by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
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"Come, I see that you have already cast aside the sad thoughts you before franticly indulged. Look in that mirror; when I came your brow was contracted, your eyes deep sunk in your head, your lips quivering; your hands trembled violently when I took them; but now all is tranquil and soft. You are grieved and there is grief in the expression of your countenance but it is gentle and sweet. You allow me to throw away this cursed drink; you smile; oh, Congratulate me, hope is triumphant, and I have done some good."

These words are shadowy as I repeat them but they were indeed words of fire and produced a warm hope in me (I, miserable wretch, to hope!) that tingled like pleasure in my veins. He did not leave me for many hours; not until he had improved the spark that he had kindled, and with an angelic hand fostered the return of somthing that seemed like joy. He left me but I still was calm, and after I had saluted the starry sky and dewy earth with eyes of love and a contented good night, I slept sweetly, visited by dreams, the first of pleasure I had had for many long months.

But this was only a momentary relief and my old habits of feeling returned; for I was doomed while in life to grieve, and to the natural sorrow of my father's death and its most terrific cause, immagination added a tenfold weight of woe. I believed myself to be polluted by the unnatural love I had inspired, and that I was a creature cursed and set apart by nature. I thought that like another Cain, I had a mark set on my forehead to shew mankind that there was a barrier between me and they [sic].[72] Woodville had told me that there was in my countenance an expression as if I belonged to another world; so he had seen that sign: and there it lay a gloomy mark to tell the world that there was that within my soul that no silence could render sufficiently obscure. Why when fate drove me to become this outcast from human feeling; this monster with whom none might mingle in converse and love; why had she not from that fatal and most accursed moment, shrouded me in thick mists and placed real darkness between me and my fellows so that I might never more be seen?, [sic] and as I passed, like a murky cloud loaded with blight, they might only perceive me by the cold chill I should cast upon them; telling them, how truly, that something unholy was near? Then I should have lived upon this dreary heath unvisited, and blasting none by my unhallowed gaze. Alas! I verily believe that if the near prospect of death did not dull and soften my bitter [fe]elings, if for a few months longer I had continued to live as I then lived, strong in body, but my soul corrupted to its core by a deadly cancer[,] if day after day I had dwelt on these dreadful sentiments I should have become mad, and should have fancied myself a living pestilence: so horrible to my own solitary thoughts did this form, this voice, and all this wretched self appear; for had it not been the source of guilt that wants a name?[73]

This was superstition. I did not feel thus franticly when first I knew that the holy name of father was become a curse to me: but my lonely life inspired me with wild thoughts; and then when I saw Woodville & day after day he tried to win my confidence and I never dared give words to my dark tale, I was impressed more strongly with the withering fear that I was in truth a marked creature, a pariah, only fit for death.

[F] Spencer's Faery Queen Book 1—Canto [9]


As I was perpetually haunted by these ideas, you may imagine that the influence of Woodville's words was very temporary; and that although I did not again accuse him of unkindness, yet I soon became as unhappy as before. Soon after this incident we parted. He heard that his mother was ill, and he hastened to her. He came to take leave of me, and we walked together on the heath for the last time. He promised that he would come and see me again; and bade me take cheer, and to encourage what happy thoughts I could, untill time and fortitude should overcome my misery, and I could again mingle in society.

"Above all other admonition on my part," he said, "cherish and follow this one: do not despair. That is the most dangerous gulph on which you perpetually totter; but you must reassure your steps, and take hope to guide you.[74] Hope, and your wounds will be already half healed: but if you obstinately despair, there never more will be comfort for you. Believe me, my dearest friend, that there is a joy that the sun and earth and all its beauties can bestow that you will one day feel. The refreshing bliss of Love will again visit your heart, and undo the spell that binds you to woe, untill you wonder how your eyes could be closed in the long night that burthens you. I dare not hope that I have inspired you with sufficient interest that the thought of me, and the affection that I shall ever bear you, will soften your melancholy and decrease the bitterness of your tears. But if my friendship can make you look on life with less disgust, beware how you injure it with suspicion. Love is a delicate sprite[75] and easily hurt by rough jealousy. Guard, I entreat you, a firm persuasion of my sincerity in the inmost recesses of your heart out of the reach of the casual winds that may disturb its surface. Your temper is made unequal by suffering, and the tenor of your mind is, I fear, sometimes shaken by unworthy causes; but let your confidence in my sympathy and love be deeper far, and incapable of being reached by these agitations that come and go, and if they touch not your affections leave you uninjured."

These were some of Woodville's last lessons. I wept as I listened to him; and after we had taken an affectionate farewell, I followed him far with my eyes until they saw the last of my earthly comforter. I had insisted on accompanying him across the heath towards the town where he dwelt: the sun was yet high when he left me, and I turned my steps towards my cottage. It was at the latter end of the month of September when the nights have become chill. But the weather was serene, and as I walked on I fell into no unpleasing reveries. I thought of Woodville with gratitude and kindness and did not, I know not why, regret his departure with any bitterness. It seemed that after one great shock all other change was trivial to me; and I walked on wondering when the time would come when we should all four, my dearest father restored to me, meet in some sweet Paradise[.] I pictured to myself a lovely river such as that on whose banks Dante describes Mathilda gathering flowers, which ever flows

—— bruna, bruna, Sotto l'ombra perpetua, che mai Raggiar non lascia sole ivi, ne Luna.[76]

And then I repeated to myself all that lovely passage that relates the entrance of Dante into the terrestrial Paradise; and thought it would be sweet when I wandered on those lovely banks to see the car of light descend with my long lost parent to be restored to me. As I waited there in expectation of that moment, I thought how, of the lovely flowers that grew there, I would wind myself a chaplet and crown myself for joy: I would sing sul margine d'un rio,[77] my father's favourite song, and that my voice gliding through the windless air would announce to him in whatever bower he sat expecting the moment of our union, that his daughter was come. Then the mark of misery would have faded from my brow, and I should raise my eyes fearlessly to meet his, which ever beamed with the soft lustre of innocent love. When I reflected on the magic look of those deep eyes I wept, but gently, lest my sobs should disturb the fairy scene.

I was so entirely wrapt in this reverie that I wandered on, taking no heed of my steps until I actually stooped down to gather a flower for my wreath on that bleak plain where no flower grew, when I awoke from my day dream and found myself I knew not where.

The sun had set and the roseate hue which the clouds had caught from him in his descent had nearly died away. A wind swept across the plain, I looked around me and saw no object that told me where I was; I had lost myself, and in vain attempted to find my path. I wandered on, and the coming darkness made every trace indistinct by which I might be guided. At length all was veiled in the deep obscurity of blackest night; I became weary and knowing that my servant was to sleep that night at the neighbouring village, so that my absence would alarm no one; and that I was safe in this wild spot from every intruder, I resolved to spend the night where I was. Indeed I was too weary to walk further: the air was chill but I was careless of bodily inconvenience, and I thought that I was well inured to the weather during my two years of solitude, when no change of seasons prevented my perpetual wanderings.

I lay upon the grass surrounded by a darkness which not the slightest beam of light penetrated—There was no sound for the deep night had laid to sleep the insects, the only creatures that lived on the lone spot where no tree or shrub could afford shelter to aught else—There was a wondrous silence in the air that calmed my senses yet which enlivened my soul, my mind hurried from image to image and seemed to grasp an eternity. All in my heart was shadowy yet calm, untill my ideas became confused and at length died away in sleep.[78]

When I awoke it rained:[79] I was already quite wet, and my limbs were stiff and my head giddy with the chill of night. It was a drizzling, penetrating shower; as my dank hair clung to my neck and partly covered my face, I had hardly strength to part with my fingers, the long strait locks that fell before my eyes. The darkness was much dissipated and in the east where the clouds were least dense the moon was visible behind the thin grey cloud—

The moon is behind, and at the full And yet she looks both small and dull.[80]

Its presence gave me a hope that by its means I might find my home. But I was languid and many hours passed before I could reach the cottage, dragging as I did my slow steps, and often resting on the wet earth unable to proceed.

I particularly mark this night, for it was that which has hurried on the last scene of my tragedy, which else might have dwindled on through long years of listless sorrow. I was very ill when I arrived and quite incapable of taking off my wet clothes that clung about me. In the morning, on her return, my servant found me almost lifeless, while possessed by a high fever I was lying on the floor of my room.

I was very ill for a long time, and when I recovered from the immediate danger of fever, every symptom of a rapid consumption declared itself. I was for some time ignorant of this and thought that my excessive weakness was the consequence of the fever; [sic] But my strength became less and less; as winter came on I had a cough; and my sunken cheek, before pale, burned with a hectic fever. One by one these symptoms struck me; & I became convinced that the moment I had so much desired was about to arrive and that I was dying. I was sitting by my fire, the physician who had attended me ever since my fever had just left me, and I looked over his prescription in which digitalis was the prominent medecine. "Yes," I said, "I see how this is, and it is strange that I should have deceived myself so long; I am about to die an innocent death, and it will be sweeter even than that which the opium promised."

I rose and walked slowly to the window; the wide heath was covered by snow which sparkled under the beams of the sun that shone brightly thro' the pure, frosty air: a few birds were pecking some crumbs under my window.[81] I smiled with quiet joy; and in my thoughts, which through long habit would for ever connect themselves into one train, as if I shaped them into words, I thus addressed the scene before me:

"I salute thee, beautiful Sun, and thou, white Earth, fair and cold! Perhaps I shall never see thee again covered with green, and the sweet flowers of the coming spring will blossom on my grave. I am about to leave thee; soon this living spirit which is ever busy among strange shapes and ideas, which belong not to thee, soon it will have flown to other regions and this emaciated body will rest insensate on thy bosom

"Rolled round in earth's diurnal course With rocks, and stones, and trees.

"For it will be the same with thee, who art called our Universal Mother,[82] when I am gone. I have loved thee; and in my days both of happiness and sorrow I have peopled your solitudes with wild fancies of my own creation. The woods, and lakes, and mountains which I have loved, have for me a thousand associations; and thou, oh, Sun! hast smiled upon, and borne your part in many imaginations that sprung to life in my soul alone, and which will die with me. Your solitudes, sweet land, your trees and waters will still exist, moved by your winds, or still beneath the eye of noon, though[83] [w]hat I have felt about ye, and all my dreams which have often strangely deformed thee, will die with me. You will exist to reflect other images in other minds, and ever will remain the same, although your reflected semblance vary in a thousand ways, changeable as the hearts of those who view thee. One of these fragile mirrors, that ever doted on thine image, is about to be broken, crumbled to dust. But everteeming Nature will create another and another, and thou wilt loose nought by my destruction.[84]

"Thou wilt ever be the same. Recieve then the grateful farewell of a fleeting shadow who is about to disappear, who joyfully leaves thee, yet with a last look of affectionate thankfulness. Farewell! Sky, and fields and woods; the lovely flowers that grow on thee; thy mountains & thy rivers; to the balmy air and the strong wind of the north, to all, a last farewell. I shall shed no more tears for my task is almost fulfilled, and I am about to be rewarded for long and most burthensome suffering. Bless thy child even even [sic] in death, as I bless thee; and let me sleep at peace in my quiet grave."

I feel death to be near at hand and I am calm. I no longer despair, but look on all around me with placid affection. I find it sweet to watch the progressive decay of my strength, and to repeat to myself, another day and yet another, but again I shall not see the red leaves of autumn; before that time I shall be with my father. I am glad Woodville is not with me for perhaps he would grieve, and I desire to see smiles alone during the last scene of my life; when I last wrote to him I told him of my ill health but not of its mortal tendency, lest he should conceive it to be his duty to come to me for I fear lest the tears of friendship should destroy the blessed calm of my mind. I take pleasure in arranging all the little details which will occur when I shall no longer be. In truth I am in love with death; no maiden ever took more pleasure in the contemplation of her bridal attire than I in fancying my limbs already enwrapt in their shroud: is it not my marriage dress? Alone it will unite me to my father when in an eternal mental union we shall never part.

I will not dwell on the last changes that I feel in the final decay of nature. It is rapid but without pain: I feel a strange pleasure in it. For long years these are the first days of peace that have visited me. I no longer exhaust my miserable heart by bitter tears and frantic complaints; I no longer the [sic] reproach the sun, the earth, the air, for pain and wretchedness. I wait in quiet expectation for the closing hours of a life which has been to me most sweet & bitter. I do not die not having enjoyed life; for sixteen years I was happy: during the first months of my father's return I had enjoyed ages of pleasure: now indeed I am grown old in grief; my steps are feeble like those of age; I have become peevish and unfit for life; so having passed little more than twenty years upon the earth I am more fit for my narrow grave than many are when they reach the natural term of their lives.

Again and again I have passed over in my remembrance the different scenes of my short life: if the world is a stage and I merely an actor on it my part has been strange, and, alas! tragical. Almost from infancy I was deprived of all the testimonies of affection which children generally receive; I was thrown entirely upon my own resources, and I enjoyed what I may almost call unnatural pleasures, for they were dreams and not realities. The earth was to me a magic lantern and I [a] gazer, and a listener but no actor; but then came the transporting and soul-reviving era of my existence: my father returned and I could pour my warm affections on a human heart; there was a new sun and a new earth created to me; the waters of existence sparkled: joy! joy! but, alas! what grief! My bliss was more rapid than the progress of a sunbeam on a mountain, which discloses its glades & woods, and then leaves it dark & blank; to my happiness followed madness and agony, closed by despair.

This was the drama of my life which I have now depicted upon paper. During three months I have been employed in this task. The memory of sorrow has brought tears; the memory of happiness a warm glow the lively shadow of that joy. Now my tears are dried; the glow has faded from my cheeks, and with a few words of farewell to you, Woodville, I close my work: the last that I shall perform.

Farewell, my only living friend; you are the sole tie that binds me to existence, and now I break it[.] It gives me no pain to leave you; nor can our seperation give you much. You never regarded me as one of this world, but rather as a being, who for some penance was sent from the Kingdom of Shadows; and she passed a few days weeping on the earth and longing to return to her native soil. You will weep but they will be tears of gentleness. I would, if I thought that it would lessen your regret, tell you to smile and congratulate me on my departure from the misery you beheld me endure. I would say; Woodville, rejoice with your friend, I triumph now and am most happy. But I check these expressions; these may not be the consolations of the living; they weep for their own misery, and not for that of the being they have lost. No; shed a few natural tears due to my memory: and if you ever visit my grave, pluck from thence a flower, and lay it to your heart; for your heart is the only tomb in which my memory will be enterred.

My death is rapidly approaching and you are not near to watch the flitting and vanishing of my spirit. Do no[t] regret this; for death is a too terrible an [sic] object for the living. It is one of those adversities which hurt instead of purifying the heart; for it is so intense a misery that it hardens & dulls the feelings. Dreadful as the time was when I pursued my father towards the ocean, & found their [sic] only his lifeless corpse; yet for my own sake I should prefer that to the watching one by one his senses fade; his pulse weaken—and sleeplessly as it were devour his life in gazing. To see life in his limbs & to know that soon life would no longer be there; to see the warm breath issue from his lips and to know they would soon be chill—I will not continue to trace this frightful picture; you suffered this torture once; I never did.[85] And the remembrance fills your heart sometimes with bitter despair when otherwise your feelings would have melted into soft sorrow.

So day by day I become weaker, and life flickers in my wasting form, as a lamp about to loose it vivifying oil. I now behold the glad sun of May. It was May, four years ago, that I first saw my beloved father; it was in May, three years ago that my folly destroyed the only being I was doomed to love. May is returned, and I die. Three days ago, the anniversary of our meeting; and, alas! of our eternal seperation, after a day of killing emotion, I caused myself to be led once more to behold the face of nature. I caused myself to be carried to some meadows some miles distant from my cottage; the grass was being mowed, and there was the scent of hay in the fields; all the earth look[ed] fresh and its inhabitants happy. Evening approached and I beheld the sun set. Three years ago and on that day and hour it shone through the branches and leaves of the beech wood and its beams flickered upon the countenance of him whom I then beheld for the last time.[86] I now saw that divine orb, gilding all the clouds with unwonted splendour, sink behind the horizon; it disappeared from a world where he whom I would seek exists not; it approached a world where he exists not[.] Why do I weep so bitterly? Why my [sic] does my heart heave with vain endeavour to cast aside the bitter anguish that covers it "as the waters cover the sea." I go from this world where he is no longer and soon I shall meet him in another.

Farewell, Woodville, the turf will soon be green on my grave; and the violets will bloom on it. There is my hope and my expectation; your's are in this world; may they be fulfilled.[87]



F of F—A The Fields of Fancy, in Lord Abinger's notebook F of F—B The Fields of Fancy, in the notebook in the Bodleian Library S-R fr fragments of The Fields of Fancy among the papers of the late Sir John Shelley-Rolls, now in the Bodleian Library

[1] The name is spelled thus in the MSS of Mathilda and The Fields of Fancy, though in the printed Journal (taken from Shelley and Mary) and in the Letters it is spelled Matilda. In the MS of the journal, however, it is spelled first Matilda, later Mathilda.

[2] 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.

[3] The addition of "I am alone ... withered me" motivates Mathilda's state of mind and her resolve to write her history.

[4] 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.

[5] The addition of "the precious memorials ... gratitude towards you," by its suggestion of the relationship between Mathilda and Woodville, serves to justify the detailed narration.

[6] At this point two sheets have been removed from the notebook. There is no break in continuity, however.

[7] The descriptions of Mathilda's father and mother and the account of their marriage in the next few pages are greatly expanded from F of F—A, where there is only one brief paragraph. The process of expansion can be followed in S-R fr and in F of F—B. The development of the character of Diana (who represents Mary's own mother, Mary Wollstonecraft) gave Mary the most trouble. For the identifications with Mary's father and mother, see Nitchie, Mary Shelley, pp. 11, 90-93, 96-97.

[8] The passage "There was a gentleman ... school & college vacations" is on a slip of paper pasted on page 11 of the MS. In the margin are two fragments, crossed out, evidently parts of what is supplanted by the substituted passage: "an angelic disposition and a quick, penetrating understanding" and "her visits ... to ... his house were long & frequent & there." In F of F—B Mary wrote of Diana's understanding "that often receives the name of masculine from its firmness and strength." This adjective had often been applied to Mary Wollstonecraft's mind. Mary Shelley's own understanding had been called masculine by Leigh Hunt in 1817 in the Examiner. The word was used also by a reviewer of her last published work, Rambles in Germany and Italy, 1844. (See Nitchie, Mary Shelley, p. 178.)

[9] The account of Diana in Mathilda is much better ordered and more coherent than that in F of F—B.

[10] The description of the effect of Diana's death on her husband is largely new in Mathilda. F of F—B is frankly incomplete; F of F—A contains some of this material; Mathilda puts it in order and fills in the gaps.

[11] This paragraph is an elaboration of the description of her aunt's coldness as found in F of F—B. There is only one sentence in F of F—A.

[12] The description of Mathilda's love of nature and of animals is elaborated from both rough drafts. The effect, like that of the preceding addition (see note 11), is to emphasize Mathilda's loneliness. For the theme of loneliness in Mary Shelley's work, see Nitchie, Mary Shelley, pp. 13-17.

[13] This paragraph is a revision of F of F—B, which is fragmentary. There is nothing in F of F—A and only one scored-out sentence in S-R fr. None of the rough drafts tells of her plans to join her father.

[14] The final paragraph in Chapter II is entirely new.

[15] The account of the return of Mathilda's father is very slightly revised from that in F of F—A. F of F—B has only a few fragmentary sentences, scored out. It resumes with the paragraph beginning, "My father was very little changed."

[16] Symbolic of Mathilda's subsequent life.

[17] Illusion, or the Trances of Nourjahad, a melodrama, was performed at Drury Lane, November 25, 1813. It was anonymous, but it was attributed by some reviewers to Byron, a charge which he indignantly denied. See Byron, Letters and Journals, ed. by Rowland E. Prothero (6 vols. London: Murray, 1902-1904), II, 288.

[18] This paragraph is in F of F—B but not in F of F—A. In the margin of the latter, however, is written: "It was not of the tree of knowledge that I ate for no evil followed—it must be of the tree of life that grows close beside it or—". Perhaps this was intended to go in the preceding paragraph after "My ideas were enlarged by his conversation." Then, when this paragraph was added, the figure, noticeably changed, was included here.

[19] Here the MS of F of F—B breaks off to resume only with the meeting of Mathilda and Woodville.

[20] At the end of the story (p. 79) Mathilda says, "Death is too terrible an object for the living." Mary was thinking of the deaths of her two children.

[21] Mary had read the story of Cupid and Psyche in Apuleius in 1817 and she had made an Italian translation, the MS of which is now in the Library of Congress. See Journal, pp. 79, 85-86.

[22] The end of this paragraph gave Mary much trouble. In F of F—A after the words, "my tale must," she develops an elaborate figure: "go with the stream that hurries on—& now was this stream precipitated by an overwhelming fall from the pleasant vallies through which it wandered—down hideous precipieces to a desart black & hopeless—". This, the original ending of the chapter, was scored out, and a new, simplified version which, with some deletions and changes, became that used in Mathilda was written in the margins of two pages (ff. 57, 58). This revision is a good example of Mary's frequent improvement of her style by the omission of purple patches.

[23] In F of F—A there follows a passage which has been scored out and which does not appear in Mathilda: "I have tried in somewhat feeble language to describe the excess of what I may almost call my adoration for my father—you may then in some faint manner imagine my despair when I found that he shunned [me] & that all the little arts I used to re-awaken his lost love made him"—. This is a good example of Mary's frequent revision for the better by the omission of the obvious and expository. But the passage also has intrinsic interest. Mathilda's "adoration" for her father may be compared to Mary's feeling for Godwin. In an unpublished letter (1822) to Jane Williams she wrote, "Until I met Shelley I [could?] justly say that he was my God—and I remember many childish instances of the [ex]cess of attachment I bore for him." See Nitchie, Mary Shelley, p. 89, and note 9.

[24] Cf. the account of the services of Fantasia in the opening chapter of F of F—A (see pp. 90-102) together with note 3 to The Fields of Fancy.

[25] This passage beginning "Day after day" and closing with the quotation is not in F of F—A, but it is in S-R fr. The quotation is from The Captain by John Fletcher and a collaborator, possibly Massinger. These lines from Act I, Sc. 3 are part of a speech by Lelia addressed to her lover. Later in the play Lelia attempts to seduce her father—possibly a reason for Mary's selection of the lines.

[26] At this point (f. 56 of the notebook) begins a long passage, continuing through Chapter V, in which Mary's emotional disturbance in writing about the change in Mathilda's father (representing both Shelley and Godwin?) shows itself on the pages of the MS. They look more like the rough draft than the fair copy. There are numerous slips of the pen, corrections in phrasing and sentence structure, dashes instead of other marks of punctuation, a large blot of ink on f. 57, one major deletion (see note 32).

[27] In the margin of F of F—A Mary wrote, "Lord B's Ch'de Harold." The reference is to stanzas 71 and 72 of Canto IV. Byron compares the rainbow on the cataract first to "Hope upon a death-bed" and finally

Resembling, 'mid the torture of the scene, Love watching Madness with unalterable mien.

[28] In F of F—A Mathilda "took up Ariosto & read the story of Isabella." Mary's reason for the change is not clear. Perhaps she thought that the fate of Isabella, a tale of love and lust and death (though not of incest), was too close to what was to be Mathilda's fate. She may have felt—and rightly—that the allusions to Lelia and to Myrrha were ample foreshadowings. The reasons for the choice of the seventh canto of Book II of the Faerie Queene may lie in the allegorical meaning of Guyon, or Temperance, and the "dread and horror" of his experience.

[29] With this speech, which is not in F of F—A, Mary begins to develop the character of the Steward, who later accompanies Mathilda on her search for her father. Although he is to a very great extent the stereptyped faithful servant, he does serve to dramatize the situation both here and in the later scene.

[30] This clause is substituted for a more conventional and less dramatic passage in F of F—A: "& besides there appeared more of struggle than remorse in his manner although sometimes I thought I saw glim[p]ses of the latter feeling in his tumultuous starts & gloomy look."

[31] These paragraphs beginning Chapter V are much expanded from F of F—A. Some of the details are in the S-R fr. This scene is recalled at the end of the story. (See page 80) Cf. what Mary says about places that are associated with former emotions in her Rambles in Germany and Italy (2 vols., London: Moxon, 1844), II, 78-79. She is writing of her approach to Venice, where, twenty-five years before, little Clara had died. "It is a strange, but to any person who has suffered, a familiar circumstance, that those who are enduring mental or corporeal agony are strangely alive to immediate external objects, and their imagination even exercises its wild power over them.... Thus the banks of the Brenta presented to me a moving scene; not a palace, not a tree of which I did not recognize, as marked and recorded, at a moment when life and death hung upon our speedy arrival at Venice."

[32] The remainder of this chapter, which describes the crucial scene between Mathilda and her father, is the result of much revision from F of F—A. Some of the revisions are in S-R fr. In general the text of Mathilda is improved in style. Mary adds concrete, specific words and phrases; e.g., at the end of the first paragraph of Mathilda's speech, the words "of incertitude" appear in Mathilda for the first time. She cancels, even in this final draft, an over-elaborate figure of speech after the words in the father's reply, "implicated in my destruction"; the cancelled passage is too flowery to be appropriate here: "as if when a vulture is carrying off some hare it is struck by an arrow his helpless victim entangled in the same fate is killed by the defeat of its enemy. One word would do all this." Furthermore the revised text shows greater understanding and penetration of the feelings of both speakers: the addition of "Am I the cause of your grief?" which brings out more dramatically what Mathilda has said in the first part of this paragraph; the analysis of the reasons for her presistent questioning; the addition of the final paragraph of her plea, "Alas! Alas!... you hate me!" which prepares for the father's reply.

[33] Almost all the final paragraph of the chapter is added to F of F—A. Three brief S-R fr are much revised and simplified.

[34] Decameron, 4th day, 1st story. Mary had read the Decameron in May, 1819. See Journal, p. 121.

[35] The passage "I should fear ... I must despair" is in S-R fr but not in F of F—A. There, in the margin, is the following: "Is it not the prerogative of superior virtue to pardon the erring and to weigh with mercy their offenses?" This sentence does not appear in Mathilda. Also in the margin of F of F—A is the number (9), the number of the S-R fr.

[36] The passage "enough of the world ... in unmixed delight" is on a slip pasted over the middle of the page. Some of the obscured text is visible in the margin, heavily scored out. Also in the margin is "Canto IV Vers Ult," referring to the quotation from Dante's Paradiso. This quotation, with the preceding passage beginning "in whose eyes," appears in Mathilda only.

[37] The reference to Diana, with the father's rationalization of his love for Mathilda, is in S-R fr but not in F of F—A.

[38] In F of F—A this is followed by a series of other gloomy concessive clauses which have been scored out to the advantage of the text.

[39] This paragraph has been greatly improved by the omission of elaborate over-statement; e.g., "to pray for mercy & respite from my fear" (F of F—A) becomes merely "to pray."

[40] This paragraph about the Steward is added in Mathilda. In F of F—A he is called a servant and his name is Harry. See note 29.

[41] This sentence, not in F of F—A, recalls Mathilda's dream.

[42] This passage is somewhat more dramatic than that in F of F—A, putting what is there merely a descriptive statement into quotation marks.

[43] A stalactite grotto on the island of Antiparos in the Aegean Sea.

[44] A good description of Mary's own behavior in England after Shelley's death, of the surface placidity which concealed stormy emotion. See Nitchie, Mary Shelley, pp. 8-10.

[45] Job, 17: 15-16, slightly misquoted.

[46] Not in F of F—A. The quotation should read:

Fam. Whisper it, sister! so and so! In a dark hint, soft and slow.

[47] The mother of Prince Arthur in Shakespeare's King John. In the MS the words "the little Arthur" are written in pencil above the name of Constance.

[48] In F of F—A this account of her plans is addressed to Diotima, and Mathilda's excuse for not detailing them is that they are too trivial to interest spirits no longer on earth; this is the only intrusion of the framework into Mathilda's narrative in The Fields of Fancy. Mathilda's refusal to recount her stratagems, though the omission is a welcome one to the reader, may represent the flagging of Mary's invention. Similarly in Frankenstein she offers excuses for not explaining how the Monster was brought to life. The entire passage, "Alas! I even now ... remain unfinished. I was," is on a slip of paper pasted on the page.

[49] The comparison to a Hermitess and the wearing of the "fanciful nunlike dress" are appropriate though melodramatic. They appear only in Mathilda. Mathilda refers to her "whimsical nunlike habit" again after she meets Woodville (see page 60) and tells us in a deleted passage that it was "a close nunlike gown of black silk."

[50] Cf. Shelley, Prometheus Unbound, I, 48: "the wingless, crawling hours." This phrase ("my part in submitting ... minutes") and the remainder of the paragraph are an elaboration of the simple phrase in F of F—A, "my part in enduring it—," with its ambiguous pronoun. The last page of Chapter VIII shows many corrections, even in the MS of Mathilda. It is another passage that Mary seems to have written in some agitation of spirit. Cf. note 26.

[51] In F of F—A there are several false starts before this sentence. The name there is Welford; on the next page it becomes Lovel, which is thereafter used throughout The Fields of Fancy and appears twice, probably inadvertently, in Mathilda, where it is crossed out. In a few of the S-R fr it is Herbert. In Mathilda it is at first Herbert, which is used until after the rewritten conclusion (see note 83) but is corrected throughout to Woodville. On the final pages Woodville alone is used. (It is interesting, though not particularly significant, that one of the minor characters in Lamb's John Woodvil is named Lovel. Such mellifluous names rolled easily from the pens of all the romantic writers.) This, her first portrait of Shelley in fiction, gave Mary considerable trouble: revisions from the rough drafts are numerous. The passage on Woodville's endowment by fortune, for example, is much more concise and effective than that in S-R fr. Also Mary curbed somewhat the extravagance of her praise of Woodville, omitting such hyperboles as "When he appeared a new sun seemed to rise on the day & he had all the benignity of the dispensor of light," and "he seemed to come as the God of the world."

[52] This passage beginning "his station was too high" is not in F of F—A.

[53] This passage beginning "He was a believer in the divinity of genius" is not in F of F—A. Cf. the discussion of genius in "Giovanni Villani" (Mary Shelley's essay in The Liberal, No. IV, 1823), including the sentence: "The fixed stars appear to abberate [sic]; but it is we that move, not they." It is tempting to conclude that this is a quotation or echo of something which Shelley said, perhaps in conversation with Byron. I have not found it in any of his published writings.

[54] Is this wishful thinking about Shelley's poetry? It is well known that a year later Mary remonstrated with Shelley about The Witch of Atlas, desiring, as she said in her 1839 note, "that Shelley should increase his popularity.... It was not only that I wished him to acquire popularity as redounding to his fame; but I believed that he would obtain a greater mastery over his own powers, and greater happiness in his mind, if public applause crowned his endeavours.... Even now I believe that I was in the right." Shelley's response is in the six introductory stanzas of the poem.

[55] The preceding paragraphs about Elinor and Woodville are the result of considerable revision for the better of F of F—A and S-R fr. Mary scored out a paragraph describing Elinor, thus getting rid of several cliches ("fortune had smiled on her," "a favourite of fortune," "turning tears of misery to those of joy"); she omitted a clause which offered a weak motivation of Elinor's father's will (the possibility of her marrying, while hardly more than a child, one of her guardian's sons); she curtailed the extravagance of a rhapsody on the perfect happiness which Woodville and Elinor would have enjoyed.

[56] The death scene is elaborated from F of F—A and made more melodramatic by the addition of Woodville's plea and of his vigil by the death-bed.

[57] F of F—A ends here and F of F—B resumes.

[58] A similar passage about Mathilda's fears is cancelled in F of F—B but it appears in revised form in S-R fr. There is also among these fragments a long passage, not used in Mathilda, identifying Woodville as someone she had met in London. Mary was wise to discard it for the sake of her story. But the first part of it is interesting for its correspondence with fact: "I knew him when I first went to London with my father he was in the height of his glory & happiness—Elinor was living & in her life he lived—I did not know her but he had been introduced to my father & had once or twice visited us—I had then gazed with wonder on his beauty & listened to him with delight—" Shelley had visited Godwin more than "once or twice" while Harriet was still living, and Mary had seen him. Of course she had seen Harriet too, in 1812, when she came with Shelley to call on Godwin. Elinor and Harriet, however, are completely unlike.

[59] Here and on many succeeding pages, where Mathilda records the words and opinions of Woodville, it is possible to hear the voice of Shelley. This paragraph, which is much expanded from F of F—B, may be compared with the discussion of good and evil in Julian and Maddalo and with Prometheus Unbound and A Defence of Poetry.

[60] In the revision of this passage Mathilda's sense of her pollution is intensified; for example, by addition of "infamy and guilt was mingled with my portion."

[61] Some phrases of self-criticism are added in this paragraph.

[62] In F of F—B this quotation is used in the laudanum scene, just before Level's (Woodville's) long speech of dissuasion.

[63] The passage "air, & to suffer ... my compassionate friend" is on a slip of paper pasted across the page.

[64] This phrase sustains the metaphor better than that in F of F—B: "puts in a word."

[65] This entire paragraph is added to F of F—B; it is in rough draft in S-R fr.

[66] This is changed in the MS of Mathilda from "a violent thunderstorm." Evidently Mary decided to avoid using another thunderstorm at a crisis in the story.

[67] The passage "It is true ... I will" is on a slip of paper pasted across the page.

[68] In the revision from F of F—B the style of this whole episode becomes more concise and specific.

[69] An improvement over the awkward phrasing in F of F—B: "a friend who will not repulse my request that he would accompany me."

[70] These two paragraphs are not in F of F—B; portions of them are in S-R fr.

[71] This speech is greatly improved in style over that in F of F—B, more concise in expression (though somewhat expanded), more specific. There are no corresponding S-R fr to show the process of revision. With the ideas expressed here cf. Shelley, Julian and Maddalo, ll. 182-187, 494-499, and his letter to Claire in November, 1820 (Julian Works, X, 226). See also White, Shelley, II, 378.

[72] This solecism, copied from F of F—B, is not characteristic of Mary Shelley.

[73] This paragraph prepares for the eventual softening of Mathilda's feeling. The idea is somewhat elaborated from F of F—B. Other changes are necessitated by the change in the mode of presenting the story. In The Fields of Fancy Mathilda speaks as one who has already died.

[74] Cf. Shelley's emphasis on hope and its association with love in all his work. When Mary wrote Mathilda she knew Queen Mab (see Part VIII, ll. 50-57, and Part IX, ll. 207-208), the Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, and the first three acts of Prometheus Unbound. The fourth act was written in the winter of 1819, but Demogorgon's words may already have been at least adumbrated before the beginning of November:

To love and bear, to hope till hope creates From its own wreck the thing it contemplates.

[75] Shelley had written, "Desolation is a delicate thing" (Prometheus Unbound, Act I, l. 772) and called the Spirit of the Earth "a delicate spirit" (Ibid., Act III, Sc. iv, l. 6).

[76] Purgatorio, Canto 28, ll. 31-33. Perhaps by this time Shelley had translated ll. 1-51 of this canto. He had read the Purgatorio in April, 1818, and again with Mary in August, 1819, just as she was beginning to write Mathilda. Shelley showed his translation to Medwin in 1820, but there seems to be no record of the date of composition.

[77] An air with this title was published about 1800 in London by Robert Birchall. See Catalogue of Printed Music Published between 1487 and 1800 and now in the British Museum, by W. Barclay Squire, 1912. Neither author nor composer is listed in the Catalogue.

[78] This paragraph is materially changed from F of F—B. Clouds and darkness are substituted for starlight, silence for the sound of the wind. The weather here matches Mathilda's mood. Four and a half lines of verse (which I have not been able to identify, though they sound Shelleyan—are they Mary's own?) are omitted: of the stars she says,

the wind is in the tree But they are silent;—still they roll along Immeasurably distant; & the vault Built round by those white clouds, enormous clouds Still deepens its unfathomable depth.

[79] If Mary quotes Coleridge's Ancient Mariner intentionally here, she is ironic, for this is no merciful rain, except for the fact that it brings on the illness which leads to Mathilda's death, for which she longs.

[80] This quotation from Christabel (which suggests that the preceding echo is intentional) is not in F of F—B.

[81] Cf. the description which opens Mathilda.

[82] Among Lord Abinger's papers, in Mary's hand, are some comparable (but very bad) fragmentary verses addressed to Mother Earth.

[83] At this point four sheets are cut out of the notebook. They are evidently those with pages numbered 217 to 223 which are among the S-R fr. They contain the conclusion of the story, ending, as does F of F—B with Mathilda's words spoken to Diotima in the Elysian Fields: "I am here, not with my father, but listening to lessons of wisdom, which will one day bring me to him when we shall never part. THE END." Some passages are scored out, but not this final sentence. Tenses are changed from past to future. The name Herbert is changed to Woodville. The explanation must be that Mary was hurrying to finish the revision (quite drastic on these final pages) and the transcription of her story before her confinement, and that in her haste she copied the pages from F of F—B as they stood. Then, realizing that they did not fit Mathilda, she began to revise them; but to keep her MS neat, she cut out these pages and wrote the fair copy. There is no break in Mathilda in story or in pagination. This fair copy also shows signs of haste: slips of the pen, repetition of words, a number of unimportant revisions.

[84] Here in F of F—B there is an index number which evidently points to a note at the bottom of the next page. The note is omitted in Mathilda. It reads:

"Dante in his Purgatorio describes a grifon as remaining unchanged but his reflection in the eyes of Beatrice as perpetually varying (Purg. Cant. 31) So nature is ever the same but seen differently by almost every spectator and even by the same at various times. All minds, as mirrors, receive her forms—yet in each mirror the shapes apparently reflected vary & are perpetually changing—"

[85] See note 20. Mary Shelley had suffered this torture when Clara and William died.

[86] See the end of Chapter V.

[87] This sentence is not in F of F—B or in S-R fr.


It was in Rome—the Queen of the World that I suffered a misfortune that reduced me to misery & despair[89]—The bright sun & deep azure sky were oppressive but nought was so hateful as the voice of Man—I loved to walk by the shores of the Tiber which were solitary & if the sirocco blew to see the swift clouds pass over St. Peters and the many domes of Rome or if the sun shone I turned my eyes from the sky whose light was too dazzling & gay to be reflected in my tearful eyes I turned them to the river whose swift course was as the speedy departure of happiness and whose turbid colour was gloomy as grief—

Whether I slept I know not or whether it was in one of those many hours which I spent seated on the ground my mind a chaos of despair & my eyes for ever wet by tears but I was here visited by a lovely spirit whom I have ever worshiped & who tried to repay my adoration by diverting my mind from the hideous memories that racked it. At first indeed this wanton spirit played a false part & appearing with sable wings & gloomy countenance seemed to take a pleasure in exagerating all my miseries—and as small hopes arose to snatch them from me & give me in their place gigantic fears which under her fairy hand appeared close, impending & unavoidable—sometimes she would cruelly leave me while I was thus on the verge of madness and without consoling me leave me nought but heavy leaden sleep—but at other times she would wilily link less unpleasing thoughts to these most dreadful ones & before I was aware place hopes before me—futile but consoling[90]—

One day this lovely spirit—whose name as she told me was Fantasia came to me in one of her consolotary moods—her wings which seemed coloured by her tone of mind were not gay but beautiful like that of the partridge & her lovely eyes although they ever burned with an unquenshable fire were shaded & softened by her heavy lids & the black long fringe of her eye lashes—She thus addressed me—You mourn for the loss of those you love. They are gone for ever & great as my power is I cannot recall them to you—if indeed I wave my wand over you you will fancy that you feel their gentle spirits in the soft air that steals over your cheeks & the distant sound of winds & waters may image to you their voices which will bid you rejoice for that they live—This will not take away your grief but you will shed sweeter tears than those which full of anguish & hopelessness now start from your eyes—This I can do & also can I take you to see many of my provinces my fairy lands which you have not yet visited and whose beauty will while away the heavy time—I have many lovely spots under my command which poets of old have visited and have seen those sights the relation of which has been as a revelation to the world—many spots I have still in keeping of lovely fields or horrid rocks peopled by the beautiful or the tremendous which I keep in reserve for my future worshippers—to one of those whose grim terrors frightened sleep from the eye I formerly led you[91] but you now need more pleasing images & although I will not promise you to shew you any new scenes yet if I lead you to one often visited by my followers you will at least see new combinations that will sooth if they do not delight you—Follow me—

Alas! I replied—when have you found me slow to obey your voice—some times indeed I have called you & you have not come—but when before have I not followed your slightest sign and have left what was either of joy or sorrow in our world to dwell with you in yours till you have dismissed me ever unwilling to depart—But now the weight of grief that oppresses me takes from me that lightness which is necessary to follow your quick & winged motions alas in the midst of my course one thought would make me droop to the ground while you would outspeed me to your Kingdom of Glory & leave me here darkling

Ungrateful! replied the Spirit Do I not tell you that I will sustain & console you My wings shall aid your heavy steps & I will command my winds to disperse the mist that over casts you—I will lead you to a place where you will not hear laughter that disturbs you or see the sun that dazzles you—We will choose some of the most sombre walks of the Elysian fields—

The Elysian fields—I exclaimed with a quick scream—shall I then see? I gasped & could not ask that which I longed to know—the friendly spirit replied more gravely—I have told you that you will not see those whom you mourn—But I must away—follow me or I must leave you weeping deserted by the spirit that now checks your tears—

Go—I replied I cannot follow—I can only sit here & grieve—& long to see those who are gone for ever for to nought but what has relation to them can I listen—

The spirit left me to groan & weep to wish the sun quenched in eternal darkness—to accuse the air the waters all—all the universe of my utter & irremediable misery—Fantasia came again and ever when she came tempted me to follow her but as to follow her was to leave for a while the thought of those loved ones whose memories were my all although they were my torment I dared not go—Stay with me I cried & help me to clothe my bitter thoughts in lovelier colours give me hope although fallacious & images of what has been although it never will be again—diversion I cannot take cruel fairy do you leave me alas all my joy fades at thy departure but I may not follow thee—

One day after one of these combats when the spirit had left me I wandered on along the banks of the river to try to disperse the excessive misery that I felt untill overcome by fatigue—my eyes weighed down by tears—I lay down under the shade of trees & fell asleep—I slept long and when I awoke I knew not where I was—I did not see the river or the distant city—but I lay beside a lovely fountain shadowed over by willows & surrounded by blooming myrtles—at a short distance the air seemed pierced by the spiry pines & cypresses and the ground was covered by short moss & sweet smelling heath—the sky was blue but not dazzling like that of Rome and on every side I saw long allies—clusters of trees with intervening lawns & gently stealing rivers—Where am I? [I] exclaimed—& looking around me I beheld Fantasia—She smiled & as she smiled all the enchanting scene appeared lovelier—rainbows played in the fountain & the heath flowers at our feet appeared as if just refreshed by dew—I have seized you, said she—as you slept and will for some little time retain you as my prisoner—I will introduce you to some of the inhabitants of these peaceful Gardens—It shall not be to any whose exuberant happiness will form an u[n]pleasing contrast with your heavy grief but it shall be to those whose chief care here is to acquired knowledged [sic] & virtue—or to those who having just escaped from care & pain have not yet recovered full sense of enjoyment—This part of these Elysian Gardens is devoted to those who as before in your world wished to become wise & virtuous by study & action here endeavour after the same ends by contemplation—They are still unknowing of their final destination but they have a clear knowledge of what on earth is only supposed by some which is that their happiness now & hereafter depends upon their intellectual improvement—Nor do they only study the forms of this universe but search deeply in their own minds and love to meet & converse on all those high subjects of which the philosophers of Athens loved to treat—With deep feelings but with no outward circumstances to excite their passions you will perhaps imagine that their life is uniform & dull—but these sages are of that disposition fitted to find wisdom in every thing & in every lovely colour or form ideas that excite their love—Besides many years are consumed before they arrive here—When a soul longing for knowledge & pining at its narrow conceptions escapes from your earth many spirits wait to receive it and to open its eyes to the mysteries of the universe—many centuries are often consumed in these travels and they at last retire here to digest their knowledge & to become still wiser by thought and imagination working upon memory [92]—When the fitting period is accomplished they leave this garden to inhabit another world fitted for the reception of beings almost infinitely wise—but what this world is neither can you conceive or I teach you—some of the spirits whom you will see here are yet unknowing in the secrets of nature—They are those whom care & sorrow have consumed on earth & whose hearts although active in virtue have been shut through suffering from knowledge—These spend sometime here to recover their equanimity & to get a thirst of knowledge from converse with their wiser companions—They now securely hope to see again those whom they love & know that it is ignorance alone that detains them from them. As for those who in your world knew not the loveliness of benevolence & justice they are placed apart some claimed by the evil spirit & in vain sought for by the good but She whose delight is to reform the wicked takes all she can & delivers them to her ministers not to be punished but to be exercised & instructed untill acquiring a love of virtue they are fitted for these gardens where they will acquire a love of knowledge

As Fantasia talked I saw various groupes of figures as they walked among the allies of the gardens or were seated on the grassy plots either in contemplation or conversation several advanced together towards the fountain where I sat—As they approached I observed the principal figure to be that of a woman about 40 years of age her eyes burned with a deep fire and every line of her face expressed enthusiasm & wisdom—Poetry seemed seated on her lips which were beautifully formed & every motion of her limbs although not youthful was inexpressibly graceful—her black hair was bound in tresses round her head and her brows were encompassed by a fillet—her dress was that of a simple tunic bound at the waist by a broad girdle and a mantle which fell over her left arm she was encompassed by several youths of both sexes who appeared to hang on her words & to catch the inspiration as it flowed from her with looks either of eager wonder or stedfast attention with eyes all bent towards her eloquent countenance which beamed with the mind within—I am going said Fantasia but I leave my spirit with you without which this scene wd fade away—I leave you in good company—that female whose eyes like the loveliest planet in the heavens draw all to gaze on her is the Prophetess Diotima the instructress of Socrates[93]—The company about her are those just escaped from the world there they were unthinking or misconducted in the pursuit of knowledge. She leads them to truth & wisdom untill the time comes when they shall be fitted for the journey through the universe which all must one day undertake—farewell—

And now, gentlest reader—I must beg your indulgence—I am a being too weak to record the words of Diotima her matchless wisdom & heavenly eloquence[.] What I shall repeat will be as the faint shadow of a tree by moonlight—some what of the form will be preserved but there will be no life in it—Plato alone of Mortals could record the thoughts of Diotima hopeless therefore I shall not dwell so much on her words as on those of her pupils which being more earthly can better than hers be related by living lips[.]

Diotima approached the fountain & seated herself on a mossy mound near it and her disciples placed themselves on the grass near her—Without noticing me who sat close under her she continued her discourse addressing as it happened one or other of her listeners—but before I attempt to repeat her words I will describe the chief of these whom she appeared to wish principally to impress—One was a woman of about 23 years of age in the full enjoyment of the most exquisite beauty her golden hair floated in ringlets on her shoulders—her hazle eyes were shaded by heavy lids and her mouth the lips apart seemed to breathe sensibility[94]—But she appeared thoughtful & unhappy—her cheek was pale she seemed as if accustomed to suffer and as if the lessons she now heard were the only words of wisdom to which she had ever listened—The youth beside her had a far different aspect—his form was emaciated nearly to a shadow—his features were handsome but thin & worn—& his eyes glistened as if animating the visage of decay—his forehead was expansive but there was a doubt & perplexity in his looks that seemed to say that although he had sought wisdom he had got entangled in some mysterious mazes from which he in vain endeavoured to extricate himself—As Diotima spoke his colour went & came with quick changes & the flexible muscles of his countenance shewed every impression that his mind received—he seemed one who in life had studied hard but whose feeble frame sunk beneath the weight of the mere exertion of life—the spark of intelligence burned with uncommon strength within him but that of life seemed ever on the eve of fading[95]—At present I shall not describe any other of this groupe but with deep attention try to recall in my memory some of the words of Diotima—they were words of fire but their path is faintly marked on my recollection—[96]

It requires a just hand, said she continuing her discourse, to weigh & divide the good from evil—On the earth they are inextricably entangled and if you would cast away what there appears an evil a multitude of beneficial causes or effects cling to it & mock your labour—When I was on earth and have walked in a solitary country during the silence of night & have beheld the multitude of stars, the soft radiance of the moon reflected on the sea, which was studded by lovely islands—When I have felt the soft breeze steal across my cheek & as the words of love it has soothed & cherished me—then my mind seemed almost to quit the body that confined it to the earth & with a quick mental sense to mingle with the scene that I hardly saw—I felt—Then I have exclaimed, oh world how beautiful thou art!—Oh brightest universe behold thy worshiper!—spirit of beauty & of sympathy which pervades all things, & now lifts my soul as with wings, how have you animated the light & the breezes!—Deep & inexplicable spirit give me words to express my adoration; my mind is hurried away but with language I cannot tell how I feel thy loveliness! Silence or the song of the nightingale the momentary apparition of some bird that flies quietly past—all seems animated with thee & more than all the deep sky studded with worlds!"—If the winds roared & tore the sea and the dreadful lightnings seemed falling around me—still love was mingled with the sacred terror I felt; the majesty of loveliness was deeply impressed on me—So also I have felt when I have seen a lovely countenance—or heard solemn music or the eloquence of divine wisdom flowing from the lips of one of its worshippers—a lovely animal or even the graceful undulations of trees & inanimate objects have excited in me the same deep feeling of love & beauty; a feeling which while it made me alive & eager to seek the cause & animator of the scene, yet satisfied me by its very depth as if I had already found the solution to my enquires [sic] & as if in feeling myself a part of the great whole I had found the truth & secret of the universe—But when retired in my cell I have studied & contemplated the various motions and actions in the world the weight of evil has confounded me—If I thought of the creation I saw an eternal chain of evil linked one to the other—from the great whale who in the sea swallows & destroys multitudes & the smaller fish that live on him also & torment him to madness—to the cat whose pleasure it is to torment her prey I saw the whole creation filled with pain—each creature seems to exist through the misery of another & death & havoc is the watchword of the animated world—And Man also—even in Athens the most civilized spot on the earth what a multitude of mean passions—envy, malice—a restless desire to depreciate all that was great and good did I see—And in the dominions of the great being I saw man [reduced?][97] far below the animals of the field preying on one anothers [sic] hearts; happy in the downfall of others—themselves holding on with bent necks and cruel eyes to a wretch more a slave if possible than they to his miserable passions—And if I said these are the consequences of civilization & turned to the savage world I saw only ignorance unrepaid by any noble feeling—a mere animal, love of life joined to a low love of power & a fiendish love of destruction—I saw a creature drawn on by his senses & his selfish passions but untouched by aught noble or even Human—

And then when I sought for consolation in the various faculties man is possessed of & which I felt burning within me—I found that spirit of union with love & beauty which formed my happiness & pride degraded into superstition & turned from its natural growth which could bring forth only good fruit:—cruelty—& intolerance & hard tyranny was grafted on its trunk & from it sprung fruit suitable to such grafts—If I mingled with my fellow creatures was the voice I heard that of love & virtue or that of selfishness & vice, still misery was ever joined to it & the tears of mankind formed a vast sea ever blown on by its sighs & seldom illuminated by its smiles—Such taking only one side of the picture & shutting wisdom from the view is a just portraiture of the creation as seen on earth

But when I compared the good & evil of the world & wished to divide them into two seperate principles I found them inextricably intwined together & I was again cast into perplexity & doubt—I might have considered the earth as an imperfect formation where having bad materials to work on the Creator could only palliate the evil effects of his combinations but I saw a wanton malignity in many parts & particularly in the mind of man that baffled me a delight in mischief a love of evil for evils sake—a siding of the multitude—a dastardly applause which in their hearts the crowd gave to triumphant wick[ed]ness over lowly virtue that filled me with painful sensations. Meditation, painful & continual thought only encreased my doubts—I dared not commit the blasphemy of ascribing the slightest evil to a beneficent God—To whom then should I ascribe the creation? To two principles? Which was the upermost? They were certainly independant for neither could the good spirit allow the existence of evil or the evil one the existence of good—Tired of these doubts to which I could form no probable solution—Sick of forming theories which I destroyed as quickly as I built them I was one evening on the top of Hymettus beholding the lovely prospect as the sun set in the glowing sea—I looked towards Athens & in my heart I exclaimed—oh busy hive of men! What heroism & what meaness exists within thy walls! And alas! both to the good & to the wicked what incalculable misery—Freemen ye call yourselves yet every free man has ten slaves to build up his freedom—and these slaves are men as they are yet d[e]graded by their station to all that is mean & loathsome—Yet in how many hearts now beating in that city do high thoughts live & magnanimity that should methinks redeem the whole human race—What though the good man is unhappy has he not that in his heart to satisfy him? And will a contented conscience compensate for fallen hopes—a slandered name torn affections & all the miseries of civilized life?—

Oh Sun how beautiful thou art! And how glorious is the golden ocean that receives thee! My heart is at peace—I feel no sorrow—a holy love stills my senses—I feel as if my mind also partook of the inexpressible loveliness of surrounding nature—What shall I do? Shall I disturb this calm by mingling in the world?—shall I with an aching heart seek the spectacle of misery to discover its cause or shall I hopless leave the search of knowledge & devote myself to the pleasures they say this world affords?—Oh! no—I will become wise! I will study my own heart—and there discovering as I may the spring of the virtues I possess I will teach others how to look for them in their own souls—I will find whence arrises this unquenshable love of beauty I possess that seems the ruling star of my life—I will learn how I may direct it aright and by what loving I may become more like that beauty which I adore And when I have traced the steps of the godlike feeling which ennobles me & makes me that which I esteem myself to be then I will teach others & if I gain but one proselyte—if I can teach but one other mind what is the beauty which they ought to love—and what is the sympathy to which they ought to aspire what is the true end of their being—which must be the true end of that of all men then shall I be satisfied & think I have done enough—

Farewell doubts—painful meditation of evil—& the great, ever inexplicable cause of all that we see—I am content to be ignorant of all this happy that not resting my mind on any unstable theories I have come to the conclusion that of the great secret of the universe I can know nothing—There is a veil before it—my eyes are not piercing enough to see through it my arms not long enough to reach it to withdraw it—I will study the end of my being—oh thou universal love inspire me—oh thou beauty which I see glowing around me lift me to a fit understanding of thee! Such was the conclusion of my long wanderings I sought the end of my being & I found it to be knowledge of itself—Nor think this a confined study—Not only did it lead me to search the mazes of the human soul—but I found that there existed nought on earth which contained not a part of that universal beauty with which it [was] my aim & object to become acquainted—the motions of the stars of heaven the study of all that philosophers have unfolded of wondrous in nature became as it where [sic] the steps by which my soul rose to the full contemplation & enjoyment of the beautiful—Oh ye who have just escaped from the world ye know not what fountains of love will be opened in your hearts or what exquisite delight your minds will receive when the secrets of the world will be unfolded to you and ye shall become acquainted with the beauty of the universe—Your souls now growing eager for the acquirement of knowledge will then rest in its possession disengaged from every particle of evil and knowing all things ye will as it were be mingled in the universe & ye will become a part of that celestial beauty that you admire—[98]

Diotima ceased and a profound silence ensued—the youth with his cheeks flushed and his eyes burning with the fire communicated from hers still fixed them on her face which was lifted to heaven as in inspiration—The lovely female bent hers to the ground & after a deep sigh was the first to break the silence—

Oh divinest prophetess, said she—how new & to me how strange are your lessons—If such be the end of our being how wayward a course did I pursue on earth—Diotima you know not how torn affections & misery incalculable misery—withers up the soul. How petty do the actions of our earthly life appear when the whole universe is opened to our gaze—yet there our passions are deep & irrisisbable [sic] and as we are floating hopless yet clinging to hope down the impetuous stream can we perceive the beauty of its banks which alas my soul was too turbid to reflect—If knowledge is the end of our being why are passions & feelings implanted in us that hurries [sic] us from wisdom to selfconcentrated misery & narrow selfish feeling? Is it as a trial? On earth I thought that I had well fulfilled my trial & my last moments became peaceful with the reflection that I deserved no blame—but you take from me that feeling—My passions were there my all to me and the hopeless misery that possessed me shut all love & all images of beauty from my soul—Nature was to me as the blackest night & if rays of loveliness ever strayed into my darkness it was only to draw bitter tears of hopeless anguish from my eyes—Oh on earth what consolation is there to misery?

Your heart I fear, replied Diotima, was broken by your sufferings—but if you had struggled—if when you found all hope of earthly happiness wither within you while desire of it scorched your soul—if you had near you a friend to have raised you to the contemplation of beauty & the search of knowledge you would have found perhaps not new hopes spring within you but a new life distinct from that of passion by which you had before existed[99]—relate to me what this misery was that thus engroses you—tell me what were the vicissitudes of feeling that you endured on earth—after death our actions & worldly interest fade as nothing before us but the traces of our feelings exist & the memories of those are what furnish us here with eternal subject of meditation.

A blush spread over the cheek of the lovely girl—Alas, replied she what a tale must I relate what dark & phre[n]zied passions must I unfold—When you Diotima lived on earth your soul seemed to mingle in love only with its own essence & to be unknowing of the various tortures which that heart endures who if it has not sympathized with has been witness of the dreadful struggles of a soul enchained by dark deep passions which were its hell & yet from which it could not escape—Are there in the peaceful language used by the inhabitants of these regions—words burning enough to paint the tortures of the human heart—Can you understand them? or can you in any way sympathize with them—alas though dead I do and my tears flow as when I lived when my memory recalls the dreadful images of the past—

—As the lovely girl spoke my own eyes filled with bitter drops—the spirit of Fantasia seemed to fade from within me and when after placing my hand before my swimming eyes I withdrew it again I found myself under the trees on the banks of the Tiber—The sun was just setting & tinging with crimson the clouds that floated over St. Peters—all was still no human voice was heard—the very air was quiet I rose—& bewildered with the grief that I felt within me the recollection of what I had heard—I hastened to the city that I might see human beings not that I might forget my wandering recollections but that I might impress on my mind what was reality & what was either dream—or at least not of this earth—The Corso of Rome was filled with carriages and as I walked up the Trinita dei' Montes I became disgusted with the crowd that I saw about me & the vacancy & want of beauty not to say deformity of the many beings who meaninglessly buzzed about me—I hastened to my room which overlooked the whole city which as night came on became tranquil—Silent lovely Rome I now gaze on thee—thy domes are illuminated by the moon—and the ghosts of lovely memories float with the night breeze among thy ruins— contemplating thy loveliness which half soothes my miserable heart I record what I have seen—Tomorrow I will again woo Fantasia to lead me to the same walks & invite her to visit me with her visions which I before neglected—Oh let me learn this lesson while yet it may be useful to me that to a mind hopeless & unhappy as mine—a moment of forgetfullness a moment [in] which it can pass out of itself is worth a life of painful recollection.


The next morning while sitting on the steps of the temple of Aesculapius in the Borghese gardens Fantasia again visited me & smilingly beckoned to me to follow her—My flight was at first heavy but the breezes commanded by the spirit to convoy me grew stronger as I advanced—a pleasing languour seized my senses & when I recovered I found my self by the Elysian fountain near Diotima—The beautiful female who[m] I had left on the point of narrating her earthly history seemed to have waited for my return and as soon as I appeared she spoke thus—[100]


[88] Here is printed the opening of F of F—A, which contains the fanciful framework abandoned in Mathilda. It has some intrinsic interest, as it shows that Mary as well as Shelley had been reading Plato, and especially as it reveals the close connection of the writing of Mathilda with Mary's own grief and depression. The first chapter is a fairly good rough draft. Punctuation, to be sure, consists largely of dashes or is non-existent, and there are some corrections. But there are not as many changes as there are in the remainder of this MS or in F of F—B.

[89] It was in Rome that Mary's oldest child, William, died on June 7, 1819.

[90] Cf. two entries in Mary Shelley's journal. An unpublished entry for October 27, 1822, reads: "Before when I wrote Mathilda, miserable as I was, the inspiration was sufficient to quell my wretchedness temporarily." Another entry, that for December 2, 1834, is quoted in abbreviated and somewhat garbled form by R. Glynn Grylls in Mary Shelley (London: Oxford University Press, 1938), p. 194, and reprinted by Professor Jones (Journal, p. 203). The full passage follows: "Little harm has my imagination done to me & how much good!—My poor heart pierced through & through has found balm from it—it has been the aegis to my sensibility—Sometimes there have been periods when Misery has pushed it aside—& those indeed were periods I shudder to remember—but the fairy only stept aside, she watched her time—& at the first opportunity her ... beaming face peeped in, & the weight of deadly woe was lightened."

[91] An obvious reference to Frankenstein.

[92] With the words of Fantasia (and those of Diotima), cf. the association of wisdom and virtue in Plato's Phaedo, the myth of Er in the Republic, and the doctrine of love and beauty in the Symposium.

[93] See Plato's Symposium. According to Mary's note in her edition of Shelley's Essays, Letters from Abroad, etc. (1840), Shelley planned to use the name for the instructress of the Stranger in his unfinished prose tale, The Coliseum, which was written before Mathilda, in the winter of 1818-1819. Probably at this same time Mary was writing an unfinished (and unpublished) tale about Valerius, an ancient Roman brought back to life in modern Rome. Valerius, like Shelley's Stranger, was instructed by a woman whom he met in the Coliseum. Mary's story is indebted to Shelley's in other ways as well.

[94] Mathilda.

[95] I cannot find a prototype for this young man, though in some ways he resembles Shelley.

[96] Following this paragraph is an incomplete one which is scored out in the MS. The comment on the intricacy of modern life is interesting. Mary wrote: "The world you have just quitted she said is one of doubt & perplexity often of pain & misery—The modes of suffering seem to me to be much multiplied there since I made one of the throng & modern feelings seem to have acquired an intracacy then unknown but now the veil is torn aside—the events that you felt deeply on earth have passed away & you see them in their nakedness all but your knowledge & affections have passed away as a dream you now wonder at the effect trifles had on you and that the events of so passing a scene should have interested you so deeply—You complain, my friends of the"

[97] The word is blotted and virtually illegible.

[98] With Diotima's conclusion here cf. her words in the Symposium: "When any one ascending from a correct system of Love, begins to contemplate this supreme beauty, he already touches the consummation of his labour. For such as discipline themselves upon this system, or are conducted by another beginning to ascend through these transitory objects which are beautiful, towards that which is beauty itself, proceeding as on steps from the love of one form to that of two, and from that of two, to that of all forms which are beautiful; and from beautiful forms to beautiful habits and institutions, and from institutions to beautiful doctrines; until, from the meditation of many doctrines, they arrive at that which is nothing else than the doctrine of the supreme beauty itself, in the knowledge and contemplation of which at length they repose." (Shelley's translation) Love, beauty, and self-knowledge are keywords not only in Plato but in Shelley's thought and poetry, and he was much concerned with the problem of the presence of good and evil. Some of these themes are discussed by Woodville in Mathilda. The repetition may have been one reason why Mary discarded the framework.

[99] Mathilda did have such a friend, but, as she admits, she profited little from his teachings.

[100] In F of F—B there is another, longer version (three and a half pages) of this incident, scored out, recounting the author's return to the Elysian gardens, Diotima's consolation of Mathilda, and her request for Mathilda's story. After wandering through the alleys and woods adjacent to the gardens, the author came upon Diotima seated beside Mathilda. "It is true indeed she said our affections outlive our earthly forms and I can well sympathize in your disappointment that you do not find what you loved in the life now ended to welcome you here[.] But one day you will all meet how soon entirely depends upon yourself—It is by the acquirement of wisdom and the loss of the selfishness that is now attached to the sole feeling that possesses you that you will at last mingle in that universal world of which we all now make a divided part." Diotima urges Mathilda to tell her story, and she, hoping that by doing so she will break the bonds that weigh heavily upon her, proceeds to "tell this history of strange woe."


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