A young Englishwoman named Mary Wollstonecraft lived by her wits and her pen. At thirty-four, Mary did not expect to marry, but she soon met an American adventurer named Gilbert Imlay and believed she’d found her soul mate. In love, they moved to Paris where they had a daughter, named Fanny.
But Gilbert began to travel more and more, and soon it became apparent he had a wandering eye as well. Heartbroken over this desertion, Mary drank laudanum. She survived, but within a matter of months was despondent again and jumped from a bridge into the Thames.
Miraculously she was rescued and nursed back to health by William Godwin, like Mary a political radical, to whom she quickly developed a strong attachment. Later married and happy, they read Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther aloud together the night before she went into labor. Tragically, Mary died a few days after giving birth to a second daughter, also named Mary, who would be raised, along with Fanny, by William Godwin, who would remarry.
His new wife had a young child of her own, Claire, and the three girls grew up as sisters; they became known as Les Goddesses. When Mary was seventeen, a famous poet named Percy Bysshe Shelley came courting: he first paid favors to Fanny but quickly fell for Mary and the two eloped to the Continent, taking Claire with them.
Fanny, crestfallen, stayed behind and, like her mother, drank laudanum. The real story concerning the lives of these extraordinary women is filled with many paradoxes, and without a doubt it is more fantastic than any fiction. Read More