Books interview with Fiona Sampson: “Mary never shook off the consequences of eloping with Shelley”

Two hundred years after the publication of Frankenstein, Fiona Sampson speaks to Ellie Cawthorne about the extraordinary and unconventional life of its author, Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley, aged about 43. Widowed at 24, Mary "had to make a literary career for herself, without much help", says Fiona Sampson. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the January 2018 edition of BBC History Magazine

In Context

Mary Shelley was born in 1797 to anarchist writer William Godwin and feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft. Aged 16, her life changed course dramatically when she eloped with the married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Two years later in 1816, she began her first and most famous novel, Frankenstein. She and Shelley were married following the suicide of his first wife and lived mostly in Europe until 1822 when Percy drowned in a boating accident. A widow at 24, Mary returned to London with her one surviving son where she continued to write and edit novels, travelogues and poetry until her own death in 1851, aged 53.

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