The Last Man

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Broadview Press, Sep 11, 1996 - Fiction - 425 pages

Mary Shelley’s third published novel, The Last Man, is a disillusioned vision of the end of civilization, set in the twenty-first century. The book offers a sweeping account of war, plague, love, and desolation. It is the sort of apocalyptic vision that was widespread at the time, though Shelley’s treatment of the theme goes beyond the conventional; it is extraordinarily interesting and deeply moving.

If The Last Man is in some sense a “conventional” text of the period, it is also intensely personal in its origin; Shelley refers in her journal to the last man as her alter ego, “the last relic of a beloved race, my companions extinct before me.” The novel thus develops out of and contributes to a network of story and idea in which fantasy, allusion, convention, and autobiography are densely interwoven.

This new version of the first edition (1826) sets out to provide not only a thoroughly annotated text, but also contextual materials to help the reader acquire knowledge of the intellectual and literary milieu out of which the novel emerged. Appendices include material on “the last man” as early nineteenth-century hero, texts from the debate initiated by Malthus in 1798 about the adequacy of food supply to sustain human population, various accounts of outbreaks of plague, and Shelley’s poems representing her feelings after the death of her husband.

 

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Review: The Last Man

User Review  - Niina - Goodreads

This book took me forever to finish, yet still I found myself liking it quite a bit. I loved the decorated text, typical for such romantic novels. For me this was an unexpectedly beautiful read. It ... Read full review

Contents

Map of Lionel Verneys World
368
Thomas Hood from The Last Man 1826
374
Versions of Plague
383
John Wilson from The City of the Plague 1816
390
The Web of Mind
393
Mary Wollstonecraft from The French Revolution 1794
399
Mary Shelleys poems 1825
405
Contemporary comments on and reviews of The Last
411
Works CitedRecommended Reading
417
Copyright

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About the author (1996)

Anne McWhir is a Professor in the English Department at the University of Calgary, and a specialist in late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century fiction.

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