Mary Wollestoncraft Godwin was born in 1797, into a profoundly literary heritage.  Her mother and namesake, who died of related complications shortly after the birth of her daughter, was a prolific writer and outspoken advocate of gender equality, well known since publishing her pro-revolutionary Vindication of the Rights of Men in 1790.  William Godwin, her father, was a popular novelist and radical political philosopher who provided her with an unusually extensive education for a girl of the time.  During Mary's childhood her father ran an unprofitable publishing firm with his second wife, the family subsisting partly on donations from wealthy admirers of his libertarian writings.  Amongst these was an idealistic young aristocrat named Percy Bysshe Shelley who, estranged from his wife Harriet due to a previous affair, swiftly embarked on a fresh one with Godwin's 17-year-old daughter. 

   Living with her half-sister Jane Clairmont, the couple weathered the scorn of their respective families, and by 1816 Mary's two pregnancies had produced one premature birth, and a healthy son named William.  In May of that year, all four travelled to Lake Geneva to summer with celebrated philanderer and poet George Byron, whose affair with Clairmont had left her pregnant.  It was during this crucial trip that Mary would conceive the central events of Frankenstein; intended as her submission to a competition of short gothic tales, it would grow into a complete novel over the next two years.  During this time both Mary's elder half-sister Fanny Imlay and Harriet Shelley committed suicide only months apart, the former with an overdose of laudanum, and the latter by drowning herself in London's Serpentine.  Judged morally unfit to receive custody of the two children born to his first wife, Percy was nevertheless free to make Mary his second – she gave birth to their third child, Clara, the same year.  Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus was published anonymously in 1818, to mixed critical reaction and popular acclaim.  It has never ceased to be Shelley's best-known work, adapted for the stage more than once in her lifetime, and given a variety of different forms since her death.

   The family lived a nomadic existence in various parts of Italy for the next four years, during which time Mary Shelley produced a number of works spanning prose and drama, the fictional and the historical.  The period was one of deep loss as well as creative productivity, with two of the Shelleys' three children succumbing to disease.  Mary's bereavement culminated in the death of her husband, along with two other men, in a boating accident off the northwest coast in 1822.  On returning to England with her only surviving child, Percy Florence, she supported them both along with her ageing father.

Besides editing and championing her husband's poems she published many more works of her own in the following decades, most of which have until recently been entirely eclipsed by her first novel's success.  Her final years, spent living and travelling with her son and daughter-in-law, were blighted by symptoms of the malignant brain tumour which would kill her in 1851.  She was buried near the couple's new home in Bournemouth, along with the relocated remains of her parents. 

Online editions of other works:

Semi-autobiographical romance 'Mathilda', (1820)

Verse dramas 'Prosperpine', and 'Midas' (1820) 

Historical novel 'Valperga', (1823)

Semi-autobiographical apocalyptic science-fiction 'The Last Man', (1826)

Historical novel 'The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck', (1830)

Short science-fiction love story 'The Mortal Immortal', (1833)

Familial drama 'Lodore', (1835)

Final novel 'Falkner', (1837)

Biographical encyclopedia series 'Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men', (1835-1839)

'Notes to the Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley', (1839)


And for her husband: