Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley

Charlotte Gordon

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley
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Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley

Charlotte Gordon

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography 2016

Mary Wollstonecraft and author Mary Shelley were mother and daughter, yet these two extraordinary women never knew one another. Nevertheless, their passionate and pioneering lives remained closely intertwined, their choices, dreams and tragedies eerily similar.

Both Marys became famous writers, fell in love with brilliant but impossible men, and were single mothers out of wedlock; both lived in exile, fought for their position in society and thought deeply about how we should live. They also broke every rigid convention thrust upon them: Wollstonecraft chased pirates in Scandinavia and sailed to Paris to witness the Revolution. Shelley eloped in a fishing boat with a married man and faced down bandits in Naples. Wollstonecraft proclaimed that women’s liberty should matter to everyone.

Not only did Wollstonecraft pen the landmark book, The Vindication of the Rights of Woman, her work ignited Romanticism, inspiring a whole new generation of writers, including her daughter. At just nineteen years old, Mary travelled around Italy with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron, and there wrote Frankenstein. Having pushed the boundaries of the literary form, she went on to become the editor of her husband’s poetry - a feat of scholarship that established his posthumous reputation.

For the first time, Romantic Outlaws brings together a pair of visionary women who should have shared a life, but who instead share a powerful literary and feminist legacy. This is inventive, illuminating, involving biography at its best.

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