(41) Chapter 3.

A tragic installment with major editorial departures.

For reasons that will become clear in the next installment, at this point in the novel Mary Shelley expends a lot of energy (hers and ours) to justify a very questionable plot point. Paragraph after paragraph of smoke and mirrors tell the misfortunes of a mother-daughter pair living near Windsor; it’s a dull, almost desultory narrative with one excellent letter, which I’ve preserved.

Meanwhile the action has screeched to a halt. When it resumes, against all sense or probability, Lionel the narrator allows Lady Idris, his mortally ill wife whom he loves beyond anything, to undertake a difficult three or four day journey with him by horse-drawn carriage, in winter, through snowstorms. Lionel says she insists, and that she rules him—but it’s still preposterous. And, understandably, fatal. Idris dies where Mary Shelley wants and needs her to, though.

In tackling this situation as an editor, I’ve opted to make some departures from the text that look more drastic than usual. Picture a streamlined and modernized route that brings her dead princess to Mary Shelley’s same geographically precise cottage door. Where her carriage comes with two children, a nurse, drivers and other attendants, some on horseback making rest stops ready up ahead, I’ve cut that party of twelve or fifteen down to three people—Lionel, Idris, and Worthy the groom, whose specialty is detours—and it’s now a fast covered wagon. The mother-in-law gets a beefed up scene partly interpolated from a chapter to come. Worthy and Worthy’s horror show death are my own invention.

Photo credits (here and above) uncertain

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