Mary Shelley letters re-discovered

January 13, 2014 at 8:08 am (history, news, research) (, , , , , , , )

Lucky:  When you’re an academic AND you discover letters of a well-established writer at the ‘click of a mouse’ you get MEGA-PRESS coverage! My Smiths & Goslings should be only so lucky…

(Those of you sharing your letters, diaries, & images with me, know who you are; thank you!)

But on to the BIG news

Mary Shelley's seal

Professor Nora Crook‘s “re-discovery” during on online search uncovered – at the ESSEX RECORD OFFICE, the repository where some Smith & Gosling diaries and letters reside! – unpublished letters by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. A fabulous find! And proves my point that you sometimes uncover TERRIFIC *finds* while looking for something completely different.

According to The Guardian, “The letters date between 1831, nine years after the death of her poet husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and 1849, when Mary Shelley was already unwell with the brain tumour that would kill her two years later, and show a woman who was skilled in charming favours from friends, bursting with pride in and concern for her teenage son – and not unconcerned with frivolities. A last-minute ticket to the coronation of William IV in 1831 necessitated a 3am visit from her hairdresser; she attended the event sporting a plumed headdress (‘The whole thing was wondrously splendid – Diamonds & cloth of gold grew common to the eye.’)”

Even the ‘seal’ (see Keith Crook’s photo) was previously unknown.

” ‘Pure serendipity,’ ” says Prof. Crook, ” ‘The [Horace] Smith connection has been known but this little bit of the jigsaw hasn’t been’ “.

The comments, especially of ARCHIVISTSN, should be included in your perusal of the article.

BIG O-M-G: the letters turned up in the papers of the ROUND family because of the marriage of Laura Smith with John Round: MY SMITHS (of Suttons) knew the Round family (of Birch Hall)!


ERO features the letters as their January 2014 “YOUR FAVOURITE ERO DOCUMENT”: read their article.

The thirteen letters are to be published in an upcoming Keats-Shelley Journal.



  1. Calista said,

    I had to agree with you about Mary Shelly’s letters being” discovered” which is not really a discovery. But such wonderful letters are been brought to public attention instead of being buried in some archive. In that sense it is a rediscovery one could say… Francis and I are huge fans of Mary Shelly. Francis had read lot of her books and we did see an excellent documentary about her no too long ago.

    Her mother was one of the early suffragettes although she died giving birth to her, Shelley’s work especially her work and contributions to the feminist cause must have been influenced by her mother. Shelley is a great writer not only her Frankenstein shows her scientific mind but her work for feminist cause, her travels to countries when it was not safe to do so upheavals, her intellect at a time when women really didn’t have so much she pushed the boundaries. I mean look at her, she eloped with her husband to be, to another country and waited for his divorce to marry. according to the BBC these letters which were written to her late husband’s friend and daughter gave insight into her character. I am sure it must have been hard for her husband to live under her intellect and shadow even now most men finds it difficult when they are faced with a woman like that. After his death it was she who made his poems public which we would not have had if it wasn’t for her.

    Even now when men are dominating so much compared to women, someone like Mary Shelley and their letters, memoirs giving insight into their lives should be treasured. As a person and as a woman given her contributions to the world she is quite remarkable. Imagine there are so many remarkable men and women who have done so much, given so much to the world still not known or very little know about them to the world. There may be memoirs/letters buried some where in an attic or archive gathering dust only to be discovered by a researcher like you to tell their story is amazing in my opinion.

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi, Calista – thanks for commenting!

      Would love to hear more about the documentary. I can’t wait to look further into her life and writings.

      Undoubtedly, for many people, there is more lying buried and long-unread. Hopefully people will begin to look – and reveal; especially, opening up the history of women is exceptionally important.


  2. Missed Opportunity: Clarissa Trant Diary | Two Teens in the Time of Austen said,

    […] mentioned in a couple of places, I’ve been finding some nice tidbits at the blog of the Essex Record Office (ERO). This one […]

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