as Life Writing in Mary Shelley's
Rambles in Germany and Italy
Victorian literature frequently offers us a scene of a pensive woman in an art gallery. In Charlotte Brontë's Valette (1853), Lucy Snowe contemplates in the painting of Cleopatra everything that is forbidden and repulsive to her; in George Eliot's Middlemarch (1871–72), Dorothea Brooke is intrigued but mystified by Roman art just as the disappointment sets in over her marriage to Mr Casaubon; Sigmund Freud's case study of “Dora” (1905) records that his patient, a young woman betrayed by her beloved Frau K., gazed for two rapturous hours on Raphael's Sistine Madonna (Freud 222).' In each of these scenes, paintings speak what is, as yet, unspeakable about the heroine's life, by performing a kind of dream-work in which a disruptive truth about that life is presented in figurai language, partly revealed, partly concealed, rising to visibility just below the surface of consciousness, but not yet breaking the surface to demand full recognition.2 Here I should like to propose that in her last published work, Rambles in Germany and Italy (1844), Mary Shelley as both author and heroine of her own work—that is, as autobiographer—anticipates these Victorian works in employing her art criticism as autobiographical dream-work, simultaneously revealing and concealing those unspeak-
Notes are on pp. 213–16.