Contents Index


Le Havre is a principal seaport of Normandy: Mary, Shelley, and Claire Clairmont embarked for England from Le Havre when they returned from Geneva in September 1816. The town would have held more than a tourist's interest for Mary. Her mother Mary Wollstonecraft had moved to Le Havre to escape the Terror of 1794: there she wrote her Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution and gave birth to her daughter Fanny Imlay, Mary's half-sister, in May of that year.

In the 1831 revision Mary Shelley has Victor and his father sail directly from Dublin to Le Havre, avoiding the lengthy coach journey across England in the 1818 novel. This, perhaps, reflects a more sophisticated sense of the historical geography of the British Isles gained after her return to England in 1823. Over many centuries Ireland had maintained a commercial and cultural exchange with France that flourished independently from the frames of reference in which the British viewed the power that was increasingly its major antagonist. Napoleon's attempt to capitalize on the Wolfe Tone rebellion of 1798 underscored the dangers implicit in Ireland's independent foreign relations, leading directly to the Act of Union of 1801 in which Ireland was assimilated to the British crown.