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The Last Man, Edited by Steven E. Jones

Music in The Last Man


Among critics of Mary Shelley, Jean de Palacio has most thoroughly examined the importance of music in the novel, beginning with the role of Vincent Novello's music organ music in inspiring its composition.

Within the narrative, Lionel Verney claims musical inspiration for his own writing (I.10), and implicitly, therefore, for the narrative we are reading. In addition, allusions to composers and works form a kind of imaginary score for the action. As Palacio charts it (p. 329), we move from simple melodies and songs at Windsor (I.6), to the more sophisticated operas of Mozart--Figaro and Don Giovanni (I.9)--to "solemn music" at the end of Volume I, the exotic Weber piece, Abou Hassan early in Volume II, and the sacred organ music in London's Westminster Abbey. Then, after Verney's "Farewell to music" early in Volume III, there is the final crucial scene in Switzerland surrounding Haydn's Creation.

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Published @ RC

October 1997