In this episode of The FrankenPod, we talk a little bit about one of Mary Shelley’s works written for the literary annual The Keepsake. We already covered the ‘Mortal Immortal’ and Shelley published 7 or 8 stories in The Keepsake.
The Keepsake was produced with a particular audience in mind, the relatively new reading demographic or young women. The increased literacy of women in the 19th century, despite the fact that their wandering wombs might be affected by scandalous novels and stories.
But basically, it was still considered relatively dangerous to be exposing women to literature, particularly literature that was scandalous, scary or not completely pious and religious.
Basically historically society has had a pretty dim view of educating women and allowing them to read. Because god knows what they might do if they gained an alternate world view from the ones prescribed by their husbands, fathers and brothers.
Back to keepsake. Because it was aimed at young women it was bound in red dress silk and had lots of pictures.
It was published between 1828, so 10 years after Frankenstein, until 1857, so 10 years after Sweeney Todd on The FrankenPod timeline
The publication was founded by Charles Heath who was actually an engraver, so those amazing pictures?
It took some work but he was able to get Hurst, Chance, & Co to publish the first volume in 1828. It was edited by William Ainsworth who created Dick Turpin the highwayman and very unhelpfully does not list the authors of the stories and poems. We do know that one of the contributions was made by Percy Shelley, William Ainsworth and Felicia Heman who wrote the poem ‘Casablanca’ which starts
The boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck,
Shone round him o’er the dead.
Which is this gut punch of a poem about a kid who dies on a burning ship, but that I encountered as a child by my eternally classy father teaching me this version:
The boy stood on the burning deck
Picking his nose like mad,
Rolling it into little balls
And throwing them at his dad.
Anyway there a good 10 or twenty stories and poems in the 1828 The Keepsake that don’t have clear authorship which is a shame. The engravings, however, are all attributed, mostly to Charles Heath.
The Percy Shelley contribution was published posthumously presumably by Mary Shelley, he had drowned 6 years previously.
We do have the authors for the second edition in 1829.
They included Sir Walter Scott, Coleridge who wrote my favourite piece of Albatross inspired literature this is the last bit from Part 1 of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner‘
‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—
Why look’st thou so?’—With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.
But he hadn’t written that yet, that was 5 years away.
Other attributed authors included Felicia Hemon (Listed as Mrs Hemon) Wordsworth, Southey, so some pretty big names.
The 1829 edition also brings us the first 2 contributions by Mary Shelley – Ferdinando Eboli (pronunciation?) and The Sisters of Albano
There is much more information on Ferdinando Eboli.
It follows the story of Count Ferdinando Eboli who is saying farewell to his loved ones before leaving for the Napoleonic Wars.
At this point, I should probably tell you that the publication The Keepsake was said to showcase second-rate fiction from first-rate authors…
Reviews can be nasty.