Yesterday, being in a grumpy mood from a sprained knee, I limped over to the library and picked up a copy of Harold Bloom’s Critical Edition of Mary Shelley. I really don’t have much to say on Bloom except whenever I read him, I snooze but this Edition gathers the stuff people said about her and her work, Frankenstein. Frankenstein doesn’t interest me but what they had to say about her did.
Particularly what her husband says. I haven’t read Shelley in a long time but I was struck by his…his usage of words. I’ve been studying scansion off and on and just his sheer way with the stuff made me all dewy-eyed, etc, etc. I’ll just share the last stanza but the whole thing is worth reading, The Revolt of Islam, The Dedication.
“Truth’s deathless voice pauses among mankind!
If there must be no response to my cry—
If men must rise and stamp with fury blind
On his pure name who loves them,—thou and I,
Sweet friend! can look from our tranquillity
Like lamps into the world’s tempestuous night,—
Two tranquil stars, while clouds are passing by
Which wrap them from the foundering seaman’s sight,
That burn from year to year with unextinguished light.”
As purdy as it is…what strikes me is the shame of it. Imagine writing Frankenstein when You’re nineteen and then…and then…more or less everyone dies around you (two children, your half sister, your husband, his dear friend and yours, Byron) and you’re left pretty much destitute with one small child and a society that shuns you. She commented that at 29, everyone she knew and loved had nearly all passed on. Not surprising another masterpiece never flowed from her pen. There was no support structure left and masterpieces do not come out of the emotionally (or physically) destitute , no matter what a certain reading crowd would like to think.