A Love That Was Gravely Serious

Finally, on June 27, Mary took matters into her own hands. She stood in front of her mother’s gravestone, looked straight into Shelley’s eyes, and did what no young woman was supposed to do: she declared she loved him and threw herself into his arms. It seems unlikely that they fully consummated their relationship on Wollstonecraft’s grave, given all the difficulties involved—Mary’s inexperience and the public setting, not to mention the complicated undergarments worn by Englishwomen. Nevertheless, both of them marked this day as the start of their sexual relationship.

—Charlotte Gordon
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley

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