Speaking To The Mysterious Fears Of Our Nature

Earlier in the autumn, the Bodleian Library hosted a one day event to mark the publication of The Original Frankenstein:

… a ground-breaking new edition of the first and most popular work of science fiction, allowing Mary Shelley’s pure authorial voice to be heard for the first time since 1817, when the book was initially written. The Bodleian publication uses the unique handwritten draft of 1816-17, held at the Library, to distinguish Mary’s own words from the additions written in by her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

I didn’t manage to make it to the event, but thanks to Vulpes Libris I (and you) can now read Brian Aldiss’ closing speech:

A teenager! She was a teenager, you know?! Not the sort of female teenager today’s newspapers would have us believe in. Mary came from a civilized — a crowded but civilized — home. Literature, science and politics were regularly discussed there; Coleridge read his poetry there. (To see and to hear Samuel Taylor belting out ‘The Ancient Mariner’ might not have been to everyone’s taste — a bit like early Dr Who — but it is something to have a living poet rampant in the parlour, even if aided and abetted, I might say, by ‘a substance’ …) Anyway, Mary would have been aware that new things had developed and that the world was opening up, in the same way that we’re aware now that we’re closing down the shop — victims of our own cult of greed.

(There’s more substantive stuff about Shelley’s writing and significance, too.)

2 thoughts on “Speaking To The Mysterious Fears Of Our Nature

  1. I’m glad that’s a throwaway paragraph and not Aldiss’s main point. Love the way he manages to turn one extraordinary girl’s extraordinary experience into a story about the Decline of the West. But it’s true, you know: just look how Jay Lake’s expatriate childhood pales in comparison to Paul Linebarger’s, or mine in comparison to J.G. Ballard’s. Next up: Annabella Lwin’s career with Bow Wow Wow: typical of the immigrant experience in Britain in the Thatcher years?

  2. OK, you got me: I really only picked that quote because I liked the Rime-of-the-Ancient-Mariner-as-early-Doctor-Who image.

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