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The Last Man, Edited by Steven E. Jones

"The Author of Granby" (London: Colburn, 1826) was T. H. Lister (1800-1842), one of the "Silver Fork" novelists of the late 1820s associated with the publisher Henry Colburn, the same publisher (and also in 1826) of The Last Man. Colburn was in addition the publisher of the New Monthly Magazine, in which Mary Shelley published short fiction, beginning, perhaps, with the anonymous "Rome in the First and the Nineteenth Centuries."

Ellen Moers, in The Dandy, refers to Lister as "an inside observer of London society with aristocratic and political connections" (23), and characterizes the Silver Fork novel as "pseudo-literary gossip journalism" (53), fashionable novels that played upon their role as a secret key to English Society.

In this context, The Last Man, a roman à clef about the dead Shelley and Byron, can be seen as a kind of alternative to the Silver Fork novel. It too provides readers with a kind of "key" to society-- but in this case an outcast Society of Poets Maudits as if they might--in an imagined future--have inherited societal power.

It is significant that Lister subtitles his parody, "2130," as taken from the "album" of a "Modern Sybil"--playing on the generic status of The Keepsake itself--a kind of annual gift book aimed primarily at an audience of women--and satirizing Shelley's gender in ironic relation to her prophetic authorial pretensions.

Though the parody is not necessarily directed only at Shelley (it comes several years after her book had appeared and is the product of one of Colburn's other authors), its ending is interesting in its stark contrast to the novel. Lister's little skit is more optimistic, even nationalistic in its futurism than Shelley's novel--to say the least.

Though better known as a novelist, Lister also had serious dramatic pretensions. His historical tragedy, "Epicharis," was produced with some success in 1829.


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Published @ RC

October 1997

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