Mary Shelley(1797-1851) - Tor Vergata

Mary Shelley(1797-1851) - Tor Vergata

Università di Roma “Tor Vergata” Letteratura Inglese I Prof. Elisabetta Marino [email protected] Mary Shelley (1797-1851) • History of a Six...

464KB Sizes 0 Downloads 5 Views

Università di Roma “Tor Vergata” Letteratura Inglese I Prof. Elisabetta Marino [email protected]

Mary Shelley (1797-1851) • History of a Six Weeks’ Tour (1817) • Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus (1818) • Mathilda (opera composta nel 1819 ma pubblicata solo nel

1859) • Prosperpine e Midas (testi scritti nel 1820) • Valperga (1823) • Posthumous Poems (1824) • The Last Man (1826) • The Fortunes of Perkin Warback: a Romance (1830) • Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus (nuova pubblicazione del 1831) • Lodore (1835) • Falkner (1837) • Poetical Works (1839)

Journal, October 21st, 1838 In the first place, with regard to the “good cause” – the cause of the advancement of freedom and knowledge, of the rights of women, etc. – I am not a person of opinions… Some have a passion for reforming the world; others do not cling to particular opinions. That my parents and Shelley were of the former class, make me respect it… For myself, I earnestly desire the good and enlightenment of my fellow creatures, and see all, in the present course, tending to the same and rejoice; but I am not for violent extremes, which only brings on an injurious reaction… I was nursed and fed with a love of glory. To be something great and good was the precept given me by my father; Shelley reiterated it… but Shelley died and I was alone. My total friendlessness, my horror of pushing, and the inability to put myself forward unless led, cherished and supported – all this has sunk me in a state of loneliness no other human being ever before, I believe, endured – except Robinson Crusoe… I have never written to vindicate the rights of women, I have ever defended women when oppressed. At every risk I have befriended and supported victims to the social system.

Anno accademico 2011-12

Università di Roma “Tor Vergata” Letteratura Inglese I Prof. Elisabetta Marino [email protected]

g{x _táà `tÇ uç `tÜç f{xÄÄxç I VISITED Naples in the year 1818. On the 8th of December of that year, my companion and I crossed the Bay, to visit the antiquities which are scattered on the shores of Baiae. The translucent and shining waters of the calm sea covered fragments of old Roman villas, which were interlaced by sea-weed, and received diamond tints from the chequering of the sun-beams; the blue and pellucid element was such as Galatea might have skimmed in her car of mother of pearl; or Cleopatra, more fitly than the Nile, have chosen as the path of her magic ship. Though it was winter, the atmosphere seemed more appropriate to early Figura 1 La Sibilla Cumana Michelangelo spring; and its genial warmth contributed to inspire those sensations of placid delight, which are the portion of every traveller, as he lingers, loath to quit the tranquil bays and radiant promontories of Baiae. We visited the so called Elysian Fields and Avernus: and wandered through various ruined temples, baths, and classic spots; at length we entered the gloomy cavern of the Cumaean Sibyl. Our Lazzeroni bore flaring torches, which shone red, and almost dusky, in the murky subterranean passages, whose darkness thirstily surrounding them, seemed eager to imbibe more and more of the element of light. We passed by a natural archway, leading to a second gallery, and enquired, if we could not enter there also. The guides pointed to the reflection of their torches on the water that paved it, leaving us to form our own conclusion; but adding it was a pity, for it led to the Sibyl's Cave. Our curiosity and enthusiasm were excited by this circumstance, and we insisted upon attempting the passage. As is usually the case in the prosecution of such enterprizes, the difficulties decreased on examination. We found, on each side of the humid pathway, "dry land for the sole of the foot." At length we arrived at a large, desert, dark cavern, which the Lazzeroni assured us was the Sibyl's Cave. We were sufficiently disappointed--Yet we examined it with care, as if its blank, rocky walls could still bear trace of celestial visitant. On one side was a small opening. Whither does this lead? we asked: can we enter here?-Figura 2 Mary Shelley visited the Villa Farnesina in "Questo poi, no,"--said the wild looking savage, who Rome on 22 March 1819, where she saw Raphael's held the torch; "you can advance but a short distance, fresco, The Triumph of Galatea and nobody visits it."

Anno accademico 2011-12

Università di Roma “Tor Vergata” Letteratura Inglese I Prof. Elisabetta Marino [email protected]

"Nevertheless, I will try it," said my companion; "it may lead to the real cavern. Shall I go alone, or will you accompany me?" I signified my readiness to proceed, but our guides protested against such a measure. With great volubility, in their native Neapolitan dialect, with which we were not very familiar, they told us that there were spectres, that the roof would fall in, that it was too narrow to admit us, that there was a deep hole within, filled with water, and we might be drowned. My friend shortened the harangue, by taking the man's torch from him; and we proceeded alone. The passage, which at first scarcely admitted us, quickly grew narrower and lower; we were almost bent double; yet still we persisted in making our way through it. At length we entered a wider space, and the low roof heightened; but, as we congratulated ourselves on this change, our torch was extinguished by a current of air, and we were left in utter darkness. The guides bring with them materials for renewing the light, but we had none--our only resource was to return as we came. We groped round the widened space to find the entrance, and after a time fancied that we had succeeded. This proved however to be a second passage, which evidently ascended. It terminated like the former; though something approaching to a ray, we could not tell whence, shed a very doubtful twilight in the space. By degrees, our eyes grew somewhat accustomed to this dimness, and we perceived that there was no direct passage leading us further; but that it was possible to climb one side of the cavern to a low arch at top, which promised a more easy path, from whence we now discovered that this light proceeded. With considerable difficulty we scrambled up, and came to another passage with still more of illumination, and this led to another ascent like the former. After a succession of these, which our resolution alone permitted us to surmount, we arrived at a wide cavern with an arched dome-like roof. An aperture in the midst let in the light of heaven; but this was overgrown with brambles and underwood, which acted as a veil, obscuring the day, and giving a solemn religious hue to the apartment. It was spacious, and nearly circular, with a raised seat of stone, about the size of a Grecian couch, at one end. The only sign that life had been here, was the perfect snow-white skeleton of a goat, which had probably not perceived the opening as it grazed on the hill above, and had fallen headlong. Ages perhaps had elapsed since this catastrophe; and the ruin it had made above, had been repaired by the growth of vegetation during many hundred summers. The rest of the furniture of the cavern consisted of piles of leaves, fragments of bark, and a white filmy substance, resembling the inner part of the green hood which shelters the grain of the unripe Indian corn. We were fatigued by our struggles to attain this point, and seated ourselves on the rocky couch, while the sounds of tinkling sheep-bells, and shout of shepherd-boy, reached us from above. At length my friend, who had taken up some of the leaves strewed about, exclaimed, "This is the Sibyl's cave; these are Sibylline leaves." On examination, we found that all the leaves, bark, and other substances, were traced with written characters. What appeared to us more astonishing, was that these writings were expressed in various languages: some unknown to my companion, ancient Chaldee, and Egyptian hieroglyphics, old as the Pyramids. Stranger still, some were in modern dialects, English and Italian. We could make out little by the dim light, but they seemed to contain prophecies, detailed relations of events but lately passed; names, now well known, but of modern date; and often exclamations of exultation or woe, of victory or defeat, were traced on their thin scant pages. This was certainly the Sibyl's Cave; not indeed exactly Anno accademico 2011-12

Università di Roma “Tor Vergata” Letteratura Inglese I Prof. Elisabetta Marino [email protected]

as Virgil describes it, but the whole of this land had been so convulsed by earthquake and volcano, that the change was not wonderful, though the traces of ruin were effaced by time; and we probably owed the preservation of these leaves, to the accident which had closed the mouth of the cavern, and the swift-growing vegetation which had rendered its sole opening impervious to the storm. We made a hasty selection of such of the leaves, whose writing one at least of us could understand; and then, laden with our treasure, we bade adieu to the dim hypaethric cavern, and after much difficulty succeeded in rejoining our guides. During our stay at Naples, we often returned to this cave, sometimes alone, skimming the sun-lit sea, and each time added to our store. Since that period, whenever the world's circumstance has not imperiously called me away, or the temper of my mind impeded such study, I have been employed in deciphering these sacred remains. Their meaning, wondrous and eloquent, has often repaid my toil, soothing me in sorrow, and exciting my imagination to daring flights, through the immensity of nature and the mind of man. For awhile my labours were not solitary; but that time is gone; and, with the selected and matchless companion of my toils, their dearest reward is also lost to me-Di mie tenere frondi altro lavoro Credea mostrarte; e qual fero pianeta Ne' nvidiò insieme, o mio nobil tesoro? I present the public with my latest discoveries in the slight Sibylline pages. Scattered and unconnected as they were, I have been obliged to add links, and model the work into a consistent form. But the main substance rests on the truths contained in these poetic rhapsodies, and the divine intuition which the Cumaean damsel obtained from heaven. I have often wondered at the subject of her verses, and at the English dress of the Latin poet. Sometimes I have thought, that, obscure and chaotic as they are, they owe their present form to me, their decipherer. As if we should give to another artist, the painted fragments which form the mosaic copy of Raphael's Transfiguration in St. Peter's; he would put them together in a form, whose mode would be fashioned by his own peculiar mind and talent. Doubtless the leaves of the Cumaean Sibyl have suffered distortion and diminution of interest and excellence in my hands. My only excuse for thus transforming them, is that they were unintelligible in their pristine condition. My labours have cheered long hours of solitude, and taken me out of a world, which has averted its once benignant face from me, to one glowing with imagination and power. Will my readers ask how I could find solace from the narration of misery and woeful change ? This is one of the mysteries of our nature, which holds full sway over me, and from whose influence I cannot escape. I confess, that I have not been unmoved by the development of the tale; and that I have been depressed, nay, agonized, at some parts of the recital, which I have faithfully transcribed from my materials. Yet such is human nature, that the excitement of mind was dear to me, and that the imagination, painter of tempest and earthquake, or, worse, the stormy and ruin-fraught passions of Anno accademico 2011-12

Figura 3 Michelangelo, La trasfigurazione, Musei Vaticani (copiato in un mosaico a S. Pietro – Cappella Clementia)

Università di Roma “Tor Vergata” Letteratura Inglese I Prof. Elisabetta Marino [email protected]

man, softened my real sorrows and endless regrets, by clothing these fictitious ones in that ideality, which takes the mortal sting from pain. I hardly know whether this apology is necessary. For the merits of my adaptation and translation must decide how far I have well bestowed my time and imperfect powers, in giving form and substance to the frail and attenuated Leaves of the Sibyl.

Queen Victoria 1819–1901, queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1837–1901) and empress of India (1876–1901). She was the daughter of Edward, duke of Kent (fourth son of George III), and Princess Mary Louise Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Early Reign Victoria’s father died before she was a year old. Upon the death (1830) of George IV, she was recognized as heir to the British throne, and in 1837, at the age of 18, she succeeded her uncle, William IV, to the throne. With the accession of a woman, the connection between the English and Hanoverian thrones ceased in accordance with the Salic law of Hanover. Marriage to Albert In 1840, Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Albert, with whom she was very much in love, became the dominant influence in her life. Her first child, Victoria, later empress of Germany, was born in 1840, and the prince of Wales, later Edward VII, in 1841. Victoria had nine children. Their marriages and those of her grandchildren allied the British royal house with those of Russia, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Romania, and several of the German states. Through Albert’s efforts, Victoria was reconciled with the Tories, and she became very fond of Minister Peel during his second ministry (1841–46). She was less happy with the Whig ministry that followed, taking particular exception to the adventurous foreign policy of Viscount Palmerston. The resulting friction was a factor in Palmerston’s dismissal from office in 1851. Royal popularity was increased by the success of the Crystal Palace exposition (Great exhibition, 1851), planned and carried through by Albert. It began to wane again, however, when it was rumored on the eve of the Crimean War that the royal couple was pro-Russian. After the outbreak (1854) of the war, Victoria took part in the organization of relief for the wounded and instituted the Victoria Cross for bravery. She also reconciled herself to Palmerston, who became prime minister in 1855 and proved a vigorous war leader. Widowhood and Later Years In 1861, Albert (who had been named prince consort in 1857) died. Victoria’s grief was so great that she did not appear in public for three years and did not open Parliament until 1866; her prolonged seclusion damaged her popularity. Her reappearance was largely the work of Benjamin Disraeli, who, together with William Gladstone, dominated the politics of the latter part of Victoria’s reign. Disraeli became the queen’s great favourite. In 1876 he secured for her the title empress of India, which pleased her greatly; she was ardently imperialistic and intensely interested in the welfare of her colonial subjects, particularly the Indians. Victoria’s relations with Gladstone, on the other hand, were very stiff; she disliked him personally and disapproved of many of his policies, especially Irish Home Rule. In her old age, Victoria was enormously popular. Jubilees were held in 1887 and 1897 to celebrate the

Anno accademico 2011-12

Università di Roma “Tor Vergata” Letteratura Inglese I Prof. Elisabetta Marino [email protected]

50th and 60th years of the longest English reign. The queen was not highly intelligent, but her conscientiousness and strict morals helped to restore the prestige of the crown and to establish it as a symbol of public service and imperial unity.

Anno accademico 2011-12