DescriptionMary Shelley: The Last Man (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea and Blanchard, 1833), two volumes, first American edition, 432 total pages (Volume I, 208 pages followed by 24 pages of advertising; Volume II, 200 pages), original publisher's blue boards and light brown cloth, spine with paper label, 8vo (5.125" x 8.3125").
The Last Man follows Frankenstein as one of the earliest examples of science fiction in English. It also presents characters who can be seen, in some of their aspects, to resemble certain members of the Shelley circle-Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Claire Clairemont, and Lord Byron. Mary Shelley herself noted that two characters in The Last Man, Lord Raymond, adventurer, hero, nobleman and eventually head of state, and Count Adrian, earl of Windsor, son of the last king of England represented "faint portraits...of B.[Byron] and S-but this is a secret".
The narrative begins in the late twenty-first century in an England that has become a republic, focusing at first on the conflicting worlds of the domestic and political. But as the plague takes hold and spreads relentlessly, the novel's view expands to encompass Europe and the world scene. Dark, even existential in its mood, The Last Man shows the demise of the human race highlighted against its greatest achievement as the ever decreasing band of survivors make their way across the Alps to the warm cities of the South.
In 1826, reviewers of The Last Man generally condemned the novel as beyond the pale for its effective depictions of death and disease. A central philosophy in all of Mary Shelley's works, and particularly in The Last Man, is that through imagination one can re-see the world.
This two-volume set is generally very good, with slight soiling to the blue paper on the boards, some chipping at the edges, soiled spines, and some bumping to the head and tail of the spines. Volume II spine label missing top quarter portion. Overall, the text is clean and bright.
The 1826 three-volume first edition set of The Last Man is also included in this auction.
From the Betty Bennett Collection.
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