So. Falkner. Mary Shelley’s final novel—her sixth. 1837. Fourteen years before her death. She had not had to look far for her title. Her father, William Godwin, thirty years earlier, had written a play, Faulkener. A masked ball. A wild landscape. Moonlight. Murder. Faulkener arrested. A trial. Innocent! Off he goes with his mother, to whom he’s devoted.
My journal reminds me that I read the play in one sitting on March 3, 1998. At Saywell’s Drug Store in Hudson. Drinking coffee. I didn’t say much about it in my journal—just this: another of Godwin’s bad plays. He had hoped to find financial security—and fame—in the playhouses. He didn’t. But hopes were high. Drury Lane Theatre accepted it for production—and cast in a prominent role one of the great actresses of the day, Sarah Siddons, born into the celebrated acting family, the Kembles, in 1766. Charles Lamb wrote a prologue for the play, which premiered on December 16, 1807.
And actually got some decent reviews. A respectful crowd. It ran for six performances, but Godwin never again wrote a play. This one had earned him very little money for a tremendous amount of work. And when it was published in 1808, the reviewers were less kind.
I have a note that I have the entire play—printed from microform—in a loose-leaf notebook. If anyone knows where that notebook is, please let me know!