We've all heard of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but Shelley's mother's literary-political works are much less well-known. Today I'm going to be talking about one of them. Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman is an early radical feminist novel, which unfortunately has no ending. There are several fragmentary endings, but none are complete or fully coherent, as the author died before she had finished the work; it was published posthumously by her husband.
The novel commences with Maria in an asylum. Her husband has placed her in there, as she attempted to flee his control, and has seized her child. Maria is completely sane. The woman who waits on her, Jemima, soon comes to realise this, and sneaks books in for her to read. These she shares with a fellow inmate Dartford. He's been put in the asylum because of a night on which he drink far too much; he too is sane. The pair begin to communicate through writing on the margins of the texts they both read.
Soon, Maria begins to fall for Dartford. He becomes more and more intrigued by her character and ultimately requests her to spell out her past to him. Maria's husband seemed like a wonderful man prior to their marriage, but she soon realises that he's a libertine. As well as spending all of their money with no cares, he repeatedly cheats on her. Maria draws further away from him, and the idea of having sex with him becomes abhorrent. He forces himself upon her and Maria gets pregnant. Things are getting worse and worse, and Maria knows she needs to get away, but the social climate simply won't allow it...
Have you read it? What did you think?