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Comptes rendus

Esther Schor, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley

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Esther SCHOR, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley. Cambridge University Press, 2003, 289 pp., €48.27, ISBN 0-521-00770-4

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1“Today, whether she is found between staid cloth covers, in paperback, on the screen or in cyberspace, Mary Shelley is everywhere,” writes Esther Schor in her Introduction to this collection of essays (2). Interest in “the Author of Frankenstein” and of other works has grown steadily over the last twenty years, thanks notably to the publication of her Journals (The Journals of Mary Shelley, 1814-1844, ed. Paula R. Feldman and Diana Scott-Kilvert, 2 vols, Oxford: Clarendon, 1987), of her Letters (The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, ed. Betty T. Bennett, 3 vols: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), and of The Novels and Selected Works of Mary Shelley (gen. ed. Nora Crook, 8 vols, London: Pickering, 1996). Schor herself has already greatly contributed to this movement by co-editing Beyond Frankenstein: The Other Mary Shelley with Audrey A. Fisch and Anne K. Mellor (Oxford University Press, 1993), a landmark in Mary Shelley criticism. The present volume, which includes valuable insights from leading scholars (Anne Mellor, Betty T. Bennett, etc.) is indeed an excellent introduction to the work of the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley, friend of Lord Byron — and author in her own right.

2Following a logical pattern, the book is divided into three parts focusing respectively on Frankenstein and its legacy, on the rest of her fiction (six novels, two verse dramas and numerous short stories), and on Mary Shelley's “Professional personae” as editor, letter-writer, biographer, travel writer and cultural critic — this last essay by Timothy Morton shedding perhaps the newest light on the author. As a result, a complex and fascinating picture of a woman of letters forms as this collection tackles her work from varying perspectives and eschews consensus by providing different and sometimes conflicting angles and analyses. Since it aims at leaving no aspect of Mary Shelley's writing unexplored within the scope of a 289-page-long book, an editorial choice had to be made which may be subject to criticism. If Schor's own essay, “Frankenstein on film,” usefully develops among other things the shift from novel to myth, Jay Clayton's “Frankenstein's futurity: replicants and robots,” however perceptive, is perhaps more relevant to a study on the posterity of Frankenstein rather than to a companion volume to its author. On the other hand, a more in-depth analysis of Lodore (Mary Shelley's second most successful novel in her time)or Matilda would have been welcome.This is all the more regrettable because Mary Shelley's lesser-known fiction, which has recently been re-edited (sometimes in paperback, as with Michael Rossington's edition of Valperga for Oxford University Press in 2000) is currently receiving deserved and pertinent critical scrutiny as shown in The Mary Shelley Companion by the essays on Valperga, The Last Man, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck and Falkner.

3The book contains a useful chronology and a filmography as well as a selection of works for further reading which makes no claim at being exhaustive (overlooking for instance criticism in languages other than English).

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Electronic reference

Anne BERTON, “Esther Schor, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Mary ShelleyE-rea [Online], 4.1 | 2006, document 11, Online since 15 June 2006, connection on 24 June 2021. URL:; DOI:

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