"The earth is a wide sea," she cried, "and we its passing bubbles; it is a changeful heaven, and we its smallest and swiftest driven vapours; all changes, all passes nothing is stable, nothing for one moment the same." Valperga (1823), the novel Mary Shelley wrote after Frankenstein, is based on the life of Castruccio Castracani (1281-1328), Prince of Lucca. A brilliant soldier and cruel tyrant, he successfully commanded Ghibelline forces in Tuscany against the Guelphs, threatening Florence, their stronghold. Woven into the story of this factional conflict are the tragice destinies of two heroines, fictional creations of the author. Ethanasia, Countess of Valperga (the name of her castle to the north of Lucca), finds herself increasingly torn between loyalty to her Guelph roots and her affection fro Castruccio which began in childhood. Beatrice, who the author's father, William Godwin, described as 'the jewel of the book', is a heretical Paterin with whom Castruccio falls in love only to abandon. This meticulously researched historical fiction combines a narrative of suspense with a remarkable reconstruction of manners in the Middle Ages.
Set in the period of Dante's lifetime, it is also suffused with a poetic spirit which evokes the beauties of Italy's physical environment and points to the melancholy inevitability of change. This edition provides a clear account of the circumstances in which Valperga was composed and published.show more