• Publication Date: July 31, 2017
  • ISBN: 9781554812271 / 1554812275
  • 250 pages; 5½" x 8½"
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  • Publication Date: July 31, 2017
  • ISBN: 9781554812271 / 1554812275
  • 250 pages; 5½" x 8½"

Mary Shelley’s Mathilda, the story of one woman’s existential struggle after learning of her father’s desire for her, has been identified as Shelley’s most important work after Frankenstein. The two texts share many characteristics, besides authorship and contemporaneity: both concern parental abandonment; both contribute to the Gothic form through themes of incest, insanity, suicidality, monstrosity, and isolation; and both are epistolary. However, Mathilda was not published until 1959, 140 years after Shelley wrote it — in part because Shelley’s father, William Godwin, suppressed it. This new edition encourages a critical reconsideration of a novella that has been critically stereotyped as biographical, and explores the importance of the novella to the Romantic debate about suicide.

Historical appendices trace the connections between Mathilda and other works by Shelley and by her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, while also providing biographical documents, contemporary works on the theme of incest, and documents on suicide in the Romantic era.

Works Cited and Consulted
Mary Shelley: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text


Appendix A: The Romantic-era Suicide Debate

A1. From William Godwin’s An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and Its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness (1793)
A2. From David Hume’s Essays on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul (1793)
A3. From William Rowley’s A Treatise on Female, Nervous, Hysterical … Diseases (1788)
A4. From John Francis’ “Sermon III. On Self-Murder” (1749)
A5. From Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774)
A6. From Lord Byron’s Manfred (1817)
A7. William Wordsworth’s “The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman” (1798)

Appendix B: Family Resemblances

B1. Full-detail transcription from Mary Shelley’s manuscript of “Mathilda” (1819)
B2. From Mary Shelley’s “The Fields of Fancy” (1819)
B3. From Mary Shelley’s “The Mourner” (1830)
B4. From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818)
B5. From Mary Wollstonecraft’s Mary, A Fiction (1788)
B6. From Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Wrongs of Woman, or Maria (1798)
B7. From Mary Wollstonecraft’s “Cave of Fancy” (composed 1787; published 1798)

Appendix C: Incest, the Gothic, Literary Forebears

C1. From Percy Bysshe Shelley’s The Cenci (1819)
C2. From Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Laon and Cythna (1818)
C3. From Vittorio Alfieri’s Myrrha (1815)
C4. From Matthew Lewis’ The Monk (1796)
C5. From Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764)
C6. From John Polidori’s Ernestus Berchtold (1819)

Appendix D: Biographical Context: Shelley’s Letters and Journals

D1. Letter from Godwin to P. B. Shelley on Fanny Imlay’s suicide (1816)
D2. From Harriet Shelley’s suicide letter (1816)
D3. Letter by Mary Shelley on William Shelley’s final illness (1819)
D4. William Godwin’s letter to Mary Shelley on her son’s death (1819)

Michelle Faubert is Associate Professor of English at the University of Manitoba.