Mary Shelley

British Woman Writer

Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Mary Shelley is known for writing the novel Frankenstein; married to the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. She was born on August 30, 1797 and lived until February 1, 1851.  Her full name was Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley.


Daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft (who died of complications from the birth) and William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was raised by her father and a stepmother. Her education was informal, as as typical of that time, especially for daughters.


In 1814, after a brief acquaintance, Mary eloped with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her father refused to speak with her for several years afterwards. They married in 1816, soon after Percy Shelley's wife committed suicide. After they married, Mary and Percy tried to get custody of his children but they failed to do so. They had three children together who died in infancy, then Percy Florence was born in 1819.

Writing Career

She's known today as a member of the Romantic circle, as the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, and as the author of the novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, published in 1818.

Frankenstein enjoyed immediate popularity upon its publication, and has inspired many imitations and versions, including many film versions in the 20th century. She wrote it when her husband's friend and associate, George, Lord Byron, suggested that each of the three (Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley and Byron) each write a ghost story.

She wrote several more novels and some short stories, with historical, Gothic or science fiction themes. She also edited an edition of Percy Shelley's poems, 1830. She was left to struggle financially when Shelley died, though she was able, with support from Shelley's family, to travel with her son after 1840. Her biography of her husband was unfinished at her death.


Marriage, Children

  • husband: Percy Bysshe Shelley (married 1816; poet)
  • children:
    • Percy Florence

Books About Mary Shelley:

  • Buss, Helen M. et al. Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley: Writing Lives. 2001.
  • Mellor, Anne K. Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters. 1989.
  • Seymour, Miranda. Mary Shelley. 2001.
  • Florescu, Radu R. In Search of Frankenstein: Exploring the Myths Behind Mary Shelley's Monster. 1997.
  • Schoene-Harwood, Berthold and Richard Beynon. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein - Columbia Critical Guides.
  • Shelley, Mary. Collected Tales and Stories. Charles E. Robinson, editor. 1990.
  • Shelley, Mary. Collected Tales with Original Engravings.
  • Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein: the 1818 Text: Contexts, Nineteenth-Century Responses, Modern Criticism - A Norton Critical Edition. 1996.
  • Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus. Angela Carter, introduction. 1992.
  • Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. The Last Man. 1973.
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Your Citation
Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Mary Shelley." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, August 26). Mary Shelley. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Mary Shelley." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 24, 2021).