MAURICE by Mary Shelley


or The Fisher's Cot
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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, 1997, etc.). 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. A nice diversion padded up into a rather ungainly book. Tomalin’s fine introduction notwithstanding, there’s nothing here that merits the attention—preface, introduction, annotations, notes, bibliography—it’s being given.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1998
ISBN: 0-375-40473-2
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998


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