Mary Shelley’s novella Mathilda (written in 1820) is suffused with dark, Romantic imagery of death and doom. Throughout the book, the narrator (Mathilda herself) suffers after the suicide of her father, who had incestuous thoughts about her. In chapter 11, after having met a poet, Woodville, who becomes her close friend due to their shared sense of grief (his fiancée has died), Mathilda develops a morbid obsession with the idea that the only test of his friendship would be if they decided to die together. Life for them, as she sees it, has ceased to be life and has become endless suffering. This idea relates to another Romantic author, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who utilized this concept of “Life-in-Death” in his 1798 poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."
For Mathilda, death is ever-present; in chapter 11, she says “my cheek is flushed with pleasure at the imagination of death." She is shown to be longing for death as a relief from a doomed life of guilt and shame. She sees herself as something unnatural, a ”monster with whom none might mingle in converse and love," and as Woodville denies to comply with her wish to commit suicide together and explains passionately that he believes one should stay alive as long as one can give any hope to others, she is swayed only for a brief moment. The chapter ends with her persistent thoughts that she is “a marked creature, a pariah, only fit for death."