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Early Life

1797 - 

1801 -

  • Mary's father, William Godwin, marries next-door neighbor Mary Jane Clairmont. She brings two children into the Godwin household, a son named Charles and a daughter named Jane (Claire Clairmont).

Blossoming Relationship with Percy Shelley

1812 -

  • November 11th: Mary returns from an educational stay in Scotland, and has her first meeting with one of her father's political disciples, Percy Bysshe Shelley. He is five years her senior, and unhappily married to Harriet Westbrook. Though Percy and Harriet have a child the following year, Percy spends an increasing amount of time away from his family and in the company of William Godwin

1814 -

  • May 5th: Sixteen-year-old Mary returns from a second trip to Scotland, and again meets twenty-one-year-old Percy Shelley.
  • June 26: Mary and Percy Shelley take frequent walks together to Mary Wollstonecraft's grave in St. Pancras graveyard. On one such trip, the two declare their love for each other. 
  • July 28th: Mary, Percy Shelley, and Claire Clairmont leave for France in the early hours of the morning in order to avoid William and Mary Jane Godwin's interruption. The three also travel to Switzerland and Germany.

Early Literary Career and Troubling Times

1815 -

  • February 22nd: Mary gives birth to her first daughter two months prematurely. The infant dies twelve days later.  

1816 -

  • January 24th: Mary gives birth to her first son, a boy named William, after her father. 
  • May 3rd: Nearly two years after their first tour abroad, Mary, Percy Shelley, and Claire Clairmont begin another trip: this time, to Lake Geneva, Switzerland, where they stay with Lord Byron. 
  • June 16th: After an intense waking dream at Lord Byron's villa, Mary begins writing her first novel, Frankenstein
  • October 9th: Fanny Godwin, Mary's half-sister, commits suicide. 
  • December 10th: Harriet Westbrook commits suicide.
  • December 30th: Mary and Percy Shelley marry and remain in London. 

1817 -

  • Mary and Percy Shelley begin their work on History of a Six Weeks' Tour. The work is a travel narrative compiled from letters, poems, and journals from their time in France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, and Lake Geneva.  
  • September 2nd: Mary gives birth to a third child, Clara.

1818 - For a detailed description of Mary's life from 1818 through 1823, please see Mary's Time in Italy.

1819 -

  • March: Mary helps translate Percy Shelley's manuscript of The Cenci; the couple settles in Rome.
  • June 7th: William Shelley dies; the couple moves to Leghorn. Though all of their children are deceased, Mary is once again pregnant. 
  • August: Mary begins writing her second novel The Fields of Fancy, later retitled as Matilda
  • November 12th: Mary gives birth to Percy Florence Shelley, her only child to live into adulthood.

Death of Percy Shelley and Growing Literary Output

1822 -

  • June 16th: Mary suffers a miscarriage and nearly dies, but is saved thanks to the quick thinking of her husband. 
  • July 1st: Percy Shelley and a friend sail to Leghorn in Tuscany in order to welcome their old friend, Leigh Hunt. 
  • July 8th: On the journey back, Percy Shelly's boat sinks, killing all three passengers on board. Mary is  devestated. 

1823 -

1824 -

  • June: Mary edits and publishes some of her husbands work in Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe ShelleyMary learns on June 23 that Percy's father, Sir Timothy Shelley, who has been supplying her with £100 per year to support Percy Florence Shelley, is displeased with the publishing and threatens to cut her off if she does not stop the distribution of the collection. Mary does so. 

1826 -

1835 -

  • February: Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of Italy, Spain, and Portugal, Vol 1, is published. Vol 2 follows in October, and Volume 3 comes two years later.
  • April 7th: Lodore is published. 

1836 -

Later Life

1837 -

  • February: Falkner is published. 

1838 -

  • July: Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of France, Vol 1, is published. Vol 2                comes in August of 1839.
  • August: Sir Timothy Shelley allows Mary to publish Percy Shelley's works once more. The only stipulation    is that they must contain no memoirs.

1839 -

  • January: Mary becomes and stays ill for the last years of her life. She experiences constant                      headaches and paralysis, making writing increasingly more difficult.

1840 -

  • June-January: Mary, Percy Florence Shelley, and his friends travel through France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.

1841 -

  • June 17th: Mary Jane Godwin dies.

1842 -

  • June-August: Mary and Percy Florence Shelley go on a second tour around the continent.

1844 -

  • April 24th: Sir Timothy Shelley dies; Percy Florence inherits the estate and the title of Baron.

1851 -

  • February 1st: Mary Shelley dies at 53 from a suspected brain tumor, and is buried between her                parents at St. Peter's Church in Bournemouth. 


All dates compiled from:

Bennett, Betty T. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: An Introduction. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1998. Print.

Garrett, Martin. Mary Shelley. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.

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