Monday, July 28, 2014

Percy Shelley and Mary Wollencraft Godwin Eloped (July 28, 1814)

On this date in English literary history - July 28, 1814, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley eloped with 17-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, despite the fact that he was already married. Shelley, the heir to his wealthy grandfather's estate, was expelled from Oxford when he refused to acknowledge authorship of a controversial essay. He eloped with his first wife, Harriet Westbrook in 1811. However, just a few years later, he fell in love with the young Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, daughter of a prominent reformer and early feminist writer. Shelley and Godwin fled to Europe, marrying after Shelley's wife committed suicide in 1816. His small inheritance was not enough to pay all their bills and the couple spent much of their married life abroad, fleeing creditors. While living in Geneva, their good friend Lord Byron challenged them to each write a compelling ghost story. Only Mary Shelley finished hers, which became the classic Frankenstein. The Shelley’s would have five children together but only one would live to adulthood. After Percy Shelley drowned in a sailing accident on July 8, 1822, Mary edited two volumes of his works. She lived on a small stipend from her father-in-law, Lord Shelley, until her surviving son inherited the entire fortune and title in 1844. She died on February 1, 1851, at the age of 53 and although she was a respected writer for many years, only Frankenstein and her journals are still widely read.

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that includes Literary Legends of the British Isles: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. The book was a “Finalist” in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Visit the author’s website for more information. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: 

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