Frances Wilson

Hardly Human

Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley Circle


Profile Books 304pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

Being Shelley: The Poet’s Search for Himself


Jonathan Cape 464pp £25 order from our bookshop

There is a short story by Henry James called ‘The Private Life’, in which a celebrated writer, Clare Vawdrey, is invited to a weekend house party. His company, it turns out, is less illuminating than his writing and one evening, while Vawdrey is boring his fellow guests downstairs, the narrator goes upstairs and sees through the author’s bedroom door, which is slightly ajar, that Vawdrey is also sitting at his desk, scribbling away at his latest play. There are two Clare Vawdreys, it transpires: the dreary public figure and the brilliant private writer, and Vawdrey inhabits, quite comfortably, both parts at the same time. 

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