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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

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The novelist Mary Shelley was deeply influenced by the writings of her parents Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. When only sixteen, she eloped to the Continent with Percy Bysshe Shelley and married him two years later. In 1816, when they were neighbours of Byron, on the shores of Lake Geneva, Mary began Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus (1818) the tale of an idealistic student who discovers the secret of imparting life to inanimate matter. Contrasting scientific discovery with moral responsibility, Frankenstein, for the first time, seriously questioned the human impact of scientific research.

National Portrait Gallery, London



Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley


exhibited 1840


oil on canvas


H 73.7 x W 61 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bequeathed by the sitter's daughter-in-law, Jane, Lady Shelley, 1899. On long-term loan to Dove Cottage & Wordsworth Museum, Cumbria

Work type



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National Portrait Gallery, London

St Martin’s Place, London, Greater London WC2H 0HE England

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