Romantic Outlaws

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Romantic Outlaws

The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley

The author, Charlotte Gordon has written an exciting double biography of two very strong, stand on their own women, mother Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley. Ms. Gordon's writing is amazing. She writes alternating chapters of the two women's lives without being confusing to the reader. Some books you have to go back and re-read, this one you don't.

Both women were real rebels. Their families came from out of society's mainstream. Both gave birth to out of wedlock children. They weren't condemned for it. They were on the very edge of society, financially and socially. They both wrote fiction and nonfiction. MS. Wollstonecraft, was raised by a violent father and a sickly mother. She left home early to get away and make her own life. Mary Wollstonecraft wrote in 1792 her famous work, "A Vindication of the Rights of Women". This gave her beliefs a literary credibility. She published other free thinking works but her life was cut short by her death after the birth of her second child, Mary Goodman. Mary Wollstonecraft's husband and Mary Godwin who was another social critic and political philosopher. The second Mary gained notice through her writing and her relationship with the poet, Percy Shelley. The author of "Frankenstein" and other works, Mary Shelley lived a longer life than her mother.

Both Mary's were brought to life in Ms. Gordon's biography. Ms. Gordon writes of two women and brings them to life for the reader. She was able to fully integrate the society of times as well and figures in the women's lives to a point that it was a real look back in time. This book is well written and quite long.

Book Blurb for Romantic Outlaws

This groundbreaking dual biography brings to life a pioneering English feminist and the daughter she never knew. Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley have each been the subject of numerous biographies, yet no one has ever examined their lives in one book—until now. In Romantic Outlaws, Charlotte Gordon reunites the trailblazing author who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and the Romantic visionary who gave the world Frankenstein—two courageous women who should have shared their lives, but instead shared a powerful literary and feminist legacy.


In 1797, less than two weeks after giving birth to her second daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft died, and a remarkable life spent pushing against the boundaries of society’s expectations for women came to an end. But another was just beginning. Wollstonecraft’s daughter Mary was to follow a similarly audacious path. Both women had passionate relationships with several men, bore children out of wedlock, and chose to live in exile outside their native country. Each in her own time fought against the injustices women faced and wrote books that changed literary history.


The private lives of both Marys were nothing less than the stuff of great Romantic drama, providing fabulous material for Charlotte Gordon, an accomplished historian and a gifted storyteller. Taking readers on a vivid journey across revolutionary France and Victorian England, she seamlessly interweaves the lives of her two protagonists in alternating chapters, creating a book that reads like a richly textured historical novel. Gordon also paints unforgettable portraits of the men in their lives, including the mercurial genius Percy Shelley, the unbridled libertine Lord Byron, and the brilliant radical William Godwin.


“Brave, passionate, and visionary, they broke almost every rule there was to break,” Charlotte Gordon writes of Wollstonecraft and Shelley. A truly revelatory biography, Romantic Outlaws reveals the defiant, creative lives of this daring mother-daughter pair who refused to be confined by the rigid conventions of their era.

Advance praise for Romantic Outlaws


“A fascinating, thoughtful and continuously absorbing book, one to which I know I shall return on many future occasions.”—Miranda Seymour, author of Mary Shelley

“Charlotte Gordon reunites a mother and daughter tragically separated at birth in this rousing and surpassingly readable epic spanning the Romantic era. Wordsworth and Byron must step aside to make room for two brilliant women, Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley, early and late Romantics whose remarkable contributions to their time and ours lend Gordon’s artfully twined tale special significance.”—Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life


“Romantic Outlaws is a gripping account of the heartbreaks and triumphs of two of history’s most formidable female intellectuals, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. Gordon has reunited mother and daughter through biography, beautifully weaving their narratives for the first time.”—Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire


“Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley stand out as daring, unconventional, and courageous women—in their times and ours. Appreciate the ‘heroic exertions’ of their lives and savor the skill with which Charlotte Gordon tells their intersecting stories.”—Susan Ware, general editor, American National Biography

Night Owl Reviews Jun, 2015 5.00