Maurice: Or, The Fisher's Cot

Overview

In the fall of 1997, in a palazzo in the Tuscan Hills north of Florence, a small booklet sewn into paper covers turned up in a long-unopened crate of old letters and other documents. It bore the title "Maurice" and an inscription: "for Laurette from her friend Mrs Shelley." Investigation proved it to be a story written by Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, a story presumed by scholars to have been irretrievably lost soon after its composition in 1820. It is here published for the first time. Written two ...
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Overview

In the fall of 1997, in a palazzo in the Tuscan Hills north of Florence, a small booklet sewn into paper covers turned up in a long-unopened crate of old letters and other documents. It bore the title "Maurice" and an inscription: "for Laurette from her friend Mrs Shelley." Investigation proved it to be a story written by Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, a story presumed by scholars to have been irretrievably lost soon after its composition in 1820. It is here published for the first time. Written two years after her great gothic novel, Maurice dates from a period when Mary Shelley, still only twenty-two, was deeply sunk in depression. She had eloped with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley at sixteen, borne him four children and seen three of them die. Thus, though Maurice is basically a charming moral tale written for a child - the daughter of a close friend - it betrays a vein of melancholy, beginning with a funeral and concerning a boy who has lost his parents. Even the happy ending has a sad twist. Claire Tomalin - the biographer of, among others, Jane Austen and Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft - was personally involved in the authentication of the rediscovered manuscript. She here contributes a comprehensive introduction that explores the literary and psychological importance of the story and investigates the hitherto obscure histories of the two extraordinary families whose lives it touched.

Maurice is the story of a boy who is stolen as a two-year-old from his wealthy parents by a poor sailor's wife.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The discovery last year of a long-lost, hitherto unpublished story by Mary Shelley--author of Frankenstein, feminist and wife of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley--raises expectations. A morality tale for children, Maurice was written in 1820 in Italy, where Shelley had fled with her husband and their two small children. Dedicated to Laurette Tighe, a transplanted 11-year-old Irish girl, it's a slight, quaint, creaky, if pleasant enough story full of convoluted sentences. Maurice is a delicate yet resilient boy who runs away from home to escape the beatings of the cruel sailor whom he thinks is his father. After enjoying a loving foster home with a poor old fisherman and his wife, the undaunted boy by chance meets a rich traveler, a retired architect, who, it turns out, is his real parent. Contemporary concerns such as child abuse, broken homes and runaway kids are all present, yet the story seems stilted and full of sentimental touches. In her 60-page introduction, Tomalin, biographer of Jane Austen and Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, offers a fascinating piece of detective work (she went to Italy to meet Tighe's descendants, who had unearthed the manuscript) and shows how this tale of loss and vulnerability mirrors a tangle of tragedies--the deaths of Mary Shelley's three infant children; the suicides of her half-sister and of P.B. Shelley's first wife; the absence of Allegra, daughter of Percy Bysshe's stepsister who was given up to the girl's father, the poet Byron. Tomalin also re-creates the adventures of Laurette's parents, both freethinkers, poets and writers, whose lives saw the Napoleonic Wars and the Romantic movement. The work contains fetching period illustrations, a facsimile of the original manuscript and a witty, tongue-in-cheek poem by Laurette's mother, Margaret King, "Twelve Cogent Reasons for Supposing P.B. Sh-ll-y to be the D-v-l Inc-rn-t-," which is a flattering defense of the radical atheist poet. (Nov.)
Library Journal
A new Frankenstein? Not exactly. Discovered in a wooden chest in an Italian palazzo 178 years after its composition, this is described as a delightful moral fable for a child. With a lengthy introduction by scholar Claire Tomalin.
Library Journal
A new Frankenstein? Not exactly. Discovered in a wooden chest in an Italian palazzo 178 years after its composition, this is described as a delightful moral fable for a child. With a lengthy introduction by scholar Claire Tomalin.
Marina Warner
. . .Mary Shelley in Maurice communicates how much she hankered fter an ordinary life in England [and] how her elopement sentenced her to a perpetual homesickness. -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A children's tale, written in 1820 but only lately discovered, now published for the first time with an introduction by English biographer and critic Tomalin (Jane Austen). Most literary discoveries turn out to be disappointments in the end, largely because writers usually know better than their own publishers what deserves to see the light of day and what is better left in the back of the cupboard. Still, a long-lost manuscript by the author of Frankenstein is bound to be news, and Tomalin's lengthy introduction provides a background story that is intriguing in its own right. Briefly put, Maurice arose out of Mary's grief at the early deaths of all three of her children—-as well as the death of her stepsister's daughter—-during the years that followed her impetuous (and scandalous) decision to abandon her husband and elope with Percy Bysshe Shelley to the Continent. (Shelley's own wife, Harriet, killed herself after he abandoned her, and the young couple's first years abroad were spent in considerable hardship.) In Italy, the Shelleys became friendly with the Tighes, a well-to-do Irish family, and Mary wrote Maurice as a present for the Tighes' children. It's the simple yet affecting tale of a young boy stolen from his parents by a poor sailor's wife who has no children of her own. Mistreated by her husband, the boy runs away and is taken in by a kindly fisherman and his wife, who raise him. When the two of them die, the boy is cast off into the world at large and reduced to poverty, until his true father—-who has spent the intervening years searching for his son—-discovers him and takes him home.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402819698
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/27/1998
  • Pages: 179

Meet the Author


Mary Shelley (1797-1851), best known as the author of Frankenstein, was the daughter of Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft and wife of Percy Bysse Shelley. Claire Tomalin is the author of a number of prizewinning biographies, most recently of Jane Austen: A Life.
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgements
Preface by Cristina Dazzi
Introduction by Claire Tomalin
Note on the Text
 
Maurice, or the Fisher's Cot
 
Maurice: Showing the Author's Original
Lineation, Pagination, Spelling, Corrections and Emendations
Appendix: "Twelve Cogent Reasons for Supposing P. B. Sh-ll-y to be the D-v-l Inc-rn-t' by Lady Mountcashell
Notes
Bibliographical Note
The Family Tree of Mary Shelley
The Family Tree of Lady Mountcashell
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