104 Facts About Mary Shelley


Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was an English novelist who wrote the Gothic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, which is considered an early example of science fiction and one of her best-known works.


Mary Shelley edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley.


Mary Shelley's father was the political philosopher William Godwin and her mother was the philosopher and women's rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft.


Mary Shelley was raised by her father, who provided her with a rich if informal education, encouraging her to adhere to his own anarchist political theories.


In 1814, Mary began a romance with one of her father's political followers, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was already married.


In 1816, the couple and Mary's stepsister famously spent a summer with Lord Byron and John William Polidori near Geneva, Switzerland, where Shelley conceived the idea for her novel Frankenstein.


Until the 1970s, Mary Shelley was known mainly for her efforts to publish her husband's works and for her novel Frankenstein, which remains widely read and has inspired many theatrical and film adaptations.


Studies of her lesser-known works, such as the travel book Rambles in Germany and Italy and the biographical articles for Dionysius Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia, support the growing view that Mary Shelley remained a political radical throughout her life.


Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in Somers Town, London, in 1797.


Mary Shelley was the second child of the feminist philosopher, educator, and writer Mary Wollstonecraft and the first child of the philosopher, novelist, and journalist William Godwin.


Mary Shelley Godwin read these memoirs and her mother's books, and was brought up to cherish her mother's memory.


Mary Shelley continued to borrow to pay off earlier loans, compounding his problems.


Mary Shelley often took the children on educational outings, and they had access to his library and to the many intellectuals who visited him, including the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the former vice-president of the United States Aaron Burr.


Mary Shelley had a governess, a daily tutor, and read many of her father's children's books on Roman and Greek history in manuscript.


In June 1812, Mary Shelley's father sent her to stay with the dissenting family of the radical William Baxter, near Dundee, Scotland.


Mary Shelley Godwin revelled in the spacious surroundings of Baxter's house and in the companionship of his four daughters, and she returned north in the summer of 1813 for a further stay of 10 months.


Percy Mary Shelley, therefore, had difficulty gaining access to money until he inherited his estate because his family did not want him wasting it on projects of "political justice".


Mary Shelley saw Percy Shelley as an embodiment of her parents' liberal and reformist ideas of the 1790s, particularly Godwin's view that marriage was a repressive monopoly, which he had argued in his 1793 edition of Political Justice but later retracted.


Percy Mary Shelley sometimes left home for short periods to dodge creditors.


Pregnant and often ill, Mary Godwin had to cope with Percy's joy at the birth of his son by Harriet Shelley in late 1814 and his constant outings with Claire Clairmont.


Mary Shelley greatly offended Godwin at one point when during a walk in the French countryside he suggested that they both take the plunge into a stream naked as it offended her principles.


Mary Shelley was partly consoled by the visits of Hogg, whom she disliked at first but soon considered a close friend.


In practice she loved only Percy Mary Shelley and seems to have ventured no further than flirting with Hogg.


At Bishopsgate, Percy wrote his poem Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude; and on 24 January 1816, Mary Shelley gave birth to a second child, William, named after her father, and soon nicknamed "Willmouse".


The party arrived in Geneva on 14 May 1816, where Mary called herself "Mrs Shelley".


Mary Shelley began writing what she assumed would be a short story.


Mary Shelley later described that summer in Switzerland as the moment "when I first stepped out from childhood into life".


Mary Shelley's lawyers advised him to improve his case by marrying; so he and Mary, who was pregnant again, married on 30 December 1816 at St Mildred's Church, Bread Street, London.


Early in the summer of 1817, Mary Shelley finished Frankenstein, which was published anonymously in January 1818.


Reviewers and readers assumed that Percy Mary Shelley was the author, since the book was published with his preface and dedicated to his political hero William Godwin.


At Marlow, Mary Shelley edited the joint journal of the group's 1814 Continental journey, adding material written in Switzerland in 1816, along with Percy's poem "Mont Blanc".


That autumn, Percy Mary Shelley often lived away from home in London to evade creditors.


Mary Shelley had agreed to raise her so long as Claire had nothing more to do with her.


Mary Shelley wrote Valperga to help alleviate her father's financial difficulties, as Percy refused to assist him further.


Mary Shelley was often physically ill and prone to depressions.


Mary Shelley had to cope with Percy's interest in other women, such as Sophia Stacey, Emilia Viviani, and Jane Williams.


Since Mary Shelley shared his belief in the non-exclusivity of marriage, she formed emotional ties of her own among the men and women of their circle.


Mary Shelley became particularly fond of the Greek revolutionary Prince Alexandros Mavrokordatos and of Jane and Edward Williams.


In 1820, they found themselves plagued by accusations and threats from Paolo and Elise Foggi, former servants whom Percy Mary Shelley had dismissed in Naples shortly after the Foggis had married.


Biographers have offered various interpretations of these events: that Percy Mary Shelley decided to adopt a local child; that the baby was his by Elise, Claire, or an unknown woman; or that she was Elise's by Byron.


Mary Shelley insisted she would have known if Claire had been pregnant, but it is unclear how much she really knew.


The events in Naples, a city Mary Shelley later called a paradise inhabited by devils, remain shrouded in mystery.


Elena Adelaide Mary Shelley died in Naples on 9 June 1820.


Mary Shelley was distracted and unhappy in the cramped and remote Villa Magni, which she came to regard as a dungeon.


Much of the short poetry Shelley wrote at San Terenzo involved Jane rather than Mary.


Mary Shelley resolved to live by her pen and for her son, but her financial situation was precarious.


Sir Timothy Mary Shelley had at first agreed to support his grandson, Percy Florence, only if he were handed over to an appointed guardian.


Mary Shelley managed instead to wring out of Sir Timothy a limited annual allowance, but to the end of his days, he refused to meet her in person and dealt with her only through lawyers.


Mary Shelley busied herself with editing her husband's poems, among other literary endeavours, but concern for her son restricted her options.


Mary Shelley enjoyed the stimulating society of William Godwin's circle, but poverty prevented her from socialising as she wished.


Mary Shelley felt ostracised by those who, like Sir Timothy, still disapproved of her relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley.


Jane later disillusioned her by gossiping that Percy had preferred her to Mary Shelley, owing to Mary Shelley's inadequacy as a wife.


Mary Shelley met the American actor John Howard Payne and the American writer Washington Irving, who intrigued her.


Mary Shelley refused, saying that after being married to one genius, she could only marry another.


Mary Shelley was aware of Payne's plan, but how seriously she took it is unclear.


In 1827, Mary Shelley was party to a scheme that enabled her friend Isabel Robinson and Isabel's lover, Mary Diana Dods, who wrote under the name David Lyndsay, to embark on a life together in France as husband and wife.


Mary Shelley wrote the novels The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck, Lodore, and Falkner.


Mary Shelley contributed five volumes of Lives of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French authors to Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia.


Mary Shelley was still helping to support her father, and they looked out for publishers for each other.


Mary Shelley found a way to tell the story of Percy's life, nonetheless: she included extensive biographical notes about the poems.


Mary Shelley assisted Georgiana Paul, a woman disallowed for by her husband for alleged adultery.


Mary Shelley continued to treat potential romantic partners with caution.


Mary Shelley was delighted when her old friend from Italy, Edward Trelawny, returned to England, and they joked about marriage in their letters.


Oblique references in her journals, from the early 1830s until the early 1840s, suggest that Mary Shelley had feelings for the radical politician Aubrey Beauclerk, who may have disappointed her by twice marrying others.


Mary Shelley honoured her late husband's wish that his son attend public school and, with Sir Timothy's grudging help, had him educated at Harrow.


Mary Shelley was devoted to his mother, and after he left university in 1841, he came to live with her.


In 1840 and 1842, mother and son travelled together on the continent, journeys that Mary Shelley recorded in Rambles in Germany and Italy in 1840,1842 and 1843.


Shortly afterwards, Mary Shelley bought some letters written by herself and Percy Bysshe Shelley from a man calling himself G Byron and posing as the illegitimate son of the late Lord Byron.


Mary Shelley's father encouraged her to learn to write by composing letters, and her favourite occupation as a child was writing stories.


Unfortunately, all of Mary Shelley's juvenilia were lost when she ran off with Percy in 1814, and none of her surviving manuscripts can be definitively dated before that year.


Mary Shelley's first published work is often thought to have been Mounseer Nongtongpaw, comic verses written for Godwin's Juvenile Library when she was ten and a half; however, the poem is attributed to another writer in the most recent authoritative collection of her works.


Mary Shelley was forever inciting me to obtain literary reputation.


Certain sections of Mary Shelley's novels are often interpreted as masked rewritings of her life.


Mary Shelley herself confided that she modelled the central characters of The Last Man on her Italian circle.


Mary Shelley employed the techniques of many different novelistic genres, most vividly the Godwinian novel, Walter Scott's new historical novel, and the Gothic novel.


Mary Shelley uses the historical novel to comment on gender relations; for example, Valperga is a feminist version of Scott's masculinist genre.


Ellen Moers was one of the first to claim that Mary Shelley's loss of a baby was a crucial influence on the writing of Frankenstein.


Mary Shelley argues that the novel is a "birth myth" in which Shelley comes to terms with her guilt for causing her mother's death as well as for failing as a parent.


Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar argue in their seminal book The Madwoman in the Attic that in Frankenstein in particular, Mary Shelley responded to the masculine literary tradition represented by John Milton's Paradise Lost.


Mary Shelley's writings focus on the role of the family in society and women's role within that family.


Mary Shelley celebrates the "feminine affections and compassion" associated with the family and suggests that civil society will fail without them.


Mary Shelley was "profoundly committed to an ethic of cooperation, mutual dependence, and self-sacrifice".


Mary Shelley believed in the Enlightenment idea that people could improve society through the responsible exercise of political power, but she feared that the irresponsible exercise of power would lead to chaos.


Mary Shelley's works reveal her as less optimistic than Godwin and Wollstonecraft; she lacks faith in Godwin's theory that humanity could eventually be perfected.


Mary Shelley was delighted when the Whigs came back to power in 1830 and at the prospect of the 1832 Reform Act.


Poovey suggested that Mary Shelley wrote Falkner to resolve her conflicted response to her father's combination of libertarian radicalism and stern insistence on social decorum.


For example, Bennett claims that Mary Shelley's works reveal a consistent commitment to Romantic idealism and political reform and Jane Blumberg's study of Shelley's early novels argues that her career cannot be easily divided into radical and conservative halves.


Mary Shelley was in fact challenging the political and literary influences of her circle in her first work.


Mary Shelley explains that "the annuals were a major mode of literary production in the 1820s and 1830s", with The Keepsake the most successful.


Many of Mary Shelley's stories are set in places or times far removed from early 19th-century Britain, such as Greece and the reign of Henry IV of France.


Mary Shelley was particularly interested in "the fragility of individual identity" and often depicted "the way a person's role in the world can be cataclysmically altered either by an internal emotional upheaval, or by some supernatural occurrence that mirrors an internal schism".


Between 1832 and 1839, Mary Shelley wrote many biographies of notable Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French men and a few women for Dionysius Lardner's Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men.


Mary Shelley wrote in a biographical style popularised by the 18th-century critic Samuel Johnson in his Lives of the Poets, combining secondary sources, memoir and anecdote, and authorial evaluation.


For Mary Shelley, biographical writing was supposed to, in her words, "form as it were a school in which to study the philosophy of history", and to teach "lessons".


Mary Shelley emphasises domesticity, romance, family, sympathy, and compassion in the lives of her subjects.


Mary Shelley began her fostering of Percy's poetic reputation in 1824 with the publication of his Posthumous Poems.


Mary Shelley glossed Percy's political radicalism as a form of sentimentalism, arguing that his republicanism arose from sympathy for those who were suffering.


Mary Shelley inserted romantic anecdotes of his benevolence, domesticity, and love of the natural world.


Mary Shelley was forced into several compromises, and, as Blumberg notes, "modern critics have found fault with the edition and claim variously that she miscopied, misinterpreted, purposely obscured, and attempted to turn the poet into something he was not".


In principle, Mary Shelley believed in publishing every last word of her husband's work; but she found herself obliged to omit certain passages, either by pressure from her publisher, Edward Moxon, or in deference to public propriety.


Mary Shelley's omissions provoked criticism, often stinging, from members of Percy Shelley's former circle, and reviewers accused her of, among other things, indiscriminate inclusions.


Mary Shelley's notes have nevertheless remained an essential source for the study of Percy Shelley's work.


Collections of Mary Shelley's papers are housed in Lord Abinger's Shelley Collection on deposit at the Bodleian Library, the New York Public Library, the Huntington Library, the British Library, and in the John Murray Collection.


All essays from The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley are marked with a "" and those from The Other Mary Shelley with an "".