The Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner - a rural paper. He also wrote columns for The Providence Tribune (1906-08), The Providence Evening News (1914-18), The Asheville (N.C.) Gazette-News (1915). In 1904, his grandfather died and the family suffered severe financial difficulties, which forced him and his mother to move out of their Victorian home. Devastated by this, he apparently contemplated suicide. In 1908, before graduating from high school, he suffered a nervous breakdown. He didn't receive a diploma and failed to get into Brown University, both of which caused him great shame. Lovecraft was not heard from for five years, reemerging because of a letter he wrote in protest to Fred Jackson's love story in The Argosy. His letter was published in 1913 and caused great controversy, which was noted by Edward F. Daas, President of the United Amateur Press Association (UAPA). Daas invited Lovecraft to join the UAPA, which he did in early 1914. He eventually became President and Official Editor of the UAPA and served briefly as President of the rival National Amateur Press Association (NAPA). He published thirteen issues of his own paper, The Conservative (1915-23) and contributed poetry and essays to other journals. He also wrote some fiction which titles include "The Beast in the Cave" (1905), "The Alchemist" (1908), "The Tomb" and "Dagon" (1917). In 1919, Lovecraft's mother was deteriorating, mentally and physically, and was admitted to Butler Hospital. On May 24, 1921, his mother died from a gall bladder operation. While attending an amateur journalism convention in Boston, Lovecraft met his future wife Sonia Haft Greene, a Russian Jew. They were married on March 3, 1924 and Lovecraft moved to her apartment in Brooklyn. Sonia had a shop on Fifth Avenue that went bankrupt. In 1925, Sonia went to Cleveland for a job and Lovecraft moved to a smaller apartment in the Red Hook district of Brooklyn. In 1926, he decided to move back to Providence. Lovecraft had his aunts bar his wife, Sonia, from going to Providence to start a business because he couldn't have the stigma of a tradeswoman wife. They were divorced in 1929. After his return to Providence, he wrote his greatest fiction, which included the titles "The Call of Cthulhu" (1926), "At the Mountains of Madness" (1931), and "The Shadow Out of Time" (1934-35). In 1932, his aunt, Mrs. Clark, died; and he moved in with his other aunt, Mrs. Gamwell, in 1933. Suffering from cancer of the intestine, Lovecraft was admitted to Jane Brown Memorial Hospital and on March 15, 1937 he died.