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Mary Shelley's editions of The Collected Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley: The Editor as Subject.

I dislike speaking of myself, but cannot help apologizing to the dead, and to the public, for not having executed in the manner I desired the history I engaged to give of Shelley's writings.

--Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, "Note on the Poems of 1822" (1)

Thus I have put down my thoughts. I may have deceived myself; I may be in the wrong; I try to examine myself; and such as I have written appears to me the exact truth.

--Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Journal (2)

PERHAPS THE MOST INSIGHTFUL REFLECTION ON THE STATE OF MARY SHELLEY studies comes from Betty T. Bennett, who notes that "until recent years scholars have generally regarded Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley as a result: William Godwin's and Mary Wollstonecraft's daughter who became Shelley's Pygmalion." (3) Indeed, Mary Shelley traditionally has been treated as something of an appendage to her parents' and her husband's literary careers, an extension whose primary function was to cultivate and to guard the reputations of the more illustrious minds that framed her own. Muriel Spark's oft-cited biography Child of Light: A Reassessment of Mary Shelley reduces the writer's life after the death of her husband--some twenty-nine years, including, as Bennett observes, the "most prolific" period of her career as an author and editor (125) (4)--to a particularly infertile period better rushed through in study, a miserable denouement mercifully ended in 1851 by the writer's slow and painful death from a brain tumor. Richard Holmes' treatment of Mary Shelley's life after her husband's death implies a similar lack of significance, a deadening period of depression, failure, and regret: "She was still obsessed by Shelley's papers, and trapped by memories both idealized and remorseful, her life attained a curious stillness, interrupted only by sea-bathing at Sandgate, increasingly acid correspondence with Claire [Claremont], [Edward John] Trelawny and Jane [Williams], and occasional expeditions to the Continent with [her only surviving child] Percy's undergraduate friends" (732). (5) Holmes' language shrinks the twenty-nine years of Mary Shelley's widowhood to jealous and bitter nothingness, and, intentionally or not, his image of her sole relief--"sea-bathing at Sangate"--charges the widow with repetition compulsion, her baths re-enacting in miniature the very conditions of her husband's untimely demise. Holmes' morbid representation might best be couched in the language of Sylvia Plath's "Daddy," in which the twentieth-century poet engages in a series of ritual acts of self-destruction, among them "[praying] to recover you" (14) "[i]n the waters off beautiful Nauset" (13), all in futile attempts to "get back, back, back to you" (59). (6) Such accounts paint a dismal picture, indeed.

Mary Shelley's lengthy career covered much ground, both textually and ideologically, and the roles she assumed proved similarly varied--as an author of fiction and nonfiction, as a reviewer of the works of her contemporaries, as the executor of her father's literary estate, and as the maker of her husband's posthumous reputation. Primarily recognized as the author of the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818), Mary Shelley is still too often acknowledged "as a result," as Bennett has observed. Even her introduction to the 1831 Standard Authors edition of her most famous novel props up this myth of the silent woman, this image of the author as the plaything of the wills and whims of the greater minds around her. Recalling the circumstances that culminated in the composition of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley weaves a pattern of passivity through both the grammatical structure and the descriptions of her relationships to the others present: "'We will each write a ghost story,' said Lord Byron; and his proposition was acceded to" (362); "I busied myself to think of a story.... I thought and pondered--vainly. I felt that blank incapability of invention which is the greatest misery of authorship, when dull Nothing replies to our anxious invocations. Have you thought of a story? I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative" (363); "Many and long were the conversations between Lord Byron and Shelley, to which I was a devout but nearly silent listener" (364). (7) Too frequently, Mary Shelley's language throughout her introduction has been subsumed into a passive portrait of both the public and the private Mary Shelley and has been telescoped to every aspect of her work as well as to all of her relationships. To circumscribe Mary Shelley so narrowly is to do a great injustice not only to her work, but also to her integrity as an autonomous thinker--and quite a brilliant one at that, for in constructing a role as editor and thereby activating discursive opportunities for the same sorts of ideological critiques and aesthetic explorations found in her husband's poetry, Mary Shelley innovated textual strategies that enabled her to establish her subjective position as creator/writer, even as she deliberately situated herself in the margins and operated throughout the editions of The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley from the apparent vantage point of observer/commentator.

In the present essay, I examine Mary Shelley's position not "as a result" but as a creator, as a voice, as a subject. In so doing, I locate the writer at what might seem an awkward juncture: in the margins of the posthumous collections of her husband's poetry. (8) Marginal merely in a visual sense--her words appear as separate documents following the concluding lines of the major poetry and the sections of other poetry which she groups according to years of composition--Mary Shelley's notes to her husband's poems mark out a space for the editor herself as a thinker and as a writer of individual autonomy, and they prove as interesting in constructing an identity for her as they do in illuminating contexts, intentions, and meanings for her husband's poetry. As Mary Jean Corbett has argued, "Relocating our critical vision on the intersubjective in Shelley's work may not make her fully legible, but it can open a new direction in our writing of the history of women's subjectivity." (9) By examining these notes through a variety of her meneutic lenses, including feminism, deconstruction, and autobiographical theory, we can observe the ways in which Mary Shelley develops three strategies of representation--submission, subversion, and subjectivity--to carve out a place for herself, to prove her worth as a thinker and writer equal to the reputation she constructs for her drowned husband. Together, these three representational strategies forge a signifying chain that writes the importance of Mary Shelley as her husband's equal partner, that rights her reputation as an equally creative source. I borrow the image of the (signifying) chain from Mary Shelley's poem "The Choice," which she published eleven months after her husband's death:
 My Choice! My choice--alas was had 8: gone
 With the red gleam of the last summer's sun--
 Lost in the deep in which he bathed his head,
 My choice, my life, my hope together fled:

 By all our best companionship, I dare
 Call on thy sacred name without a fear
 And thus I pray to thee, my Friend, my Heart,
 That in thy new abode thou'lt bear a part
 In soothing the poor Mary's lonely pain,
 As link by link she weaves her heavy chain.


(1-4, 45-50) (10)

Repeatedly using first-person pronouns to emphasize her control over many of the choices that forged the history of her life, Mary Shelley employs the third-person pronoun "she" only when narrating events that weakened her, that left her reeling; thus, she assumes agency for the choices she makes, both good and ill, but she deliberately casts herself as the object of fate with regard to those events that remain entirely beyond her control. Through these choices, Mary Shelley emerges as wise and strong, for her rhetorical renderings of the events that weaken her show them to have resulted from no personal failure, no misstep on her own part, but instead from fate's fickle folly. Even as she looks forward to an eventual recovery from the deep loss she has suffered, Mary Shelley makes clear that such a recovery, though partly the responsibility of her now-dead husband's animating spirit, remains largely her own responsibility, largely her own domain (45-50). Such a rhetorical strategy, which recurs throughout her notes, demonstrates one of the many ways through which Mary Shelley asserts her potential as an agent and exerts her place as a subject in constructing and narrating the events of her own life, even though her stated role is to collect and to comment upon the work of her husband--the very figure in whom she finds another opportunity for staging her subjectivity, describing him in the poem's opening line as "My choice" (my emphasis) her language underscoring Mary Shelley's independent role in choosing him for herself, in admitting him into her life and heart.

Recent critical attention to Mary Shelley's editorial project, which she described in her preface to the first of two 1839 editions of the Collected Poems as "my most sacred duty" (xi), wavers--sometimes even within single studies--between cautious, qualified appreciation and lavish praise. Mary Lowe-Evans believes that the notes ultimately devalue Mary Shelley's own importance, both to her husband's life and in terms of her own subjectivity: "[u]nfortunately, [Mary Shelley] underrated her own contributions to [Percy Shelley's] intellectual life; nonetheless, the completed publication of his works brought her great satisfaction and short-lived peace of mind." (11) Emily W. Sunstein, countering some critics' derisive treatment of the project (401), closes the penultimate paragraph of her biography by arguing that "[s]he belongs among the great editors for her editions of Shelley's works, even among the great disciples, given the veneration she also won for his character and ideals." (12) Though recognizing the importance of her editorial work, Sunstein's assessment nonetheless couches Mary Shelley's contribution as somehow secondary to her husband's, as if the editorial work in and of itself were valueless apart from what Sunstein describes as Mary Shelley's evangelical agenda. Too, Sunstein suggests that some of Mary Shelley's misrepresentations of her husband's ideas must be recognized as disingenuous, since many of them were driven by her desire for critical and commercial success rather than for truthful representation and full disclosure (345). (13) Nonetheless, Sunstein offers an ultimately quite positive treatment of the work; acknowledging that "[i]t has been said that attempts to relate a poet's works to the circumstances under which they were written originate with her" (345). Sunstein implicitly names Mary Shelley as the Mother of New Historicism.

Mary Favret's assessment of Mary Shelley's editorial project reflects much more accurately the respect her work now commands: "To a remarkable degree, the value of The Collected Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley is determined by Mary Shelley's editorial work, a work usually characterized as a wife's labor of love"; (14) "without the notes, Percy's corpus would simply not much matter" (26). Neil Fraistat agrees, insisting that "[u]ndoubtedly, of the 170 years that have passed since Shelley's death, the two most crucial ones for establishing his texts, textualizing his life, and securing his reputation were 1824 and 1839, the years of Mary Shelley's magisterial editions." (15) On a similar note, William St. Clair praises the work as "masterpieces of editing, adding so immeasurably to the reader's understanding that nobody would now consider printing Shelley's poems without them." (16) And while Susan Wolfson acknowledges that the editorial work helped Mary Shelley "retain a relationship with Shelley," (17) that "[h]er only consolation" derived from "fixating her present life on his past life" (57), she nonetheless pinpoints the process as pivotal to the establishment of Mary Shelley's subjectivity. Wolfson characterizes Mary Shelley's editing as demonstrating "considerable authority, at times co-creation" (49; my emphasis), and she suggests that the editor remained conscious of assuming such a role, "clearly [regarding] herself as a kind of co-author of the newly coherent 'MS' she delivered to the publisher, and hence, co-owner" (51). Wolfson's closing comment raises the particular claim the present essay will explore: "Quietly but significantly, [Mary Shelley] summons editorial privilege to define her status, for herself and for the world, as Shelley's enabling and loving reader--his best, and last, audience while he lived. Resurrecting him, she also finds a way to resurrect herself, both as private correspondent and as public authority" (62). In resuscitating her husband's reputation, Mary Shelley establishes her own subjectivity as well, so that both individuals emerge as powerful yet independent thinkers who share similar political and aesthetic ideals.

My focus on Mary Shelley's complicated negotiations of submission, subversion, and subjectivity will show how she assumes the pose of submission to engage in acts of editorial subversion that enable her to construct her own carefully wrought subjectivity. Throughout these maneuvers, Mary Shelley never establishes her importance at the expense of her husband's, for she is careful to balance her subjectivity with his own, creating, in effect, a textual embodiment of the democratic, feminist pair of lovers so often celebrated in her husband's works, who struggle neither to claim glory selfishly for themselves nor to eclipse the glory of the other, but, instead, to bring about an imaginative revolution through which systems of hierarchy and constraint--such as rind notions about gender roles or, more specific to the concerns of the present essay, about the relationships of wives to husbands or readers to writers--may be undone.

Submission
 Waiting. Waiting for that wall which divides us to be made porous by
 your arrival. For its limit to be crossed. The line of your horizon
 temporarily effaced. Waiting for the moment when there is no more
 waiting for you to be there all the time.... In this clearing, a
 space opens up where we can be revealed the one to the other. In
 that enclosure which shelters and yet has no boundaries, you draw
 near, arrive, discarding what binds and holds you back, deep in your
 most intimate self.


--Luce Irigaray, Elemental Passions (18)

Mary Shelley's editions of her husband's poetry perhaps provide some sort of compensation for the agonizing and protracted waiting Irigaray describes, as the interplay of her notes and his poems seems somehow to mitigate her sorrow by excavating a "clearing, a space [that] opens up where we can be revealed the one to the other" (Irigaray 102). Small compensation for so untimely a loss, to be sure, but some sort of crossing, some sort of return does indeed recur throughout Mary Shelley's resurrection of her husband's work and reputation.

Many critics have pointed to Mary Shelley's notes as evidence of her admission of and her willful writerly submission to the greater power and promise of her husband's works. The textual and ideological resurrection to which I refer (and to which Wolfson refers above) might seem to substantiate the image of Mary Shelley as her husband's acolyte, a permanently secondary figure of largely ceremonial significance. Even in the language of the preface to the first of the two 1839 editions of The Collected Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley Mary Shelley offers herself up as an apologist, a shame-faced ambassador: anticipating the attacks the republication of the poetry would invite on a variety of grounds--political, religious, and sexual among them--she writes that "[i]t must be remembered that there is the stamp of such inexperience on all he wrote; he had not completed his nine-and-twentieth year when he died" (xi). The opening sentences of that same preface pave the way for such a rhetorical move by casting Mary Shelley as subject to the unnamed constraints imposed upon her, limitations to which she has no choice other than to submit: "Obstacles have long existed to my presenting the public with a perfect edition of Shelley's Poems. These being at last happily removed, I hasten to fulfil an important duty ..." (ix). (19) Agency disappears from both sentences, and just as the powerless Mary Shelley finds herself forced to submit to "obstacles," she remains grateful--but apparently not at all responsible--for their removal. The opening paragraph of her preface closes with an apologia that rings throughout much of the document: "Whatever faults he had ought to find extenuation among his fellows, since they prove him to be human; without them, the exalted nature of his soul would have raised him into something divine" (ix). Though she often inveighed against pressures to write about her private life, (20) Mary Shelley's editorial notes weave together an autobiographical--if occasionally fragmented--account of her life with the now-dead poet, and it is through this weaving that Mary Shelley-as-editor constructs a place for herself as a legitimate subject, an autonomous agent, with regard to the events she records and the ideas she glosses. Such a model conforms exactly to Leigh Gilmore's description of women's autobiographical narrative, which "offers the insider's account of the doubled narrative of the feminine, where the story a woman struggles to tell about herself is inscribed within the scripts she receives from her culture" (157). (21)

Fourteen years earlier, Mary Shelley opened her first attempt to present her husband's work to the public with another extended apology, but not for her husband's character; rather, Mary Shelley framed the reader's appreciation for the book by invoking and admitting her own shortcomings as its editor:
 It had been my wish, on presenting the public with the Posthumous
 Poems of Mr. Shelley, to have accompanied them by a biographical
 notice; as it appeared to me that at this moment a narration of the
 events of my husband's life would come more gracefully from other
 hands than mine, I applied to Mr. Leigh Hunt. The distinguished
 friendship that Mr. Shelley felt for him, and the enthusiastic
 affection with which Mr. Hunt clings to his friend's memory, seemed
 to point him out as the person best calculated for such an
 undertaking. His absence from this country, which prevented our
 mutual explanation, has unfortunately rendered my scheme abortive.
 I do not doubt but that on some other occasion he will pay this
 tribute to his lost friend, and sincerely regret that the volume
 which I edit has not been honoured by its insertion. (xiii)


Mary Shelley's use of the adjective "abortive" recalls the language of Frankenstein, where the spurned, misunderstood creature refers to himself as "an abortion" (245); in failing to secure Hunt's biographical note, in failing to complete the project as she envisioned, in failing to present a perfectly formed volume, Mary Shelley thus produces and disseminates an "abortive" thing--or so she claims. Yet elsewhere she defends herself from would-be attackers by explaining her reasons for including some "never retouched" selections from Percy Shelley's manuscript books in a manner that demonstrates a conscious, deliberate rhetorical strategy. Time and again, Mary Shelley saves her project from charges of abortiveness by reconstructing the now-vanished Percy Shelley into a monument of textual wholeness:
 I do not know whether the critics will reprehend the insertion of
 some of the most imperfect among [Shelley's works]; but I frankly
 own that I have been more actuated by the fear lest any monument of
 his genius should escape me than the wish of presenting nothing but
 what was complete to the fastidious reader. I feel secure that the
 lovers of Shelley's poetry ... will pardon and thank me: I
 consecrate this volume to them. (xv)


Drawing a circle around her intended audience--"the lovers of Shelley's poetry"--Mary Shelley positions herself at the center of that structure as well as at its limits, weaving her place throughout the entire readership, whom she figuratively embraces (as she stands at the perimeter of the readership) and by whom she is figuratively embraced in return (as she stands at the center of the circle she has drawn). Connecting one by one with the readers who make up her husband's audience, link by link Mary Shelley weaves a chain of relationships, thereby situating herself simultaneously at the margins and in the center of the meaning of the Shelley legend. In assuming such a double position, Mary Shelley locates herself now here, now there, and, finally, everywhere throughout her husband's literary legacy. In her role as editor, she carves out for herself a position of respect and reward, transforming apparent submission into covert subjectivity, a process of subversion whose success depends on both the content and the style of her editorial apparatus.

Yet, at times, Mary Shelley's powerful voice falters, often at moments that seem too excruciating, too horrible, for her to recount. Near the end of her preface, recalling the last days her husband spent with Edward Williams in Pisa, Mary Shelley demurs from speaking about the circumstances and effects of the men's deaths by stopping herself mid-sentence, almost as if she is stifling--or choking on--a too-private utterance: "We waited for them in vain; the sea by its restless moaning seemed to desire to inform us of what we would not learn:--but a veil may well be drawn over such misery" (xiv). Such a rhetorically submissive tendency, akin perhaps to passing a hand over one's face or to turning from the view of others, recurs throughout the 1824 and 1839 editions, as time and again Mary Shelley decries her deep fear of the failure of the project she holds so precious and dear. What emerges, then, is a powerful woman's voice tempered with imperfection and pain, a subject unafraid to spotlight her own submissiveness. Such candor becomes one means through which Mary Shelley's notes situate the editor as a personality equally compelling to the poet about whom she writes: now forthcoming, now self-concealing, Mary Shelley draws her readers in even as she keeps them at a distance, making us feel both a part of and apart from her life, insiders and outsiders, lurkers just beyond the loop who look toward the editor with wonder and awe and who respect her as the keeper of secret knowledge, as the bearer of silent witness. In reading her notes, and in learning to respect her reticence, we come to appreciate Mary Shelley as, perhaps, the true subject of the whole work, the genuine source and sounding board for the ideas that find form in her husband's most celebrated accomplishments. Mary Shelley thus approaches the textual project from the double-position of both editor and author, seizing the opportunity such an occasion offers for speaking of and for herself, and ultimately for taking herself as the subject of her work.

Many critics have remarked on Mary Shelley's highly fraught relationship to feminism. (22) Committed to the feminist political ideal she shared with her husband, which derived in no small part from the writings of her mother, Mary Shelley nonetheless labored beneath the restrictions placed upon women writers during her day, as well as on the harsh consequences visited upon those who overstepped their bounds. Such an antifeminist culture offered few opportunities for women's voices to be heard, and this model remained so strong that, as Margaret J. M. Ezell observes, "[i]n our current theoretical models, we are ... offered two paradigms for the early woman writer. She can forfeit all respectability to enter the arena of male commercial literature and be crushed, or she can suffer injustice privately without challenging the rules of social decorum and be vindicated through her posthumous publications." (23) Sandra M. Gilbert demonstrates how "women writers have frequently responded to sociocultural constraints by creating symbolic narratives that express their common feelings of constriction, exclusion, dispossession," (24) a strategy that finds its echo, I believe, in the apologetic prefaces Mary Shelley writes for the 1824 and 1839 editions of her husband's poetry.

Ironically, Mary Shelley's oeuvre may unwittingly have helped perpetuate the plight of women writers in the generations following her own: Mary Poovey observes that "[i]n her depictions of the monster and the 1831 Frankenstein, Mary Shelley elevates feminine helplessness to the stature of myth" (142). Yet Poovey exculpates Mary Shelley from anti-feminist attack by reminding us that

 Shelley's conviction that it was "unwomanly to print," that it was
 an "offense against the conventionalities of society," was a learned
 response, the result of the head-on collision between the aggressive
 desire epitomized by her mother and reinforced by Percy Shelley's
 Romantic ideals and, on the other hand, the conservative,
 conventional wisdom that delimited the woman's proper sphere. (171)


But in Mary Shelley's attempt to work from within the structure that Frankenstein perhaps helped to solidify, "[t]he elaboration of that myth [of feminine helplessness]--and her own place within it--proves to be the task of the remainder of Shelley's literary career" (142). Favret suggests that one strategy Mary Shelley adopts to work through the constraints placed on her as a woman writer is to engage in a "debate," a "dialogue," with her dead husband in a way that constructs her own identity for the reader to see, "[contrasting] her tastes with his, what she calls her 'reality' and his 'imagination,' her prosaic and his 'poetic soul,' her life and his death-in-life" (20). By so doing, Mary Shelley emerges as a subject in her own right: "[i]n this debate, the editor always gets the last word" (20). Favret's observation reminds us, too, that Mary Shelley's decision to place her notes after each of her husband's poems is not necessarily structural evidence of submission, for even though Mary Shelley, in effect, lets Percy Shelley speak first, she always, as Favret points out, "gets the last word" (20).

Submission takes several forms throughout the documents that make up Mary Shelley's notes to her husband's poetry; two of these, subtlety and evasion, conjoin submission and subversion and thus allow Mary Shelley opportunities for shifting from a passive position to a more active role. Such a shift is exemplified in her sudden cessation of an especially painful recollection, her drawing of a veil over so private a moment. Sheila Ahlbrand suggests that the disastrous consequences of Godwin's editions of Wollstonecraft's works may have "served as a lesson in the value of subtlety in disclosure practices, as well as in the power of the editor over an individual's life and works" (37). Ahlbrand sees Mary Shelley's editorial work as a means of self-expression, tending toward establishing first a congruence with her husband's subjectivity and, finally, an independent, completely differentiated identity (42). Similarly, Favret argues that the editions allow Mary Shelley
 to accomplish what her male contemporaries could not: to play the
 woman and participate in defining the "real world." ... Moreover, by
 exploiting a method of self-promotion justified primarily through
 connection with him, she also justifies her connection with the
 public, as the grieving widow.... She composes this [1839] edition,
 writing not as guiding spirit but as the means of connection--the
 mediating body between life and death, present and past, real and
 ideal. It becomes a very effective position [from which to compose
 her individual identity]. (25-26)


What thus may have begun as "a tactical effort to rescue a 'republican' Shelley from the radicals ... and cleanse him of the taints of sedition and revolution that would harm his reception" (Wolfson 40) resulted, as Wolfson recognizes, in "[shaping] a reception for the editor as well as the poet" (56). In speaking about Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley speaks for and about herself, and thus she effectively subverts the apparently submissive pose she assumes throughout the three editions of her husband's works.

Subversion
 O Mary dear, that you were here
 With your brown eyes bright and clear,
 And your sweet voice, like a bird
 Singing love to its lone mate
 In the ivy bower disconsolate;
 Voice the sweetest ever heard!

 Mary dear, come to me soon,
 I am not well whilst thou art far;
 As sunset to the sphered moon,
 As twilight to the western star,
 Thou, beloved art to me.
 O Mary dear, that you were here;
 The castle echo whispers "Here!"


Percy Bysshe Shelley, "To Mary--" (25)

To fill up that passage, that mystery where the one and the other disappear into one another, you invent economy. Or echonomy. Duty-which she becomes.

--Luce Irigaray, Elemental Passions

Writing the self shatters the cultural hall of mirrors and breaks the silence imposed by male speech.

--Susan Stanford Friedman, "Women's Autobiographical Selves: Theory and Practice" (26)

In a very real sense, the meaning and value of Percy Shelley's poetry hinges on the editorial work of his widow. The hinge, la brisure, connotes contradictory meanings, as Jacques Derrida points out in Of Grammatology, for a hinge is both a break and a join, a cracking apart and a folding together; (27) ultimately, the hinge is "the hollow of differance" (69), the place where the same and the not-same roll over and around each other, the place from which the Other is born. Another term central to Derrida's model, the supplement, might also be used to characterize Mary Shelley's editorial apparatus: the supplement allows for the seamless meshing of the same and the Other as well as for their differentiation, or, to speak more clearly, for the formation of not one but two independent subjects--Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley. The supplement's two functions, which Derrida insists are inextricable (145), remain nonetheless quite opposite in process: the first is to add to the original as "a surplus, a[n enriching] plentitude" (144); the second, to "[add] only to replace," to "[intervene] or [insinuate] itself in-the-place-of; if it fills, it is as if one fills a void" (144-45). The function of the supplement neatly describes the effects of Mary Shelley's editorial work, and through such subversive tactics, which today we might recognize as proto-deconstructive strategies, Mary Shelley actively and deliberately moves from an apparent position of submission to a covert position of subjectivity.

Apology functions as a leitmotif throughout Mary Shelley's notes, but the forms apology takes allow that pose to work to several different ends, culminating in the formation of Mary Shelley's identity as an individual in her own right. The most direct and elaborate apology for any single work in the Collected Poems may be found in her notes to Peter Bell the Third, a takeoff on William Wordsworth's Peter Bell and an attack on Wordsworth himself as a traitor, a revolutionary-turned-traditionalist, whose life and work had lost their poetic fire. Mary Shelley begins and ends her note in language clearly intended to assuage readers--perhaps even including Wordsworth--who might find the portrayal offensive: "I need scarcely observe that nothing personal to the author of Peter Bell is intended in this poem. No man ever admired Wordsworth's poetry more;--[Percy Shelley] read it perpetually, and taught others to appreciate its beauties" (362); "[the poem] must be looked on as a plaything, it has so much merit and poetry--so much of himself in it--that it cannot fail to interest greatly, and by right belongs to the world for whose instruction and benefit it was written" (363). Mary Shelley's anxiety over being misinterpreted as an anti-Wordsworth sympathizer surfaces in her choice of words; at one point, she even says, rather emphatically, "I repeat, his poem is purely ideal" (363; my emphasis), for "[t]his poem was written as a warning--not as a narration of the reality" (363). In distancing herself from her husband's rather transparent attack on the poet, Mary Shelley subverts his position and calls attention to her own as a subject, going to great lengths to remove herself from the site of her husband's ideological critique. Such a gesture might be regarded as submission, since it seems aimed at self-protection (from the reading public, from Wordsworth), but the move also works to subvert submission into subjectivity, for here we see exactly who Mary Shelley is--her own person--as well as who she is not--her husband's echo.

Mary Shelley's anxieties surface again in her note to another controversial work, CEdipus Tyrannus; or, Swellfoot the Tyrant, a play that has never really received the serious attention it deserves. (28) In fact, her voice has spoken so effectively in this note that generations of scholars have followed her instructions to the letter, dismissing the play as a trifle, a laugh: in the final lines of her note, she writes, "The drama, however, must not be judged for more than was meant. It is a mere plaything of the imagination; which even may not excite smiles among many, who will not see wit in those combinations of thought which were full of the ridiculous to the author" (410). As at the conclusion of her note to Peter Bell the Third, Mary Shelley's trepidation gets subsumed into a broader agenda through which she ultimately recuperates Percy Shelley's reputation from the taint that inappropriate readings of Swellfoot might incur: "But, like everything he wrote, it breathes that deep sympathy for the sorrows of humanity, and indignation against its oppressors, which makes it worthy of his name" (410). Such ringing endorsement contains anxiety and trepidation, overshadowing and obscuring them both; a shrewd critic, Mary Shelley forecloses upon the possibility of stabs at her husband's reputation: dislike the satire, she suggests, but understand that it is, of course, unrepresentative of the greatness of its writer.

Similar moments of anxiety punctuate Mary Shelley's notes for "The Witch of Atlas," another work she dismisses as unworthy of her husband's intelligence and ability. Recounting her encouragements to Percy Shelley to avoid works such as this one and to focus instead on the more important themes he developed in The Cenci, Mary Shelley writes that "[i]t was not only that I wished him to acquire popularity as redounding to his fame; but I believed that he would obtain a greater mastery over his powers, and greater happiness in his mind, if public applause crowned his endeavours" (388). Eager not to be misunderstood, Mary Shelley makes clear that she encouraged her husband to seek fame not for celebrity itself, but so that "his proper rank among the writers of the day would be acknowledged, and ... [so that] his countrymen [would] do justice to his character and virtues" (388). In short, Mary Shelley excuses her reticence, her submissiveness, by incorporating it into her husband's ideological triumph. As we have seen before, she encloses her admission of anxiety within a rhetorical frame constructed to ensure her readers' recognition of her husband's achievements. Mixing interpretation with appreciation, the final hermeneutic lens offered by this note tells us exactly how we should "see" "The Witch of Atlas": "These are the materials which form the Witch of Atlas: it is a brilliant congregation of ideas such as his senses gathered, and his fancy coloured, during his rambles in the sunny land he so much loved" (389). We are left, then, with a comment not on the poem but on the poet himself, as Mary Shelley controls her readers' responses to the poem by painting a different picture for them to ponder, by giving them something other than "the abstract and dreamy spirit" (388) of the poem to see.

Jane Gallop celebrates subversive rhetorical strategies particular to feminist texts, especially those that engage matters of psychology and identity-formation, such as Mary Shelley's notes certainly may be shown to do. "In a psychoanalytic context," Gallop writes, "we know of a relationship in which knowledge and authority derive from the one who listens," (29) something Mary Shelley admits having done time and again, not only in her notes to her husband's poems, but also in her commentaries on her own work. Drawing on the findings of Shaft Benstock, Gallop observes that "one possible motive for self-marginalization"--a process typical of Mary Shelley's work--may be "in order better to occupy the center" of meaning, of creation (223). Thus, any construction of Mary Shelley as her husband's echo proves false, for at times her voice disrupts the "echonomy" (Irigaray 55) of representation to speak as and for herself, to shatter "the cultural hall of mirrors" (Friedman 76) dictated by an antifeminist reading public and, more generally, an anti-feminist culture.

In her note to The Cenci, a drama that exposes the tyrannical webs linking the family, the government, and the church, Mary Shelley again constructs what seems like a submissive pose, only to subvert that pose into an assertion of her own subjectivity. She begins with the language of gendered critique, appearing at first to set up a literary model that relegates women to textual engagements of lesser importance and leaves the serious work--the drama--to men: "[Percy Shelley] often incited me to attempt the writing a tragedy: he conceived that I possessed some dramatic talent, and he was always most earnest and energetic in his exhortations that I should cultivate any talent I possessed, to the utmost. I entertained a truer estimate of my powers ..." (334). But this discrepancy, we see in the next few lines, has nothing whatsoever to do with gender: "I was far too young to have any chance of succeeding, even moderately, in a species of composition that requires a greater scope of experience in, and sympathy with, human passion than could then have fallen to my lot--or than any perhaps, except Shelley, ever possessed, even at the age of twenty-six, at which he wrote The Cenci" (334). Gendered critique seems to disappear, for the success of the tragedy derives not from its writer's gender but from his particular genius, yet Mary Shelley's recollection of her insistence on her own inadequacy as a tragedian shows how she, as unwilling playwright, ironically engenders one of her husband's finest achievements: his composition, her note makes clear, begins only after she decides not to compose the account herself.

Considering one's relationship to an Other, Irigaray poses the following conundrum: "Since you cannot exist if not reflected, did you not need someone to ensure this faithful reduplication of yourself?" (45). Surely Percy Shelley's reputation--his image, as it were--depends upon the success of his widow's editorial work. Yet in assuming such a mantle, what becomes of the woman herself? Does she vanish, as Irigaray fears is inevitable in the echonomy of mirrors? "Where am I? Nowhere. Disappeared forever in your presence," Irigaray writes (48), clearly warning against the danger of the mirror echonomy. But perhaps the mirror may be appropriated as a subversive device, for even as the mirror both reflects the object it (visually) echoes, so too does the mirror that woman holds up to man reverse his ascendancy over her, eradicating the either/or tension that seems to vex so many discussions of gender. Through such textual strategies of reflection and reversal, Mary Shelley establishes her identity as a subject even as she celebrates her husband's autonomous life, thought, and work, so that throughout her notes, either/or gives way to the infinitely more democratic configuration of both/and.

Corbett provides a fascinating study of the both/and nature of the journal kept jointly by the Shelleys from 1816-1819, concluding that the early portion of that journal "devotes itself not to the history of a single individual, but to the 'pleasure and security' (6), in [Percy] Shelley's words, that two lovers--who are also two readers and two writers--seek and find in each other" ("Reading Mary Shelley's Journals" 77-78). Corbett notes that this overlapping of the lovers' voices continues even after Percy Shelley's death, when Mary Shelley draws on the language and imagery of her husband's work to construct and describe her experiences in widowhood (85). Not surprisingly, then, I find that the number of occasions on which Mary Shelley employs first-person singular pronouns in the notes--165, to be exact--only slightly exceeds the number of occasions on which she employs first-person plural pronouns--160. Simple numeric examination reveals the correspondence between Mary Shelley's assumption of a completely autonomous role and her recognition of her position as one participant in a seamless coupling (usually with her husband, though sometimes with her close friends or her readers), yet the numbers also prove a pattern of Mary Shelley's assertion as a subject apart from the coupling she idealizes.

A few examples may serve to illuminate the both/and nature of Mary Shelley's subjectivity, which she sometimes guards as her own, which she sometimes assimilates with the subjectivities of others, and which she sometimes disavows by drawing on passive, third-person constructions. In her "Note on the Early Poems," she launches this rhetorical sleight of hand most effectively, first to disappear as an agent in the editorial decision-making process and then suddenly to reappear as a first-person singular subject defending her editorial decisions from the criticism she anticipates:
 The remainder of Shelley's poems will be arranged in the order in
 which they were written. Of course, mistakes will occur in placing
 some of the shorter ones; for, as I have said, many of these were
 thrown aside, and I never saw them till I had the misery of looking
 over his writings after the hand that traced them was dust; and some
 were in the hands of others, and I never saw them till now. (527)


In the preface to the first edition of 1839 we find a similar moment as Mary Shelley uses the first-person plural to establish a rapport with her readers, to make them somehow partners in her overall editorial agenda, which remains devoted to valorizing the work of her husband: "No poet was ever warmed by a more genuine and unforced inspiration.... Such a gift is, among the sad vicissitudes of human life, the disappointments we meet, and the galling sense of our own mistakes and errors, fraught with pain ..." (x). Mary Shelley's editorial success, she hopes, will echo her grammatical inclusiveness: she and her readers are one--like-minded beings who should think of each other in the first-person plural.

The "Note to the Poems of 1818" provides Mary Shelley's most interesting manipulation of pronoun reference. Here, she uses the first-person singular not so much to assert her subjectivity but to acknowledge her status as the victim of her husband's misguided benevolence: "yet many hours were passed when his thoughts, shadowed by illness, became gloomy--and then he escaped to solitude, and in verses, which he hid from fear of wounding me, poured forth morbid but too natural bursts of discontent and sadness" (570). Immediately following this passage, Mary Shelley employs--for the first time in the entire edition--the third person. She is still referring to herself, but in adopting this alternative grammar of self-representation, she displaces any accusations that might be leveled against her (for failing to understand her husband's sorrows, for failing to minister to his moods) by casting her lot as typical of all people, as a general experience: "One looks back with unspeakable regret and gnawing remorse to such periods; fancying that, had one been more alive to the nature of his feelings, and more attentive to soothe them, such would not have existed" (570). The same pose marks her "Note on the Poems of 1821," where Mary Shelley displaces her private melancholy by assimilating it within a universal experience: "Nearly all [who surrounded the Shelleys in 1821] are dead, and, when Memory recurs to the past, she wanders among tombs" (662). "Memory," not Mary Shelley, is the melancholic figure here, the woman doomed to grieve silently alongside the markers of the dead. Such moves ultimately contribute to the establishment of Mary Shelley's status as a subject, a powerful and empowered speaker/agent, in part by diminishing any particular, singular connection to doubt, to weakness, and to grief.

In 1837, Leigh Hunt described Mary Shelley in a poem entitled "Blue-Stocking Revels": "And [Mary] Shelley, four-framed--for her parents, her lord, / And the poor lone impossible monster abhorred. / (So sleek and so smiling she came, people stared, / To think such fair clay should so darkly have dared.)" (qtd. in Poovey 143). Hunt's account, though affectionate, nevertheless crowds Mary Shelley in on all sides by the legends that haunted her--her parents, her husband, and a creature of her own making. But no portrait could be less accurate, at least not when we consider the ways in which Mary Shelley moves from "the framed" to "the framer," from "a result" to an originator, as she assumes the role of editor of her husband's poetry: throughout her notes, Mary Shelley breaks free from the limitations imposed on her from without and offers herself up within a frame of her own making--the notes she supplies and the autonomous image of herself-as-subject that she creates within them.

Subjectivity
 As yet, I am only able to think one thing: that female thought can
 exist, must exist so as to put an end at last, not to male thought
 itself, but to its ridiculous--or tragic--soliloquy.


Annie LeClerc, "Parole de femme" (30)

Perhaps the most frequently noted examples of Mary Shelley's assertion of subjectivity in the editions of her husband's poetry are two that contain quite private, personal significance: her complete silence, her absence of a note, for the love poem Epipsychidion, a major work Percy Shelley wrote for and addressed to another woman, Teresa Viviani; and, in the 1824 edition, her elimination of her husband's dedication of Queen Mab, his first important publication, to his then-wife Harriet Westbrook Shelley. Such omissions have too narrowly been regarded as evidence of Mary Shelley's jealousy and selfishness, when in fact both must be contextualized within the larger framework of all of her notes, as well as within Mary Shelley's struggles with issues of revelation and concealment, the public and the private, her husband's literary biography and her own personal autobiography.

In considering the broad topic of women writers' subjectivities, Corbett suggests that "self-representation becomes its writer's last performance of a role she writes to protect herself against the deformations of publicity and celebrity, the final mask that will survive her, a mask that can shield the private individual from public view." (31) Estelle C. Jelinek offers a somewhat divergent view, insisting that "women's ... life stories reveal ... a self-consciousness and a need to sift through their lives for explanation and understanding. The autobiographical intention is often powered by the motive to convince readers of their self-worth, to clarify, to affirm, and to authenticate their self-image." (32) Jeanne Perrault celebrates the potential of such writing, re-naming it "autography," which she describes as "a writing whose effect is to bring into being a 'self' that the writer names 'I,' but whose parameters and boundaries resist the monadic. Writing T has been an emancipatory project for women ..." for autography "makes the writing itself an aspect of the selfhood the writer experiences and brings into being." (33)

Such uses of writing were familiar to Mary Shelley, although as "a result" of at least two literary legacies, she also remained wary of the dangers of publicizing the personal, of writing the self. Though Mary Shelley perhaps learned from her father that "[s]elf-possession and self-mastery" proceed from control of language (May 497), Marilyn May argues that Godwin's well-intentioned but disastrous attempts at controlling his late wife's legacy--serving as her editor and as her biographer--dissuaded Mary Shelley from the task of life-writing by exposing such projects as potentially injurious to the reputations of all involved. May quotes from Mary Shelley's letter of 27 January 1837 to Edward J. Trelawny, in which "even a 'sense of duty towards her father' could not compel her 'to become the object of scurrility and attacks' and 'to meet the misery that must be hers' were she to resurrect her father's life and place William Godwin once again on public display" (510). "Mary Shelley had more reason than most authors to issue warnings against the confessional mode, and to dramatize the futile search for the conciliatory words that might placate a hostile audience," May writes, "[s]ince monstrosity was the inevitable consequence of autobiography in the Godwin household" (506). Part of the way in which Mary Shelley avoids this conundrum is by establishing a parity between her husband's voice and her own, only periodically to puncture that parity with her gradual ascendance as master-voice. Twice throughout the notes, Mary Shelley uses the noun "earnestness," once to describe herself ("What at one time escapes [my] searching eye, dimmed by its own earnestness, becomes clear at a future period" [xii]), and once to describe Percy Shelley ("[the poems of 1819] show his earnestness ..." [588]). Her careful application of this commendatory term, first to herself and then to her husband, establishes their self-sameness, their footing as individuals worthy of equally great repute. Similarly, Mary Shelley periodically interpolates her husband's words within her notes, weaving a double-voiced text that both incorporates his words as authorizing her own and lends credence to herself as a teller of truth, a writer whose claims cannot and should not be questioned. Her note to Queen Mab, the selection over which she most consistently agonized, (34) provides perhaps the best model of Mary Shelley's use of such doubling, for her lengthy and, she fears, futile attempts to defend her decision to include the poem, as well as to defend her husband's reputation from charges that might stem from this document--about which "[i]t is doubtful whether he would himself have admitted ... into a collection of his works" (835)--demonstrates her reliance on her husband's voice as a defense for and as an enthusiastic supporter of her own ideological decisions.

On two separate occasions throughout her notes, Mary Shelley describes herself as responsible for the completion of two of her husband's works: "Rosalind and Helen was begun at Marlow, and thrown aside--till I found it; and, at my request, it was completed" (188); "[The Cenci] is the only one of his works that he communicated to me during its progress. We talked over the arrangement of the scenes together. I speedily saw the great mistake we had made, and triumphed in the discovery of the new talent brought to light from that mine of wealth ... his richly gifted mind" (335; my emphasis). In the first passage, Mary Shelley assumes agency for the successful completion of Rosalind and Helen, so much so, in fact, that Percy Shelley never even appears as a grammatical subject in the passive constructions bracketing her assertion of subjectivity. In the second example, the in-tandem nature of the Shelleys' work on The Cenci is emphasized, and her choice of the pronoun "mine" echoes her frequent use of the first-person plural pronoun and thus, though perhaps subconsciously, lays claim to co-authorship (alongside her husband's "richly gifted mind") of the tragedy.

As editor of her husband's works, Mary Shelley faces a double-bind particular to women writers, a dilemma set on the horns of the public and the private. Elizabeth Wright observes that "[t]he problem facing feminist criticism is how to give woman access to discourse: the choice for her has been that of either submitting to the public language of patriarchy or of inventing a private language which keeps her marginalized and/or involves the risk of making her sound mystical." (35) Patricia Meyer Spacks agrees, insisting that even when writing "in a genre which implies self-assertion and self-display ... [women] do so, as it were, in disguise." (36) Poovey addresses this split directly, stating that "[f]or all the tensions between the public Mary Shelley and the private one[,] we can identify both some of the sacrifices a young woman had to make in order to conform to propriety and the stages by which unladylike feelings could be reformulated so as never to exceed a woman's proper, altogether tractable, desires" (118).

At times, Mary Shelley addresses this problem by bifurcating her writing into one type or the other. However, such an apparent either/or system grows ultimately far more complicated, as these remarks usually make quite transparent the absence of the other kind of writing, so that even in her most private admissions, we remain aware of their public ramifications, and vice versa. Her "Note on the Poems of 1816," for example, remains completely devoid of personal reflection, focusing instead on a rather dry, factual account of Percy Shelley's intellectual and political engagements throughout that year. But Mary Shelley hints at the undercurrent of an unwritten, private text in the first phrase of the last paragraph of the note, which begins, "[t]his was an eventful year ..." (536). Certainly it was, for 1816 marked the year when the Shelleys celebrated the birth of their son William in January and their own marriage in December, met with Lord Byron for what would become the legendary summer from which Frankenstein was born, and endured the pain and hardships of two suicides, first of Mary Shelley's half-sister Fanny Imlay and later of Percy Shelley's first wife Harriet. Mary Shelley's incredibly understated "[t]his was an eventful year ..." masks what might otherwise prove to be pages of tortured document, an extraordinary record reeling between misery and bliss; but her mere suggestion of private life somehow enters it into the record under erasure, so that the careful reader may take this allusion and develop it more fully into a complete and coherent narrative.

Elsewhere, Mary Shelley surprises with candor, sometimes eschewing all except the most private moments in her notes. Angela D. Jones has remarked that Mary Shelley "[succeeds] in shifting the frame of reference for authorship such that private discourse is an equally valid and valuable ground for writing," (37) that she produces herself "as a professional author through counterpublic discourse" (25). The "Note on Poems of 1817," for example, addresses at length a very private matter, the question of legal custody of Percy Shelley's children from his first marriage and of Percy and Mary Shelley's own children, whom they feared they might lose as a result of the scandals that plagued them (551). Interestingly, the note closes with Mary Shelley ruminating on her husband's disinclination to publicize the details of his private life; of the poem "To William Shelley," which Mary Shelley included for the first time in the first edition of 1839, she writes, "[t]his poem ... [was] not written to exhibit the pangs of distress to the public ..." (552). Mary Shelley thus weaves seamlessness and individuality within the same note, her lengthy discourse on private matters setting her apart from her husband's reticence, but her acknowledgment of his reticence recalling her own as remarked throughout the note for the poems of the previous year. Other notes that focus on the personal and seem completely to ignore more public matters include the "Note on the Poems of 1820" (635-36) and the "Note on the Poems of 1822" (675-80), a remarkable piece that Favret has described as the editions' "prose finale" (35) in which Mary Shelley describes the hopes and fears of what would prove to be the Shelleys' last year together.

I want to close by focusing briefly on Mary Shelley's "Note on the Poems of 1822," as I find that note--the longest and most self-revelatory of any of her entries--emblematic of the rhetorical strategies I have examined throughout my discussion. Mary Shelley's "prose finale" exemplifies the strategies of submission, subversion, and subjectivity I have examined to establish the worthiness of her parity with Percy Shelley and, beyond that, of her own subjectivity as a thinker, writer, and creator.

Mary Shelley begins her final note in rather a jarring manner, for she switches from prose to poetry, establishing herself, like her husband, as a poet. Framing her final appreciation of Percy Shelley's life and work in the mode for which he was far better recognized, Mary Shelley steps into the discursive spotlight as her husband's equal, rightfully claiming the place (as co-writer, as co-creator) she has proven so richly to deserve. Following her poem, she devotes the whole of the first paragraph to bemoaning the shortcomings of her editorial work, insisting that she has failed miserably in her task. Throughout, Mary Shelley strikes the pose of submission, but she undercuts that pose by placing a footnote at the end of her textual self-flagellation and, by way of that footnote, making very clear the laudable task she has accomplished:
 Did any one see the papers from which I drew that volume [the
 edition of 1824], the wonder would be how any eyes or patience were
 capable of extracting it from so confused a mass, interlined and
 broken into fragments, so that the sense could only be deciphered
 and joined by guesses which might seem rather intuitive than
 founded on reasoning. Yet I believe no mistake was made. (676, n. 1)


Her "intuitive" reading functions, of course, as writing, as co-creation, and so sure is she of the worthiness of her intuition that she pronounces the 1824 volume, from which she worked in compiling the 1839 editions, error-free.

Next, Mary Shelley proves her words, her work, to be the master-narrative of her husband's life. Subtly casting herself as a seer, Mary Shelley couches her description of the arrival of the Bolivar, the boat that would become her husband's death-vessel, in imagery taken directly from the Promethean theme of Frankenstein:
 Strange that no fear of danger crossed our minds! Living on the
 seashore, the ocean became as a plaything: as a child may sport
 with a lighted stick, till a spark inflames a forest, and spreads
 destruction overall, so did we fearlessly and blindly tamper with
 danger, and make a game of the terrors of the ocean. (678)


Mary Shelley thus subtly invokes creation/destruction by fire, a key theme in the Promethean legend and a leitmotif throughout Frankenstein, as a prescient model foreshadowing the lovers' final days.

The remainder of the note recounts Mary Shelley's moods and emotions just before and after her husband's drowning. As we have seen before, she reverts to passive constructions, agentless acts, and third-person pronouns to de-emphasize her own helplessness, to erase her vulnerability and, thus, to maintain her integrity as a subject. Two passages in particular demonstrate this strategy:
 On the 1st of July they left us. If ever the shadow of future ill
 darkened the present hour, such was over my mind when they went.
 During the whole of our stay at Lerici, an intense presentiment of
 evil brooded over my mind, and covered this beautiful place and
 genial summer with the shadow of coming misery. I had vainly
 struggled with these emotions--they seemed accounted for by my
 illness; but at this hour of separation they recurred with renewed
 violence. I did not anticipate danger for them, but a vague
 expectation of evil shook me to agony.... (678)


Here, Mary Shelley recounts being rendered helpless first by a forbidding agent that seems to overpower her and then by illness, so that she remains, first emotionally and then physically, paralyzed. Finally, "[t]he spell snapped; it was all over; an interval of agonizing doubt--of days passed in miserable journeys to gain tidings, of hopes that took firmer root even as they were more baseless--was changed to the certainty of the death that eclipsed all happiness for the survivors evermore" (678). In this lengthy and painful sentence--choked into pieces by Mary Shelley's punctuation in a manner that recalls her stifling of her own words in the preface to the 1824 edition, when she stopped short of discoursing on the horror of her husband's death--all human subjects disappear as individuals become victims of the circumstances that enchain them.

At the conclusion to Mary Shelley's final note, her voice vanishes entirely into her husband's own, as her recollection of his life and death gives way to Percy Shelley's own language, drawn from Adonais, her husband's eulogy for John Keats. By closing her edition in this manner, Mary Shelley effects an astonishing triple-step that follows the pattern of submission, subversion, and subjectivity I have been examining: in shrinking from the place of the speaking subject, she seems to submit to her husband's more powerful voice, but in uniting her voice with his, she subverts that pose of submission to establish her own subjectivity. As she rewrites Adonais, redirecting its attention away from her husband's object and onto her own, the editor Mary Shelley finally emerges, as she has claimed throughout, as co-writer, co-creator, and subject in and of her own right.

University of Northern Iowa

(1.) My sincere thanks go to my assistant Nathan Wieting, who helped me prepare the final version of this essay for publication. All references to Mary Shelley's editorial work are taken from "The Posthumous Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley and The Complete Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley," The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Oxford Standard Edition, ed. Thomas Hutchinson (New York: Oxford UP, 1933). Hutchinson's edition includes Mary Shelley's introductions and notes from the 1824 volume and from both volumes of 1839.

(2.) Mary Shelley, Mary Shelley's Journal, ed. Frederick L. Jones (Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1947).

(3.) Betty Bennett, "Finding Mary Shelley in Her Letters," Critical Essays on Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, ed. Mary Lowe-Evans, Critical Essays on British Literature, Zack Bowen, gen. ed. (New York: G. K. Hall, 1998) 118-32 (118).

(4.) Muriel Spark, Mary Shelley: A Biography (New York: Meridian, 1987).

(5.) Richard Holmes, Shelley: The Pursuit, Penguin Literary Biographies (1974; New York: Penguin, 1987).

(6.) Sylvia Plath, "Daddy," Ariel: Poems by Sylvia Plath (New York: Harper Perennial, 1961) 49-51.

(7.) Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, ed. D. L. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf (1818, 1831; Orchard Park: Broadview P, 1994).

(8.) Mary Shelley published three editions of her husband's poetry in the years following his death: The Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley (June 1824) and The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley (two editions, January 1839 and May 1839). She also edited a volume of Percy Shelley's Essays and Letters (December 1839), but that work remains beyond the scope of the present essay.

(9.) Mary Jean Corbett, "Reading Mary Shelley's Journals: Romantic Subjectivity and Feminist Criticism," The Other Mary Shelley: Beyond Frankenstein, ed. Audrey A. Fisch, Anne K. Mellor, and Esther M. Schor (New York: Oxford UP, 1993) 73-88 (86). Hereafter cited as Fisch, Mellor and Schor.

(10.) Mary Shelley, "The Choice" (1823), The Last Man, by Mary Shelley, ed. Anne McWhir (Orchard Park: Broadview Literary Texts, 1996) 405-409.

(11.) Mary Lowe-Evans, Introduction, Critical Essays 1-24 (9).

(12) Emily Sunstein, Mary Shelley: Romance and Reality (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1989) 403.

(13.) Commercial considerations were, admittedly, important to Mary Shelley as she assembled her husband's works for publication. As Regina B. Oost has argued, "for Mary Shelley as well as countless other writers, authorship was a means of putting bread on the table ..." (34); see Oost's "Marketing Frankenstein: The Shelleys' Enigmatic Preface," English Language Notes 35 (September 1997): 26-34. What Sunstein's critique overlooks, I think, is the second part of Oost's astute observation, that authorship also served Mary Shelley as a means "of realizing political, philosophical, and aesthetic aspirations" (34).

(14.) Mary Favret, "Mary Shelley's Sympathy and Irony: The Editor and Her Corpus," The Other Mary Shelley: Beyond Frankenstein (New York: Oxford UP, 1993) 17-38 (18).

(15.) Neil Fraistat, "Illegitimate Shelley: Radical Piracy and the Textual Edition as Cultural Performance," PMLA 109 (May 1994): 409-23 (410).

(16.) William St. Clair, The Godwins and the Shelleys: The Biography of a Family (New York: Norton, 1989) 492.

(17.) Susan J. Wolfson, "Editorial Privilege: Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley's Audiences," Fisch, Mellor, and Schor 30-72 (57).

(18.) Luce Irigaray, Elemental Passions, trans. Joanne Collie and Judith Still (1982; New York: Routledge, 1992) 105.

(19.) The obstacles to which Mary Shelley alludes are those of rather a private nature, and thus she typically passes over the painful facts of the matter: following the publication in 1824 of her edition of The Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelhey, her enraged father-in-law, Sir Timothy Shelley, ordered that all unsold copies be recalled and destroyed, and he threatened to cut off Mary Shelley's financial support if ever she published accounts of her husband's life again. Many critics have observed that Mary Shelley effectively circumvented Sir Timothy's proscription by burying "the life," as it were, within the apparatus to which her father-in-law seems not to have objected--her notes. Thus, we see that her role as editor, as compiler and note-writer, becomes one avenue through which this "helpless" woman, the longsuffering victim of "obstacles," takes control of her work and presents it, ultimately, on the very terms she so desires. In this way, Mary Shelley successfully subverts the limitations forced upon her work by the father-figure who wields power over her. Throughout her work as editor of her husband's oeuvre, Mary Shelley may seem to embody the highly problematic "woman-behind-the-man" figure, but her careful and calculated negotiations of the text render such a position merely and clearly a pose, and one that affords her an opportunity for extensive self-expression and critique, for the articulation of her own voice over and above the proscriptions under which she labors.

(20.) For evidence of such anxiety, see: Sheila Ahlbrand, "Author and Editor: Mary Shelley's Private Writings and the Author Function of Percy Bysshe Shelley," iconoclastic Departures: Mary Shelley after Frankenstein, ed. Sydny M. Conger, Frederick S. Frank and Gregory O'Dea (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1997) 41 and 58; Marilyn May, "Publish and Perish: William Godwin, Mary Shelley, and the Public Appetite for Scandal," Papers on Language and Literature 26 (Fall 1990): 492; Mary Poovey, The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen, Women in Culture and Society, ser. ed. Catharine R. Stimpson (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984) 117 and 171; and Sunstein 248, as well as Mary Shelley, The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Volume II: "Treading in Unknown Paths," 2 vols., ed. Betty T. Bennett (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1983) 221.

(21.) Leigh Gilmore, Autobiographics: A Feminist Theory of Women's Self-Representation, Reading Women Writing, ed. Shari Benstock and Celeste Schenck (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1994).

(22.) For further discussion of Mary Shelley's difficult struggle with feminism, see Nathaniel Brown, Sexuality and Feminism in Shelley (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1979) 274-75; Lowe-vans 5; and Poovey 171.

(23.) Margaret J. M. Ezell, Writing Women's Literary History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1993) 11.

(24.) Sandra Gilbert, "What Do Feminist Critics Want?: A Postcard from the Volcano," Feminist Criticism: Essays" on Women, Literature and Theory (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985) 29-45 (35)

(25.) Percy Bysshe Shelley, "To Mary--" (1824), ed. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley 553.

(26.) Susan Stanford Friedman, "Women's Autobiographical Selves: Theory and Practice," Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader, ed. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, Wisconsin Studies in American Autobiography (Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1998) 72-82. Hereafter cited as Smith and Watson.

(27.) Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (1967; Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1976) 65.

(28.) See Samuel Lyndon Gladden, "Shelley's Agenda Writ Large: Reconsidering CEdipus Tyrannus; or, Swellfoot the Tyrant," Shelley's Textual Seductions: Plotting Utopia in the Erotic and Political Works, Studies in Major Literary Authors, ser. ed. William E. Cain (New York: Routledge, 2002) 49-119, in which I examine the very serious ideological model Shelley's satire examines: the links between private engagements and public policy, between the erotic and the political.

(29.) Jane Gallop, Around 1981: Academic Feminist Literary Theory (New York: Routledge, 1992) 62.

(30.) Annie LeClerc, "Parole de femme," French Feminist Thought: A Reader, ed. Toril Moi (1987; New York: Basil Blackwell, 1989) 73-79.

(31.) Mary Jean Corbett, "Literary Domesticity and Women Writers' Subjectivities," Smith and Watson 255-63 (255).

(32.) Estelle C. Jelinek, "Introduction: Women's Autobiography and the Male Tradition," Women's Autobioyraph),: Essays in Criticism, ed. Jelinek (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1980) 1-20 (15).

(33.) Jeanne Perrault, "Autobiography/Transformation/Asymmetry," Smith and Watson 190-91.

(34.) See Mary Shelley's Letters (324) and Journal (207).

(35.) Elizabeth Wright, "Thoroughly Postmodern Feminist Criticism," Between Feminism and Psychoanalysis, ed. Teresa Brennan (New York: Routledge, 1989) 141-52 (141).

(36.) Patricia Meyer Spacks, "Selves in Hiding," Jelinek 112-32 (114).

(37.) Angela D. Jones, "Lying Near the Truth: Mary Shelley Performs the Private," Conger, Frank, and O'Dea 19-34 (24).
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Author:Gladden, Samuel Lyndon
Publication:Studies in Romanticism
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 22, 2005
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