Presented here is an abridged version of Mary Shelley’s post-apocalyptic pandemic novel “The Last Man” (1826). The plague makes its way across the world killing all in its path and eventually arrives in England. Many of the motifs we find in modern-day apocalypse movies can be found in Shelley’s novel: lawlessness and rioting, the rise of religious madmen, the hoarding of food, and scenes of desolate towns and cities. The extract presented here is a highly abridged one which provides an overview of how Shelley imagined the end of the world as ushered in by a pandemic.
A poem written by Susannah Frances Reynolds in 1841 and transcribed by Jessica Elizabeth Thomas: Oft does th’ unconscious vessel fly / To distant coasts were billows high / In dread confusion roar; / And of the danger unaware.
The notary sank upon a chair, gazed wildly at that brother whom he had never wished to encounter more, and in whose presence he so singularly and unexpectedly found himself: Alfred de Moirot crossed his arms on his breast, and returned the timid glance of the notary with one of scorn, indignation, and reproach. The Baroness and de Montville exchanged looks of mingled satisfaction and anxiety.
While the inhabitants of the chateau were thus thrown into a strange state of doubt, anxiety, and alarm, the approaching steps of horses and the wheels of a heavy vehicle indicated the arrival of some visitor. A loud knocking speedily commenced at the front door, and in a few minutes the gallery, with which the room the room where the evening meal had been spread, communicated, re-echoed to the steps of’ several individuals.
“The days were passed in amusements of all kinds—the evenings in dancing, fétes champétres, or with music and cards. There were barges upon the canals, beautifully fitted up for the use of the visitors who were fond of water-excursions; hounds and huntsmen for the chase; and shooting apparatus for the sportsman. The ponds were filled with an abundance of fine fish; and many sought a recreation in, to me, the cruel art of angling. Thus was time whiled away on the wings of pleasure; and ennui was banished from those halls of delight.
Written by Victor Hugo and published in Les Chants des Crepuscules in 1835; Translated by George W.M. Reynolds and published in Songs of Twilight in 1836: Say, Lord! for Thou alone canst tell / Where lurks the good invisible / Amid the depths of discord’s sea— / That seem, alas! so dark to me!
Written by Victor Hugo and published in Les Chants des Crepuscules in 1835 and Translated by George W.M. Reynolds and published in Songs of Twilight in 1836: Now, vot’ries of the Muses, turn your eyes, / Unto the East, and say what there appears! / “Alas!” the voice of Poesy replies, / Mystic’s that light between the hemispheres!”