MARY SHELLEY

  Mary Shelley was an English writer, novelist and biographer. She was born on 30 August 1797 in the family of William Godwin – a political philosopher and Mary Wollstonecraft who was also a philosopher and a feminist. Even though she lost her mother when she was only days old, Mary had a very good relationship with her father who encouraged her to read and learn – this way the little girl got a very good education.

  When she was 17 years of age, Mary started having a secret relationship with a friend of her father’s – Percy Bysshe Shelley – one of the most famous poets of the Romantic movement. Due to the fact that Percy Shelley was married at the time, Mary’s father tried to separate them. However, he did not succeed and the young couple left for France in the summer of 1814. The following years were very turbulent for Mary Shelley – her father broke off any contact with her, she got pregnant but lost her babies on a number of occasions and she did not have any money. To top all that, she was often unhappy in her relationship. In 1816 Mary and Percy spent their summer in Geneva, Switzerland, together with Lord Byron, one of the best Romantic poets. They enjoyed long conversations and writing and used to amuse themselves by spending time on a boat on lake Geneva. During that time Mary Shelley wrote her most famous novel ‘Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus’.

  The couple returned to England and Mary married Percy Bysshe Shelley in December 1816. Unfortunately, financial problems and Percy’s absence from home led to the decision to once again move to another country. This time the choice was Italy. They left in March 1818. During their stay there, Mary lost two more children so again she  sought solace in writing and reading. Percy Shelley regularly enjoyed the company of other women which had an effect on his wife – she was often depressed. Despite that, those years were very prolific for her – Mary Shelly wrote the autobiographical novel ‘Matilda’, a number of plays and the historical novel ‘Valperga’.

  In July 1822 Percy Bysshe Shelley died while sailing. Mary and her son had to endure serious financial difficulties. Still clearly in love with her husband, the young woman wanted and tried to publish more of his works. She also wrote numerous novels – ‘The Last Man’, ‘The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck’, ‘Lodore’, ‘Falkner’, travel narratives, stories for ladies’ magazines and continued to work on and edit her husband’s poems. She never remarried.

  After years struggling with her health, Mary Shelley died at the age of 53, on 1 February 1851. Today she is appreciated thanks to the sheer volume of novels, biographies and short stories. She is also considered a major figure of the Romanticism, a woman with an undeniable gift – the gift of writing!!

GALLERY

GLOSSARY

Romantic movement – the period from the late 18th to the mid-19th century. The romantics’ works are heavily influenced by the emotional, the personal, the irrational

absence – gone from home, lack

solace – consolation, comfort

prolific – creative, abundant

to endure – to tolerate, suffer, cope with

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