• Weird History

Facts About Mary Shelley So Goth They Sound Made Up - But Aren’t

Mary Shelley, goth queen, is best-known for writing the dark story of Frankenstein. While fact and fiction are normally distant, the life of this brilliant gothic novelist was almost as dark and disturbing as the book itself.

Mary Shelley had a strange childhood that led to an unfortunate adult life with lots of twists and turns. It might not have been ideal for her to live through, but it sure is intriguing to any book lovers - much like the life of Lord Byron was. Here are some Mary Shelley facts that are so surreal they seem like they come straight out of her writing.

  • Photo: Richard Rothwell / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    As A Child, She Loved To Read By Her Mother's Grave

    Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, passed shortly after giving birth to her. This was an event that haunted Shelley for the remainder of her life. Since she didn't get to grow up beside her mother, she spent as much time near her mother's grave as possible.

    As literary critic Sandra M. Gilbert wrote, "Mary Shelley's only real 'mother' was a tombstone."

    At first, Shelley visited her mother's grave with her father, William Godwin. But after her father remarried, she continued to visit the site on her own. She spent a lot of time reading in the graveyard, often her mother's work, since her mother was also a talented author. 

  • Photo: Mary Shelley / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    She Started Writing 'Frankenstein' After A Rainy Day Spent Reading Ghost Stories

    Mary Shelley and her husband Percy were traveling around Europe when Shelley began writing Frankenstein. During a rainy day in Switzerland, the couple met up with Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron, and John Polidori. To pass the time, the group found themselves reading ghost stories amid the dreary weather.

    After a day of reading, Byron suggested that they should all try writing their own ghost stories. So, Shelley finally took the time to start writing Frankenstein, which later became her most famous novel. 

  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    She And Percy Bysshe Shelley May Have Gotten Intimate In A Cemetery

    Mary Shelley and future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley's first interactions often occurred in cemeteries, where Shelley clearly felt comfortable. Percy was an admirer of Shelley's father, but he and Shelley soon had a connection - despite her being 16 and him being 21. The two spent lots of time together in the graveyard where her mother was buried. 

    While Shelley's dad likely assumed she and Percy were simply going for walks and chatting among the graveyard, it seems that they did much more than just that. They declared their love for each other in the graveyard, which led to them having intimate relations for the first time in that very spot. 

  • Photo: Louis Édouard Fournier / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Her Life Was Marked By The Loss Of Her Loved Ones

    Mary Shelley suffered loss throughout her life. Not only did she have to say goodbye to her mother at such a young age, but she also struggled to be a parent herself. Of her five children, four of them perished shortly after birth. Percy Florence was her only child to live to be an adult.

    However, only a few years after that son was born, her husband drowned while sailing. This made Shelley a widow at only age 24. Supporting her son on her own was hard enough, but she refused to give up writing.

    Before her husband's passing, she also lost her half-sister Fanny, who took her own life.