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The Mary Shelley Opera
Miniature by Reginal Easton [Bodleian Library, Oxford]

Biography of Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley , was born on August 30, 1797, the daughter of William Godwin, the philosopher, and Mary Wollstonecraft, the writer and social activist. She was the child of an unusual couple--humanists and freethinkers, they lived in separate establishments and married only a few days before she was born. Her parents were friends and colleagues, as well as lovers, and their relationship, as described in her parents' writings, became her own ideal. In a life beset by tragedy, it was perhaps the greatest tragedy of all that Mary never knew her mother, who died only ten days after she was born.
William GodwinMary Wollstonecraft
William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft

William Godwin adored his baby daughter. As the child of two famous parents, he believed she had been born with a special destiny. Nonetheless, bereft of the pleasures of home and companionship, he married again, to a widow with two daughters. Mary and her new stepmother had nothing in common, but she forged an alliance with one of her stepsisters, Clare Clairmont. Mary grew up adoring her father and idolizing her dead mother, striving, like them, to be a writer and an independent thinker. But unlike her father, she was also a fierce romantic, and spent many hours at her mother's grave side in the St. Pancras churchyard, reading and writing. She always claimed her happiest childhood hours were spent away from her stepfamily, visiting friends in Scotland, wandering the countryside and dreaming.