"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
Visit DWD's Reviews of Books, Audiobooks, Music and Video new sister blog: DWD's Reviews of Tech, Gadgets and Gizmos!
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
In Defence of Harriet Shelley by Mark Twain
Before reading this brilliant essay you must be familiar with Percy Bysshe Shelley, a 19th century English poet and perhaps, nowadays, most famous for being married to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. His most famous bit of poetry in modern times is: "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Before reading this essay, read a short online biography about Mr. Shelley so that you can follow along with some knowledge of the basics. Twain's essay is actually a long review of a biography of Shelley by Edward Dowden: Life of Shelley, a book that is extremely dismissive of Harriet Shelley, Percy Shelley's first wife - the one he left pregnant and with a child at home so that he could run away to Europe with Mary.
In no way is Twain's essay fair towards Percy Shelley - it does not try to be and I do not think that it should be. It's hard to defend a man who leaves his pregnant wife for a teenage girl. Twain rips this section of the biography apart bit by bit. Twain's sarcastic bite is on full display here - commentary that is very often laugh out loud funny and very tender towards Harriet Shelley.
5 stars out of a possible 5 stars.
This book essay can be found on Amazon.com here: In Defence of Harriet Shelley
Reviewed July 13, 2010.