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The Last Man
Includes HTML, ASCII, and SGML versions, other works by Mary Shelley, works and excerpts from works cited by Shelley, bibliography, maps, images & sound files, critical essays, contemporary works on plague, notes.
[On the topic of the abolition of slavery:] . . . To attempt to shorten the road between desire and attainment is nine times out of ten to go astray, and to miss the wished-for object altogether. I am fully persuaded that freedom, when acquired under the regulations prescribed by government, will be a more delightful as well as a more safe and stable possession than if it were bestowed by a sudden acclamation.
As Susan Sontag points out, any plague is usually figured as a force coming from outside, as a dangerous foreign invader (in both immigration and military terms), as a contamination by the polluting Other. It is often, even when supposedly secularized, treated as a mysterious judgment on society.
Hagia Sophia ("Holy Wisdom"), or St. Sophia, is one of the world's paradigms of Byzantine Architecture. It was first built as a Christian church for Emperor Justinian I; then--after the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453--became an important mosque. The towering minarets (added by the Turks) and 184 ft. dome overlook the old city of Constantinople (now Istanbul).
San Marco or Saint Mark's Church, in Venice, is named after the tutelary saint of the city. A church stood on the site as early as the 9th century, but the structure, including the famous tower, alluded to in the novel was developed from the 12th through the 14th centuries.
Mary Shelley's representation of her narrative as "Sibylline" connects it with numerous popular uses of the figure of the Sybil, including Samuel Coleridge's 1817 collection of poetry and the writing of Mme. de Staël; and it in turn may have contributed to the continuing popularity of things Sibylline, as witnessed in productions like the parody (perhaps directly parodic of The Last Man) by T. H.
. . . The most celebrated of the Sibyls is that of Cumae in Italy, whom some have called by the different names of Amalthaea, Demophile, Herophile, Daphne, Marto, Phemonoe, and Deiphobe. It is said that Apollo became enamoured of her, and that to make her sensible of his passion, he offered to give her whatever she should ask.