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Transformation by Mary Shelley

Alma Classics, 2019, 105 p plus 7 p Note on the text plus Notes.

 Transformation cover

This is a reprint of three of Shelley’s short stories originally published in the 1830s in the literary annual The Keepsake. “Spelling and punctuation have been standardized (sic), modernised and made consistent throughout.”

The first and title story, Transformation, is the tale of a prodigal waster, keen to worm himself back into the good books of his sweetheart’s father, offered a body swap by the devil to effect the desired outcome. The writing is obviously of its time but to modern eyes, overwrought.

The unfortunate narrator of The Mortal Immortal seemingly spurned by his beloved, inadvertently drinks an elixir concocted by his employer, the alchemist Cornelius Agrippa, and finds, eventually, he is immortal – or, at least, very long-lived. This is in the now long tradition of unexpected consequences stories.

The final tale, The Evil Eye, is a story of thwarted inheritance, skulduggery, child kidnap and coincidence in the Greece and Albania of Turkish times, apparently influenced by Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Thomas Hope’s Anastasius and Prosper Mérimée’s La Guzla. It suffers a little through being told rather than shown to us.

Reading these stories in the twenty-first century is an odd experience. What may, when written, have seemed fresh and new is perhaps diminished by the time that has since elapsed and the many authors who have followed in Shelley’s wake.

Pedant’s corner:- a missing comma before a piece of direct speech.

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