schiavi ognor frementi
Slaves forever in a rage. In her revisions Mary Shelley is betrayed into
a historical anachronism, for it was only with the Congress of Vienna of
1814-15 that Austria, already
given the northeastern section of Italy
in 1797, additionally was ceded
Lombardy. Its capital, Milan, was thereafter a center of subversive
unrest, and many of its leading citizens in the 1820s were convicted of
sedition and incarcerated in the infamous Austrian prison of Spielberg.
Silvio Pellico's account, Le mie prigioni (My Prisons) was
published in 1832, the year
after the third edition of Frankenstein, and became a European
best-seller. In the decade and a half following the Congress of Vienna,
Britain became a center for exiles from the Milanese intelligentsia, among
whom was Gabriele Rossetti, father of Christina and Dante Gabriel
As contemporary English readers might be anticipated almost
automatically to sympathize with the plight of a Milanese exile, so they
would respond to the essentially imperialist ethos of this description of
the blond beauty distinguished as a "rose among dark-leaved brambles."
Both Elizabeth's aristocratic background and her fair northern beauty play
to the expectations of the main line of British fiction in the early
1830s, what because of its high-bourgeois conventions has come to be
called "the Silver Fork School."