Infomotions, Inc.Mrs. Shelley / Rossetti, Lucy Madox Brown, 1843-1894



Author: Rossetti, Lucy Madox Brown, 1843-1894
Title: Mrs. Shelley
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Title: Mrs. Shelley

Author: Lucy M. Rossetti

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MRS. SHELLEY

BY LUCY MADOX ROSSETTI.


1890.



PREFACE.

I have to thank all the previous students of Shelley as poet and
man--not last nor least among whom is my husband--for their loving and
truthful research on all the subjects surrounding the life of Mrs.
Shelley. Every aspect has been presented, and of known material it
only remained to compare, sift, and use with judgment. Concerning
facts subsequent to Shelley's death, many valuable papers have been
placed at my service, and I have made no new statement which there are
not existing documents to vouch for.

This book was in the publishers' hands before the appearance of Mrs.
Marshall's _Life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley_, and I have had
neither to omit, add to, nor alter anything in this work, in
consequence of the publication of hers. The passages from letters of
Mrs. Shelley to Mr. Trelawny were kindly placed at my disposal by his
son-in-law and daughter, Colonel and Mrs. Call, as early as the summer
of 1888.

Among authorities used are Prof. Dowden's _Life of Shelley_, Mr.
W. M. Rossetti's _Memoir_ and other writings, Mr. Jeaffreson's
_Real Shelley,_ Mr. Kegan Paul's _Life of William Godwin_,
Godwin's _Memoir of Mary Wollstonecraft_, Mrs. Pennell's
_Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin_, &c. &c.

Among those to whom my special thanks are due for original information
and the use of documents, &c., are, foremost, Mr. H. Buxton Forman,
Mr. Cordy Jeaffreson, Mrs. Call, Mr. Alexander Ireland, Mr. Charles C.
Pilfold, Mr. J. H. Ingram, Mrs. Cox, and Mr. Silsbee, and, for
friendly counsel, Prof. Dowden; and I must particularly thank Lady
Shelley for conveying to me her husband's courteous message and
permission to use passages of letters by Mrs. Shelley, interspersed in
this biography.

LUCY MADOX ROSSETTI.




CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I. PARENTAGE.

CHAPTER II. GIRLHOOD OF MARY--PATERNAL TROUBLES.

CHAPTER III. SHELLEY.

CHAPTER IV. MARY AND SHELLEY.

CHAPTER V. LIFE IN ENGLAND.

CHAPTER VI. DEATH OF SHELLEY'S GRANDFATHER, AND BIRTH OF A CHILD.

CHAPTER VII. "FRANKENSTEIN".

CHAPTER VIII. RETURN TO ENGLAND.

CHAPTER IX. LIFE IN ITALY.

CHAPTER X. MARY'S DESPONDENCY AND BIRTH OF A SON.

CHAPTER XI. GODWIN AND "VALPERGA".

CHAPTER XII. LAST MONTHS WITH SHELLEY.

CHAPTER XIII. WIDOWHOOD.

CHAPTER XIV. LITERARY WORK.

CHAPTER XV. LATER WORKS.

CHAPTER XVI. ITALY REVISITED.

CHAPTER XVII. LAST YEARS.




CHAPTER I.

PARENTAGE.


The daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and Godwin, the wife of Shelley:
here, surely, is eminence by position, for those who care for the
progress of humanity and the intellectual development of the race.
Whether this combination conferred eminence on the daughter and wife
as an individual is what we have to enquire. Born as she was at a time
of great social and political disturbance, the child, by inheritance,
of the great French Revolution, and suffering, as soon as born, a loss
certainly in her case the greatest of all, that of her noble-minded
mother, we can imagine the kind of education this young being passed
through--with the abstracted and anxious philosopher-father, with the
respectable but shallow-minded step-mother provided by Godwin to guard
the young children he so suddenly found himself called upon to care
for, Mary and two half-sisters about her own age. How the volumes of
philosophic writings, too subtle for her childish experience, would be
pored over; how the writings of the mother whose loving care she never
knew, whose sad experiences and advice she never heard, would be read
and re-read. We can imagine how these writings, and the discourses she
doubtless frequently heard, as a child, between her father and his
friends, must have impressed Mary more forcibly than the respectable
precepts laid down in a weak way for her guidance; how all this
prepared her to admire what was noble and advanced in idea, without
giving her the ballast needful for acting in the fittest way when a
time of temptation came, when Shelley appeared. He appeared as the
devoted admirer of her father and his philosophy, and as such was
admitted into the family intimacy of three inexperienced girls.

Picture these four young imaginative beings together; Shelley,
half-crazed between youthful imagination and vague ideas of
regenerating mankind, and ready at any incentive to feel himself freed
from his part in the marriage ceremony. What prudent parents would
have countenanced such a visitor? And need there be much surprise at
the subsequent occurrences, and much discussion as to the right or
wrong in the case? How the actors in this drama played their
subsequent part on the stage of life; whether they did work which
fitted them to be considered worthy human beings remains to be
examined.

      *       *       *       *       *

As no story or life begins with itself, so, more especially with this
of our heroine, we must recall the past, and at least know something
of her parents.

Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the most remarkable and misunderstood
women of even her remarkable day, was born in April 1759, in or near
London, of parents of whose ancestors little is known. Her father, son
of a Spitalfields manufacturer, possessed an adequate fortune for his
position; her mother was of Irish family. They had six children, of
whom Mary was the second. Family misery, in her case as in many, seems
to have been the fountainhead of her genius. Her father, a
hot-tempered, dissipated man, unable to settle anywhere or to
anything, naturally proved a domestic tyrant. Her mother seems little
to have understood her daughter's disposition, and to have been
extremely harsh, harassed no doubt by the behaviour of her husband,
who frequently used personal violence on her as well as on his
children; this, doubtless, under the influence of drink.

Such being the childhood of Mary Wollstonecraft, it can be understood
how she early learnt to feel fierce indignation at the injustice to,
and the wrongs of women, for whom there was little protection against
such domestic tyranny. Picture her sheltering her little sisters and
brother from the brutal wrath of a man whom no law restricted, and can
her repugnance to the laws made by men on these subjects be wondered
at? Only too rarely do the victims of such treatment rise to be
eloquent of their wrongs.

The frequent removals of her family left little chance of forming
friendships for the sad little Mary; but she can scarcely have been
exactly lonely with her small sisters and brothers, possibly a little
more positive loneliness or quiet would have been desirable. As she
grew older her father's passions increased, and often did she boldly
interpose to shield her mother from his drunken wrath, or waited
outside her room for the morning to break. So her childhood passed
into girlhood, her senses numbed by misery, till she had the good
fortune to make the acquaintance of a Mr. and Mrs. Clare, a clergyman
and his wife, who were kind to the friendless girl and soon found her
to have undeveloped good qualities. She spent much time with them, and
it was they who introduced her to Fanny Blood, whose friendship
henceforth proved one of the chief influences of her life; this it was
that first roused her intellectual faculty, and, with the gratitude of
a fine nature, she never after forgot where she first tasted the
delight of the fountain which transmutes even misery into the source
of work and poetry.

Here, again, Mary found the story of a home that might have been
ruined by a dissipated father, had it not been for the cheerful
devotion of this daughter Fanny, who kept the family chiefly by her
work, painting, and brought up her young brothers and sisters with
care. A bright and happy example at this moment to stimulate Mary, and
raise her from the absorbing and hopeless contemplation of her own
troubles; she then, at sixteen, resolved to work so as to educate
herself to undertake all that might and would fall on her as the stay
of her family. Fresh wanderings of the restless father ensued, and
finally she decided to accept a situation as lady's companion; this
her hard previous life made a position of comparative ease to her,
and, although all the former companions had left the lady in despair,
she remained two years with her till her mother's illness required her
presence at home. Mrs. Wollstonecraft's hard life had broken her
constitution, and in death she procured her first longed-for rest from
sorrow and toil, counselling her daughters to patience. Deprived of
the mother, the daughters could no longer remain with their father;
and Mary, at eighteen, had again to seek her fortune in a hard
world--Fanny Blood being, as ever, her best friend. One of her sisters
became housekeeper to her brother; and Eliza married, but by no means
improved her position by this, for her marriage proved another unhappy
one, and only added to Mary's sad observation of the marriage state. A
little later she had to help this sister to escape from a life which
had driven her to madness. When her sister's peace of mind was
restored, they were enabled to open a school together at Stoke
Newington Green, for a time with success; but failure and despondency
followed, and Mary, whose health was broken, accepted a pressing
invitation from her friend Fanny, who had married a Mr. Skeys, to go
and stay with her at Lisbon, and nurse her through her approaching
confinement. This sad visit--for during her stay there she lost her
dearly loved friend--broke the monotony of her life, and perhaps the
change, with sea voyage which was beneficial to her health, helped her
anew to fight the battle of life on her return. But fresh troubles
assailed her. Some friend suggested to her to try literature, and a
pamphlet, _Thoughts on the Education of Daughters_, was her first
attempt. For this she received ten guineas, with which she was able to
help her friends the Bloods.

She shortly afterwards accepted a situation as governess in Lord
Kingsborough's family, where she was much loved by her pupils; but
their mother, who did little to gain their affection herself, becoming
jealous of the ascendency of Mary over them, found some pretext for
dismissing her. Mary's contact, while in this house, with people of
fashion inspired her only with contempt for their small pleasures and
utterly unintellectual discourse. These surroundings, although she was
treated much on a footing of equality by the family, were a severe
privation for Mary, who was anxious to develop her mind, and to whom
spiritual needs were ever above physical.

On leaving the Kingsboroughs, Mary found work of a kind more congenial
to her disposition, as Mr. Johnson, the bookseller in St. Paul's
Churchyard who had taken her pamphlet, now gave her regular work as
his "reader," and also in translating. Now began the happiest part of
Mary's life. In the midst of books she soon formed a circle of
admiring friends. She lived in the simplest way, in a room almost bare
of furniture, in Blackfriars. Here she was able to see after her
sisters and to have with her her young brother, who had been much
neglected; and in the intervals of her necessary work she began
writing on the subjects which lay nearest to her heart; for here,
among other work, she commenced her celebrated _Vindication of the
Rights of Woman_, a work for which women ought always to be
grateful to her, for with this began in England the movement which,
progressing amidst much obloquy and denunciation, has led to so many
of the reforms in social life which have come, and may be expected to
lead to many which we still hope for. When we think of the nonsense
which has been talked both in and out of Parliament, even within the
last decade, about the advanced women who have worked to improve the
position of their less fortunate sisters, we can well understand in
what light Mary Wollstonecraft was regarded by many whom fortunately
she was not bound to consider. Her reading, which had been deep and
constant, together with her knowledge of life from different points of
view, enabled her to form just opinions on many of the great reforms
needed, and these she unhesitatingly set down. How much has since been
done which she advocated for the education of women, and how much they
have already benefited both by her example and precept, is perhaps not
yet generally enough known. Her religious tone is always striking; it
was one of the moving factors of her life, as with all seriously
thinking beings, though its form became much modified with the advance
in her intellectual development.

Her scheme in the _Vindication of the Rights of Woman_ may be
summed up thus:--

She wished women to have education equal to that of men, and this has
now to a great extent been accorded.

That trades, professions, and other pursuits should be open to women.
This wish is now in progress of fulfilment.

That married women should own their own property as in other European
countries. Recent laws have granted this right.

That they should have more facilities for divorce from husbands guilty
of immoral conduct. This has been partially granted, though much still
remains to be effected.

That, in the case of separation, the custody of children should belong
equally to both parents.

That a man should be legally responsible for his illegitimate
children. That he should be bound to maintain the woman he has
wronged.

Mary Wollstonecraft also thought that women should have
representatives in Parliament to uphold their interests; but her chief
desires are in the matter of education. Unlike Rousseau, she would
have all children educated together till nine years of age; like
Rousseau, she would have them meet for play in a common play-ground.
At nine years their capacities might be sufficiently developed to
judge which branch of education would be then desirable for each;
girls and boys being still educated together, and capacity being the
only line of demarcation.

Thus it will be seen that Mary's primary wish was to make women
responsible and sensible companions for men; to raise them from the
beings they were made by the frivolous fashionable education of the
time; to make them fit mothers to educate or superintend the education
of their children, for education does not end or begin with what may
he taught in schools. To make a woman a reasoning being, by means of
Euclid if necessary, need not preclude her from being a charming woman
also, as proved by the descriptions we have of Mary Wollstonecraft
herself. Doubtless some of the most crying evils of civilisation can
only be cured by raising the intellectual and moral status of woman,
and thus raising that of man also, so that he, regarding her as a
companion whose mind reflects the beauties of nature, and who can
appreciate the great reflex of nature as transmitted through the human
mind in the glorious art of the world, may really be raised to the
ideal state where the sacrilege of love will be unknown. We know that
this great desire must have passed through Mary Wollstonecraft's mind
and prompted her to her eloquent appeal for the "vindication of the
rights of woman."

With Mary's improved prospects, for she fortunately lived in a time
when the strong emotions and realities of life brought many
influential people admiringly around her, she was able to pay a visit
to Paris in 1792. No one can doubt her interest in the terrible drama
there being enacted, and her courage was equal to the occasion; but
even this journey is brought up in disparagement of her, and this
partly owing to Godwin's naive remark in his diary, that "there is no
reason to doubt that if Fuseli had been disengaged at the period of
their acquaintance he would have been the man of her choice." As the
little _if_ is a very powerful word, of course this amounts to
nothing, and it is scarcely the province of a biographer to say what
might have taken place under other circumstances, and to criticise a
character from that standpoint. If Mary was attracted by Fuseli's
genius, and this would not have been surprising, and if she went to
Paris for change of scene and thought, she certainly only set a
sensible example. As it was, she had ample matter of interest in the
stirring scenes around her--she with a heart to feel the woes of all:
the miseries however real and terrible of the prince did not blind her
to those of the peasant; the cold and calculating torture of centuries
was not to be passed over because a maddened people, having gained for
a time the right of power by might, brought to judgment the
representatives, even then vacillating and treacherous, of ages of
oppression. Her heart bled for all, but most for the longest
suffering; and she was struck senseless to the ground by the news of
the execution of the "twenty-one," the brave Girondins. Would that
another woman, even greater than herself, had been untrammelled by her
sex, and could have wielded at first hand the power she had to
exercise through others; and might not France have been thus again
saved by a Joan of Arc--not only France, but the Revolution in all its
purity of idea, not in its horror.

In France, too, the women's question had been mooted; Condorcet having
written that one of the greatest steps of progress of the human
intellect would be the freedom from prejudice that would give equality
of right to both sexes: and the _Requete des Dames a l'Assemblee
Nationale_ 1791, was made simultaneously with the appearance of
Mary Wollstonecraft's _Vindication of the Rights of Woman_. These
were strong reasons to attract Mary to France, strange as the time was
for such a journey; but even then her book was translated and read
both in France and Germany. So here was Mary settled for a time, the
English scarcely having realised the turmoil that existed. She arrived
just before the execution of Louis XVI., and with a few friends was
able to study the spirit of the time, and begin a work on the subject,
which, unfortunately, never reached more than its first volume. Her
account, in a letter to Mr. Johnson, shows how acutely she felt in her
solitude on the day of the King's execution; how, for the first time
in her life, at night she dared not extinguish her candle. In fact,
the faculty of feeling for others so acutely as to gain courage to
uphold reform, does not necessarily evince a lack of sensitiveness on
the part of the individual, as seems often to be supposed, but the
very reverse. We can well imagine how Mary felt the need of sympathy
and support, separated as she was from her friends and from her
country, which was now at war with France. Alone at Neuilly, where she
had to seek shelter both for economy and safety, with no means of
returning to England, and unable to go to Switzerland through her
inability to procure a passport, her money dwindling, still she
managed to continue her literary work; and as well as some letters on
the subject of the Revolution, she wrote at Neuilly all that was ever
finished of her _Historical and Moral View of the French
Revolution_. Her only servant at this time was an old gardener, who
used to attend her on her rambles through the woods, and more than
once as far as Paris. On one of these occasions she was so sickened
with horror at the evidence of recent executions which she saw in the
streets that she began boldly denouncing the perpetrators of such
savagery, and had to be hurried away for her life by some sympathetic
onlookers. It was during this time of terror around and depression
within that Mary met Captain Gilbert Imlay, an American, at the house
of a mutual friend.

Now began the complication of reasons and deeds which caused bitter
grief in not only one generation. Mary was prompted by loneliness,
love, and danger on all hands. There was risk in proclaiming herself
an English subject by marriage, if indeed there was at the time the
possibility of such a marriage as would have been valid in England,
though, as the wife of an American citizen, she was safe. Thus, at a
time when all laws were defied, she took the fatal step of trusting in
Imlay's honour and constancy; and, confident of her own pure motives,
entered into a union which her letters to him, full of love,
tenderness, and fidelity, proved that she regarded as a sacred
marriage; all the circumstances, and, not least, the pathetic way she
writes to him of their child later on, prove how she only wished to
remain faithful to him. It was now that the sad experiences of her
early life told upon her and warped her better judgment; she who had
seen so much of the misery of married life when love was dead,
regarded that side, not considering the sacred relationship, the right
side of marriage, which she came to understand later--too late, alas!

So passed this _annee terrible_, and with it Mary's short-lived
happiness with Imlay, for before the end we find her writing,
evidently saddened by his repeated absences. She followed him to
Havre, where, in April, their child Fanny was born, and for a while
happiness was restored, and Mary lived in comfort with him, her time
fully occupied between work and love for Imlay and their child; but
this period was short, for in August he was called to Paris on
business. She followed him, but another journey of his to England only
finished the separation. Work of some sort having been ever her one
resource, she started for Norway with Fanny and a maid, furnished with
a letter of Imlay's, in which he requested "all men to know that he
appoints Mary Imlay, his wife, to transact all his business for him."
Her letters published shortly after her return from Denmark, Norway,
and Sweden, divested of the personal details, were considered to show
a marked advance in literary style, and from the slow modes of
travelling, and the many letters of introduction to people in all the
towns and villages she visited, she was enabled to send home
characteristic details of all classes of people. The personal portions
of the letters are to be found among her posthumous works, and these,
with letters written after her return, and when she was undoubtedly
convinced of Imlay's baseness and infidelity, are terrible and
pathetic records of her misery--misery which drove her to an attempt
at suicide. This was fortunately frustrated, so that she was spared to
meet with a short time of happiness later, and to prove to herself and
Godwin, both previous sceptics in the matter, that lawful marriage can
be happy. Mary, rescued from despair, returned to work, the restorer,
and refused all assistance from Imlay, not degrading herself by
receiving a monetary compensation where faithfulness was wanting. She
also provided for her child Fanny, as Imlay disregarded entirely his
promises of a settlement on her.

As her literary work brought her again in contact with the society she
was accustomed to, so her health and spirits revived, and she was able
again to hold her place as one of its celebrities. And now it was that
her friendship was renewed with that other celebrity, whose philosophy
ranged beyond his age and century, and probably beyond some centuries
to come. His advanced ideas are, nevertheless, what most thinking
people would hope that the race might attain to when mankind shall
have reached a higher status, and selfishness shall be less allowed in
creeds, or rather in practice; for how small the resemblance between
the founder of a creed and its followers is but too apparent.

So now Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, the author of
_Political Justice_, have again met, and this time not under
circumstances as adverse as in November 1790, when he dined in her
company at Mr. Johnson's, and was disappointed because he wished to
hear the conversation of Thomas Paine, who was a taciturn man, and he
considered that Mary engrossed too much of the talk. Now it was
otherwise; her literary style had gained greatly in the opinion of
Godwin, as of others, and, as all their subjects of interest were
similar, their friendship increased, and melted gently into mutual
love, as exquisitely described by Godwin himself in a book now little
known; and this love, which ended in marriage, had no after-break.

But we must now again retrace our steps, for in the father of Mary
Shelley we have another of the representative people of his time,
whose early life and antecedents must not be passed over.

William Godwin, the seventh of thirteen children, was born at
Wisbeach, Cambridgeshire, on March 3, 1756. His parents, both of
respectable well-to-do families, were well known in their native
place, his great-great-grandfather having been Mayor of Newbury in
1706. The father, John Godwin, became a dissenting minister, and
William was brought up in all the strictness of a sectarian country
home of that period. His mother was equally strict in her views; and a
cousin, who became one of the family--a Miss Godwin, afterwards Mrs.
Sotheran, with whom William was an especial favourite--brought in aid
her strongly Calvinistic tendencies. His first studies began with an
"Account of the Pious Deaths of many Godly Children"; and often did he
feel willing to die if he could, with equal success, engage the
admiration of his friends and the world. His mother devoutly believed
that all who differed from the basis of her own religious views would
endure the eternal torments of hell; and his father seriously reproved
his levity when, one Sunday, he happened to take the cat in his arms
while walking in the garden. All this naturally impressed the child at
the time, and his chief amusement or pleasure was preaching sermons in
the kitchen every Sunday afternoon, unmindful whether the audience was
duly attentive or not. From a dame's school, where, by the age of
eight, he had read through the whole of the Old and New Testament, he
passed to one held by a certain Mr. Akers, celebrated as a penman and
also moderately efficient in Latin and Mathematics. Godwin next became
the pupil of Mr. Samuel Newton, whose Sandemanian views, surpassing
those of Calvin in their wholesale holocaust of souls, for a time
impressed him, till later thought caused him to detest both these
views and the master who promulgated them. Indeed, it is not to be
wondered at that so thinking a person as Godwin, remembering the rules
laid down by those he loved and respected in his childhood, should
have wandered far into the abstract labyrinths of right and wrong,
and, wishing to simplify what was right, should have travelled in his
imagination into the dim future, and have laid down a code beyond the
scope of present mortals. Well for him, perhaps, and for his code, if
this is yet so far beyond that it is not taken up and distorted out of
all resemblance to his original intention before the time for its
possible practical application comes. For Godwin himself it was also
well that, with these uncongenial early surroundings, he, when the
time came to think, was of the calm--most calm and unimpassioned
philosophic temperament, instead of the high poetic nature; not that
the two may not sometimes overlap and mingle; but with Godwin the
downfall of old ideas led to reasoning out new theories in clear
prose; and even this he would not give to be rashly and
indiscriminately read at large, but published in three-guinea volumes,
knowing well that those who could expend that sum on books are not
usually inclined to overthrow the existing order of things. In fact,
he felt it was the rich who wanted preaching to more than the poor.

Apart from sectarian doctrines, his tutor, Mr. Newton, seems to have
given Godwin the advantage of the free range of his library; and
doubtless this was excellent education for him at that time. After he
had acted as usher for over a year, from the age of fifteen, his
mother, at his father's death in 1772, wished him to enter Homerton
Academy; but the authorities would not admit him on suspicion of
Sandemanianism. He, however, gained admittance to Hoxton College. Here
he planned tragedies on Iphigenia and the death of Caesar, and also
began to study Sandeman's work from a library, to find out what he was
accused of. This probably caused, later, his horror of these ideas,
and also started his neverending search after truth.

In 1777 he became, in his turn, a dissenting minister; until, with
reading and fresh acquaintances ever widening his views, gradually his
profession became distasteful to him, and in 1788, on quitting
Beaconsfield, he proposed opening a school. His _Life of Lord
Chatham_, however, gained notice, and he was led to other political
writing, and so became launched on a literary career. With his simple
tastes he managed not only for years to keep himself till he became
celebrated, but he was also a great help to different members of his
family; several of these did not come as well as William out of the
ordeal of their strict education, but caused so little gratification
to their mother and elder brother--a farmer who resided near the
mother--that she destroyed all their correspondence, nearly all
William's also, as it might relate to them. Letters from the cousin,
Mrs. Sotheran, show, however, that William Godwin's novel-writing was
likewise a sore point in his family.

In the midst of his literary work and philosophic thought, it was
natural that Godwin should get associated with other men of advanced
opinions. Joseph Fawcet, whose literary and intellectual eminence was
much admired in his day, was one of the first to influence Godwin--his
declamation against domestic affections must have coincided well with
Godwin's unimpassioned justice; Thomas Holcroft, with his curious
ideas of death and disease, whose ardent republicanism led to his
being tried for his life as a traitor; George Dyson, whose abilities
and zeal in the cause of literature and truth promised much that was
unfortunately never realised: these, and later Samuel Taylor
Coleridge, were acknowledged by Godwin to have greatly influenced his
ideas. Godwin acted according to his own theories of right in adopting
and educating Thomas Cooper, a second cousin, whose father died,
ruined, in India. The rules laid down in his diary show that Godwin
strove to educate him successfully, and he certainly gained the
youth's confidence, and launched him successfully in his own chosen
profession as an actor. Godwin seems always to have adhered to his
principles, and after the success of his _Life of Chatham_, when
he became a contributor to the _Political Herald_, he attracted
the attention of the Whig Party, to whose cause he was so useful that
Fox proposed, through Sheridan, to set a fund aside to pay him as
Editor. This, however, was not accepted by Godwin, who would not lose
his independence by becoming attached to any party.

He was naturally, to a great extent, a follower of Rousseau, and a
sympathiser with the ideas of the French Revolution, and was one of
the so-called "French Revolutionists," at whose meetings Horne Tooke,
Holcroft, Stanhope, and others figured. Nor did he neglect to defend,
in the _Morning Chronicle_, some of these when on their trial for
high treason; though, from his known principles, he was himself in
danger; and without doubt his clear exposition of the true case
greatly modified public opinion and helped to prevent an adverse
verdict. Among Godwin's multifarious writings are his novels, some of
which had great success, especially _Caleb Williams_; also his
sketch of English History, contributed to the _Annual Register_.
His historical writing shows much research and study of old documents.
On comparing it with the contemporary work of his friends, such as
Coleridge, it becomes evident that his knowledge and learning were
utilized by them. But these works were anonymous; by his _Political
Justice_ he became famous. This work is a philosophical treatise
based on the assumption, that man, as a reasoning being, can be guided
wholly by reason, and that, were he educated from this point of view,
laws would be unnecessary. It must be observed here that Godwin could
not then take into consideration the laws of heredity, now better
understood; how the criminal has not only the weight of bad education
and surroundings against him, but also how the very formation of the
head is in certain cases an almost insuperable evil. He considered
many of the laws relating to property, marriage, &c., unnecessary, as
people guided by reason would not, for instance, wish for wealth at
the expense of starving brethren. Far in the distance as the
realisation of this doctrine may seem, it should still be remembered
that, as with each physical discovery, the man of genius must foresee.
As Columbus imagined land where he found America; as a planet is fixed
by the astronomer before the telescope has revealed it to his mortal
eye; so in the world of psychology and morals it is necessary to point
out the aim to be attained before human nature has reached those
divine qualifications which are only shadowed forth here and there by
more than usually elevated natures. In fact Godwin, who sympathised
entirely with the theories of the French Revolution, and even
surpassed French ideas on most subjects, disapproved of the immediate
carrying out of these ideas and views; he wished for preaching and
reasoning till people should gradually become convinced of the truth,
and the rich should be as ready to give as the poor to receive. Even
in the matter of marriage, though strongly opposed to it personally
(on philosophical grounds, not from the ordinary trite reasoning
against it), he yielded his opinion to the claim of individual justice
towards the woman whom he came to love with an undying affection, and
for whom, fortunately for his theories, he needed not to set aside the
impulse of affection for that of justice; and these remarks bring us
again to the happy time in the lives of Godwin and Mary
Wollstonecraft, when friendship melted into love, and they were
married shortly afterwards, in March 1797, at old St. Pancras Church,
London.

This new change in her life interfered no more with the energy for
work with Mary Wollstonecraft than with Godwin. They adopted the
singular, though in their case probably advantageous, decision to
continue each to have a separate place of abode, in order that each
might work uninterruptedly, though, as pointed out by an earnest
student of their character, they probably wasted more time in their
constant interchange of notes on all subjects than they would have
lost by a few conversations. On the other hand, as their thoughts were
worth recording, we have the benefit of their plan. The short notes
which passed between Mary and Godwin, as many as three and four in a
day, as well as letters of considerable length written during a tour
which Godwin made in the midland counties with his friend Basil
Montague, show how deep and simple their affection was, that there was
no need of hiding the passing cloud, that they both equally disliked
and wished to simplify domestic details. There was, for instance, some
sort of slight dispute as to who should manage a plumber, on which
occasion Mary seems to have been somewhat hurt at its being put upon
her, as giving an idea of her inferiority. This, with the tender jokes
about Godwin's icy philosophy, and the references to a little
"William" whom they were both anxiously expecting, all evince the
tender devotion of husband and wife, whose relationship was of a
nature to endure through ill or good fortune. Little Fanny was
evidently only an added pleasure to the two, and Godwin's thought of
her at a distance and his choice of the prettiest mug at Wedgewood's
with "green and orange-tawny flowers," testify to the fatherly
instinct of Godwin. But, alas! this loving married friendship was not
to last long, for the day arrived, August 30, 1797, which had been
long expected; and the hopeful state of the case is shown in three
little letters written by Mary to her husband, for she wished him to
be spared anxiety by absence. And there was born a little girl, not
the William so quaintly spoken of; but the Mary whose future life we
must try and realise. Even now her first trouble comes, for, within a
few hours of the child's birth, dangerous symptoms began with the
mother; ten days of dread anxiety ensued, and not all the care of
intelligent watchers, nor the constant waiting for service of the
husband's faithful intimate friends, nor the skill of the first
doctors could save the life which was doomed: Fate must wreak its
relentless will. Her work remains to help many a struggling woman, and
still to give hope of more justice to follow; perchance at one
important moment it misled her own child. And so the mysteries of the
workings of Fate and the mysteries of death joined with those of a new
life.





CHAPTER II.

GIRLHOOD OF MARY--PATERNAL TROUBLES.


And now with the beginning of this fragile little life begin the
anxieties and sorrow of poor Godwin. The blank lines drawn in his
diary for Sunday 10th September 1797, show more than words how
unutterable was his grief. During the time of his wife's patient agony
he had managed to ask if she had any wishes concerning Fanny and Mary.
She was fortunately able to reply that her faith in his wisdom was
entire.

On the very day of his wife's death Godwin himself wrote some letters
he considered necessary, nor did he neglect to write in his own
characteristic plain way to one who he considered had slighted his
wife. His friends Mr. Basil Montague and Mr. Marshall arranged the
funeral, and Mrs. Reveley, who had with her the children before the
mother's death, continued her care till they returned to the father on
the 17th. Mrs. Fenwick, who had been in constant attendance on Mary,
then took care of them for a time. Indeed, Mary's fame and character
brought forward many willing to care for the motherless infant, whose
life was only saved from a dangerous illness by this loving zeal.
Among others Mr. and Mrs. Nicholson appeared with offers of help, and
as early as September 18 we find that Godwin had requested Mr.
Nicholson to give an opinion as to the infant's physiognomy, with a
view to her education, which he (with Trelawny later) considered could
not begin too soon, or as the latter said: "Talk of education
beginning at two years! Two months is too late."

Thus we see Godwin conscientiously trying to bring in an imperfect
science to assist him in the difficult task of developing his infant's
mind, in place of the watchful love of an intelligent mother, who
would check the first symptoms of ill-temper, be firm against
ill-placed determination, encourage childish imagination, and not let
the idea of untruth be presented to the child till old enough to
discriminate for itself. A hard task enough for any father, still
harder for Godwin, beset by all kinds of difficulties, and having to
work in the midst of them for his and the two children's daily
sustenance. Friends, and good friends, he certainly had; but most
people will recognise that strength in these matters does not rest in
numbers. The wet nurse needed by little Mary, though doubtless the
essential necessity of the time, would not add to the domestic
comfort, especially to that of Miss Louisa Jones, a friend of Harriet
Godwin, who had been installed to superintend Godwin's household. This
latter arrangement, again, did not tend to Godwin's comfort, as from
Miss Jones's letters it is evident that she wished to marry him. Her
wish not being reciprocated, she did not long remain an inmate of his
house, and the nurse, who was fortunately devoted to the baby, was
then over-looked from time to time by Mrs. Reveley and other ladies.

Of anecdotes of Mary's infancy and childhood there are but few, but
from the surroundings we can picture the child. Her father about this
time seems to have neglected all his literary work except the one of
love--writing his wife's "Memoirs" and reading her published and
unpublished work. In this undertaking he was greatly assisted by Mr.
Skeys. Her sisters, on the contrary, gave as little assistance as
possible, and ended all communication with Godwin at this difficult
period of his life, and for a long while utterly neglected their poor
sister's little children, when they might have repaid to some extent
the debt of gratitude they owed to her.

All these complicated and jarring circumstances must have suggested to
Godwin that another marriage might he the best expedient, and he
accordingly set to work in a systematic way this time to acquire his
end. Passion was not the motive, and probably there was too much
system, for he was unsuccessful on two occasions. The first was with
Miss Harriet Lee, the authoress of several novels and of _The
Canterbury Tales_. Godwin seems to have been much struck by her,
and, after four interviews at Bath, wrote on his return to London a
very characteristic and pressing letter of invitation to her to stay
in his house if she came to London, explaining that there was a lady
(Miss Jones) who superintended his home. As this letter met with no
answer, he tried three additional letters, drafts of all being extant.
The third one was probably too much considered, for Miss Lee returned
it annotated on the margin, expressing her disapproval of its
egotistical character. Godwin, however, was not to be daunted, and
made a fourth attempt, full of many sensible and many quaint reasons,
not all of which would be pleasing to a lady; but he succeeded in
regaining Miss Lee's friendship, though he could not persuade her to
be his wife. This was from April to August 1798.

About the same time there was a project of Godwin and Thomas Wedgewood
keeping house together; but as they seem to have much differed when
together, the plan was wisely dropped. Godwin's notes in his plan of
work for the year 1798 are interesting, as showing how he was anxious
to modify some of his opinions expressed in _Political Justice_,
especially those bearing on the affections, which he now admits must
naturally play an important part in human action, though he avers his
opinion that none of his previous conclusions are affected by these
admissions. Much other work was planned out during this time, and many
fresh intellectual acquaintances made, Wordsworth and Southey among
others. His mother's letters to Godwin show what a constant drain his
family were upon his slender means, and how nobly he always strove to
help them when in need. These letters are full of much common sense,
and though quaintly illiterate are, perhaps, not so much amiss for the
period at which they were written, when many ladies who had greater
social and monetary advantages were, nevertheless, frequently astray
in these matters.

Godwin's novel of _St. Leon_, published in 1799, was another
attempt to give the domestic affections their due place in his scheme
of life; and the description of Marguerite, drawn from Mary
Wollstonecraft, and that of her wedded life with St. Leon, are
beautiful passages illustrative of Godwin's own happy time of
marriage.

In July 1799, the death of Mr. Reveley suggested a fresh attempt at
marriage to Godwin; but now he was probably too prompt, for, knowing
that Mr. Reveley and his wife had not always been on the best of
terms, although his sudden death had driven her nigh frantic, Godwin,
relying on certain previous expressions of affection for himself by
Mrs. Reveley, proposed within a month after her husband's death, and
begged her to set aside prejudices and cowardly ceremonies and be his.
As in the previous case, a second and a third lengthy letter, full of
subtle reasoning, were ineffectual, and did not even bring about an
interview till December 3rd, when Godwin and Mrs. Reveley met, in
company with Mr. Gisborne. To this gentleman Mrs. Reveley was
afterwards married. We shall meet them both again later on.

All this time there is little though affectionate mention of Mary
Godwin in her father's diary. Little Fanny, who had always been a
favourite, used to accompany Godwin on some of his visits to friends.

Many of Godwin's letters at this time show that he was not too
embarrassed to be able to assist his friends in time of need; twenty
pounds sent to his friend Arnot, ten pounds shortly afterwards through
Mrs. Agnes Hall to a lady in great distress, whose name is unknown,
prove that he was ready to carry out his theories in practice. It is
interesting to observe these frequent instances of generosity, as they
account to some extent for his subsequent difficulties. In the midst
of straits and disappointments Godwin managed to have his children
well taken care of, and there was evidently a touching sympathy and
confidence between himself and them, as shown in Godwin's letters to
his friend Marshall during a rare absence from the children occasioned
by a visit to friends in Ireland. His thought and sincere solicitude
and messages, and evident anxiety to be with them again, are all
equally touching; Fanny having the same number of kisses sent her as
Mary, with that perfect justice which is so beneficial to the
character of children. We can now picture the scarcely three year old
Mary and little Fanny taken to await the return of the coach with
their father, and sitting under the Kentish Town trees in glad
expectancy.

But this time of happy infancy was not to last long; for doubtless
Godwin felt it irksome to have to consider whether the house-linen was
in order, and such like details, and was thus prepared, in 1801, to
accept the demonstrative advances of Mrs. Clairmont, a widow who took
up her residence next door to him in the Polygon, Somers Town. She had
two children, a boy and a girl, the latter somewhat younger than Mary.
The widow needed no introduction or admittance to his house, as from
the balcony she was able to commence a campaign of flattery to which
Godwin soon succumbed. The marriage took place in December 1801, at
Shoreditch Church, and was not made known to Godwin's friends till
after it had been solemnised. Mrs. Clairmont evidently did her best to
help Godwin through the pecuniary difficulties of his career. She was
not an ignorant woman, and her work at translations proves her not to
have been without cleverness of a certain kind; but this probably made
more obvious the natural vulgarity of her disposition. For example,
when talking of bringing children up to do the work they were fitted
to, she discovered that her own daughter Jane was fitted for
accomplishments, while little Mary and Fanny were turned into
household drudges. These distinctions would naturally engender an
antipathy to her, which later on would help in estranging Mary from
her father's house; but occasionally we have glimpses of the little
ones making themselves happy, in childlike fashion, in the midst of
difficulties and disappointments on Godwin's part. On one occasion
Mary and Jane had concealed themselves under a sofa in order to hear
Coleridge recite _The Ancient Mariner_. Mrs. Godwin, unmindful of
the delight they would have in listening to poetry, found the little
ones and was banishing them to bed; when Coleridge with
kind-heartedness, or the love ever prevalent in poets of an audience,
however humble, interceded for the small things who could sit under a
sofa, and so they remained up and heard the poet read his poem. The
treat was never afterwards forgotten, and one cannot over-estimate
such pleasures in forming the character of a child. Nor were such the
only intellectual delights the children shared in, for Charles Lamb
was among Godwin's numerous friends at this period, and a frequent
visitor at his house; and we can still hear in imagination the merry
laughter of children, old and young, whom he gathered about him, and
who brightened at his ever ready fun. One long-remembered joke was how
one evening, at supper at Godwin's, Lamb entered the room first,
seized a leg of mutton, blew out the candle, and placed the mutton in
Martin Burney's hand, and, on the candle being relit, exclaimed, "Oh,
Martin! Martin! I should never have thought it of you."

This and such like whimsies (as when Lamb would carry off a small
cruet from the table, making Mrs. Godwin go through a long search, and
would then quietly walk in the next day and replace it as if it were
the most natural thing for a cruet to find its way into a pocket),
would break the monotony of the children's days. It was infinitely
more enlivening than the routine in some larger houses, where poor
little children are frequently shut up in a back room on a third floor
and left for long hours to the tender mercies of some nurse, whose
small slaves or tyrants they become, according to their nature. And
when we remember that the Polygon at that time was touching fields and
lanes, we know that little Mary must have had one of the delights most
prized by children, picking buttercups and daisies, unmolested by a
gardener. But during this happy age, when the child would probably
have infinitely more pleasure in washing a cup and saucer than in
playing the scales, however superior the latter performance may be,
Godwin had various schemes and hopes frustrated. At times his health
was very precarious, with frequent fainting fits, causing grave
anxiety for the future. In 1803 his son William was born, making the
fifth member of his miscellaneous family. At times Mrs. Godwin's
temper seems to have been very much tried or trying, and on one
occasion she expressed the wish for a separation; but the idea appears
to have been dropped on Godwin's writing one of his very calm and
reasonable letters, saying that he had no obstacle to oppose to it,
and that, if it was to take place, he hoped it would not be long in
hand; he certainly went on to say that the separation would be a
source of great misery to himself. Either this reason mollified Mrs.
Godwin, or else the apparent ease with which she might have carried
out her project, made her hesitate, as we hear no more of it. Godwin,
however, had occasion to write her philosophically expostulatory
letters on her temper, which we must hope, for the children's sake,
produced a satisfactory effect; for surely nothing can be more
injurious to the happiness of children than to witness the
ungovernable temper of their elders; but with Godwin's calm
disposition, quarrels must have been one-sided, and consequently less
damaging.

Godwin superintended the education of his children himself, and wrote
many books for this purpose, which formed part of his juvenile library
later on. "Baldwin's" fables and his histories for children were
published by Godwin under this cognomen, owing to his political views
having prejudiced many people against his name. His chief aim appears
to have been to keep a certain moral elevation before the minds of
children, as in the excellent preface to the _History of Rome_,
where he dwells on the fact of the stories of Mucius, Curtius, and
Regulus being disputed; but considers that stories--if they be no
more--handed down from the great periods of Roman history are
invaluable to stimulate the character of children to noble sentiments
and actions. But in Godwin's case, as in many others, it must have
been a difficult task counteracting the effect of example; for we
cannot imagine the influence of a woman to have been ennobling who
could act as Mrs. Godwin did at an early period of her married life;
who, when one of her husband's friends, whom she did not care about,
called to see Godwin, explained that it was impossible, as the kettle
had just fallen off the hob and scalded both his legs. When the same
friend met Godwin the next day in the street, and was surprised at his
speedy recovery, the philosopher replied that it was only an invention
of his wife. The safe-guard in such cases is often in the quick
apprehension of children themselves, who are frequently saved from the
errors of their elders by their perception of the consequences.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Godwin's influence must have been lessened in
other matters where her feeling for propriety, if with her only from a
conventional and time-serving point of view, might have averted the
fatal consequences which ensued later. Could she have gained the love
and respect of the children instead of making them, as afterwards
expressed by Mary, hate her, her moral precepts would have worked to
more effect. It may have appeared to the girls, who could not
appreciate the self-devotion of Godwin in acting against theories for
the sake of individual justice, that the cause of all their
unhappiness (and doubtless at times they felt it acutely) was owing to
their father not having adhered to his previous anti-matrimonial
opinions, and they were thus prepared to disregard what seemed to them
social prejudices.

In the meantime Godwin struggled on to provide for his numerous
family, not necessarily losing his enthusiasm through his need of
money as might be supposed, for, fortunately, there are great
compensations in nature, and not unfrequently what appears to be done
for money is done really for love of those whom money will relieve;
and so through this necessity the very love and anguish of the soul
are transfused into the work. On the other hand, we see not
infrequently, after the first enthusiasm of youth wears off, how the
poetic side of a man's nature deteriorates, and the world and his work
lose through the very ease and comfort he has attained to, so that the
real degradation of the man or lowering of his nature comes more from
wealth than poverty: thus what are spoken of as degrading
circumstances, are, truly, the very reverse--a fact felt strongly by
Shelley and such like natures who feel their ease is to be shared. We
find Godwin working at his task of Chaucer, with love, daily at the
British Museum, and corresponding with the Keeper of Records in the
Exchequer Office and Chapter of Westminster, and Herald College, and
the Librarian of the Bodleian Library; also writing many still extant
letters pertaining to the subject. The sum of three hundred pounds
paid to Godwin for this work was considered very small by him, though
it scarcely seems so now.

Godwin found means and time occasionally to pay a visit to the
country, as in September 1803, when he visited his mother and
introduced his wife to her, as also to his old friends in Norwich; and
during the sojourn of Mrs. Godwin and some of the children at
Southend, a deservedly favourite resort of Mrs. Godwin, and later of
Mrs. Shelley (for the sweet country and lovely Essex lanes, of even so
late as thirty or forty years ago, made it a resort loved by artists)
Godwin superintended the letter-writing of his children. We ascertain,
also, from their letters to him during absence, that they studied
history and attended lectures with him; so that in all probability his
daughter Mary's mind was really more cultivated and open to receive
impressions in after life than if she had passed through a "finishing"
education at some fashionable school. It is no mere phrase that to
know some people is a liberal education; and if she was only saved
from perpetrating some of the school-girl trash in the way of drawing,
it was a gain to her intellect, for what can be more lowering to
intelligence of perception than the utterly inartistic frivolities
which are supposed to inculcate art in a country out of which the
sense of it had been all but eradicated in Puritan England, though
some great artists had happily reappeared! Mary at least learnt to
love literature and poetry, and had, by her love of reading, a
universe of wealth opened to her--surely no mean beginning. In art,
had she shown any disposition to it, her father could undoubtedly have
obtained some of the best advice of his day, as we see that Mulready
and Linnell were intimate enough to spend a day at Hampstead with the
children and Mrs. Godwin during Godwin's absence in Norfolk in 1808;
in fact, Charles Clairmont, as seen in his account written to his
step-father, was at this time having lessons from Linnell. Perhaps
Mrs. Godwin had not discovered the same gift in Mary.

At this same date we have the last of old Mrs. Godwin's letters to her
son. She speaks of the fearful price of food owing to the war, says
that she is weary, and only wishes to be with Christ. Godwin spent a
few days with her then, and the next year we find him at her funeral,
as she died on August 13, 1809. His letter to his wife on that
occasion is very touching, from its depth of feeling. He mourns the
loss of a superior who exercised a mysterious protection over him, so
that now, at her death, he for the first time feels alone.

Another severance from old associations had occurred this year in the
death of Thomas Holcroft who, in spite of occasional differences, had
always known and loved Godwin well, and whose last words when dying
and pressing his hands were, "My dear, dear friend." Godwin, however,
did not at all approve of Hazlitt, in bringing out Holcroft's life,
using all his private memoranda and letters about his friends, and
wrote expostulatory letters to Mrs. Holcroft on the subject. He
considered it pandering to the worst passion of the malignity of
mankind.

There do not appear to be many records of the Godwin family kept
during the next two or three years. Mary was intimate with the
Baxters. It was Mr. Baxter whom Mrs. Godwin tried to put off by the
story of Godwin's scalded legs. We also find Mary at Ramsgate with
Mrs. Godwin and her brother William, in May 1811, when she was nearly
fourteen years old. As Mary and Mrs. Godwin were evidently unsuited to
live together, these visits, though desirable for her health, were
probably not altogether pleasant times to either, to judge by remarks
in Godwin's letters to his wife. He hopes that, in spite of
unfavourable appearances, Mary will still become a wise, and, what is
more, a good and happy woman; this, evidently, in answer to some
complaint of his wife. During these years many fresh acquaintances
were made by Godwin; but as they had little or no apparent influence
on Mary's after career, we may pass them over and notice at once the
first communications which took place between Godwin and another
personage, by far the greatest in this life drama, even great in the
world's drama, for now for the first time in this story we come across
the name of Shelley, with the words in Godwin's diary, "Write to
Shelley." Having arrived at a name so full of import to all concerned
in this Life, we must yet again retrace the past.




CHAPTER III.

SHELLEY.


Shelley, a name dear to so many now, who are either drawn to him by
his lyrics, which open an undreamed-of fountain of sympathy to many a
silent and otherwise solitary heart, or who else are held spell-bound
by his grand and eloquent poetical utterances of what the human race
may aspire to. A being of this transcendent nature seems generally to
be more the outcome of his age, of a period, the expression of nature,
than the direct scion of his own family. So in Shelley's case there
appears little immediate intellectual relation between himself and his
ancestors, who seem for nearly two centuries preceding his birth to
have been almost unknown, except for the registers of their baptisms,
deaths, and marriages.

Prior to 1623, a link has been hitherto missing in the family
genealogy--a link which the scrupulous care of Mr. Jeaffreson has
brought to light, and which his courtesy places at the service of the
writer. This connects the poet's family with the Michel Grove
Shelleys, a fact hitherto only surmised. The document is this:--


      SHELLEY'S CASE AND COKE'S REPORT, 896.

25 Sept. 1 & 2 Philip and Mary. Between Edward Shelley of
Worminghurst, in the county of Sussex, Esqre., of the one part, and
Rd. Cowper and Wm. Martin of the other part.

90a. Covt. to suffer recovery to enure as to Findon Manor, etc.

90b. To the use of him the said Edward Shelley and of the heirs male
of his body lawfully begotten, and for lack of such issue.

To the use of the heirs male of the body of John Shelley, Esqre.,
sometime of Michael Grove, deceased, father to the said Edward
Shelley, etc.


It will be obvious to all readers of this important document that the
last clause carries us back unmistakably from the Worminghurst
Shelleys to the Michel Grove Shelleys, establishing past dispute the
relationship of father and son.

The poet's great grandfather Timothy, who died twenty-two years before
Shelley's birth, seems to have gone out of the beaten track in
migrating to America, and practising as an apothecary, or, as Captain
Medwin puts it, "quack doctor," probably leaving England at an early
age; he may not have found facilities for qualifying in America, and
we may at least hope that he would do less harm with the simple herbs
used by the unqualified than with the bleeding treatment in vogue
before the Brunonian system began. Anyway, he made money to help on
the fortunes of his family. His younger son, Bysshe, who added to the
family wealth by marrying in succession two heiresses, also gained a
baronetcy by adhering to the Whig Party and the Duke of Norfolk. He
appears to have increased in eccentricity with age and became
exceedingly penurious. He was evidently not regarded as a desirable
match for either of his wives, as he had to elope with both of them;
and his marriage with the first, Miss Michell, the grandmother of the
poet, is said to have been celebrated by the parson of the Fleet. This
took place the year before these marriages were made illegal. These
facts about Shelley's ancestors, though apparently trivial, are
interesting as proving that his forerunners were not altogether
conventional, and making the anomaly of the coming of such a poet less
strange, as genius is not unfrequently allied with eccentricity.

Bysshe's son Timothy seems to have conformed more to ordinary views
than his father, and he married, when nearly forty, Elizabeth Pilfold,
reputed a great beauty. The first child of this marriage, born on
August 4, 1792, was the poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, born to all the
ease and comfort of an English country home, but with the weird
imaginings which in childhood could people the grounds and
surroundings with ancient snakes and fairies of all forms, and which
later on were to lead him far out of the beaten track. Shelley's
little sisters were the confidants of his childhood, and their
sympathy must have made up then for the lack of it in his parents.
Some of their childish games at diabolical processions, making a
little hell of their own by burning a fagot stack, &c., shows how
early his searching mind dispersed the terrors, while it delighted in
the picturesque or fantastic images, of superstition. Few persons
realise to themselves how soon highly imaginative children may be
influenced by the superstitions they hear around them, and assuredly
Shelley's brain never recovered from some of these early influences:
the mind that could so quickly reason and form inferences would
naturally be of that sensitive and susceptible kind which would bear
the scar of bad education. Shelley's mother does not appear so much to
have had real good sense, as what is generally called common sense,
and thus she was incapable of understanding a nature like that of her
son; and thought more of his bringing home a well-filled game bag (a
thing in every way repulsive to Shelley's tastes) than of trying to
understand what he was thinking; so Shelley had to pass through
childhood, his sisters being his chief companions, as he had no
brother till he was thirteen. At ten years of age he went to school at
Sion House Academy, and thence to Eton, before he was turned twelve.
At both these schools, with little exception, he was solitary, not
having much in common with the other boys, and consequently he found
himself the butt for their tormenting ingenuity. He began a plan of
resistance to the fagging system, and never yielded; this seems to
have displeased the masters as much as the boys. At Eton he formed one
of his romantic attachments for a youth of his own age. He seems now,
as ever after, to have felt the yearning for perfect sympathy in some
human being; as one idol fell short of his self-formed ideal, he
sought for another. This was not the nature to be trained by bullying
and flogging, though sympathy and reason would never find him
irresponsive. His unresentful nature was shown in the way he helped
the boys who tormented him with their lessons; for though he appeared
to study little in the regular way, learning came to him naturally.

It must not, however, be supposed that Shelley was quite solitary, as
the records of some of his old schoolfellows prove the contrary; nor
was he averse to society when of a kind congenial to his tastes; but
he always disliked coarse talk and jokes. Nature was ever dear to him;
the walks round Eton were his chief recreation, and we can well
conceive how he would feel in the lovely and peaceful churchyard of
Stoke Pogis, where undoubtedly he would read Gray's Elegy. These
feelings would not be sympathised with by the average of schoolboys;
but, on the other hand, it is not apparent why Shelley should have
changed his character, as the embryo poet would also necessarily not
care for all their tastes. In short, the education at a public school
of that day must have been a great cruelty to a boy of Shelley's
sensitive disposition.

One great pleasure of Shelley's while at Eton was visiting Dr. Lind,
who assisted him with chemistry, and whose kindness during an illness
seems to have made a lasting impression on the youth; but generally
those who had been in authority over him had only raised a spirit of
revolt. One great gain for the world was the passionate love of
justice and freedom which this aroused in him, as shown in the stanzas
from _The Revolt of Islam_--

  Thoughts of great deeds were mine, dear friend, when first
  The clouds which wrap this world from youth did pass.

There can be no doubt that these verses are truly autobiographical;
they indicate a first determination to war against tyranny. The very
fact of his great facility in acquiring knowledge must have been a
drawback to him at school where time on his hands was, for lack of
better material, frequently spent in reading all the foolish romances
he could lay hold of in the neighbouring book-shops. His own early
romances showed the influence of this bad literature. Of course, then
as now, fine art was a sealed book to the young student. It is
difficult to fancy what Shelley might have been under different early
influences, and whether perchance the gain to himself might not have
been a loss to the world. Fortunately, Shelley's love of imagination
found at last a field of poetry for itself, and an ideal future for
the world instead of turning to ruffianism, high or low, which the
neglect of the legitimate outlet for imagination so frequently
induces. How little this moral truth seems to be considered in a
country like ours, where art is quite overlooked in the system of
government, and where the hereditary owners of hoarded wealth rest
content, as a rule, with the canvases acquired by some ancestor on a
grand tour at a date when Puritan England had already obliterated
perception; so that frequently a few _chefs d'oeuvre_ and many
daubs are hung indiscriminately together, giving equal pleasure or
distaste for art. This is apposite to dwell on as showing the want of
this influence on Shelley and his surroundings. From a tour in Italy
made by Shelley's own father the chief acquisition is said to have
been a very bad picture of Vesuvius.

It is becoming difficult to realise at present, when flogging is
scarcely permitted in schools, what the sufferings of a boy like
Shelley must have been; sent to school by his father with the
admonition to his master not to spare the rod, and where the masters
left the boy, who was undoubtedly unlike his companions, to treatment
of a kind from which one case of death at least has resulted quite
recently in our own time. Such proceedings which might have made a
tyrant or a slave of Shelley succeeded only in making a rebel; his
inquiring mind was not to be easily satisfied, and must assuredly have
been a difficulty in his way with a conservative master; already, at
Eton, we find him styled Mad Shelley and Shelley the Atheist.

In 1810 Shelley removed to University College, Oxford, after an
enjoyable holiday with his family, during which he found time for an
experiment in authorship, his father authorising a stationer to print
for him. If only, instead of this, his father had checked for a time
these immature productions of Shelley's pen, the youth might have been
spared banishment from Oxford and his own father's house, and all the
misfortune and tragedy which ensued. Shelley also found time for a
first love with his cousin, Harriet Grove. This also the unfortunate
printing facilities apparently quashed. There is some discussion as to
whether he left Eton in disgrace, but any way the matter must have
been a slight affair, as no one appears to have kept any record of it;
and should one of the masters have recommended the removal of Shelley
from such uncongenial surroundings, it would surely have been very
sensible advice.

Oxford was, in many respects, much to Shelley's taste. The freedom of
the student life there suited him, as he was able to follow the
studies most to his liking.

The professional lectures chiefly in vogue, on divinity, geometry, and
history, were not the most to his liking--history in particular seemed
ever to him a terrible record of misery and crime--but in his own
chambers he could study poetry, natural philosophy, and metaphysics.
The outcome of these studies, advanced speculative thought, was not,
however, to be tolerated within the University precincts, and,
unfortunately for Shelley, his favourite subjects of conversation were
tabooed, had it not been for one light-hearted and amusing friend,
Thomas Jefferson Hogg, a gentleman whose acquaintance Shelley made
shortly after his settling in Oxford in the Michaelmas term of 1810.
This friendship, like all that Shelley entered on, was intended to
endure "for ever," and, as usual, Shelley impulsively for a time threw
so much of his own personality into his idea of the character of his
friend as to prepare the way for future disappointment.

Hogg was decidedly intellectual, but with a strong conservative
tendency, making him quite content with the existing state of things
so long as he could take life easily and be amused. His intellect,
however, was clear enough to make him perceive that it is the poet who
raises life from the apathy which assails even the most worldly-minded
and contented, so that he in his turn was able to love Shelley with
the love which is not afraid of a laugh, without the possibility of
which no friendship, it has been said, can be genuine. Many are the
charming stories giving a living presence to Shelley while at Oxford,
preserved by this friend; here we meet with him taking an infant from
its mother's arms while crossing the bridge with Hogg, and questioning
it as to its previous existence, which surely the babe had not had
time to forget if it would but speak--but alas, the mother declared
she had never heard it speak, nor any other child of its age; here
comes also the charming incident of the torn coat, and Shelley's
ecstasy on its having been fine drawn. These and such-like amusing
anecdotes show the genuine and unpedantic side of Shelley's character,
the delightfully natural and loveable personality which is ever allied
to genius. With the fun and humour were mixed long readings and
discussions on the most serious and solemn subjects. Plato was
naturally a great delight to him; he had a decided antipathy to Euclid
and mathematical reasoning, and was consequently unable to pursue
scientific researches on a system; but his love of chemistry and his
imaginative faculty led him to wish in anticipation for the forces of
nature to be utilised for human labour, &c. Shelley's reading and
reading powers were enormous. He was seldom without a pocket edition
of one of his favourite great authors, whose works he read with as
much ease as the modern languages.

This delightful time of study and ease was not to endure. Shelley's
nature was impelled onwards as irresistibly as the mountain torrent,
and as with it all obstacles had to yield. He could not rest satisfied
with reading and discussions with Hogg on theological and moral
questions, and, being debarred debate on these subjects in the
university, he felt he must appeal to a larger audience, the public,
and consequently he brought out, with the cognisance of Hogg, a
pamphlet entitled _The Necessity of Atheism_. This work actually
got into circulation for about twenty minutes, when it was discovered
by one of the Fellows of the College, who immediately convinced the
booksellers that an _auto-da-fe_ was necessary, and all the
pamphlets were at once consigned to the back kitchen fire; but the
affair did not end there. Shelley's handwriting was recognised on some
letters sent with copies of the work, and consequently both he and
Hogg were summoned before a meeting in the Common room of the College.
First Shelley, and then Hogg, declined to answer questions, and
refused to disavow all knowledge of the work, whereupon the two were
summarily expelled from Oxford. Shelley complained bitterly of the
ungentlemanly way they were treated, and the authorities, with equal
reason, of the rebellious defiance of the students; yet once more we
must regret that there was no one but Hogg who realised the latent
genius of Shelley, that there was no one to feel that patience and
sympathy would not be thrown away upon a young man free from all the
vices and frivolities of the time and place, whose crime was an
inquiring mind, and rashness in putting his views into print. Surely
the dangers which might assail a young man thus thrown on the world
and alienated from his family by this disgrace might have received
more consideration. This seems clear enough now, when Shelley's ideas
have been extolled even in as well as out of the pulpit.

So now we find Shelley expelled from Oxford and arrived in London in
March 1811, when only eighteen years of age, alone with Hogg to fight
the battle of life, with no previous experience of misfortune to give
ballast to his feelings, but with a brain surcharged with mysteriously
imbibed ideas of the woes of others and of the world--a dangerous age
and set of conditions for a youth to be thrown on his own resources.
Admission to his father's house was only to be accorded on the
condition of his giving up the society of Hogg; this condition,
imposed at the moment when Shelley considered himself indebted to Hogg
for life for the manner in which he stood by him in the Oxford ordeal,
was refused. Shelley looked out for lodgings without result, till a
wall paper representing a trellised vine apparently decided him. With
twenty pounds borrowed from his printer to leave Oxford, Shelley is
now settled in London, unaided by his father, a small present of money
sent by his mother being returned, as he could not comply with the
wishes which she expressed on the same occasion. From this time the
march of events or of fate is as relentless as in a Greek drama, for
already the needful woman had appeared in the person of Harriet
Westbrook, a schoolfellow of his sisters at their Clapham school.
During the previous January Shelley had made her acquaintance by
visiting her at her father's house, with an introduction and a present
from one of his sisters. There seems no reason to doubt that Shelley
was then much attracted by the beautiful girl, smarting though he was
at the time from his rupture with Harriet Grove; but Shakespeare has
shown us that such a time is not exempt from the potency of love
shafts.

This visit of Shelley was followed by his presenting Harriet Westbrook
with a copy of his new romance, _St. Irvyne_, which led to some
correspondence. It was now Harriet's turn to visit Shelley, sent also
by his sisters with presents of their pocket money. Shelley moreover
visited the school on different occasions, and even lectured the
schoolmistress on her system of discipline. There is no doubt that
Harriet's elder sister, with or without the cognisance of their
father, a retired hotel-keeper, helped to make meetings between the
two; but Shelley, though young and a poet, was no child, and must have
known what these dinners and visits and excursions might lead to; and
although the correspondence and conversation may have been more
directly upon theological and philosophical questions, it seems
unlikely that he would have discoursed thus with a young girl unless
he felt some special interest in her; besides, Shelley need not have
felt any great social difference between himself and a young lady
brought up and educated on a footing of equality with his own sisters.
It is true that her family acted and encouraged him in a way
incompatible with old-fashioned ideas of gentility, but Shelley was
too prone at present to rebel against everything conventional to be
particularly sensitive on this point.

In May Shelley was enabled to return to his father's house, through
the mediation of his uncle, Captain Pilfold, and henceforth an
allowance of two hundred a year was made to him. But there had been
work done in the two months that no reconciliations or allowances
afterwards could undo; for while Shelley was bent on proselytising
Harriet Westbrook, not less for his sisters' sake than for his own,
Harriet, in a school-girl fashion, encouraged by her sister and not
discouraged by her father, was falling in love with Shelley. How were
the _bourgeois_ father and sister to comprehend such a character
as Shelley's, when his own parents and all the College authorities
failed to do so? If Shelley were not in love he must have appeared so,
and Harriet's family did their best by encouraging and countenancing
the intimacy to lead to a marriage, they naturally having Harriet's
interests more at heart than Shelley's.

However, the fact remains that Shelley was a most extraordinary being,
an embryo poet, with all a poet's possible inconsistencies, the very
brilliancy of the intellectual spark in one direction apparently
quelling it for a time in another. In most countries and ages a poet
seems to have been accepted as a heaven-sent gift to his nation; his
very crimes (and surely Shelley did not surpass King David in
misdoing?) have been the _lacrymae rerum_ giving terrible vitality
to his thoughts, and so reclaiming many others ere some fatal deed is
done; but in England the convention of at least making a show of
virtues which do not exist (perhaps a sorry legacy from Puritanism)
will not allow the poet to be accepted for what he really is, nor his
poetry to appeal, on its own showing, to the human heart. He must be
analysed, and vilified, or whitewashed in turn.

At any rate Shelley was superior to some of the respectable vices of
his class, and one alleged concession of his father was fortunately
loathsome to him, viz.--that he (Sir Timothy) would provide for as
many illegitimate children as Percy chose to have, but he would not
tolerate a _mesalliance_. To what a revolt of ideas must such a
code of morality have led in a fermenting brain like Shelley's! Were
the mothers to be provided for likewise, and to be considered more by
Shelley's respectable family than his lawful wife? We fear not.

A visit to Wales followed, during which Shelley's mind was in so
abstracted a state that the fine scenery, viewed for the first time,
had little power to move him, while Harriet Westbrook, with her sister
and father, was only thirty miles off at Aberystwith; a hasty and
unexplained retreat of this party to London likewise hastened the
return of Shelley. Probably the father began to perceive that Shelley
did not come forward as he had expected, and so he wished to remove
Harriet from his vicinity. Letters from Harriet to Shelley followed,
full of misery and dejection, complaining of her father's decision to
send her back to school, where she was avoided by the other girls, and
called "an abandoned wretch" for sympathising or corresponding with
Shelley; she even contemplated suicide. It is curious how this idea
seems to have constantly recurred to her, as in the case of some
others who have finally committed the act.

Shelley wrote, expostulating with the father. This probably only
incensed him more. He persisted. Harriet again addressed Shelley in
despair, saying she would put herself under his protection and fly
with him; a difficult position for any young man, and for Shelley most
perplexing, with his avowed hostility to marriage, and his recent
assertions that he was not in love with Harriet. But it must be put to
Shelley's credit that, having intentionally or otherwise led Harriet
on to love him, he now acted as a gentleman to his sister's school
friend, and, influenced to some extent by Hogg's arguments in a
different case in favour of marriage, he at once determined to make
her his wife. He wrote to his cousin, Charles Grove, announcing his
intention and impending arrival in London, saying that as his own
happiness was altogether blighted, he could now only live to make that
of others, and would consequently marry Harriet Westbrook.

On his arrival in London, Shelley found Harriet looking ill and much
changed. He spent some time in town, during which Harriet's spirits
revived; but Shelley, as he described in a letter to Hogg, felt much
embarrassment and melancholy. Not contemplating an immediate marriage,
he went into Sussex to pay a visit to Field Place and to his uncle at
Cuckfield. While here he renewed the acquaintance of Miss Kitchener, a
school mistress of advanced ideas, who had the care of Captain
Pilfold's children. To this acquaintance we owe a great number of
letters which throw much light on Shelley's _exalte_ character at
this period, and which afford most amusing reading. As usual with
Shelley, he threw much of his own personality into his ideas of Miss
Hitchener, who was to be his "eternal inalienable friend," and to help
to form his lovely wife's character on the model of her own. All these
particulars are given in letters from Shelley to his friends, Charles
Grove, Hogg, and Miss Hitchener; to the latter he is very explanatory
and apologetic, but only after the event.

Shelley had scarcely been a week away from London when he received a
letter from Harriet, complaining of fresh persecution and recalling
him. He at once returned, as he had undertaken to do if required, and
then resolved that the only thing was for him to marry at once. He
accordingly went straight to his cousin Charles Grove, and with
twenty-five pounds borrowed from his relative Mr. Medwin, a solicitor
at Horsham, he entered on one of the most momentous days of his
life--the 24th or 25th August 1811. After passing the night with his
cousin, he waited at the door of the coffee-house in Mount Street,
watching for a girlish figure to turn the corner from Chapel Street.
There was some delay; but what was to be could not be averted, and
soon Harriet, fresh as a rosebud, appeared. The coach was called, and
the two cousins and the girl of sixteen drove to an inn in the city to
await the Edinburgh mail. This took the two a stage farther on the
fatal road, and on August 28 their Scotch marriage is recorded in
Edinburgh. The marriage arrangements were of the quaintest, Shelley
having to explain his position and want of funds to the landlord of
some handsome rooms which he found. Fortunately the landlord undertook
to supply what was needed, and they felt at ease in the expectation of
Shelley's allowance of money coming; but this never came, as Shelley's
father again resented his behaviour, and took that easy means of
showing as much.

Shelley's wife had had the most contradictory education possible for a
young girl of an ordinary and unimaginative nature--the conventional
surface education of a school of that time followed by the talks with
Shelley, which were doubtless far beyond her comprehension. What could
be the outcome of such a marriage? Had Shelley, indeed, been a
different character, all might have gone smoothly, married as he was
to a beautiful girl who loved him; but at present all Shelley's ideas
were unpractical. Without the moral treadmill of work to sober his
opinions, whence was the ballast to come when disappointment ensued--
disappointment which he constantly prepared for himself by his
over-enthusiastic idea of his friends? Troubles soon followed the
marriage, in the nonarrival of the money; and after five weeks in
Edinburgh, where Hogg had joined the Shelleys, followed by a little
over a week in York, the need became so pressing that Shelley felt
obliged to take a hurried journey to his uncle's at Cuckfield, in
order to try and mollify his father; in this he did not succeed.
Though absent little over a week, he prepared the way by his absence,
and by leaving Harriet under the care of Hogg, for a series of
complications and misunderstandings which never ended till death had
absolved all concerned. Harriet's sister, Eliza, was to have returned
to York with Shelley; but hearing of her sister's solitary state with
Hogg in the vicinity, she hurried alone to York, and from this time
she assumed an ascendency over the small _menage_ which, though
probably useful in trifles, had undoubtedly a bad effect in the long
run. Eliza, rightly from her point of view, thought it necessary to
stand between Hogg and her sister. It seems far more likely that
Hogg's gentlemanly instincts would have led him to treat his friend's
wife with respect than that he should have really given cause for the
grave suspicions which Shelley writes of in subsequent letters to Miss
Hitchener. Might not Eliza be inclined to take an exaggerated view of
any attention shown by Hogg to her sister, and have persuaded Harriet
to the same effect? Harriet having seen nothing of the world as yet,
and Eliza's experience before her father's retirement from his tavern
not having been that in which ladies and gentlemen stand on a footing
of equality. It is true that Shelley writes of an interview with Hogg
before leaving York, in which he describes Hogg as much confused and
distressed; but perhaps allowance ought to be made for the fanciful
turn of Shelley's own mind. However this may have been, they left York
for Keswick, where they delighted in the glorious scenery. At this
time we see in letters to Miss Hitchener how Shelley felt the
necessity of intellectual sympathy, and how he seemed to consider this
friend in some way necessary for the accomplishment of various
speculative and social ideas. Here at Chestnut Cottage novels were
commenced and much work planned, left unfinished, or lost. While at
Keswick he made the acquaintance of Southey and wrote his first letter
to William Godwin, whose works had already had a great influence on
him, and whose personal acquaintance he now sought. The often quoted
letter by which Shelley introduced himself to Godwin was followed by
others, and led up to the subsequent intimacy which had such important
results.

Shelley with his wife and sister-in-law paid a visit to the Duke of
Norfolk at Greystoke; this led to a quasi reconciliation with
Shelley's father, owing to which the allowance of two hundred a year
was renewed, Harriet's father making her a similar allowance, it is
presumed, owing to feeling flattered by his daughter's reception by
the Duchess. Shortly afterwards some restless turn in the trio caused
a further move to be contemplated, and now Shelley entered on what
must have appeared one of the strangest of his fancies--a visit to
Ireland to effect Catholic Emancipation and to procure the repeal of
the Union Act. Hogg pretends to believe that Shelley did not even
understand the meaning of the phrases, and most probably many English
would not have cared to do so. In any case Shelley's enthusiasm for an
oppressed people must be admired, and it is noticeable that our
greatest statesman of the present day has come to agree with Shelley
after eighty years of life and of conflicting endeavour.

The plan adopted by Shelley caused infinite amusement to Harriet, who
entered with animation into the fun of distributing her husband's
pamphlets on Irish affairs, and could not well understand his
seriousness on the subject. The pamphlets and the speeches which he
delivered were not likely to conciliate the different Irish parties.
The Catholics were not to be attracted by an Atheist or Antichristian,
however tolerant he might be of them, and of all religions which tend
to good. Lord Fingal and his adherents were not inclined to follow the
Ardent Republican and teacher of Humanitarianism; nor were the extreme
party likely to be satisfied with appeals, however eloquent, for the
pursuit and practice of virtue before any political changes were to be
expected. Shelley's exposition of the failure of the French Revolution
by the fact that although it had been ushered in by people of great
intellect, the moral side of intellect had been wanting, was not what
Irish Nationalists then wished to consider. In fact, Shelley had not
much pondered the character of the people he went to help and reform,
if he thought a week of these arguments could have much effect.
Shelley was much sought after by the poor Irish, during another month
of his stay in Dublin, on account of his generosity. Here, also, they
met Mrs. Nugent. Harriet's correspondence with her has recently been
published. With the views which she expresses, those of the present
writer coincide in not casting all the blame of the future separation
on Shelley; Harriet naturally feels Mary most at fault, and does not
perceive her own mistakes. Failing in his aim, and being disheartened
by the distress on all sides which he could not relieve, and more
especially owing to the strong remonstrance of Godwin, who considered
that if there were any result it could only be bloodshed, the poet
migrated to Nantgwilt in Wales. Here the Shelleys contemplated
receiving Godwin and his family, Miss Hitchener with her American
pupils; and why not Miss Hitchener's father, reported to have been an
old smuggler? Here Shelley first met Thomas Love Peacock. They were
unable to remain at Nantgwilt owing to various mishaps, and migrated
to that terrestrial paradise in North Devon, Lynmouth. This lovely
place, with its beautiful and romantic surroundings loved and
exquisitely described by more than one poet, cannot fail to be dear to
those who know it with and through them. Here, in a garden in front of
their rose and myrtle covered cottage, within near sound of the
rushing Lynn, would Shelley stand on a mound and let off his
fire-balloons in the cool evening air. Here Miss Hitchener joined
them. What talks and what rambles they must have had, none but those
who have known a poet in such a place could imagine; but perhaps
Shelley, though a poet, was not sufficient for the three ladies in a
neighbourhood where the narrow winding paths may have caused one or
other to appear neglected and left behind. Poor Shelley, recalled from
heaven to earth by such-like vicissitudes, naturally held by his wife;
and forthwith disagreements began which ended in Miss Hitchener's
being called henceforth the "Brown Demon." What a fall from the ideal
reformer of the world!--another of Shelley's self-made idols
shattered.

The Shelleys wished Fanny Godwin to join their party at Lynmouth; but
this Godwin would not permit without more knowledge of his friends,
although Shelley wrote affecting letters to the sage, trusting that he
might be the stay of his declining years. Amid the romantic scenery
of Lynmouth, Shelley wrote much of his _Queen Mab_; he also
addressed a sonnet, and a longer poem, to Harriet, in August. These
poems certainly evince no falling off in affection, although they are
not like the glowing love-poems of a later period.

From Lynmouth Shelley, with his party, moved to Swansea, and thence to
Tremadoc, where they agreed to take a house named Tanyrallt, and then
they moved on to London to meet Godwin, who, in the meanwhile, had
paid a visit to Lynmouth just after their flitting. Here Shelley had
the delight of seeing the philosopher face to face, and now visits
were exchanged, and walks and dinners followed, and, among other
friends of Godwin, Shelley met Clara de Boinville and Mrs. Turner, who
is said to have inspired his first great lyric, "Away the moor is dark
beneath the moon," but whose husband strongly objected to Shelley
visiting their house.

On this occasion Fanny Godwin was the most seen; Mary Godwin, who was
just fifteen, only arriving towards the end of Shelley's stay in
London from a visit to her friends, the Baxters, in Scotland. No
mention is made of her by Shelley, though she must have dined in his
company about November 5, 1812. During this visit to London Shelley
became reconciled with Hogg, calling on him and begging him to come to
see him and his wife. This certainly does not look as if Shelley still
thought seriously of his former difference with Hogg--scarcely a year
before. Shortly after, on the 8th, we find the poor "Brown Demon"
leaving the Shelleys, with the promise of an annuity of one hundred
pounds. She reopened a school later on at Edmonton, and was much loved
by her pupils. Shelley now returned to Tremadoc, where he passed the
winter in his house at Tanyrallt, helping the poor through this severe
season of 1812-13. Here one of Shelley's first practical attempts for
humanity was assisting to reclaim some land from the sea; but
Shelley's early effort, unlike the last one of Goethe's _Faust_,
did not satisfy him, and shortly afterwards another real or fancied
attempt on his life, on February 26th, 1813, obliged the party to
leave the neighbourhood, this time again for Ireland. He spent a short
time on the Lake of Killarney, with his wife and Eliza. In April we
again find him in London, in an hotel in Albemarle Street; thence he
passed to Half Moon Street, where in June their first child, Ianthe,
was born. The baby was a great pleasure to Shelley, who, however,
objected to the wet nurse. He wrote a touching sonnet to his wife and
child three months later. All this time there is no apparent change of
affection suggested. Soon afterwards, while at Bracknell, near
Windsor, they kept up the acquaintance of the De Boinville family, and
Shelley began the study of Italian with them while Harriet
relinquished hers of Latin. From Bracknell Shelley paid his last visit
to Field Place to see his mother, in the absence of his father and the
younger children. An interview with his father followed, and a journey
to Edinburgh, and then in December a return to London; certainly an
ominous restlessness, caused, no doubt, considerably by want of money,
but moving about did not seem the way to save or to make it. Shelley
visited Godwin several times during his stay in London. At this time
Shelley had to raise ruinous post-obits on the family property, and
for legal reasons he now thought it desirable to follow the Scotch
marriage by one in the English church, and he and Harriet were
re-married on March 22, 1814, at St. George's Church.

But even now little rifts seem to have been growing, small enough
apparently, and yet, like the small cloud in the sky, indicating the
coming storm. This very time of trials, through want of money, seems
to have been chosen by Harriet to show a hankering after luxuries
which their present income could not warrant. A carriage was
purchased, and was with its accompanying expenses added to the small
_menage_; silver plate was also considered a necessity; and,
perhaps the thing most distasteful to Shelley's natural tastes, the
wet nurse was retained, although Harriet had always appeared to be a
strong young woman capable of undertaking her maternal duty. This fact
was considered by Peacock to have chiefly alienated Shelley's
affection.

Apart from this, poor Harriet, with the birth of her child, seems to
have given up her studies, which she had evidently pursued to please
Shelley, and to have awakened to the fact that it was a difficult task
to take up the whole cause of suffering humanity and aid it with their
slender purse, and keep their wandering household going. It is
difficult to imagine the genius that could have sufficed, and it
certainly needed genius, or something very like it, to keep the
Faust-like mind of Shelley in any peace.

There is a letter from Fanny Godwin to Shelley, after his first visit,
speaking of his wife as a fine lady. From this accusation Shelley
strongly defended her, but now he felt that this disaster might really
be impending. Poor pretty Harriet could not understand or talk
philosophy with Shelley, and, what was worse, her sister was ever
present to prevent any spontaneous feeling of dependence on her
husband from endearing her to him. Even before his second ceremony of
marriage with Harriet we find him writing a letter in great dejection
to Hogg. He seemed really in the poet's "premature old age," as he
expressed it, though none like the poet have the power of
rejuvenescence. His detestation of his sister-in-law at this time was
extreme, but he appears to have been incapable of sending her away. It
was a perfect torture to him to see her kiss his baby. He writes thus
from Mrs. de Boinville's at Bracknell, where he had a month's rest
with philosophy and sweet converse. Talking was easier than acting
philosophy at this juncture, and planning the amelioration of the
world pleasanter than struggling to keep one poor soul from sinking to
degradation; but who shall judge the strength of another's power, or
feel the burden of another's woe? We can only tell how the expression
of his agony may help ourselves; but surely it is worthy of admiration
to find Shelley, four days after writing this most heart-broken letter
to Hogg, binding his chains still firmer by remarrying, so that, come
what would, no slur should be cast on Harriet.

Harriet, who had never understood anything of housekeeping, and whose
_menage_, according to Hogg, was of the funniest, now that the
novelty of Shelley's talk and ways was over, and when even the
constant changes were beginning to satiate her, apparently spent a
time of intolerable _ennui_. It is still remembered in the
Pilfold family how Harriet appeared at their house late one night in a
ball dress, without shawl or bonnet, having quarrelled with Shelley. A
doctor who had to perform some operation on her child was struck with
astonishment at her demeanour, and considered her utterly without
feeling, and Shelley's poem, "Lines, April 1814," written, according
to Claire Clairmont's testimony, when Mr. Turner objected to his
visiting his wife at Bracknell, gives a touching picture of the
comfortless home which he was returning to; in fact, they seem to have
no sooner been together again than Harriet made a fresh departure.
There is one imploring poem by Shelley, addressed to Harriet in May
1814, begging her to relent and pity, if she cannot love, and not to
let him endure "The misery of a fatal cure"; but Harriet had not
generosity, if it was needed, and, according to Thornton Hunt, she
left Shelley and went to Bath, where she still was in July. What
Harriet really aimed at by this foolish move is doubtful; it was
certainly taken at the most fatal moment. To leave Shelley alone, near
dear friends, when she had been repelling his advances to regain her
affection, and making his home a place for him to dread to come into,
was anything but wise; but wisdom was not Harriet's _forte_; she
needed a husband to be wise for her. Shelley, however, had most gifts,
except such wisdom at this time.

Beyond these facts, there seems little but surmises to judge by. It
may always be a question how much Shelley really knew, or believed, of
certain ideas of infidelity on his wife's part in connection with a
Major Ryan--ideas which, even if believed, would not have justified
his subsequent mode of action.

But here, for a time, we must leave poor Harriet--all her loveliness
thrown away upon Shelley--all Shelley's divine gifts worthless to her.
What a strange disunion to pass through life with! Only the sternest
philosophy or callousness could have achieved it--and Shelley was
still so young, with his philosophy all in theory.




CHAPTER IV.

MARY AND SHELLEY.


We left Godwin about to write in answer to the letter referred to from
Shelley. The correspondence which followed, though very interesting in
itself, is only important here as it led to the increasing intimacy of
the families. These letters are full of sound advice from an elderly
philosopher to an over-enthusiastic youth; and one dated March 14,
1812, begging Shelley to leave Ireland and come to London, ends with
the pregnant phrase, "You cannot imagine how much all the females of
my family, Mrs. Godwin and _three_ daughters, are interested in
your letters and your history." So here, at fourteen, we find Mary
deeply interested in all concerning Shelley; poor Mary, who used to
wander forth, when in London, from the Skinner Street Juvenile Library
northwards to the old St. Pancras Cemetery, to sit with a book beside
her mother's grave to find that sympathy so sadly lacking in her home.

About this time Godwin wrote a letter concerning Mary's education to
some correspondent anxious to be informed on the subject. We cannot do
better than quote from it:--

Your inquiries relate principally to the two daughters of Mary
Wollstonecraft. They are neither of them brought up with an exclusive
attention to the system and ideas of their mother. I lost her in 1797,
and in 1801 I married a second time. One among the motives which led
me to choose this was the feeling I had in myself of an incompetence
for the education of daughters. The present Mrs. Godwin has great
strength and activity of mind, but is not exclusively a follower of
the notions of their mother; and, indeed, having formed a family
establishment without having a previous provision for the support of a
family, neither Mrs. Godwin nor I have leisure enough for reducing
novel theories of education to practice; while we both of us honestly
endeavour, as far as our opportunities will permit, to improve the
mind and characters of the younger branches of our family.

Of the two persons to whom your inquiries relate, my own daughter is
considerably superior in capacity to the one her mother had before.
Fanny, the eldest, is of a quiet, modest, unshowy disposition,
somewhat given to indolence, which is her greatest fault, but sober,
observing, peculiarly clear and distinct in the faculty of memory, and
disposed to exercise her own thoughts and follow her own judgment.
Mary, my daughter, is the reverse of her in many particulars. She is
singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind. Her desire of
knowledge is great, and her perseverance in everything she undertakes
almost invincible. My own daughter is, I believe, very pretty. Fanny
is by no means handsome, but, in general, prepossessing.

By this letter necessity appears to have been the chief motor in the
education of the children. Constantly increasing difficulties
surrounded the family, who were, however, kept above the lowering
influences of narrow circumstances by the intellect of Godwin and his
friends. Even the speculations into which Mrs. Godwin is considered to
have rashly drawn her husband in the Skinner Street Juvenile Library,
perhaps, for a time, really assisted in bringing up the family and
educating the sons.

Before the meeting with Shelley, Mary was known as a young girl of
strong poetic and emotional nature. A story is still remembered by
friends, proving this: just before her last return from the Highlands
preceding her eventful meetings with Shelley, she visited, while
staying with the Baxters, some of the most picturesque parts of the
Highlands, in company with Mr. Miller, a bookseller of Edinburgh; and
he told of her passionate enthusiasm when taken into a room arranged
with looking-glasses round it to reflect the magic view without of
cascade and cloud-capped mountains; how she fell on her knees,
entranced at the sight, and thanked Providence for letting her witness
so much beauty. This was the nature, with its antecedents and
surroundings, to come shortly into communion with Shelley, at the time
of his despondency at his wife's hardness and supposed desertion;
Shelley then, so far from self-sufficiency, yearning after sympathy
and an ideal in life, with all his former idols shattered. Godwin's
house became for him the home of intellectual intercourse. Godwin,
surrounded by a cultivated family, was not thought less of by Shelley,
owing to the accident of his then having a book-shop to look
after--Shelley, whose childhood, though passed in the comforts of an
English country house, yet lacked the riches of the higher culture.
Through two months of various trials Shelley remained on terms of
great intimacy, visiting Godwin's house and constantly dining there.
This was during his wife's voluntary withdrawal to Bath, from
May--when he seems to have entreated her to be reconciled to him--till
July, when she, in her turn, becoming anxious at a four days'
cessation of news, wrote an imploring letter to Hookham, the Bond
Street bookseller, for information about her husband.

In the meantime, what had been passing in Godwin's house? The
Philosopher, whom Shelley loved and revered, was becoming inextricably
involved in money matters. What was needed but this to draw still
closer the sympathies of the poet, who had not been exempt from like
straits? He was thus in the anomalous position of an heir to twenty
thousand a year, who could wish to raise three thousand pounds on his
future expectations, not for discreditable gambling debts, or worse
extravagances, but to save his beloved master and his family from dire
distress.

What a coil of circumstances to be entangling all concerned! Mary
returning from the delights of her Scottish home to find her father,
whom she always devotedly loved, on the verge of bankruptcy, with all
the hopeless vista which her emotional and highly imaginative nature
could conjure up; and then to find this dreaded state of distress
relieved, and by her hero--the poet who, for more than two years, "all
the women of her family had been profoundly interested in."

And for Shelley, the contrast from the desolate home, where sulks and
ill-humour assailed him, and which, for a time, was a deserted home
for him; where facts, or his fitful imagination, ran riot with his
honour, to the home where all showed its roseate side for him; where
all vied to please the young benefactor, who was the humble pupil of
its master; where Mary, in the expanding glow of youth and intellect,
could talk on equal terms with the enthusiastic poet.

Were not the eyes of Godwin and his wife blinded for the time, when
still reconciliation with Harriet was possible? Surely gratitude came
in to play honour false. The one who--were it only from personal
feeling--might have tried to turn the course of the rushing torrent
was not there. Fanny, who had formerly written of Shelley as a hero of
romance, was in Wales during this period.

So, step by step, and day by day, the march of fate continued, till,
by the time that Hookham apparently unbandaged Godwin's eyes, on
receiving Harriet's letter on July 7, 1814, passion seemed to have
subdued the power of will; and the obstacle now imposed by Godwin only
gave added impetus to the torrent, which nothing further could check.

Such times as these in a life seem to exemplify the contrasting
doctrines of Calvin and of Schopenhauer; of two courses, either is
open. But at that time Shelley was more the being of emotion than of
will--unless, indeed, will be confounded with emotion.

We have seen enough to gather that Shelley did not need to enter
furtively the house of his benefactor to injure him in his nearest
tie, but that circumstances drew Shelley to Mary with equal force as
her to him. The meetings by her mother's grave seemed to sanctify the
love which should have been another's. They vaguely tried to justify
themselves with crude principles. But self-deception could not endure
much longer; and when Godwin forbade Shelley his house on July 8,
Shelley, ever impetuous and headstrong, whose very virtues became for
the time vices, thrust all barriers aside.

What deceptions beside self-deception must have been necessary to
carry out so wild a project can be imagined; for certainly neither
Godwin nor, still less, his wife, was inclined to sanction so illegal
and unjust an act. We see, from Hogg's description, how impassioned
was a meeting between Mary and Shelley, which he chanced to witness;
and later on Shelley is said to have rushed into her room with
laudanum, threatening to take it if she would not have pity on him.
These and such like scenes, together with the philosophical notions
which Mary must have imbibed, led up to her acting at sixteen as she
certainly would not have done at twenty-six; but now her knowledge of
the world was small, her enthusiasm great--and evidently she believed
in Harriet's faithlessness--so that love added to the impatience of
youth, which could not foresee the dreadful future. Without doubt,
could they both have imagined the scene by the Serpentine three years
later, they would have shrunk from the action which was a strong link
in the chain that conduced to it.

But now all thoughts but love and self, or each for the other, were
set aside, and on July 20, 1814, we find Mary Godwin leaving her
father's house before five o'clock in the morning, much as Harriet had
left her home three years earlier.

An entry made by Mary in a copy of _Queen Mab_ given to her by
Shelley, and dated in July 1814, shows us how a few days before their
departure they had not settled on so desperate a move. The words are
these:--"This book is sacred to me, and as no other creature shall
ever look into it, I may write in it what I please. Yet what shall I
write--that I love the author beyond all powers of expression, and
that I am parted from him? Dearest and only love, by that love we have
promised to each other, although I may not be yours I can never be
another's. But I am thine, exclusively thine."

Mary in her novel of _Lodore_, published in 1835, gave a version
of the differences between Harriet and Shelley. Though Lord Lodore is
more an impersonation of Mary's idea of Lord Byron than of Shelley,
Cornelia Santerre, the heroine, may be partly drawn from Harriet,
while Lady Santerre, her match-making mother, is taken from Eliza
Westbrook. Lady Santerre, when her daughter is married, still keeps
her under her influence. She is described as clever, though
uneducated, with all the petty manoeuvring which frequently
accompanies this condition. When differences arise between Lodore and
his wife the mother, instead of counselling conciliation, advises her
daughter to reject her husband's advances. Under these circumstances
estrangements lead to hatred, and Cornelia declares she will never
quit her mother, and desires her husband to leave her in peace with
her child. This Lodore will not consent to, but takes the child with
him to America. The mother-in-law speaks of desertion and cruelty, and
instigates law proceedings. By these proceedings all further hope is
lost. We trace much of the history of Shelley and Harriet in this
romance, even to the age of Lady Lodore at her separation, which is
nineteen, the same age as Harriet's. Lady Lodore henceforth is
regarded as an injured and deserted wife. This might apply equally to
Lady Byron; but there are traits and descriptions evidently applicable
to Harriet. Lady Santerre encourages her to expect submission later
from her husband, but the time for that is passed. We here trace the
period when Shelley also begged his wife to be reconciled to him in
May, and likewise Harriet's attempt at reconciliation with Shelley,
all too late, in July, when Shelley had an interview with his wife and
explanations were given, which ended in Harriet apparently consenting
to a separation. The interview resulted in giving Harriet an illness
very dangerous in her state of health; she was even then looking
forward to the birth of a child. It is true that Shelley is said to
have believed that this child was not his, though later he
acknowledged this belief was not correct. The name of a certain Major
Ryan figures in the domestic history of the Shelleys at this time; but
certainly there seems no evidence to convict poor Harriet upon,
although Godwin at a later date informed Shelley that he had evidence
of Harriet having been false to him four months before he left her.
This evidence is not forthcoming, and the position of his daughter
Mary may have made slender evidence seem more weighty at the time to
Godwin; in fact, the small amount of evidence of any kind respecting
Shelley's and Harriet's disagreements and separation seems to point to
the curious anomaly in Shelley's character, that while he did not
hesitate to act upon his avowed early and crude opinions as to the
duration of marriage--opinions which he later expressed disapproval of
in his own criticism of _Queen Mab_--yet the innate feeling of a
gentleman forbade him to talk of his wife's real or supposed defects
even to his intimate friends. Thus when Peacock cross-questioned him
about his liking for Harriet, he only replied, "Ah, but you do not
know how I hated her sister."

However more or less faulty, or sinned against, or sinning, we must
now leave Harriet for a while and accompany Shelley and Mary on that
28th of July when she left her father's house with Jane, henceforth
called "Claire" Clairmont, to meet Shelley near Hatton Garden about
five in the morning. Of the subsequent journey we have ample records,
for with this tour Mary also began a life of literary work, in which
she was fortunately able to confide much to the unknown friend, the
public, which though not always directly grateful to those who open
their hearts to it, is still eager for their works and influenced by
them. And so from Mary herself we learn all that she cared to publish
from her journal in the _Six Weeks' Tour_, and now we have the
original journal by Mary and Shelley, as given by Professor Dowden. We
must repeat for Mary the oft-told tale of Shelley; for henceforth,
till death separates them, their lives are together.

On July 27, 1814, having previously arranged a plan with Mary, which
must have been also known to Claire in spite of her statement that she
only thought of taking an early walk, Shelley ordered the postchaise,
and, as Claire says, he and Mary persuaded her to go too, as she knew
French, with which language they were unfamiliar. Shelley gives the
account of the subsequent journey to Dover and passage to Calais, of
the first security they felt in each other in spite of all risk and
danger. Mary suffered much physically, and no doubt morally, having to
pause at each stage on the road to Dover in spite of the danger of
being overtaken, owing to the excessive heat causing faintness. On
reaching Dover they found the packet already gone at 4 o'clock, so,
after bathing in the sea and dining, they engaged a sailing boat to
take them to Calais, and once more felt security from their pursuers;
for, undoubtedly, had they been found in England, Shelley would have
been unable to carry out his plan.

They were not allowed to pass the Channel together without danger, for
after some hours of calm, during which they could make no progress, a
violent squall broke, and the sails of the little boat were well nigh
shattered, the lightning and thunder were incessant, and the imminent
danger gave Shelley cause for serious thought, as he with difficulty
supported the sleeping form of Mary in his arms. Surely all this scene
is well described in "The Fugitives"--

  While around the lashed ocean.

Though Mary woke to hear they were still far from land, and might be
forced to make for Boulogne if they could not reach Calais, still with
the dawn of a fresh day the lightning paled, and at length they were
landed on Calais sands, and walked across them to their hotel. The
fresh sights and sounds of a new language soon restored Mary, and she
was able to remark the different costumes; and the salient contrast
from the other side of the Channel could not fail to charm three young
people so open to impressions. But before night they were reminded
that there were others whom their destiny affected, for they were
informed that a "fat lady" had been inquiring for them, who said that
Shelley had run away with her daughter. It was poor Mrs. Godwin who
had followed them through heat and storm, and who hoped at least to
induce her daughter Claire to return to the protection of Godwin's
roof; but this, after mature deliberation, which Shelley advised, she
refused to do. Having escaped so far from the routine and fancied
dulness of home life, the impetuous Claire was not to be so easily
debarred from sharing in the magic delight of seeing new countries and
gaining fresh experience. So Mrs. Godwin returned alone, to make the
best story she could so as to satisfy the curious about the strange
doings in her family.

Meanwhile the travellers proceeded by diligence on the evening of the
30th to Boulogne, and then, as Mary was far from well, hastened on
their journey to Paris, where by a week's rest, in spite of many
annoyances through want of money and difficulty in procuring it, Mary
regained sufficient strength to enjoy some of the interesting sights.
A pedestrian tour was undertaken across France into Switzerland. In
Paris the entries in the diary are chiefly Shelley's; he makes some
curious remarks about the pictures in the Louvre, and mentions with
pleasure meeting a Frenchman who could speak English who was some
help, as Claire's French does not seem to have stood the test of a
lengthy discussion on business at that time. At length a remittance of
sixty pounds was received, and they forthwith settled to buy an ass to
carry the necessary portmanteau and Mary when unable to walk; and so
they started on their journey in 1814, across a country recently
devastated by the invading armies of Europe. They were not to be
deterred by the harrowing tales of their landlady, and set out for
Charenton on the evening of August 8, but soon found their ass needed
more assistance than they did, which necessitated selling it at a loss
and purchasing a mule the next day. On this animal Mary set out
dressed in black silk, accompanied by Claire in a like dress, and by
Shelley who walked beside. This primitive way of travelling was not
without its drawbacks, especially after the disastrous wars. Their
fare was of the coarsest, and their accommodation frequently of the
most squalid; but they were young and enthusiastic, and could enter
with delight into the fact that Napoleon had slept in their room at
one inn. And the picturesque though frequently ruined French towns,
with their ramparts and old cathedrals, gave them happiness and
content; on the other hand, the dirt, discomfort, and ignorance they
met with were extreme. At one wretched village, Echemine, people would
not rebuild their houses as they expected the Cossacks to return, and
they had not heard that Napoleon was deposed; while two leagues
farther, at Pavillon, all was different, showing the small amount of
communication between one town and another in France at that time.

Shelley was now obliged to ride the mule, having sprained his ankle,
and on reaching Troyes Mary and Claire were thoroughly fatigued with
walking. There they had to reconsider ways and means; the mule, no
longer sufficing, was sold and a _voiture_ bought, and a man and
a mule engaged for eight days to take them to Neuchatel. But their
troubles did not end here, for the man turned out far more obstinate
than the mule, and was determined to enjoy the sweets of tyranny: he
stopped where he would, regardless of accommodation or no
accommodation, and went on when he chose, careless whether his
travellers were in or out of the carriage. Mary describes how they had
to sit one night over a wretched kitchen fire in the village of Mort,
till they were only too glad to pursue their journey at 3 A.M. In
fact, in those days Mary was able, in the middle of France, to
experience the same discomforts which tourists have now to go much
farther to find out. Their tour was far different from a later one
described by Mary, when comfortable hotels are chronicled; but, oh!
how she then looked back to the happy days of this time. The trio
would willingly have prolonged the present state of things; but, alas!
money vanished in spite of frugal fare, and they decided, on arriving
in Switzerland, and with difficulty raising about thirty-eight pounds
in silver, that their only expedient was to return to England in the
least expensive way possible. They first tried, however, to live
cheaply in an old chateau on the lake of Arx, which they hired at a
guinea a month; but the discomfort and difficulties were too great,
and even the customary resources of reading and writing failed to
induce them to remain in these circumstances. They at one time
contemplated a journey south of the Alps, but, only twenty-eight
pounds remaining to live on from September till December, they
naturally felt it would be safer to return to England, and decided to
travel the eight hundred miles by water as the cheapest mode of
transit. They proceeded from Lucerne by the Reuss, descending several
falls on the way, but had to land at Loffenberg as the falls there
were impassable. The next day they took a rude kind of canoe to Mumph,
when they were forced to continue their journey in a return cabriolet;
but this breaking down, they had to walk some distance to the nearest
place for boats, and were fortunate in meeting with some soldiers to
carry their box. Having procured a boat they reached Basle by the
evening, and leaving there for Mayence the next morning in a boat
laden with merchandise. This ended their short Swiss tour; but they
passed the time delightfully, Shelley reading Mary Wollstonecraft's
letters from Norway, and then, again, perfectly entranced, as night
approached, with the magic effects of sunset sky, hills surmounted
with ruined castles, and the reflected colours on the changing stream.
They proceeded in this manner, staying for the night at inns, and
taking whatever boat could be found in the morning. Thus they reached
Cologne, passing the romantic scenery of the Rhine, recalled to
them later when reading _Childe Harold_. From this point they
proceeded through Holland by diligence, as they found travelling by
the canals and winding rivers would be too slow, and consequently more
expensive. Mary does not appear to have been impressed with the
picturesque flat country of Holland, and gladly reached Rotterdam; but
they were unfortunately detained two days at Marsluys by contrary
winds, spending their last guinea, but feeling triumphant in having
travelled so far for less than thirty pounds.

The captain, being an Englishman, ventured to cross the bar of the
Rhine sooner than the Dutch would have done, and consequently they
returned to England in a severe squall, which must have recalled the
night of their departure and banished tranquillity from their minds,
if they had for a time been soothed by the changing scenes and their
trust in each other.

This account, taken chiefly from Mary's _Six Weeks' Tour_,
published in 1817 first, differs in some details from the diary made
at the time. In the published edition the names are suppressed. Nor
does Mary refer to the extraordinary letter written by Shelley from
Troyes on August 13, to the unfortunate Harriet, inviting her to come
and stay with them in Switzerland, writing to her as his "dearest
Harriet," and signing himself "ever most affectionately yours."
Fortunately the proposal was not carried out; probably neither Harriet
nor Mary desired the other's company, and Shelley was saved the
ridicule, or worse, of this arrangement.




CHAPTER V.

LIFE IN ENGLAND.


On leaving the vessel at Gravesend, they engaged a boatman to take
them up the Thames to Blackwall, where they had to take a coach, and
the boatman with them, to drive about London in search of money to pay
him. There was none at Shelley's banker, nor elsewhere, so he had to
go to Harriet, who had drawn every pound out of the bank. He was
detained two hours, the ladies having to remain under the care of the
boatman till his return with money, when they bade the boatman a
friendly farewell and proceeded to an hotel in Oxford Street.

With Shelley and Mary's return to England their troubles naturally
were not at an end. Instead of money and security, debts and overdue
bills assailed Shelley on all sides; so much so, that he dared not
remain with Mary at this critical moment of their existence, when she,
unable to return to her justly indignant father, had to stay in
obscure lodgings with Claire, while Shelley, from some other retreat,
ransacked London for money from attorneys and on post obits at
gigantic interest. We have now letters which passed between Mary and
Shelley at this time; also Mary's diary, which recounts many of their
misadventures.

Day after day we have such phrases as (October 22) "Shelley goes with
Peacock to the lawyers, but nothing is done," till on December 21 we
find that an agreement is entered into to repay by three thousand
pounds a loan of one thousand. Godwin, even if he would have helped,
could not have done so, as his own affairs were now in their perennial
state of distress; and before long, one of Shelley's chief anxieties
was to raise two hundred pounds to save Mary's father from bankruptcy,
although apparently they only communicated through a lawyer. It is
curious to note how Mary complains of the selfishness of Harriet; poor
Harriet who, according to Mrs. Godwin, still hoped for the return of
her husband's affection to herself, and who sent for Shelley, after
passing a night of danger, some time before her confinement. At one
time Mary entertained an idea, rightly or wrongly conceived, that
Harriet had a plan for ruining her father by dissuading Hookham from
bailing him out from a menaced arrest. And so we find, in the extracts
from the joint diary of Mary and Shelley, Harriet written of as
selfish, as indulging in strange behaviour, and even, when she sends
her creditors to Shelley, as the nasty woman who compels them to
change their lodgings.

Before this entry of January 2, 1815, Harriet had given birth
(November 30) to a second child, a son and heir, which fact Mary notes
a week later as having been communicated to them in a letter from a
_deserted_ wife. What recriminations and heart-burnings, neglect
felt on one side and "insulting selfishness" on the other! In April,
Mary writes, "Shelley passes the morning with Harriet, who is in a
surprisingly good humour;" and then we hear how Shelley went to
Harriet to procure his son who is to appear in one of the courts; and
yet once more Mary writes, "Shelley goes to Harriet about his son,
returns at four; he has been much teased by Harriet"; and then a blank
as to Harriet, for the diary is lost from May 1815 to July 1816.

In the meantime we see in the diary how Mary, far from well at times,
is happy in her love of Shelley--how they enjoy intellectual pleasures
together. They fortunately were satisfied with each other's company,
as most of their few friends fell from them, Mrs. Boinville writing a
"cold and even sarcastic letter;" the Newtons were considered to hold
aloof; and Mrs. Turner, whom they saw a little, told Shelley her
brother considered "you've been playing a German tragedy." Shelley
replied, "Very severe, but very true." About this time Hogg renewed
his acquaintance with Shelley and made that of Mary, though at first
his answer to Shelley's letter was far from sympathetic. On his first
visit they also were disappointed with him; but a little later
(November 14) Hogg called at his friend's lodging in Nelson Square,
when he made a more favourable impression on Shelley by being himself
pleased with Mary. She in return found him amusing when he jested, but
far astray in his opinions when discussing serious matters--in fact,
on a later visit of his, she finds Hogg makes a sad bungle, quite
muddled on the point when in an argument on virtue. In spite of being
shocked by Hogg in matters of philosophy and ethics, she gets to like
him better daily, and he helps them to pass the long November and
December evenings with his lively talk. On one occasion he would
describe an apparition of a lady whom he had loved, and who, he
averred, visited him frequently after her death. They were all much
interested, but annoyed by the interruption of Claire's childish
superstitions. In fact, Hogg glides back to the old friendship of the
university days, and his witticisms must have beguiled many a leisure
hour, while he would also help Mary with her Latin studies now
commenced. Claire frequently accompanied Shelley in his walks to the
lawyers and other business engagements, as Mary's health not
infrequently prevented her taking long walks, and Claire stated later
that Shelley had a positive fear of being alone in London, as he was
haunted by the fear of an attack from Leeson, the supposed Tanyrallt
assassin.

Claire's cleverness and liveliness made her a pleasant companion at
times for Shelley and Mary; but even had they been sisters--and they
had been brought up together as such--Mary might have found her
constant presence in confined lodgings irksome, especially as Claire
tormented herself with superstitious alarms which at times, even in
reading Shakespeare, quite overcame her. Her fanciful imagination also
conjured up causes of offence where none were intended, and magnified
slight changes of mood on Shelley's or Mary's part into intentional
affronts, when she ought rather to have taken Mary's delicate health
and difficult position into consideration. Mary, by all accounts,
seems naturally to have had a sweet and unselfish disposition,
although she had sufficient character to be self-absorbed in her work,
without which no work is worth doing. It is true that her friend
Trelawny later appeared to consider her somewhat selfishly indifferent
to some of Shelley's caprices or whims; but this was with the
pardonable weakness of a man who, although he liked character in a
woman, still considered it was her first duty to indulge her husband
in all his freaks. However this may be, we have constantly recurring
such entries in the joint diary as:--"Nov. 9.--Jane gloomy; she is
very sullen with Shelley. Well, never mind, my love, we are happy.
Nov. 10.--Jane is not well, and does not speak the whole day.... Go to
bed early; Shelley and Jane sit up till twelve talking; Shelley talks
her into good humour." Then--"Shelley explains with Clara."
Again--"Shelley and Clara explain as usual."

Mary writes--"Nov. 26.--Work, &c. &c. Clara in ill humour. She reads
_The Italian_. Shelley sits up and talks her into humour." Dec.
19.--A discussion concerning female character. Clara imagines that I
treat her unkindly. Mary consoles her with her all-powerful
benevolence. "I rise (having already gone to bed) and speak with Clara.
She was very unhappy; I leave her tranquil." Clara herself writes as
early as October--"Mary says things which I construe into unkindness.
I was wrong. We soon became friends; but I felt deeply the imaginary
cruelties I conjured up."

It is clear that where such constant explaining is necessary there
could not be much satisfaction in perpetual intimacy.

Mary is amused at the way Shelley and Claire sit up and "frighten
themselves" by different reasons or forms of superstition, and on one
occasion we have their two accounts of the miraculous removal of a
pillow in Claire's room, Claire avowing it had moved while she did not
see it; and Shelley attesting the miracle because the pillow was on a
chair, much as Victor Hugo describes the peasants of Brittany
declaring that "the frog _must_ have talked on the stone because
there was the stone it talked upon." The result might certainly have
been injurious to Mary, who was awakened by the excited entrance of
Claire into her room. Shelley had to interpose and get her into the
next room, where he informed Claire that Mary was not in a state of
health to be suddenly alarmed. They talked all night, till the dawn,
showing Shelley in a very haggard aspect to Claire's excited
imagination (Shelley had been quite ill the previous day, as noted by
Mary). She excited herself into strong convulsions, and Mary had
finally to be called up to quiet her. The same effect tried a little
later fortunately fell flat; but there seemed no end to the vagaries
of Claire's "unsettled mind" as Shelley calls it, for she takes to
walking in her sleep and groaning horribly, Shelley watching for two
hours, finally having to take her to Mary. Certainly philosophy did
not seem to have a calming effect on Claire Claremont's nature, and
often must Shelley and Mary have bemoaned the fatal step of letting
her leave her home with them. It was more difficult to induce her to
return, if indeed it was possible for her to do so, with the remaining
sister, Fanny, still under Godwin's roof. Fanny's reputation was
jealously looked after by her aunts Everina and Eliza, who
contemplated her succeeding in a school they had embarked in in
Ireland. But it is not to be wondered at that the excitable, lively
Clara should have groaned and bemoaned her fate when transferred from
the exhilaration of travel and the beauties of the Rhine and
Switzerland to the monotony of London life in her anomalous position;
and although both Mary and Shelley evidently wished to be kind to her,
she felt more her own wants than their kindness. Want of occupation
and any settled purpose in life caused pillows and fire-boards to walk
in poor Claire's room, much as other uninteresting objects have to
assume a fictitious interest in the houses and lives of many
fashionably unoccupied ladies of the present day, who divide their
interest between a twanging voice or a damp hand and the last poem of
the last fashionable poet. Shelley is not the only imaginative and
simple-minded poet who could apparently believe in such a phenomenon
as a faded but supernatural flower slipped under his hand in the dark,
other people in whom he has faith being present, and perchance helping
in the performance. Genius is often very confiding.

Peacock was perhaps the one other friend who, during these sombre, if
not altogether unhappy, days of Mary, visited them in their lodgings.
Shelley, through him, hears of some of the movements of his family,
and at one time Mary enters with delight into the romantic idea of
carrying off two heiresses (Shelley's sisters) to the west coast of
Ireland. This idea occupies them for some days through many delightful
walks and talks with Hogg. Peacock also frequently accompanied Shelley
to a pond touching Primrose Hill, where the poet would take a fleet of
paper boats, prepared for him by Mary, to sail in the pond, or he
would twist paper up to serve the purpose--it must have been a
relaxation from his projects of Reform.

We must not leave this delightfully unhappy time without making
reference to the series of letters exchanged between Mary and Shelley
during an enforced separation. Unseen meetings had to be arranged to
avoid encounters with bailiffs, at a time when the landlady refused to
send them up dinner, as she wanted her money, and Shelley, after a
hopeless search for money, could only return home--with cake. During
this time some of their most precious letters were written to each
other. We cannot refrain from quoting some touching passages after
Mary had received letters from Shelley expressing the greatest
impatience and grief at his separation from her, appointing vague
meeting-places where she had to walk backwards and forwards from
street to street, in the hopes of a meeting, and fearful animosity
against the whole race of lawyers, money-lenders, &c., though all his
hopes depended on them at the time. The London Coffee House seemed to
be the safest meeting-place.

Mary, not very clear about business matters at the time, felt most the
separation from her husband: the dangers that surrounded them she only
felt in a reflected way through him. They must have confidence in each
other, she thinks, and their troubles cannot but pass, for there is
certainly money which must come to them!

She thus writes (October 25):


For what a minute did I see you yesterday! Is this the way, my
beloved, we are to live till the 6th? In the morning when I wake, I
turn to look for you. Dearest Shelley, you are solitary and
uncomfortable. Why cannot I be with you, to cheer you and press you to
my heart? Ah! my love, you have no friends. Why then should you be
torn from the only one who has affection for you? But I shall see you
to-night, and this is the hope that I shall live on through the day.
Be happy, dear Shelley, and think of me! Why do I say this, dearest
and only one? I know how tenderly you love me, and how you repine at
your absence from me. When shall we be free from fear of treachery? I
send you the letter I told you of from Harriet, and a letter we
received yesterday from Fanny (this letter made an appointment for a
meeting between Fanny and Clara); the history of this interview I will
tell you when I come, but, perhaps as it is so rainy a day, Fanny will
not be allowed to come at all. I was so dreadfully tired yesterday
that I was obliged to take a coach home. Forgive this extravagance;
but I am so very weak at present, and I had been so agitated through
the day, that I was not able to stand; a morning's rest, however, will
set me quite right again; I shall be well when I meet you this
evening. Will you be at the door of the coffee-house at five o'clock,
as it is disagreeable to go into such places? I shall be there exactly
at that time, and we can go into St. Paul's, where we can sit down.

I send you "Diogenes," as you have no books; Hookham was so
ill-tempered as not to send the book I asked for.


Two more distracted letters from Shelley follow, showing how he had
been in desperation trying to get money from Harriet; how pistols and
microscope were taken to a pawnshop; Davidson, Hookham, and others are
the most hopeless villains, but must be propitiated. Trying letters
also arrive from Mrs. Godwin, who was naturally much incensed with
Mary, and of whom Mary expresses her detestation in writing to
Shelley. One more short letter:


October 27.

MY OWN LOVE,

I do not know by what compulsion I am to answer you, but your letter
says I must; so I do.

By a miracle I saved your L5, and I will bring it. I hope, indeed, oh,
my loved Shelley, we shall indeed be happy. I meet you at three, and
bring heaps of Skinner St. news.

Heaven bless my love and take care of him.

HIS OWN MARY.


As many as three and four letters in a day pass between Shelley and
Mary at this time. Another tender, loving letter on October 28, and
then they decide on the experiment of remaining together one night.
Warned by Hookham, who regained thus his character for feeling, they
dared not return to the London Tavern, but took up their abode for a
night or two at a tavern in St. John Street. Soon the master of this
inn also became suspicious of the young people, and refused to give
more food till he received money for that already given; and again
they had to satisfy their hunger with cakes, which Shelley obtained
money from Peacock to purchase. Another day in the lodgings where the
landlady won't serve dinner, cakes again supplying the deficiency.
Still separation, Shelley seeking refuge at Peacock's. Fresh letters
of despair and love, Godwin's affairs causing great anxiety and
efforts on Shelley's part to extricate him. A Sussex farmer gives
fresh hope. On November 3 Mary writes very dejectedly. She had been
_nearly_ two days without a letter from Shelley, that is, she had
received one of November 2 early in the morning, and that of November
3 late in the evening. That day had also brought Mary a letter from
her old friends the Baxters, or rather from Mr. David Booth, to whom
her friend Isabel Baxter was engaged, desiring no further
communication with her. This was a great blow to Mary, as, Isabel
having been a great admirer of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary had hoped she
would remain her friend. Mary writes:--"She adores the shade of my
mother. But then a married man! It is impossible to knock into some
people's heads that Harriet is selfish and unfeeling, and that my
father might be happy if he chose. By that cant of selling his
daughter, I should half suspect that there has been some communication
between the Skinner Street folks and them."

But now the separation was approaching its end, and the danger of
being arrested past, they move from their lodgings in Church Terrace,
St. Pancras, to Nelson Square, where we have already seen Hogg in
their company and heard of the sulks, fears, and bemoanings of poor
Claire.

Mary Shelley's novel of _Lodore_ gives a good account of the
sufferings of this time, as referred to later. The great resource of
intellectual power is manifested during all this period. During a time
of ill-health, anxieties of all kinds, constant moves from lodgings
where landladies refused to send up dinner, while she was discarded by
all her friends, while she had to walk weary distances, dodging
creditors, to get a sight from time to time of her loved Shelley,
while Claire bemoaned her fate and seems to have done her best to have
the lion's share of Shelley's intellectual attention (for she partook
in all the studies, was able to take walks, and kept him up half the
night "explaining"), Mary indefatigably kept to her studies, read
endless books, and made progress with Latin, Greek, and Italian. In
fact, she was educating herself in a way to subsist unaided hereafter,
to bring up her son, and to fit him for any position that might come
to him in this world of changing fortunes. Whatever faults Mary may
have had, it is not the depraved who prepare themselves for, and
honestly fight out, the battle of life as she did.




CHAPTER VI.

DEATH OF SHELLEY'S GRANDFATHER, AND BIRTH OF A CHILD.


After Shelley had freed himself, for a time, of some of his worst
debts towards the close of 1814, the year 1815, with the death of his
grandfather on January 6, brought a prospect of easier circumstances,
as he was now his father's immediate heir.

Although Shelley was not invited to the funeral, and only knew of the
death through the papers, he determined at once to go into Sussex,
with Claire as travelling companion, as Mary was not well enough for
the journey. Shelley left Claire at Slinfold, and proceeded alone to
his father's house, where he was refused admittance; so he adopted the
singular plan of sitting in the garden, before the door, passing the
time by reading _Comus_. One or two friends come out to see him,
and tell him his father is very angry with him, and the will is
most extraordinary; finally he is referred to Sir Timothy's
solicitor--Whitton. From him, Mary writes in her diary, Shelley hears
that if he will entail the estate he is to have the income of one
hundred thousand pounds.

The property was really left in this way, as explained by Professor
Dowden. Sir Bysshe's possessions did not, probably, fall short of
L200,000. One portion, valued at L80,000, consisted of certain
entailed estates, but without Shelley's concurrence the entail could
not be prolonged beyond himself; the rest consisted of unentailed
landed property and personal property amounting to L120,000. Sir
Bysshe desired that the whole united property should pass from eldest
son to eldest son for generations. This arrangement, however, could
not be effected without Shelley. Sir Bysshe, in his will, offered his
grandson not only the rentals, but the income of the great personal
property, if he would renew the entail of the settled property and
would also consent to entail the unsettled property; otherwise he
should only receive the entailed property, which was bound to come to
him, and which he could dispose of at his pleasure, should he survive
his father. He had one year to make his choice in.

Shelley is considered to have been business-like in his negotiations;
but to have retained his original distaste of 1811 to entailing large
estates to descend to his children--in fact, he appears to have
considered too little the contingency of what would come to them or to
Mary in the event of his death prior to that of his father. Pressing
present needs being paramount at this time, he agreed to an
arrangement by which a portion of the estate valued at L18,000 could
be disposed of to his father for L11,000, and an income of L1,000 a
year secured to Shelley during his and his father's life. At one time
there was an idea of disposing of the entailed estate to his father,
as a reversion, but this was not sanctioned by the Court of Chancery.
Money was also allowed by his father to pay his debts.

So now we see Mary and Shelley with one thousand pounds a year, less
two hundred pounds which, as Shelley ordered, was to be paid to
Harriet in quarterly instalments.

Now that the money troubles were over, which for a time absorbed their
whole attention, Mary began to perceive signs of failing health in
Shelley, and one doctor asserted that he had abscesses on the lungs,
and was rapidly dying of consumption. Whatever these symptoms were
really attributable to they rapidly disappeared, although Shelley was
a frequent sufferer in various ways through his life.

In February, we see also the effect of the mental strain and fatigue
on Mary, as she gave birth, about the 22nd of that month, to a
seven-months' child, a little girl, who only lived a few days, but
long enough to win her mother's and father's love, and leave the first
blank in their lives. The diary of this time, kept up first by Claire,
and then by Mary, gives some details of the baby's short life. On
February 22--


Mary is well and at ease, the child not expected to live, Shelley sits
up with Mary. Much agitated and exhausted. Hogg sleeps here.

23.--Mary well; child unexpectedly alive. Fanny comes and stays the
night.... 24.--Mary still well; favourable symptoms of the child. Dr.
Clarke confirms our hope.... Hogg comes in evening. Shelley unwell and
exhausted. 25.--Child and Mary very well. Shelley is very unwell.
26.--Mary rises to-day. Hogg calls; talk. Mary retires at 6
o'clock.... Shelley has a spasm. On 27 Shelley and Clara go about a
cradle. 28.--Mary goes down-stairs; nurses the baby, and reads
_Corinne_ and works. Shelley goes to consult Dr. Pemberton. On
March 1st nurse baby, read _Corinne_, and work. Peacock and Hogg
call; stay till half-past eleven.


On March 2 they move to fresh lodgings. It is uncertain whether it was
to 26 Marchmont Street, from which place letters are addressed in
April and May. or whether they were in some other lodgings in the
interval. This early move was probably detrimental to Mary and the
baby, for on March 6 we find the entry: "Find my baby dead. Send for
Hogg. Talk. A miserable day."

Mary thinks, and talks, and dreams of her little baby, and finds
reading the best palliative to her grief.


March 19.--Dream that my little baby came to life again; that it had
only been cold, and that we rubbed it before the fire, and it lived.
Awake to find no baby. I think about the little thing all day. Not in
good spirits. Shelley is very unwell.

March 20.--Dream again about my little baby.


Mrs. Godwin had sent a present of linen for the infant, and Fanny
Godwin repeated her visits; but the little baby, who might have been a
link towards peace with the Godwins, has escaped from a world of
sorrow, where, in spite of a mother's love, she might later on have
met with a cold reception.

Godwin at this time was in the anomalous position of communicating
with Shelley on his business matters; but for the very reason that
Shelley lent him, or gave him, money, he felt it the more necessary to
hold back from friendly intercourse, or from seeing his daughter--a
curious result of philosophic reasoning, which appears more like
worldly wisdom.

From this time the company of Claire was becoming insufferable to Mary
and Shelley. At least for a time, it was desirable to have a change.
We find Mary sorely puzzled in her diary at times, as on March 11 she
writes--"Talk about Clara's going away; nothing settled. I fear it is
hopeless. She will not go to Skinner Street; then our house is the
only remaining place I plainly see. What is to be done?

March 12.--"Talk a great deal. Not well, but better. Very quiet in the
morning and happy, for Clara does not get up till four...." Again on
the 14th March--"The prospect appears more dismal than ever; not the
least hope. This is, indeed, hard to bear."


At one time Godwin, Shelley, and Mary tried to induce Mrs. Knapp to
take her, but she refused. Claire also tried to get a place as
companion, but that fell through, till at length the bright idea
occurred to them of sending her into Devonshire, under the excuse of
her needing change of air; and there, according to a letter from Mrs.
Godwin to Lady Mountcashell, she was placed with a Mrs. Bicknall, the
widow of a retired Indian officer. Two more entries in Mary's journal,
of this time, show with what feelings of relief she contemplates the
departure of Shelley's friend, as she now calls Claire. Noting that
Shelley and his friend have their last talk, the next day, May 13,
Shelley walks with her, and she is gone! and Mary begins "a new diary
with our regeneration."

There is a letter from Claire to Fanny Godwin, of May 28, apparently
from Lynmouth, describing the scenery in a very picturesque manner,
and saying how she delights in the peace and quiet of the country
after the turmoil of passion and hatred she had passed through. She
also expresses delight that their father had received one thousand
pounds--this was evidently part of what Shelley had undertaken to pay
for him, and was included in the sum which Sir Timothy paid for his
debts. Claire--or Jane, as she was still called in Skinner
Street--supposed her family would be comfortable for a month or two.

Shelley and Mary now yearned for the country, and truly their eight
months' experience in London had been a trying period, from various
causes, but redeemed by their love and intellectual conversation. Now
they felt unencumbered by pressing money troubles, and free from the
burden of Claire's still more trying presence, at least to Mary. In
June we find them together at Torquay, and we can imagine the
delight of the poet and his loved Mary in their first unshared
companionship--the quiet rambles by sea and cliff in the long June
evenings, the sunsets, the quiet and undisturbed peace which
surrounded them. They were able to give each other quaint pet names,
which no one could or need understand--which would have sounded silly
in the presence of a third person. This was a time in which they could
grow really to know each other without reserve, when there need be no
jealous competition as to who was most proficient in Greek or Latin;
when Shelley was drawn to poetry, and _Alastor_ was contemplated,
the melancholy strain of which seems to indicate love as the only
redeeming element of life, and which might well follow the time of
turmoil in Shelley's career. May not this poem have been his
self-vindication as exhibiting what he might have become had he not
followed the dictates of his heart? "Pecksie" and the "Elfin Knight"
were the names which still stand written at the end of the first
journal, ending with Claire's departure. Mary added some useful
receipts for future use. One is: "A tablespoonful of the spirit of
aniseed, with a small quantity of spermaceti;" to which Shelley adds
the following: "9 drops of human blood, 7 grains of gunpowder, 1/2 oz.
of putrified brain, 13 mashed grave-worms--the Pecksie's doom salve.
The Maie and her Elfin Knight."

We next find Mary at Clifton, July 27, 1815, writing in much
despondency at being alone while Shelley is house-hunting in South
Devon. Although she wishes to have a home of her own, she dreads the
time it will take Shelley to find it. He ought to be with her the next
day, the anniversary of their journey to Dover; without him it will be
insupportable. And then the 4th of August will be his birthday, when
they must be together. They might go to Tintern Abbey. If Shelley does
not come to her, or give her leave to join him, she will leave in the
morning and be with him before night to give him her present with her
own hand. And then, is not Claire in North Devon? If Shelley has let
her know where he is, is she not sure to join him if she think he is
alone? Insufferable thought! As Professor Dowden shows, Mary must have
been very soon joined by Shelley after this touching appeal. In all
probability a house was fixed on, but in a very opposite direction,
before the end of the week, and the lease or arrangements made by
August 3, as the following year he writes from Geneva to Langdill to
give up possession of his house at Bishopsgate by August 3, 1816. So
here, far from Devonshire, by the gates of Windsor Forest, near the
familiar haunts of his Eton days, we again find Shelley and Mary. Here
Peacock was not far distant at Marlow, and Hogg could arrive from
London, and here they were within reach of the river. No long time
elapsed before they were tempted to experience again the delights of a
holiday on the Thames. So Mary and Shelley, with Peacock and Charles
Clairmont to help him with an oar, embarked and went up the river.
They passed Reading and Oxford, winding through meadows and woods,
till arriving at Lechlade, fourteen miles from the source of the
Thames, they still strove to help the boat to reach this point if the
boat would not help them. This proved impossible. After three miles,
as cows had taken possession of the stream, which only covered their
hoofs, the party had perforce to return, still contemplating
proceeding by canal and river, even as far as the Clyde, the poet ever
yearning forwards. But this, money and prudence forbade, as twenty
pounds was needed to pass the first canal; so they returned to their
pleasant furnished house at Bishopsgate. On this trip Mary saw
Shelley's old quarters at Oxford, where they spent a night, and they
must have lingered in Lechlade Churchyard, as the sweet verses there
written indicate. Shelley and Mary were now settled for the first time
in a home of their own: she was making rapid progress with Latin,
having finished the fifth book of the Aeneid, much to Shelley's
satisfaction, as recounted in a letter to Hogg. Hogg was expected to
stay with them in October, and in the meanwhile, under the green
shades of Windsor Forest, Shelley was writing his _Alastor_, and,
as his wife describes in her edition of his poems, "The magnificent
woodland was a fitting study to inspire the various descriptions of
forest scenery we find in the poem." She writes:--

None of Shelley's poems is more characteristic than this. The solemn
spirit that exists throughout, the worship of the majesty of nature,
and the breedings of a poet's heart in solitude--the mingling of the
exulting joy which the various aspects of the visible universe inspire
with the sad and trying pangs which human passion imparts--give a
touching interest to the whole. The death which he had often
contemplated during the last months as certain and near, he here
represented in such colours as had, in his lonely musings, soothed his
soul to peace. The versification sustains the solemn spirit which
breathes throughout; it is peculiarly melodious. The poem ought rather
to be considered didactic than narrative; it was the outpouring of his
own emotions, embodied in the purest form he could conceive, painted
in the ideal hues which his brilliant imagination inspired, and
softened by the recent anticipation of death.

Poetry was theirs, Nature their mutual love: Nature and two or three
friends, if we may include the Quaker, Dr. Pope, who called on Shelley
and wished to discuss theology with him, and when Shelley said he
feared his views would not be to the Doctor's taste replied "I like to
hear thee talk, friend Shelley. I see thou art very deep." But beyond
these all friends had fallen off, and certainly Godwin's conduct seems
to have been most extraordinary. He did not hesitate to put Shelley to
considerable inconvenience for money, for not long after the one
thousand pounds had been given, we find Shelley having to sell an
annuity to help him with more money. Yet Godwin all this time treated
Shelley and Mary with great haughtiness, much to their annoyance,
though neither let it interfere with the duty they owed Godwin as
father and philosopher. These perpetual worries helped to keep them in
an unsettled state in their home. Owing perhaps to the loss of the
diary at this period, we have no information about Harriet. Already in
January, we find there is an idea of residing in Italy, both for the
sake of health, and on account of the annoyance they experienced from
their general treatment. Shelley had the poet's yearning for sympathy,
and Mary must have suffered with and for him, especially when her
father, for whom he did so much, treated him with haughty severity by
way of thanks. Mary attributed Godwin's conduct to the influence of
his wife, whom she cordially disliked at this time. She was loth to
recognise inconsistency in her father, whom she always revered. Godwin
on his side was by no means anxious for his daughter and Shelley to
leave for Italy in a few weeks' time, as intimated to him by Shelley
as possible on the 16th February. We thus see that a trip to the
Continent was contemplated some months prior to the journey to Geneva.
This idea arose after the birth of Mary's first son, William, born
January 24, 1816, who was destined to be only for a few short years
the joy of his parents, and then to rest in Rome, where Shelley was
not long in following him.

It is evident from Godwin's diary that Claire must have been on a
visit or in direct communication with Mary at the beginning of
January, as Godwin notes "Write to P.B.S. inviting Jane"; and it does
not seem to have been possible for Shelley and Mary to have borne
resentment. The facts of this meeting early in the year, and that Mary
and Shelley contemplated another of their restless journeys abroad,
certainly take off from the abruptness of their departure for Geneva
in May with Claire Claremout. Undoubtedly Shelley was in a worried and
excited state at this period, and he acted so as to rouse the doubts
of Peacock as to the reason of the hurried journey. The story of
Williams of Tremadock suddenly appearing at Bishopsgate, to warn
Shelley that his father and uncle were engaged in a plot to lock him
up, seems without foundation. But when, in addition to this story, we
consider Claire's history, we can well understand that, in spite of
Shelley's love of sincerity and truth, circumstances were too strong
for him. At a time when he and Mary were being avoided by society for
openly defying its laws, they might well reflect whether they could
afford to avow the new complication which had sprung up in their small
circle. Claire, in hopes of finding some theatrical engagement, had
called upon Lord Byron at Drury Lane Theatre, apparently about March
1816, during the distressing period of his rupture with his wife. The
result of this acquaintance is too well known, and has been too much a
source of obloquy to all concerned in it, to need much comment here,
and it is only as the facts affect Mary that we need refer to them at
all.

At this time Byron was about to leave England, pursued, justly or
unjustly, by the hatred of the British mob for a poet who dared to
quarrel with his wife and follow the low manners of some of the
leaders of fashion whom he had been intimate with. Their obscurity has
sheltered _them_ from opprobrium. He was accompanied by the young
physician, Dr. John Polidori, who has somehow passed with Byron's
readers as a fool; yet he certainly could have been no fool in the
ordinary sense of the word, as he had taken full degrees as a doctor
at an earlier age perhaps than had ever been known before. His family,
a simple and highly educated family (his father was Italian, and had
been secretary to Alfieri), caring very much for poetry and
intellectual intercourse, were delighted at the prospect of the young
physician having such an opening to his career, as his sister, the
mother of poets, has told the writer. It is true that this exciting
short period with Byron must have had an injurious effect on the young
physician's after career, though he was still able to obtain the deep
interest of Harriet Martineau at Norwich. It might be added that his
nephew, not only a poet but a leader in poetic thought, deeply
resented the insulting terms in which Byron wrote of Polidori, and,
although h deeply admired the genius of Byron, did not fail to note
where any weakness of form could be found in his work--such is human
nature, and so is poetic justice meted out. This might appear to be a
slight digression from our subject, if it were not for the fact that
when Mary wrote _Frankenstein_ at Secheron, as one of the tales
of horror that were projected by the assembled party, it was only John
Polidori's story of _The Vampire_ which was completed along with
Mary's _Frankenstein_, _The Vampire_, published anonymously,
was at first extolled everywhere under the idea that it was Byron's,
and when this idea was found to be a mistake the tale was slighted in
proportion, and its author with it. The fact is that as an imaginative
tale of horror _The Vampire_ holds its place beside Mary's
_Frankenstein_, though not so fully developed as a literary
performance or as an invention.

So on the eve of Byron's starting for Switzerland, we find Shelley and
Mary contemplating a journey with Claire in the same direction by
another route, but to the same place and hotel, previously settled on
and engaged by Byron. It certainly might appear that Shelley and Mary
in this dilemma did not feel justified in acting towards another in a
way contrary to their own conduct in life. In all probability Claire
confided her belief in Byron's attachment to herseif, after his wife
had discarded him, to Mary or even to Shelley. Mary, however
distasteful the subject must have been to her, would not perhaps allow
herself to stand in the way of what, from her own experience, might
appear to be a prospect of a settlement in life for Claire, especially
as she must deeply have felt their responsibility in having induced or
allowed her to accompany them in their own elopement. In fact, the
feeling of responsibility in this most trying case might, to a highly
imaginative mind, almost conjure up the invention of a Frankenstein.

We now (May 3, 1816) find Shelley, Mary, and Claire at Dover, again on
a journey to Switzerland. From Dover Shelley wrote a kind letter to
Godwin, explaining money matters, and promising to do all he could to
help him. They pass by Paris, then by Troyes, Dijon, and Dole, through
the Jura range. This time is graphically described by Shelley in
letters appended to the _Six Weeks' Tour_; the journey and the
eight days' excursion in Switzerland. We read of the terrific changes
of nature, the thunderstorms, one of which was more imposing than all
the others, lighting up lake and pine forests with the most vivid
brilliancy, and then nothing but blackness with rolling thunder. These
letters are addressed to Peacock, but in them we have no reference to
the intimacy with Byron now being carried on; how he arrived at the
Hotel Secheron, nor their removal to the Maison Chapuis to avoid the
inquisitive English.

There is, fortunately, no further reason to refer to the rumours which
scandal-mongers promulgated--rumours which undoubtedly hastened the
rupture between Byron and Claire; although evil rumours, like fire
smouldering in a hold, are difficult to extinguish, and, as Mr.
Jeaffreson shows, the slanders of this time were afterwards a trouble
to Shelley at Ravenna, in 1821, when his wife had to take his part.
These rumours were the source of certain poems, and also, later,
stories about Byron. All lovers of Shelley owe a debt of deep
gratitude to Mr. Jeaffreson, who, although, severe to a fault on many
of the blemishes in his character (as if he considered that poets
ought to be almost superhuman in all things), nevertheless proves in
so clear a way the utter groundlessness of the rumours as to relieve
all future biographers from considering the subject. At the same time
he shows how distasteful Claire's presence must have become to Byron,
who was hoping for reconciliation with his wife, and who naturally
construed fresh obduracy on her part as the result of reports that
were becoming current. Anyway, it is manifest that Byron did not
regard Claire in the light that Mary may have hoped for--namely, that
he would consider her as a wife, taking the place of her who had left
him. Byron had no such new idea of the nature of a wife, but only
accepted Claire as she allowed herself to be taken, with the addition
that he grew to dislike her intensely.

So after Shelley and Byron had made their eight days' tour of the
lake, from June 23, unaccompanied by Mary and Claire, we find a month
later Shelley taking them for an eight days' tour to Chamouni,
unaccompanied by Byron. Of this tour Shelley each day writes long
descriptive letters to Peacock, who is looking out for a house for
them somewhere in the neighbourhood of Windsor. They return by July 28
to Montalegre, where he writes of the collection of seeds he has been
making, and which Mary intends cultivating in her garden in England.

For another month these young restless beings enjoy the calm of their
cottage by the lake, close to the Villa Diodati, while the poets
breathe in poetry on all sides, and give it to the world in verse.
Mary notes the books they read, and their visits in the evening to
Diodati, where she became accustomed to the sound of Byron's voice,
with Shelley's always the answering echo, for she was too awed and
timid to speak much herself. These conversations caused her,
subsequently, when hearing Byron's voice, to feel a sad want for "the
sound of a voice that is still."

It is during this sojourn by the Swiss Lake that Mary began her first
serious attempt at literature. Being asked each day by Shelley whether
she had found a story, she answered "No," till one evening after
listening to a conversation between Byron and Shelley on the principle
of life--whether it would be discovered, and the power of
communicating life be acquired--"perhaps a corpse might be reanimated;
galvanism had given tokens of such things"--she lay awake, and with
the sound of the lake and the sight of the moonlight gleaming through
chinks in the shutters, were blended the idea and the figure of a
student engaged in the ghastly work of creating a man, until such a
horror came to light that he shrank in fear from his own performance.
Such was the original idea for this imaginative work of a girl of
nineteen, which has held its place among conspicuous works of fiction
to the present day. _Frankenstein_ was the outcome of the project
before mentioned of writing tales of horror. One night, when pouring
rain detained Shelley's party at the Villa Diodati over a blazing
fire, they told strange stories, till Byron, leading to poetic ideas,
recited the witch's scene from "Christabel," which so excited
Shelley's imagination that he shrieked, and ran from the room; and
Polidori writes that he brought him to by throwing water in his face.
Upon his reviving, they agreed to write each a supernatural tale.
Matthew Gregory Lewis, the author of _The Monk_, who visited at
Diodati, assisted them with these weird fancies.




CHAPTER VII.

"FRANKENSTEIN."


That a work by a girl of nineteen should have held its place in
romantic literature so long is no small tribute to its merit; this
work, wrought under the influence of Byron and Shelley, and conceived
after drinking in their enthralling conversation, is not unworthy of
its origin. A more fantastically horrible story could scarcely be
conceived; in fact, the vivid imagination, piling impossible horror
upon horror, seems to claim for the book a place in the company of a
Poe or a Hoffmann. Its weakness appears to be that of placing such an
idea in the annals of modern life; such a process invariably weakens
these powerful imaginative ideas, and takes away from, instead of
adding to, the apparent truth, and cannot fail to give an affectation
to the work. True, it might add to the difficulty to imagine a
different state of society, past or future, but this seems a _sine
qua non_. The story of _Frankenstein_ begins with a series of
letters of a young man, Robert Walton, writing to his sister, Mrs.
Saville in England, from St. Petersburg, where he is about to embark
on a voyage in search of the North Pole. He is bent on discovering the
secret of the magnet, and is deluded with the hope of a _never_
absent sun. When advanced some distance towards his longed-for goal,
Walton writes of a most strange adventure which befalls them in the
midst of the ice regions--a gigantic being, of human shape, being
drawn over the ice in a sledge by dogs. Not many hours after this
strange sight a fresh discovery was made of another man in another
sledge, with only one living dog to it: this time the man was seen to
be a European, whom the sailors tried to persuade to enter their ship.
On seeing Walton the stranger, speaking English, asked whither they
were bound before he would consent to enter the ship. This naturally
caused intense excitement, as the man, reduced to a skeleton, seemed
to have but a short time to live. However, on hearing that the vessel
was bound northwards, he consented to enter, and with great care he
was restored for the time. In answer to an inquiry as to his object in
thus exposing himself, he replied, "To seek one who fled from me." An
affection springs up and increases between Walton and the stranger,
till the latter promises to tell his sad and strange story, which he
had hitherto intended should die with him.

This commencement leads to the story being told in the form (which
might with advantage have been avoided) of a long narrative by the
dying man. The stranger describes himself as of a Genevese family of
high distinction, and gives an interesting account of his father and
juvenile surroundings, including a playfellow, Elizabeth Lavenga, whom
we encounter much later in his history. All his studies are pursued
with zest, till coming upon the works of Cornelius Agrippa he is led
with enthusiasm into the ideas of experimental philosophy; a passing
remark of "trash" from his father, who does not explain the difference
between past and modern science, is not enough to deter him and
prevent the fatal consequence of the study he persists in, and thus a
pupil of Albertus Magnus appears in the eighteenth century. The
effects of a thunderstorm, described from those Mary had recently
witnessed, decided him in his resolution, for electricity now was the
aim of his research. After having passed his youth in his happy Swiss
home with his parents and dear friends, on the death of his loved
mother he starts for the University of Ingolstadt. Here he is much
reprehended by the professors for his useless studies, until one, a
Mr. Waldeman, sympathises with him, and explains how Cornelius Agrippa
and others, although their studies did not bring the immediate fruit
they expected, nevertheless helped on science in other directions, and
he advises Frankenstein to pursue his studies in natural philosophy,
including mathematics. The upshot of this advice is that two years are
spent in intense study and thought, till he becomes thin and haggard
in appearance. He is contemplating a visit to his home, when, making
some fresh experiment, he finds that he has discovered the principle
of life; this so overcomes him for a time that, oblivious of all else,
he is bent on making use of his discovery. After much perplexing
thought he determines to create a being superior to man, so that
future generations shall bless him. In the first place, by the help of
chemistry, he has to construct the form which is to be animated. The
grave has to be ransacked in the attempt, and Frankenstein describes
with loathing some of the details of his work, and shows the danger of
overstraining the mind in any one direction--how the virtuous become
vicious, and how virtue itself, carried to excess, lapses into vice.

The form is created in nervous fear and fever. Frankenstein being the
ideal scientist, devoid of all feeling for art (whose ideas of it,
indeed, might be limited to the elevation and section of a pot),
without any ideal of proportion or beauty, reaches the point where he
considers nothing but the infusion of life necessary. All is ready,
and in the first hour of the morning he applies his fatal discovery.
Breath is given, the limbs move, the eyes open, and the colossal being
or monster, as he is henceforth called, becomes animated; though
copied from statues, its fearful size, its terrible complexion and
drawn skin, scarcely concealing arteries and muscles beneath, add to
the horror of the expression. And this is the end of two years work to
the horrified Frankenstein. Overwhelmed by disgust, he can only rush
from the room, and finally falls exhausted on his bed, only to wake to
find his monster grinning at him. He runs forth into the street, and
here, in Mary's first work, we have a reminiscence of her own infant
days, when she and Claire hid themselves under the sofa to hear
Coleridge read his poem, for the following stanza from the _Ancient
Mariner_ might seem almost the key-note of _Frankenstein_:--

   Like one who on a lonely road,
     Doth walk in fear and dread,
   And having once turned round, walks on,
     And turns no more his head,
   Because he knows a fearful fiend
     Doth close behind him tread.

Frankenstein hurries on, but coming across his old friend Henri
Clerval at the stage coach, he recalls to mind his father, Elizabeth,
his former life and friends. He returns to his rooms with his friend.
Reaching his door, he trembles, but opening it, finds himself
delivered from his self-created fiend. His frenzy of delight being
attributed to madness from overwork, Clerval induces Frankenstein to
leave his studies, and, finally (after he had for months endured a
terrible illness), to accompany him to his native village. Various
delays occurring, they are detained too late in the year to pass the
dangerous roads on their way home.

Health and peace of mind returning to some degree, Frankenstein is
about to proceed on his journey homewards, when a letter arrives from
his father with the fatal news of the mysterious death of his young
brother. This event hastens still further his return, and gives a
renewed gloomy turn to his mind; not only is his loved little brother
dead, but the extraordinary event points to some unknown power. From
this time Frankenstein's life is one agony. One after another all whom
he loves fall victims to the demon he has created; he is never safe
from his presence; in a storm on the Alps he encounters him; in the
fearful murders which annihilate his family he always recognises his
hand. On one occasion his creation wished to have a truce and to come
to terms with his creator. This, after his most fearful treachery had
caused the innocent to be sentenced as the perpetrator of his fearful
deeds. On meeting Frankenstein he recounts the most pathetic story of
his falling away from sympathy with humanity: how, after saving the
life of a girl from drowning, he is shot by a young man who rushes up
and rescues her from him. He became the unknown benefactor of a family
for some period of time by doing the hard work of the household while
they slept. Having taking refuge in a hovel adjoining a corner of
their cottage, he hears their pathetic and romantic story, and also
learns the language and ways of men; but on his wishing to make their
acquaintance the family are so horrified at his appearance that the
women faint, the men drive him off with blows, and the whole family
leave a neigbourhood, the scene of such an apparition. After these
experiences he retaliates, till meeting Frankenstein he proposes these
terms: that Frankenstein shall create another being as repulsive as
himself to be his companion--in fact, he desires a wife as hideous as
he is. These were the conditions, and the lives of all those whom
Frankenstein held most dear were in the balance; he hesitated long,
but finally consented.

Everything now had to be put aside to carry out this fearful task--his
love of Elizabeth, his father's entreaties that he should marry her,
his hopes, his ambitions, go for nothing. To save those who remain, he
must devote himself to his work. To carry out his aim he expresses a
wish to visit England, and, with his friend Clerval, descends the
Rhine, which is described with the knowledge gained in Mary's own
journey, and the same route is pursued which she, Shelley, and Claire
had taken through Holland, embarking for England from Rotterdam, and
thence reaching the Thames. After passing London and Oxford and
various places of interest, he expresses a desire to be left for a
time in solitude, and selects a remote island of the Orkneys, where an
uninhabited hut answers the purpose of his laboratory. Here he works
unmolested till his fearful task is nearly accomplished, when a fear
and loathing possess his soul at the possible result of this second
achievement. Although the demon already created has sworn to abandon
the haunts of man and to live in a desert country with his mate, what
hold will there be over this second being with an individuality and
will of its own? What might be the future consequences to humanity of
the existence of such monsters? He forms a resolution to abandon his
dreaded work, and at that moment it is confirmed by the sight of his
monster grinning at him through the window of the hut in the
moonlight. Not a moment is lost. He tears his just completed work limb
from limb. The monster disappears in rage, only to return to threaten
eternal revenge on him and his; but the time of weakness is passed;
better encounter any evils that may be in store, even for those he
loves, than leave a curse to humanity. From that time there is no
truce. Clerval is murdered and Frankenstein is seized as the murderer,
but respited for worse fate; he is married to Elizabeth, and she is
strangled within a few hours. When goaded to the verge of madness by
all these events, and seeing his beloved father reduced to imbecility
through their misfortunes, he can make no one believe his
self-accusing story; and if they did, what would it avail to pursue a
being who could scale the Alps, live among glaciers, and pass
unfathomable seas? There is nothing left but a pursuit till
death, single-handed, when one might expire and the other be
appeased--onward, with a deluding sight from time to time of his
avenging demon. Only in sleep and dreams did Frankenstein find
forgetfulness of his self-imposed torture, for he lived again with
those he had loved; he endured life in his pursuit by imagining his
waking hours to be a horrible dream and longing for the night, when
sleep should bring him life. When hopes of meeting his demon failed,
some fresh trace would appear to lead him on through habited and
uninhabited countries; he tracks him to the verge of the eternal ice,
and even there procures a sledge from the wretched and horrified
inhabitants of the last dwelling-place of men to pursue the monster,
who, on a similar vehicle, had departed, to their delight. Onwards,
onwards, over the eternal ice they pass, the pursued and the pursuer,
till consciousness is nearly lost, and Frankenstein is rescued by
those to whom he now narrates his history; all except his fatal
scientific secret, which is to die with him shortly, for the end
cannot be far off.

The story is told; and the friend--for he feels the utmost sympathy
with the tortures of Frankenstein--can only attempt to soothe his last
days or hours, for he, too, feels the end must be near; but at this
crisis in Frankenstein's existence the expedition cannot proceed
northward, for the crew mutiny to return. Frankenstein determines to
proceed alone; but his strength is ebbing, and Walton foresees his
early death. But this is not to pass quietly, for the demon is in no
mood that his creator should escape unmolested from his grasp. Now the
time is ripe, and, during a momentary absence, Walton is startled by
fearful sounds, and then, in the cabin of his dying friend, a sight to
appal the bravest; for the fiend is having the death struggle with
him--then all is over. Some last speeches of the demon to Walton are
explanatory of his deed, and of his present intention of
self-immolation, as he has now slaked his thirst to wreak vengeance
for his existence. Then he disappears over the ice to accomplish this
last task.

Surely there is enough weird imagination for the subject. Mary in this
work not merely intended to depict the horror of such a monster, but
she evidently wished also to show what a being, with no naturally bad
propensities, might sink to when under the influence of a false
position--the education of Rousseau's natural man not being here
possible.

Some weak points, some incongruities, it would be unreasonable not to
expect. Whether the _eternal_ light expected at the North Pole,
if of the sun, was a misapprehension of the author or a Shelleyan
application of the word eternal (as applied by him to certain
friendships, or duration of residence in houses) may be questioned.
The question as to the form used for the narrative has already been
referred to. The difficulty of such a method is strangely exemplified
in the long letters which are quoted by Frankenstein to his friend
while dying, and which he could not have carried with him on his
deadly pursuit. Mary's facility in writing was great, and having
visited some of the most interesting places in the world, with some of
the most interesting people, she is saved from the dreary dulness of
the dull. Her ideas, also, though sometimes affected, are genuine, not
the outcome of some fashionable foible to please a passing faith or
superstition, which ought never to be the _raison d'etre_ of a
romance, though it may be of a satire or a sermon.

The last passage in the book is perhaps the weakest. It is scarcely
the climax, but an anticlimax. The end of Frankenstein is well
conceived, but that of the Demon fails. It is ridiculous to conceive
anyone, demon or human, having ended his vengeance, fleeing over the
ice to burn himself on a funeral pyre where no fuel could be found.
Surely the tortures of the lowest pit of Dante's Inferno might have
sufficed for the occasion. The youth of the authoress of this
remarkable romance has raised comparison between it and the first work
of a still younger romancist, the author of _Gabriel Denver_,
written at seventeen, who died before he had completed his twentieth
year.

While this romance was being planned during the latter part of the
stay of the Shelley party in Switzerland, after their return from
Chamouni, the diary gives us a charming idea of their life in their
cottage of Montalegre. We have the books they read, as usual; and well
did Mary, no less than Shelley, make use of that happy reading-time of
life--youth. The Latin authors read by Shelley were also studied by
Mary. We find her reading "Quintus Curtius," ten and twelve pages at a
time; also on Shelley's birthday, August 4, she reads him the fourth
book of Virgil, while in a boat with him on the lake. Also the
fire-balloon is not forgotten, which Mary had made two or three days
in advance for the occasion. They used generally to visit Diodati in
the evening, after dinner, though occasionally Shelley dined with
Byron, and accompanied him in his boat. On one occasion Mary wrote:
"Shelley and Claire go up to Diodati; I do not, for Lord Byron did not
seem to wish it." Rousseau, Voltaire, and other authors cause the time
to fly, until their spirits are damped by a letter arriving from
Shelley's solicitor, requiring his return to England. While in
Switzerland Mary received some letters from Fanny, her half-sister;
these letters are interesting, showing a sweet, gentle disposition,
very affectionate to both Shelley and Mary. One letter asks Mary
questions about Lord Byron. There are also details as to the
unfortunate state of the finances of Godwin, who seemed in a perennial
state of needing three hundred pounds. Fanny also writes of herself,
on July 29, 1816, as not being well--being in a state of mind which
always keeps her body in a fever--her lonely life, after her sister's
departure, with all the money anxieties, and her own dependence,
evidently weighed upon her mind, and led to a state of despondency,
although her letters would scarcely give the idea of a tragedy being
imminent. She writes to Shelley and Mary that Mrs. Godwin--mamma she
calls her--tells her that she is the laughing-stock of Mary and
Shelley, and the constant "beacon of their satire." She shows much
affection for little William, as well as for his parents; but there is
certainly no word in these letters showing more than sisterly and
friendly feeling; no word showing jealousy or envy. Claire afterwards
alleged that Fanny had been in love with Shelley. Mr. Kegan Paul
states the reverse most strongly. It is not easy to conceive how
either should have been sure of the fact. Even Shelley's beautiful
verses to her memory do not indicate any special reason for her
sadness, as far as he was concerned.

   Her voice did quiver as we parted,
     Yet knew I not that heart was broken
   From which it came, and I departed,
     Heeding not the words then spoken.
          Misery--oh Misery!
          This world is all too wide for thee.

From these lines we see that Fanny was in a very depressed state of
mind when her sister left England for her second Continental tour in
1816. This being two years from the time when Mary had first left her
home, it does not seem probable that Shelley was to blame, or rather
was the indirect cause of Fanny's sadness. She felt herself generally
useless and unneeded in the world, and this idea weighed her down.




CHAPTER VIII.

RETURN TO ENGLAND.


On leaving the Lake of Geneva on August 28, without having
accomplished anything in the way of a settlement for Claire, but with
pleasant reminiscences of Rousseau's surroundings, and the grandeur of
the Alps, the party of three returned towards England by way of Dijon,
and thence by a different route from that by which they had gone,
returning by Rouvray, Auxerre, Fontainebleau, and Versailles. Here
Mary and Shelley visited the palace and town, which a few years hence
she would revisit under far different circumstances. Travelling--in
those days so very unlike what it is in ours, when Europe can be
crossed without being examined--allowed them to become acquainted with
the towns they passed through. Rouen was visited; but for some reason
they were disappointed with the cathedral. Prom Havre they sailed for
Portsmouth, when, with their usual fate, they encountered a stormy
passage of twenty-seven hours. It must have been a trying journey for
them in more ways than one, for if there was any uncertainty as to
Claire's position on leaving England, Mary could now no longer have
been in any doubt. On arriving in England she proceeded, with Claire
and her little William, with his Swiss nurse Elise, to Bath, where
Claire passed as Mrs. Clairemont. Shelley addressed her as such at 5
Abbey Churchyard, Bath. During this time Shelley was again
house-hunting, while staying with Peacock on the banks of the Thames;
and Mary paid a visit to Peacock at the same time, leaving little
William to the care of Elise and Claire at Bath. From here Claire
writes to Mary about the "Itty Babe's" baby ways, and how she and
Elise puzzled and puzzled over the little night-gowns, or, quoting
Albe, as they called Byron (it has been suggested a condensation of L.
B.), "they mused and coddled" without effect. Claire certainly did her
best to take care of the baby, walking out with it, and so forth.

Now the three hundred pounds written of by Fanny was falling due. Mary
must also have been kept in great apprehension, as we see by a letter
from Shelley to Godwin, dated October 2, 1816, that the money was not
forthcoming, as hoped. So the fatal Rhine gold is again helping to a
tragedy, which the romantic prefer to impute to a still more fatal
cause; for, so short a time after the 2nd as October 10, we find Fanny
already at Bristol, writing to Godwin that she is about to depart
immediately to the place whence she hopes never to return. On October
3 there is a long letter from her to Mary, written just after
Shelley's letter had reached Godwin, when she had read its contents on
Godwin's countenance as he perused it. Her letter is most
clear-sighted, noble, and single-minded; she complains of Mary's way
of exaggerating Mrs. Godwin's resentment to herself, explaining that
whatever Mrs. Godwin may say in moments of extreme irritation to her,
she is quite incapable of making the worst of Mary's behaviour to
others. She shows Mary her own carelessness in leaving letters about
for the servants to read, so that they and Harriet spread the reports
she complains of rather than Mrs. Godwin. She tells how she had tried
to convince Shelley that he should only keep French servants, and she
endeavours to persuade Mary how important it is that they should
prevent bad news coming to Godwin in a way to give a sudden shock, as
he is so sensitive. She saw through certain subterfuges of Shelley,
and wrote in a calm, affectionate way, trying to set everything right,
with a wonderful clearness of vision; for everyone but herself--for
herself there was no outlet but despair, no rest but the grave; she,
the utterly unselfish one, was useless--all that remained was to
smooth her way to the grave. Not for herself, but others, she managed
to die where she was unknown, travelling for this purpose to Swansea,
where only a few shillings remained to her, and a little watch Mary
had brought her from Geneva. She wrote of herself in a letter she
left, which neither compromised anyone nor indicated who she was, as
one whose birth was unfortunate, but whose existence would soon be
forgotten. Poor Fanny! Is she not rather likely to be remembered as a
type of self-abnegation? Certainly hers was not the nature to cause
her sister a moment's jealous pang, even though her death called forth
one of Shelley's sweetest lyrics.

There was nothing to be done. Godwin paid a brief visit to the scene,
and ascertained that all was too true. The door that had had to be
forced, the laudanum bottle, and her letter told all that need be
known. Shelley visited Bristol to obtain information; but there was no
use in giving publicity to this fresh family sorrow--discretion was
the only sympathy that could be shown. Mary bought mourning, and
worked at it. Claire envied for herself Fanny's rest; but life had to
proceed, awaiting fresh events.

Work was the great resource. Mary was writing her _Frankenstein_.
She persisted with the utmost fortitude in intellectual employment, as
poor Fanny wrote to Mary on September 26:--"I cannot help envying your
calm, contented disposition, and the calm philosophical habits of life
which pursue yon; or, rather, which you pursue everywhere; I allude to
your description of the manner in which you pass your days at Bath,
when most women would hardly have recovered from the fatigues of such
a journey as you had been taking."

This is, indeed, the key-note of Mary's character, which, with her
sensitive, retiring nature, enabled her to live through the stormy
times of her life with equanimity.

Mary had Shelley's company through November, but at the beginning of
December she writes to Shelley, who is again staying with Peacock
house-hunting. Mary tells him what she would _like_: "A house
(with a lawn) near a river or lake, noble trees, or divine mountains";
but she would be content if Shelley would give her "a garden and
absentia Claire." This is very different from her way of thinking of
Fanny, who, she says, might now have had a home with her. This
expression occurs in a letter to Shelley when she was on the point of
marrying him, and might have had Fanny with her. Mary also speaks of
her drawing lessons, and how (thank God!) she had finished "that
tedious, ugly picture" she had been so long about. This points to that
terrible way of teaching Art, by accustoming its students to
hideousness and vulgarity, till Art itself might become an unknown
quantity. Mary also tells, what is more interesting, that
she has finished the fourth chapter, a very long one, of her
_Frankenstein_, which she thinks Shelley will like. She wishes
for his return. On December 13 Mary receives a letter from Shelley,
who is with Leigh Hunt. On December 15, 1816, he is back with Mary at
Bath, when a letter from Hookham, who had been requested by Shelley to
obtain information about Harriet for him, brought further fatal
news--for Harriet had now committed suicide, and had been found
drowned in the Serpentine. Unknown, she was called Harriet Smith;
uncared for, she had gone to her grave beneath the water--unloved, the
lovely Harriet cared not to live. What may have happened, it is not
for those who may not have been tried to question; of cause and effect
it is not for us to judge; but that her memory must have been a
haunting shadow to Shelley and to Mary no one would wish to think them
heartless enough to deny. Surely the lovely "Lines," with no name
affixed, must be the dirge to Harriet's fate, and Shelley's life's
failure:--

   The cold earth slept below;
   Above, the cold sky shone;
       And all around
       With a chilling sound,
   From caves of ice and fields of snow,
   The breath of night like death did flow
     Beneath the sinking moon.

     The wintry hedge was black;
     The green grass was not seen;
         The birds did rest
         On the bare thorn's breast,
   Whose roots, beside the pathway-track,
   Had bound their folds o'er many a crack
     Which the frost had made between.

     Thine eyes glowed in the glare
     Of the moon's dying light.
         As a fen-fire's beam
         On a sluggish stream
   Gleams dimly, so the moon shone there;
   And it yellowed the strings of thy tangled hair,
     That shook in the wind of night.

     The moon made thy lips pale, beloved;
     The wind made thy bosom chill:
         The night did shed
         On thy dear head
   Its frozen dew, and thou didst lie
   Where the bitter breath of the naked sky
       Might visit thee at will.

These lines are dated 1815 by Mary in her edition, but she says she
cannot answer for the accuracy of all the dates of minor poems.

The death of Harriet was necessarily quickly followed by the marriage
of Shelley and Mary. The most sound opinions were ascertained as to
the desirability of an early marriage, or of postponing the ceremony
for a year after the death of Harriet; all agreed that the wedding
ought to take place without delay, and it was fixed for December 30,
1816, at St. Mildred's Church in the City, where Godwin and his wife
were present, to their no little satisfaction, as described by Shelley
to Claire. Mary notes her marriage thus in her diary: "I have omitted
writing my journal for some time. Shelley goes to London, and returns;
I go with him; spend the time between Leigh Hunt's and Godwin's. A
marriage takes place on the 30th December 1816. Draw. Read Lord
Chesterfield and Locke."

No sooner was the marriage over than their one anxiety was to return
to Bath; for now the time of Claire's trial was approaching, and on
January 13 a little girl was born, not destined to remain long in a
world so sad for some. Little Allegra, a child of rare beauty, was
welcomed by Shelley and Mary with all the benevolence they were
capable of, and Byron's duty to his child devolved, for the time at
least, on Shelley.

During this period, Shelley's and Mary's chief anxiety was to welcome
and care for the little children left by poor Harriet. They had been
placed, before her death, under the care of a clergyman who kept a
school in Warwick, the Rev. John Kendall, vicar of Budbrooke. Shelley
had hoped that his marriage with Mary would remove all difficulty, and
Mary was waiting to welcome Ianthe and Charles; but in this matter
they were doomed to disappointment.

On January 8 a Bill was filed in the Court of Chancery, on the part of
the infants Charles and Ianthe Shelley, John Westbrook, their maternal
grandfather, acting on their behalf, praying that they might not be
transferred to the care of their father, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who had
deserted their mother; who was the author of _Queen Mab_, and an
avowed atheist, who wrote against the institution of marriage, and who
had been living unlawfully with a woman whom Eliza Westbrook (as
Shelley had written to her) might excusably regard as the cause of her
sister's ruin. Shelley filed his answer on the 18th, denying the
desertion of his wife, as she and he had separated with mutual
consent, owing to various causes. He had wished for his children on
parting with her, but left them with her at her urgent entreaty. He
had given her two hundred pounds to pay her debts, and an allowance of
a fifth of his income. As to his theological opinions, he understands
that they are abandoned as not applicable to the case. His views on
matrimony, he alleged, were only in accordance with the ideas of some
of the greatest thinkers that divorce ought to be possible under
various conditions.

Lord Eldon gave his judgment on March 27, 1817. In fifteen carefully
worded paragraphs he showed his reasons for depriving Shelley of his
children. He insists through all that it is Shelley's avowed and
published opinions, as they affected his _conduct_ in life, which
unfitted him to be the guardian of his children.

The wording in some passages caused grave anxiety to Shelley and Mary
(as shown in their letters) as to whether they would be deprived of
their own children; and they were prepared to abandon everything,
property, country, all, and to escape with the infants. The poem "To
William" was written under this misapprehension, although when he left
England in 1818, Shelley's chief reason, as given in his letter to
Godwin, was on account of his health. Undoubtedly the judgment, and
all the trying circumstances they had been passing through ever since
their return from Geneva, helped to decide them in this determination.

Charles and Ianthe were finally placed under the care of Dr. and Mrs.
Hume, who were to receive two hundred pounds a year--eighty pounds
settled on them by Westbrook, and one hundred and twenty pounds to be
paid by Shelley for the charge. Shelley might see them twelve times a
year in the presence of the Humes, the Westbrooks twelve times alone,
and Sir Timothy and his family when they chose.

While these proceedings were progressing, Mary with Claire and the two
children had moved to Marlow, having previously joined Shelley in
London on January 26, as she feared to leave him in his depressed
state alone. The intellectual society they met at Hunt's and at
Godwin's helped to pass over this trying period. One evening Mary saw
together the "three poets"--Hunt, Shelley, and Keats; Keats not being
much drawn towards Shelley, while Hazlitt, who was also present, was
unfavourably impressed by his worn and sickly appearance, induced by
the terrible anxieties and trials which be had recently passed
through. Horace Smith also proved a staunch friend: Shelley once
remarked it was odd that the only truly generous wealthy person he
ever met should be a stockbroker, and that he should write and care
for poetry, and yet make money. In the midst of her anxieties, Mary
Shelley enjoyed more social intercourse and amusement than before. We
find her noting in her diary, in February, dining with the Hunts and
Horace Smith, going to the opera of _Figaro_, music, &c. But now
they had found their Marlow retreat--a house with a garden as Mary
desired, not with a river view, but a shady little orchard, a kitchen
garden, yews, cypresses, and a cedar tree. Here Mary was able to live
unsaddened for a time; the Swiss nurse for the children, a cook and
man-servant, sufficed for in-door and out-door work, and Mary, true to
her name, was able to occupy herself with spiritual and intellectual
employment, not to the neglect of domestic, as the succession of
visitors entertained must prove; study, drawing, and her beloved work
of _Frankenstein_ were making rapid progress. Nor could Mary have
been indifferent to the woes of the poor, for Shelley would scarcely
have been so actively benevolent as recorded during the residence at
Marlow without the co-operation of his wife. While Shelley enquired
into cases of distress and gave written orders for money, Mary
dispensed the latter. Here Godwin paid them his first visit, and the
Hunts passed a pleasant time. Shelley wrote his _Revolt of Islam_
under the Bisham Beeches, and Mary had the pleasure of welcoming her
old friend Mr. Baxter, of Dundee, although his daughter Isabel,
married to Mr. Booth, still held aloof. Peacock, Horace Smith, and
Hogg were also among the guests. We find constant references to Godwin
having been irritated and querulous with Mary or Shelley. A forced,
unnatural, equanimity during one period of his life seems to have
resulted in a querulous irritability later--a not unusual case--and he
had to vent it on those who loved and revered him most, or in fact, on
those who would alone endure it from amiability of disposition, a
quality not remarkable in his second wife.

On May 14 we find Mary has finished and corrected her
_Frankenstein_, and she decides to go to London and stay with her
father while carrying on the negotiations with Murray whom she wishes
to publish it. Shelley accompanies Mary for a few days at Godwin's
invitation, but returns to look after "Blue Eyes," to whom he is
charged with a million kisses from Mary. But Mary returns speedily to
Shelley and "Blue Eyes," having felt very restless while absent. She
soon falls into a plan of Shelley's for partially adopting a little
Polly who frequently spent the day or slept in their house, and Mary
would find time to tell her before she went to bed whatever she or
Shelley had been reading that day, always asking her what she thought
of it.

Mary, who was expecting another child in the autumn, was not long idle
after the completion of _Frankenstein_, but set to work copying
and revising her _Six Weeks' Tour_. This work, begun in August,
she completed after the birth of her baby Clara on September 2. In
October the book was bought and published by Hookham.

She tells, in her notes on this year 1817, how she felt the illness
and sorrows which Shelley passed through had widened his intellect,
and how it was the source of some of his noblest poems, but that he
had lost his early dreams of changing the world by an idea, or, at
least, he no longer expected to see the result.

A letter from Mary to her husband, written soon after the birth of her
baby, shows how anxious she was at that time about his health. It had
been a positive pain to her to see him languid and ill, and she
counselled him obtaining the best advice. Change being recommended by
the physician, Mary has to decide between going to the seaside or
Italy. With all the reasons for and against Italy, Mary asks Shelley
to let her know distinctly his wish in the matter, as she can be well
anywhere. One strong reason for their going to Italy is that Alba, as
Allegra was then called, should join her father. Evidently the
embarrassment was too great to settle how to account for the poor
child longer in England; and had not she a just claim upon Byron?

In another letter, September 28, Mary speaks of Claire's return to
Marlow in a croaking state--everything wrong; Harriet's debts
enormous. She had just been out for her first walk after the birth of
Clara, and was surprised to find how much warmer it was out than in.
Shelley is commissioned to buy a seal-skin fur hat for Willy, and to
take care that it is a round fashionable shape for a boy. She is
surrounded by babies while writing--William, Alba, and little Clara.
Her love is to be given to Godwin when Mrs. Godwin is not there, as
she does not love her. _Frankenstein_ is still undisposed of.

The house at Marlow is soon found to be far too cold for a winter
residence. Italy or the sea must speedily be settled on. Alba is the
great consideration in favour of Italy, Mary feels she will not be
safe except with them; Byron is so difficult to fix in any way, and
the one hope seems to be to get him to provide for the child. Anxiety
for Alba's future ruled their present, so impossible is it to foretell
the future, which, read and judged as our past, is easy to be severe
upon. This dream of health and rest in Italy was not to be so easily
realised. Instead of being there, they were still dispensing charity
at Marlow at the end of December, in spite of various negotiations for
money in October and November. Horace Smith had lent two hundred
pounds, and, Shelley thought, would lend more. Mary continued
extremely anxious on Alba's account. If she could only be got to her
father! Who could tell how he might change his mind if there be much
delay? Might he not "change his mind, or go to Greece, or to the
devil; and then what happens?" The lawyers' delays were heavy trials,
and they could not go and leave Godwin unprovided for; he was a great
anxiety to Mary at this time. It was not till December 7 that Shelley
wrote to tell Godwin how he felt bound to go to Italy, as he had been
informed that he was in a consumption.

Owing to a visit of Mr. Baxter to them at Marlow, when he wrote a most
enthusiastic letter about Shelley and Mary to his daughter Isabel
Booth, Mary had hoped for a renewal of the friendship which had
afforded her so much pleasure as a girl, and she invited Isabel to
accompany them to Italy; but this Mr. Booth would not allow, and, in
fact, he appears to have treated his father-in-law, Mr. Baxter, who
was six years younger than himself, with much severity, and wished him
to stop all intimacy with Shelley. He did not, however, prevent him
having a friendly parting with Shelley on March 2, although he would
not allow his wife to have any communication with Mary--much to their
sorrow. Mary was in constant anxiety about Shelley in the last months
of 1817, writing of his suffering and the distress she feels in seeing
him in such pain and looking so ill. In January 1818, the month before
they left Marlow, his sufferings became very great. But two thousand
pounds being borrowed on the promise of four thousand five hundred
pounds on his father's death, and the house at Marlow being sold on
January 25th, we find the packing and flitting taking place soon
after. By February 7, Shelley leaves for London, and on Tuesday 10th
Mary follows. Godwin, as usual now, had been beseeching for money, and
then, feeling his dignity wounded by the effort, retaliated on the
giver with haughtiness and insulting demands. In a biography,
unfortunately, characters cannot always be made the consistent beings
they frequently become in romances.

One more happy month Mary is to pass in England with Shelley. We,
again, have accounts of visits to the opera, to museums, plays,
dinners, and pleasant evenings spent with friends. Keats is again met,
and Shelley calls on Mr. Baxter, who is not allowed by his son-in-law
to say farewell to Mary Shelley: such a martinet may a Scotch
schoolmaster be. Mary Lamb calls, and visits are paid and received
till the last evening arrives, when Shelley, exhausted with
ill-health, fatigue, and excitement, fell into one of his profound
sleeps on the sofa before some of his friends left the lodgings in
Great Russell Street, and thus the Hunts were unable to exchange with
him their farewells. This small band of literary friends were all to
bid Shelley and Mary farewell on his last few days in England. The
contrast is indeed marked between that time and this, when Shelley
societies are found in various parts of the world, when enthusiasts
write from the most remote regions and form friendships in his name,
when, churches, including Westminster Abbey, have rung in praise of
his ideal yearnings, and when, not least, some have certainly tried to
lead pure unselfish lives in memory of the godlike part of the man in
him; but he now left his native shores, never to return, with Claire
and Allegra, and his own two little children, and certainly a true
wife willing to follow him through weal or woe.




CHAPTER IX.

LIFE IN ITALY.


A third time, on March 11, 1818, Shelley, Mary, and Claire are on the
road to Dover, this time with three young lives to care for--Willie,
aged two years and two months; Clara, six months; and Allegra, one
year and two months. These small beings kept well during their
journey, and it is touching to note how Claire Clairmont, in her part
of the diary recording their progress, mentions bathing her darling at
Dover, and then cancels the passage from her diary, as many others
where her name is given--surely one of the saddest of things for a
mother to fear to mention her child's name! After another stormy
passage the party again reached Calais, which they found as delightful
as ever, and where they stayed at the Grand Cerf Hotel.

Mary continues to note the journey. They took a different route this
time--by Douai, La Fere, Rheims, Berri-le-bac, and St. Dizier, the
road winding by the Marne. They sleep at Langres, which ramparted town
surely ought to have left a pleasant reminiscence; but they had
hitherto found the route uninteresting and fatiguing. Mary finds more
interest in the country after Langres, and with the help of Schlegel,
from whom Shelley read out loud to her, the time passed pleasantly; no
long weary evenings in hotels; no complaints when a carriage broke
down and they were kept three hours at Macon for it to be repaired:
they had with them the friends of whom they never tired.

At Lyons they rested three days. Mary much admired the city, and
they visited the theatre, where they saw _L'homme gris et le
Physionomiste_; and on Wednesday, March 25, they set out towards
the mountains whose white tops were seen at a distance.

In crossing the frontier there was a difficulty in getting their books
allowed to enter Sardinian territory, until a Canon, who had met
Shelley's father at the Duke of Norfolk's, helped to get them through.
After leaving Chambery, where Mary stayed to allow her nurse Elise to
see her child, they crossed Mont Cenis and dined on the top. The
beauty of the scenery greatly raised Shelley's spirits, causing him to
sing with exultation. They stayed one night at Turin, visiting the
opera; and after reaching Milan, Shelley and Mary went to Lake Como
for a few days, having some idea of spending the summer on its banks;
but not being able to suit themselves with a house they returned to
Milan on April 12 and rejoined Claire, who had remained with the
children. During the stay at Milan till the end of April there had
been frequent letters from Claire to Byron. These were evidently far
from satisfactory, as we find Shelley writing letters of caution to
Claire in 1822, with regard to Byron and Allegra: he mentions having
warned her against letting Byron get possession of Allegra in the
spring of 1818, but Claire thought it for the interest of the child,
whom she undoubtedly loved, to let her go to her father. Walks in the
public gardens with the "Chicks" are noted by Claire several times,
and the last entry in her diary, before April 28, when Allegra was
taken by the nurse Elise to Byron, mentions a walk with the "Chicks"
in the morning and drive in the evening with them, Mary and Shelley.
Mary had sent her own trusted nurse Elise with the little Allegra,
feeling that she would remain and in some degree replace the mother;
and Claire believed that the child would stay with its father, though
certainly this did not seem desirable or likely to last for long.

A change of scene being needed after these trying emotions, Mary, with
her husband and two children, and Claire, now left for Pisa and
Leghorn. They slept on the way at Piacenza, Parma, Modena, and then
passed a night at a little inn among the Apennines, the fifth at
Barberino, the sixth at La Scala, and on the seventh reached Pisa,
where they lodged at Le Tre Donzelle. On this journey Mary was able to
enjoy the Italian scenery under the unclouded Italian sky--the
vine-festooned trees amid the fields of corn, the hedges full of
flowers; all these seen from the carriage convey a lasting impression,
and poor Claire remarks that, driving in a long, straight road, she
always hopes it will take her to some place where she will be happier.
They pass through beautiful chestnut woods on the southern side of the
Apennines, and along the fertile banks of the Arno to Pisa. After a
few days' stay at Pisa, where the cathedral, "loaded with pictures and
ornaments," and the leaning tower are visited, and where, perhaps, the
quiet Campo Santo, with its chapel covered with the beautiful frescos
of Orcagna and Gozzoli, &c., was enjoyed, they proceed to Leghorn;
here, after a few days at L'Aquila Nera, they move into apartments.
They meet and see much of Mary's mother's friend, Mrs. Gisborne, who
grew much attached to both Shelley and Mary, and who, from her
acquaintance with literary people, must have been a pleasant companion
to them. They had letters of introduction to the Gisbornes from
Godwin. While here Mary made progress with Italian, reading Ariosto
with her husband. Leghorn was not a sufficiently interesting place to
detain the wandering Shelleys long, in spite of the attractions of the
Gisbornes. On June 11 Mary, with her two children and Claire, follows
Shelley to Bagni di Lucca, where he had taken a house. Here Mary much
enjoyed the quiet after noisy Leghorn, as she wrote to Mrs. Gisborne,
hoping to attract her to visit them. Mary was in her element in shady
woods within the sound of running waters; her only annoyance was the
number of English she came in contact with in her walks, where the
English nursery-maid flourished, "a kind of animal I by no means like"
she wrote; neither was she pleased by "the dashing, staring
Englishwomen, who surprise the Italians (who always are carried about
in sedan chairs) by riding on horseback."

Mary and Claire used to visit the Casino with Shelley, and look on at
the dancing in which they did not join. Mary, however, did not agree
with Shelley in admiring the Italian style of dancing; but those
things on which they were ever of the same mind they had in plenty,
for their beloved books arrived after being scrutinised by the Church
authority; and while Shelley revelled in the delights of Greek
literature, Mary shared those of English with him, for who can
estimate the advantage of hearing Shakespeare and other poets read by
Shelley! It was at the baths of Lucca also that Mary found her
husband's unfinished _Rosalind and Helen_, and prevailed on him
to complete it, for, as she says in her notes, "Shelley had no care
for any of his poems that did not emanate from the depths of his mind
and develop some high or abstruse truth." Without doubt, Mary was the
ideal wife for Shelley. At this stage in the career of the poet one
can but deplore that relentless destiny should only bring Mary to
Shelley when a victim had already been sacrificed on the altar of
fate; and the more one realises the sympathetic and intellectual
nature of Claire, the less possible is it to help wasting a regret
that Byron could not have met with the philosopher bookseller's
adopted daughter earlier, instead of ruining his nature and his life
by the fashionable follies he tampered with. But who would alter the
workings of destiny? Does not the finest Lacryma Christi grow on the
once devastated slopes of Vesuvius? Life, too, has its earthquakes,
and the eruptions of its hidden depths seen through the minds of its
poets, though causing at times agony to those who come in contact with
them, work surely for the good of the whole. Mary had the years of
pleasure, which are inestimable to those who can appreciate them, of
contact with a great mind; but few among poets' wives have had the
gifts which allow them fully to participate in such pleasures. Well
for Mary that she also inherited much of her father's philosophic
nature, which enabled her to endure some of the trials inherent in her
position. What Shelley wrote Mary would transcribe--no mere task for
her--for did she not, through Shelley, enjoy Plato's _Symposium_,
a translation of which he was employed upon at Lucca? How could the
fashionable idlers at the Baths find time to drink in inspiration from
the poet and his wife? The poet gives the depths of his nature, but it
is not he who writes with the fever or the tear of emotion who can
stoop to be his own interpreter to the uninitiated, which seems to be
a necessity of modern times, with few exceptions. Mary's education,
defective though it may have been in some details, made her a fitting
companion for some of the greatest of her day, and this quality in a
woman could scarcely exist without a refinement of manner and tastes
which, at times, might be misleading as to her disposition.

The spirit of wandering now came over Claire, and by the middle of
August her desire to see her child again could no longer be
suppressed. Accordingly she set out with Shelley on August 19, and
reached Florence the next day, when Shelley wrote to Mary the
impression the lovely city made on him, begging her, at the same time,
not to let little William forget him before his return--little Clara
could not remember. Claire thought at one time of remaining at Padua,
but on reaching that city could not endure being left alone, and they
reached Venice in the middle of the night, during a violent storm,
which Shelley did not fail to write an account of to his wife. He also
told her how the Hoppners, whom they called on (Mr. Hoppner being the
British Consul in Venice), advised them to act with regard to Byron.
By their advice Shelley called alone on him, and Byron proposed to
send Allegra to Padua for a week on a visit; he would not like her to
remain longer, as the Venetians would think he had grown tired of her.
He afterwards offered them his villa at Este, thinking they were all
at Padua. Shelley accepted this proposal, and wrote requesting Mary to
join him there with the children, not knowing whether he was acting
for good or harm, but looking forward to be scolded if he had done
wrong, or kissed if right--the event would prove. The event did prove;
but it was out of their power to rule it.

Mary had invited the Gisbornes to stay with her at the Baths. They
arrived on August 25, but the circumstances seemed imperative for Mary
to go to Este, and she left on the 31st with a servant, Paolo, as
attendant. They were detained a day at Florence, and did not reach
Este till poor little Clara was dangerously ill from dysentery, which
reduced her to a state of fever and weakness. Mary endured the misery
of an incompetent doctor at Este; neither had they confidence in the
Paduan physician. Shelley proceeded to Venice to obtain further
advice, and prepare for the arrival of his wife and child, writing
from there that he felt somewhat uneasy, but trusted there was no
cause for real anxiety. This arrangement made, Mary set out with her
baby and Claire to meet Shelley at Padua, and then proceeded to
Venice, Claire returning to mind William and Allegra at Este; and now
Mary had to endure that terrible tension of mind, with her dying child
in her arms, driving to Venice, the time remembered by her so well
when, on the same route, nearly a quarter of a century later, each
turn in the road and the very trees seemed as the most familiar
objects of her daily life; for had they not been impressed on her
mental vision by the strength of despair? The Austrian soldiers at the
frontier could not detain them, though without passports, for even
they would not prevent a dying child from being conveyed on a forlorn
hope. Such grief could scarcely be rendered more or less acute by
circumstances. They arrived at their inn in a gondola, but only for
Clara to die in her mother's arms within an hour.

In this trial the Hoppners proved most kind friends, taking Mary to
their house, and relieving the first hopelessness of grief by
kindness, which it seemed ingratitude not to respond to. Mary,
whatever she may have felt, knew that no expression of her feelings in
her diary would nerve her to endure. She went about her daily
occupations as usual. One idle day elapsed, after her little Clara had
been buried on the Lido; we find her as usual reading, shopping, and
seeing Byron, with whom she hoped to make better terms for Claire with
regard to Allegra. There is a curious passage in a letter from Godwin
to his daughter, illustrative of his own turn of mind, and not without
some general truth:--"We seldom indulge long in depression and
mourning except when we think secretly that there is something very
refined in it, and that it does us honour."

On September 29, Shelley and Mary return to Este. Claire had taken the
children to Padua, but returned the next day to the Villa I
Cappuccini. In the evening they went to the Opera. Their house was
most beautifully situated. Here Shelley wrote his "Lines among the
Euganean Hills," for no intense feeling could come to the poet without
the necessity of expressing himself in poetry; and it was during this
September month that Shelley wrote the first act of his _Prometheus
Unbound_. Mary revisited Venice with her husband, little William,
and the nurse Elise, on October 12. The impression then formed of
Byron and his surroundings was so painful as to render it a matter of
surprise that they could think of returning Allegra to him; but her
extreme youth was her safeguard in this respect, and Shelley returned
to Este on September 24, to take Allegra a second time from her mother
who, with all her love for her "darling," as she always wrote of her
in the effaced passages of her diary, could not get over the
insuperable difficulties of her birth. On January 22 of this same year
Claire had entered in her diary the fact of its being Byron's (Albe's)
birthday; a note carefully effaced soon after. Shelley and Mary having
decided to spend the winter further south, after a few days of
preparation they left Este on November 5, and spent the night at
Ferrara, where they visited the relics of Ariosto and Tasso, and the
dungeon where the latter was incarcerated. Thence to Bologna, where
they endured much fatigue in the picture galleries, poor Shelley being
obliged to confess he did not pretend to taste. From Bologna, by
Faenza and Cesena, they followed the coast from Rimmi to Fano, and
passed an uncomfortable night at an inn at Fossombrone among the
Apennines. Mary was greatly impressed by the beauty and grandeur of
Spoleto. The impressive falls at Terni are duly chronicled by her; and
November 19 and 20 are spent in winding through the Apennines, and
then crossing the solitude of the Roman Campagna, and then Rome is
reached.

In Italy, where wonder succeeds wonder, and where no place is a mere
repetition of another, Mary may well have been impressed by her first
visit to the Eternal City. Here, in November, she was able to sit and
sketch in the Coliseum with her child and her husband, who found the
wonderful ruin a source of inspiration. But Rome was now only a
resting-place on their road to still sunnier Naples; and on November
27 Shelley set out a day in advance of Mary and her child to secure
rooms in Naples, where Mary arrived on December 1. In the best part of
the city, facing the royal gardens in front of the marvellous bay,
with Shelley for her guide, who himself made use of Madame de
Stael's _Corinne_ as a handbook, Livy for the antiquities, and
Winckelmann for art, Mary could enjoy the sights of Naples as no
ordinary sightseer would. December was devoted to expeditions--Baiae,
Vesuvius, and Pompeii. The day at Baiae was perhaps the most
delightful, with the return by moonlight in the boat to Naples.
Vesuvius, with its stupendous spectacle as of heaven and hell made
visible, naturally produced a profound impression, but it was a very
tiring expedition, as apparently it was only Claire who had a
_chaise a porteurs_ for the ascent of the cone; Mary and Shelley
rode on mules as far as they could go, and Claire was carried all the
way in a chair--though this seems scarcely possible--from Resina.
How Mary could walk through the cinders up the cone seems
incomprehensible. She must have had great strength, as it is a trying
task for a man, and no wonder Shelley, in spite of his pedestrian
strength, was exhausted when they arrived at the hermitage of San
Salvador. The winter at Naples seems to have been a trying one to
Mary, in spite of sunshine and the beauties of Nature; for Shelley was
in a state of depression, as is exemplified in the "Stanzas written in
dejection near Naples." What the immediate cause of this was cannot be
said; it seems to be one of the mysteries, or perhaps rather the one
mystery, of Shelley's life. He asserted to Medwin that a lady, young,
married, and of noble connections, had become infatuated with him, and
declared her love of him on the eve of his departure for the Continent
in 1816; that he had gently but firmly repulsed her; that she arrived
in Naples on the day he did, and had soon afterwards died. It is
suggested that a little girl who was left under his guardianship in
Naples, and whom he spoke of as his poor Neapolitan, might possibly be
the child of this lady; others doubt the story altogether, which is
not to be wondered at, although nothing can be declared impossible in
a life where truth is frequently so much stranger than romance.

Mary was also troubled while at Naples by her servants, an unusual
subject with her; but Paolo, having gone far beyond the limits of
cheating, was detected by Mary, and also obliged by her to marry
Elise, whom he had betrayed. They left for Rome, but Paolo declared he
would be revenged on the Shelleys, and wrote threatening letters,
which a lawyer disposed of for a time. This is known to be the origin
of later calumnies, which Mr. Jeaffreson has now carefully and finally
refuted.

Mary, later, with the regret of love that would be all sufficient,
wished that at Naples she had entered more into the cause of the
grief, which Shelley had kept from her, in order not to add to the
melancholy she was then feeling with regard to her father.

Before leaving Naples they succeeded in visiting the Greek ruins at
Paestum, which give still a fresh impression in Italy; and then, on
February 28, 1819, Mary takes leave of Naples, never to revisit it
with any of her companions of that time.

In Rome they found rooms in the Villa Parigi, but removed from them to
the Palazzo Verospi on the Corso, and we soon find them busy exploring
the treasures of Rome the inexhaustible. Here they had not to take
fatiguing journeys as in Naples to visit the chief points of interest,
for they were to be found at every turn. Visits to St. Peter's and the
museum of the Vatican are mentioned; walks with Shelley to the Forum,
the Capitol, and the Coliseum, which is visited and re-visited.
Frequent visits are paid in the evening to the Signora Marianna
Dionigi, and with her they hear Mass in St. Peter's, where the poor
old Pope Pius VII was nearly dying. The Palazzo Doria and its picture
gallery are examined, where the landscapes of Claude Lorraine
particularly strike them. Then to the baths of Caracalla, where the
romantic beauty of the ruins forms one of their chief attractions in
Rome. They also take walks and drives in the Borghese Gardens. The
statue of Pompey, at the base of which Caesar fell, is not passed
over--but it would be impossible to tell of all they saw and enjoyed
in Rome. Mary made more acquaintances in Rome, nor did the English
altogether neglect to call on Shelley. Mary also recommenced lessons
in drawing, while Claire had singing lessons, and they met some
celebrities at the Signora Dionigi's conversazioni. Altogether this
early part of their stay in Rome was happy, but Shelley's health
always fluctuating made them contemplate taking a house for the summer
at Castellamare, as a doctor recommended this for him. But the days
were hurrying towards a fresh calamity, for little William now fell
ill, and we find the visits of a physician, Dr. Bell, chronicled, and
on June 2nd three visits are noted. Claire helps to her utmost;
Shelley does not close his eyes for sixty hours, and Mary, the hopes
of whose life were bound up with the child, could only endure, watch
the wasting of fever, and see the last of three perish on "Monday,
June 7th, at noonday," as Claire enters in her diary. Mary and Shelley
were deprived of their gentle, blue-eyed darling, by a stronger hand
than that of the Court of Chancery, and little William was buried
where Shelley was soon to follow, in the cemetery which "might make
one in love with death."




CHAPTER X.

MARY'S DESPONDENCY AND BIRTH OF A SON.


Before the fatal illness of her child Willie, Mary had encountered an
old friend in Rome, and had renewed her acquaintance with Miss Curran
whom she had formerly known at her father's. Congenial tastes in
drawing and painting drew these ladies together, and Miss Curran did
or began portraits of Mary, Shelley, and, what was of more importance
to them at the time, of little Willie. The portraits of Mary and of
Shelley, unfinished, and by an amateur, are by no means satisfactory;
certainly not giving in Mary's case an idea of the beauty and charm
which are constantly referred to by her friends, and which seem to
have endured up to the time when, much later, an attack of small-pox
altered her appearance. The portrait of Mary, although not artistic,
is interesting as painted from life. Her oval face is here given with
the high forehead. The complexion described as delicate and white was
not in the gift of Miss Curran, who was not a colourist. To depict the
eyes grey, tending to brown near the iris, agrees with Shelley's,
"brown" and Trelawny's "grey" eyes, but the beauty of expression is
wanting. The mouth, thin and hard, might have caught a passing look,
but certainly not what an artist would have wished to portray; while a
certain stiffness of pose is not what one would expect in the
high-strung, sensitive Mary Shelley. The beauty of gold-brown hair was
not in the painter's power to catch. Mary was of middle height,
tending towards short; her hands were considered very beautiful, and
by some she was supposed to be given to displaying them, although
concealing them would have been difficult and unnecessary. Her arms
and neck were also beautiful. Leigh Hunt refers to her at the opera,
_decolletee_, with white, gleaming, sloping shoulders. Her "voice
the sweetest ever heard," added to her gifts of conversation,
described as resembling her father's with an added softness of manner
and charm of description, with elegance and correctness, devoid of
reserve or affectation. Cyrus Redding, who much admired and esteemed
her, obtained her opinion about Miss Curran's portrait of her husband,
for his article in the Galignani edition of Shelley. She considered it
by no means a good one, as unfinished, but with some striking points
of resemblance. She consented to superintend the engraving from it for
Galignani's volume, which was regarded as far more successful. Miss
Curran kindly assisted with advice.

While these portraits were being executed Mary was gaining the
sympathy of the painter, a boon soon much needed, for after the death
of her third child her courage for a while broke down entirely. In a
very delicate state of health at the time, she could not rouse herself
to think of anything but her losses. With no other child needing her
care, she could only abandon herself to inconsolable grief. Shelley
felt that he was out of her life for the first time; that her heart
was in Rome in the grave with her child. They revisited the Falls of
Terni, but the spirit had fled from the waters. They pass through
bustling Leghorn, and visit the Gisbornes, but the noise is
intolerable, and Shelley, ever attentive in such matters, finds a
house at a short distance in the country, the Villa Valsovano, down a
quiet lane surrounded by a market garden. Olives, fig trees, peach
trees, myrtles, alive at night with fire-flies, must have been
soothing surroundings to the wounded Mary, to whom nature was ever a
kind friend. Nor were they in solitude, for they were within visiting
distance of friends at Leghorn.

Two months after her loss she recommences her diary on Shelley's
birthday, this time not without a wail. She writes to Mrs. Hunt of the
tears she constantly sheds, and confesses she has done little work
since coming to Italy. She had read, however, several books of Livy,
Antenor, Clarissa, some novels, the Bible, Lucan's Pharsalia, and
Dante. Shelley is reading her _Paradise Lost_, and he is writing
the _Cenci_, where

   That fair, blue-eyed boy,
   Who was the lodestar of your life,

Mary tells us refers to William. Shelley wrote that their house was a
melancholy one, and only cheered by letters from England.

On September 18 Mary wrote to her friend, Miss Curran, that they were
about to move, she knew not whither. Then Shelley, with Charles
Clairmont, went to Florence and engaged rooms for six months, and at
the end of September Shelley returned and took his wife by slow and
easy stages to the Tuscan capital, for her health was then in a very
delicate state for travelling. There, in the lovely city of Florence,
on November 12, 1819, she gave birth to her son Percy Florence, who
first broke the spell of unhappiness which had hung for the last five
months like a cloud over them; he, as events proved, was to be her one
comfort with her memories, when the supreme calamity of her life fell
on her, and he was mercifully spared to be the solace of her later
years.




CHAPTER XI.

GODWIN AND "VALPERGA."


At this time while political events were absorbing England, and
Shelley was weaving them into poetry in Italy during the remainder of
his residence in Florence, Godwin's personal difficulties were
reaching their climax. When he lost, in an action for the rent of his
house, Shelley came to his help, but in some way Godwin expected more
than he received, and became very unpleasant in his correspondence, so
much so that Shelley had to beg him not to write to Mary on these
subjects, as her health was not then, in October 1819, able to bear
the strain, and the subject of money was not a fitting one to be
pressed on her by him. Mary had not the disposal of money; if she had
she would give it all to her father. He assured Godwin that the four
or five thousand pounds already expended on him might have made him
comfortable for the remainder of his life. Mrs. Godwin, naturally,
would not hear of abandoning the Skinner Street business, as being the
only provision for herself when Godwin should die. It is extremely
painful at this stage of Godwin's career to witness the lowering
effects of his wife's smaller nature upon him, as he certainly allowed
himself to be unduly influenced by her excited and not always truthful
views, as known since the early days of their married life. We have
Mrs. Gisborne's diary showing how Mrs. Godwin could not endure to see
anyone in 1820 who had an attachment for Mary, whom (as Godwin told
Mrs. Gisborne) she considered her greatest enemy; and although he
described his wife as of "the most irritable disposition possible," he
listened to, and repeated her conjectures to the disparagement of
Shelley and Mary at the time when she did not hesitate to accept with
her husband the large sums of money which Shelley with difficulty
raised for them. All the facts shown in this diary prove that Mary and
Fanny must have had a sufficiently trying life at home to account for
the result in either case, especially when we consider that Claire and
her brother Charles both preferred to leave Godwin's house on the
first possible occasion, Charles having left for France immediately
after Mary's and Claire's departure with Shelley. William alone
remained at home, but four years passed in a boarding school at
Greenwich, from 1814, must have helped him to endure the discomforts
of the time. Before Mrs. Gisborne's return to Italy Godwin gave her a
detailed account, in writing, of his money transactions with Shelley,
which had become very painful to both. In January, 1820, Florence
proving unsuitable for Shelley's health, they left for Pisa, the mild
climate of which city made it a favourite resort of the poet during
most of the short remainder of his life. Mary, ever hospitable,
although, as Shelley said, the bills for printing his poems must be
paid for by stinting himself in meat and drink, hoped that Mrs.
Gisborne would have stayed with them during her husband's visit to
England in 1820, as they had moved into a pleasant apartment in March.
This idea was not carried out. About this time Mary and Claire, both
with their own absorbing anxieties, became again irksome to each
other. Mary found relief when Claire was absent, and Claire notes how
"the Claire and the Mai find something to fight about every day," a
way of putting it which indicates differences, but certainly no grave
cause of disturbance. This was after their removal to Leghorn, where
they went towards the end of June to be near the lawyer on account of
Paolo. At the beginning of August the heat at Leghorn caused the
Shelleys to migrate to the baths of San Giuliano, where Shelley found
a very pleasant house, Casa Prini. The moderate rent suited their
slender purse, which had so many outside calls upon it.

In October Claire's departure for Florence, as governess in the family
of Professor Bojti, where she went by the advice of her friend Mrs.
Mason, formerly Lady Mountcashell, brought an end to her permanent
residence with the Shelleys, although she was still to look upon their
house as her home, and she visited them either for her pleasure or to
assist them. Her absence from her friends gives us the advantage of
letters from them, letters full of a certain exaggeration of affection
and sympathy from Shelley, who felt more acutely than Mary that Claire
might be unhappy under a strange roof. Mary, less anxious on those
grounds, writes about the operas she has seen, giving good
descriptions of them. One of her letters is full of anxiety as to
Allegra, who has been placed in the convent of Bagnacavallo by Byron.
She feels that the child ought, as soon as possible, to be taken out
of the hands of so "remorseless and unprincipled a man"; but advises
caution and waiting for a favourable opportunity. She hopes that he
may be returning to England. "He may be reconciled with his wife." At
any rate, Bagnacavallo is high and in a healthy position, quite
different from the dirty canals of Venice, which might injure any
child's health. Mary thus tries to console Claire, who is planning, in
her imagination, various ways of getting at her child, and
corresponding with and seeing Shelley on the subject. Mary dissuades
Claire from attempting anything in the spring--their unlucky time. It
was in the second spring Claire met L. B., &c.; the third they went to
Marlow--no wise thing, at least; the fourth, uncomfortable in London;
fifth, their Roman misery; the sixth, Paolo at Pisa; the seventh, a
mixture of Emilia and a Chancery suit. Mary acknowledges this
superstitious feeling is more in Claire's line than her own, but
thinks it worth considering; but this letter to Claire carries us a
year in advance.

During the summer of 1820 Mary had some of the delightful times she
loved so dearly, of poetic wanderings with Shelley through woods and
by the river, one of which she remembers long afterwards, when, making
her note to the "Skylark," she recalls how she and Shelley, wandering
through the lanes whose myrtle hedges were the bowers of the firefly,
heard the carolling of the skylark which inspired one of the most
beautiful of his poems. Precious memories which helped her through
many after years devoid of the sympathy she yearned for. At the Baths
they had the pleasure of a visit from Medwin, who gave a description
of how Shelley, his wife and child, had to escape from the upper
windows of their house in a boat when the canal overflowed and
inundated the valley. Mary speaks of it as a very picturesque sight,
with the herdsmen driving their cattle.

During the short absence of Shelley, when he took Claire to Florence,
Mary was occupied planning her novel of _Valperga_, for which she
studied Villani's chronicle and Sismondi's history.

On leaving the baths of San Giuliano, after the floods, the Shelleys
returned to Pisa, where they passed the late autumn and winter of 1820
and the spring of 1821. Here they made more acquaintances than
heretofore, Professor Pacchiani, called also "Il Diavolo," introducing
them to the Prince Mavrocordato, the Princess Aigiropoli, the
_improvisatore_ Sgricci, Taafe, and last, not least, to Emilia
Viviani. Here Mary continued to write _Valperga_, and pursued her
Latin, Spanish, and Greek studies; the latter the Prince Mavrocordato
assisted her with, as Mary writes to Mrs. Gisborne: "Do not you envy
me my luck? that, having begun Greek, an amiable, young, agreeable,
and learned Greek prince comes every morning to give me a lesson of an
hour and a half."

But the person of most moment at this time was undoubtedly the
Contessina Emilia Viviani, whom, accompanied by Pacchiani, Claire,
then Mary, and then Shelley, visited at the Convent of Sant' Anna.
This beautiful girl, with profuse black hair, Grecian profile, and
dreamy eyes, placed in the convent till she should be married, to
satisfy the jealousy of her stepmother, became naturally an object of
extreme interest to the Shelleys. Many visits were paid, and Mary
invited her to stay with them at Christmas. Shelley was convinced that
she had great talent, if not genius. Shelley and Mary sent her books,
and Claire gave her English lessons at her convent, while she was
taking a holiday from the Bojtis. Many letters are preserved from the
beautiful Emilia to Shelley and Mary, letters which, translated into
English, seem overflowing with sentiment and affection, but which to
Italians would indicate rather the style cultivated by Italian ladies,
which, to this day, seems one of their chief accomplishments if they
are not gifted with a voice to sing. To Mary she complains of a
certain coldness, but certainly this could not be brought to
the charge of Shelley, who was now inspired to write his
_Epipsychidion_. To him Emilia was as the Skylark, an emanation
of the beautiful; but to Mary for a time, during Shelley's transitory
adoration, the event evidently became painful, with all her philosophy
and belief in her husband. She could not regard the lovely girl who
took walks with him as the skylark that soared over their heads; and
the _Epipsychidion_ was evidently not a favourite poem of Mary.
Surely we may ascribe to this time, in the spring of 1821, the poem
written by Shelley to Lieutenant Williams, whose acquaintance he had
made in January. There is no month affixed to--

  The Serpent is cast out from Paradise....

and it might well apply, with its reference to "my cold home," to the
time when Mary, in depression and pique, did not always give her
likewise sensitive husband all the welcome he was accustomed to, and
Shelley took refuge in a poem by way of letter; for this is the time
referred to by Mary in her letter to Claire as their seventh
unfortunate spring--a mixture of Emilia and a Chancery suit! It was
not till the next spring that Emilia was married, and led her husband
and mother-in-law, as Mary puts it, "a devil of a life." _We_
have only to be grateful to Emilia for having inspired one of the most
wondrous poems in any language.

The Williamses, to whom Shelley's poem is addressed, were met by them
in January. Mary writes of the fascinating Jane (Mrs. Williams) that
she is certainly very pretty, but wants animation; while Shelley
writes that she is extremely pretty and gentle, but apparently not
very clever; that he liked her much, but had only seen her for an
hour.

Mary, among her multifarious reading, notes an article by Medwin on
Animal Magnetism, and Shelley, who suffered severely at this time,
shortly afterwards tried its effect through Medwin. The latter bored
Mary excessively; possibly she found the magnetising a wearisome
operation, although Shelley is said to have been relieved by it. His
highly nervous temperament was evidently impressed. When Medwin left,
Mrs. Williams undertook to carry on the cure.

The Chancery suit referred to by Mary was an attempt between Sir
Timothy's attorney and Shelley's to throw their affairs into Chancery,
causing great alarm to them in Italy, till Horace Smith came to their
rescue in England, and with indignant letters settled the
inconsiderate litigation.

Mrs. Shelley, in her Notes to Poems in 1821, recounts how Shelley was
nearly drowned, by a flat boat which he had recently acquired being
overturned in the canal near Pisa, when returning from Leghorn.
Williams upset the boat by standing up and holding the mast. Henry
Reveley, Mrs. Gisborne's son, rescued Shelley and brought him to land,
where he fainted with the cold. At this same time, at Pisa, Mary had
to consider with Shelley a matter of great importance to Claire.

Byron, now at Ravenna, had placed Allegra, as already stated, in the
convent of Bagnacavallo. He told Mrs. Hoppner that she had become so
unmanageable by servants that it was necessary to have her under
better care than he could secure, and he considered that it would be
preferable to bring her up as a Roman Catholic with an Italian
education, as in that way, with a fortune of five or six thousand
pounds, she would marry an Italian and be provided for, whereas she
would always hold an anomalous position in England. At this proposal
Claire was extremely indignant; but Shelley and Mary took the opposite
view, and considered that Byron acted for the best, as the convent was
in a healthy position, and the nuns would be kind to the child. This
idea of Mary would naturally be agreed with by some, and disapproved
of by others; but at that time there was certainly no cause to
indicate that Bagnacavallo would be more fatal to Allegra than any
other place, although Claire's apprehensions were cruelly realised.
From this time Claire and Byron wrote letters of recrimination to each
other, which, considering Byron's obduracy against the feelings of the
mother, Shelley and Mary came to hold as tyrannically unfeeling.

In May, Shelley and his wife and son returned to the baths of San
Giuliano, and while here Shelley's _Adonais_ was published. In
1820, when the Shelleys heard of Keats's fatal illness from Mrs.
Gisborne, she having met him the day after he had received his death
warrant from the doctor, they were the first to beg him to join them
at Pisa. A small touch of poetical criticism, however, appears to have
weighed more with the sensitive Keats than these friendly
considerations for his health, and as he was about to accompany his
friend Mr. Severn to Rome, he did not accept their kind offer, though
in all probability Pisa would have been better for him.

During this summer at the baths Mary had finished her romance of
_Valperga_, and read it to her husband, who admired it extremely.
He considered it to be a "living and moving picture of an age almost
forgotten, a profound study of the passions of human nature."

_Valperga_, published in 1823, the year after Shelley's death, is
a romance of the 14th century in Italy, during the height of the
struggle between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, when each state and
almost each town was at war with the other; a condition of things
which lends itself to romance. Mary Shelley's intimate acquaintance
with Italy and Italians gives her the necessary knowledge to write on
this subject. Her zealous Italian studies came to her aid, and her
love of nature give life and vitality to the scene. Valperga, the
ancestral castle home of Euthanasia, a Florentine lady of the Guelph
faction, is most picturesquely described, on its ledge of projecting
rock, overlooking the plain of Lucca; the dependent peasants around
happy under the protection of their good Signora. That this beautiful
and high-minded lady should be affianced to a Ghibelline leader is a
natural combination; but when her lover Castruccio, prince of Lucca,
carries his political enthusiasm the length of making war on her
native city of Florence, whose Republican greatness and love of art
are happily described, Euthanasia cannot let love stand in the way of
duty and gratitude to all those dearest to her. The severe struggle is
well described, for Euthanasia has loved Castruccio from their
childhood. When they played about the mountain grounds of her home at
Valperga, Castruccio learnt the secret paths to the Castle, which
knowledge later helped him to take the fortress when Euthanasia
refused to yield it to him. Castruccio's character is also well
described: his devoted attachment to Euthanasia from which nothing
could turn him, till the passions of the conqueror and party faction
are still stronger; and the irresistible force which impels him to
make war and subdue the Guelphs, which by her is regarded as murder
and rapine, disunites beings seemingly formed for each other. All
these different emotions are portrayed with great beauty and
simplicity.

The Italian superstitions are well shown, as how the Florentines
ascribed all good and evil fortune to conjunction of stars. The power
of the Inquisition in Rome comes likewise into play, when the
beautiful prophetess Beatrice (the child of the prophetess Wilhelmina)
who had to be given to the Leper for protection, as even his filthy
and deserted hut was safer for her than that it should be known to the
Inquisition that she existed. She is rescued from the Leper by a
bishop who heard her story from the deathbed of the woman to whom her
mother when dying had confided her. She was then brought up by the
bishop's sister. Her mother's spirit of prophecy was inherited by the
daughter; and as the mother believed herself to be an emanation of the
Holy Spirit, so Beatrice thought herself the Ancilla Dei. These
mystical fancies and their working are depicted with much beauty and
strength.

These Donne Estatiche first appear in Italy after the 12th century,
and had continued to the time which Mary Shelley selected for her
romance. After giving an account of their pretensions, Muratori
gravely observes: "We may piously believe that some were distinguished
by supernatural gifts and admitted to the secrets of heaven, but we
may justly suspect that the source of many of their revelations was
their ardent imagination filled with ideas of religion and piety."
Beatrice, on prophesying the Ghibelline rule in Ferrara, is seized by
the emissaries of the Pope, and has to undergo the ordeal of the white
hot ploughshares, through which she passes unscathed, there having
apparently been connivance to help her through. Her exultation and
enthusiasm become intense, and it is only after a great shock that she
grows conscious of the falseness of her position; for, having met
Castruccio on his mission to Ferrara, she is irresistibly attracted by
him, and, mixing up her infatuation with her mystical ideas, does not
hesitate to make secret appointments with him, never doubting that her
love is returned, and that they are one at heart. When at length
Castruccio has to return to Lucca, and to his betrothed, Euthanasia,
the shock to the poor mystical Beatrice is terrible. Finally she is
met as a pilgrim wending her weary way to Rome. Assuredly, Shelley was
justified in admiring this character. There is a straightforwardness
in the plot into which the stormy history of the period is clearly
introduced, which gives much interest to this romance, and it is a
decided advance upon _Frankenstein_, though her age when that was
written must not be forgotten. A book of this kind shows forcibly the
troubles to which a lovely country like Italy is exposed through
disunion, and must fill the hearts of all lovers of this beautiful
land with gratitude to the noble men who willingly sacrificed
themselves to help in the cause of united Italy; those whose songs
roused the people, and carried hope into the hearts of even the
prisoners in the pozzi of Venice; for the man of idea who can rouse
the nation by his songs does not help less than the brave soldier who
can aid with his arms, though alas! he does not always live to see the
triumph he has helped to achieve. [Footnote: Gabriele Rossetti, whom
Mary Shelley knew, and to whom she referred for information while
writing her lives of Italian poets, has been said to have been the
first who in modern times had the idea of a united Italy under a
constitutional monarch, for which idea and for his rousing songs he
was forced to leave Italy by Ferdinand I. of Naples in 1821, and
remained an exile in England till his death in 1854, at the age of 71.
How Mary Shelley, with her husband, must have sympathised in these
ideas with their love of Italy can be understood, although it was the
climate and beauty of Italy more than the people that charmed Shelley;
but then was he not also an exile from his native land?]

This work, when completed, was sent to her father by Mary, for it had
been a labour of love, and the sum of four hundred pounds which Godwin
obtained for it was devoted to help him in his difficulties.
Unhappily, the romance was not published till the year after her
husband's death.




CHAPTER XII.

LAST MONTHS WITH SHELLEY.


IN July 1821, Shelley left his wife at the baths while he went to seek
a house at Florence for the winter; but he returned in three days
unsuccessful. He then received a letter from Byron begging him to go
straight to Ravenna, various matters having to be talked over. Shelley
left at two in the afternoon, on his birthday, August 4th. Here he had
to go through the Paolo-Hoppner scandal, which we have referred to.
Shelley had to write letters to Mary on the subject, and Mary wrote
the most indignant and decisive denial of the imputation, on her
husband and Claire. She writes: "I swear by the life of my child, by
my blessed beloved child, that I know the accusations to be false." If
more were needed, the clear exposition by Mr. Jeaffreson and later
Professor Dowden, leave nothing to be said. Shelley wrote to Mary
describing his visit to Allegra at the convent, where he found her
prettily dressed in white muslin with an apron of black silk. She was
a most graceful, airy child; she took Shelley all over the
convent, and began ringing the nun's call-bell, without being
reprimanded--although the prioress had considerable trouble to prevent
the nuns assembling dressed or undressed--which struck Shelley as
showing that she was kindly treated. Before leaving Ravenna, about
August 17th, he wrote to thank his wife for her promise of her
miniature, done by Williams, which he received a few days later from
her at the Baths of Pisa. Mary and Shelley both were of those who,
wherever they found a friend, found also a pensioner, or person to be
benefited by them; as they did not seek their friends for personal
advantage, and were among those who hold it more blessed to give than
to receive. In January 1821, Mrs. Leigh Hunt wrote to Mary Shelley,
begging her to help her husband and family to come to Italy--he was
ill and depressed, and surrounded by all his children sick and
suffering. While Shelley was at Ravenna he brought up this subject
with Byron, who proposed that he, Shelley, and Leigh Hunt should start
a periodical for their joint works, and share the profits. Shelley did
not agree to this for himself, as he was not popular, and could only
gain advantage from the others; but for Hunt it was different, and
Shelley joyfully wrote to him from Pisa, on his return from Ravenna,
to join them as soon as possible. Delays occurred in Hunt's departure,
and Byron received letters from England warning him against joining
with Shelley and Hunt. Byron arrived in Pisa with the Countess
Guiccioli and her brother Pietro Gamba, on November the 1st, at the
Lanfranchi Palace, and the Shelleys had apartments at the top of I Tre
Palazzi di Chiesa, opposite. Claire, who had been staying with them,
and accompanied them on a trip to Spezzia, had now returned to
Professor Bojti's at Florence.

Mary had the task of furnishing the ground floor of Byron's Lanfranchi
Palace for the Hunts, although Byron insisted on paying for it. Hunt,
meanwhile, was unable to proceed beyond Plymouth that winter, where
they were obliged to stay by stress of weather and Mrs. Hunt's
illness. Thus some months passed by, during which time Byron lost the
first ardour of the enterprise, and became very lukewarm. It must have
been when Mary had good reason to foresee this result that she wrote
to Hunt thus:--

MY DEAR FRIEND,

I know that S. has some idea of persuading you to come here. I am too
ill to write the reasonings, only let me entreat you let no
persuasions induce you to come; selfish feelings you may be sure do
not dictate me, but it would be complete madness to come. I wish I
could write more. I wish I were with you to assist you. I wish I could
break my chains and leave this dungeon. Adieu, I shall hear about yon
and Marianne's health from S.

Ever your M.


Shelley was forced to apply to Byron to help him with money to lend
Hunt, and Byron had ceased to care about the _Liberal_, the
projected magazine.

While staying near Byron the Shelleys came in for a large influx of
visitors, often much to Shelley's annoyance, and Mary wrote of their
wish, if Greece were liberated, of settling in one of the lovely
islands.

The middle of January brought one visitor to the Shelleys, who,
introduced by the Williams, became more than a passing figure in
Mary's life. In Edward John Trelawny she found a staunch friend ever
after. Trelawny, who had led a wild life from the time he left the
navy in mere boyhood, was a conspicuous character wherever known. With
small reverence for the orthodox creeds, he must have had some of the
traits of the ancient Vikings, before meeting Shelley; but from that
time he became his devoted admirer, or, as one has observed who knew
him, as Ahab at Elijah's feet, so Trelawny at Shelley's was ready to
humble himself for the first time; nor did he afterwards, to the end
of a long life, ever speak of him without veneration. Shelley's
exalted ideas touched a chord in the strong man's heart, and within a
few weeks of his death he rejoiced in hearing of a crowded assembly in
Glasgow, enthusiastic in hearing a lecture on Shelley, and asserted it
is the "spirit of poetry which needs spreading now; science is popular
to the exclusion of poetry as a regenerator."

The day after their first meeting with Trelawny, Mary notes in her
diary how Trelawny discussed with Williams and Shelley about building
a boat which they desired to have, and which Captain Roberts was to
build at Genoa without delay. A year later Mary added a note to this
entry, to the effect how she and Jane Williams then laughed at the way
their husbands decided without consulting them, though they agreed in
hating the boat. She adds: "How well I remember that night! How
short-sighted we are! And now that its anniversary is come and gone,
methinks I cannot be the wretch I too truly am." This winter, at Pisa,
Mary, with popular and strong men to protect her, was not neglected so
much as hitherto. She went to Mrs. Beauclerc's ball with Trelawny; but
she refers to a strange feeling of depression in the midst of a gay
assembly.

On February 8 Shelley started, with Williams, to seek for houses in
the neighbourhood of Spezzia; the idea being that the Shelleys, the
Williamses, Trelawny and Captain Roberts, Byron, Countess Guiccioli
and her brother, should all spend the summer there, although Mary
feared the party would be too large for unity. Only one suitable house
could be found; but Shelley was not to be stopped by such a trifle,
and the house must do for all.

In the early spring of this year, Mary wrote to Mrs. Hunt how she and
Mrs. Williams went violet-hunting, while the men went on longer
expeditions. The Shelleys and their surroundings must have kept the
English assembled in Pisa in a pleasing state of excitement. At one
time Mary caused a commotion by attending Dr. Nott's Sunday service,
which was held on the ground floor of her house. On one occasion he
preached against Atheism, and, having specially asked Mary to attend,
it was taken as a marked attack on Shelley, and it was considered that
Mary had taken part against her husband.

Mary wrote a pathetic letter to Mrs. Gisborne that she had only been
three times to church, and now longed to be in some sea-girt isle with
Shelley and her baby, but that Shelley was entangled with Byron and
could not get away. She was longing for the time by the sea when she
would have boats and horses.

While Mary was yearning for sympathy with her kind, or solitude with
Shelley, he for a time was wasting regrets that she did not sympathise
with or feel his poetry. It was the old story of the Skylark. While he
was seeking inspiration at some fresh source, Mary did not become
equally enthusiastic about the new idea. But most probably, in spite
of Trelawny's later notion and her own self-reproaches of not having
done all possible things to sympathise with Shelley, Mary's behaviour
was really the best calculated for his comfort. A man who did not like
regular meals and conventional habits in this respect, would not have
liked his wife to worry him constantly on the subject, and the plate
of cold meat and bread placed on a shelf, as his table was probably
covered with papers--which Trelawny found there forgotten, towards the
end of a "lost day" as Shelley called it--was not inappropriate for
one who forgot his meals and did not like being teased. Mary was not
of the nature to make, nor Shelley of the nature to require, a docile
slave; and during the time at Naples, for which Mary felt most regret,
Shelley wrote of her as "a dear friend with whom added years old
intercourse adds to my appreciation of its value, and who would have
more right than anyone to complain that she has not been able to
extinguish in me the very power of delineating sadness."

During this time the English visitors believed and manufactured all
kinds of stories about the eccentric English then at Pisa. Trelawny
had been murdered--Byron wounded--and Taaffe was guarded by bulldogs
in Byron's house! These rumours were laughed over by the people
concerned.

On one occasion Mrs. Shelley, with the Countess Guiccioli, witnessed
from their carriage the affair with the dragoon Masi, when he jostled
against Taaffe. Byron, Shelley, and Gamba pursued him; Shelley, coming
up with him first, was knocked down, but was rescued by Captain Hay.
The dragoon was finally wounded by one of Byron's servants, under the
idea that he had wounded Byron.

During this exciting time at Pisa, Claire was eating her heart at
Florence with longings and regrets for Allegra; and Mary and Shelley
were trying to calm her by letters, and growing themselves more and
more dissatisfied at Byron's treatment of the mother. There are
entries in Claire's diary as to her cough, and the last entry before
the day she left Florence for Pisa--April l3--is erased. Then there is
one of her ominous blanks from April till September.

While Claire travelled with Williams and his wife to Spezzia to look
for a house, news came from Bagnacavallo which verified her worst
fears. Typhus fever had ravaged the convent and district, and the
fragile blossom had succumbed. Shelley and Mary determined to keep
this "evil news," as Mary calls it, from Claire till she is away from
the neighbourhood of Byron. So, on her return from the unsuccessful
visit to Spezzia, they have to conceal their sorrow and their
feelings. Shelley, ever anxious for Claire's distress, persuaded her
to accompany Mary to Spezzia, saying they must take any house they
could get. Claire had thought of returning to Florence, but was
overruled by Shelley, who, as Mary wrote to Mrs. Gisborne, carried all
like a torrent before him and sent Mary and Claire with Trelawny to
Spezzia. Shelley followed with their furniture in boats; and so, on
April 26, they were hurried by Shelley, or fate, from misfortune to
misfortune, in taking Claire to a haven where she might be helped to
bear her sore trouble. Mary, with her companions, secured the only
available house--Casa Magui, at San Terenzio, near Lerici--in which it
was settled that they and the Williamses must find room and bring
their furniture. Difficulties of all kinds had to be overcome from the
dogana. The furniture arrived in boats, and they were told the dues
upon it would amount to three hundred pounds, but the harbour-master
kindly allowed it to be removed to the villa as to a depot till
further orders arrived. Then there were the difficulties of Mrs.
Williams, of whom Shelley wrote that she was pining for her saucepans.
Claire felt the necessity of returning to Florence, the space being so
small. This, however, was not to be thought of. Claire still had to
have the news of her child's death broken to her, and Mrs. Williams's
room had to be used for secret consultations. Claire, entering the
room and seeing the agitated silence on her approach, at once realised
the state of the case. She felt her Allegra was dead, and it only
devolved on Shelley to tell the sad tale of a fever-ravaged district,
and a fever-tossed child dying among the kind nuns, who are ever good
nurses. Claire's grief was intense; but all that she now wanted was a
sight of her child's coffin, a likeness of her, and a lock of her
golden hair (a portion of which last is now in the writer's
possession). The latter Shelley helped to obtain for her; but Claire
never after forgave him who had consigned her child to the convent in
the Romagna, nor allowed her another sight of her little one.

On May 21 Claire left for Florence, and Mary remained with her husband
and the Williamses at Casa Magni. These rapidly succeeding troubles,
together with Mary's being again in a delicate state of health, left
the circle in an unhinged and nervous state of apprehension. Shelley
saw visions of Allegra rising from the sea, clapping her hands and
smiling at him. Mrs. Williams saw Shelley on the balcony, and then he
was nowhere near, nor had he been there. Shelley ranged from wild
delight with the beauty around him, to such fits of despondency as
when he most culpably proposed to Mrs. Williams, while in a boat with
him and her babies, in the bay--"Now let us together solve the great
mystery." But she managed to get him to turn shorewards, and escaped
at the first opportunity from the boat.

Mary was not without her prophetic periods--a deep melancholy settled
on her amid the lovely scenery. Generally at home with mountain and
water, she now only felt oppressed by their proximity. Shelley was at
work on the _Triumph of Life_, one of his grandest poems; but
Mary was always apprehensive except when with her husband, least so
when lying in a boat with her head on his knees. If Shelley were
absent, she feared for Percy, her son, so that, in spite of the oasis
of peace and rest and beauty around them, she was weak and nervous;
and Shelley, for fear of hurting her, had to conceal such matters as
might trouble her, especially the again critical state of the affairs
of her father, who was in want of four hundred pounds to compound with
his creditors. These alarms for Mary's health and tranquillity of
mind, and the consequent necessity of keeping any trying subject from
her, may have induced Shelley in writing to Claire to adopt a
confidential tone not otherwise advisable.

While at Casa Magni, the fatal boat which had been discussed on the
first evening Trelawny spent with the Shelleys, arrived. The "perfect
plaything for the summer" had been built against the advice of
Trelawny, by a Genoese ship-builder, after a model obtained by
Lieutenant Williams from one of the royal dockyards in England.
Originally it was intended to call it the _Don Juan_, but recent
circumstances had caused a break in the intimacy of Shelley with
Byron, and Shelley felt that this would be eternal. He, therefore, no
longer wished any name to remind him of Byron, and gave the
name _Ariel_, proposed by Trelawny, to the small craft. With
considerable difficulty the name _Don Juan_ was taken from the
sail, where Byron had manoeuvred to have it painted.

Towards the end of May, Mary was seriously suffering; the difficulties
of housekeeping for the Williamses as well as themselves were no
trifle. Provisions had to be fetched from a distance of over three
miles. Shelley writes to Claire, hoping she will be able to find them
a man-cook. As Mary was somewhat better when Shelley wrote, he feared
he should have to speak to her about Godwin's affairs, but put off the
evil day.

On June 6 we find Shelley setting out with Williams in the
_Ariel_ to meet Claire on her way from Florence to Casa Magni. A
calm having delayed them till the evening, they were too late to meet
Claire, who travelled on by land for Via Reggio. Shelley and Williams,
returning by sea, arrived home a short time before her. Their return
and her arrival were none too soon; for, on the 8th or 9th, Mary fell
dangerously ill, as she wrote in August to Mrs. Gisborne: "I was so
ill that for seven hours I lay nearly lifeless--kept from fainting by
brandy, vinegar, eau-de-cologne, &c. At length ice was brought to our
solitude; it came before the doctor, so Claire and Jane were afraid of
using it; but Shelley over-ruled them, and, by an unsparing
application of it, I was restored. They all thought, and so did I at
one time, that I was about to die."

Shelley, equal to the occasion, felt the strain on his nerves
afterwards, and a week after his wife was out of danger he alarmed her
greatly, as she relates: "While yet unable to walk, I was confined to
my bed. In the middle of the night I was awoke by hearing him scream,
and come rushing into my room; I was sure that he was asleep, and
tried to waken him by calling on him; but he continued to scream,
which inspired me with such a panic that I jumped out of bed and ran
across the hall to Mrs. Williams's room, where I fell through
weakness, though I was so frightened that I got up again immediately.
She let me in, and Williams went to Shelley who had been wakened by my
getting out of bed. He said that he had not been asleep, and that it
was a vision that he saw that had frightened him. But as he declared
that he had not screamed, it was certainly a dream, and no waking
vision." And so the lovely summer months passed by with all these
varying emotions, with thoughts soaring to the highest pinnacles of
imagination as in the _Triumph of Life_, and with the enjoyment
of the high ideals of others, as in reading the Spanish dramas: music
also gave enchantment when Jane Williams played her guitar. With the
intense beauty of the scenery, and the wildness of the natives who
used sometimes to dance all night on the sands in front of their
house; the emotions of life seemed compressed into this time, spent in
what would be considered by many great dulness, in the company of
Trelawny and the Williamses. And now an event, long hoped for,
arrived, for the Hunts were in the harbour of Genoa, and Shelley was
to meet them at Leghorn, as Hunt's letter, which reached them on June
19, had been delayed too long to allow of Shelley joining them at
Genoa. On July I intelligence came of the Hunts' departure from Genoa;
and at noon a breeze rising from the west decided the desirability of
at once starting for Leghorn. Shelley, with Captain Roberts who had
joined him at Lerici, arrived by nine in the evening, after the
officers of health had left their office. The voyagers were thus
unable to land that evening, but spent the time alongside of Byron's
yacht, the _Bolivar_, from which they received coverings for the
night.

The next morning news arrived from Byron's villa, which already began
to verify Mary's forebodings in her letter to Hunt, and proved the
clear-sightedness of her forecast. Disturbances having taken place at
his house at Monte Nero, Count Gamba and his family were banished by
the Government from Tuscany, and there were rumours that Byron might
be leaving immediately for America or Switzerland. This was indeed
trying news for Shelley to have to break to the Hunts on their first
meeting in the hotel at Leghorn, where, after four years, the two
friends again met. The encounter was most touching, as remembered
years later by Thornton Hunt. Shelley had plenty of work on hand for a
few days; he procured Vacca, the physician, for Mrs. Hunt; and had to
sustain his friend during his anxiety as to his wife's health and the
uncertainty as to Byron's conduct. Shelley would not think of leaving
him till he had seen him comfortably installed in the Lanfranchi
Palace, in the rooms which Mary had prepared for him at Byron's
request. The still more difficult task of fixing Byron to some promise
of assistance with regard to the _Liberal_ was likewise carried
out; and after one or two days of dejection, during which Shelley
wrote to Mrs. Williams on July 4 to relieve his own despondency, and
to his wife to relieve hers, as her depression of spirits required
more cheering than adding to, he wrote:--"How are you, my best Mary?
Write especially how is your health and how your spirits are, and
whether you are not more reconciled to staying at Lerici, at least
during the summer. You have no idea how I am hurried and occupied. I
have not a moment's leisure, but will write by the next post."

Soon after writing these letters, Shelley found with exultation that
his work was done. As usual, he had carried ail before him, and
secured Byron's "Vision of Judgment" for the first number of the
_Liberal_, and by July 7 he was able to show his friends the
ever-delightful sights of Pisa. Thus one day of rest and pleasure
remained to Shelley after doing his utmost to assist his friend Hunt.
To the last Shelley was faithful to his aim--that of doing all he
could for others. His interviews with Byron had secured a return of
the friendly feeling which nought but death was henceforth to sever,
and the two great names, which nothing can divide, are linked by the
unbreakable chain of genius--genius, the fire of the universe, which
at times may flicker low, but which, bursting into flame here and
there, illumines the dark recesses of the soul of the universe--genius
which has made the world we know, which, never absent, though dormant,
has changed the stone to the flower, the flower to animal, and,
gaining ever in degree through the various stages of life, is the
divine attribute, the will, the idea. Genius manifest in the greatest
and best of humanity, shown indeed, as the Word of God, or as he who
holds the mirror up to nature, or by the great power which in colour
or monotone can display the love and agony of a dying Christ; by the
loving poet, who can soar beyond his age to uphold an unselfish aim of
perfection to the world; by all those who, throwing off their mortal
attributes at times, can live the true life free from the too
absorbing pleasures of the flesh, which can only he enjoyed by
dividing.

But now Shelley's mortal battle was nearly over; he who had not let
his talent or myriad talents lie dormant was to rest, his work of life
was nearly done. Not that the good is ever ended; verily, through
thousands of generations, through eternity, it endures; while the
bad--perhaps not useless--is the chaff which is dispersed, and which
has no result unless to hurry on the divine will. Our life is double.
Shelley's atoms were to return to their primal elements. The unknown
atoms or attributes of them were undoubtedly to carry on their work;
he had added to the eternal intellect.

The last facts of Shelley's life are related by Trelawny and by Mrs.
Shelley. On the morning of July 8, having finished his arrangements
for the Hunts and spent one day in showing the noble sights of Pisa,
Shelley, after making purchases for their house and obtaining money
from his banker, accompanied by Trelawny during the forenoon, was
ready by noon to embark on the _Ariel_ with Edward Williams and
the sailor-boy, Charles Vivian. Captain Roberts was not without
apprehensions as to the weather, and urged Shelley to delay his
departure for a day; but Williams was anxious to rejoin his wife, and
Shelley not in a humour to frustrate his wishes. Trelawny, who desired
to accompany them in the _Bolivar_ into the offing, was prevented,
not having obtained his health order, and so could only reluctantly
remain behind and watch his friends' small craft through a ship's glass.

Mistakes were noted, the ship's mate of the _Bolivar_ remarking
they ought to have started at daybreak instead of after one o'clock;
that they were too near shore; that there would soon be a land breeze;
the gaff top-sail was foolish in a boat with no deck and no sailor on
board; and then, pointing to the southwest, "Look at those black lines
and dirty rags hanging on them out of the sky; look at the smoke on
the water; the devil is brewing mischief."

The approaching storm was watched also by Captain Roberts from the
light-house, whence he saw the topsail taken in; then the vessel
freighted with such precious life was seen no more in the mist of the
storm. For a time the sea seemed solidified and appeared as of lead,
with an oily scum; the wind did not ruffle it. Then sounds of thunder,
wind, and rain filled the air; these lasted with fury for twenty
minutes; then a lull, and anxious looks among the boats which had
rushed into the harbour for Shelley's hark. No glass could find it on
the horizon. Trelawny landed at eight o'clock; inquiries were useless.
An oar was seen on a fishing boat: it might be English--it might be
Shelley's; but this was denied. Nothing to do but wait, till the third
day, when he returned to Pisa to tell his fears to Hunt and Byron, who
could only listen with quivering lips and speak with faltering voice.

While these friends were agitated between hope and fear, the time was
passing wearily at San Terenzio. Jane Williams received a letter from
her husband on that day (written on Saturday from Leghorn), where he
was waiting for Shelley. It stated that if they did not return on
Monday, he certainly would be back at the latest on Thursday in a
felucca by himself if necessary. The fatal Monday passed amid storm
and rain, and no idea was entertained by Mrs. Shelley or Mrs. Williams
that their husbands had started in such weather as they experienced.
Mary, who had then scarcely recovered from her dangerous illness, and
was unable to join Claire and Jane Williams in their evening walks,
could only pace up and down in the verandah and feel oppressed by the
very beauty which surrounded her. So till Wednesday these days of
storm and oppression and undefined fears passed; then, some feluccas
arriving from Leghorn, they were informed that their husbands had left
on Monday; but that could not be believed. Thursday came and passed,
_the_ Thursday which should be the latest for Williams's arrival.
The wind had been fair, but midnight arrived, and still Mary and Jane
were alone; then sad hope gave place to fearful anxiety preceding
despair; but Friday was letter day--wait for that--and no boat could
leave. Noon of Friday and letters came, but _to_, not _from_
Shelley. Hunt wrote to him: "Pray write to tell us how you got home,
for they say that you had bad weather after you sailed on Monday, and
we are anxious." Mary read so far when the paper fell from her hands
and she trembled all over. Jane read it, and said, "It is all over."
Mary replied, "No, my dear Jane, it is not all over; but this suspense
is dreadful. Come with me; we will go to _Leghorn_; we will post,
to be swift and learn our fate."

Thus, as Mary Shelley herself describes, they crossed to Lerici,
despair in their hearts, two poor, wild, aghast creatures driving,
"like Matilda," towards the sea to know if they were to be for ever
doomed to misery. The idea of seeing Hunt for the first time after
four years, to ask "Where is he?" nearly drove Mary into convulsions.
On knocking at the door of the Casa Lanfranchi they found Lord Byron
was in Pisa and. Hunt being in bed, their interview was to be with
Byron, only to hear, "They knew nothing. He had left Pisa on Sunday;
on Monday he had sailed. There had been bad weather Monday afternoon;
more they knew not." Mary, who had risen from, a bed of sickness for
the journey, and had travelled all day, had now at midnight to proceed
to Leghorn in search of Trelawny; for what rest could there be with
such a terrible doubt hanging over their lives? They could not
despair, for that would have been death; they had to pass through
longer hours and days of anguish to subdue their souls to bear the
inevitable.

They reached Leghorn, and were driven to the wrong inn. Nothing to do
but wait till the morning--but wait dressed till six o'clock--when
they proceeded to other inns and found Captain Roberts. His face
showed that the worst was true. They only heard how their husbands had
set out. Still hope was not dead; might not their husbands be at
Corsica or Elba? It was said they had been seen in the Gulf. They
resolved to return; but now not alone, for Trelawny accompanied them.
Agony succeeded agony; the water they crossed told Mary it was his
grave.

While crossing the bay they saw San Terenzio illuminated for a festa,
while despair was in their hearts. The days passed, a week ever
counted as two by Mary, and then, when she was very ill, Trelawny, who
had been long expected from his search, returned, and now they knew
that all was over, for the bodies had been cast on shore. One was a
tall, slight figure, with Sophocles in one pocket of the jacket, and
Keats's last poems in the other; the poetry he loved remained; his
body a mere mutilated corpse, which for a while had enshrined such
divine intellect. Williams's corpse, also, was found some miles
distant, still more unrecognisable, save for the black silk
handkerchief tied sailor-fashion round his neck; and after some ten
days a third body was found, a mere skeleton., supposed to be the
sailor-boy, Charles Vivian.

"Is there no hope?" Mary asked, when Trelawny reappeared on July 19.
He could not answer, but left the room, and sent the servant to take
the children to their widowed mothers. He then, on the 20th, took them
from the sound of the cruel waves to the Hunts at Pisa.

Naught remained now but to perform the last funeral rites. Mary
decided that Shelley should rest with his dearly-loved son in the
English cemetery in Rome. With some little difficulty, Trelawny
obtained permission, with the kind assistance of the English Charge
d'Affaires at Florence, Mr. Dawkins, to have the bodies burned on the
shore, according to the custom of bodies cast up from the sea, so that
the ashes could be removed without fear of infection. The iron furnace
was made at Leghorn, of the dimensions of a human body, according to
Trelawny's orders; and on August 15 the body of Lieutenant Williams
was disinterred from the sand where it had been buried when cast up.
Byron recognised him by his clothes and his teeth. The funeral rites
were performed by Trelawny by throwing incense, salt, and wine on the
pyre, according to classic custom; and when nothing remained but some
black ashes and small pieces of white bone, these were placed by
Trelawny in one of the oaken boxes he had provided for the purpose,
and then consigned to Byron and Hunt. The next day another pyre was
raised, and again the soldiers had to dig for the body, buried in
lime. When placed in the furnace it was three hours before the
consuming body showed the still unconsumed heart, which Trelawny saved
from the furnace, snatching it out with his hand; and there, amidst
the Italian beauty, on the Italian shore, was consumed the body of the
poet who held out immortal hope to his kind, who, in advance of the
scientists, held it as a noble fact that humanity was progressive;
who, more for this than for his unfortunate first marriage and its
unhappy sequel, was banished by his countrymen, and held as nothing by
his generation. But, as Claire wrote later in her diary, "It might be
said of him, as Cicero said of Rome, 'Ungrateful England shall not
possess my bones.'"

The ashes of the body were placed in the oaken box; those of the
heart, handed by Trelawny to Hunt, were afterwards given into the
possession of Mary, who jealously guarded them during her life, in a
place where they were found at her death, in a silken case, in which
was kept a Pisan copy of the _Adonais_. The ashes of Shelley's
body were finally buried in the cemetery in Rome, where the grave of
the English poet is now one of the strongest links between the present
and the past world; and there beside him rest now the ashes of his
faithful friend, Trelawny, who survived him nearly sixty years.




CHAPTER XIII.

WIDOWHOOD.


The last ceremony was over, hope, fear, despair, were past, and Mary
Shelley had to recommence her life, or death in life, her one solace
her little son, her one resource for many years her work. Fortunately
for her, her education and her studious habits were a shield against
the cold world which she had to encounter, and her accustomed personal
economy, which had fitted her to be the worthy companion to her
generous husband, whom she had encouraged rather than thwarted in his
constantly recurring acts of philanthropy, would help her in her
present struggle; and one friend was ready to assist with advice and
out of his then slender means, Mr. Trelawny. But from England no help
was forthcoming. Godwin's affairs having reached the climax of
bankruptcy already referred to, were not likely to settle down easily
now that the ever-ready supply was suddenly cut short.

Sir Timothy Shelley was not inclined to continue the terms he made
with his son, nor was anything to be arranged but on conditions which
Mrs. Shelley could never consent to. Of her despondent state of misery
we can judge in her letters of 1822 to Claire, as when she writes from
Genoa, September 15, "This hateful Genoa"; and, describing her misery
on her husband's death, she exclaims: "Well, I shall have his books
and his MSS., and in these I shall live, and from the study of these I
do expect some instants of content.... some seconds of exaltation that
may render me both happier here, and more worthy of him hereafter."
Then, "There is nothing but unhappiness to me, if indeed I except
Trelawny, who appears so truly generous and kind.... Nothing but the
horror of being a burden to my family prevents my accompanying Jane
(to England). If I had any fixed income, I should go at least to
Paris, and I shall go the moment I have one." And again in December of
the same year she writes to Claire, addressing her as Mdlle. de
Clairmont, _chez_ Mdme. de Hennistein, Vienna. She mentions an
approach to Sir Timothy, through lawyers, abortive as yet; how she
detests Genoa; "Hunt does not like me." Her daily routine is copying
Shelley's manuscripts and reading Greek; in her despair, study is her
only relief. She sees no one but Lord Byron, and the Guiccioli once a
mouth, Trelawny seldom, and he is on the eve of his departure for
Leghorn.

Thus we find Mary Shelley going on from day to day, too poor to travel
so far as Paris, as yet her child and her work of love on her
husband's MS. filling up her time, till in February she had to undergo
the mortification of her father-in-law proposing that she should give
her son up entirely to him, and in return receive a settled income.
But Mary was not of those who can be either bought or sold, and,
having the means of subsistence in herself, she could be independent;
a letter from her father shows how they were at one on this important
subject, and it must have been a great encouragement to her in her
loneliness, as she was always diffident of her own powers. However,
now her work lay in arranging and copying her husband's MSS., and
saving treasures which but for her loving care might have been lost.
In the spring of this year, 1823, Trelawny was in Rome arranging
Shelley's grave, which he bought with the adjoining ground for
himself, and he had the massive slab of stone placed there which still
tells of the "_Cor cordium_" In the autumn of the same year Mary
found means for leaving the hated Genoa, and, travelling through
France; she stayed for a time at Versailles with her father's old
friends, the Kennys, and of this visit one of the daughters, now Mrs.
Cox, then a child of about six years, retains a lively and pleasing
recollection. Brought up in France and imbued with the idea and
pictures of the Madonna and child, the little girl, on seeing Mrs.
Shelley arrive with her small son, became impressed with the idea that
the pale, sweet, oval-laced lady was the Madonna come to visit them;
and this idea was not dispelled by the gentle manner and kind way that
she had with the children, reminding one who had been punished by
mistake that the next time she was naughty she would have had her
punishment in advance. This visit was followed later by the intimacy
and friendship of the two families. In London (as we learn from a
letter to Miss Holcroft, Mrs. Kenny's daughter, by her previous
marriage with Holcroft) Mrs. Shelley was settled at 14, Sheldhurst
Street, Brunswick Square. She was then hoping that her father-in-law
would make her an allowance sufficient for her to live comfortably in
dear Italy; and, at all events, she had received "a present supply, so
that much good at least has been accomplished by my journey." She felt
quite lost in London, and Percy had not yet learnt English. She had
seen Lamb, but he did not remark on her being altered. She would then
have returned to Italy, but her father did not like the idea.

Among other work at this time Mary Shelley attempted a drama, but in
this her father did not encourage her, as he writes to her in February
1824 that her personages are mere abstractions, not men and women.
Godwin does not regret that she has not dramatic talent, as the want
of it will save her much trouble and mortification.

This disappointment did not discourage Mary, for in the next year she
published, with Henry Colburn of New Burlington Street, her novel
_The Last Man_, of which a second edition appeared in the
succeeding year. This must have been a great help to Mary's limited
means: she had received four hundred pounds for her previous romance.

During this year we find Mrs. Shelley living in Kentish Town, as she
writes from that address to Trelawny in July 1824. She is much cheered
by finding her old friend still remembers her. She speaks of him as
her warm-hearted friend, the remnant of the happy days of her vagabond
life in beloved Italy, and now, shortly before writing, she had seen
another link in her past life disappear; for the hearse containing the
body of Lord Byron had passed her window going up Highgate Hill, on
his last journey to the seat of his ancestors. Mary had been much
interested in the account Trelawny had sent her of Byron's latest
moments. She had been to see the poet's remains at the house where
they lay in London. She saw his valet, Fletcher, and "from a few words
he imprudently let fall, it would seem that his Lordship spoke of
C----- in his last moments, and of his wish to do something for her,
at a time when his mind, vacillating between consciousness and
delirium, would not permit him to do anything." She describes how
Fletcher found Lady Byron in great grief, but inexorable, and how
Byron's memoirs had been destroyed by Mrs. Leigh and Hobhouse, but
adds: "There was not much in them, I know, for I read them some years
ago at Venice; but the world fancied that it was to have a confession
of the hidden feelings of one concerning whom they were always
passionately curious." She says that Moore was much disgusted. He was
writing a life of Byron, but it was considered that although he had
had the MSS. so long in his hands, he had not found time to read them.
She asks Trelawny to help Moore with any facts or details. Mary thanks
Trelawny for his wish that she and Jane Williams, who see each other
and little else every day, should join him in Greece. That is
impossible, but she looks for him to come in the winter to England.
She speaks of July as fatal to her for good and ill. "On this very
very day"--she is writing July 28--"I went to France with my Shelley.
How young, heedless, and happy and poor we were then, and now my
sleeping boy is all that is left to me of that time--my boy and a
thousand recollections which never sleep." She describes the pretty
country lanes round Kentish Town. If only there were cloudless skies
and orange sunsets, she would not mind the scenery; but she can attach
herself to no one. She and Jane live alone; her child is in excellent
health, a tall, fine, handsome boy. She is still in hopes that she
will get an income of three or four hundred a year from Sir Timothy in
a few months; one of her chief wishes in being independent would be to
help Claire, who is in Russia. Of this time Claire wrote a good
account in her diary.

These letters to Trelawny give much insight into the present life of
Mary Shelley, and refer to much of interest in her past. On February
25 she tells how she had been with Jane, her father, and Count Gamba
to see Kean in Othello, but she adds: "Yet, my dear friend, I wish we
had seen it represented as was talked of at Pisa. Iago would never
have found a better representative than that strange and wondrous
creature whom one regrets daily more; for who can equal him?" Trelawny
adds a note that in 1822 Byron had contemplated that he, Trelawny,
Williams, Medwin, Mary Shelley, and Mrs. Williams were to take the
several parts:--Byron, Iago; Trelawny, Othello; Mary, Desdemona.
Trelawny adds that Byron recited a great portion of his part with
great gusto, and looked it too. Byron said that all Pisa were to be
the audience. Letters from Trelawny from Zante in 1826, carry on the
correspondence. He regrets that poverty keeps them apart; speaks of
the difficulty of travelling without money; he rejoices that he still
holds a place in her affections, and says, "You know, Mary, that I
always loved you impetuously and sincerely." In 1827, still writing
from Kentish Town, on Easter Sunday, but saying that in future her
address will be at her father's, 44, Gower Place, Bedford Square, we
have another of her charming letters to her friend, full of good
reflections. In this letter she tells how Jane Williams has united her
life with that of Shelley's early friend, Mr. Jefferson Hogg. He had
loved her devotedly since her arrival in England five years earlier,
but till now she had been too constant to Williams's memory to accept
him. Claire was still in Russia. Mary writes:--"I wrote to you last
while I entertained the hope that my money cares were diminishing, but
shabby as the best of these shabby people was, I am not to arrive at
that best without due waiting and anxiety. Nor do I yet see the end of
this worse than tedious uncertainty." Mary was to see Shelley's
younger brother, who was just married, but she had small hope of
reaping any good from his visit. She adds, "Adieu, my ever dear
friend; while hearts such as yours beat, I will not wholly despond."
Mary refers with great kindness to Hunt, and is most anxious as to his
future. She also notices with high satisfaction that the Whigs with
Canning are in the ascendant, and that they may be favourable to
Greece. While Mary Shelley was residing in Kentish Town, before she
joined her father in Gower Place after the winding up of his affairs,
a letter from Godwin to his wife at the sea-side shows that the latter
considered he did not need her society as Mrs. Shelley was with him;
he explains that he sees her about twice a week, but is feeling lonely
every day.

After Mary removed to Gower Place in 1827, among other work, she was
occupied by her _Lives of Eminent Literary Men_, for _Lardner's
Cyclopaedia_. About the same year Godwin writes to his daughter who
is evidently in very low spirits, wishing that she resembled him in
temperament rather than the Wollstonecrafts, but explains that his
present good spirits may be owing to his work on Cromwell. A little
later we find Godwin writing to Mary, himself in depression. He is
troubled by publishers who will not decide to take a novel. "Three,
four, or five hundred pounds, and to be subsisted by them while I
write it," is what he hoped to get. Mrs. Shelley was at Southend for
change of air, and wishing her father to join her; but this he could
not decide on. Every day lost is taking away from his means of
subsistence; for he is writing now, not for marble to be placed over
his remains, but for bread to be put into his mouth.

In April 1829, Mrs. Shelley, writing still from her father's address,
44, Grower Street, complains to Trelawny in a truly English way, as
she says, of the weather. She rejoices that her friend has taken to
work, and hopes that his friends will keep him to recording his own
adventures; but she strongly dissuades him from writing a life of
Shelley, for how could that be done without bringing her into
publicity? which she shrinks from fearfully, though she is forced by
her hard situation to meet it in a thousand ways; or as she expresses
it, "I will tell you what I am, a silly goose, who, far from wishing
to stand forward to assert myself in any way, now that I am alone in
the world have but the desire to wrap night and the obscurity of
insignificance around me. This is weakness, but I cannot help it."
Neither does Mary consider that the time has come to write Shelley's
life, though she her-self hopes to do so some day.

Towards the end of 1830 we find Mary in Somerset Street, Portman
Square, from which place she writes to Trelawny on the subject of his
MS. of _The Adventures of a Younger Son,_ which he had consigned
to her hands to place with a publisher, make the best terms for that
she could, and see through the press; a task distasteful to Trelawny
to the last. Mrs. Shelley much admired the work, considering it full
of passion and interest. But she does not hesitate to point out the
blemishes, certain coarsenesses, which she begs him to allow her to
deal with, as she would have dealt with parts of Lord Byron's _Don
Juan_. She is sure that without this she will have great difficulty
in disposing of the book.

Mary finds the absorbing politics of the day a great hindrance to
publishing, and says: "God knows how it will all end, but it looks as
if the aristocrats would have the good sense to make the necessary
sacrifices to a starving population."

The worry of awaiting the decision of the publisher was felt by Mrs.
Shelley more for Trelawny than for herself; she finds it difficult to
make the terms she wishes for him, and, writing to her friend on March
22 of the next year, she regrets that she cannot make Colburn, the
best publisher she knows of, give five hundred pounds as she wishes,
but trusts to get three hundred pounds for first edition and two
hundred pounds for second; but times have changed since she first
returned to England, neither she nor her father can command the same
prices which they did then. At that time "publishers came to seek me,"
she writes; "now money is scarcer and readers fewer than ever."

Three days later she is able to add the news that she has received
"the ultimatum of these great people," three hundred pounds down and
one hundred pounds on second edition, she thinks, for 1,000 copies.
She advises acceptance, but will try other publishers if he wish it.

Mary again regrets that it is impossible for her to go to Italy. She
expresses herself as wretched in England, and in spite of her sanguine
disposition and capacity to endure, which have borne her up hitherto,
she feels sinking at last; situated as she is, it is impossible for
her not to be wretched.

Mary does not give way long to despondency, she goes on to tell news
as to Medwin, Hogg, Jane, &c.; she can even tease Trelawny about the
different ladies who believe themselves the sole object of his
affection, and tells him she is having a certain letter of his about
"Caroline" lithographed, and thinks of dispensing 100 copies among
"the many hapless fair."

A third letter on the subject of the hook, on June 14, 1831, tells
Trelawny how his work is in progress, and Horace Smith, who much
admires it, has promised to revise it. Again, in July of the same
year, she writes that the third volume is in print, and his book will
soon be published; but that as his mother talks openly of his memoirs
in society, he must not hope for secrecy. In this letter, also, we
have a fact which redounds to the credit of both Mary Shelley and
Trelawny, as she clearly tells him she cannot marry him; but remains
in "all gratitude and friendship" his M. S. Trelawny had evidently
made her an offer of marriage, moved perhaps by gratitude for her
help, as well as probably, in his case, a passing love; for she writes
to him: "My name will never be Trelawny. I am not so young as I was
when you first knew me, but I am as proud. I must have the entire
affection, devotion, and, above all, the solicitous protection of any
one who would win me. You belong to womenkind in general, and Mary S.
will _never_ be yours. I write in haste," &c. &c.

Trelawny would never have offered his name thus to a woman he could
not respect, and perhaps few know better than those of his reckless
class who are most worthy of respect. Mary Shelley, who dreaded men's
looks or words, by her own knowledge and her intimate friends'
accounts had no fear of him; he had the instincts of a gentleman for a
true lady, who may be found in any class.

Four years later, we have Mary again writing to Mr. Trelawny with
regard to his book, a second edition being called for, when, to her
confusion, she finds that through her not having read over the
agreement, and having taken for granted that the proposal of three
hundred pounds on first edition with one hundred pounds more on second
was inserted, she had signed the contract; but now it turned out that
what was proposed by letter was not inserted by Oilier in the
agreement, and she knew not what to do. In a second letter a few days
later from Harrow, where she lived for a while to be near her son at
school, she wrote in answer to Trelawny, proposing Peacock as umpire,
because, she writes, "he would not lean to the strongest side, which
Jefferson, as a lawyer, is inclined, I think, to do." Oilier, she
writes, devoutly wished she had read the agreement, as the clause
ought to have been in it.

Again, a few months later, on April 7, 1836, there is another letter
asking Trelawny if he would like to attend her father's funeral, and
if he would go with the undertaker to choose the spot nearest to her
mother's, in St. Pancras Churchyard, and, if he could do this, to
write to Mrs. Godwin, at the Exchequer, to tell her so. The last few
years of Godwin's life had not ended, as he had so bitterly
apprehended, in penury; as his friends in power had obtained for him
the post of Yeoman Usher of the Exchequer, with residence in New
Palace Yard, in 1833. The office was in fact a sinecure, and was soon
abolished; but it was arranged that no change should be made in the
old philosopher's position. His old friends had died, but his work had
its reward for him, as well as its place in the thought of the world,
for such people as the Duke of Wellington and Lord Melbourne had used
their influence for him. Mary had been his constant devoted daughter
to the last. In 1834 he writes to his wife of Mrs. Shelley, as he
always called his daughter to Mrs. Godwin, of various meetings and
dinners with each other, though he cannot attend her evenings as he
would wish, since the walk across the park to reach Somerset Street,
where she then lived, was by no means pleasant after dark: and now we
find Mary honouring Trelawny with the last service for her father,
apologising, but adding, "Are you not the best and most constant of
friends?"

Godwin's last grief was the loss of his son. William in 1832; he had
been settled in a literary career and left a widow. One of Mary's
first acts of generosity later on was to settle a pension on her.




CHAPTER XIV.

LITERARY WORK.


Having traced Mary's life, as far as space will allow, to the death of
her father, we must now retrace our steps to show the work she did,
which gives the _raison-d'etre_ for this biography. It has
already been shown that her second book, _Valperga_, much admired
by Shelley, was written to assist her father in his distress before
his bankruptcy. After her husband's death, while arranging his MSS.,
and noting facts in connection with them, she planned and wrote her
third romance, _The Last Man_.

This highly imaginative work of Mary Shelley's twenty-sixth year
contains some of the author's most powerful ideas; but is marred in
the commencement by some of her most stilted writing.

The account of the events recorded professes to be found in the cave
of the Cumsean Sibyl, near Naples, where they had remained for
centuries, outlasting the changes of nature and, when found, being
still two hundred and fifty years in advance of the time foretold. The
accounts are all written on the sibylline leaves; they are in all
languages, ancient and modern; and those concerning this story are in
English.

We find ourselves in England, in 2073, in the midst of a Republic, the
last king of England having abdicated at the quietly expressed wish of
his subjects. This book, like all Mrs. Shelley's, is full of
biographical reminiscences; the introduction gives the date of her own
visit to Naples with Shelley, in 1818; the places they visited are
there indicated; the poetry, romance, the pleasures and pains of her
own existence, are worked into her subjects; while her imagination
carries her out of her own surroundings. We clearly recognise in the
ideal character of the son of the abdicated king an imaginary portrait
of Shelley as Mary would have him known, not as she knew him as a
living person. To give an adequate idea of genius with all its charm,
and yet with its human imperfections, was beyond Mary's power. Adrian,
the son of kings, the aristocratic republican, is the weakest part,
and one cannot help being struck by Mary Shelley's preference for the
aristocrat over the plebeian. In fact, Mary's idea of a republic still
needed kings' sons by their good manners to grace it, while, at the
same time, the king's son had to be transmuted into an ideal Shelley.
This strange confusion of ideas allowed for, and the fact that over
half a century of perhaps the earth's most rapid period of progress
has passed, the imaginative qualities are still remarkable in Mary.
Balloons, then dreamed of, were attained; but naturally the
steam-engine and other wonders of science, now achieved, were unknown
to Marv. When the-pi ague breaks out she has scope for her fancy, and
she certainly adds vivid pictures of horror and pathos to a subject
which has been handled by masters of thought at different periods. In
this time of horror it is amusing to note how the people's candidate,
Ryland, represented as a vulgar specimen of humanity, succumbs to
abject fear. The description of the deserted towns and grass-grown
streets of London is impressive. The fortunes of the family, to whom
the last man, Lionel Verney, belongs, are traced through their varying
phases, as one by one the dire plague assails them, and Verney, the
only man who recovers from the disease, becomes the leader of the
remnant of the English nation. This small handful of humanity leaves
England, and wanders through France on its way to the favoured
southern countries where human aid, now so scarce, was less needed. On
this journey Mrs. Shelley avails herself of reminiscences of her own
travelling with Shelley some few years before; and we pass the places
noted in her diary; but strange grotesque figures cross the path of
the few wanderers, who are decimated each day. At one moment a dying
acrobat, deserted by his companions, is seen bounding in the air
behind a hedge in the dusk of evening. At another, a black figure
mounted on a horse, which only shows itself after dark, to cause
apprehensions soon calmed by the death of the poor wanderer, who
wished only for distant companionship through dread of contagion.
Dijon is reached and passed, and here the old Countess of Windsor, the
ex-Queen of England, dies: she had only been reconciled to her changed
position by the destruction of humanity. Once, near Geneva, they come
upon the sound of divine music in a church, and find a dying girl
playing to her blind father to keep up the delusion to the last. The
small party, reduced by this time to five, reach Chamouni, and the
grand scenes so familiar to Mary contrast with the final tragedy of
the human race; yet one more dies, and only four of one family remain;
they bury the dead man in an ice cavern, and with this last victim
find the pestilence has ended, after a seven years' reign over the
earth. A weight is lifted from the atmosphere, and the world is before
them; but now alone they must visit her ruins; and the beauty of the
earth and the love of each other, bear them up till none but the last
man remains to complete the Cumsaean Sibyl's prophecy.

Various stories of minor importance followed from Mrs. Shelley's pen,
and preparations were made for the lives of eminent literary men. But
it was not till the year preceding her father's death that we have
_Lodore_, published in 1835. Of this novel we have already spoken
in relation to the separation of Shelley and Harriet.

Mary had too much feeling of art in her work to make an imaginary
character a mere portrait, and we are constantly reminded in her
novels of the different wonderful and interesting personages whom she
knew intimately, though most of their characters were far too subtle
and complex to be unravelled by her, even with her intimate knowledge.
Indeed, the very fact of having known some of the greatest people of
her age, or of almost any age, gives an appearance of affectation to
her novels, as it fills them with characters so far from the common
run that their place in life cannot be reduced to an ordinary
fashionable level. Romantic episodes there may be, but their true
place is in the theatre of time of which they are the movers, not the
Lilliputians of life who are slowly worked on and moulder by them, and
whose small doings are the material of most novels. We know of few
novelists who have touched at all successfully on the less known
characters. This accomplishment seems to need the great poet himself.

The manner in which Lady Lodore is influenced seems to point to
Harriet; but the unyielding and revengeful side of her character has
certainly more of Lady Byron. She is charmingly described, and shows a
great deal of insight on Mary's part into the life of fashionable
people of her time, which then, perhaps more than now, was the
favourite theme with novelists. This must be owing to a certain innate
Tory propensity in the English classes or masses for whom Mary Shelley
had to work hard, and for whose tendencies in this respect she
certainly had a sympathy. Mary's own life, at the point we have now
reached, is also here touched on in the character of Ethel, Lord and
Lady Lodore's daughter, who is brought up in America by her father,
and on his death entrusted to an aunt, with injunctions in his will
that she is not to be allowed to be brought in contact with her
mother. Her character is sweetly feminine and trusting, and in her
fortunate love and marriage (in all but early money matters) might be
considered quite unlike Mary's own less fortunate experiences; but in
her perfect love and confidence in her husband, her devotion and
unselfishness through the trials of poverty in London, the
descriptions of which were evidently taken from Mary's own
experiences, there is no doubt of the resemblance, as also in her love
and reverence for all connected with her father. There are also
passages undoubtedly expressive of her own inner feelings--such as
this when describing the young husband and wife at a _tete-a-tete_
supper:--

Mutual esteem and gratitude sanctified the unreserved sympathy which
made each so happy in the other. Did they love the less for not loving
"in sin and fear"? Far from it. The certainty of being the cause of
good to each other tended to foster the most delicate of all passions,
more than the rough ministrations of terror and the knowledge that
each was the occasion of injury. A woman's heart is peculiarly
unfitted to sustain this conflict. Her sensibility gives keenness to
her imagination and she magnifies every peril, and writhes beneath
every sacrifice which tends to humiliate her in her own eyes. The
natural pride of her sex struggles with her desire to confer
happiness, and her peace is wrecked.

What stronger expression of feeling could be needed than this, of a
woman speaking from her heart and her own experiences? Does it not
remind one of the moral on this subject in all George Eliot's writing,
where she shows that the outcome of what by some might be considered
minor transgressions against morality leads even in modern times to
the Nemesis of the most terrible Greek Dramas?

The complicated money transactions carried on with the aid of lawyers
were clearly a reminiscence of Shelley's troubles, and of her own
incapacity to feel all the distress contingent so long as she was with
him, and there was evidently money somewhere in the family, and it
would come some time. In this novel we also perceive that Mary works
off her pent-up feelings with regard to Emilia Viviani. It cannot be
supposed that the corporeal part of Shelley's creation of
_Epipsychidion_ (so exquisite in appearance and touching in
manner and story as to give rise, when transmitted through the poet's
brain, to the most perfect of love ideals) really ultimately became
the fiery-tempered worldly-minded virago that Mary Shelley indulges
herself in depicting, after first, in spite of altering some relations
and circumstances, clearly showing whom the character was intended
for. It is true that Shelley himself, after investing her with
divinity to serve the purposes of art, speaks later of her as a very
commonplace worldly-minded woman; but poets, like artists, seem at
times to need lay figures to attire with their thoughts. Enough has
been shown to prove that there is genuine subject of interest in this
work of Mary's thirty-seventh year.

The next work, _Falkner_, published in 1837, is the last novel we
have by Mary Shelley; and as we see from her letter she had been
passing through a period of ill-health and depression while writing
it, this may account for less spontaneity in the style, which is
decidedly more stilted; but, here again, we feel that we are admitted
to some of the circle which Mary had encountered in the stirring times
of her life, and there is undoubted imagination with some fine
descriptive passages.

The opening chapter introduces a little deserted child in a
picturesque Cornish village. Her parents had died there in apartments,
one after the other, the husband having married a governess against
the wishes of his relations; consequently, the wife was first
neglected on her husband's death; and on her own sudden death, a few
months later, the child was simply left to the care of the poor people
of the village--a dreamy, poetic little thing, whose one pleasure was
to stroll in the twilight to the village churchyard and be with her
mamma. Here she was found by Falkner, the principal character of the
romance, who had selected this very spot to end a ruined existence; in
which attempt he was frustrated by the child jogging his arm to move
him from her mother's grave. His life being thus saved by the child's
instrumentality, he naturally became interested in her. He is allowed
to look through the few remaining papers of the parents. Among these
he finds an unfinished letter of the wife, evidently addressed to a
lady he had known, and also indications who the parents were. He was
much moved, and offered to relieve the poor people of the child and to
restore her to her relations.

The mother's unfinished letter to her friend contains the following
passage, surely autobiographical:--

When I lost Edwin (the husband), I wrote to Mr. Raby (the husband's
father) acquainting him with the sad intelligence, and asking for a
maintenance for myself and my child. The family solicitor answered my
letter. Edwin's conduct had, I was told, estranged his family from
him, and they could only regard me as one encouraging his disobedience
and apostasy. I had no claim on them. If my child were sent to them,
and I would promise to abstain from all intercourse with her, she
should be brought up with her cousins, and treated in all respects
like one of the family. I declined their barbarous offer, and
haughtily and in few words relinquished every claim on their bounty,
declaring my intention to support and bring up my child myself. This
was foolishly done, I fear; but I cannot regret it, even now.

I cannot regret the impulse that made me disdain these unnatural and
cruel relatives, or that led me to take my poor orphan to my heart
with pride as being all my own. What had they done to merit such a
treasure? And did they show themselves capable of replacing a fond and
anxious mother? This reminds the reader of the correspondence between
Mary and her father on Shelley's death.

It suffices to say that Falkner became so attached to the small child,
that by the time he discovered her relations he had not the heart to
confide her to their hard guardianship, and as he was compelled to
leave England shortly, he took her with him, and through all
difficulties he contrived that she should be well guarded and brought
up. There is much in the character of Falkner that reminds the reader
of Trelawny, the gallant and generous friend of Byron and Shelley in
their last years, the brave and romantic traveller. The description of
Falkner's face and figure must have much resembled that of Trelawny
when young, though, of course, the incidents of the story have no
connection with him. In the meantime the little girl is growing up,
and the nurses are replaced by an English governess, whom Falkner
engages abroad, and whose praises and qualifications he hears from
everyone at Odessa. The story progresses through various incidents
foreshadowing the cause of Falkner's mystery. Elizabeth, the child,
now grown up, passes under his surname. While travelling in Germany
they come across a youth of great personal attraction, who appears,
however, to be of a singularly reckless and misanthropical disposition
for one so young. Elizabeth seeming attracted by his daring and
beauty, Falkner suddenly finds it necessary to return to England.
Shortly afterwards, he is moved to go to Greece during the War of
Independence, and wishes to leave Elizabeth with her relations in
England; but this she strenuously opposes so far as to induce Falkner
to let her accompany him to Greece, where he places her with a family
while he rushes into the thick of the danger, only hoping to end his
life in a good cause. In this he nearly succeeds, but Elizabeth,
hearing of his danger, hastens to his side, and nurses him assiduously
through the fever brought on from his wounds and the malarious
climate. By short stages and the utmost care, she succeeds in reaching
Malta on their homeward journey, and Falkner, a second time rescued
from death by his beloved adopted child, determines not again to
endanger recklessly the life more dear to her than that of many
fathers. Again, at Malta, during a fortnight's quarantine, the
smallness of the world of fashionable people brings them in contact
with an English party, a Lord and Lady Cecil, who are travelling with
their family. Falkner is too ill to see anyone, and when Elizabeth
finally gets him on board a vessel to proceed to Genoa, he seems
rapidly sinking. In his despair and loneliness, feeling unable to cope
with all the difficulties of burning sun and cold winds, help
unexpectedly comes: a gentleman whom Elizabeth has not before
perceived, and whom now she is too much preoccupied to observe,
quietly arranges the sail to shelter the dying man from sun and wind,
places pillows, and does all that is possible; he even induces the
poor girl to go below and rest on a couch for a time while he watches.
Falkner becomes easier in the course of the night; he sleeps and gains
in strength, and from this he progresses till, while at Marseilles, he
hears the name, Neville, of the unknown friend who had helped to
restore him to life. He becomes extremely agitated and faints. On
being restored to consciousness he begs Elizabeth to continue the
journey with him alone, as he can bear no one but her near him. The
mystery of Falkner's life seems to be forcing itself to the surface.

The travellers reach England, and Elizabeth is sought out by Lady
Cecil, who had been much struck by her devotion to her father.
Elizabeth is invited to stay with Lady Cecil, as she much needs rest
in her turn. During a pleasant time of repose near Hastings, Elizabeth
hears Lady Cecil talk much of her brother Gerard; but it is not till
he, too, arrives on a visit, that she acknowledges to herself that he
is really the same Mr. Neville whom she had met, and from whom she had
received such kindness. Nor had Gerard spoken of Elizabeth; he had
been too much drawn towards her, as his life also is darkened by a
mystery. They spend a short tranquil time together, when a letter
announces the approaching arrival of Sir Boyvill Neville, the young
man's father (although Lady Cecil called Gerard her brother, they were
not really related; Sir Boyvill had married the mother of Lady Cecil,
who was the offspring of a previous marriage).

Gerard Neville at once determines to leave the house, but before going
refers Elizabeth to his sister, Lady Cecil, to hear the particulars of
the tragedy which surrounds him. The story told is this. Sir Boyvill
Neville was a man of the world with all the too frequent disbelief in
women and selfishness. This led to his becoming very tyrannical when
he married, at the age of 45, Alethea, a charming young woman who had
recently lost her mother, and whose father, a retired naval officer of
limited means, would not hear of her refusing so good an offer as Sir
Boyvill's. After their marriage Sir Boyvill, feeling himself too
fortunate in having secured so charming and beautiful a wife, kept out
of all society, and after living abroad for some years took her to an
estate he possessed in Cumberland. They lived there shut out from all
the world, except for trips which he took himself to London, or
elsewhere, whenever _ennui_ assailed him. They had, at the time
we are approaching, two charming children, a beautiful boy of some ten
years and a little girl of two. At this time while Alethea was
perfectly happy with her children, and quite contented with her
retirement, which she perceived took away the jealous tortures of her
husband, he left home for a week, drawn out to two months, on one of
his periodical visits to the capital. Lady Neville's frequent letters
concerning her home and her children were always cheerful and placid,
and the time for her husband's return was fixed. He arrived at the
appointed hour in the evening. The servants were at the door to
receive him, but in an instant alarm prevailed; Lady Neville and her
son Gerard were not with him. They had left the house some hours
before to walk in the park, and had not since been seen or heard of,
an unprecedented occurrence. The alarm was raised; the country
searched in all directions, but ineffectually, during a fearful
tempest. Ultimately the poor boy was found unconscious on the ground,
drenched to the skin. On his being taken home, and his father
questioning him, all that could be heard were his cries "Come back,
mamma; stop, stop for me!" Nothing else but the tossings of fever.
Once again, "Then she has come back," he cried, "that man did not take
her quite away; the carriage drove here at last." The story slowly
elicited from the child on his gaining strength was this. On his going
for a walk with his mother in the park, she took the key of a gate
which led into a lane. A gentleman was waiting outside. Gerard had
never seen him before, but he heard his mother call him Rupert. They
walked together through the lane accompanied by the child, and talked
earnestly. She wept, and the boy was indignant. When they reached a
cross-road, a carriage was waiting. On approaching it the gentleman
pulled the child's hands from hers, lifted her in, sprang in after,
and the coachman drove like the wind, leaving the child to hear his
mother shriek in agony, "My child--my son!" Nothing more could be
discovered; the country was ransacked in vain. The servants only
stated that ten days ago a gentleman called, asked for Lady Neville
and was shown in to her; he remained some two hours, and on his
leaving it was remarked that she had been weeping. He had called again
but was not admitted. One letter was found, signed "Rupert," begging
for one more meeting, and if that were granted he would leave her and
his just revenge for ever; otherwise, he could not tell what the
consequences might be on her husband's return that night. In answer to
this letter she went, but with her child, which clearly proved her
innocent intention. Months passed with no fresh result, till her
husband, beside himself with wounded pride, determined to be avenged
by obtaining a Bill of Divorce in the House of Lords, and producing
his son Gerard as evidence against his lost mother, whom he so dearly
loved. The poor child by this time, by dint of thinking and weighing
every word he could remember, such as "I grieve deeply for you,
Rupert: my good wishes are all I have to give you," became more and
more convinced that his mother was taken forcibly away, and would
return at any moment if she were able. He only longed for the time
when he should be old enough to go and seek her through the world. His
father was relentless, and the child was brought before the House of
Lords to repeat the evidence he had innocently given against her; but
when called on to speak in that awful position, no word could be drawn
from him except "She is innocent." The House was moved by the brave
child's agony, and resolved to carry on the case without him, from the
witnesses whom he had spoken to, and finally they pronounced a decree
of divorce in Sir Boyvill's favour. The struggle and agony of the poor
child are admirably described, as also his subsequent flight from his
father's house, and wanderings round his old home in Cumberland. In
his fruitless search for his mother he reached a deserted sea-coast.
After wandering about for two months barefoot, and almost starving but
for the ewe's milk and bread given him by the cottagers, he was
recognized. His father, being informed, had him seized and brought
home, where he was confined and treated as a criminal. His state
became so helpless that even his father was at length moved to some
feeling of self-restraint, and finally took Gerard with him abroad,
where he was first seen at Baden by Elizabeth and Palkner. There also
he first met his sister by affinity, Lady Cecil. With her he lost
somewhat his defiant tone, and felt that for his mother's sake he must
not appear to others as lost in sullenness and despair. He now talked
of his mother, and reasoned about her; but although he much interested
Lady Cecil, he did not convince her really of his mother's innocence,
so much did all circumstances weigh against her. But now, during
Elizabeth's visit to Lady Cecil, a letter is received by Gerard and
his father informing them that one Gregory Hoskins believed he could
give some information; he was at Lancaster. Sir Boyvill, only anxious
to hush up the matter by which his pride had suffered, hastened to
prevent his son from taking steps to re-open the subject. This Hoskins
was originally a native of the district round Dromoor, Neville's home,
and had emigrated to America at the time of Sir Boyvill's marriage. At
one time--years ago--he met a man named Osborne, who confided to him
how he had gained money before coming to America by helping a
gentleman to carry off a lady, and how terribly the affair ended, as
the lady got drowned in a river near which they had placed her while
nearly dead from fright, on the dangerous coast of Cumberland. On
returning to England, and hearing the talk about the Nevilles in his
native village, this old story came to his mind, and he wrote his
letter. Neville, on hearing this, instantly determined to proceed to
Mexico, trace out Osborne, and bring him to accuse his mother's
murderer.

All these details were written by Elizabeth to her beloved father.
After some delay, one line entreated her to come to him instantly for
one day.

Falkner could not ignore the present state of things--the mutual
attraction of his Elizabeth and of Gerard. Yet how, with all he knew,
could that be suffered to proceed? Never, except by eternal separation
from his adored child; but this should be done. He would now tell her
his story. He could not speak, but he wrote it, and now she must come
and receive it from him. He told of all his solitary, unloved youth,
the miseries and tyranny of school to the unprotected--a reminiscence
of Shelley; how, on emerging from, childhood, one gleam of happiness
entered his life in the friendship of a lady, an old friend of his
mother's, who had one lovely daughter; of the happy, innocent time
spent in their cottage during holidays; of the dear lady's death; of
her daughter's despair; then how he was sent off to India; of letters
he wrote to the daughter Alethea, letters unanswered, as the father,
the naval officer, intercepted all; of his return, after years, to
England, his one hope that which had buoyed him up through years of
constancy, to meet and marry his only love, for that he felt she was
and must remain. He recounted his return, and the news lie received;
his one rash visit to her to judge for himself whether she was
happy--this, from her manner, he could not feel, in spite of her
delight in her children; his mad request to see her; mad plot, and
still madder execution of it, till he had her in his arms, dashing
through the country, through storm and thunder, unable to tell whether
she lived or died; the first moment of pause; the efforts to save the
ebbing life in a ruined hut; the few minutes' absence to seek
materials for fire; the return, to find her a floating corpse in the
wild little river flowing to the sea; the rescue of her body from the
waves; her burial on the sea-shore; and his own subsequent life of
despair, saved twice by Elizabeth. All this was told to the son, to
whom Falkner denounced himself as his mother's destroyer. He named the
spot where the remains would be found. And now what was left to be
done? Only to wait a little, while Sir Boyvill and Gerard Neville
proved his words, and traced out the grave. An inquest was held, and
Falkner apprehended. A few days passed, and then Elizabeth found her
father gone; and by degrees it was broken to her that he was in
Carlisle gaol on the charge of murder. She, who had not feared the
dangers in Greece of war and fever, was not to be deterred now; she,
who believed in his innocence. No minutes were needed to decide her to
go straight to Carlisle, and remain as near as she could to the dear
father who had rescued and cared for her when deserted. Gerard, who
was with his father when the bones were exhumed at the spot indicated,
soon realised the new situation. His passion for justice to his mother
did not deaden his feeling for others. He felt that Falkner's story
was true, and though nothing could restore his mother's life, her
honour was intact. Sir Boyvill would leave no stone unturned to be
revenged, rightly or wrongly, on the man who had assailed his domestic
peace; but Gerard saw Elizabeth, gave what consolation he could, and
determined to set off at once to America to seek Osborne, as the only
witness who could exculpate Falkner from the charge of murder. After
various difficulties Osborne was found in England, where he had
returned in terror of being taken in America as accomplice in the
murder. With great difficulty he is brought to give evidence, for all
his thoughts and fears are for himself; but at length, when all hopes
seem failing, he is induced by Elizabeth to give his evidence, which
fully confirms Falkner's statement.

At length the day of trial came. The news of liberty arrived. "Not
Guilty!" Who can imagine the effect but those who have passed
innocently through the ordeal? Once more all are united. Gerard has to
remain for the funeral of his father, who had died affirming his
belief, which in fact he had always entertained, in Falkner's
innocence. Lady Cecil had secured for Elizabeth the companionship of
Mrs. Raby, her relation on the father's side. She takes Falkner and
Elizabeth home to the beautiful ancestral Belleforest. Here a time of
rest and happiness ensues. Those so much tried by adversity would not
let real happiness escape for a chimera; honour being restored love
and friendship remained, and Gerard, Elizabeth and Falkner felt that
now they ought to remain, together, death not having disunited them.
Too much space may appear to be here given to one romance; but it
seems just to show the scope of Mary's imaginative conception. There
are certainly both imagination and power in carrying it out. It is
true that the idea seems founded, to some extent, on Godwin's Caleb
Williams, the man passing through life with a mystery; the similar
names of Falkner and Falkland may even be meant to call attention to
this fact. The three-volume form, in this as in many novels, seems to
detract from the strength of the work in parts, the second volume
being noticeably drawn out here and there. It may be questioned, also,
whether the form adopted in this as in many romances of giving the
early history by way of narrative told by one of the _dramatis
personae_ to another, is the desirable one--a point to which we have
already adverted in relation to _Frankenstein_. Can it be true to
nature to make one character give a description, over a hundred pages
long, repeating at length, word for word, long conversations which he
has never heard, marking the changes of colour which he has not
seen--and all this with a minuteness which even the firmest memory and
the most loquacious tongue could not recall? Does not this give an
unreality to the style incompatible with art, which ought to be the
mainspring of all imaginative work? This, however, is not Mrs.
Shelley's error alone, but is traceable through many masterpieces. The
author, the creator, who sees the workings of the souls of his
characters, has, naturally, memory and perception for all. Yet Mary
Shelley, in this as in most of her work, has great insight into
character. Elizabeth's grandfather in his dotage is quite a photograph
from life; old Oswig Raby, who was more shrivelled with narrowness of
mind than with age, but who felt himself and his house, the oldest in
England, of more importance than aught else he knew of. His
daughter-in-law, the widow of his eldest son, is also well drawn; a
woman of upright nature who can acknowledge the faults of the family,
and try to retrieve them, and who finally does her best to atone for
the past.




CHAPTER XV.

LATER WORKS.


The writing of these novels, with other literary work we must refer
to, passed over the many years of Mrs. Shelley's life until 1837, and
saved her from the ennui of a quiet life in London with few friends.
Certainly in Mary's case there had been a reason for the neglect of
"Society," which at times she bitterly deplored; and as she had little
other than intellectual and amiable qualities to recommend her for
many years, she was naturally not sought after by the more successful
of her contemporaries. There are instances even of her being cruelly
mortified by marked rudeness at some receptions she attended; in one
case years later, when her fidelity to her husband and his memory
might have appeased the sternest moralist. During these early years,
which she writes of afterwards as years of privation which caused her
to shed many bitter tears at the time, though they were frequently
gilded by imagination, Mrs. Shelley was cheered by seeing her son grow
up entirely to her satisfaction, passing through the child's stage and
the school-boy's at Harrow, from which place he proceeded to
Cambridge; and many and substantially happy years must have been
passed, during which Claire was not forgotten. Poor Claire, who passed
through much severe servitude, from which Mary would fain have spared
her, as she wrote once to Mr. Trelawny that this was one of her chief
reasons for wishing for independence; but "Old Time," or "Eternity,"
as she called Sir Timothy, who certainly had no reason to claim her
affection, was long in passing; and though a small allowance before
1831 of three hundred pounds a year had increased to four hundred
pounds a year when her only child reached his majority in 1841, for
this, on Sir Timothy's death, she had to repay thirteen thousand
pounds. It had enabled her to make a tour in Germany with her son; of
this journey we will speak after referring to her _Lives of Eminent
Literary Men_.

These lives, written for _Lardner's Cyclopedia_, and published in
1835, are a most interesting series of biographies written by a woman
who could appreciate the poet's character, and enter into the
injustices and sorrows from which few poets have been exempt. They
show careful study, her knowledge of various countries gives local
colour to her descriptions, and her love of poetry makes her an
admirable critic. She is said to have written all the Italian and
Spanish lives with the exception of Galileo and Tasso; and certainly
her writing contrasts most favourably with the life of Tasso, to
whomever this may have been assigned. Mary was much disappointed at
not having this particular sketch to write.

To her life of Dante she affixes Byron's lines from _The Prophecy of
Dante_--

                       'Tis the doom
   Of spirits of my order to be racked
   In life; to wear their hearts out, and consume
   Their days in endless strife, and die alone.
   Then future thousands crowd around their tomb,
   And pilgrims, come from climes where they have known
   The name of him who now is but a name,
   Spread his, by him unheard, unheeded fame.

Mary felt how these beautiful lines were appropriate to more than one
poet. Freedom from affectation, and a genuine love of her subject,
make her biographies most readable, and for the ordinary reader there
is a fund of information. The next life--that of Petrarch--is equally
attractive; in fact, there is little that can exceed the interest of
lives of these immortal beings when written--with the comprehension
here displayed. Even the complicated history of the period is made
clear, and the poet, whose tortures came from the heart, is as
feelingly touched on as he who suffered from the political factions of
the Bianchi and the Neri, and who felt the steepness of other's stairs
and the salt savour of other's bread. Petrarch's banishment through
love is not less feelingly described, and we are taken to the life and
the homes of the time in the living descriptions given by Mary. One
passage ought in fairness to be given to show her enthusiastic
understanding and appreciation of the poet she writes of:--

Dante, as hath been already intimated, is the hero of his own poem;
and the Divina Commedia is the only example of an attempt triumphantly
achieved, and placed beyond the reach of scorn or neglect, wherein
from beginning to end the author discourses concerning himself
individually. Had this been done in any other way than the
consummately simple, delicate, and unobtrusive one which he has
adopted, the whole would have been insufferable egotism, disgusting
coxcombry, or oppressive dulness. Whereas, this personal identity is
the charm, the strength, the soul of the book; he lives, he breathes,
he moves through it; his pulse beats or stands still, his eye kindles
or fades, his cheek grows pale with horror, colours with shame, or
burns with indignation; we hear his voice, his step, in every page; we
see his shape by the flame of hell; his shadow in the land where
there is no _other_ shadow (_Purgatoria_) and his countenance
gaining angelic elevation from "colloquy sublime" with glorified
intelligence in the paradise above. Nor does he ever go out of his
natural character. He is, indeed, the lover from infancy of Beatrice,
the aristocratic magistrate of a fierce democracy, the valiant soldier
in the field of Campaldino, the fervent patriot in the feuds of
Guelphs and Ghibellines, the eloquent and subtle disputant in the
school of theology, the melancholy exile wandering from court to
court, depending for bread and shelter on petty princes who knew not
his worth, except as a splendid captive in their train; and above all,
he is the poet anticipating his own assured renown (though not
obtrusively so), and dispensing at his will honour or infamy to
others, whom he need but to name, and the sound must be heard to the
end of time and echoed from all regions of the globe. Dante in his
vision is Dante as he lived, as he died, and as he expected to live in
both worlds beyond death--an immortal spirit in the one, an
unforgotten poet in the other.

You feel this is written from the heart of the woman who herself felt
as she wrote. We would fain go through her different biographies,
tracing her feelings, her appreciation, and poetic enthusiasm
throughout, but that is impossible. She takes us through Boccaccio's
life, and, as by the reflection of a sunset from a mirror, we are
warmed with the glow and mirth from distant and long-past times in
Italy. One feels through her works the innate delicacy of her mind.
Through Boccaccio's life, as through all the others, the history of
the times and the noteworthy facts concerning the poets are brought
forward--such as the sums of money Boccaccio spent, though poor, to
promote the study of Greek, so long before the taking of
Constantinople by the Turks. In the friendship of Petrarch and
Boccaccio, she shows how great souls can love, and makes you love them
in return, and you feel the riches of the meetings of such people,
these dictators of mankind--not of a faction-tossed country or
continent. How paltry do the triumphs of conquerors which end with the
night, the feasts of princes which leave still hungry, appear beside
the triumphs of intellect, the symposium of souls.

After Boccaccio, Mary rapidly ran over the careers of Lorenzo de'
Medici, Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Politian, and the Pulci,
exhibiting again, after the lapse of a century, the study in Italy of
the Greek language. The story of the truly great prince with his
circle of poet friends, one of whom, Politian, died of a broken heart
at the death of his beloved patron, is well told. From these she
passes on to the followers of the romantic style begun by Pulci, Cieco
da Ferrara, Burchiello, Bojardo; then Berni, born at the end of the
fifteenth century, who carried on or recast Bojardo's _Orlando
Innamorato_, which was followed by Ariosto's _Orlando Furioso_,
the delight of Italy. In Ariosto's life Mary, as ever, delights in
showing the filial affection and fine traits of the poet's nature.
She quotes his lines--

   Our mother's years with pity fill my heart,
   For without infamy she could not be
   By all of us at once forsaken.

But with these commendations she strongly denounces the profligacy of
his writing as presumably of his life. She says: "An author may not be
answerable to posterity for the evil of his mortal life; but for the
profligacy of that life which he lives through after ages,
contaminating by irrepressible and incurable infection the minds of
others, he is amenable even in his grave."

Through the intricacies of Machiavelli Mary's clear head and
conscientious treatment lead the reader till light appears to gleam.
The many-sided character of the man comes out, the difficulties of the
time he wrote in, while advising Princes how to act in times of
danger, and so admonishing the people how to resist. Did he not
foresee tyranny worked out and resistance complete, and his own
favourite republic succeeding to the death of tyrants? One remark of
Mary's with regard to the time when Machiavelli considered himself
most neglected is worth recording: "He bitterly laments the inaction
of his life, and expresses an ardent desire to be employed. Meanwhile
he created occupation for himself, and it is one of the lessons that
we may derive from becoming acquainted with the feelings and actions
of celebrated men, to learn that this very period during which
Machiavelli repined at the neglect of his contemporaries, and the
tranquillity of his life, was that during which his fame took root,
and which brought his name down to us. He occupied his leisure in
writing those works which have occasioned his immortality."

A short life of Guicciardini follows; then Mrs. Shelley comes to the
congenial subject of Vittoria Colonna, the noble widow of the Marquis
of Pescara, the dear friend in her latter years of Michael Angelo, the
woman whose writings, accomplishments, and virtues have made her the
pride of Italy. With her Mary Shelley gives a few of the long list of
names of women who won fame in Italy from their intellect:--the
beautiful daughter of a professor, who lectured behind a veil in
Petrarch's time; the mother of Lorenzo de' Medici, Ippolita Sforza;
Alessandra Scala; Isotta of Padua; Bianca d'Este; Damigella Torella;
Cassandra Fedele. We next pass to the life of Guarini, and missing
Tasso, whose life Mary Shelley did not write, we come to Chiabrera,
who tried to introduce the form of Greek poetry into Italian. Tassoni,
Marini, Filicaja are agreeable, but shortly touched on. Then
Metastasio is reached, whose youthful genius as an _improvisatore
early gained him applause, which was followed up by his successful
writing of three-act dramas for the opera, and a subsequent calm and
prosperous life at Vienna, under the successive protection of the
Emperor Charles VI., Maria Theresa, and Joseph II. The contrast of the
even prosperity of Metastasio's life with that of some of the great
poets is striking. Next Goldoni claims attention, whose comedies of
Italian manners throw much light upon the frivolous life in society
before the French Revolution, his own career adding to the pictures of
the time. Then Alfieri's varied life-story is well told, his sad
period of youth, when taken from his mother to suffer much educational
and other neglect, the difficulties he passed through owing to his
Piedmontese origin and consequent ignorance of the pure Italian
language. She closes the modern Italian poets with Monti and Ugo
Foscolo, whose sad life in London is exhibited.

Mary's studies in Spanish enabled her to treat equally well the poets
of Spain and of Portugal. Her introduction is a good essay on the
poetry and poets of Spain, and some of the translations, which are her
own, are very happily given. The poetic impulse in Spain is traced
from the Iberians through the Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and the early
unknown Spanish poets, among whom there were many fine examples. She
leads us to Boscan at the commencement of the sixteenth century.
Boscan seems to have been one of those rare beings, a poet endowed
with all the favours of fortune, including contentment and happiness.
His friends Garcilaso di Vega and Mendoza aided greatly in the
formation of Spanish poetry, all three having studied the Italian
school and Petrarch. This century, rich in poets, gives us also Luis
de Leon, Herrera, Saade Miranda, Jorge de Montemayor, Castillejo, the
dramatists; and Ercilla, the soldier poet, who, in the expedition for
the conquest of Peru went to Arauco, and wrote the poem named
_Araucana_. From him we pass to one of the great men of all time,
Cervantes, to one who understood the workings of the human heart, and
was so much raised above the common level as to be neglected in the
magnitude of his own work. Originally of noble family, and having
served his country in war, losing his left hand at the battle of
Lepanto, he received no recognition of his services after his return
from a cruel captivity among the Moors. Instead of reward, Cervantes
seems to have met with every indignity that could be devised by the
multitudes of pigmies to lower a great man, were that possible. Mary,
as ever, rises with her subject. She remarks:--"It is certainly
curious that in those days when it was considered part of a noble's
duties to protect and patronise men of letters, Cervantes should have
been thus passed over; and thus while his book was passing through
Europe with admiration, Cervantes remained poor and neglected. So does
the world frequently honour its greatest, as if jealous of the renown
to which they can never attain."

From Cervantes we pass on to Lope de Vega, of whose thousand dramas
what remains? and yet what honours and fortune were showered upon him
during his life! A more even balance of qualities enabled him to write
entertaining plays, and to flatter the weakness of those in power.
From Gongora and Quevedo Mary passes to Calderon, whom she justly
considers the master of Spanish poetry. She deplores the little that
is known of his life, and that after him the fine period of Spanish
literature declines, owing to the tyranny and misrule which were
crushing and destroying the spirit and intellect of Spain; for,
unfortunately, art and poetry require not only the artist and the
poet, but congenial atmosphere to survive in.

Writing for this Cyclopaedia was evidently very apposite work for Mrs.
Shelley. She wrote also for it lives of some of the French poets. Some
stories were also written. In these she was less happy, as likewise in
her novel, _Perkin Warbeck_, a pallid imitation of Walter Scott,
which does not call for any special comment.

Shortly after her father's death, Mrs. Shelley wrote from 14 North
Bank, Regent's Park, to Moxon, wishing to arrange with him about the
publication of Godwin's autobiography, letters, &c. But some ten years
later we find her still expressing the wish to do some work of the
kind as a solemn duty if her health would permit. Probably the very
numerous notes which Mrs. Shelley made about her father and his
surroundings were towards this object.

Mrs. Shelley's health caused her at times considerable trouble from
this period onwards. Harrow had not suited her, and in 1839 she moved
to Putney; and the next year, 1840, she was able to make the tour
above mentioned, which we cannot do better than refer to at once.




CHAPTER XVI.

ITALY REVISITED.


In Mary Shelley's _Rambles in Germany and Italy_ in 1840-42-43,
published in 1844, we have not only a pleasing account of herself with
her son and friends during a pleasure trip, but some very interesting
and charming descriptions of continental life at that time.

Mary, with her son and two college friends, decided in June 1840 to
spend their vacation on the banks of the Lake of Como. The idea of
again visiting a country where she had so truly lived, and where she
had passed through the depths of sorrow, filled her with much emotion.
Her failing health made her feel the advantage that travelling and
change of country would be to her. After spending an enjoyable two
months of the spring at Richmond, visiting Raphael's cartoons at
Hampton Court, she went by way of Brighton and Hastings. On her way to
Dover she noticed how Hastings, a few years ago a mere fishing
village, had then become a new town. They were delayed at Dover by a
tempest, but left the next morning, the wind still blowing a gale;
reaching Calais they were further delayed by the tide. At length Paris
was arrived at, and we find Mary making her first experience at a
_table d'hote_. Mary was now travelling with a maid, which no
doubt her somewhat weakened health made a necessity to her. They went
to the Hotel Chatham at Paris. She felt all the renovating feeling of
being in a fresh country out of the little island; the weight of cares
seemed to fall from her; the life in Paris cheered her, though the
streets were dirty enough then--dirtier than those of London; whereas
the contrast is now in the opposite direction.

After a week here they went on towards Como by way of Frankfort. They
were to pass Metz, Treves, the Moselle, Coblentz, and the Rhine to
Mayence. The freedom from care and, worries in a foreign land, with
sufficient means, and only in the company of young people open to
enjoyment, gave new life to Mary. After staying a night at Metz, the
clean little town on the Moselle, they passed on to Treves. At
Thionville, the German frontier, they were struck by the wretched
appearance of the cottages in contrast to the French. From Treves they
proceeded by boat up the Moselle. The winding banks of the Moselle,
with the vineyards sheltered by mountains, are well described. The
peasants are content and prosperous, as, after the French Revolution,
they bought up the confiscated estates of the nobles, and so were able
to cultivate the land. The travellers rowed into the Rhine on reaching
Coblentz, and rested at the Bellevue; and now they passed by the
grander beauties of the Rhine. These made Mary wish to spend a summer
there, exploring its recesses. They reached Mayence at midnight, and
the next morning left by rail for Frankfort, the first train they had
entered on the Continent. Mary much preferred the comfort of railway
travelling. From Frankfort they engaged a voiturier to Schaffhausen,
staying at Baden-Baden. The ruined castles recall memories of changed
times, and Mary remarks how, except in England and Italy, country
houses of the rich seem unknown. At Darmstadt, where they stopped to
lunch, they were annoyed and amused too by the inconvenience and
inattention they were subjected to from the expected arrival of the
Grand Duke. On reaching Heidelberg, she remarks how, in travelling,
one is struck by the way that the pride of princes for further
dominion causes the devastation of the fairest countries. From the
ruined castle they looked over the Palatinate which had been laid
waste owing to the ambition of the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of our
James I. Mary could have lingered long among the picturesque
weed-grown walls, but had to continue the route to their destination.
At Baden they visited the gambling saloon, and saw _Rouge et
Noir_ played. They were much struck by the Falls of the Rhine at
Schaffhausen; and, on reaching Chiavenna, Mary had again the delight
of hearing and speaking Italian. After crossing the blank mountains,
who has not experienced the delight of this sensation has not yet
known one of the joys of existence. On arriving at their destination
at Lake Como, their temporary resting-place, a passing depression
seized the party, the feeling that often comes when shut in by
mountains away from home. No doubt Mary having reached Italy, the land
she loved, with Shelley, the feeling of being without him assailed
her.

At Cadenabia, on Lake Como, they had to consider ways and means. It
turned out that apartments, with all their difficulties, would equal
hotel expenses without the same amount of comfort. So they decided on
accepting the moderate terms offered by the landlord, and were
comfortably or even luxuriously installed, with five little bedrooms
and large private salon. In one nook of this Mrs. Shelley established
her embroidery frame, desk, books, and such things, showing her taste
for order and elegance. So for some weeks she and her son and two
companions were able to pass their time free from all household
worries. The lake and neighbourhood are picturesquely described. One
drawback to Mary's peace of mind was the arrival of her son's boat. He
seemed to have inherited his father's love of boating, and this
naturally filled her with apprehension. They made many pleasant
excursions, of which she always gives good descriptions, and also
enters clearly into any historical details connected with the country.
At times she was carried by the beauty and repose of the scene into
rapt moods which she thus describes:--

It has seemed to me, and on such an evening I have felt it, that the
world, endowed as it is outwardly with endless shapes and influences
of beauty and enjoyment, is peopled also in its spiritual life by
myriads of loving spirits, from whom, unaware, we catch impressions
which mould our thoughts to good, and thus they guide beneficially the
course of events and minister to the destiny of man. Whether the
beloved dead make a portion of this holy company, I dare not guess;
but that such exist, I feel. They keep far off while we are worldly,
evil, selfish; but draw near, imparting the reward of heaven-born joy,
when we are animated by noble thoughts and capable of disinterested
actions. Surely such gather round me to-night, part of that atmosphere
of peace and love which it is paradise to breathe.

I had thought such ecstasy dead in me for ever, but the sun of Italy
has thawed the frozen stream.

Such poetic feelings were the natural outcome of the quiet and repose
after the life of care and anxiety poor Mary had long been subjected
to. She always seems more in her element when describing mountain
cataracts, Alpine storms, water lashed into waves and foam by the
wind, all the changes of mountain and lake scenery; but this quiet
holiday with her son came to an end, and they had to think of turning
homewards. Before doing so, they passed by Milan, enjoyed the opera
there, and went to see Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper," which Mary
naturally much admires; she mentions the Luinis without enthusiasm.
While here, the non-arrival of a letter caused great anxiety to Mary,
as they were now obliged to return on account of Percy's term
commencing, and there was barely enough money for him to travel
without her; however, that was the only thing possible, and so it had
to be done. Percy returned to England with his two friends, and his
mother had to remain at Milan awaiting the letter. Days pass without
any letter coming to hand, lost days, for Mary was too anxious and
worried to be able to take any pleasure in her stay. Nor had she any
acquaintances in the place; she could scarcely endure to go down alone
to _table d'hote_ dinner, although she overcame this feeling as
it was her only time of seeing anyone. Ten days thus passed by, days
of storm and tempest, during which her son and his companions
recrossed the Alps. They had left her on the 20th September, and it
was not till she reached Paris on the 12th October that she became
aware of the disastrous journey they had gone through, and how
impossible it would have been for them to manage even as they did, had
she been with them; indeed, she hardly could have lived through it.
The description of this journey was written to Mrs. Shelley in a most
graphic and picturesque letter by one of her son's companions. They
were nearly drowned while crossing the lake in the diligence on a
raft, during a violent storm. Next they were informed that the road of
the Dazio Grande to Airolo was washed away sixty feet under the
present torrent. They, with a guide, had to find their way over an
unused mountain track, rendered most dangerous by the storm. They all
lost shoes and stockings, and had to run on as best they could. Percy,
with some others, had lost the track; but they, providentially, met
the rest of the party at an inn at Piota, and from there managed to
reach Airolo; and so they crossed the stupendous St. Gothard Pass, one
of the wonders of the world.

Mrs. Shelley having at last recovered the letter from the Post Office,
returned with her maid and a vetturino who had three Irish ladies with
him, by way of Geneva, staying at Isola Bella. After passing the Lago
Maggiore, a turn in the road shut the lake and Italy from her sight,
and she proceeded on her journey with a heavy heart, as many a
traveller has done and many more will do, the fascination of Italy
under most circumstances being intense. Mary then describes one of the
evils of Italy in its then divided state. The southern side of the
Simplon belonged to the King of Sardinia, but its road led at once
into Austrian boundary. The Sardinian sovereign, therefore, devoted
this splendid pass to ruin to force people to go by Mont Cenis, and
thus rendered the road most dangerous for those who were forced to
traverse it. The journey over the Simplon proved most charming, and
Mrs. Shelley was very much pleased with the civility of her vetturino,
who managed everything admirably. Now, on her way to Geneva, she
passed the same scenes she had lived first in with Shelley. She thus
describes them:--


The far Alps were hid, the wide lake looked drear. At length I caught
a glimpse of the scenes among which I had lived, when first I stepped
out from childhood into life. There on the shores of Bellerive stood
Diodati; and our humble dwelling, Maison Ohapuis, nestled close to the
lake below. There were the terraces, the vineyards, the upward path
threading them, the little port where our boat lay moored. I could
mark and recognise a thousand peculiarities, familiar objects then,
forgotten since--now replete with recollections and associations. Was
I the same person who had lived there, the companion of the dead--for
all were gone? Even my young child, whom I had looked upon as the joy
of future years, had died in infancy. Not one hope, then in fair bud,
had opened into maturity; storm and blight and death had passed over,
and destroyed all. While yet very young, I had reached the position of
an aged person, driven back on memory for companionship with the
beloved, and now I looked on the inanimate objects that had surrounded
me, which survived the same in aspect as then, to feel that all my
life since is an unreal phantasmagoria--the shades that gathered round
that scene were the realities, the substances and truth of the soul's
life which I shall, I trust, hereafter rejoin.


Mary digresses at some length on the change of manners in the French
since the revolution of 1830, saying that they had lost so much of
their pleasant agreeable manner, their Monsieur and Madame, which
sounded so pretty. From Geneva by Lyons, through Chalons, the
diligence slowly carries her to Paris, and thence she shortly returned
to England in October.

Mary's next tour with her son was in 1842, by way of Amsterdam,
through Germany and Italy. From Frankfort she describes to a friend
her journey with its various mishaps. After spending a charming week
with friends in Hampshire, and then passing a day or two in London to
bid farewell to old friends, Mrs. Shelley, her son, and Mr. Knox
embarked for Antwerp on June 12, 1842. After the sea passage, which
Mary dreaded, the pleasure of entering the quiet Scheldt is always
great; but she does not seem to have recognised the charm of the
Belgian or Dutch quiet scenery. With her love of mountains, these
picturesque aspects seem lost on her; at least, she remarks that, "It
is strange that a scene, in itself uninteresting, becomes agreeable to
look at in a picture, from the truth with which it is depicted, and a
perfection of colouring which at once contrasts and harmonizes the
hues of sky and water." Mary does not seem to understand that the
artist who does this selects the beauties of nature to represent. A
truthful representation of a vulgarised piece of nature would be very
painful for an artist to look on or to paint. The English or Italian
villas of Lake Como, or the Riviera, would require a great deal of
neglect by the artist not to vulgarize the glorious scenes round them;
but this lesson has yet to be widely learnt in modern times, that
beauty can never spoil nature, however humble; but no amount of wealth
expended on a palace or mansion can make it fit for a picture, without
the artist's feeling, any more than the beauties of Italy on canvas
can be other than an eyesore without the same subtle power.

At Liege, fresh worries assailed the party. The difficulty of getting
all their luggage, as well as a theft of sixteen pounds from her son's
bedroom in the night, did not add to the pleasures of the commencement
of their tour; but, as Mary said, the discomfort was nothing to what
it would have been in 1840, when their means were far narrower, and
she feels, "Welcome this evil so that it be the only one," for, as she
says, one whose life had been so stained by tragedy could never regain
a healthy tone, if that is needed not to fear for those we love. On
reaching Cologne, the party went up the Rhine to Coblentz. As neither
Mary nor her companions had previously done this, they were again much
imposed upon by the steward. She recalls her former voyage with
Shelley and Claire, when in an open boat they passed the night on the
rapid river, "tethered" to a willow on the bank. When Frankfort is at
length reached, they have to decide where to pass the summer.
Kissingen is decided on, for Mrs. Shelley to try the baths. Here they
take lodgings, and all the discomforts of trying to get the
necessaries of life and some order, when quite ignorant of the
language of the place, are amusingly described by Mrs. Shelley. The
treatment and diet at the baths seem to have been very severe, nearly
every usual necessary of life being forbidden by the Government in
order to do justice to the efficacy of the baths.

Passing through various German towns their way to Leipsic, they stay
at Weimar, where Mary rather startles the reader by remarking that she
is not sure she would give the superiority to Goethe; that Schiller
had always appeared to her the greater man, so complete. It is true
she only knew the poets by translations, but the wonderful passages
translated from Goethe by Shelley might have impressed her more. Mary
is much struck on seeing the tombs of the poets by their being placed
in the same narrow chamber as the Princes, showing the genuine
admiration of the latter for those who had cast a lustre on their
kingdom, and their desire to share even in the grave the poet's
renown. Mary, when in the country of Frederic the Great, shows little
enthusiasm for that great monarch, so simple in his own life, so just,
so beloved, and so surrounded by dangers which he overcame for the
welfare of the country. What Frederic might have been in Napoleon's
place after the Revolution it is difficult to conceive, or how he
might have acted. Certainly not for mere self aggrandizement. But the
tyrannies of the petty German Princes Mary justly does not pass over,
such as the terrible story told in Schiller's _Cabal and Love_.
She recalls how the Duke of Hesse-Cassel sold his peasants for the
American war, to give with their pay jewels to his mistress, and how,
on her astonishment being expressed, the servant replied they only
cost seven thousand children of the soil just sent to America. On this
Mary remarks:--"History fails fearfully in its duty when it makes over
to the poet the record and memory of such an event; one, it is to be
hoped, that can never be renewed. And yet what acts of cruelty and
tyranny may not be reacted on the stage of the world which we boast of
as civilised, if one man has uncontrolled power over the lives of
many, the unwritten story of Russia may hereafter tell."

This seems to point to reminiscences of Claire's life in Russia. Mrs.
Shelley also remarks great superiority in the comfort, order, and
cleanliness in the Protestant over the Catholic parts of Germany,
where liberty of conscience has been gained, and is profoundly touched
on visiting Luther's chamber in the castle of Wartburg overlooking the
Thuringian Forest.

Her visits to Berlin and Dresden, during the heat of summer, do not
much strike the reader by her feeling for pictorial art. She is
impressed by world-renowned pictures; but her remarks, though those of
a clever woman, show that the love of nature, especially in its most
majestic forms, does not give or imply love of art. The feeling for
plastic art requires the emotion which runs through all art, and
without which it is nothing, to be distinctly innate as in the artist,
or to have been cultivated by surroundings and influence. True, it is
apparently difficult always to trace the influence. There is no one
step from the contemplation of the Alps to the knowledge of plastic
art. Literary art does not necessarily understand pictorial art: it
may profess to expound the latter, and the reader, equally or still
more ignorant, fancies that he appreciates the pictorial art because
he relishes its literary exposition. Surely a piece of true plastic
art, constantly before a child for it to learn to love, would do more
than much after study. The best of all ought to be given to
children--music, poetry, art--for it is easier then to instil than
later to eradicate. It is true these remarks may seem unnecessary with
regard to Mary Shelley, as, with all her real gifts and insight into
poetry, she is most modest about her deficiencies in art knowledge,
and is even apologetic concerning the remarks made in her letters, and
for this her truth of nature is to be commended. In music, also, she
seems more really moved by her own emotional nature than purely by the
music; how, otherwise, should she have been disappointed at hearing
_Masaniello_, while admiring German music, when Auber's grand
opera has had the highest admiration from the chief German musicians?
But she had not been previously moved towards it; that is the great
difference between perception and acquired knowledge, and why so
frequently the art of literature is mistaken for perception. But Mary
used her powers justly, and drew the line where she was conscious of
knowledge; she had real imagination of her own, and used the precious
gift justifiably, and thus kept honour and independence, a difficult
task for a woman in her position. She expresses pity for the
travellers she meets, who simply are anxious to have "done"
everything. She truly remarks:--"We must become a part of the scenes
around us, and they must mingle and become a portion of us, or we see
without seeing, and study without learning. There is no good, no
knowledge, unless we can go out from and take some of the external
into ourselves. This is the secret of mathematics as well as of
poetry."

Their trip to Prague, and its picturesque position, afforded great
pleasure to her. The stirring and romantic history is well
described--history, as Shelley truly says, is a record of crime and
misery. The first reformers sprang up in Bohemia. The martyrdom of
John Huss did not extinguish his enlightening influence; and while all
the rest of Europe was enslaved in darkness, Bohemia was free with a
pure religion. But such a bright example might not last, and Bohemia
became a province of the Empire, and not a hundred Protestants remain
in the country now. The interesting story of St. John Nepomuk, the
history of Wallenstein, with Schiller's finest tragedy, all lend their
interest to Prague. In the journey through Bohemia and southern
Germany, dirty and uncomfortable inns were conspicuous. The Lake of
Gemuenden much struck Mary with its poetic beauty, and she felt it was
the place she should like to retreat to for a summer. From Ischl they
went over the Brenner Pass of the Lago di Garda on to Italy. Mary was
particularly struck by the beauties of Salzburg, with the immense
plain half encircled by mountains crowned by castles, with the high
Alps towering above all. She considered all this country superior to
the Swiss Alps, and longed to pass months there some time. By this
beautiful route they reached Verona, and then Venice. On the road to
Venice Mary became aware (as we have already noted) of an intimate
remembrance of each object, and each turn in the road. It was by this
very road she entered Venice twenty-five years before with her dying
child. She remarks that Shakspeare knew the feeling and endued the
grief of Queen Constance with terrible reality; and, later, the poem
of "The Wood Spurge" enforces the same sentiment. It was remarked by
Holcroft that the notice the soul takes of objects presented to the
eye in its hour of agony is a relief afforded by nature to permit the
nerves to endure pain. On reaching Venice a search for lodgings was
not successful; but two gentlemen, to whom they had introductions,
found for the party an hotel within their still limited means; their
bargain came to L9 a month each for everything included. They visited
again the Rialto, and Mrs. Shelley observes:--"Often when here before,
I visited this scene at this hour, or later, for often I expected
Shelley's return from Palazzo Mocenigo till two or three in the
morning. I watched the glancing of the oars, and heard the far song,
and saw the palaces sleeping in the light of the moon, which veils by
its deep shadows all that grieved the eye and hurt the heart in the
decaying palaces of Venice; then I saw, as now I see, the bridge of
the Rialto spanning the canal. All, all is the same; but, as the poet
says,--'The difference to me.'"

She notices many of the most celebrated of the pictures in the
Academia; and she had the good fortune of seeing St. Peter Martyr,
which she misnames St. Peter the Hermit, out of its dark niche in the
Church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. She gives a very good description of
Venetian life at the time, and much commends its family affection and
family life as being of a much less selfish nature than in England; as
she remarks truly, if a traveller gets into a vicious or unpleasant
set in any country, it would not do to judge all the rest of the
nation, by that standard--as she considered Shelley did when staying
in Venice with Byron. The want of good education in Italy at that time
she considers the cause of the ruling indolence, love-making with the
young and money-keeping with the elder being the chief occupation. She
gives a very good description of the noble families and their descent.
Many of the Italian palaces preserved their pictures, and in the
Palazzo Pisani Mary saw the Paul Veronese, now in the National
Gallery, of "The family of Darius at the feet of Alexander." Mary's
love of Venice grew, and she seems to have entertained serious ideas
of taking a palace and settling there; but all the fancies of
travellers are not realised. One moonlit evening she heard an old
gondoliere challenge a younger one to alternate with him the stanzas
of the _Gerusalemme_. The men stood on the Piazzetta beside the
Laguna, surrounded by other gondolieri in the moonlight. They chanted
"The death of Clorinda" and other favourite passages; and though,
owing to Venetian dialect Mary could not follow every word, she was
much impressed by the dignity and beauty of the scene. The Pigeons of
St. Mark's existed then as now. Mary ended her stay in Venice by a
visit to the Opera, and joined a party, by invitation, to accompany
the Austrian Archduke to the Lido on his departure.

Mrs. Shelley much admired the expression in the early masters at
Padua, though she does not mention Giotto. In Florence, the expense of
the hotels again obliged her to go through the tiresome work of
seeking apartments. They fortunately found sunny rooms, as the cold
was intense. To cold followed rain, and she remarks:--"Walking is out
of the question; and driving-how I at once envy and despise the happy
rich who have carriages, and who use them only to drive every
afternoon in the Cascine. If I could, I would visit every spot
mentioned in Florentine history--visit its towns of old renown, and
ramble amid scenes familiar to Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch, and
Machiavelli."

The descriptions of Ghirlandajo's pictures in Florence are very good.
Mary now evidently studies art with great care and intelligence, and
makes some very clever remarks appertaining to it. She is also able to
call attention to the fact that Mr. Kirkup had recently made the
discovery of the head of Dante Alighieri, painted by Giotto, on the
wall of the Chapel of the Palace of the Podesta at Florence. The fact
was mentioned by Vasari, and Kirkup was enabled to remove the
whitewash and uncover this inestimable treasure. Giotto, in the act of
painting this portrait, is the subject of one of the finest designs of
the English school--alas! not painted in any form of fresco on an
English wall.

From the art of Florence Mrs. Shelley turns to its history with her
accustomed clear-headed method. Space will not admit all the
interesting details, but her account of the factions and of the good
work and terrible tragedies of the Carbonari is most interesting. The
great equality in Florence is well noticed, accounting for the little
real distress among the poor, and the simplicity of life of the
nobles. She next enters into an account of modern Italian literature,
which she ranks high, and hopes much from. The same struggle between
romanticists and classicists existed as in other countries; and she
classes Manzoni with Walter Scott, though admitting that he has not
the same range of character. Mary and her party next proceeded by sea
to Rome. Here, again, the glories of Italy and its art failed not to
call forth eloquent remarks from Mary's pen; and her views, though at
times somewhat contradictory, are always well expressed. She, at
least, had a mind to appreciate the wonders of the Stanze, and to feel
that genius and intellect are not out of their province in art. She
only regrets that the great Italian art which can express so perfectly
the religious sentiment and divine ecstasy did not attempt the grand
feelings of humanity, the love which is faithful to death, the
emotions such as Shakespeare describes. While this wish exists, and
there are artists who can carry it out, art is not dead. After a very
instructive chapter on the modern history of the Papal States, we
again find Mary among the scenes dearest to her heart and her nature:
her next letter is dated from Sorrento. She feels herself to be in
Paradise; and who that has been in that wonderful country would not
sympathise with her enthusiasm! To be carried up the heights to
Ravello, and to see the glorious panorama around, she considered,
surpassed all her previous most noble experiences. Ravello, with its
magnificent cathedral covered with mosaics, is indeed a sight to have
seen; the road to Amalfi, the ruinous paper mills in the ravine, the
glorious picturesqueness, are all "well expressed and understood." Mrs.
Shelley seems to have considered June (1844) the perfection of weather
for Naples.




CHAPTER XVII.

LAST YEARS.


This last literary work by Mrs. Shelley, of which she herself speaks
slightingly as a poor performance, was noticed about the time of its
publication as an interesting and truthful piece of writing by an
authority on the subject. Mrs. Shelley's very modest and retiring
disposition gave her little confidence in herself, and she seems to
have met, with various discouraging remarks from acquaintances; she
used to wonder afterwards that she was not able to defend herself and
suppress impertinence. This last book is spoken of by Mary as written
to help an unfortunate person whose acquaintance Claire had made in
Paris while staying in some capacity in that city with Lady Sussex
Lennox. A title has a factitious prestige with some people, and
certainly in this case the acquaintance which at first seemed
advantageous to Mary proved to be much the contrary, both in respect
of money and of peace of mind; but, before referring further to this
subject, we must explain that the year 1844 brought with it a perhaps
questionable advantage for her.

Sir Timothy Shelley, who had been ailing for some while, and whom
Percy Shelley had visited from time to time at Field Place, having
become rather a favourite with the old gentleman, now reached the
bourne of life--he was ninety. His death in April 1844 brought his
grandson Percy Florence to the baronetcy. That portion of the estate
which had been entailed previous to Sir Bysshe's proposed
rearrangement of the entire property now came to Mrs. Shelley by her
husband's will. Owing to the poet's having refused to join in the
entail, the larger portion of the property would not under any
circumstances, as we have before mentioned, have devolved on him.

A sum of L80,000 is mentioned by the different biographers of Shelley
as the probable value of the minor estate entailed on him, of which he
had the absolute right of disposal. This estate, on Sir Timothy's
death, was found to be burdened to the extent of L50,000, which Mary
borrowed on mortgage at 3-1/2 per cent. This large sum included
L13,000 due to Lady Shelley for "the pittance" Mary had received;
L4,500 to John Shelley for a mortgage Shelley signed to pay his debts,
probably for the L2,000 borrowed on leaving Marlow, when he paid all
his debts there; so that if any trifle was left unpaid on that
occasion, it must have been from oversight and want of dunning, as he
undoubtedly left there with sufficient money, having also resold his
house for L1,000. A jointure had to be paid Lady Shelley of L500 a
year. The different legacies still due in 1844 were L6,000 to Ianthe,
two sums of L6,000 each to Claire, L2,000 to Hogg, L2,500 to Peacock.
These various sums mounting up to L40,000, the remaining L10,000 can
easily have been swallowed up by other post-obits and legal expenses.
Two sums of L6,000 each left to his two sons who died, and L2,000 left
to Lord Byron, had lapsed to the estate. Mrs. Shelley's first care was
to raise the necessary money and pay all the outstanding obligations.
Her chief anxiety through her struggles had always been not to incur
debts; her next thought was to give an annual pension of L50 to her
brother's widow, and L200 a year (afterwards reduced to L120) to Leigh
Hunt. This was her manner of deriving immediate pleasure from her
inheritance. By her husband's will, executed in 1817, everything,
"whether in possession, reversion, remainder, or expectancy," was left
to her; but as she always mentioned her son, Sir Percy, as acting with
herself, and said that owing to the embarrassed condition of the
estate they intended to share all in common for a time, it is evident
that Mary had made her son's interest her first duty.

The estate had brought L5,000 the previous year, and this would agree,
deducting L1,750 for interest on mortgage, and L500 Lady Shelley's
jointure, in reducing their income to a little below L3,000 a year, as
Mrs. Shelley stated. Field Place was let in the first instance for
sixty pounds a year, it was so damp. Mrs. Shelley continued with, her
son to live at Putney till 1846. They had tried Putney in 1839, and
towards the end of 1843 she took a house there, the White Cottage,
Lower Richmond Road, Putney. Mary thus describes it:--"Our cot is on
the banks of the Thames, not looking on it, but the garden-gate opens
on the towing-path. It has a nice little garden, but sadly out of
order. It is shabbily furnished, and has no spare room, except by
great contrivance, if at all; so, perforce, economy will be the order
of the day. It is secluded but cheerful, at the extreme verge of
Putney, close to Barnes Common; just the situation Percy desired. He
has bought a boat."

Mrs. Shelley moved into this house shortly after the visit to Claire
in Paris, referred to at the commencement of this chapter.

Her life in London, in spite of a few very good friends, often
appeared solitary to her; for, as she herself observes, those who
produce and give original work to the world require the social contact
of their fellow-beings. Thus, saddened by the neglect which she
experienced, she tried to counteract it by sympathising with those
less fortunate than herself; but this, also, is at times a very
difficult task to carry out single-handed beyond a certain point.

During this visit to Paris in 1843 she had the misfortune to meet, at
the house of Lady Sussex Lennox, an Italian adventurer of the name of
Gatteschi. They had known some people of that name formerly in
Florence, as noted in Claire's diary of 1820; and this may have caused
them to take a more special interest in him. Suffice it to say, that
he appeared to be in the greatest distress, and at the same time was
considered by Mary and Claire to have the _eclat_ of "good
birth," and also to have talents, which, if they got but a fair
chance, might raise him to any post of eminence. These ideas continued
for some time; on one occasion he helped Mrs. Shelley with her
literary work, finding the historical passages for _Rambles in
Germany and Italy_. She and Claire used to contrive to give him
small sums of money, in some delicate way, so as not to wound his
feelings, as he would die of mortification. He was invited over to
England in 1844, under the idea that he might obtain some place as
tutor in a family, and he brought over MSS. of his own, which were
thought highly of. While in England Gatteschi lodged with Mr. Knox,
who had travelled with Mrs. Shelley and her son, as a friend of the
latter. Mr. Knox seems to have been at that time on friendly terms
with Gatteschi, though Mrs. Shelley regretted that her son did not
take to him. With all the impulse of a generous nature, she spared no
pains to be of assistance to the Italian, and evidently must have
written imprudently gushing letters at times to this object of her
commiseration. Whilst Mary was poor Gatteschi must have approached
sentimental gratitude; she says later, "He cannot now be wishing to
marry me, or he would not insult me." In fact he had proposed to marry
her when she came into her money. Gatteschi waited his time, he aimed
at larger sums of money. Failing to get these by fair means, the
scoundrel began to use threats of publishing her correspondence with
him. In 1845 he was said to be "ravenous for money," and, knowing how
Mary had yielded to vehement letters on former occasions, and had at
first answered him imprudently, instead of at once putting his letters
into legal hands, the villain made each fresh letter a tool to serve
his purpose. He thus worked upon her sensitive nature and dread of
ridicule, especially at a time when she more than ever wished to stand
well with the world and the society which she felt it her son's right
to belong to--her son, who had never failed in his duty, and who, she
said, was utterly without vice, although at times she wished he had
more love of reading and steady application.

It is easy to see now how perfectly innocent, although Quixotically
generous, Mary Shelley was; but it can also be discerned how difficult
it would have been to stop the flood of social mirth and calumny, had
more of this subject been, made public. Mary, knowing this only too
well, bitterly deplored it, and accused herself of folly in a way that
might even now deceive a passing thinker; but it has been the pleasant
task of the writer to make this subject perfectly clear to herself,
and some others.

It must be added that the letters in question, written by Mrs. Shelley
to Gatteschi, were obtained by a requisition of the French police
under the pretext of political motives: Gatteschi had been known to be
mixed up with an insurrection in Bologna. Mr. Knox, who managed this
affair for Mrs. Shelley, showed the talents of an incipient police
magistrate.

The whole of Mary's correspondence with Claire Clairmont is very
cordial. Mary did her best to help her from time to time in her usual
generous manner, and evidently gave her the best advice in her power.
We find her regretting at times Claire's ill-health, sending her
carriage to her while in Osnaburgh Street, and so on. She strongly
urged her to come to England to settle about the investment of her
money, telling her that one L6,000 she cannot interfere with, as
Shelley had left it for an annuity which could not be lost or disposed
of; but that the other L6,000 she can invest where she likes. At one
time Mary tells her of a good investment she has heard of in an
opera-box, but that she must act for herself, as it is too dangerous a
matter to give advice in.

In 1845 Mary Shelley visited Brighton for her health, her nerves
having been much shaken by the anxiety she had gone through. While
there she mentioned seeing Mr. and Mrs. John Shelley at the Theatre,
but they took no notice of her. When Mrs. Shelley went over Field
Place after Sir Timothy's death, Lady Shelley had expressed herself to
a friend as being much pleased with her, and said she wished she had
known her before: Mary on hearing this exclaimed, "Then why on earth
didn't she?" In 1846 they moved from Putney to Chester Square, and in
the summer Mary went to Baden for her health. From here again she
wrote how glad she was to be away from the mortifications of London,
and that she detested Chester Square. Her health from this time needed
frequent change. In 1847, she moved to Field Place; she found it damp,
but visits to Brighton and elsewhere helped to keep up her gradually
failing health. The next year she had the satisfaction of seeing her
son married to a lady (Mrs. St. John) in every way to her liking. A
letter received by Mrs. Shelley from her daughter-in-law while on her
wedding tour, and enclosed to Claire, shows how she wished the latter
to partake in the joy she felt at the happy marriage of her son. Mary
now had not only a son to love, but a daughter to care for her, and
the pleasant duty was not unwillingly performed, for the lady speaks
of her to this day with emotion.

From this time there is little to record. We find Mary in 1849
inviting Willie Clairmont, Claire's nephew, to see her at Field Place,
where she was living with her son and his wife. In the same year they
rather dissuaded Claire, who was then at Maidstone, from a somewhat
wild project which she entertained, that of going to California. The
ground of dissuasion was still wilder than the project, for it was
just now said the hoped-for gold had turned out to be merely sulphate
of iron. The house in Chester Square had been given up in 1848, and
another was taken at 77, Warwick Square, before the marriage of Sir
Percy, and thence at the end of that year Mary writes of an
improvement in her health, but there was still a tendency to neuralgic
rheumatism. The life-long nerve strain for a time was relaxed, but
without doubt the tension had been too strong, and loving care could
not prevail beyond a certain point. The next year the son and his wife
took the drooping Mary to Nice for her health, and a short respite was
given; but the pressure could not much longer remain. The strong
brain, and tender, if once too impassioned heart, failed on February
21, 1851, and nothing remained but a cherished memory of the devoted
daughter and mother, and the faithful wife of Shelley.








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