Mrs. Shelley
Lucy M. Rossetti

Part 4 out of 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their trip to Prague, and its picturesque position, afforded great
pleasure to her. The stirring and romantic history is well
described--history, as Shelley truly says, is a record of crime and
misery. The first reformers sprang up in Bohemia. The martyrdom of
John Huss did not extinguish his enlightening influence; and while all
the rest of Europe was enslaved in darkness, Bohemia was free with a
pure religion. But such a bright example might not last, and Bohemia
became a province of the Empire, and not a hundred Protestants remain
in the country now. The interesting story of St. John Nepomuk, the
history of Wallenstein, with Schiller's finest tragedy, all lend their
interest to Prague. In the journey through Bohemia and southern
Germany, dirty and uncomfortable inns were conspicuous. The Lake of
Gemünden much struck Mary with its poetic beauty, and she felt it was
the place she should like to retreat to for a summer. From Ischl they
went over the Brenner Pass of the Lago di Garda on to Italy. Mary was
particularly struck by the beauties of Salzburg, with the immense
plain half encircled by mountains crowned by castles, with the high
Alps towering above all. She considered all this country superior to
the Swiss Alps, and longed to pass months there some time. By this
beautiful route they reached Verona, and then Venice. On the road to
Venice Mary became aware (as we have already noted) of an intimate
remembrance of each object, and each turn in the road. It was by this
very road she entered Venice twenty-five years before with her dying
child. She remarks that Shakspeare knew the feeling and endued the
grief of Queen Constance with terrible reality; and, later, the poem
of "The Wood Spurge" enforces the same sentiment. It was remarked by
Holcroft that the notice the soul takes of objects presented to the
eye in its hour of agony is a relief afforded by nature to permit the
nerves to endure pain. On reaching Venice a search for lodgings was
not successful; but two gentlemen, to whom they had introductions,
found for the party an hotel within their still limited means; their
bargain came to £9 a month each for everything included. They visited
again the Rialto, and Mrs. Shelley observes:--"Often when here before,
I visited this scene at this hour, or later, for often I expected
Shelley's return from Palazzo Mocenigo till two or three in the
morning. I watched the glancing of the oars, and heard the far song,
and saw the palaces sleeping in the light of the moon, which veils by
its deep shadows all that grieved the eye and hurt the heart in the
decaying palaces of Venice; then I saw, as now I see, the bridge of
the Rialto spanning the canal. All, all is the same; but, as the poet
says,--'The difference to me.'"

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

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

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

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



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

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

A sum of £80,000 is mentioned by the different biographers of Shelley
as the probable value of the minor estate entailed on him, of which he
had the absolute right of disposal. This estate, on Sir Timothy's
death, was found to be burdened to the extent of £50,000, which Mary
borrowed on mortgage at 3-1/2 per cent. This large sum included
£13,000 due to Lady Shelley for "the pittance" Mary had received;
£4,500 to John Shelley for a mortgage Shelley signed to pay his debts,
probably for the £2,000 borrowed on leaving Marlow, when he paid all
his debts there; so that if any trifle was left unpaid on that
occasion, it must have been from oversight and want of dunning, as he
undoubtedly left there with sufficient money, having also resold his
house for £1,000. A jointure had to be paid Lady Shelley of £500 a
year. The different legacies still due in 1844 were £6,000 to Ianthe,
two sums of £6,000 each to Claire, £2,000 to Hogg, £2,500 to Peacock.
These various sums mounting up to £40,000, the remaining £10,000 can
easily have been swallowed up by other post-obits and legal expenses.
Two sums of £6,000 each left to his two sons who died, and £2,000 left
to Lord Byron, had lapsed to the estate. Mrs. Shelley's first care was
to raise the necessary money and pay all the outstanding obligations.
Her chief anxiety through her struggles had always been not to incur
debts; her next thought was to give an annual pension of £50 to her
brother's widow, and £200 a year (afterwards reduced to £120) to Leigh
Hunt. This was her manner of deriving immediate pleasure from her
inheritance. By her husband's will, executed in 1817, everything,
"whether in possession, reversion, remainder, or expectancy," was left
to her; but as she always mentioned her son, Sir Percy, as acting with
herself, and said that owing to the embarrassed condition of the
estate they intended to share all in common for a time, it is evident
that Mary had made her son's interest her first duty.

The estate had brought £5,000 the previous year, and this would agree,
deducting £1,750 for interest on mortgage, and £500 Lady Shelley's
jointure, in reducing their income to a little below £3,000 a year, as
Mrs. Shelley stated. Field Place was let in the first instance for
sixty pounds a year, it was so damp. Mrs. Shelley continued with, her
son to live at Putney till 1846. They had tried Putney in 1839, and
towards the end of 1843 she took a house there, the White Cottage,
Lower Richmond Road, Putney. Mary thus describes it:--"Our cot is on
the banks of the Thames, not looking on it, but the garden-gate opens
on the towing-path. It has a nice little garden, but sadly out of
order. It is shabbily furnished, and has no spare room, except by
great contrivance, if at all; so, perforce, economy will be the order
of the day. It is secluded but cheerful, at the extreme verge of
Putney, close to Barnes Common; just the situation Percy desired. He
has bought a boat."

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

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

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

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

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

The whole of Mary's correspondence with Claire Clairmont is very
cordial. Mary did her best to help her from time to time in her usual
generous manner, and evidently gave her the best advice in her power.
We find her regretting at times Claire's ill-health, sending her
carriage to her while in Osnaburgh Street, and so on. She strongly
urged her to come to England to settle about the investment of her
money, telling her that one £6,000 she cannot interfere with, as
Shelley had left it for an annuity which could not be lost or disposed
of; but that the other £6,000 she can invest where she likes. At one
time Mary tells her of a good investment she has heard of in an
opera-box, but that she must act for herself, as it is too dangerous a
matter to give advice in.

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

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


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