Your Bookshelf in Universe LL





So it’s a couple weeks after Shakespeare’s birthday, which is excuse for a bit of fun and fancy.

In Universe L (for Liminal Library), what is on your bookshelf?

In my corner of Universe LL, Percy Bysshe Shelley lived long enough that his family couldn’t reinvent him right down to altering his pictures; instead of dying young in a dramatic way, he went on to a varied if somewhat checkered life. For a time he kept writing razzle-dazzle essays and poems aimed at shocking his audience because it sold well, until his rivalry with Keats changed his career.

It brought out the best in both. On my shelves I keep their finest work side by side: first is Shelley’s verse novel The Electric Horseman, which is set after Mary’s Frankenstein when electrical men are common, made to be servants until the servant class revolts.

However, the inventors have come up with electrical horses that never need to be fed or rested, and that are faster than the noisy, smelly trains beginning to ruin the countryside in so appalling a manner. The inventors determine that only the intelligentsia may obtain an electrical horse, for they must keep ahead of the howling mob some way, and there is a war between the creator class in all their anarchical glory and the uneducated establishment.

Into it Shelley inserted so many satirical squibs of prominent figures that he discovered in himself a taste for travel, and went west to explore the frontier in the new republic. He was disappointed to discover that the ideal community of artists living in harmonic anarchy did not exist—that somebody must empty the chamber pots, and the women, reminding men of their equality, refused to empty anyone’s but their own. So he ended up in the western portion of Virginia, penning novels about mythic figures on the frontier that made him a fortune—one he never got to spend due to having to support the tribe of offspring he produced, though some of them were probably not even his.

Mary stayed loyal, though she quitted his household, which was too chaotic. Freed of the necessity of devoting her life to recreating Shelley as a saint, as 1824 came and went with no drastic accident, she discovered in herself a taste for the intellectual scene of Paris, and was soon writing for magazines on both sides of the water; her best correspondent was Claire Clairemont, who was still unable to write fiction without it being mimic of others’ work, but her vivid tales of travel around the world became the centerpiece of Mary’s new women’s magazine Pecksie’s Periodical.

Mary’s chief contributor to the fiction was Catherine Grace Gore, with her witty satires on the pompous side of high life. (Bulwer-Lytton soon discovered that writing dull stodge aimed at reinforcing moral precepts of the previous age did not sell, and he reaffirmed Pelham and began a series that pilloried high life from the male point of view.)

Shelley had left the poetic field to Keats, whose poetry and novels dominate the century. Each more brilliant than the last, and more insightful, Keats steadfastly refused to enter politics, though he was encouraged by all. Instead, after he finished reading Jane Austen’s tenth novel, and finished laughing, he responded to her trenchant woman’s-eye-view with his own novel. As a result he moved to Cambridge, where he taught literature as well as wrote, his wife, Professor Fanny, establishing the first classes that women were encouraged to attend.

Among both Keats’s students were a numerous family by the name of Bronte, living in the college he established for those whose families could not afford the regular fees. Thus it was that Anne Bronte, in collaboration with her sister Emily, inspired the rich field of children’s literature with their other-world fantasy series, Gondaland, bolstered by Branwell Bronte’s adult series Angria, from which Bram Stoker later took his inspiration.

Anyway, if anyone wants to play, what’s on your bookshelf in Universe LL?


 Sherwood Smith’s e-books (in this universe) at Book View Cafe




Your Bookshelf in Universe LL — 21 Comments

  1. A dozen more Jane Austen novels–a dozen at least. Maybe she’d write about a slightly older woman–a nicer Lady Susan?

      • Lady Susan falls slowly in love with a Henry Crawford type and becomes a a marginally less terrible person?

        • Hmmmm . . . would two wrongs make a right? Henry needed a Fanny to teach him what morals were–as Austen says, he didn’t have the word in his vocabulary.

          • Would being on the receiving end of such behavior do it though? It wouldn’t seem either has been fully before (even Maria is just ignoring Henry at the end, not playing him).

  2. First and always on my shelf would be the complete version of Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters. Oh, the thought of it!

  3. Austen’s the only one I can think of that I’d really, really want. I can think of some authors I wish had written different books (piles more old school DWJ, more feminist CSL and Tolkien versions, etc), but I don’t think they’d have done so even if they had lived longer or whatever.

    • That’s why this is is one universe over. Not “If they had lived longer.” You can imagine the books they might have written.

      Like Keats writing a novel!

      • I guess I feel like I’m wishing their personalities different though, at least with CSL and Tolkien, not just their life choices. Like, not just wishing that Dorothy Sayers had written more about Harriet at university, but wishing she’d written that, I don’t know, Peter was secretly an American heiress named Charlotte who’d taken the whole spy thing one step too far.

        Still, if one could, definitely feminist CSL/Tolkien, more Dorothy Sayers non-fiction, more Austen, and more Heyer romances. And LMM writing a 9th Anne book about Anne’s children in their 20’s, post-war, focusing in particular on the girls. And the Jane of Lantern Hill sequel, with her finding unexpected sympathy with her mother again. And perhaps a 4th Emily book where Teddy dies and Emily becomes an English professor (and, frankly, rather a terrible one) and has weekly tea with Perry and Ilse and extremely enjoyable hissing matches with the other English professors.

  4. It would be great if Dickens could supply the completed EDWIN DROOD. Charlotte Bronte had many many more novels in her, I am sure — she died far too young.
    Would Tolkien and Lewis have been more productive, if liberated from the drudgery of teaching? Or would they have wandered off into non-productive dreaming, without the lash of necessity to force them to write?

  5. Well, I would definitely have wanted Tolkien to complete his works… Christopher did a great job, of course, but it’s not the same… But a true change? What if Marion Zimmer Bradley never had the fanfiction fiasco? Would she have written more before her death? Moreover, would it have made fanfiction into a more legitimate enterprise? Would we have many authors allowing fanfiction writers to actually publish books along with them?

    If Marcus Aurelius had lived longer, would we have more of Meditations? Alternately, if he hadn’t taken so much opium, would Meditations be as interesting and (occasionally) funny?

    And to think I haven’t even gone into all the religious books which could have gone differently…

  6. On my shelves are Terry Pratchett’s non-Discworld novels, all nineteen of them, every one as poignant and funny, but spanning a whole range of genres and settings. DW fans hated him for a year or two, when he cut back on the series to explore other settings, but most of them grew to love his whole oeuvre.

    But a special place in my heart will always go to the output of the Women’s Publishing Society in London, founded in 1804, which so cleverly sold subscriptions directly to women who read and which has not just given prolific novellists like Jane Austen an outlet, but helped many women to step out of obscurity. Endorsed by Friedrich Schiller shortly before his death, the Society grew steadily. At first restricted to novels and social commentary, not twenty-five years later they began publishing scientific treatises alongside more genteel fare, and changed the publishing landscape of England – and Europe – forever.

  7. My bookshelf would be graced by the pedagogical works by Joan-Jaelle Rousseau who like some early Olympe de Gouges secretly replaced her twin brother and published some excellent works under his name – therefore establishing the influental tradition of equal education of boys and girls, quickly imitated all over Europe. By the times of the Napoleonic wars it was consensus that only men and women together could defend and rebuild their countries, the morals and values of restauration times drew on the bourgeous principles of Rousseau’s pedagogy and when compulsory education and the Humboldt university ideal were introduced in Prussia it included female students, to go without saying. In 1848, Louise Otto-Peters was one of several women in the Paulskirche parliament in the German revolutionary years and they offered the German crown of the constitutional monarchy not to the Prussian king who would reject it, but to his wife, the headstrong Elisabeth. With the help of all the women of her very large family, she would then make the constitutional German monarchy happen and instead of founding one small girls’ school, she established the first womens’ hospitals run by female doctors in Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. The same year, the first female professor of Greek wrote her very influental book “Thus spoke Zarathustra”, sparking debates about the human potential, enliberating people regardless of their gender. Similar developments ensued in other countries, so that in 1911 the English Prime Minister Emmeline Pankhurst meet her German counterpart Lily Braun (social democrats) to discuss national insurance and working conditions. However, Pankhurst had to resign office after some tax scandal only the year later and Braun wasn’t reelected the next. Both resumed campagning for the next elections, though … [continuing]

    • *swoon*

      I am in love.

      Yes, let us begin with Olympe de Gouges surviving the Revolution, and thereby shortcircuiting the bloodbath thereafter . . .