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Ink Blots, Pin Holes

Caroline Gonda: ‘Frankenstein’

28 January 2010
The Original ‘Frankenstein’ 
by Mary Shelley, with Percy Shelley, edited by Charles Robinson.
Bodleian Library, 448 pp., £14.99, October 2009, 978 1 85124 396 9
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... necessity to re-name Frankenstein Deceiver; I think his abilities are so bad that he never could possibly deceive any one.’ It’s not clear whether Mr Gully’s Frankenstein was called after Mary Shelley’s novel, its over-reaching protagonist, or his monstrous creation. By the early 1830s, the tendency to confuse Frankenstein and his creature was already well established. Letters to the Times on ...

Menagerie of Live Authors

Francesca Wade: Marys Shelley​ and Wollstonecraft

7 October 2015
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley 
by Charlotte Gordon.
Hutchinson, 649 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 0 09 195894 7
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... There were​ high hopes for the son of Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley, the grandson of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, but the boy told his mother that all he wanted was a quiet life and a sailing boat. She wasn’t wholly disappointed at his failure to ...

Teeth of Mouldy Blue

Laura Quinney: Percy​ Bysshe Shelley

21 September 2000
The Complete Poetry of Percy​ Bysshe ShelleyVolume I 
edited by Donald Reiman and Neil Fraisat.
Johns Hopkins, 494 pp., £58, March 2000, 0 8018 6119 5
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... The poems in this volume will not persuade anyone to care for Shelley who does not do so already: they are often bad, sometimes dreadful, juvenile works which Shelley wrote between the ages of 17 and 22. These years, from 1809 to 1814, were the most chaotic of his life; he tried to make his own fate but succeeded chiefly in precipitating a series of disasters. His ...

Tousy-Mousy

Anne Barton: Mary Shelley

8 February 2001
Mary Shelley 
by Miranda Seymour.
Murray, 665 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7195 5711 9
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Mary Shelley​ in Her Times 
edited by Betty Bennett and Stuart Curran.
Johns Hopkins, 311 pp., £33, September 2000, 0 8018 6334 1
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Mary Shelley's Fictions 
edited by Michael Eberle-Sinatra.
Palgrave, 250 pp., £40, August 2000, 0 333 77106 0
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... Richard Holmes published Shelley: The Pursuit in 1974. More than a decade later, in Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer (1985), he recalled how obsessive his engagement gradually became, not just with Shelley, but with ...

Of the Mule Breed

David Bromwich: Robert Southey

21 May 1998
Robert Southey: A Life 
by Mark Storey.
Oxford, 405 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 19 811246 7
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... because, as Storey puts it, ‘Edith was not too keen on such a radical change of scenery.’ Only a few months earlier, he had received an unsettling visit in Keswick from a young poet and disciple, PercyShelley. The Revolt of Islam would draw on Southey’s Oriental experiments, and right down to Demogorgon’s song in Prometheus Unbound, cadences from his poems and Coleridge’s of the 1790s would ...

Satanic School

Rosemary Ashton

7 May 1987
Forbidden Partners: The Incest Taboo in Modern Culture 
by James Twitchell.
Columbia, 311 pp., £15.60, December 1986, 0 231 06412 8
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Shelley​ and his Circle 1773-1822: Vols VII and VIII 
edited by Donald Reiman and Doucet Devin Fischer.
Harvard, 1228 pp., £71.95, October 1986, 0 674 80613 1
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Shelley’s Venomed Melody 
by Nora Crook and Derek Guiton.
Cambridge, 273 pp., £25, August 1986, 0 521 32084 4
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The Journals of Mary Shelley​ 1814-1844 
edited by Paula Feldman and Diana Scott-Kilvert.
Oxford, 735 pp., £55, March 1987, 0 19 812571 2
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Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Selected Letters 
edited by H.J. Jackson.
Oxford, 306 pp., £19.50, April 1987, 0 19 818540 5
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... are divided of course between liking to feel the past strange and liking to feel it familiar.’ Thus Henry James in the Preface to The Aspern Papers, the germ of which was the story of an American Shelley-worshipper seeking out the eighty-year old Claire Clairmont to trick or wheedle her into handing over precious documents illuminating her youthful relations with Shelley and Byron. There has been a ...
19 February 1981
The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft ShelleyVol. 1 
edited by Betty Bennett.
Johns Hopkins, 591 pp., £18, July 1980, 0 8018 2275 0
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... Madame – vous avez du caractère’, remarked a French gentleman travelling through Savoy in 1823 in the same carriage as Mary Shelley and observing her as she checked her small son Percy’s self-willed behaviour. She was pleased enough to report the compliment to Leigh and Marianne Hunt in a letter; and if she seems a little arch in liking compliments, she strikes the reader too as ...

Wielded by a Wizard

Seamus Perry: Shelley’s Kind of Glee

3 January 2019
Selected Poems and Prose 
by Percy​ Bysshe Shelley, edited by Jack Donovan and Cian Duffy.
Penguin, 893 pp., £12.99, January 2017, 978 0 241 25306 9
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... Quite a few​ of Shelley’s contemporaries came to the view that he wasn’t all there – the inhabitants of Marlow, for example, who were treated to the recurrent spectacle of a disgraceful young radical poet returning ...
23 March 1995
Marriage, Debt and the Estates System: English Landownership 1650-1950 
by John Habakkuk.
Oxford, 786 pp., £65, September 1994, 0 19 820398 5
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... Lawyers have seldom had a good press. According to Shelley’s father-in-law, William Godwin, a lawyer could ‘scarcely fail to be a dishonest man’, though that, he added, was ‘less a subject for censure than regret’. Shelley’s friend and biographer ...

Hail, Muse!

Seamus Perry: Byron v. Shelley

6 February 2003
The Making of the Poets: Byron and Shelley​ in Their Time 
by Ian Gilmour.
Chatto, 410 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 7011 7110 3
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Byron and Romanticism 
by Jerome McGann.
Cambridge, 321 pp., £47.50, August 2002, 0 521 80958 4
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... Ian Gilmour’s deft and learned book is concerned with the lives of Byron and Shelley up to the morning on which Byron woke up and found himself famous. The poets weren’t to meet for another four years, so Gilmour isn’t telling the history of their acquaintance but its prehistory ...

Tantrums

C.K. Stead

22 February 1996
Letters of Claire Clairmont, Charles Clairmont and Fanny Imlay Godwin 
edited by Marion Kingston Stocking.
Johns Hopkins, 704 pp., £45, May 1995, 0 8018 4633 1
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... Claire Clairmont was, briefly, Byron’s mistress, and the mother of his child Allegra. But was she also Shelley’s lover? Did she become pregnant by him? Did she give birth to his child? From the journals, edited by Marion Kingston Stocking and published in 1986, it seems clear that she was in love with ...

Bard of Tropes

Jonathan Lamb: Thomas Chatterton

20 September 2001
Thomas Chatterton and Romantic Culture 
by Nick Groom.
Palgrave, 300 pp., £55, September 1999, 0 333 72586 7
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... to the hegemony of Received Standard English. As several essays here make clear, he is the poet who, above all others, forced the early historians of English literature such as Thomas Warton, Thomas Percy and Samuel Johnson to review the grounds of their judgments. He is at the same time the lonely outsider commemorated by Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and (more cannily) Wordsworth. David Fairer maintains ...

Play for Today

Adam Smyth: Rewriting ‘Pericles’

24 October 2019
Spring 
by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 336 pp., £16.99, March, 978 0 241 20704 8
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The Porpoise 
by Mark Haddon.
Chatto, 309 pp., £18.99, May, 978 1 78474 282 9
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... of migration against the odds, and family separation and reunion. It isn’t an adaptation because Pericles is only the loudest in a chorus of voices from the past – Rilke, Katherine Mansfield, PercyShelley, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Dickens, Beethoven – which Smith uses to organise the torrent of the contemporary, but the stories of Pericles and Marina provide something like a shape for the ...

Awfully Present

Thomas Jones: The Tambora Eruption

5 February 2015
Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World 
by Gillen D’Arcy Wood.
Princeton, 293 pp., £19.95, April 2014, 978 0 691 15054 3
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... ice age theory; the ‘first major westward expansion in US history’ and ‘the United States’ first major economic depression’; not to mention several major works of Romantic literature (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, PercyShelley’s ‘Mont Blanc’, Keats’s ode ‘To Autumn’, Byron’s ‘Darkness’). One of the ways of investigating long-ago eruptions is by looking at the density of ...

In Praise of Mess

Richard Poirier: Walt Whitman

4 June 1998
With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. VIII: 11 February 1891-30 September 1891 
by Horace Traubel, edited by Jeanne Chapman and Robert MacIsaac.
Bentley, 624 pp., $99.50, November 1996, 0 9653415 8 5
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With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. IX: 11 February 1891-30 September 1891 
by Horace Traubel, edited by Jeanne Chapman and Robert MacIsaac.
Bentley, 624 pp., £99.50, November 1996, 0 9653415 9 3
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... laughingly tells Traubel, that the old man came to me with a set purpose to deliver a speech – to question me about the ‘Leaves’, about my philosophy, politics, what I thought of Lord Byron, PercyShelley, Burns. But when he got into the room, the debricity … of things – the confusion, the air of don’t care, the unusual look and atmosphere – must have struck him, abashed him, staggered ...

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