Conclusion, Part 11 to the Life & Works of
Percy Bysshe Shelley
To William Hazlitt, Shelley was a hot brained dreamer:
"The shock of accident, the weight of authority make no impression on his [Shelley's] opinions, which retire like a feather, or rise from the encounter unhurt through their own buoyancy. He is clogged by no dull system of realities, no earth-bound feelings, no rooted prejudices, by nothing that belongs to the mighty trunk and hard husk of nature and habit, but is drawn up by irresistible levity to the regions of mere speculation and fancy, to the sphere of air and fire, where his delighted spirit floats in 'seas of pearl and clouds of amber.' There is no caput mortuum of worn-out, threadbare experience to serve as ballast to his mind; it is all volatile intellectual salt of tartar, that refuses to combine its evanescent, inflammable essence with anything solid or anything lasting. Bubbles are to him the only realities: -- touch them, and they vanish. Curiosity is the only proper category of his mind, and though a man in knowledge, he is a child in feeling."68To this epilogue I add a few words as to what became of Mary Shelley69 and her half-sister, Claire. Within a day the women moved from Casa Magni. For the two months that they lived there, they had a foreboding of the dreadful event which had overtaken them. Mary had some money and soon made arrangements to return to England. So too, she paid for the expenses so that Claire could join her brother Charles in Vienna. Claire was an accomplished linguist knowing five languages. Such a knowledge made her an ideal governess and was to work as such, as I understand, for the balance of her working life. (Indeed, even when Shelley was alive, she spent time at Florence as a governess.) Claire stayed with her brother in Vienna for a number of months, then, in 1823, she took herself to Russia. For a year she was at St. Petersburg then for another four years in Moscow. In 1828, Claire returned to England there to spend a year, after which she went to Germany, Dresden. In the 1840s she was settled in Paris. All along, when granted leave by the family for which she was working, she would return to England for a visit. In 1870 Claire moved to a place she knew well as a young woman, Florence. There at Florence, Claire died in 1879, in her eighty-first year.70
As for Mary Shelley: as mentioned, she returned to England in 1823 with her son, Percy Florence. Shelley's father gave her a small pension, mainly because of his grandson and heir. The payments to Mary were made on terms including that she should not involve herself in the publication of Shelley's work, of which Sir Timothy did not approve. Mary Shelley, of course, had proven herself to be a successful writer with her first and most impressive novel, Frankenstein (1818). She continued to write, though, as agreed, not under the name of Shelley. She wrote novels for a while then travel guides. She lived to age 53, when, in 1851, she died.
Mary was to write of her Shelley:
"He had been from youth the victim of the state of feeling inspired by the reaction of the French revolution; and believing firmly in the justice and excellence of his views, it cannot be wondered that a nature as sensitive, as impetuous, and as generous, as his, should put its whole force into the contempt to alleviate for others the evils of those systems from which he himself suffered. Many advantages attended his birth; he spurned them all when balanced with what he considered his duties. He was generous to imprudence, devoted to heroism."71Trelawny was to give a story about his friend. It seems that there was a Scottish family that was living in Italy and on a walk one time with Shelley, Trelawny determined to pay them a call and entered their home with Shelley whom he did not introduce, at least not as Shelley, fearing I suppose that they would take an immediate dislike to a person who had been described in the periodicals of the day as being satanical, a person to be despised and hated.
"The ladies -- for there was no man there -- were capital specimens of Scotswomen, fresh from the land of cakes, -- frank, fair, intelligent, and, of course, pious. After a long and earnest talk [they were new to Italy and Shelley told them of his impressions of Italy] we left them, but not without difficulty, so pressing were they for us to stop to dinner.
When next visited them, they were disappointed at the absence of my companion; and when I told them it was Shelley, the young and handsome mother clasped her hands, and exclaimed,
'Shelley! That bright-eyed youth! -- so gentle, so intelligent -- so thoughtful for us! O, why did you not name him?'
'Because he thought you would have been shocked.'
'Shocked! -- why, I would have knelt to him in penitence for having wronged him even in my thoughts. If he is not pure and good, then there is no truth and goodness in this world. His looks reminded me of my own blessed baby, -- so innocent, so full of love and sweetness!'
'So is the serpent that tempted Eve described,' I said."72
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