Mary Shelley grew up in a household in 1814 that might be a social services case study today!


Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, grew up as Mary Godwin in a family that was far from conventional. Many of today’s concerns – blended families, unconventional living arrangements, single mothers, child support, are all there in the Godwin household of Mary’s childhood, two hundred years ago.

There were five children, none of whom had the same two parents!

1. Mary Godwin: Daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstencraft, feminist author, who married after Wollstoncraft was pregnant with Mary – in spite of Godwin’s advocating the abolition of marriage. For the six months they were married (until Wollstonecraft died in childbirth), they occupied adjoining apartments so they could maintain their independence.

2. Fanny Imlay: Mary’s half-sister, daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and Gilbert Imlay, an American adventurer, to whom Wollstonecraft was not married and who abandoned her in France, before she met Godwin.

3. Claire Clairmont: Mary’s step-sister, daughter of Mary Jane Godwin, Godwin’s second wife, and John Letheridge, a Somerset land-owner with whom Mary Jane had an affair prior to her marriage. We now have letters from Mary Jane demanding support for Claire, well into her marriage.

4. Charles Clairmont: Mary’s step-brother, son of Mary Jane Godwin and a Swiss called Gaulis, from another earlier, mysterious affair.

5. William Godwin: Mary’s half brother, son of William Godwin and Mary Jane Godwin.

Does your head hurt? Nothing is new, but imagine the fun Social Services would have today!

Read all about it in my book ‘Almost Invincible’

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