Mary Shelley


A picture of the author Mary Shelley

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, later 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 Shelley's wife committed suicide. Percy and Mary married in 1816, but they were burdened by debts and ostracized.

The Shelley's moved to Geneva, where Mary developed the idea for her famous novel, Frankenstein. They moved to Italy in 1818, where two of their children died. Mary had one surviving child, Percy Florence, whom she dedicated to raising back in England while pursuing her professional writing career, which included some compelling short stories. Tragedy was endemic to Mary's life: her husband died in a sailing accident and she was chronically ill, dying of a brain tumor when she was just 53.

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