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Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley, née Godwin (1797-1851), novelist, editor, reviewer, essayist, short-story writer. Her mother, the feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, died ten days after her birth, and she was brought up, and formidably well educated, by her father, the philosopher William Godwin. She eloped with the poet Shelley in 1814, and married him in 1816 after his first wife’s suicide. Only one of their four children survived. Her most famous work, begun when she was 18, is Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus (1818). After Shelley’s death in 1822 she largely supported her son through Harrow and Cambridge by her writing. She published four further novels: The Last Man (1826), Perkin Warbeck (1830), Lodore (1835) and Falkner (1837) (a fifth novel, Matilda, dealing with a father’s incestuous desire for his daughter, was completed in 1819 but not published until 1959). She also wrote numerous stories, essays and reviews, and contributed to Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopedia. Her editions of Shelley’s Poetical Works (1839) and of his Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translations and Fragments (1840) remain standard today. Her interest in, and doubts about, scientific experimentation, and her fascination with Promethean, or Faustian, ‘over-reaching’ (evident in Frankenstein) are reflected in The Mortal Immortal.