Mrs. Shelley
Lucy M. Rossetti

Part 2 out of 4

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.



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

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

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.


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 £5, 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.


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

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.



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
£200,000. One portion, valued at £80,000, 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 £120,000. 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 £18,000 could
be disposed of to his father for £11,000, and an income of £1,000 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

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 Sécheron, 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 Dôle, 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 Sécheron, 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 Montalègre, 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.



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
quâ 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

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

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 Montalègre. 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.



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
Albè, 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

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.



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 Fère, 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 Chambéry, 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 (Albé'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

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
Staël'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--Baiæ,
Vesuvius, and Pompeii. The day at Baiæ 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 à 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

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 Cæsar 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."



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,
_décolletée_, 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



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


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