Dawn Reader

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

Monday, June 5, 2017

Frankenstein Sundae, 310

And Falkner goes to jail. Murder is the charge.
Mary gives us a scene in Falkner’s jail cell. He is feeling rather … down … as Mary communicates in this sentence with a dazzling ending: Thus doubly imprisoned, his body barred by physical impediments—his soul shut up in itself—he became, in the energetic language of genius, the cannibal of his own heart.[1]
But Elizabeth arrives—and he feels better. While they await his trial (and the arrival of his principal witness, Osborne, from America), they spend many hours of their days together. And Falkner grew to worship the very thought of her.[2]
But then dark news arrives from America: Osborne has refused to come testify. But Neville steps forward, volunteering to go to America to nab him: Osborne has fled, apparently to New Orleans. But a fierce storm keeps Neville in Liverpool, where, naturally (!), he encounters Osborne in disguise.
But Osborne avoids Neville—and goes to see Falkner in jail. He agrees to testify once he learns he will be granted immunity. Meanwhile, Elizabeth gets a post-mortem letter from her father, who declares he believes Falkner is innocent.
And the jury agree. They do not even bother to leave the room to deliberate. And Falkner is free!
And … happily ever after. Falkner purchases a villa. He lived in retirement: he grew a sage amidst his books, writes Mary, and his own reflections. But his heart was true to itself to the end, and his pleasures were derived from the society of his beloved Elizabeth, of Neville, who was scarcely less dear, and their beautiful children.[3]
Neville, we see, has forgiven those who had damaged his childhood, and, reading this, I remember how Mary believed—no, knew—that Sir Timothy Shelley would not ever forgive her for what he viewed as the corruption of his son, Bysshe—a “corruption,” of course, that would lead to his drowning in Italy at the age of 29. Sir Timothy lingered until April 24, 1844, nine years after she published Falkner in 1835.
And after 1835 Mary would never again write a novel. She would live sixteen more years.

[1] Ibid., 243. Pamela Clemit, who edited Falkner for The Novels and Selected Works of Mary Shelley, tells us in a footnote on this page that this is an allusion to Bacon’s “Of Friendship.” Here’s the passage in Bacon—I found it quickly on the Internet: “The parable of Pythagoras is dark, but true; Cor ne edito; Eat not the heart. Certainly if a man would give it a hard phrase, those that want friends, to open themselves unto are cannibals of their own hearts” (https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/bacon/francis/b12e/essay27.html). And the “parable of Pythagoras”? Pythagoreans, it seems, refrained from eating the hearts of creatures they were otherwise consuming.
[2] Ibid., 249.
[3] Ibid., 300.

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