Mary Shelley (Frankenstein)

FrankensteinsMonsterBest known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein or the modern Prometheus, the English Novellist, short story writer essayist, biographer and travel writer Mary Shelley (née Wollstonecraft Godwin) was born 30 August 1797. She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her father was the political philosopher William Godwin, and her mother was the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who died when her daughter was eleven days old, so she and her older half-sister, Fanny Imlay, were reared by her father.

When Mary was four, William Godwin married his neighbour, Mary Jane Clairmont. Godwin provided his daughter with a rich, if informal, education. In 1814, Mary Godwin began a romantic relationship with one of her father’s political followers, the married Percy Bysshe Shelley. Together with Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, they left for France and travelled through Europe. In 1816, the couple famously spent a summer with Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont near Geneva, Switzerland, where Mary conceived the idea for her novel Frankenstein. which remains popular to this day and has been adapted for theatre, Film and Television numerous times. During her prolific writing career Shelley also wrote the historical novels Valperga (1823) and Perkin Warbeck (1830), the apocalyptic novel The Last Man (1826), and her final two novels, Lodore (1835) and Falkner (1837). Together with lesser-known works such as the travel book Rambles in Germany and Italy (1844) and the biographical articles for Dionysius Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopaedia (1829–46)

Upon their return to England, Mary was pregnant with Percy’s child, who tragically died prematurely. They married in 1816 after the suicide of Percy Shelley’s first wife Harriet. Sadly the marriage was dogged with tragedy, their first second and third children died before Mary Shelley gave birth to her last and only surviving child, Percy Florence. Then n 1818 The Shelleys left Britain for Italy, sadly In 1822, her husband drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm near Viareggio. year later, Mary Shelley returned to England and from then on devoted herself to the upbringing of her son Percy and a career as a professional author.

During 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 (1844). In 1844, Sir Timothy Shelley finally died at the age of ninety. In 1848, Percy Florence married Jane Gibson St John. The marriage proved a happy one, and Mary Shelley and Jane were fond of each other. Mary lived with her son and daughter-in-law at Field Place, Sussex, the Shelleys’ ancestral home, and at Chester Square, London, and accompanied them on travels abroad and in order to fulfil Mary Shelley’s wishes, Percy Florence and his wife Jane had the coffins of Mary Shelley’s parents exhumed and buried with her in Bournemouth. In the mid-1840s, Mary Shelley found herself the target of three separate blackmailers. In 1845, an Italian political exile called Gatteschi, whom she had met in Paris, threatened to publish letters she had sent him. 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 and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s cousin Thomas Medwin approached her claiming to have written a damaging biography of Percy Shelley.

Mary Shelley’s last years were blighted by illness. From 1839, she suffered from headaches and bouts of paralysis in parts of her body, which sometimes prevented her from reading and writing. She died On 1 February 1851, at Chester Square, at the age of fifty-three from what her physician suspected was a brain tumour. According to Jane Shelley, Mary Shelley had asked to be buried with her mother and father; but Percy and Jane, judging the graveyard at St Pancras to be “dreadful”, chose to bury her instead at St Peter’s Church, Bournemouth, near their new home at Boscombe.On the first anniversary of Mary Shelley’s death, the Shelleys opened her box-desk. Inside they found locks of her dead children’s hair, a notebook she had shared with Percy Bysshe Shelley, and a copy of his poem Adonaïs with one page folded round a silk parcel containing some of his ashes and the remains of his heart.

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