Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Frankenstein Sundae, 200

By late spring, 1823, nearly a year after her husband’s death, Mary was ready to return to England. She’d fallen out with former friend Leigh Hunt, who’d come to Italy to edit the failed journal The Liberal. The reason for the tension, as you may remember, involved Bysshe’s heart, which Trelawny had snatched from the funeral pyre (Mary was not present) and given to Hunt. Mary, learning of it, wanted it. Hunt resisted. Conflict.
But now she had reconciled with the Hunts—but had soured on Lord Byron for uncertain reasons. She even refused to take money from him to pay for her journey home, but, surreptitiously, he arranged to do so anyway.
In mid-July, Byron and Trelawny set sail for Greece to help in the revolution. Mary would never see Byron alive again, though, as we’ve seen, back in England she viewed his remains when they arrived from Greece, where he’d died of illness on April 19, 1824.
On July 25, 1823, Mary and her surviving son, Percy Florence Shelley, not yet four years old, began their long journey back to England. That same month Mary wrote a poem—“The Choice.” It’s a long work, consuming about four-and-a-half pages in The Journals of Mary Shelley, written in heroic couplets.[1] It is a poem full of deep grief. Of suffering. Lines dripping with the acid of loss. Just a few examples of how she rehearses her life, the deaths of children—and of her husband.
• My choice, my life, my hope together fled …
• Grim death approached—the boy met his caress—
And while his glowing limbs with life’s warmth shone,
Around those limbs his icy arms were thrown …
• Methought thou wert a spirit from the sky,
Which struggled with its chains, yet could not die …
It’s evident, of course, that Mary was not a poet of immense gifts, but throughout the years following the deaths in Italy she tried all sorts of ways to cope, to struggle on. And words were her favorite vessel.

While she was on her journey home, a new play opened at London’s English Opera House.[2] It was called Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein.[3] And at the time, Mary Shelly had no idea it even existed.

[1] 490-94.
[2] Now called The Lyceum. rebuilt and reopened in 1834 after a fire in 1830.
[3] Written by Richard Brinsley Peake in 1823. Available in Steven Earl Forry, ed., Hideous Progenies: Dramatizations of Frankenstein from Mary Shelley to the Present (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1990): 135-60. Also available online in a number of locations, e.g., http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/peake/

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