On First Looking into Mary Shelley's Homer
Review of English Studies
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press 2017; all rights reserved. This article describes, reconstructs, and analyses the contents of an unexamined manuscript notebook in the hand of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. The notebook is kept in the Brewer-Leigh Hunt Collection at the University of Iowa. A number of material and textual factors allow the use of the notebook to be dated from May 1820 and to June 1822, the time of the Shelleys' residence at Pisa. The notebook contains transcriptions from Marco Lastri's L'osservatore fiorentino (1821) and a translation of more than 250 lines of Homer's Odyssey. It therefore reflects Mary Shelley's two central literary occupations of her last years in Italy: her historical novel Valperga (1823) and her two-year study of Ancient Greek. Shelley's Greek studies have received little critical attention, but this translation allows for a proper consideration of her method of language learning and can be usefully situated alongside a number of other Greek manuscripts in Shelley's hand in the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. The Lastri transcription and the Homer translation should lead to a reconsideration of the collaborative dynamics of the so-called 'Pisan Circle' by modifying our view of the coterie as one dominated by English men. New considerations of the roles of Maria Gisborne, Alexander Mavrocordato, and Mary Shelley herself are required, as is a better appreciation of the influence of Mary Shelley's reading on Percy Shelley and Leigh Hunt.