Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley: Writing Lives

By Helen M. Buss; D. L. Macdonald et al. | Go to book overview
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Introduction

“It is not singular that, as the daughter of two persons of distinguished literary celebrity, I should very early in life have thought of writing” (FMP 176): so Mary Shelley put it, with characteristic modesty. Anne K. Mellor, more boldly, has described Shelley as “the fruit of the most radical literary marriage of eighteenth-century England” (Mary Shelley 1). Her parents were William Godwin, philosopher and novelist, and Mary Wollstonecraft, educator, novelist, critic, philosopher, and travel writer. Yet Shelley's illustrious birth in 1797 was almost immediately overshadowed by a double disaster: Wollstonecraft's death, ten days after the delivery; and the hostile public reaction to Godwin's Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published the following year. Moreover, Shelley came to maturity in a historical moment of post-revolutionary despair very different from the moment of revolutionary optimism that had inspired her parents' most famous works.

The events of Wollstonecraft's and Shelley's lives are recorded in such modern studies as Claire Tomalin's The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft (1974), William St Clair's The Godwins and the

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