your sex, when I had thought Insaw in you symptoms entitlingnyou to be ranked among thosennoble spirits that do honour tonour nature. Oh, what a fallingnoff is here! . . . You have thenhusband of your choice, tonwhom you seem to benunalterably attached, a man ofnhigh intellectual endowmentsnwhatever I and some othernpersons may think of hisnmorality. . . . You have all thengoods of fortune, all the meansnof being useful to others. . . .nBut … all is nothing, becausena child of three years old isndead.nSuch was her father’s love. In returnnMary showed him a great deal of patiencenand devotion, paying his debts,ngiving him money, taking out loans tonaid him. Living off of two hundrednpounds a year plus her writing (andntrying to educate her young son Percynat Harrow), she still managed to supplementnher father’s income to insure himnof the three hundred per year he needed.nAny defense of Mary Shelley’sncharacter could, I think, end here.nBut was she a feminist? Truenenough, she flouted conventions andndisobeyed her own father to follow thenman she loved. When her husband diednshe never remarried, earning a significantnamount for herself and her manyndependents by her own writing, andnthroughout her life she took special carento befriend and help people whosenprivate lives were by normal standardsnscandalous.nYet none of these actions are particularlynfeminist. Sunstein has taken thenline that if she became more conventionalnas she grew older, it was becausensociety forced her into it. Certainly thenpressures were great. Sir TimothynShelley’s hatred for her was such thatnshe was at terrific pains not to offendnhim in order to secure some kind ofnfuture for his grandchild. Much ofnMary’s “conservatism” was the reactionnof a mother intent on protecting her sonnas much as possible from scandal andnhis grandfather’s further anger.nBut there is more than this. MarynShelley has written herself that shencame to regret some of her actions (andnShelley’s). If she did not live to regretnher marriage, she did regret the circum­nstances, especially the responsibility shenfelt she and Shelley had for the suicidenof Harriet Shelley, the wife Shelley hadnabandoned when he ran off with Mary.nAnd while she never turned into annoutright conservative, it is clear thatnafter years of difficulties she had hadnenough of her liberal fiiends. As shenwrote to her friend Edward Trelawny inn1837, angry that he’d accused her ofnbeing afraid to publish something of hernfather’s:nWhat has my life been what isnit Since I lost Shelley—I havenbeen alone—& worse—I hadnmy father’s fate for many a yearna burthen pressing me to thenearth—& I had Percy’sneducation & welfare to guardnover—& in all this I had nonone fiiendly hand stretched outnto support me. … —If I havenever found kindness it has notnbeen firom liberals—tondisengage myself from them wasnthe first act of my fireedomn—the consequence wasnthat I gained peace and civilnusage . . . You are a Man at anfeast . . . you naturally scoff atnme & my dry crust in ancomer . . . but it is useless tontell a pampered Man this.nThe most thorough and public rejectionnof her parents’ theories may benFrankenstein — Mary Shelley’s onengreat book. Though the prose is unremarkablenand the book’s structure verynweak, the conception of Frankensteinnis a brilliant stab at the twin roots ofnliberalism: scientism and progress. Preciselynas a cautionary tale, Frankensteinncan be read as a critique of WilliamnGodwin. What was Godwin’s religionnif not a belief in the goodness ofnprogress that scientific reasoning willnbring us? It was Godwin (quoting BennFranklin) who wrote in Political Justicenthat “mind will one day become omnipotentnover matter,” and who suggestednthat men will learn not only tonabolish sleep but perhaps to overcomenthe “accidents” of disease and death.nUnfortunately, science’s new Adam,nFrankenstein’s victory over death, is anmonster that destroys its creator and hisnfamily. Whether Mary was aware of itnor not, what stronger refutation ofnGodwin’s theories can there be thannnnthe vision of the monster grieving overnhis dead father, then fleeing to his ownndeath across the ice?nSunstein’s Mary Shelley is a readablenbiography, and a largely accuratenportrayal. It has, however, somenfaults. Sunstein clearly takes Shelley’snside against his first wife, Harriet, who Inthink had much excuse; and she has andisconcerting way of glossing over thenmost inexcusable behavior on the partnof Mary’s father with a passing phrase.nWhen Godwin published in 1798 hisndead wife’s private letters to her lovernImlay, he exposed her reputation (andnthat of her still-living daughter, Fanny)nto an outraged public. While quotingnan angry Southey in criticism,nSunstein herself excuses Godwin forn”the implacable innocence of a philosophernof truth.”nSuch charity for male irresponsibilitynis strange in a feminist, but stranger stillnis Sunstein’s apparently genuine beliefnin Mary Shelley’s ability to foretell thenfuture. A more basic problem isnSunstein’s method. This being yet anothernbook to fall into that middlenground between scholarly and popularnbiography, there are footnotes, butnnever where I want them. Sunstein’sndismissal of Fanny Kemble Butler’snfamous anecdote (that when she advisednMary Shelley to teach her son tonthink for himself, Mary replied, “Oh,nmy God, teach him rather to think likenother people!”) is not completely persuasive.nI am pedant enough to wishnSunstein had given fuller explanationsnas to why she is certain, say, Mary didnnot have an affair with Thomas JeffersonnHogg. I also miss a proper bibliography;nthere is only a bibliographicalnchapter, which is by no means complete.nAs far as Sunstein goes with it, hernreading of Mary Shelley’s characternstands up. She simply does not take itnfar enough. I believe in the Mary shendescribes at 25, but by 40 Mary’snopinions had changed more thannSunstein is willing to consider. Probablynbecause of Sunstein’s prejudices,nthere is no thorough discussion ofnsome of Mary Shelley’s later lettersnand journal entries. It is true enough,nas Sunstein argues, that Mary has beennunjustly maligned; true enough thatnshe was admirable in many ways; evenntrue enough that she was heir to hernOCTOBER 1989/33n