Mary Shelley: Biography

Mary Shelley: Biography

Welcome to Mary Shelley Biography page prepared by our editorial team! Here you’ll find a detailed biography of Frankenstein’s renowned author! Childhood, marriage, family, famous works, & more.

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📈 Mary Shelley: Timeline

Mary Shelley’s biography is worth reading, as it shows her life apart from being a wife of Percy Shelley and the author of one very famous book. She was the creator of Frankenstein, but only a few people know that she was so much more than that. Mary Shelley’s life as a woman in the 19th century was full of fun and joy, but it was equally full of grief. She had been involved in some exciting travels and love stories throughout her life. But fate is cruel sometimes, and the challenges she had to face in both her personal life and writing career are heartbreaking.

Below is the timeline of Mary Shelley. It reflects the key events of the writer’s life.

Mary Shelley: Timeline.

👪 Parents & Childhood

When Was Mary Shelley Born?

Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin on August 30, 1797, in London, England. It was noted in her father’s journal that she was born at 11:20 PM. Somers Town, between St Pancras and Camden Town, specifically, is the place where Mary spent the very first years of her life.

Mary’s Parents

It should come as no surprise that Mary became a well-known author since both her parents were astonishing writers. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a feminist writer and philosopher. Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman that she wrote had a significant impact on William Godwin’s daughter. William Godwin wasn’t far behind with his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice that was a masterpiece on philosophy in politics.

Unfortunately, Mary’s mother died when giving birth to her, and a little girl was left to be raised by William. The girl’s early years were full of careless joy until after Mary Shelley’s fourth birthday, Godwin married Mary Jane Clairmont. Their newborn son and Clairmont’s two children from a previous marriage were her favorites, and little Mary felt left out.

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At the same time, Mary’s father was having financial issues. He nearly got to the debtor’s prison as their publishing house called M. J. Godwin wasn’t bringing enough profit. Despite all the struggles with money, Mary was surrounded by educational opportunities. Not only did she have access to her father’s library, but she had a governess, and in 1811 went to a boarding school for half a year. Next year, she was sent to Scotland to stay in the family of William Baxter, where she would return a year later for a 10-months stay. It was nothing like formal education, but the surroundings of nature served Mary as an inspiration for her best-known novel.

💑 Mary & Percy Shelley

During the break between those two stays in Scotland, Mary met poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was a devoted follower of her father. There was a sparkle between them and, even though Percy was married at the time, they couldn’t resist the passion and love they felt for each other. Caught by the peak of their romantic relationship, Mary and Percy decided to escape to France in July 1814. Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, also went with them. However, only after a few months of traveling through France and Switzerland, they ran out of money. In despair, the trio had to return to England.

Everything became more complicated when it appeared that Mary fell pregnant. Asking for help from her father didn’t succeed as he refused to have anything in common with her. The couple and Claire moved to Somers Town, living off credits there. It may seem like Percy was crazy in love with Mary, but her regular journaling helped to unveil the ugly truth. Shelley was spending more and more time with his wife’s newborn son and going out with Claire. It’s hard to imagine the struggles of pregnant Mary, who was getting sick often, in addition.

Thomas Hogg, Percy’s friend, was visiting Mary, and it was bringing her some relief. She was even considering starting a relationship with him. She was an advocate of free love, however, was completely devoted to Shelley. Then, in February 1815, Mary gave birth to a premature little girl, who only survived the next day. The shadow of depression and grief was laying upon her but, by the summer of the same year, she conceived again and seemed to get better.

Mary was even more uplifted by a sudden change in their financial status. The money Percy inherited from his grandfather allowed them to move to a cottage in Bishopsgate. Their son, William Shelley, was born there in 1816. Then, they went to Switzerland to spend some time with poet Lord Byron, who rented a villa at Lake Geneva for them. On one of the stormy days, a company had to entertain themselves, and they decided to compete in writing ghost stories. It was that moment when the idea of Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus was born.

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In December 1816, Shelley’s first wife Harriet committed suicide. Percy Shelley finally got to become Mary’s husband almost immediately after that. The next year, their third child, Clara Everina Shelley, was born. But the tragedy followed them even to Italy where they moved to escape debts. Both their kids died there. Mary was miserable until in November 1819 she gave birth to a son, Percy Florence Shelley, who would be the only surviving child of Mary.

What Year Was Frankenstein Written?

Frankenstein was written in the years 1816-1817. At first, Mary only wrote a few pages that summer but Percey inspired her to continue the story. It appeared that in their writing contest, her horror story was the best one. By the middle of 1817, the story was complete, and in 1818, the book was finally published.

How Old Was Mary Shelley when She Wrote Frankenstein?

Mrs. Shelley, as Mary was calling herself back then, was only 18 years old when she started writing Frankenstein and 19 when she finished it. She was recalling that time spent in the villa in Switzerland as the time when her adult life began.

How Did Percy Shelley Die?

Since the family was living on the coast of Italy at the time, Percy decided it was a great chance to sail. After he visited his friends in Livorno, he was sailing back to Lerici, but never reached his destination. Percy Shelley died in the sea in 1822.

👵 Later Years of Mary Shelley

At the age of 24, Mary became a widow, and to make some money for living and raising Percy Florence, she continued writing. Mary Shelley’s The Last Man was published in 1826, which would become the second most famous novel after Frankenstein. She was also continuing and promoting her late husband’s literary legacy. Despite the fact that her father-in-law was against it, Mary managed to publish Percy’s works.

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After graduation in 1841, Mary’s son went to travel to Italy and the rest of Europe, taking his mother with him. Even then, she still kept journaling everything. After the death of Mary Shelley’s children, mother, and husband, her life was still full of suffering.

How Did Mary Shelley Die?

The last 10 years of the novelist’s life were accompanied by sickness. That whole decade some parts Mary’s body was paralyzed and she was having headaches, which wasn’t allowing her to write. At the age of 53, Mary Shelley died in London from, supposedly, a brain tumor.

📚 Books & Plays by Mary Shelley

Even though there’s no such a popular, quoted and analyzed piece as Frankenstein amongst Mary Shelley’s books and plays, some of them came quite close. The list of her other great works includes a sophomore novel of Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), The Mortal Immortal, and Lodore.

If Percy Shelley was famous for his love poems, Mary Shelley was attracting attention to real and pressing matters. The Mortal Immortal (1833) is a short story, in which she raised a question about the consequences of the human desire to live forever. Lodore (1835) is another famous novel, which presents the responsibility issues inside the family.

Most of her works didn’t exceed the size of a novel, but not Mary Shelley’s Mathilda. Mathilda became her the second-largest fiction piece. Yet, it became another writing in which Mary confronted other real-life topics, such as suicide and incest.

Moreover, after being done with traveling around Europe with her son, there were enough notes to publish a travelogue. And it was exactly what Mary did. In 1844, the two volumes of Rambles in Germany and Italy were published.

All Mary Shelley’s works mentioned above have gone through detailed critics’ analysis. She might have been perceived as a somewhat good author during her time. However, she was mostly known as a one-novel writer after her death. Numerous works of Mary had not been published until recently.

Only in the 21st century, her talents were finally recognized and appreciated. Now, critics mention her as one of the most influential Romantic authors, not forgetting to add a few words about her contribution to politics as well.

🎓 References

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IvyPanda. (2021, September 4). Mary Shelley: Biography. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/lit/study-guide-on-frankenstein/mary-shelley-biography/

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"Mary Shelley: Biography." IvyPanda, 4 Sept. 2021, ivypanda.com/lit/study-guide-on-frankenstein/mary-shelley-biography/.

1. IvyPanda. "Mary Shelley: Biography." September 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/study-guide-on-frankenstein/mary-shelley-biography/.


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IvyPanda. "Mary Shelley: Biography." September 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/study-guide-on-frankenstein/mary-shelley-biography/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Mary Shelley: Biography." September 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/study-guide-on-frankenstein/mary-shelley-biography/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Mary Shelley: Biography'. 4 September.