Mary Shelley

A picture of the author Mary Shelley

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (1797 - 1851), better known as Mary Shelley, is best known for her gothic novel, Frankenstein (1818). Her mother was the prominent feminist and philosopher, Mary Wollstonecraft, who died eleven days after her daughter Mary was born. Mary was educated by her father, a liberal political philosopher, and then she fell in love with one of his followers, the romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. There was plenty of scandal: he was married, Mary became pregnant, then they left for France together. The scandal turned tragic when their premature, out-of-wedlock daughter died, then Percy's first wife committed suicide. Percy and Mary married in 1816, but they were burdened by debts and ostracized in France.

The Shelleys moved to Geneva, where Mary developed the idea for her famous novel, Frankenstein, while they were guests of the renowned poet, Lord Byron. Tragedy struck after they moved to Italy in 1818, where two of their children died. Mary gave birth to one surviving child, Percy Florence, whom she dedicated to raising back in England while pursuing her professional writing career. Tragedy was endemic to Mary's life, continuing to follow her. Percy died in a sailing accident and she became chronically ill, dying of a brain tumor when she was just 53 years old.

Shelley's collection of short stories, though not as well known as her famous novel, offer many clever and tragic tales of the supernatural, featured in our collections: Gothic, Ghost, Horror & Weird Library, Halloween Stories, and Short Stories for High School. Her work is also referenced in our Gothic Literature Study Guide.

"If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!"

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