Lost Hearts: A Gothic Love Story

Mary Wollstonecraft’s St. Pancras Grave, 1797

The poet Shelley was drawn to the young Mary Godwin due to her melancholy habit of reading on her mother’s grave; the gothic site of their courtship; it’s said to be where they consummated their passion….

Mary Shelley, 2017 film

When Shelley died in 1822 Mary is rumoured to have kept his heart in a silken shroud, carrying it with her for years (his remains were in Rome). After she died the heart was supposedly found in her desk wrapped in his poems. It’s hard to out goth that!

Embalmed heart

The treasured heart was buried with Mary in St Peter’s Churchyard, Bournemouth (and memorialised as ‘the heart of Percy Bysshe, her husband the poet’).  The remains of her parents William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft were moved to the same plot in 1851 when St. Pancras Churchyard was broken up for the railroad. This extraordinary family, tragically separated and estranged in life, were finally united in one tomb in death.

Plaque also memorialising the heart

 ‘My companion was one who, in this world, I shall never see more’ (Mary Shelley, October 15, 1831)

‘My heart fails when I think by how few ties I hold to the world’ (Mary Shelley, 1823, aged just 26)

About Sam George

Associate Professor of Research, School of Humanities, University of Hertfordshire Co-convenor OGOM Project
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