1st Edition

The Collaborative Literary Relationship of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

By Anna Mercer Copyright 2019
    244 Pages
    by Routledge

    244 Pages
    by Routledge

    How did Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, two of the most iconic and celebrated authors of the Romantic Period, contribute to each other’s achievements? This book is the first to dedicate a full-length study to exploring the nature of the Shelleys’ literary relationship in depth. It offers new insights into the works of these talented individuals who were bound together by their personal romance and shared commitment to a literary career. Most innovatively, the book describes how Mary Shelley contributed significantly to Percy Shelley’s writing, whilst also discussing Percy’s involvement in her work.

    A reappraisal of original manuscripts reveals the Shelleys as a remarkable literary couple, participants in a reciprocal and creative exchange. Hand-written evidence shows Mary adding to Percy’s work in draft and vice-versa. A focus on the Shelleys’ texts – set in the context of their lives and especially their travels – is used to explain how they enabled one another to accomplish a quality of work which they might never have achieved alone. Illustrated with reproductions from their notebooks and drafts, this volume brings Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley to the forefront of emerging scholarship on collaborative literary relationships and the social nature of creativity.


    Author’s Note

    List of Images

    The Shelleys: A Brief Chronology



    Chapter 1, 1814-18: London to Europe – collaborative beginnings

    Chapter 2, 1818-22: Literary exchanges in Italy

    Chapter 3, 1818-22: The Italian period and shared composition

    Chapter 4, 1822 and beyond: Approaching posthumous editing as collaboration

    Chapter 5, 1822 and beyond: Intertextual connections and Mary Shelley’s later novels

    Afterword: ‘We have now lived five years together’


    Works Cited


    Dr. Anna Mercer has a PhD in English Literature from the University of York. She has also studied at Jesus College, University of Cambridge and the University of Liverpool. She has published essays in The Keats-Shelley Review and The Coleridge Bulletin, and has also written and edited several blogs on Romanticism (including for the British Association for Romantic Studies and the Keats-Shelley Association of America). She won the runner-up Keats-Shelley Essay Prize in 2015. Anna currently teaches English Literature at Cardiff University and works at Keats House Museum. This is her first monograph.

    "This book is a valuable contribution which sheds light on the work of both the Shelleys and how two writers can influence, inspire, critique and aid each other in composition."

    -- Jacqueline Mulhallen, Author of The Theatre of Shelley (2010), Percy Bysshe Shelley: Poet and Revolutionary (2015), and the plays Sylvia and Rebels and Friends

    Women's Studies Group 1558 – 1837, November 2019


    Going far beyond the complex questions of authorship that arise most famously in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Mercer (Cardiff Univ. UK) explores, as she writes in the preface, the "Shelleys’ literary exchange, their collaborative exercises, and their shared working patterns." In keeping with the "Routledge New Textual Studies in Literature" series that this book inaugurates, Mercer focuses her discussions of the Shelleys’ mutual influence on manuscripts and close comparisons of a wide range of texts. She structures the book chronologically. Chapter 1, covering 1814–18, demonstrates the pervasively entangled nature of the Shelleys’ writing up to and including Frankenstein. Chapters 2 and 3 cover the period from 1818 to 1822 and establish the continued collaboration between the Shelleys, despite personal and marital difficulties. Chapters 4 and 5 cover 1822 and after; in them, Mercer redefines collaboration after Percy’s death. She analyzes Mary’s creative activity in producing the first full edition of Percy’s work as "a continuation of a collaborative intertextuality." She then reads Mary’s later fiction and poetry as intertextual responses to Percy’s texts and ideas. This study will be useful to Shelley scholars for its fresh reading of the texts and to those interested in rethinking the concepts of authorship and intertextuality.

    --D. D. Schierenbeck, Immanuel Lutheran College

    CHOICEconnect April 2020 Vol. 57 No. 8


    "The Collaborative Literary Relationship of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley provides an opportunity not only to better understand the Shelleys and their works but also to deepen our understanding of the "affective range" of Romantic sociability: not only convivial but also romantic, contentious, and grief-stricken (139). The meticulous research presented in this monograph provides ample resources for readers to draw on in future reconsiderations of the Shelleys’—and particularly Mary’s— place in Romantic conversations. I anticipate it will be a frequently cited resource."

    --Leila Walker, Queens College, City University of New York

    The Wordsworth Circle Volume 51, Number 4 (Fall 2020)


    "Mercer demonstrates that, for the Shelleys in partnership, language was a common bond, one facilitating writing and extending an intellectual relationship even beyond death… [The Collaborative Literary Relationship of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley] unites new manuscript revelations with a crafted overview and chronology of the Shelley’s intertwined works and lives"

    --Lucy Morrison, University of Nebraska at Omaha

    Keats-Shelley Journal, Volume 69, 2020