Mary Shelley (born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin) was the daughter of William Goodwin, a political writer, and Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the first women standing out as a feminist. Unfortunately, the girl didn’t get to know her mother because Mary Wollstonecraft died soon after giving birth to her. She and her half-sister (born out of the affair of Shelley’s mother with another man) were raised by Godwin, who did his best taking care of the girls.
The writing was a way for Shelly to escape the hardships of reality and enjoy the world of her imagination. Even though the majority of people know her only as the author of Frankenstein, she wrote many other interesting horror novels and stories. Since mystery and tragedy had always been part of her life, it wasn’t surprising that she achieved success as a writer of dark horror novels.
Today, we decided to share with our readers 8 interesting facts about Mary Shelley. Let’s see what these facts are…
Mary Shelley: 8 interesting facts about the author of Frankenstein
1. Mary Shelley neither attended school nor received any formal education
The death of her mother left William Godwin in deep grief. Even though he tried to provide his girls with everything they needed, the family often had financial problems. Due to the lack of money, Shelley couldn’t attend school. However, she had access to the big library of her father that provided her with a broad scope of knowledge. Besides, the girl often spent time in the company of Aaron Burr and Samuel Coleridge, who contributed to her education.
Upon realizing that he is unable to raise two girls alone, Godwin married for the second time. Unfortunately, Shelley failed to become close friends with her stepmother who had 2 children of her own. In order to escape possible conflicts with her, she often spent time reading books borrowed from the father’s library, an interesting fact about Mary Shelley.
2. Shelley’s husband was married when they met and fell in love with each other
Mary Godwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley met when she was 16 years old. Unable to hide their love, the couple told William Godwin about their plans to be together. Despite the fact that Bysshe Shelley admired Goodwin, the latter was strongly against their relationships. Why? The relationships between the two were impossible because Bysshe Shelley was a married man.
Godwin’s disapproval didn’t stop the couple. In 1814, soon after unofficially separating with Harriet Shelley, Percy Shelley and Mary Godwin escaped to France.
3. Mary Shelley’s father was suspected of killing the first wife of her husband
Upon returning to England in September 1814, Shelley received a letter from her father stating that he didn’t want to do anything with her. Nevertheless, when Bysshe Shelley’s wife Harriet was found dead in 1816, he was suspected to have killed her. Whether or not he really did it would stay forever unknown.
There is only one thing that can be said for sure: the death of Harriet left Bysshe Shelley free to marry again. Mary Godwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley married in December 1816.
4. She started writing Frankenstein as part of a contest
The novel that became a best-seller began as a short story written for a contest. In spring 1816, Goodwin and Shelley went to Switzerland together with Godwin’s stepsister Claire Clairmont, the lover of Lord Byron. Byron arrived at the end of May with his friend, physician John Polidori.
Unfortunately, they often had to stay at home due to bad weather. Therefore, they tried to find ways to entertain themselves. The best offer came from Byron, who suggested them to compete and see who could write the best ghost story.
An interesting fact about Mary Shelley is that the short story that she won the competition with would later be expanded into the Frankenstein horror novel.
5. Shelley claimed that the idea for the Frankenstein horror novel came to her in a dream
After the horror novel was published, Shelley said that its original idea came to her in a dream. She added that she saw a pale student who managed to create a kind of a monster with terrifying yellow eyes.
When she woke up, she realized that that was the story she was looking for. What she saw scared her so much that she never doubted that the story would terrify readers as well.
6. Shelley’s Frankenstein was published anonymously
The book was published anonymously in 1818. Due to the fact that the preface to the book was written by Percy Shelley, everyone believed that he was the one who had written it. Only in 1823, when the book gained popularity, Mary Shelley published it under her name, an interesting fact about Mary Shelley.
7. She lost 3 of her 4 children
Percy Florence was the only child of Shelley who survived childhood. Her other 3 children died before their first birthdays.
The death of her daughter, who was only 6 weeks old, caused deep depression and great suffering. In one of her letters to a friend, Shelley expressed the idea of how great it would be to be able to bring people back from dead. Probably, this idea of hers also contributed to her most popular novel.
8. She kept the heart of her husband till the day she died
Percy Shelley died in a storm. Mary Shelley ordered to burn his body that was found only 10 days after his death. The interesting thing is that his heart didn’t burn. Shelley took the heart of the person she loved most of all and kept it with her until her own death. The remains of the heart were discovered by her son when he was emptying her desk.
After Shelley’s only son graduated from Trinity College, he came back to live with her. Even though she missed Percy Shelley a lot, she was never lonely. The marriage of her son didn’t change anything because Shelley and Jane Gibson became close friends.
Mary Shelley suffered from various illnesses starting from 1939. She also experienced bouts of paralysis that often left her unable to read or to write. She died in February 1851 at the age of 55.
I hope that this article on Mary Shelley facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Historical People Facts Page!