Beddoes' "The Last Man"
Thomas Lovell Beddoes published The Bride's Tragedy, which Mary Shelley knew, in 1822, but these fragments apparently intended for his never-completed drama "The Last Man" remained in manuscript until after his death in 1849. Beddoes's solicitor, Thomas Kelsall, edited and published two posthumous editions of his writings based on these manuscripts. From Kelsall the Beddoes papers were bequeathed to Robert Browning, who eventually enlisted Edmund Gosse to edit a two-volume Poetical Works in 1890. The present text of "The Last Man" is from that edition.
As Morton Paley and others have pointed out, Thomas Campbell was prompted to write his long-planned poem on "The Last Man" when he heard (from Barry Cornwall) that Beddoes also planned to write a play on the theme. But in 1825 Beddoes wrote sardonically to Kelsall: "Meanwhile let Tom Campbell rule his roost and mortify the ghost of Sternhold. It is a subject for Michael Angelo, not for the painter of the Marquis of Granby on the sign-post" (letter quoted in Paley. Sternhold was a translator of the Psalms who was satirized in Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel.)
The Last Man: Contents | Beddoes' "Last Man"