Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mary Shelley's Parents were married - 1797

William Godwin
Mary Wollenstonecraft


On this date in English literary history - March 29, 1797, Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the earliest and most eloquent proponents of women's rights, married William Godwin, the most famous radical reformer of his time. Wollstonecraft, who had been raised by a tyrannical, abusive, and alcoholic father, was philosophically opposed to marriage, as was Godwin. However, the two decided to marry after Wollstonecraft became pregnant with his child. The baby girl was Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein and wife of poet Pierce Bysshe Shelley. Wollstonecraft supported herself from age 19 as a companion, governess, and teacher. When her sister fled an unhappy marriage, Wollstonecraft took her in and hid her for months from her abusive husband, who had the legal right to force his spouse to return to him. The two, along with another sister, started a school. Initially a success, the school eventually went bankrupt and left Wollstonecraft burdened with debt. At age 27, Wollstonecraft published a semi-autobiographical novel and a children's book, the latter of which became a smashing success. She began publishing book reviews in a journal of political reform and writing social criticism. In 1790, she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Man, about the French Revolution. Two years later, she produced A Vindication of the Rights of Women, a coolly reasoned, well-balanced argument for women's rights, published at a time when women had no rights or property of their own. A supporter of the ideals behind the revolution, she moved to France in 1793, where she fell in love with an American man. After she gave birth to his child, he abandoned her. Depressed, she tried unsuccessfully to kill herself. She returned to London and became part of an influential group of radical intellectuals. In 1796, she fell in love with William Godwin, a well-known writer who associated with the same circles. The couple married when they discovered she was pregnant and lived happily for six months-until Wollstonecraft died on September 10, 1797, several days after giving birth to their daughter.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include Literary Legends of the British Isles: The Lives & Burial Places of 50 Great Writers (2013, Schiffer). The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:

No comments:

Post a Comment