William Godwins Mandeville was described as his best novel by Percy Shelley, who sent a copy to Lord Byron, and it was immediately recognized by its other admirers as a work of unique power. Written one year after the battle of Waterloo and set in an earlier revolutionary period between the execution of Charles I and the Restoration, Mandeville is a novel of psychological warfare. The narrative begins with Mandevilles rescue from the traumatic aftermath of the Ulster Rebellion of 1641 and proceeds through his early education by a fanatical Presbyterian minister to his persecution at Winchester school, his constant (and not unjustified) paranoia, and his confinement in an asylum. Mandevilles final, desperate attempt to prevent his sisters marriage to his enemy ends with his disfiguration, which also defaces endings based on settlement or reconciliation. The novels events have many resonances with Godwins own period.
The historical appendices offer contemporary reviews, including Shelleys letter to Godwin praising Mandeville, material explaining the novels complex historical background, and contemporary writings on war, madness, and trauma.