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Mathildaby Mary Shelley
Synopses & Reviews
But my father, my beloved and most wretched father... Would he never overcome the fierce passion that now held pitiless dominion over him?
With its shocking theme of father-daughter incest, Mary Shelley’s publisher—her father, known for his own subversive books—not only refused to publish Mathilda, he refused to return her only copy of the manuscript, and the work was never published in her lifetime.
His suppression of this passionate novella is perhaps understandable—unlike her first book, Frankenstein, written a year earlier, Mathilda uses fantasy to study a far more personal reality. It tells the story of a young woman whose mother died in her childbirth—just as Shelly’s own mother died after hers—and whose relationship with her bereaved father becomes sexually charged as he conflates her with his lost wife, while she becomes involved with a handsome poet. Yet despite characters clearly based on herself, her father, and her husband, the narrator’s emotional and relentlessly self-examining voice lifts the story beyond autobiographical resonance into something more transcendent: a driven tale of a brave woman’s search for love, atonement, and redemption.
It took more than a century before the manuscript Mary Shelley gave her father was rediscovered. It is published here as a stand-alone volume for the first time.
The Art of The Novella Series
Too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story, the novella is generally unrecognized by academics and publishers. Nonetheless, it is a form beloved and practiced by literature's greatest writers. In the Art Of The Novella series, Melville House celebrates this renegade art form and its practitioners with titles that are, in many instances, presented in book form for the first time.
This shocking tale of father-daughter incest, by the author of Frankenstein, was suppressed for over a century. Mathilda's adoration of her beloved father veers into tragedy in this High Romantic tale of forbidden passion. Mary Shelley's father, William Godwin, was so repulsed by the story that it laid unpublished until 1957.
About the Author
Mary Shelley was born in London in 1797, the daughter of two of the era’s most radical writers: William Godwin, the anarchist utopian, and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who died from the childbirth. After a difficult childhood under a demanding stepmother, she ran off to the Continent at age 17 with her father’s wealthy—and married—benefactor, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, although they did not get married until the suicide of Shelley’s wife two years later. Despite close intellectual bonds the marriage was unhappy, due to Percy Shelley’s regular campaigning for open “utopian” sexual relationships (with her sister, for one), and the deaths of three out of their four children. In 1817, while visiting Lord Byron at Lake Geneva, the three challenged one another to write a horror story. The result from Mary was the novel Frankenstein, an instant popular (although not critical) success. Four years later her peripatetic husband drowned in a boating accident. Mary Shelley never remarried, but she continued on as a successful writer until her death in London in 1851.
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