MARY SHELLEY'S EARLY NOVELS

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1 MARY SHELLEY'S EARLY NOVELS

2 Mary Shelley's Early Novels./This Child of Imagination and Misery' JANE BLUMBERG M MACMILLAN

3 Jane Blumberg 1993 Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition 1993 All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1P 9HE. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. First published 1993 by THE MACMILLAN PRESS LTD Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 2XS and London Companies and representatives throughout the world ISBN ISBN (ebook) DOI / A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Copy-edited and typeset by Grahame & Grahame Editorial, Brighton

4 For my mother and father Baruch and Jean Blumberg with love and thanks

5 Contents Preface Acknowledgements Author's Note viii X xi 1 Introduction 1 2 Early Influences: "A History of the Jews" 10 3 Frankenstein and the "Good Cause" 30 4 "Connected in a Thousand Ways": Mary Shelley and Lord Byron 57 5 "That Masterpiece of His Malice": Valperga 76 6 "The earth is not, nor ever can be heaven": The Last Man Creating a Literary Reputation Conclusion 186 Appendix A: Manuscript Essay: "A History of the Jews" Appendix B: Shelley's Reply to Leslie's Short and Easy Method Appendix C: The Byron Manuscripts Appendix D: Perkin Warbeck, Lodore and Falkner Notes Bibliography Index vii

6 Preface In its attempt to provide a thorough-going examination and evaluation of Mary Shelley's literary achievement, this book employs a range of different critical methods. I have used biography to shape the book and to illustrate the multifarious influences that impinged on Shelley's life as a writer. When discussing her contribution as an editor, and especially the work she did for Lord Byron, I have combined biographical context with selective textual criticism, paying particular attention to those extant manuscripts of Don Juan and other poems which she fair-copied for the poet. Finally, I have considered her central literary achievements - the three major novels Frankenstein, Valperga and The Last Man - from both a biographical and a critical standpoint; with the obvious exception of Frankenstein, the novels have attracted scant critical attention until now. I have tried to address this lack both in the case of Valperga and of The Last Mtzn, by offering more detailed and wide-ranging interpretive criticism than either novel has received before. Although I have stressed the biographical basis of much of this book, I must also make it clear that this is not a psychological study of Mary Shelley. This critical approach lies at the heart of many of the analyses of Frankenstein that have appeared in recent years, and has often led to what in my view is the central fallacy in contemporary Mary Shelley studies; namely the suggestion, whether stated or implied, that Frankenstein was a psychological fluke, produced under the influence of the powerful male creative forces around her (her husband Percy Shelley and father William Godwin). This study will seek to argue that the evidence, both biographical and critical, points in a quite different direction; to an independent artist of complexity and depth, whose intellectual development took place in contradistinction to those male forces, and whose own philosophy is clearly and triumphantly expressed in her three central novels. Finally, a word about Mary and her attitude to her husband. A significant part of this book is about the intellectual break Mary made with Percy Shelley's radical ideas; a break which was to bring her much pain, both from her own sense of guilt, and from the disappointment of his former friends and colleagues. Recognizing the viii

7 Preface ix significance of that break is essential to an understanding of Mary's artistic development, but it should not be assumed that Mary's intellectual rejection of Percy's manifesto ever affected her feelings for the poet. Far from it: Mary was, and forever remained, utterly devoted to her husband and his memory. It is probably also true that Mary's chief source for what she took to be his beliefs and ideology was Percy's poem Queen Mab, which he gave her as his first token of love. Though Percy's thinking unquestionably went through modifications and sophistications over the years, Mary perceived it, rightly or wrongly, as being fundamentally unchanged from its earliest and most vehement expression in that poem. It is important to note that Kelvin Everest, in the first volume of his new edition of PBS's poetry, has established a later date for the composition of Queen Mab- if it was written when he was nearly twenty, as Everest has established, the work cannot really be considered juvenalia after all. Perhaps PBS's early beliefs were retained in adulthood with greater tenacity than has been maintained. Shelley almost certainly believed this to be the case. She did not so readily register the changes in PBS's philosophy (as contemporary critics do) though in 1839 she did try to highlight "Christian" elements in his work. Nevertheless, her understanding of his ideology remains rooted in PBS's early radicalism Editorial symbols used: < >-Words appearing between< > are those which Shelley crossed out. [? ] -Words appearing between brackets and preceded by "?" are uncertain readings.

8 Acknowledgements I would like to thank Virginia Murray and John Murray Publishers Ltd., for their assistance and great generosity in allowing me to use their Byron manuscript collection. Lord Abinger very kindly granted permission for the publication of Mary Shelley's MS essay. Michael Rossington was a particularly thorough and expert reader and he receives profoundest thanks and gratitude. I thank Mark Thompson for many years of support, encouragement and wise critical reading. Special thanks are also due to Professor Marilyn Butler for her generous help and guidance. X

9 Author's Note In the interests of clarity, I shall call Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley "Shelley" throughout. I shall refer to Percy Bysshe Shelley as "PBS". Though the latter is perhaps a little inelegant, it seems appropriate to refer to my subject rather than to her husband in the standard manner. xi

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