Revising Personal Histories in Mary Shelley’s “The Invisible Girl”

Shandi Lynne Wagner (Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College)

In this paper I will explore how Mary Shelley’s adaptation of Cinderella, “The Invisible Girl” (1833), also works as a revision of Shelley’s personal history. This short story retells “Cinderella” as it might have played out in the nineteenth century Welsh countryside; however, Rosina, Shelley’s Cinderella and the eponymous Invisible Girl, is a heroine who manages to not only survive in the wilderness on her own, but also rescues her beloved Henry from drowning, all without magical aid. Yet the significance of Shelley’s story goes beyond a resourceful Cinderella, as she actually relates and revises her own life’s story in the narrative. Most notably, her revision allows her (as Rosina) to save her beloved Percy Bysshe Shelley from his drowning death in 1822. In this way, Shelley offers a palimpsest of protofeminist fairy-tale and biographical revisions in her tale.

Part of 24-05 Exploring 19th-Century British, French, and German Fairy Tales by Women through Women Writing Wonder (2021), Tuesday, October 19, 2:15 pm–3:45 pm