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Professor discovers previously unpublished Mary Shelley letters

In the letters, 'Frankenstein' author Mary Shelley discusses her son, among other subjects.

By Staff Writer / January 9, 2014

Mary Shelley's letters were written to stockbroker Horace Smith and his daughter Eliza.


A professor recently unearthed previously unseen letters written by “Frankenstein” author Mary Shelley.

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Nora Crook, a professor at the UK’s Anglia Ruskin University, was conducting research on another topic when she stumbled on the website for the Essex Record Office. Documents stored there were each labeled “Letter from Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.”

“I knew right away they had never been published before,” Crook said of seeing the letters in an interview with the Guardian.

The 13 documents are the biggest group of never-before-released letters from Shelley to be found in decades and include seals from Shelley, which were not found on any previous letters written by her.

Shelley, best remembered for her famous 1818 novel “Frankenstein,” is also the author of such works as “The Last Man,” “Mathilda,” and “Faulkner.” She was married to the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The newly found letters were written between 1831 and 1849, after the death of Percy. In her letters, all of which were written to stockbroker Horace Smith and his daughter Eliza, Shelley speaks of raising her son, also named Percy.

“Percy is growing up a very fine young man & developing tastes & talents that would remind you of his father," Shelley writes. Of his time at Cambridge, she wrote, “He is getting all that we could wish – he is getting very liberal – & has so much character & talent – though still shy – that I have every hope for his future happiness,” though she adds, “I am mortified he is not taller.”

Shelley died of what was diagnosed as a brain tumor in 1851, and in some of the letters, she mentions feeling ill.

Crook noted that the letters are a window into Shelley's relationships with others, including her “charming, wheedling side” when she asked Smith for favors.

“What is nice is that Mary Shelley's personality emerges,” she told the Guardian. “We see her as very loyal to the Smith family, very grateful and very attentive to Eliza – I don't think that friendship has ever been fully documented.”


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