Mathilda - Mary Shelley Summary
Florence. Nov. 9th 1819It is only four o'clock; but it is winter and the sun has already set: there are no clouds in the clear, frosty sky to reflect its slant beams, but the air itself is tinged with a slight roseate colour which is again reflected on the snow that covers the ground. I live in a lone cottage on a solitary, wide heath: no voice of life reaches me. I see the desolate plain covered with white, save a few black patches that the noonday sun has made at the top of those sharp pointed hillocks from which the snow, sliding as it fell, lay thinner than on the plain ground: a few birds are pecking at the hard ice that covers the pools-for the frost has been of long continuance.Mary has here added detail and contrast to the description in F of F-A, in which the passage "save a few black patches... on the plain ground" does not appear.I am in a strange state of mind.The addition of "I am alone... withered me" motivates Mathilda's state of mind and her resolve to write her history. I am alone-quite alone-in the world-the blight of misfortune has passed over me and withered me; I know that I am about to die and I feel happy-joyous.-I feel my pulse; it beats fast: I place my thin hand on my cheek; it burns: there is a slight, quick spirit within me which is now emitting its last sparks. I shall never see the snows of another winter-I do believe that I shall never again feel the vivifying warmth of another summer sun; and it is in this persuasion that I begin to write my tragic history. Perhaps a history such as mine had better die with me, but a feeling that I cannot define leads me on and I am too weak both in body and mind to resist the slightest impulse. While life was strong within me I thought indeed that there was a sacred horror in my tale that rendered it unfit for utterance, and now about to die I pollute its mystic terrors. It is as the wood of the Eumenides none but the dying may enter; and Oedipus is about to die.Mathilda too is the unwitting victim in a story of incest. Like Oedipus, she has lost her parent-lover by suicide; like him she leaves the scene of the revelation overwhelmed by a sense of her own guilt, "a sacred horror"; like him, she finds a measure of peace as she is about to die.Mary Shelley was a British novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein. She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley.Until the 1970s, Mary Shelley was known mainly for her efforts to publish Percy Shelley's works and for her novel Frankenstein, which remains widely read and has inspired many theatrical and film adaptations. Recent scholarship has yielded a more comprehensive view of Mary Shelley's achievements. Scholars have shown increasing interest in her literary output, particularly in her novels, which include the historical novels Valperga and Perkin Warbeck, the apocalyptic novel The Last Man, and her final two novels, Lodore and Falkner.Studies of her lesser-known works such as the travel book Rambles in Germany and Italy and the biographical articles for Dionysius Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia support the growing view that Mary Shelley remained a political radical throughout her life. Mary Shelley's works often argue that cooperation and sympathy, particularly as practised by women in the family, were the ways to reform civil society. This view was a direct challenge to the individualistic Romantic ethos promoted by Percy Shelley and the Enlightenment political theories articulated by her father, William Godwin.