shelley's letters

October 28, 1814: a note from Mary to Percy 

prometheus homepage

about this site 

letter the fourth

chapter the fourth

images of the creature

an explication

contemporary authorship: m. a. lamb 

minor character analysis

modern adaptations: walt and warhol

existentialism: jean paul sartre

a review of a review

works cited

     SO THIS is the end of my letter--dearest love     what do they mean--I detest Mrs. G[odwin]     she plagues my father out of his life     & then----well no matter--     Why will not Godwin follow the obvious best of his affections  &  be reconicled to us--no his prejudices the world and she--     do you not hate her my love--all these forbid it--     What am I to do     trust to time of course--for what else can I do

     Goodnight my love--tomorrow I will seal this blessing on your lips     dear good creature press me to you and hug your own Mary to your heart     perhaps she will one day have a father     till then be every thing to me love--& indeed I will be a good girl and never vex you any more     I will learn Greek and--but when shall we meet when I may tell you all this & you will so sweetly reward me--oh we must meet soon for this is a dreary life     I am weary of it--a poor widowed deserted thing     no one cares for her--but--ah love is not that enough--indeed I have a very sincere affection for my own Shelley--

     But Good night I am woefully tired and so sleepy--     I shall dream of you ten to one when naughty one you have quite forgotten me--

     Take me--one kiss--well that is enough--tomorrow

(end of correspondence) 

Mary W. Shelley


          shelley's letter to percy indicates heightened levels of tension, emptiness, and desire for reunion. she seems very fickle in terms of the topic she discusses, as she shifts quickly from a rebuke of her father's wife (Mrs. Godwin) to relinquishing control of her own happiness, and from endearing notes of affection to pangs of self-pity. this frenetic pace is echoed by shelley's peculiar use of punctuation and spacing, which seem to apply more directly to her mood and not to the sort of english grammar that is expected to be standard for a celebrated author. because it reflects so many different emotions and types of content, the letter can be understood to act as many different forms of expression. shelley uses this letter as a catharsis, purging many painful thoughts in her first paragraph and then noting that she is powerless except to "trust in time". she also forwards several promises that she believes will gain her favor in the eyes of the men in her life, but each of these pursuits strips mary of her individuality and frames her as a servant who only wants to please her husband: she pledges to learn greek  for him and refers to herself pejoratively, as a  "poor widowed deserted thing" and "a good girl". it seems from this display that mary shelley is in quite a lonesome situation; she is attempting to communicate those feelings to percy and also to find in him some relief from her angst.

          the emotional dissonance shelley complains about in her letter is a possible result of forced disjunction. it is clear from her criticism of "Mrs. Godwin" that the two ladies are in competition for the affection and attention of mary's father, william godwin, who apparently favors his wife over his daughter. the dynamic between mary shelley, mrs. godwin, and william godwin is contentious, and because william's capacity to care and to provide attention is finite, animosity between the women is inevitable: harmony is an impossible result of this combination.