Mathilda

Episodes

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01

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With a new production of Frankenstein opened at The National Theatre directed by Danny Boyle - Radio 4 presents a reading by Emilia Fox of the only other finished work of fiction by the celebrated author of Frankenstein - Mary Shelley.

With its shocking theme of father-daughter incest, Mary Shelley's publisher father, known for his own subversive books -not only refused to publish Mathilda when she sent it to him early in 1820, he also refused to return her only copy of the manuscript, calling it 'disgusting and detestable'.

The work was never published in her lifetime and was only brought to light in the early 1950's when it was unearthed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

In our own times the novella doesn't seem nearly so shocking - but her father's attempted suppression is perhaps understandable: unlike Frankenstein, written a year earlier, Mathilda uses fantasy to study a far more personal reality.

As she lies on her deathbed, the narrator tells her story.

She is a young woman whose mother died in her childbirth - just as Shelley's own mother died after hers - and whose relationship with her bereaved father becomes sexually charged as he conflates her with his lost wife, while she herself becomes involved with a handsome poet.

Yet, despite characters clearly based on herself, her father, and her husband, the narrator lifts the story beyond autobiographical resonance into something more transcendent: a passionate tale of a brave woman's search for love, atonement, and redemption.

From her deathbed in an isolated country cottage, Mathilda, a young gentlewoman with a tragic past, sets out to tell her closest friend and the wider public the secret behind her long depression and self imposed seclusion - Abridged by Eileen Horne

Read by Emilia Fox

Produced by Clive Brill

A Pacificus Production for BBC Radio 4.

Emilia Fox reads the only other finished work of fiction by celebrated author Mary Shelley

02

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Mathilda and her father enjoy high society together in London, until a sudden reversal in his behaviour; he begins to shun her without reason.

Mathilda is devastated.

What can be the reason for this extraordinary volte face?

Abridged by Eileen Horne

Read by Emilia Fox

Produced by Clive Brill

A Pacificus Production for BBC Radio 4.

Mathilda and her father enjoy high society together in London, until he suddenly changes.

03

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After hearing her father's devastating confession - Mathilda finds her father has fled during the night, leaving her a letter instructing her not to follow him and begging her forgiveness.

She immediately gives chase in the midst of a howling storm - but will she arrive in time?

Abridged by Eileen Horne

Read by Emilia Fox

Produced by Clive Brill

A Pacificus Production for BBC Radio 4.

After hearing her father's devastating confession, Mathilda finds that he has fled.

04

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A mournful Mathilda longs to escape her concerned relatives who have no idea why her father killed himself.

She fakes her own suicide and escapes with a modest sum to live on a remote heath in the North of England, alone with her memories of joy and tragedy.

After two years, just when she longs for a friend, she meets the young poet Woodville.

He tries to lift her out of despair - but will she confide in him?

Abridged by Eileen Horne

Read by Emilia Fox

Produced by Clive Brill

A Pacificus Production for BBC Radio 4.

Mathilda longs to escape her anxious relatives who are mystified by her father's suicide.

05 LAST

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Unable to trust anyone with her secret - Mathilda decides to test Woodville's friendship and love for her by asking him to join her in committing suicide; he desperately tries to persuade her that this is a selfish act - but she then immediately falls ill.

As she contemplates death - but a possible joyful reunion with her father - she finally puts her story down on paper for all the world to know...

Abridged by Eileen Horne

Read by Emilia Fox

Produced by Clive Brill

A Pacificus Production for BBC Radio 4.

Unable to trust anyone with her secret, Mathilda decides to test Woodville's friendship.