"Elizabeth approved of the reasons of my departure, and only regretted that she had not the same opportunities of enlarging her experience, and cultivating her understanding"

   Shelley's reference here to the unequal opportunities open to men and women echoes a central tenet of her mother's 1792 essay A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.  In it Mary Wollstonecraft insisted that rather than being naturally less capable of rational thought, the vast majority of women at the time were kept in a state of general ignorance through being denied the same education provided for men.  She attacks those values of her society which encouraged men to take a dynamic role in society while women assumed the role of decorative accessories, deriving worth only from their physical beauty and domestic passivity. 

Although brief, this reference to gender inequality is out of character for Victor's unfailingly docile betrothed – in the 1831 edition Shelley removed it, leaving Elizabeth "mute" as she bids Victor "a tearful, silent farewell".


Online edition of 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman' by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792)