associating with other writers and poets and philosophers.
The period seems to have been a forerunner of the1960s in some ways, a
time of social protest, of knocking down the establishment and with a foretaste of "free love." among the intelligentsia.
Shelley was a romantic writer in the early nineteenth century.
His popularity was never as great in life as it was after his death when
the true value of his artistry became appreciated, influencing the work of many others. His wife Mary is best known for her book Frankenstein.
Shelley was born into the upper classes the eldest son of a baronet. His rebellion against the mores of his family began early when at the age of nineteen he eloped to Scotland with Harriet aged sixteen because she was threatening suicide. The marriage wasn't a great success; She didn't have the active mind Shelley appreciated in a woman, and her sister Eliza whom Shelley couldn't stand moved in with them. Shelley's family cut him off as they thought he had married beneath his station.
Shelley's finances were rather sporadic during his life. As eldest son he was set to inherit but for his everyday living he didn't have a large income.
Shelley became friends with Godwin, a philosopher of repute who became his mentor partly in the belief that Shelley would be able to help him out of debt. Godwin had a daughter and two stepdaughters. The first time Shelley met daughter Mary he fell in love with her. He repeatedly threatened to commit suicide if she didn't love him in return. There appears to be a lot of that in the Shelley saga.
Shelley, Mary and stepsister Claire (aka Jane) ran away to France and Switzerland. Shelley seems to have had a habit of running from confrontation when he lost his heart. They eventually ran out of
money and returned to England where Godwin refused to have anything more to do with them- maybe partly because he now knew there was no chance now Shelley could help him financially.
The third sister Fanny was in love with Shelley as well and went to Wales where she committed suicide.
Another suicide followed Shelley. His wife Harriet was found drowned in Hyde Park in the Serpentine. This probably had no connection to Shelley as she had a new lover now, but it is one more mark on a trail of romantic destruction behind him.
Percy and Mary Shelley were able to marry now. They had several children together but only a son Percy, lived to adulthood.
Their life together seems to have been mainly happy if unconventional except for Mary's periods of depression over the deaths of her children. It was probably not monogamous. His relationship with Mary's sister
Claire who apparently went everywhere with them is suspect. In Italy a child was born which was registered to the Shelleys yet left with foster parents, and suspected to have been Claire's. It died- another death
in Shelley's wake.
Percy Shelley died along with two friends, boating in a storm, and was cremated on the shore. Mary returned to England and bought Shelley Manor in Torquay where she lived out her life till she died with a brain
After her death the family found mementoes she had kept in a desk- locks of her children's hair, a copy of Shelley's poem Adonais and a packet containing some of Shelley's ashes and a part of his heart.
There are some people who, often unaware, go through life leaving tragedy in their wake. Percy Shelley seems to have been a sort of "Typhoid Mary" of relationships. Early death, broken hearts, suicides and threats of suicide seem to be the daily norm. But Percy and Mary's love for each other was strong enough to endure through all the drama; perhaps it even thrived on it.
Mary never re-married.