Monday, 5 May 2014

5th May 1814: Percy Bysshe Shelley meets Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in London

On Thursday 5th May 1814, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley visited his mentor, the political philosopher William Godwin at the latter's home and bookshop at 41 Skinner Street, Islington. Shelley had been in contact with Godwin for some time, and was in fact his benefactor.

That day was to be the second time he had met Godwin's daughter, Mary, the child from Godwin's marriage to the feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft. On the previous occasion, in November 1811, Mary was 14 and Shelley 19, though he was already married at that time.

Their meeting was to be the dawn of a relationship that would transform both of their lives, and lead to the publication of one of the greatest works of science fiction, and of English literature.

Of this meeting, William Godwin's diary merely states "Shelley dines".

Number 41 Skinner Street still stands to this day. Although the row of houses to which it belongs is Grade 2 listed, there is nothing else to commemorate that it was the Godwin family's residence at this crucial time. A Blue Plaque is perhaps long overdue.

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