Mary Shelley, born Mary Godwin on August 30, 1797, was a prominent English novelist celebrated For her iconic Gothic creation, “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus,” published in 1818—a groundbreaking work considered an early foray into the realm of science fiction. Her intellectual lineage was remarkable, being The offspring of the political theorist William Godwin and trailblazing advocate for women’s rights, Mary Wollstonecraft.
Tragically, Mary’s mother passed away just 11 days after giving birth to her. Raised by her father, Mary received an unconventional yet enriching education that aligned with his anarchist political ideologies. At the tender age of four, her father remarried to Mary Jane Clairmont, a union that would later contribute to a strained relationship between Mary and her stepmother.
In 1814, Mary found herself entangled in a romantic liaison with Percy Bysshe Shelley, a devoted follower of her father. Complicating matters, Percy was already married. Undeterred, Mary, along with her stepsister Claire Clairmont, embarked on a journey through Europe after leaving for France. The consequences of their relationship included societal ostracism, financial woes, and the heartbreaking loss of their prematurely born daughter. The couple eventually married in 1816, following the tragic suicide of Percy’s first wife, Harriet.
The summer of 1816 became legendary when Mary, Percy, and Claire spent time with Lord Byron and John William Polidori near Geneva, Switzerland. It was during this sojourn that Mary conceived the idea for her iconic novel, “Frankenstein.” The Shelleys relocated to Italy in 1818, where they faced further adversity with the death of their second and third children. Only Percy Florence Shelley, their last child, survived. Tragedy struck again in 1822 when Percy drowned In a maritime mishap along the shores of Viareggio.
Returning to England in 1823, Mary dedicated herself to raising Percy Florence and pursued a career as a professional author. Unfortunately, the last decade of her life was marred by illness, likely stemming from a brain tumor that claimed her life at the age of 53.
While Mary Shelley was initially recognized for her efforts to publish her husband’s works and the enduring legacy of “Frankenstein,” recent scholarly interest has unveiled a broader understanding of her accomplishments. Beyond her renowned novel, her literary repertoire includes historical works like “Valperga” (1823) and “Perkin Warbeck” (1830), the apocalyptic “The Last Man” (1826), and her final novels, “Lodore” (1835) and “Falkner” (1837). Explorations Among her less celebrated pieces, like the travel tome “Rambles in Germany and Italy” (1844), and biographical articles for Dionysius Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopaedia (1829–1846), underscore Shelley’s enduring commitment to political radicalism. Her writings advocate for cooperation and empathy, challenging the individualistic Romantic ideals of Percy Shelley and the Enlightenment theories of her father, William Godwin.
Mary Shelley Early Life
Mary Shelley, originally Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, entered the world in Somers Town, London, in 1797. She was the second child of the renowned feminist philosopher and writer Mary Wollstonecraft and the first offspring of the philosopher, novelist, and journalist William Godwin. Tragically, Mary Wollstonecraft succumbed to puerperal fever shortly after giving birth to Mary. Left with the responsibility of raising Mary and her older half-sister, Fanny Imlay (Wollstonecraft’s child from a previous relationship), Godwin faced the challenges of single parenthood.
A year following Wollstonecraft’s passing, Godwin published his Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798), intending it as a sincere tribute to his late wife. However, the memoirs, revealing Wollstonecraft’s affairs and her illegitimate child, were perceived as scandalous. Despite this, Mary Godwin grew up cherishing her mother’s memory, absorbing her works and the controversial details disclosed in the memoirs.
Mary’s early years seemed joyful, as indicated by the letters from William Godwin’s housekeeper and nurse, Louisa Jones. However, Godwin struggled with financial woes, prompting him to consider a second marriage for support. In December 1801, he married Mary Jane Clairmont, a well-educated woman with two children of her own. While Godwin’s friends disapproved of his new wife, Mary Jane was a source of support for him, leading to a successful marriage. Unfortunately, the relationship between Mary Godwin and her stepmother was strained, with Mary harboring a strong dislike for her.
The Godwins ventured into the world of publishing with their firm, M. J. Godwin, specializing in children’s books, stationery, maps, and games. Despite their efforts, the business struggled to turn a profit, and Godwin found himself burdened with substantial debt. As the financial situation worsened by 1809, Godwin’s business teetered on the brink of collapse, and he faced the specter of despair. In a fortunate turn, philosophical supporters, including Francis Place, extended loans that spared Godwin from debtor’s prison, providing a temporary reprieve from his financial woes.Despite receiving minimal formal education, Mary Godwin benefited from her father’s diverse tutelage, which covered a wide range of subjects. The family’s educational endeavors extended beyond the confines of a traditional classroom, with frequent outings and access to her father’s extensive library. Notably, Mary had the privilege of interacting with intellectuals like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Aaron Burr, gaining insights beyond conventional teachings.
While Mary’s education didn’t strictly align with her mother Mary Wollstonecraft’s philosophy, as outlined in “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” it was unconventional and advanced for a girl of her time. She had a governess and a daily tutor, delving into manuscripts on Roman and Greek history from her father’s collection. In 1811, she spent six months at a boarding school in Ramsgate, further diversifying her educational experiences.
At the age of 15, Mary’s father described her as “singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind,” noting her insatiable thirst for knowledge and unwavering perseverance in her pursuits.
In June 1812, Mary was sent to stay with the radical William Baxter’s dissenting family near Dundee, Scotland. Her father expressed a desire for her upbringing to reflect philosophical and even cynical principles. Speculations surround the reasons for this, ranging from concerns about her health to exposing her to radical politics or shielding her from certain aspects of the family business.
Mary flourished in the stimulating environment of Baxter’s home, finding camaraderie with his four daughters. She returned for an extended stay in the summer of 1813, emphasizing in the 1831 introduction to “Frankenstein” that her true creative expressions took flight in the natural surroundings of her home and the untamed mountains nearby. Reflecting on that time, She reminisced, “During that period, my writing assumed a rather mundane style. It was amidst the trees surrounding our residence or on the windswept slopes of the tree-barren mountains nearby that my genuine creations, the whimsical flights of my imagination, came into existence and flourished.”
Mary Shelley Writing Career
Following her husband’s passing, Mary Shelley spent a year residing with Leigh Hunt and his family in Genoa. During this time, she frequently interacted with Lord Byron and took on the task of transcribing his poems. Despite facing financial instability, she resolved to support herself through her writing and provide for her son. In July 1823, she returned to England, staying with her father and stepmother in the Strand until a modest advance from her father-in-law allowed her to find separate lodgings nearby.
Sir Timothy Shelley, her father-in-law, initially insisted on supporting her son, Percy Florence, under the condition that he be placed under an appointed guardian. Mary vehemently rejected this proposition, eventually negotiating a limited annual allowance from Sir Timothy. However, the financial arrangement came with the obligation to repay the sum when Percy Florence inherited the estate. Despite these negotiations, Sir Timothy refused to meet Mary in person and interacted with her solely through legal channels.
Mary Shelley dedicated herself to editing her late husband’s poems and engaging in various literary pursuits. However, her concern for her son constrained her choices. The threat of discontinuing the allowance loomed over her, especially if any biography of Percy Bysshe Shelley were to be Released. In 1826, Percy Florence assumed the legal inheritance. to the Shelley estate after the death of his half-brother Charles Shelley. Although Sir Timothy increased Mary’s allowance, their relationship remained strained.
While Mary found solace in the intellectual company of William Godwin’s circle, financial constraints hindered her social activities. She felt ostracized by those, including Sir Timothy, who disapproved of her past relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley.
In the summer of 1824, Mary Shelley relocated to Kentish Town in north London to be closer to Jane Williams. Speculations arose about Mary having romantic feelings for Jane, but their relationship soured when Jane gossiped about Percy’s alleged preference for her over Mary. During this period, Mary worked on her novel, “The Last Man” (1826), and assisted friends in writing memoirs of Byron and Percy Shelley as part of her efforts to immortalize her late husband.
Her interactions expanded to include the American actor John Howard Payne and writer Washington Irving. Payne, enamored with Mary, proposed marriage in 1826, but she declined, citing her reluctance to marry another genius after her previous experience. Payne accepted the rejection, attempting to persuade Irving to propose instead. Mary was aware of Payne’s plan, but the extent of her seriousness about it remains unclear.
In 1827, Mary Shelley played a pivotal role in facilitating a scheme for her friend Isabel Robinson and her lover Mary Diana Dods, who wrote under the pseudonym David Lyndsay, to live together as a married couple in France. Keeping her involvement discreet, Mary Shelley, with the assistance of John Howard Payne, secured false passports for the couple. However, her act of kindness took an unforeseen turn when she contracted smallpox during a visit to them in Paris in 1828. Despite recovering, she bore the visible effects of the illness, losing some of her youthful appearance.
Between 1827 and 1840, Mary Shelley remained active as an editor and writer. She penned novels such as “The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck” (1830), “Lodore” (1835), and “Falkner” (1837). Contributing to Dionysius Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopaedia, she produced five volumes on the lives of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French authors. Additionally, Mary wrote stories for women’s magazines and continued to support her father, collaborating on publishing endeavors.
In 1830, she exchanged the copyright for a fresh edition of “Frankenstein” for the sum of £60. contributing to Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley’s Standard Novels series. After her father’s death in 1836, she initiated the compilation of his letters and a memoir, as stipulated in his will, but eventually abandoned the project after two years.
Mary Shelley tirelessly advocated for Advocating for the publication of Percy Shelley’s poetry and incorporating quotes from it in her work. own works. In 1838, she played a pivotal role in the publication of an edition of Percy Shelley’s collected works, insisting on including an unexpurgated version of “Queen Mab.” Mary received £500 for editing the “Poetical Works” (1838), incorporating extensive biographical notes about the poems despite Sir Timothy’s objection to a biography.
Remaining true to her mother’s feminist principles, Mary Shelley provided assistance to women society deemed unacceptable. She financially supported Mary Diana Dods, helping her assume a new identity as Walter Sholto Douglas, the husband of her lover Isabel Robinson. Mary also aided Georgiana Paul, who faced societal disapproval for alleged adultery, documenting her actions in her diary.
Mary continued to approach potential romantic relationships cautiously. In 1828, she flirted with the French writer Prosper Mérimée, but her surviving letter appears to deflect his declaration of love. Her friendship with Edward Trelawny, rekindled upon his return to England, underwent strains due to Her declined collaboration for his suggested biography of Percy Shelley.Mary also indicated feelings for the radical politician Aubrey Beauclerk in her journals, but he disappointed her by marrying others.
Throughout these years, Mary Shelley’s primary concern remained the welfare of her son, Percy Florence. Honoring Percy Bysshe Shelley’s wish, she ensured Percy Florence attended public school with the grudging support of Sir Timothy. Despite Percy Florence’s education at Trinity College, Cambridge, and his foray into politics and law, he did not display the exceptional talents of his parents.
Mary Shelley Death
In the years 1840 and 1842, Mary Shelley embarked on journeys across the continent accompanied by her son. These travels, meticulously documented by Mary, unfolded through Germany and Italy and later found expression in her work titled “Rambles in Germany and Italy in 1840, 1842 and 1843” (1844). These writings provided a vivid account of their experiences during those years.
The year 1844 marked a significant turning point as Sir Timothy Shelley, Mary’s father-in-law, passed away at the age of ninety. Mary poignantly described his death as him “falling from the stalk like an overblown flower.” With his demise, Mary and her son found themselves for the first time in a state of financial independence. However, the estate’s actual value fell short of their expectations, revealing the complexities of their newfound financial autonomy.In the mid-1840s, Mary Shelley faced the unsettling challenge of dealing with three separate instances of blackmail. In 1845, an Italian political exile named Gatteschi, with whom she had crossed paths in Paris, threatened to expose letters she had sent him. Acting swiftly, a friend of her son managed to bribe a police chief, resulting in the seizure of Gatteschi’s papers, including the potentially damaging letters. Subsequently, the letters were destroyed, averting the threat of their publication.
Around the same time, Mary Shelley encountered another peculiar situation when she acquired letters purportedly written by herself and Percy Bysshe Shelley. These letters were being offered by an individual who identified himself as G. Byron, claiming to be the illegitimate son of the late Lord Byron. In 1845, she made the decision to purchase these letters, perhaps as a precautionary measure to prevent any misuse or misrepresentation.
Adding to the series of challenges, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s cousin, Thomas Medwin, approached Mary in the same year. Medwin claimed to have authored a potentially damaging biography of Percy Shelley and offered to suppress it in exchange for £250. In a display of resilience, Mary Shelley chose to reject this proposition, refusing to succumb to the financial demands placed upon her.In 1848, a significant event unfolded in Mary Shelley’s family as her son, Percy Florence, tied the knot with Jane Gibson St John. The marriage blossomed into a happy union, and Mary formed a warm bond with her daughter-in-law, Jane. Together, they resided in various locations, including Field Place in Sussex, the ancestral home of the Shelleys, and Chester Square in London. Mary accompanied them on their travels abroad, contributing to a period of shared joys and familial togetherness.
Unfortunately, Mary Shelley’s later years were marred by persistent illness. Starting in 1839, she grappled with recurring headaches and bouts of paralysis in different parts of her body, at times hindering her ability to engage in reading and writing.
On February 1, 1851, at the age of fifty-three, Mary Shelley passed away at Chester Square. Her physician suspected a brain tumor as the cause of her demise. Prior to her death, Mary had expressed a wish to be buried alongside her mother and father. However, Percy Florence and Jane, dissatisfied with the St Pancras graveyard, opted instead to lay her to rest at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth, near their newly acquired home in Boscombe.
On the first anniversary of Mary Shelley’s passing, Percy Florence and Jane opened her box-desk. Inside, they discovered poignant mementos, including locks of hair from her deceased children, A notebook she had jointly used with Percy Bysshe Shelley and a duplicate of his poem “Adonaïs.” Notably, one page of the poem was folded around a silk parcel containing some of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ashes and the remnants of his heart. This poignant discovery served as a testament to the enduring connection between Mary and her late husband.
Mary Shelley Net Worth And Income
Mary Shelley, hailing from the United Kingdom, stands as one of the most affluent novelists in the literary realm. As per our comprehensive analysis, drawing insights from reputable sources such as Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider, Mary Shelley’s net worth is estimated at a substantial $5 million.
Mary Shelley Age
Regrettably, Mary Shelley succumbed to brain cancer On the 1st of February, 1851, when she was 53 years old. However, nearly a century following her untimely departure, one of her novels, “Mathilde,” began to gain recognition.