Falkner, published in 1837, 11 was the last of Mary Shelley’s six novels. Preparing to write the book, she commented: ‘as I grow older I look upon fidelity as the first of human virtues – & am going to write a novel to display my opinion’ (Bennett, MWSL, vol. 2, p. 260). For her the issue of ‘human virtues’ was universal rather than simply personal. As a result, Falkner emulates her other novels in its delineation of the uses of power in opposition to the uses of love. The central story concerns the relationship of Rupert John Falkner, an anti-hero, and the orphaned Elizabeth Raby. Before they meet, Falkner’s self-centred actions cause the death of the woman he loved, Alithea Rivers Neville, and an embittered childhood for Neville’s son. After the almost six-year-old Raby prevents the remorseful Falkner’s attempted suicide, he adopts her. Under his care and the education he provides for her, she grows into an independent, intelligent young woman who confidently sets her own standards of behaviour. Her fidelity to her beloved step-father defies social norms for young women at the same time that it attacks accepted codes of justice. In the guise of a domestic context, therefore, the story challenges fundamental social and political codes of the early Victorian era.