Years 1797-1816

A Chronology of the Life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: 1797-1816

|1797 |1801 |1803 |1805 |1807 |1808 |1812 |1813 |1814 |1815 |1816
1797 29 Mar Mary Wollstonecraft marries William Godwin in St. Pancras Church, London; Wollstonecraft has one daughter, Fanny (b. May 1794), by Gilbert Imlay. They live at 29, The Polygon, Somers Town. 
30 Aug Mary Wollstonecraft gives birth to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin.
10 Sep Mary Wollstonecraft dies from puerperal fever.
1801  21 Dec William Godwin marries Mary Jane Vial (also known as Clairmont), who has two children: Charles and Jane (later called Claire)
1803  28 Mar Mary Jane Godwin gives birth to William Godwin, Jr. 
1805    William Godwin and Mary Jane Godwin open M. J. Godwin & Co. Juvenile Library.
1807   The Godwin family moves to the headquarters of M. J. Godwin & Co. at 4 Skinner Street, Holborn.
1808    M. J. Godwin & Co. publishes Mounseer Nongtongpaw; or the Discoveries of John Bull on a Trip to Paris, a poem to which MWS contributes.
1812  7 Jun MWS goes to Dundee, Scotland, to live with the family of William Baxter, a friend of William Godwin. There, she forms her first close friendship with the Baxter's youngest daughter, Isabel. 
10 Nov MWS and Christy Baxter return to London for a visit.
11 Nov MWS possibly meets P. B. Shelley when he and Harriet dine with the Godwins.
1813 3 Jun MWS and Christy Baxter return to the Baxter's home in Scotland.
1814  30 Mar MWS returns home to London. Isabel Baxter has become engaged to her former brother in law, 48-year-old David Booth. 
May MWS and PBS possibly meet for the second time.
28 Jul MWS and PBS elope to France, accompanied by Claire Clairmont. William Godwin refuses any communication with his daughter for the next two and a half years.
Jul-Aug The three take a six-week tour through France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. While in Paris, they leave behind a box of papers. MWS will later suspect it to contain letters "George Byron" uses to blackmail her in 1845. 
13 Sep MWS, PBS, and Claire return from Switzerland to London.
27 Sep MWS, PBS, and Claire move to 5 Church Terrace, Pancras.
4 Oct MWS tries to contact Isabel Booth but is repudiated by David Booth. Possibly concerned over the illegality of his own marriage to his former sister-in-law, he refuses to let his wife see MWS. 
23 Oct-9 Nov PBS goes into hiding from his creditors; he and MWS live apart during this period. 
9 Nov MWS, PBS, and Claire move to 2 Nelson Square, Blackfriars Road.
14 Nov PBS introduces MWS to his Oxford friend, Thomas Jefferson Hogg. Shelley records in his journal that Hogg is "pleased with Mary."
30 Nov Charles Shelley born to PBS and Harriet Shelley, their second child.
1815  1 Jan T. J. Hogg, with Shelley's encouragement, declares his love to MWS. She reciprocates his affection, but not physically, due to her pregnancy. Shelley and Claire may also be conducting an affair over the next few months.
10 Jan  MWS, PBS, and Claire move to 4 Hans Place.
22 Feb MWS gives birth two months prematurely to daughter, Clara.
2 Mar MWS, PBS, and Claire move to 13 Arabella Road, Pimlico.
6 Mar MWS's premature daughter Clara dies.
Jun-Jul MWS and PBS travel through the south coast of Devonshire.
[4] Aug The couple moves to Bishopsgate, near the east entrance to Windsor Great Park. 
1816  24 Jan MWS gives birth to a son, William.
Apr Claire becomes Lord Byron's mistress; MWS meets Byron in London.
3 May MWS, PBS, their son William, and a pregnant Claire journey to Italy. Claire is pursuing Byron, who left England on 23 April. They are in Paris by 8 May, and arrive at the Hotel de Sécheron, Geneva, on 13 May.
27 May PBS meets Byron, who had recently arrived in Switzerland with his physician Dr. John W. Polidori. By June 1, MWS, PBS, Claire, and William move into Maison Chapuis.
10 Jun Byron rents the nearby Villa Diodati.
16-17 Jun MWS begins to write Frankenstein.
22-30 Jun Byron and Shelley undertake a boating tour of Lake Geneva.
21-27 Jul MWS, PBS, and Claire travel to Chamounix. MWS's description of this journey, as well as those Shelley made of his previous tour, provides material for Frankenstein
24 Jul MWS's journal entry reads "Write my story"; this is the first extant written reference to Frankenstein.
29 Aug MWS, PBS, William, and Claire leave Geneva and return to England, arriving in Portsmouth on 8 September. Over the next few months, MWS and the pregnant Claire remain in Bath, residing at Abbey Churchyard, while Shelley returns to London. 
9 Oct Fanny Imlay commits suicide by overdosing on laudanum.
15 Dec News reaches PBS that Harriet Shelley had committed suicide. She had been missing since 9 November, and her pregnant body was found in the Serpentine river on 10 December.
30 Dec MWS and PBS marry at St. Mildred's church, London; in urging this marriage, William Godwin abandons his long silence and reconciles with his daughter. The Shelleys live with the Hunts and the Godwins over the next month. 

Go to 1817-1824
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Go to 1836-Posthumous



Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin
Although Mary Godwin did not become Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley until her marriage to PBS in December 1816, I will use MWS to refer to her throughout the chronology.

Mary Jane Clairmont changed her name several times, from Clara to Clair to Claire. To avoid confusion, I refer to her as Claire throughout the chronology.

May 1814
Sunstein and Stocking: 5 May
Bennett and Robinson (The Mary Shelley Reader): 3 May

27 Sep 1814
Bennett: 27 Sep
Stocking: 3 Nov

9 Nov 1814
Bennett: 9 Nov
Stocking: 4 Jan 1815. After a brief excursion to 43 Southampton Building on 6 Jan, the trio returns to Nelson Square on 7 Jan.

10 Jan 1815
Bennett: 10 Jan
Feldman and Scott-Kilvert: 13-17 Jan
Stocking: PBS, MWS, and Claire move to 41 Hans Place on 10 January, then reside at 1 Hans Place from 8 February to 2 March.

13 May 1816
Crook, Feldman and Scott-Kilvert, Sunstein: 13 May
Stocking: 17 May

22 - 30 Jun 1816
Dates taken from one of PBS's letters to Peacock, reprinted and annotated in Shelley and His Circle, 1773-1822, Vol VII.

Last Modified on 11 February, 1998
Page created by Shanon Lawson. Any questions or comments, please e-mail

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