Mary Shelley Biography

Mary Shelley was an author of the Romantic era whose first novel is regarded a benchmark in English literature. This biography provides detailed information about her childhood, profile, career and timeline

Quick Facts

Birthday: August 30, 1797

Nationality: British

Famous: Quotes By Mary Shelley Feminists

Died At Age: 53

Sun Sign: Virgo

Also Known As: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Born in: Somers Town, London

Famous as: Novelist


Spouse/Ex-: Percy Bysshe Shelley

father: William Godwin

mother: Mary Wollstonecraft

siblings: Charles Clairmont, Claire Clairmont, Fanny Imlay, William Godwin the Younger

children: Clara Everina Shelley, Percy Florence Shelley, William Shelley

Died on: February 1, 1851

place of death: Chester Square

City: London, England

More Facts

education: University of Oxford

awards: Nebula Award for Best Script - 1976
Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation - 1975

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Mary Shelley was most renowned for her fictional writing and the ghastly themes she employed in her novels. She was born to parents who were literarily as well as politically active. Her mother was a feminist and the author of ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’. However, Mary was not fortunate enough to get enriched by her mother’s knowledge as this feminist died soon after Mary was born. Mary had to go through tremendous psychological turmoil ever since her childhood when her father re-married and she encountered a step-mother who was unfair to her. However, she learnt to deal with all these disturbances by taking refuge in her writing and often spent her time dwelling in imagination. This helped her to overcome the mental stress which she was subjected to and also enhanced her imagination which is a pre-requisite of any fictional author. This writer did not have any formal education but was fortunate to live in the company of many literary geniuses like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, and P. B. Shelley. She penned her first novel ‘Frankenstein’, which is regarded as one of the best known horror stories till date. Her eloquent narration and detailed description grasp the readers’ attention and engross them into the novel. She has created some of the best ghostly characters of the fiction world.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • Mary Shelley was born on 30th August, 1797, to writer and philosopher William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, in Somers Town, London. She had a half-sister named Fanny Imlay and both of them were raised by William Godwin, after the death of their mother.
  • Later, her father married Mary Jane Clairmont who is believed to have been biased and did not advocate Mary’s education. However, Shelley managed to educate herself informally with the treasure of books her father’s library had.
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  • She also had the opportunity to be with literary stalwarts like William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who visited Godwin’s house when she was a child. She found refuge in writing when she wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of life. Her first poem ‘Mounseer Nongtongpaw’ was published in the year 1807.
  • In 1812, she visited her father’s acquaintance William Baxter’s house in Scotland, where she found homely environment which she never felt before. She visited there again the following year.
  • In 1816, inspired by the company of Lord Byron and Polidori she had during the vacation at Geneva, Switzerland, this creative writer began to draft her first novel ‘Frankenstein’ (The Modern Prometheus).
  • In 1817, this writer released a travelogue about her sojourn in Europe entitled ‘History of a Six Weeks’ Tour’ and at the same time, she continued to work on her horror novel.
  • ‘Frankenstein’ ( The Modern Prometheus) was published in 1818, which was Mary Shelley’s first novel but readers thought it to be Percy Bysshe Shelley’s creation because the introduction to the novel was written by him. Soon after its release, the novel became a bestseller and the same year, the Shelleys’ travelled to Italy.
  • After her husband’s tragic demise, she travelled to England and took to writing as a profession in order to earn a living. In 1823, she published her historical novel ‘Valperga’ (Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca).
  • In 1826, another novel by this writer ‘The Last Man’ was penned which is an apocalyptic science fiction novel. She published a few more novels such as ‘The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck’, ‘Lodore’ and ‘Falkner’.
  • She even worked towards protecting and upholding her husband’s literary pieces and position in the literary world. The collection ‘Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley’ and ‘The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley’ were published by Mary Shelley after the death of her husband P. B. Shelley.
  • This writer also wrote some articles for publications such as ‘Westminster review’and ‘The Keepsake’. Her travelogue ‘Rambles in Germany and Italy’ was published in the year 1844.
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  • ‘Mathilda’ was the second novel of this writer but it was published posthumously, after about a gap of a century, in the year 1959. This novel encompasses the themes of suicide and incest.
Major Works
  • Her first novel met with immense success soon after it was published and it remains to be a renowned literary piece till date. There have been many stage and screen adaptations of this novel.
  • Her other novels such as ‘The Last Man’ and, ‘Mathilda’ are also regarded as works of literary significance. All her works deal with different themes and have been regarded by many as great literary pieces.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • She and writer Percy Bysshe Shelley entered into a relationship in the year 1814, when Percy Bysshe Shelley was already married to Harriet. Mary and Percy’s relationship was not accepted by Godwin and the couple along with Mary’s half-sister Claire Clairmont went to France.
  • The couple faced a lot of problems including financial ones which forced them to return to England, and at that time Mary was already pregnant with an illegitimate child. In 1815, their child was born but did not live long. The following year, they travelled to Geneva along with Claire Clairmont and were accompanied by Lord Byron and Polidori in their vacation.
  • In 1816, Mary was grieved by her half-sister Fanny’s death and Percy’s wife Harriet also committed suicide the same year.
  • In December 1816, Mary and the eminent author Percy Bysshe Shelley married. However, the couple did not have an easy life, as their life was shrouded with tragedies.
  • They suffered the loss of three children and the fourth child Percy Florence was the only one to grow into an adult. Mary was struck with another shock when her husband P. B. Shelley met with a tragic death in the year 1822.
  • This author breathed her last on 1st February, 1851 at Chester Square after suffering for a long illness. She was apparently suffering from brain tumour as stated by doctors. Her resting place is at St. Peter’s church in Bournemouth, England.
  • Her novel ‘Frankenstein’ has inspired numerous movies such as 1994 film ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’ starring actor Robert De Niro and Branagh

See the events in life of Mary Shelley in Chronological Order

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- Mary Shelley Biography
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Last Updated
- September 25, 2017
Mary Shelley

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