The Last Man / Edition 1

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Overview

Best remembered as the author of "Frankenstein," Mary Shelley wrote "The Last Man" eight years later, on returning to England from Italy after her husband Percy's death. It is the twenty-first century, and England is a republic governed by a ruling elite, one of whom, Adrian, Earl of Windsor, has introduced a Cumbrian boy to the circle. This outsider, Lionel Verney, narrates the story, a tale of complicated, tragic love, and of the gradual extermination of the human race by plague. "The Last Man" also functions as an intriguing roman-a-clef, for the saintly Adrian is a monument to Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his friend Lord Raymond is a portrait of Byron. The novel offers a vision of the future that expresses a reaction against Romanticism, as Shelley demonstrates the failure of the imagination and of art to redeem her doomed characters.
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Editorial Reviews

Charles E. Robinson University of Delaware
"Anne McWhir's edition of The Last Man is first rate! Mary Shelley's novel is well served by a careful editor who provides an informed introduction, comprehensive annotations, and well-chosen appendices that contextualize this richly complex novel—Shelley herself would have been pleased!"
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in an apocalyptic future ending in the year 2100, Shelley's 1826 novel concerns a plague that destroys almost all of humankind. (June)
Library Journal
Thanks to yet another film incarnation, 1818's Frankenstein is again a hot property and may even make the best sellers lists. These two editions mark both ends of the publishing spectrum, with Signet offering the inexpensive movie tie-in version complete with photos from the film and an afterword by Howard Bloom. The California version is the Pennroyal edition, featuring gorgeous illustrations by Barry Moser and an afterword by Joyce Carol Oates. Published in 1826 after the death of her husband and three children, The Last Man is Shelley's dark look at an apocalyptic future.
Muriel Spark

The Last Man created an entirely new genre, compounded of the domestic romance, the Gothic extravaganza, and the sociological novel. . . . [Mary Shelley's] most interesting, if not her most consummate work.”

The Year's Work in English Studies
"An absorbing roman à clef, [it] develops one of the major themes of romantic art, that of spiritual isolation, and . . . treats it in a unique way."—The Year's Work in English Studies
Studies in English Literature
"A fascinating . . . novel-romance on a timely subject."—Studies in English Literature
Muriel Spark
"[Mary Shelley’s] most interesting, if not her most consummate work."—Muriel Spark
Anne K. Mellor
"In our era of AIDS and biological warfare, Shelley's apocalyptic vision of an incurable plague that gradually destroys the entire human species resonates with mythic power."—Anne K. Mellor
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781551110769
  • Publisher: Broadview Press
  • Publication date: 9/11/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 425
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne McWhir is a Professor in the English Department at the University of Calgary, and a specialist in late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century fiction.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text
The Last Man
Introduction
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Map of Lionel Verney’s World
Appendix A: Some Contemporaries of the Last Man
1. George Gordon, Lord Byron, “Darkness” (1816)
2. Thomas Campbell, “The Last Man” (1823)
3. Thomas Campbell, letter in The Times, 24 March 1825
4. Thomas Hood, from “The Last Man” (1826)
5. George Dibdin Pitt, from The Last Man; or; The Miser of Eltham Green (1833)
6. Thomas Love Beddoes, notes for a projected play, The Last Man
Appendix B: The Sibyl’s Cave
1. Virgil, from Aeneid 6
2. Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville, from The Last Man; or Omegarus and Syderia, A Romance in Futurity (1806)
Appendix C: Versions of Plague
1. Edward Gibbon, from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-88)
2. Daniel Defoe, from A Journal of the Plague Year (1722)
3. Charles Brockden Brown, from Arthur Mervyn (1799-1800)
4. John Wilson, from The City of the Plague (1816)
5. From “Contagion and Sanitary Laws,” Westminster Review 3 (1825): 134-67
Appendix D: “The Web of Mind”
1. Constantin Francois de Chasseboeuf, comte de Volney, from The Ruins (1791)
2. William Godwin, from Political Justice (1793)
3. Thomas Robert Malthus, from An Essay on Population (1798)
4. Mary Wollstonecraft, from The French Revolution (1794)
5. Edmund Burke, from A Letter to a Noble Lord (1796)
6. Percy Bysshe Shelley, from Notes to Queen Mab (1813)
7. Percy Bysshe Shelley, from Preface to The Revolt of Islam (1818)
8. William Godwin, from Essay on Sepulchres (1809)
Appendix E: Mary Shelley’s poems
1. “The Choice”
2. “On Reading Wordsworth’s Lines on Peel Castle”
3. “To Jane— (with the ‘Last Man’)”
Appendix F: Contemporary Comments on and Reviews of The Last Man
1. From The Literary Magnet of Monthly Journal of the Belles Lettres, ns 1 (January 1826): 56
2. From The Literary Gazette, and Journal of the Belles Letters, 474 ( Saturday 18 Feb. 1826): 56
3. From Monthly Review 1 (1826): 333-35
4. From Blackwood’s 21 (January 1827): 54
Appendix G: Postscript
From Mary Shelley, Rambles in Germany and Italy (1844)
Works Cited/Recommended Reading

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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  • Posted January 15, 2011

    terrible

    unreadable due to typos

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    Beautifully crafted

    Long and at times overly detailed, a beautifully written tragedy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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