MortalImmortal
The Mortal Immortal

The Mortal Immortal: The Complete Supernatural Short Fiction of Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley

This vibrant collection contains all five of Mary Shelley’s supernatural stories and sheds much-needed light on an author often credited with writing the first science-fiction novel. Here you will find the secrets of eternal youth, souls that exchange bodies, and ancient Englishmen and Romans newly thawed from the ice.

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The Mortal Immortal: The Complete Supernatural Short Fiction of Mary Shelley

by Mary Shelley

ISBN: Book: 1892391015 Digital: 9781616960582

Published: 1996 and October 2017

Available Format(s): Trade Paperback and Hardcover and Digital Books

This vibrant collection contains all five of Mary Shelley’s supernatural stories and sheds much-needed light on an author often credited with writing the first science-fiction novel. Here you will find the secrets of eternal youth, souls that exchange bodies, and ancient Englishmen and Romans newly thawed from the ice. In addition to several stories by Mary Shelley, this volume also features a brand-new story by renowned science-fiction author Michael Bishop, which serves as a narrative introduction for this collection.

Mary Shelley’s considerable reputation rests squarely on the shoulders of her one great novel—Frankenstein; Or the Modern Prometheus, published anonymously in 1818 and revised under her own byline in 1831. Her powerful tale of blasphemous creation is perhaps more familiar to modern readers through its many film adaptations than it is from the book itself.

From Boris Karloff’s electrifying performance as Frankenstein’s monster to Kenneth Branagh’s directorial rendering, the story has received numerous interpretations that have renewed interest in the book time and time again. However, Mary Shelley’s other works have not fared as well as Frankenstein. She wrote just a handful of novels, of which only The Last Man (1826) has remained sporadically in print. A precursor to such disaster novels as George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides and Richard Jeffries’s After London, The Last Man follows its protagonist, Lionel Verney, through a distant future world that has been depopulated by plague.

The shorter works of Mary Shelley have remained difficult to find. During her lifetime, she published just over two dozen stories, only three of which were of interest to readers of science fiction and fantasy. In addition to these three supernaturally themed stories, two additional stories were published after Shelley’s death. “Roger Dodsworth: The Reanimated Englishman,” was printed in a volume of reminisces by a magazine editor who had commissioned the story thirty years earlier. “Valerius: The Reanimated Roman,” a story in a similar vein to “Roger Dodsworth,” remained unpublished until 1976, when both stories were discovered by Charles E. Robinson, a Shelley scholar and professor of English at the University of Delaware.

Mary Shelley was commissioned to write “The Mortal Immortal” based upon a painting of a young man helping an elderly lady down a flight of stairs. Thus the story was born of a man who drank a potent brew created by his mentor, became immortal, and was tortured by watching everyone he loved grow old and die. This cautionary tale of immortality and the terror it can be was completed in 1833 and published in The Keepsake.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797–1851) was an English writer born to the proto-feminist writer and philosopher, Mary Wollstonecraft, and novelist and social critic William Godwin. Shelley is best known for her novel Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus, which was first published anonymously in 1818.

“The Mortal Immortal” (1833) is an example of Shelley’s short fiction that returns to the theme of the outcast who animates her famous novel. Her handling of the theme in Frankenstein reshaped the course of the fantastic, leading the way toward science fiction, presenting an influential image of the modern, sympathetic monster and demonstrating the ability of the genre to frame profound philosophical speculations in its presentation of the impossible.

Novels by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus (1818) recommended
Valperga; or, The Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca (1823)
The Last Man (1826)
The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck (1834)
Lodore (1835)
Falkner (1837)
Mathilda (1959)

Short Story Collections

Mary Shelly: Collected Tales and Stories (1976) (recommended)
The Mortal Immortal: The Complete Supernatural Short Fiction (1996) (recommended)

Poetry by Mary Shelley

The Choice: A Poem on Shelley’s Death (1876)

Other Books by Mary Shelley

History of a Six Weeks’ Tour through a Part of France, Switzerland, Germany and Holland (1917) with Percy Bysshe Shelley
Rambles in Germany and Italy in 1840, 1842, 1843 (1844)
Shelley and Mary: A Collection of Letters and Documents of a Biographical Character (1882)
Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Mostly Unpublished (1918)
My Best Mary: The Selected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1953)
The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1980)
The Journals of Mary Shelley 1814–44 (1987)

Books edited by Mary Shelley

Posthumous Poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1824)
The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1839)
Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translations and Fragments by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1840)

Praise for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

“Here is one of the productions of the modern school in its highest style of caricature and exaggeration. It is formed on the Godwinian manner, and has all the faults, but many likewise of the beauties of that model. In dark and gloomy views of nature and of man, bordering too closely on impiety -in the most outrageous improbability—in sacrificing every thing to effect— it even goes beyond its great prototype; but in return, it possesses a similar power of fascination, something of the same mastery in harsh and savage delineations of passion, relieved in like manner by the gentler features of domestic and simple feelings. There never was a wilder story imagined, yet, like most of the fictions of this age, it has an air of reality attached to it, by being connected with the favourite projects and passions of the times.”
Edinburgh Magazine, 1818 (for Frankenstein)

Visit the Mary Shelley website.

Table of Content

"The Unexpected Visit of a Reanimated Englishwoman" Narrative introduction by Michael Bishop

The Mortal Immortal: A Tale
Transformation
Roger Dodsworth: The Reanimated Englishman
The Dream
Valerius: The Reanimated Roman