Friday Reads: Mary Shelley

JSTOR Daily Friday Reads

What an attic-clean-out find! In 2005 someone discovered a handful of letters written by Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, stashed in a private house in a small English village.

Joseph Severn portrait of Percy Shelley

Severn’s portrait of Percy Shelley (via Wikimedia Commons)

The letters, written to her artist friend Joseph Severn and his wife, reveal information about Shelley’s experiences in Rome, and her thoughts on Severn’s portrait of her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, in the Baths of Caracalla, among other interesting tidbits. But perhaps most charming of all is the breathless, familiar tone in which she writes. It’s almost if we were reading a chain of texts between friends (minus the emojis). Here is one:

TO JOSEPH SEVERN [Putney] Friday Evening [?10 January 1845]
Dear Mr Severn

I am afraid you thought me rude today— I went up stairs I found an old friend—& could not run away directly—& when I came down I found you just gone— picture looks very well indeed in the place you have chosen & makes my dining room quite another thing. It has already been admired—& a lady came in just after you (Mrs Paul) who remembered Shelley at Pisa, & was much struck by the resemblance— the figure particularly— you have caught so well— [son] Percy & I are delighted to possess it & are thankful to you for the happy idea & execution
I am yrs truly
MShelley

The rest can be downloaded and read for free here, along with an informative introduction that puts them in historical context.


JSTOR Citations

New Mary Shelley Letters to the Severns

By: Grant F. Scott and Mary Shelley

Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. 54 (2005), pp. 62-77

Keats-Shelley Association of America, Inc.

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