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Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft…
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Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley circle (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Janet Todd

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572207,436 (3.94)3
Member:Cariola
Title:Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley circle
Authors:Janet Todd
Info:Counterpoint (2007), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, Biography
Rating:
Tags:Nonfiction, Literary Biography, British, 19th Century, Romantics

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Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley circle by Janet Todd (2007)

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The central death in this study of the poet Shelley and his circle is the suicide of Fanny Wollstonecraft, half sister of Shelley's wife, Mary, author of Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. The second death is the suicide of Harriet, Shelley's first wife. Janet Todd's book is a study of the 'cult of the creative genius'. Shelley's famous claim that 'poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world' was acknowledged at least by the young women who sought liberation from the constricted circumstances of their own lives by association with his genius. He had also the advantages of birth, as a member of the minor aristocracy and the prospect of wealth, which allowed him access to virtually unlimited credit. Fanny and Harriet, whom he deserted and slandered, were the least among the minor planets in his orbit. Neither was particularly talented and poor Fanny was plain and scarred from childhood smallpox. She took her own life when it became apparent that she had no prospect of joining the charmed circle and that her life held, at best, the prospect of genteel poverty as a governess or teacher. It is a cruel tale, narrated with controlled compassion for poor Fanny and Harriet and an equally controlled appreciation of the demands of Shelley's selfish genius. Recent studies explore the relationship between creativity and the capacity to lie to oneself and others. Janet Todd's wonderful study of the Shelley circle can be read as an illustration of that particular thesis. ( )
  LeaderElliott | Jan 8, 2013 |
[[Death and The Maidens]] - the front cover contains the snippet of a review from Victoria Glendinning suggesting that the book is "a disturbing commentary on the doctrine of free love" however we are not treated to a great deal of information as to what this doctrine actually encompasses.

We are made aware that the romantic poet Shelley envisaged an extended household comprising his close male companions and willing, intelligent and attractive females who would all be open to catering for his apparently voracious sexual appetite.

However this book offers more of an insight into the peculiar manner in which the literary and artistic managed to scrape together the means to live by writing up loans against future inheritance...it's no wonder the British aristocracy went broke!

Todd offers us as much insight as she can muster into the lives of these women who were definitely living outside the social norm of the period. The "tidying up" of scandalous information by subsequent generations has meant that perhaps more detail used to exist but we are left to wonder just how detailed it was.

Readable, on many levels sad, but a most interesting insight into what could be considered a very early polyamorous living arrangement. ( )
  australwind | Jul 19, 2009 |
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Set against the background of a Europe recovering from the Napoleonic Wars, Janet Todd brings to life the terrible and tragic story of the Shelley circle.

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