Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Frankenstein Sundae, 243
No, I haven't forgotten. No, I haven't quit this project. (Hell, I've got 400+ pages of text; no way I'm going to forget about it!)
I'd stopped some time ago because I reached 1828, the year that Mary Shelley (a widow for five years) was approached by Frances Wright--a brilliant and radical (for her time) woman who wanted Mary to go with her to the United States to help her promote the experiment in Tennessee near Memphis--Nashoba, a community Wright had created to help teach former slaves (men and women she had purchased and freed) the skills and crafts they would need to "make it" in pre-Civil War America.
Mary declined. Wright very much impressed her, but Mary had grown a bit more cautious. She'd learned about the indignities that liberals and radicals had suffered (her parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft among them); she'd suffered tremendous damage to her own reputation because of her 1814 elopement with Percy Bysshe Shelley, a married man. Back in England now (after her husband's 1822 drowning in Italy, near Viareggio), she was trying to live a quieter life. She had a son, Percy Florence Shelley (middle name indicates the Italian city of his birth), just about to turn 9 at the time of Wright's visit. Mary wanted him to have a quieter, more conventional life (which he did).
As I've written previously, Mary often heard from admirers of her mother, whose A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792--and other titles) had made her a polarizing figure in English society. These correspondents expected the daughter to be a bud on the same Wollstonecraft stem. She wasn't--at least not in her mother's way. She'd been devastated by the deaths of her own children in Italy (only son Percy had survived) and was now back in England, struggling to get by on a thin allowance from Sir Timothy Shelley (her late husband's father, a man who despised her; they never met face to face) and on the proceeds from her writing, which continued throughout the rest of her life (she would live more than thirty years after Frankenstein, 1818). But her writing did not earn her a lot, so until Sir Timothy died in 1844 (and her son became Sir Percy), she and her son were living very modestly.
So ... why did I pause (the last Frankenstein Sundae post was July 27, nearly two months ago)? Because I realized I needed/wanted to learn a bit more about Fanny Wright before I proceeded. I've acquired her book Views on Society and Manners in America, 1821 (an epistolary work) and am reading it--slowly (obviously). When I finish I will leap back into this account of my pursuit of Mary Shelley's story.
I've been fully aware, too, as I've gone along, that I have repeated myself, that I have sometimes drifted too much into biography and retreated too far from memoir. I will correct those imbalances when I revise.
But I can't revise till I finish. And I can't finish until I get Wright's story more fully/firmly in my head. Mary still has a little more than 20 years to live, and there are some other key stories of hers to tell. And I want to write some about her other novels and books. There are quite a few besides Frankenstein, and some of them are of great interest ...
So ... I have, as I said, not given up. Or quit. I'm on Pause. Play will come soon.