The Dream by Mary Shelley (1832)
For the anniversary of Mary Shelley’s birth August 30, 1797
Tuesday’s Gothic Tale August 28, 2018
I loved this story. Stories that involve dreams always intrigue me because the subconscious world is so mysterious and so boundless. The kingdom of the night! So fascinating is dream life and one of the reasons I wrote Night Sea Journey. In literature, dreams have a strong presence with many famous titles and authors: Homer’s The Iliad, Alice in Wonderland, Shakespeare of course, Pierre’s dream in War and Peace, Samsa in Metamorphosis, Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and the dreams in Anna Karenina. In art too. Who doesn’t know this painting The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli.
One of my favorites is The Artist’s Dream, George H. Comegys (1840). The artist is exhausted, having visions of Rubens, Rembrandt, Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael Michelangelo, and others. So compelling!
In Shelley’s short story The Dream, we sink into the era of King Henry IV. We are in France and inside the life of Countess Constance de Villeneuve in her château overlooking the Loire River. She mourns the death of her father and brothers killed in the war. Solitude, weeping, and loneliness are her daily companions. But she also mourns her love for the dashing knight Gaspar, son of her father’s enemy (two feuding families). Torn between her loyalty to her family and her desire for Gaspar, she decides to sleep on the rock of St. Catherine, who is said to visit dreams. Alone on the narrow ledge hanging over the tumbling Loire River. Constance must follow her destiny …
“I will rest to-morrow night on St. Catherine’s bed: and if, as I have heard, the saint deigns to direct her votaries in dreams, I will be guided by her; and, believing that I act according to the dictates of Heaven, I shall feel resigned even to the worst.”
What is the worst? Death by drowning in the Loire River? This story is about uncertain human love, dream messages, and visions of ghosts.
We recognize the birth date of Mary Shelley on August 30. This author is famous for her ‘midnight pillow’ explorations, from which she became inspired to write Frankenstein. In that novel, nightmares and dreams are significant.
“My dreams were all my own; I accounted for them to nobody; they were my refuge when annoyed—
my dearest pleasure when free.” Mary Shelley
Celebrate Mary Shelley today and read the short story here at American Literature. Please comment if you liked this post!
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