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Mary Shelley in England, 1822-51

Mary's return from Italy and life after Shelley’s death

‘for my own private satisfaction all I ask is obscurity’

Mary Shelley to E. J. Trelawny, 1837

In the months after Shelley’s death Mary brooded in solitude, confiding her most private thoughts to a ‘Journal of Sorrow’. ‘How long do you think I shall live?' she asked a friend, 'As long as my mother? Then eleven long years must intervene.' Her one wish was to live quietly in Italy with her surviving son, Percy Florence.

Lack of money, however, forced her to return to England, where she raised her son on a meagre allowance from Shelley's father, Sir Timothy. Like her parents, Mary earned what she could from her pen. Though she never equalled the popular success of Frankenstein she developed her own distinctive literary voice and built up an impressive body of work, from journalism and travel writing to biography and five more novels.

'I can never cease for a second to have him (Shelley) in my heart and brain with a clearness that mocks reality', Mary wrote shortly after Shelley's death, 'interfering even by its force with the functions of life'. She remained haunted by their years together, and kept precious relics close by her as tangible reminders of the past.

Object details

Bodleian Libraries

Broad Street

Oxford

OX1 3BG