The year before she died
Mary Wollstonecraft was writing a novel, Maria. She had no idea that she would soon die in childbirth, leaving behind a baby daughter, another Mary. But maybe she worried about it because she has her heroine write an “after-I-have-died” letter to her newly born daughter. “Death may snatch me from you,” the fictional Maria writes, “before you can weigh my advice, or enter into my reasoning.” She warns her daughter against being indecisive and tells her to go out into the world and “gain experience.” Many years later, Mary Wollstonecraft’s own daughter, Mary Shelley, would read her mother’s novel and memorize this letter, as though it had been written for her. Expressly for her. And maybe it had. When I read it today in 2009, I am chilled. Thrilled. Sad.
I’m on chapter 2 right now and shouldn’t really be dwelling on MW’s death. She isn’t dead yet, but I’m mining her novels for info about her early life.