Percy & Mary Shelley Chronology & Historical ContextFrankenstein publication detail updated April 20, 2003
1789 [Main Page] [kitchen door menu]
Mary Wollstonecraft's The Female Reader is published under the
name Mr. Creswick.
July 14 - French Revolution begins.
November - Edmund Burke's Reflections on the French
March 13 - Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man is published and
is read and discussed so widely that it is reprinted eighteen times
during the year.
February 17 - Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man II is published,
to which the British government soon replies with an indictment of
treason. Paine flees to France where he argues against execution of
King Louis XVI and in favor of bannishment instead.
Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of Rights of Woman is
published. Reviews are favorable, with few exceptions, and a
second edition soon follows.
August 4 - Percy Bysshe Shelley is born. [Main Page] [kitchen door]
December - Mary Wollstonecraft travels to Paris for the purpose
of gathering material for a book on the French Revolution.
January - The King of France is executed.
February - William Godwin's Enquiry Concerning Political
Justice is published. War with France is declared.
Through much of the year - booksellers are prosecuted for selling
Thomas Paine's Rights of Man. link to letters concerning
October - Meeting of Edinburgh Convention is followed by arrests Paine's writings Age Of Reason: Introduction
of five delegates, who are sentenced to 14 years transportation.
Among them is Godwin's close friend, Joseph Gerrald, who dies
soon after being sent to Botany Bay. The Queen of France is
September - At the American embassy in Paris, Mary Wollstonecraft
registers as the wife of Gilbert Imlay, an American on business in Paris
she had met and with whom she fallen in love. Although the two had not
married, Mary's registration as the wife of an American is meant to shield
her from French suspicions that she is a British spy. It was during this
month that the French Republican calendar was introduced, which did
away with the seven day week, changed the names of months, and began
numbering years with this one as the first.
December 28 - With France now under the control of Robespierre,
Thomas Paine is imprisoned for having spoken against execution of King
1794 [Main Page] [kitchen door]
May - William Godwin's Caleb Williams is published.
May 12 - Thomas Hardy, shoemaker and founder of the
Corresponding Society, is arrested on the charge of high treason.
Arrests of ten others, also on charges of high treason, follow
within a few days.
May 14 - Fanny Imlay is born to Mary Wollstonecraft, who has been
pretending in France to be the wife of an American for sake of safety.
October 2 - Lord Justice Eyre's charge is delivered to grand jury.
October 10 - William Godwin's Cursory Strictures on the charge
delivered by Justice Eyre to the Grand Jury is published anonymously.
October 28 - The trial of Thomas Hardy begins, followed by the trials
of Tooke and Thelwall. In each case the jury returns a not guilty
verdict and the public celebrates. In Tooke's case deliberations last
less than ten minutes. The government releases the remaining prisoners
and the hundreds of signed warrants the government had readied are not
November 4 - With the fall of Robespierre, Thomas Paine is freed from
prison, where his health had deteriorated. He remains in France until
September 1 of 1802.
1795 [Main Page] [kitchen door]
Mary Wollstonecraft, having returned to London with
her daughter, makes a failed attempt at suicide as a result of her
having been abandoned by her lover, Gilbert Imlay.
June - Mary Wollstonecraft departs for Scandinavian countries,
where she acts as Gilbert Imlay's business representative.
October - Having returned to England, and having found Gilbert
had taken another lover, Mary attempts suicide for the second
time. She is again unsuccessful.
William Godwin's A Lover of Order pamphlet is published
Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason (the first part) is published. link to text of The Age of Reason
The Age of Reason was published first in France about the The Age Of Reason, Part I 1794-1796
time Paine was imprisoned there.
Mary Wollstonecraft's Letters Written during a Short Residence in
in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark is published. Mary becomes
reacquainted with William Godwin, but this time romantically.
Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason (the second part) is published.
Early January - French invasion of Ireland fails. The fleet of four dozen
French ships with 15,000 troops is forced to return to Brest after attempting
to land at Bantry Bay.
March 29 - William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, who is
five months pregnant, marry. There is ridicule directed at them,
by clergy especially, because both had been critical of the instution
of marriage in their writings. Friends were confused by their
marriage, as Mary had led them to believe that she had married
May 10 - British naval mutiny in Thames estuary.
April 16 - Spithead mutiny of British Channel Fleet.
August 30 - Mary Shelley is born.
September 10 - Mary Wollstonecraft dies of complications
arising from childbirth.
October 11 - British naval victory over Duch fleet
November - Coleridge begins composing The Rime of the
Proofs of a Conspiracy against All the Religions and Governments of
Europe, carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati,
and Reading Societies. Collected from Good Authorities by John Robison
published. (read by Godwin within a year)
Memoirs, Illustrating the History of Jacobinism by Abbe Barruel published.
(read by Godwin within a year)
May 23 - United Irish rebellion begins.
Mary Wollstonecraft's Memoirs, edited by William Godwin, is
August 27 - French forces under General Jean Humbert are victorious
at Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland.
September 8 - Humbert surrenders at Ballinamuck, County Longford, Ireland.
September 16 - French force lands briefly on Donnegal coast.
1799 [Main Page] [kitchen door]
William Godwin's St Leon is published.
December 21 - William Godwin and Mary Clairmont marry.
May - Napoleon is made consul for life.
October - France invades Switzerland.
William Godwin Jr. is born.
May - Napoleon is made emperor.
December - Spain declares war on England.
William and Mary Godwin enter the publishing business
with their Juvenile Library. William Godwin begins writing
books for children under the name Edward Baldwin.
1807 [Main Page] [kitchen door]
Godwin family moves into publishing company.
June 8 - Thomas Paine dies in New York City.
Napoleon seizes the Vatican archives.
The third vice president of the United States, Aaron Burr,
who had fled to Europe in 1807, after his arrest for treason
in 1807, is taken in by the Godwin family. The following year
the Godwins provide Burr with passage to New York, where
he practices law for a dozen years.
Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley), is sent to Ramsgate from May to
December in hopes her health will be improved. One of her
arms, affected by eczema, is sometimes kept in a sling.
Percy expelled from Oxford for refusing to answer questions
about the pamphlet The Necessity of Atheism.
August 25 - Percy Shelley elopes with Harriet Westbrook to
Scotland, taking out a marriage license in Edinburgh on August
January 4 - Percy Shelley introduces himself to
William Godwin in a letter.
February 24 - Percy Shelley's An Address to the Irish People is
published in Dublin, which pamphlet he hands to men in taverns,
people in the street, or tosses out of his window at pedestrians.
March - Percy Shelley investigated by postal authorities on
discovery of box of pamphlets and letters "dangerous to Government".
The Home Office is alerted.
Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley) stays with Baxter family near Dundee,
Scotland (six months). She travels as far north as Newburgh several
times with the Baxters.
August 19 - Near Barnstaple, Dan Healy, a young hired man and
member of Percy's houshold, is caught and arrested for putting up
posters, "Declaration of Rights" that Percy had had printed. Keeping
to the prearranged story Percy had suggested Dan use in such a
situation, Dan tells the authorities that he was given the posters
and instructions to put them up by men whom he had only met in
passing. A large fine (ten 20 pound fines, to be precise) is imposed for
dispersing papers without the name of the printer appearing on them,
which Percy is unable to pay. Dan remains in jail for some months.
1813 [Main Page] [kitchen door]
January - Percy orders the works of Spinoza, including Tractus
Theologico-politicus which he and Mary translate on and off from
at least as early as the fall of 1817.
Robert Owen is a frequent visitor to the Godwin's home in Skinner
Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley) stays with Baxters near Dundee,
Percy meets Harriet de Boinville, widowed February last, when her
husband was killed during Napoleon's retreat from Moscow.
Leigh Hunt is imprisoned for insulting the Prince Regent
May 5 or 6 - Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley) meets Percy Shelley
and they elope to France July 28 with Claire (Jane) Clairmont, Mary's
stepsister. Mary's stepmother follows them to France, but fails to
convince Claire to return to England and is not permitted to speak to
Mary. After a difficult journey through war-torn France, the three
arrive in Switzerland, but soon abruptly decide to return to England.
February 22 - Clara born prematurely to Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley)
and dies eleven days later.
June 18 - Napoleon is defeated at Waterloo.
1816 [Main Page] [kitchen door]
January 24 - William born is to Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley).
June 22 - While staying on Lake Geneva with Percy, Claire, and
Lord Byron, Mary has a dream inspiring Frankenstein and begins to
write the tale.
October - Having lost her teaching position due to the scandal of
Mary and Percy in an adulterous relationship, Fanny (Imlay) Godwin
had been invited to return to the Godwin household to live. There
financial difficulties caused her to see herself as an unnecessary
burden. Pretending to leave the Godwin household for the purpose of
visiting her maternal aunts in Ireland, she instead goes to Swansea,
where she commits suicide by taking poison.
November 9 - Harriet Shelley disappears from her lodgings in Chelsea.
Her body is discovered in the Serpentine River December 10 and
subsequently her death is declared suicide by drowning.
December - Mary and Percy marry.
Percy and Mary move into a house in Marlow. Frankenstein is accepted
by Percy's publisher. Clara Everina born to Mary (Everina is the name of
one of Mary's maternal aunts) Six Weeks' Tour is published.
March - Shelleys go to Italy. Their daughter Clara dies on the way to
Venice. March 11 Frankenstein is published. Two publishers turned
down Frankenstein, first Murray and then Charles Ollier. The latter
published a number of Percy's works. The former published Byron's
Child Harold. Richard Holmes on page 376 of his excellent book,
Shelley, The Pursuit, Quartet Books, 1974, gives the name of the
publisher accepting Frankenstein as Lackington, Allen and Co.,
while Leonard Wolf's The Essential Frankenstein, Plume Books,
New York, 1993, in facsimile on page 21 has the publisher as Lackington,
Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, Finsbury Square.
1819 [Main Page] [kitchen door]
June 7 - Mary and Percy's son, William, dies in Rome.
November 12 - Percy Florence Shelley is born.
The last year of persecution of publishers and booksellers of Thomas
Paine's works. In all about twenty-five were tried, many of whom
were sentenced to two or three years imprisonment.
The Shelleys move to Pisa. Mary writes Matilda and works on
The Shelleys move to Casa Magni. Mary has a miscarriage, followed
by hours of hemorrhaging. Percy saves her by treating her with an ice
July 8 - Percy drowns during a violent storm in the Gulf of Spezia
while sailing the Don Juan (a twenty-four foot boat) home to Mary
at Cas Magni after a visit with the Hunts.
Percy's body, much decomposed and having been fed upon by fish,
washes up on the shore and is cremated.
Mary moves to Geneva.
Frankenstein is published a second time by William Godwin. In this
edition Mary is identified for the first time as the author.
Mary returns to England where she is shunned by most. Valperga
published. Presumption (adaptation of Frankenstein) is presented
on London stage.
William Godwin is declared bankrupt and is forced to close
the Juvenile Library. Mary has given Valperga to her father for
the purpose of providing him with the means to paying his debts.
Mary supervises publication of Posthumous Poems by Percy,
angering Percy's father, Timothy Shelley.
Mary moves to Kentish Town.
Mary's Last Man is published and she begins writing stories for
September 23 - Mary enlists the assistance of John Howard Payne in
obtaining passports for Mr. & Mrs. Sholto Douglas without their having
to apply in person, which Mary says they would have to do in London.
Betty T. Bennett unravels the mystery of David Lyndsay & Sholto Douglas
in her book, Mary Diana Dods A Gentleman and a Scholar, Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1991.
1828 [Main Page] [kitchen door]
April 11 - Mary departs for Paris where she visits Mr. & Mrs. Sholto Douglas.
See entry for 1827. She arrives in Paris ill with onset of smallpox and does not
get out of bed until April 27. Mary meets Prosper Merimee and others with whom
she forms lasting friendships.
Mary assists her father and struggles with Percy's on behalf of her
son, Percy Florence Shelley, whose inheritance is in dispute.
Frankenstein is republished.
July 18, Monday 2 p.m. Mary Shelley hears Nicolo Paganini perform
"some of his most celebrated compositions". With the assistance of a
friend, Mary is able to attend the great virtuoso violinist's concert. She
reported to another friend that she delighted in Paganini more than she
could express. We include this because Mary was often accused of
being cold and unfeeling. Such glimpses as this lift the veil of her reserve.
September 8 - William Godwin, son of William Godwin and his second
wife and Mary's half brother, dies of cholera.
Percy Florence Shelley matriculates at Harrow.
Mary forms close friendship with Aubry Beauclerk
Mary completes vol I of Literary and Scientific Lives
July 25 - Coleridge dies.
1835 - Lodore is published.
- Willam Godwin dies.
1837 - Percy Florence Shelley goes to Cambridge.
1839 [Main Page] [kitchen door]
Mary supervises 4 volume Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe
Mary returns to Italy and visits Geneva and Paris
Mary Godwin (Marys Shelley's stepmother) dies.
Mary and Percy Florence travel to Germany and Italy.
Mary's Rambles in Germany and Italy is published.
Percy Florence Shelley's grandfather, Sir Timothy Shelley, dies,
and Percy inherits the title and fortune. Mary Shelley, her
constant financial struggle at an end, ceases writing.
Mary Shelley buys her first house and experiences early symptoms
Mary has back surgery
1848 Percy Florence Shelley marries.
1850 Mary and son and daughter-in-law visit Lake Como.
1851 [Main Page] [kitchen door]
February 1 - Mary Shelley dies of a brain tumor. She is buried near her
home at Bascombe, where her parents' remains were then moved. Percy
Shelley's heart, which had been removed and given to Mary prior to his
cremation, was buried with her.