Mary Shelley died on 1st February 1851 at 53 from a ‘Disease of the Brain Supposed Tumour in left hemisphere.’ She had been suffering from severe headaches for many years. Before her death she had been living with her son, Percy, and daughter in law, Jane, with whom she had a warm and affectionate relationship. Jane wrote to Mary’s cousin in NSW, Australia, Alexander Berry: ‘Heaven knows no words can express what my love for her was.’ That letter started a twenty year correspondence between Jane, Lady Shelley and Alexander Berry, though they never met. Alexander Berry also founded the beautiful town of Berry on the NSW south coast.
Mary was buried on the 8th February with her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft and father, William Godwin in a vault in a churchyard in Bournemouth. Later, Percy and Jane were also buried there. The heart of Mary’s husband Percy Bysshe Shelley which had survived his cremation on an Italian beach and had been cherished by Mary for the past thirty years, was also put into the tomb.
Her step sister Claire, however, always the biggest thorn in Mary’s side throughout her life, continued her self absorbed narrative after Mary’s death.’It was most unkind in you never to let me know she was ill. Most unkind. Now I can never see her more’ she wrote to Percy (read the full letter here)