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The Fields of Fancy

THE FIELDS OF FANCY[88]


It was in Rome--the Queen of the World that I suffered a misfortune
that reduced me to misery & despair[89]--The bright sun & deep azure
sky were oppressive but nought was so hateful as the voice of Man--I
loved to walk by the shores of the Tiber which were solitary & if the
sirocco blew to see the swift clouds pass over St. Peters and the many
domes of Rome or if the sun shone I turned my eyes from the sky whose
light was too dazzling & gay to be reflected in my tearful eyes I
turned them to the river whose swift course was as the speedy
departure of happiness and whose turbid colour was gloomy as grief--

Whether I slept I know not or whether it was in one of those many
hours which I spent seated on the ground my mind a chaos of despair &
my eyes for ever wet by tears but I was here visited by a lovely
spirit whom I have ever worshiped & who tried to repay my adoration by
diverting my mind from the hideous memories that racked it. At first
indeed this wanton spirit played a false part & appearing with sable
wings & gloomy countenance seemed to take a pleasure in exagerating
all my miseries--and as small hopes arose to snatch them from me &
give me in their place gigantic fears which under her fairy hand
appeared close, impending & unavoidable--sometimes she would cruelly
leave me while I was thus on the verge of madness and without
consoling me leave me nought but heavy leaden sleep--but at other
times she would wilily link less unpleasing thoughts to these most
dreadful ones & before I was aware place hopes before me--futile but
consoling[90]--

One day this lovely spirit--whose name as she told me was Fantasia
came to me in one of her consolotary moods--her wings which seemed
coloured by her tone of mind were not gay but beautiful like that of
the partridge & her lovely eyes although they ever burned with an
unquenshable fire were shaded & softened by her heavy lids & the black
long fringe of her eye lashes--She thus addressed me--You mourn for
the loss of those you love. They are gone for ever & great as my power
is I cannot recall them to you--if indeed I wave my wand over you you
will fancy that you feel their gentle spirits in the soft air that
steals over your cheeks & the distant sound of winds & waters may
image to you their voices which will bid you rejoice for that they
live--This will not take away your grief but you will shed sweeter
tears than those which full of anguish & hopelessness now start from
your eyes--This I can do & also can I take you to see many of my
provinces my fairy lands which you have not yet visited and whose
beauty will while away the heavy time--I have many lovely spots under
my command which poets of old have visited and have seen those sights
the relation of which has been as a revelation to the world--many
spots I have still in keeping of lovely fields or horrid rocks peopled
by the beautiful or the tremendous which I keep in reserve for my
future worshippers--to one of those whose grim terrors frightened
sleep from the eye I formerly led you[91] but you now need more
pleasing images & although I will not promise you to shew you any new
scenes yet if I lead you to one often visited by my followers you will
at least see new combinations that will sooth if they do not delight
you--Follow me--

Alas! I replied--when have you found me slow to obey your voice--some
times indeed I have called you & you have not come--but when before
have I not followed your slightest sign and have left what was either
of joy or sorrow in our world to dwell with you in yours till you have
dismissed me ever unwilling to depart--But now the weight of grief
that oppresses me takes from me that lightness which is necessary to
follow your quick & winged motions alas in the midst of my course one
thought would make me droop to the ground while you would outspeed me
to your Kingdom of Glory & leave me here darkling

Ungrateful! replied the Spirit Do I not tell you that I will sustain &
console you My wings shall aid your heavy steps & I will command my
winds to disperse the mist that over casts you--I will lead you to a
place where you will not hear laughter that disturbs you or see the
sun that dazzles you--We will choose some of the most sombre walks of
the Elysian fields--

The Elysian fields--I exclaimed with a quick scream--shall I then see?
I gasped & could not ask that which I longed to know--the friendly
spirit replied more gravely--I have told you that you will not see
those whom you mourn--But I must away--follow me or I must leave you
weeping deserted by the spirit that now checks your tears--

Go--I replied I cannot follow--I can only sit here & grieve--& long to
see those who are gone for ever for to nought but what has relation to
them can I listen--

The spirit left me to groan & weep to wish the sun quenched in eternal
darkness--to accuse the air the waters all--all the universe of my
utter & irremediable misery--Fantasia came again and ever when she
came tempted me to follow her but as to follow her was to leave for a
while the thought of those loved ones whose memories were my all
although they were my torment I dared not go--Stay with me I cried &
help me to clothe my bitter thoughts in lovelier colours give me hope
although fallacious & images of what has been although it never will
be again--diversion I cannot take cruel fairy do you leave me alas all
my joy fades at thy departure but I may not follow thee--

One day after one of these combats when the spirit had left me I
wandered on along the banks of the river to try to disperse the
excessive misery that I felt untill overcome by fatigue--my eyes
weighed down by tears--I lay down under the shade of trees & fell
asleep--I slept long and when I awoke I knew not where I was--I did
not see the river or the distant city--but I lay beside a lovely
fountain shadowed over by willows & surrounded by blooming myrtles--at
a short distance the air seemed pierced by the spiry pines & cypresses
and the ground was covered by short moss & sweet smelling heath--the
sky was blue but not dazzling like that of Rome and on every side I
saw long allies--clusters of trees with intervening lawns & gently
stealing rivers--Where am I? [I] exclaimed--& looking around me I
beheld Fantasia--She smiled & as she smiled all the enchanting scene
appeared lovelier--rainbows played in the fountain & the heath flowers
at our feet appeared as if just refreshed by dew--I have seized you,
said she--as you slept and will for some little time retain you as my
prisoner--I will introduce you to some of the inhabitants of these
peaceful Gardens--It shall not be to any whose exuberant happiness
will form an u[n]pleasing contrast with your heavy grief but it shall
be to those whose chief care here is to acquired knowledged [_sic_] &
virtue--or to those who having just escaped from care & pain have not
yet recovered full sense of enjoyment--This part of these Elysian
Gardens is devoted to those who as before in your world wished to
become wise & virtuous by study & action here endeavour after the
same ends by contemplation--They are still unknowing of their final
destination but they have a clear knowledge of what on earth is only
supposed by some which is that their happiness now & hereafter depends
upon their intellectual improvement--Nor do they only study the forms
of this universe but search deeply in their own minds and love to meet
& converse on all those high subjects of which the philosophers of
Athens loved to treat--With deep feelings but with no outward
circumstances to excite their passions you will perhaps imagine that
their life is uniform & dull--but these sages are of that disposition
fitted to find wisdom in every thing & in every lovely colour or form
ideas that excite their love--Besides many years are consumed before
they arrive here--When a soul longing for knowledge & pining at its
narrow conceptions escapes from your earth many spirits wait to
receive it and to open its eyes to the mysteries of the universe--many
centuries are often consumed in these travels and they at last retire
here to digest their knowledge & to become still wiser by thought and
imagination working upon memory [92]--When the fitting period is
accomplished they leave this garden to inhabit another world fitted
for the reception of beings almost infinitely wise--but what this
world is neither can you conceive or I teach you--some of the spirits
whom you will see here are yet unknowing in the secrets of
nature--They are those whom care & sorrow have consumed on earth &
whose hearts although active in virtue have been shut through
suffering from knowledge--These spend sometime here to recover their
equanimity & to get a thirst of knowledge from converse with their
wiser companions--They now securely hope to see again those whom they
love & know that it is ignorance alone that detains them from them. As
for those who in your world knew not the loveliness of benevolence &
justice they are placed apart some claimed by the evil spirit & in
vain sought for by the good but She whose delight is to reform the
wicked takes all she can & delivers them to her ministers not to be
punished but to be exercised & instructed untill acquiring a love of
virtue they are fitted for these gardens where they will acquire a
love of knowledge

As Fantasia talked I saw various groupes of figures as they walked
among the allies of the gardens or were seated on the grassy plots
either in contemplation or conversation several advanced together
towards the fountain where I sat--As they approached I observed the
principal figure to be that of a woman about 40 years of age her eyes
burned with a deep fire and every line of her face expressed
enthusiasm & wisdom--Poetry seemed seated on her lips which were
beautifully formed & every motion of her limbs although not youthful
was inexpressibly graceful--her black hair was bound in tresses round
her head and her brows were encompassed by a fillet--her dress was
that of a simple tunic bound at the waist by a broad girdle and a
mantle which fell over her left arm she was encompassed by several
youths of both sexes who appeared to hang on her words & to catch the
inspiration as it flowed from her with looks either of eager wonder or
stedfast attention with eyes all bent towards her eloquent countenance
which beamed with the mind within--I am going said Fantasia but I
leave my spirit with you without which this scene wd fade away--I
leave you in good company--that female whose eyes like the loveliest
planet in the heavens draw all to gaze on her is the Prophetess
Diotima the instructress of Socrates[93]--The company about her are
those just escaped from the world there they were unthinking or
misconducted in the pursuit of knowledge. She leads them to truth &
wisdom untill the time comes when they shall be fitted for the journey
through the universe which all must one day undertake--farewell--

And now, gentlest reader--I must beg your indulgence--I am a being too
weak to record the words of Diotima her matchless wisdom & heavenly
eloquence[.] What I shall repeat will be as the faint shadow of a tree
by moonlight--some what of the form will be preserved but there will
be no life in it--Plato alone of Mortals could record the thoughts of
Diotima hopeless therefore I shall not dwell so much on her words as
on those of her pupils which being more earthly can better than hers
be related by living lips[.]

Diotima approached the fountain & seated herself on a mossy mound near
it and her disciples placed themselves on the grass near her--Without
noticing me who sat close under her she continued her discourse
addressing as it happened one or other of her listeners--but before I
attempt to repeat her words I will describe the chief of these whom
she appeared to wish principally to impress--One was a woman of about
23 years of age in the full enjoyment of the most exquisite beauty her
golden hair floated in ringlets on her shoulders--her hazle eyes were
shaded by heavy lids and her mouth the lips apart seemed to breathe
sensibility[94]--But she appeared thoughtful & unhappy--her cheek was
pale she seemed as if accustomed to suffer and as if the lessons she
now heard were the only words of wisdom to which she had ever
listened--The youth beside her had a far different aspect--his form
was emaciated nearly to a shadow--his features were handsome but thin
& worn--& his eyes glistened as if animating the visage of decay--his
forehead was expansive but there was a doubt & perplexity in his looks
that seemed to say that although he had sought wisdom he had got
entangled in some mysterious mazes from which he in vain endeavoured
to extricate himself--As Diotima spoke his colour went & came with
quick changes & the flexible muscles of his countenance shewed every
impression that his mind received--he seemed one who in life had
studied hard but whose feeble frame sunk beneath the weight of the
mere exertion of life--the spark of intelligence burned with uncommon
strength within him but that of life seemed ever on the eve of
fading[95]--At present I shall not describe any other of this groupe
but with deep attention try to recall in my memory some of the words
of Diotima--they were words of fire but their path is faintly marked
on my recollection--[96]

It requires a just hand, said she continuing her discourse, to weigh &
divide the good from evil--On the earth they are inextricably
entangled and if you would cast away what there appears an evil a
multitude of beneficial causes or effects cling to it & mock your
labour--When I was on earth and have walked in a solitary country
during the silence of night & have beheld the multitude of stars, the
soft radiance of the moon reflected on the sea, which was studded by
lovely islands--When I have felt the soft breeze steal across my cheek
& as the words of love it has soothed & cherished me--then my mind
seemed almost to quit the body that confined it to the earth & with a
quick mental sense to mingle with the scene that I hardly saw--I
felt--Then I have exclaimed, oh world how beautiful thou art!--Oh
brightest universe behold thy worshiper!--spirit of beauty & of
sympathy which pervades all things, & now lifts my soul as with wings,
how have you animated the light & the breezes!--Deep & inexplicable
spirit give me words to express my adoration; my mind is hurried away
but with language I cannot tell how I feel thy loveliness! Silence or
the song of the nightingale the momentary apparition of some bird that
flies quietly past--all seems animated with thee & more than all the
deep sky studded with worlds!"--If the winds roared & tore the sea and
the dreadful lightnings seemed falling around me--still love was
mingled with the sacred terror I felt; the majesty of loveliness was
deeply impressed on me--So also I have felt when I have seen a lovely
countenance--or heard solemn music or the eloquence of divine wisdom
flowing from the lips of one of its worshippers--a lovely animal or
even the graceful undulations of trees & inanimate objects have
excited in me the same deep feeling of love & beauty; a feeling which
while it made me alive & eager to seek the cause & animator of the
scene, yet satisfied me by its very depth as if I had already found
the solution to my enquires [_sic_] & as if in feeling myself a part
of the great whole I had found the truth & secret of the universe--But
when retired in my cell I have studied & contemplated the various
motions and actions in the world the weight of evil has confounded
me--If I thought of the creation I saw an eternal chain of evil linked
one to the other--from the great whale who in the sea swallows &
destroys multitudes & the smaller fish that live on him also & torment
him to madness--to the cat whose pleasure it is to torment her prey I
saw the whole creation filled with pain--each creature seems to exist
through the misery of another & death & havoc is the watchword of the
animated world--And Man also--even in Athens the most civilized spot
on the earth what a multitude of mean passions--envy, malice--a
restless desire to depreciate all that was great and good did I
see--And in the dominions of the great being I saw man [reduced?][97]
far below the animals of the field preying on one anothers [_sic_]
hearts; happy in the downfall of others--themselves holding on with
bent necks and cruel eyes to a wretch more a slave if possible than
they to his miserable passions--And if I said these are the
consequences of civilization & turned to the savage world I saw only
ignorance unrepaid by any noble feeling--a mere animal, love of life
joined to a low love of power & a fiendish love of destruction--I saw
a creature drawn on by his senses & his selfish passions but untouched
by aught noble or even Human--

And then when I sought for consolation in the various faculties man is
possessed of & which I felt burning within me--I found that spirit of
union with love & beauty which formed my happiness & pride degraded
into superstition & turned from its natural growth which could bring
forth only good fruit:--cruelty--& intolerance & hard tyranny was
grafted on its trunk & from it sprung fruit suitable to such
grafts--If I mingled with my fellow creatures was the voice I heard
that of love & virtue or that of selfishness & vice, still misery was
ever joined to it & the tears of mankind formed a vast sea ever blown
on by its sighs & seldom illuminated by its smiles--Such taking only
one side of the picture & shutting wisdom from the view is a just
portraiture of the creation as seen on earth

But when I compared the good & evil of the world & wished to divide
them into two seperate principles I found them inextricably intwined
together & I was again cast into perplexity & doubt--I might have
considered the earth as an imperfect formation where having bad
materials to work on the Creator could only palliate the evil effects
of his combinations but I saw a wanton malignity in many parts &
particularly in the mind of man that baffled me a delight in mischief
a love of evil for evils sake--a siding of the multitude--a dastardly
applause which in their hearts the crowd gave to triumphant
wick[ed]ness over lowly virtue that filled me with painful sensations.
Meditation, painful & continual thought only encreased my doubts--I
dared not commit the blasphemy of ascribing the slightest evil to a
beneficent God--To whom then should I ascribe the creation? To two
principles? Which was the upermost? They were certainly independant
for neither could the good spirit allow the existence of evil or the
evil one the existence of good--Tired of these doubts to which I could
form no probable solution--Sick of forming theories which I destroyed
as quickly as I built them I was one evening on the top of Hymettus
beholding the lovely prospect as the sun set in the glowing sea--I
looked towards Athens & in my heart I exclaimed--oh busy hive of men!
What heroism & what meaness exists within thy walls! And alas! both to
the good & to the wicked what incalculable misery--Freemen ye call
yourselves yet every free man has ten slaves to build up his
freedom--and these slaves are men as they are yet d[e]graded by their
station to all that is mean & loathsome--Yet in how many hearts now
beating in that city do high thoughts live & magnanimity that should
methinks redeem the whole human race--What though the good man is
unhappy has he not that in his heart to satisfy him? And will a
contented conscience compensate for fallen hopes--a slandered name
torn affections & all the miseries of civilized life?--

Oh Sun how beautiful thou art! And how glorious is the golden ocean
that receives thee! My heart is at peace--I feel no sorrow--a holy
love stills my senses--I feel as if my mind also partook of the
inexpressible loveliness of surrounding nature--What shall I do? Shall
I disturb this calm by mingling in the world?--shall I with an aching
heart seek the spectacle of misery to discover its cause or shall I
hopless leave the search of knowledge & devote myself to the pleasures
they say this world affords?--Oh! no--I will become wise! I will study
my own heart--and there discovering as I may the spring of the virtues
I possess I will teach others how to look for them in their own
souls--I will find whence arrises this unquenshable love of beauty I
possess that seems the ruling star of my life--I will learn how I may
direct it aright and by what loving I may become more like that beauty
which I adore And when I have traced the steps of the godlike feeling
which ennobles me & makes me that which I esteem myself to be then I
will teach others & if I gain but one proselyte--if I can teach but
one other mind what is the beauty which they ought to love--and what
is the sympathy to which they ought to aspire what is the true end of
their being--which must be the true end of that of all men then shall
I be satisfied & think I have done enough--

Farewell doubts--painful meditation of evil--& the great, ever
inexplicable cause of all that we see--I am content to be ignorant of
all this happy that not resting my mind on any unstable theories I
have come to the conclusion that of the great secret of the universe I
_can know nothing_--There is a veil before it--my eyes are not
piercing enough to see through it my arms not long enough to reach it
to withdraw it--I will study the end of my being--oh thou universal
love inspire me--oh thou beauty which I see glowing around me lift me
to a fit understanding of thee! Such was the conclusion of my long
wanderings I sought the end of my being & I found it to be knowledge
of itself--Nor think this a confined study--Not only did it lead me to
search the mazes of the human soul--but I found that there existed
nought on earth which contained not a part of that universal beauty
with which it [was] my aim & object to become acquainted--the motions
of the stars of heaven the study of all that philosophers have
unfolded of wondrous in nature became as it where [_sic_] the steps by
which my soul rose to the full contemplation & enjoyment of the
beautiful--Oh ye who have just escaped from the world ye know not
what fountains of love will be opened in your hearts or what exquisite
delight your minds will receive when the secrets of the world will be
unfolded to you and ye shall become acquainted with the beauty of the
universe--Your souls now growing eager for the acquirement of
knowledge will then rest in its possession disengaged from every
particle of evil and knowing all things ye will as it were be mingled
in the universe & ye will become a part of that celestial beauty that
you admire--[98]

Diotima ceased and a profound silence ensued--the youth with his
cheeks flushed and his eyes burning with the fire communicated from
hers still fixed them on her face which was lifted to heaven as in
inspiration--The lovely female bent hers to the ground & after a deep
sigh was the first to break the silence--

Oh divinest prophetess, said she--how new & to me how strange are your
lessons--If such be the end of our being how wayward a course did I
pursue on earth--Diotima you know not how torn affections & misery
incalculable misery--withers up the soul. How petty do the actions of
our earthly life appear when the whole universe is opened to our
gaze--yet there our passions are deep & irrisisbable [_sic_] and as we
are floating hopless yet clinging to hope down the impetuous stream
can we perceive the beauty of its banks which alas my soul was too
turbid to reflect--If knowledge is the end of our being why are
passions & feelings implanted in us that hurries [_sic_] us from
wisdom to selfconcentrated misery & narrow selfish feeling? Is it as a
trial? On earth I thought that I had well fulfilled my trial & my last
moments became peaceful with the reflection that I deserved no
blame--but you take from me that feeling--My passions were there my
all to me and the hopeless misery that possessed me shut all love &
all images of beauty from my soul--Nature was to me as the blackest
night & if rays of loveliness ever strayed into my darkness it was
only to draw bitter tears of hopeless anguish from my eyes--Oh on
earth what consolation is there to misery?

Your heart I fear, replied Diotima, was broken by your sufferings--but
if you had struggled--if when you found all hope of earthly happiness
wither within you while desire of it scorched your soul--if you had
near you a friend to have raised you to the contemplation of beauty &
the search of knowledge you would have found perhaps not new hopes
spring within you but a new life distinct from that of passion by
which you had before existed[99]--relate to me what this misery was
that thus engroses you--tell me what were the vicissitudes of feeling
that you endured on earth--after death our actions & worldly interest
fade as nothing before us but the traces of our feelings exist & the
memories of those are what furnish us here with eternal subject of
meditation.

A blush spread over the cheek of the lovely girl--Alas, replied she
what a tale must I relate what dark & phre[n]zied passions must I
unfold--When you Diotima lived on earth your soul seemed to mingle in
love only with its own essence & to be unknowing of the various
tortures which that heart endures who if it has not sympathized with
has been witness of the dreadful struggles of a soul enchained by dark
deep passions which were its hell & yet from which it could not
escape--Are there in the peaceful language used by the inhabitants of
these regions--words burning enough to paint the tortures of the human
heart--Can you understand them? or can you in any way sympathize with
them--alas though dead I do and my tears flow as when I lived when my
memory recalls the dreadful images of the past--

--As the lovely girl spoke my own eyes filled with bitter drops--the
spirit of Fantasia seemed to fade from within me and when after
placing my hand before my swimming eyes I withdrew it again I found
myself under the trees on the banks of the Tiber--The sun was just
setting & tinging with crimson the clouds that floated over St.
Peters--all was still no human voice was heard--the very air was quiet
I rose--& bewildered with the grief that I felt within me the
recollection of what I had heard--I hastened to the city that I might
see human beings not that I might forget my wandering recollections
but that I might impress on my mind what was reality & what was either
dream--or at least not of this earth--The Corso of Rome was filled
with carriages and as I walked up the Trinita dei' Montes I became
disgusted with the crowd that I saw about me & the vacancy & want of
beauty not to say deformity of the many beings who meaninglessly
buzzed about me--I hastened to my room which overlooked the whole city
which as night came on became tranquil--Silent lovely Rome I now gaze
on thee--thy domes are illuminated by the moon--and the ghosts of
lovely memories float with the night breeze among thy ruins--
contemplating thy loveliness which half soothes my miserable heart I
record what I have seen--Tomorrow I will again woo Fantasia to lead me
to the same walks & invite her to visit me with her visions which I
before neglected--Oh let me learn this lesson while yet it may be
useful to me that to a mind hopeless & unhappy as mine--a moment of
forgetfullness a moment [in] which it can pass out of itself is worth
a life of painful recollection.


CHAP. 2


The next morning while sitting on the steps of the temple of
Aesculapius in the Borghese gardens Fantasia again visited me &
smilingly beckoned to me to follow her--My flight was at first heavy
but the breezes commanded by the spirit to convoy me grew stronger as
I advanced--a pleasing languour seized my senses & when I recovered I
found my self by the Elysian fountain near Diotima--The beautiful
female who[m] I had left on the point of narrating her earthly history
seemed to have waited for my return and as soon as I appeared she
spoke thus--[100]


NOTES TO _THE FIELDS OF FANCY_


[88] Here is printed the opening of _F of F--A_, which contains the
fanciful framework abandoned in _Mathilda_. It has some intrinsic
interest, as it shows that Mary as well as Shelley had been reading
Plato, and especially as it reveals the close connection of the
writing of _Mathilda_ with Mary's own grief and depression. The first
chapter is a fairly good rough draft. Punctuation, to be sure,
consists largely of dashes or is non-existent, and there are some
corrections. But there are not as many changes as there are in the
remainder of this MS or in _F of F--B_.

[89] It was in Rome that Mary's oldest child, William, died on June 7,
1819.

[90] Cf. two entries in Mary Shelley's journal. An unpublished entry
for October 27, 1822, reads: "Before when I wrote Mathilda, miserable
as I was, the inspiration was sufficient to quell my wretchedness
temporarily." Another entry, that for December 2, 1834, is quoted in
abbreviated and somewhat garbled form by R. Glynn Grylls in _Mary
Shelley_ (London: Oxford University Press, 1938), p. 194, and
reprinted by Professor Jones (_Journal_, p. 203). The full passage
follows: "Little harm has my imagination done to me & how much
good!--My poor heart pierced through & through has found balm from
it--it has been the aegis to my sensibility--Sometimes there have been
periods when Misery has pushed it aside--& those indeed were periods I
shudder to remember--but the fairy only stept aside, she watched her
time--& at the first opportunity her ... beaming face peeped in, & the
weight of deadly woe was lightened."

[91] An obvious reference to _Frankenstein_.

[92] With the words of Fantasia (and those of Diotima), cf. the
association of wisdom and virtue in Plato's _Phaedo_, the myth of Er
in the _Republic_, and the doctrine of love and beauty in the
_Symposium_.

[93] See Plato's _Symposium_. According to Mary's note in her edition
of Shelley's _Essays, Letters from Abroad, etc_. (1840), Shelley
planned to use the name for the instructress of the Stranger in his
unfinished prose tale, _The Coliseum_, which was written before
_Mathilda_, in the winter of 1818-1819. Probably at this same time
Mary was writing an unfinished (and unpublished) tale about Valerius,
an ancient Roman brought back to life in modern Rome. Valerius, like
Shelley's Stranger, was instructed by a woman whom he met in the
Coliseum. Mary's story is indebted to Shelley's in other ways as well.

[94] Mathilda.

[95] I cannot find a prototype for this young man, though in some ways
he resembles Shelley.

[96] Following this paragraph is an incomplete one which is scored out
in the MS. The comment on the intricacy of modern life is interesting.
Mary wrote: "The world you have just quitted she said is one of doubt
& perplexity often of pain & misery--The modes of suffering seem to
me to be much multiplied there since I made one of the throng &
modern feelings seem to have acquired an intracacy then unknown but
now the veil is torn aside--the events that you felt deeply on earth
have passed away & you see them in their nakedness all but your
knowledge & affections have passed away as a dream you now wonder at
the effect trifles had on you and that the events of so passing a
scene should have interested you so deeply--You complain, my friends
of the"

[97] The word is blotted and virtually illegible.

[98] With Diotima's conclusion here cf. her words in the _Symposium_:
"When any one ascending from a correct system of Love, begins to
contemplate this supreme beauty, he already touches the consummation
of his labour. For such as discipline themselves upon this system, or
are conducted by another beginning to ascend through these transitory
objects which are beautiful, towards that which is beauty itself,
proceeding as on steps from the love of one form to that of two, and
from that of two, to that of all forms which are beautiful; and from
beautiful forms to beautiful habits and institutions, and from
institutions to beautiful doctrines; until, from the meditation of
many doctrines, they arrive at that which is nothing else than the
doctrine of the supreme beauty itself, in the knowledge and
contemplation of which at length they repose." (Shelley's translation)
Love, beauty, and self-knowledge are keywords not only in Plato but in
Shelley's thought and poetry, and he was much concerned with the
problem of the presence of good and evil. Some of these themes are
discussed by Woodville in _Mathilda_. The repetition may have been one
reason why Mary discarded the framework.

[99] Mathilda did have such a friend, but, as she admits, she profited
little from his teachings.

[100] In _F of F--B_ there is another, longer version (three and a
half pages) of this incident, scored out, recounting the author's
return to the Elysian gardens, Diotima's consolation of Mathilda, and
her request for Mathilda's story. After wandering through the alleys
and woods adjacent to the gardens, the author came upon Diotima seated
beside Mathilda. "It is true indeed she said our affections outlive
our earthly forms and I can well sympathize in your disappointment
that you do not find what you loved in the life now ended to welcome
you here[.] But one day you will all meet how soon entirely depends
upon yourself--It is by the acquirement of wisdom and the loss of the
selfishness that is now attached to the sole feeling that possesses
you that you will at last mingle in that universal world of which we
all now make a divided part." Diotima urges Mathilda to tell her
story, and she, hoping that by doing so she will break the bonds that
weigh heavily upon her, proceeds to "tell this history of strange
woe."

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