(35) Chapter 9.

Scenes of North America and Ireland abroad; a violent mob is met on its way to the capital.

When I began this literary project I had a detail from Chapter 9, Volume 2 already in mind. Of course, the dead and dying Irish fighters in Mary Shelley’s original are both men, as all her soldiers are men. But as the one who dies in Adrian’s arms, I always saw Ashli Babbitt, the U.S. Capitol insurrection fatality—who died, strange and mysterious to relate, exactly a year before this installment came due.

No question, Mary Shelley’s treatment of the Irish in these pages is one that many earlier readers have winced at, then stamped “Of Her Time” and let pass. After all (they reasoned), she’s not writing about spiritually gifted visionaries like the 9th-century monks who finished and preserved the Book of Kells; she’s writing about a hungry, desperate mob whose Irishness could almost be called coincidental.

Most readers today might be less forgiving; Irish ones (and I’m a bit Irish) are probably stuck feeling offended by an authorial tone that’s of a piece with the migrant army’s “barbarian shouts” and “savage clamour.” To us, Adrian’s argument for peace and reconciliation—both sides’ shared humanity, their lives equally threatened by plague—feels only right and logical. To Mary Shelley and her contemporaries, though, it would have felt (and was) radical: Irish peasants and town-bred Londoners exchanging handshakes of peace and promises of cooperation was not “of her time” at all, but indeed a futuristic sign of cataclysmic change.

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