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HUMANITIES 255 coherent, book-length argument, The Dialogic Keats is an enjoyable and suggestive book. (ALAN BEWELL) Mary Shelley. Valperga: Or, The Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince ofLucca. Edited by Tilottama Rajan Broadview Press. 496. $17.95 Valperga, originally published in 1823, is one of the lesser-known works of the famed author of Frankenstein. It was not available in modern editions until its appearance in volume 3 of The Novels and Selected Works ofMan) Shelley edited by Nora Crook in 1996. Though scholarly and well edited, the Pickering and Chatto version of the novel is still relatively inaccessible because of its expensive price. This paperback Broadview edition, with its intelligently framed introduction, chronology, bibliography, and appendixes , is therefore a welcome additionnot only to Mary Shelley scholarship but to the canon of British Romantic literature. A historical romance based on the life of Castruccio Castracani of the family of the Antelminelli of Lucca (1281 or 1284-1330), Valperga is the product of Shelley'S research of some 'fifty old books,' according to her husband, Percy. A large part of the novel thus consists of third-person and not so compelling accounts of Castruccio's upbringing and the micropolitics of the conflict between the Guelphs and the Ghibelines. As Tilottama Rajan explains, 'the historical trajectory against which Valperga is set ... moves from the local power of bishops and then communes, through the signoria and the Renaissance despots, to a nation-state ... Italy was a country for which Romantic writers ... could still imagine political forms quite different from the hegemonic paradigm of the nation-state.' Her introduction discusses the novel in the context of Shelley's life and literary achievements, Godwin's, Wollstonecraft's, and Leibniz's philosophy, as well as Italian history. Rajan argues that 'as a historical romance Valperga provides a trenchant critique of the male values of nationalism and conquest in Scott'5 Waverley.' A rethinking of Mathilda, Valperga is also Shelley's'attempt to turn radical negativity in a more creative direction, by making grief (re)generative, ... which calls feelings otherwise dormant into action.' Rajan's armotations are useful. They not only contain factual references but often also make intertextuallinks between the novel and works by Percy Shelley and other Romantic authors. They point to various works which influenced Mary Shelley, such as Machiavelli's The Prince~ Sismondi's Histoire des republiques italiennes du moyen age, and Lodovico Muratori's Disertazione sopra Ie Antichita Italiane. Extracts from some of these works, from Godwin's 'Of History and Romance,' and contemporary reviews of the novel are .included in the appendixes. 256 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 The most interesting sections of the novel are not those that concern Castruccio's exploits, which are based on historical accounts, but those that deal with the two female characters whom Shelley invents and inserts into the tale. Rajan calls this technique 'a mixture of the true and the counterfactual .' Like Sophia Lee, Virginia Woolf, and other womenwriters, Shelley imagines the lives of women who might have lived in history and 'constructs a lost female genealogy' by romantic invention. For Rajan, the I double legacy ofWollstonecraftor the discrepancybetweenwomen's creative potential and their biological fate is played out in Valperga through Euthanasia and Beatrice.' Euthanasia is an unusual character in Shelley's oeuvre because she is an independent woman, a respected sovereign, and remains unconstrained by men and marriage until the end. Beatrice plays out the more traditional conflict between power and sexuality. Her 'loss of access to imagination and language are caused by her awakening into sexuality.' One contemporary review of the novel sums up this reader's reaction to Valperga: 'We must confess, that in much of what we looked for, we have been disappointed; but yet, ... we do not hesitate to say, that if we have not met with what we expected, we have met with other things almost as good.' (ELEANOR TY) Catharine Parr Traili. The Backwoods ofCanada. Edited by Michael Peterman Carleton University Press 1997. lxxii, 336. $27.95 The eleventh volume in the series of scholarly editions of early Canadian prose classics issued by CEECT (the Centre for Editing Early Canadian Texts under the direction of Mary...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 255-256
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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