Study Guide

Mary Shelley Timeline

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Aug 30, 1797

Mary Shelley Born

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin is born in London. She is the only child of feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and the political philosopher William Godwin.

Sep 10, 1797

Mother Dies

Mary Wollstonecraft dies as a result of complications from childbirth.

Jan 1, 1970

Gains Step-Family

William Godwin marries a widow named Mary Jane Clairmont, who moves in with her two children, Charles and Claire.

Dec 19, 2019

Baby Brother Born

William and Mary Jane Godwin give birth to their only child together, William Godwin, Jr.

Dec 19, 2019

First Poem Published

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin's first poem, "Mounseer Nongtongpaw," is published by the press owned by her father and stepmother.

Jun 1, 1812

Moves to Scotland

To separate Mary from her stepmother, William Godwin sends his daughter to stay with the Baxter family in Dundee, Scotland. She stays there until November, becoming close friends with the Baxters' daughter Isabel.

Jun 1, 1813

Back to Scotland

Mary Godwin returns to the Baxters' home.

Mar 1, 1814

Meets Percy Shelley

Upon returning from Scotland, Mary Godwin meets Percy Bysshe Shelley, a young poet and an admirer of her father's who visits their home often. He also happens to be married to a woman named Harriet Westbrook, with whom he has one young daughter and another child on the way. Mary and Percy Shelley soon fall in love.

Jul 1, 1814

Elopes With Shelley

Sixteen-year-old Mary runs off with Percy Shelley to Europe. Her stepsister Claire Clairmont accompanies them. Mary Godwin becomes pregnant almost immediately. William Godwin is furious and refuses to see his daughter for the next two and a half years.

Sep 13, 1814

Returns to London

Mary Godwin, Claire Clairmont and Percy Shelley return to London. Mary is penniless, pregnant, and a social outcast due to her having run off with a married man. The couple is forced to live apart while Shelley goes into hiding to escape his creditors.

Feb 22, 1815

Gives Birth to Daughter

Mary Godwin gives birth to the couple's first child, a daughter named Clara. The baby is two months premature and dies only a few weeks after birth.

Jan 24, 1816

Gives Birth to Son

Mary Godwin gives birth to the couple's second child, William.

Jun 1, 1816

Conceives Frankenstein

The Shelleys take a summer holiday in Switzerland with Lord Byron and his pregnant lover Claire Clairmont. While stuck in the house one rainy afternoon, Lord Byron suggests a contest to see who can write the best ghost story. Shelley sketches the tale that becomes Frankenstein.

Oct 9, 1816

Fanny Godwin Dies

Mary Godwin's older half-sister Fanny Imlay Godwin commits suicide with an overdose of laudanum.

Dec 1, 1816

Shelley's Wife Dies

Shelley's wife Harriet Westbrook commits suicide by throwing herself into London's Serpentine River. She was pregnant with the couple's third child.

Dec 30, 1816


A pregnant Mary Godwin marries Percy Bysshe Shelley at St. Mildred's Church in London. She reconciles with her father.

Sep 2, 1817

Gives Birth to Daughter

Mary Shelley gives birth to her third child, a daughter named Clara Everina. Shortly after the birth she publishes a book about her 1814 elopement with Shelley entitled History of a Six Weeks' Tour.

Jan 1, 1818

Frankenstein Published

Frankenstein is published anonymously, to immediate and wild success.

Mar 1, 1818

Travels to Italy

The Shelleys travel to Italy in order to convince Lord Byron to give his estranged lover Claire Clairmont access their child. They remain in Italy for several years.

Sep 24, 1818

Daughter Dies

Clara Everina contracts dysentery and dies in Italy.

Jun 7, 1819

Son Dies

The Shelleys' three-year-old son William dies of malaria in Italy. The couple now has no living children, though Mary is pregnant with their fourth.

Nov 12, 1819

Gives Birth to Son

Mary Shelley gives birth to the couple's son Percy Florence, the only one of their children to outlive his parents.

Jul 8, 1822

Percy Bysshe Shelley Dies

Percy Shelley drowns in the Gulf of Spezia while sailing with a friend. A devastated Mary Shelley has his body cremated.

Feb 19, 1823

Valperga Published

Shelley's novel Valperga is published.

Aug 25, 1823

Returns to England

Mary Shelley and her son Percy Florence arrive in Italy from England.

Apr 19, 1824

Lord Byron Dies

Lord Byron dies in Greece.

Dec 19, 2019

Shelley's Poems Halted

Mary Shelley begins editing a book of her late husband's poems for publication. She is forced to stop when her father-in-law threatens to cut off support to her and her son unless she pledges never to publish any of his son's works during his lifetime.

Jan 23, 1826

The Last Man Published

Shelley's novel The Last Man is published.

Dec 19, 2019

Half-Brother Dies

William Godwin, Jr., the son of Shelley's father and stepmother Mary Jane Clairmont, dies of cholera.

Apr 7, 1836

Father Dies

William Godwin dies in London.

Feb 1, 1837

Falkner Published

Shelley's novel Falkner is published.

Nov 1, 1839

Shelley's Poems Published

Mary Shelley edits and publishes the collected poems of her late husband Percy Bysshe Shelley. Percy Shelley's father agreed to the publication, so long as it contained no memoirs of his son. The following month she publishes a collection of Shelley's essays and assorted writing.

Oct 1, 1845

Blackmail Attempt

A man claiming to be Lord Byron's son threatens to publish letters allegedly written by Mary and Percy Shelley unless Mary Shelley buys them from him. She wins a court injunction to prevent him from doing so.

Feb 1, 1851

Mary Shelley Dies

Mary Shelley dies at her London home after a long illness, possibly caused by a brain tumor.

Feb 8, 1851


Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is buried in the graveyard of St. Peter's church in Bournemouth. Her parents' remains are moved from St. Pancras and buried on either side of her.

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