And on 10 September 2012, I’m back in Imlaystown again, this time—the third time—armed with even more information about the site of the Imlay family graves. A local historian (Monmouth County Historical Association), John Fabiano, has sent me this in an email: Although I doubt the site is along the creek, due to flooding issues, the site most likely is across from the Upper Freehold Baptist Church to the right where is a former Schoolhouse, since restored into a residence, on a bluff overlooking the creek and lake. There are remnants of a graveyard behind the Church in the brush, but I believe that was only a dumping ground for old headstones.
So that is where we head this time. We drive up to the old schoolhouse, now abandoned and weedy. We look south toward the creek. There is so much between here and there. Private property. No markers. I take a few pictures, disgusted with myself for driving all this way again (450 miles from home)—for nought.
Then a man in a truck drives up onto the school property, begins unloading a large lawnmower. We go over to him. His name, improbably, is Dan, and he tells us he has lived all his life in Imlaystown. But he doesn’t know the grave site. He makes a cellphone call to a neighbor, an old man who supposedly knows everything. But Dan gets only voice-mail. Figures.
We drive over to the church across the road. I go in the back and find the old stones in the clump of woods behind the mowed grounds. Take a few foolish pictures. Wonder if I’m in poison ivy.
We drive off toward Pottsville, Pennsylvania, again. John O’Hara sites await us. And I know where they are.
Mary Wollstonecraft was a shimmering presence hovering near her daughter throughout her life. As time went on, radical thinkers (Frances Wright, for example) would approach Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, assuming—because of her middle name, because of her parentage (on both sides), because of her husband—that she would support their causes. But, as we will see, Mary Shelley was not her mother. After the death of her husband—and well before, too—social sanctions and economic forces had circumscribed her, constricted ever more tightly, threatened to crush her. She found that in some very fundamental ways she could not be her mother’s daughter. She was, I realize, susceptible to something that had never seemed to affect her mother.