Few families enjoy such a remarkable reputation for their contribution to the literature and intellectual life of Britain as the Godwins and the Shelleys. Yet this reputation was shaped in a subtle way by the selective release of literary manuscripts into the public realm and the suppression of others.
This book explores the lives and posthumous reputations of Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife Mary Shelley, and Mary's parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. It tells the story of how Mary Shelley, haunted by the past, directly sought to enhance the public's appreciation of her husband and parents by the selective publication of relevant manuscripts. It also explains how she passed on this legacy to her son, Sir Percy Florence Shelley and his wife, Jane, Lady Shelley. As guardian of the archive until giving part of it to the Bodleian in 1893-4, Lady Shelley too helped shape the posthumous reputations of these important writers.
Drawing on the Bodleian Library's outstanding collections of letters, literary manuscripts, rare printed books and pamphlets, portraits and relics, including Shelley's working notebooks, a letter from Keats to Shelley, William Godwin's diary, and the original manuscripts of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Stephen Hebron charts the history of a family blessed with genius but marred by tragedy.
The final chapter by Elizabeth C. Denlinger of the New York Public Library explores the material relating to the Shelley family that slipped beyond the family's control. Reproducing many of the archive documents and Shelley relics, this highly illustrated book accompanies an exhibition at the Bodleian Library, Dove Cottage, Grasmere and the New York Public Library.
Stephen Hebron has published widely in the field of British romanticism, and curated a series of exhibitions at the Wordsworht Trust in Cumbria, England. His previous publications include John Keats: A Poet and His Manuscripts (The British Library, 2009).
Elizabeth C. Denlinger is Curator of the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and his circle at New York Public Library. She is the author of Before Victoria: Extraordinary Women of the British Romantic Era (Columbia University Press, 2005) and co-curated the exhibition of the same name at the NYPL.
- 192 pages, 250 x 184 mm
- 83 colour illustrations
- ISBN: 9781851243396
- Publication November 2010