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Photo from book jacket for Mary Shelley by Mirando Seymour
Photo from book jacket for Mary Shelley by Miranda Seymour

MARY SHELLEY

She never knew the notorious feminist mother who died ten days after her birth.

She married two weeks after her husband's first wife committed suicide.

She gave birth to four children: 3 died by age three.

She was challenged to write a ghost story when she was just 18.

Mary Shelley, created the novel Frankenstein!

 

Literary History A Web guide to Mary Shelley. Thanks to Jan Pridmore of Literary History.com

 
 

Online full text of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). Thanks to the University of Virginia Library.

 
  The Last Man, by  Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 1797-1851. Full text thanks to the University of Virginia Library.
 

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley chronology thanks to Richard Harrison, UCF Librarian.


1797 [Age 0-1] William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft marry on March 29. Both Godwin and Wollstonecraft are famous radical writers and publishers of their day. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Shelley) is born August 30 in London. Her mother, Mary, dies ten days later.

1801   [Age 4] William Godwin marries Mrs. Mary Jane Clairmont on December 21. Mrs. Clairmont’s children, Charles, age 7, and Jane (later called Claire), age 4, join the Godwin family along with Mary and her half-sister, Fanny Imlay, daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft by Gilbert Imlay.

1812   [Age 14-15] Percy Bysshe Shelley, recently married to Harriet Westbrook, starts a correspondence with Mary’s father, William Godwin, whose ideas he admires. Shelley becomes a regular visitor to the Godwin house during Mary’s absence. She has gone to stay with the Baxter family in Dundee, Scotland, but meets Percy and Harriet on a brief visit home on November 11.

1814   [Age 16-17] Mary returns home in May and begins relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley. On July 28, they elope to France. Mary and Percy return to England in September. Harriet Shelley gives birth to a second child, Charles, on November 30.

1815   [Age 17] Mary gives premature birth in February to a daughter who dies, unnamed, several days later.

1816   [Age 18-19] Mary gives birth to a son, William, on January 24. Percy, Mary, and William, along with Mary’s half-sister, Claire, leave England for Italy, then Geneva, Switzerland, in early May. They meet George Gordon, Lord Byron, with whom Claire has formed a liaison. Mary begins to write Frankenstein in June or July. In September, they return to England. Fanny Imlay, Mary’s other half-sister, commits suicide on October 9. On December 15, news reaches Mary and Percy that Harriet Shelley has committed suicide, her pregnant body found in the Serpentine River five days earlier. Mary and Percy marry in London on December 30.

1817   [Age 19-20] In early March, the Shelleys, along with Claire and her daughter by Byron, Allegra, move to the English countryside, in Marlow. On May 14, Mary completes the Frankenstein manuscript. Mary gives birth to a daughter, Clara, on September 2. A book by Mary and Percy, History of a Six Weeks’ Tour Through a Part of France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland: With Letters Descriptive of a Sail around the Lake of Geneva, and of the Glaciers of Chamouni, is published anonymously in London.

1818   [Age 20-21] Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus is published in three volumes in London on January 1. Mary, Percy, Claire and the children leave for Italy on March 11. They visit Byron in Venice. Baby Clara dies in Venice on September 24. In December the Shelley party travel to Rome and settle in Naples for the winter.

1819   [Age 21-22] The Shelleys return to Rome. Son William Shelley dies on June 7. In August, Mary begins writing a semi-autobiographical novella, Mathilda, the theme of which is father-daughter incestuous love, not published until 1959. On November 12, Mary gives birth to a son, Percy Florence. He will be the only Shelley child to survive.

1821   [Age 23-24] The Shelleys move to Pisa in October, with Byron as a neighbor. Mary completes her novel Castruccio, Prince of Lucca, which is retitled by Mary’s father, William Godwin, as Valperga. She also writes two mythological dramas, Proserpine and Midas.

1822   [Age 24-25] On June 16, Mary miscarries and almost dies from the resulting hemorrhaging. In July, the first translation of Frankenstein is published in France. Percy Bysshe Shelley and Edward Williams sail to Leghorn on July 1 to meet the poet Leigh Hunt, but are lost at sea in a storm on the return journey; their bodies are found ten days later. Mary begins work in September to transcribe Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetry in preparation for a posthumous collection.

1823   [Age 25-26] Valperga is published in February. The second edition of Frankenstein is published in two volumes on August 11. Also in August Mary returns to London with her son, Percy Florence. A play by Richard Brinsley Peake, Presumption; or The Fate of Frankenstein, opens at the English Opera House for a 37-performance run; this is just one of several plays written and performed at this time on the Frankenstein theme.

1824   [Age 26-27] Mary begins work on The Last Man, a narrative set in the twenty-first century of the last survivor of a worldwide plague. Lord Byron dies in Greece on April 19. Mary’s edition of Percy Shelley’s Posthumous Poems is published in London, with a preface by her. The publication is suppressed when Percy’s father, Sir Timothy Shelley, threatens to discontinue support of grandson Percy Florence Shelley. Mary agrees not to publish any of Percy’s writings in Sir Timothy’s lifetime.

1825   [Age 27-28] Mary refuses a marriage proposal from American actor and playwright John Howard Payne.

1826   [Age 28-29] The Last Man is published in February. Percy Florence Shelley becomes heir to the Shelley title and estate when Charles Bysshe, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s son by Harriet, dies.

1830   [Age 31-33] Mary’s fourth novel, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck: A Romance, is published.

1832   [Age 34-35] Percy Florence enters boarding school at Harrow.

1835   [Age 37-38] The first volume of the Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of Italy, Spain, and Portugal for Lardner’s The Cabinet of Biography appears. Mary contributes articles on the lives of Petrarch, Boccaccio, and Machiavelli. In April, the novel Lodore is published in London and is attributed to "The Author of Frankenstein." Late that year, the second volume of Lives is published, with articles on Alfieri, Goldoni, and others attributed to Mary.

1836   [Age 38-39] Mary’s father, William Godwin, dies on April 7.

1837   [Age 39-40] Falkner, Mary’s last novel, is published. In October, Percy Florence matriculates to Trinity College, Cambridge

1839   [Age 41-42] Mary publishes, with the permission of Sir Timothy Shelley, an edition of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Poetical Works. Sir Timothy’s one proviso is that Mary cannot write a biography of Percy, but she circumvents this by including biographical material in the notes to the poems. Also, Percy’s Essays, Letters, and Translations are published.

1844   [Age 46-47] A book based on Mary’s European tours with Percy Florence and his friends between 1840 and 1843, Rambles in Germany and Italy, is published in two volumes in London. Sir Timothy Shelley dies on April 24 and grandson Percy Florence inherits the title and estate.

1845   [Age 47-48] Two attempts to blackmail Mary with letters she had written are thwarted.

1849   [Age 50-51] The play Frankenstein; or The Model Man, by William and Robert Brough, opens at the Adelphi Theatre, London, for a run of 26 performances.

1850   [Age 53] On February 1, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley dies at her home in London. Lady Jane Shelley, Percy Florence’s spouse, arranges for the remains of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin to be moved to the St. Peter’s Churchyard, Bournemouth. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is buried between her parents.

1889   Percy Florence Shelley, the son of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley, dies on December 5.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Chronology thanks to the Romantic Circles website, hosted by the University of Maryland.

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