In the fall of 1997, in a palazzo in the Tuscan hills north of Florence, a small booklet sewn into paper covers turned up in a long-unopened crate of old letters and other documents. It bore the title "Maurice" and an inscription: "For Laurette from her friend Mrs Shelley." Investigation proved it to be a story written by Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, a story presumed by scholars to have been irretrievably lost soon after its composition in 1820. It is here published for the first time.Written two years after her great gothic novel, Maurice dates from a period when Mary Shelley, still only twenty-two, was deeply sunk in depression. She had eloped with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley at sixteen, borne him four children and seen three of them die. Thus, though Maurice is basically a charming moral tale written for a child--the daughter of a close friend--it betrays a vein of melancholy, beginning with a funeral and concerning a boy who has lost his parents. Even the happy ending has a sad twist.Claire Tomalin--the distinguished biographer of, among others, Jane Austen and Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft--was personally involved in the authentication of the rediscovered manuscript. She here contributes a comprehensive and fascinating introduction that explores the literary and psychological importance of the story and investigates the hitherto obscure histories of the two extraordinary families whose lives it touched.