Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Frankenstein Sundae, 106

So … I've arrived at the private driveway into Field Place, the Shelleys’ ancestral home near Warnham and Horsham. To enter or not to enter? That was the question.
Let’s pause a moment for a bit of information about the estate. Here are the words of Newman Ivey White, who in 1940 published his massive two-volume biography, Shelley. Incidentally, I don’t think such a title would fly in 2015 (as I write these words). The fame of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley has, at least in the popular culture, nearly eclipsed that of her husband. Nowadays, to avoid confusion, White would have to settle for something like Percy Bysshe Shelley instead.
Anyway, here’s what he says about Field Place:
Field Place is a comfortable, undistinguished country home that had been in the possession of the Michell[1] family for several generations. It came into the Shelley family when it was purchased in 1729 by Edward Shelley, uncle of the poet’s great-grandfather Timothy, who inherited it in 1748. The house is situated in a slight depression, but commands some view of the downs and hills in the distance. It is a two-storey structure, with slightly projecting ells at either end.[2]
Other writers supply more detail about the structure. Edward Dowden (1896) called it comfortable;[3] Walter Edwin Peck (1927) called it favorable for the children (pond, woods);[4] Roger Ingpen (1917) tells us that the core of the present building … was a timbered Sussex farmhouse, with the magnificent kitchen and the many little old rooms still remaining. … The Field Place of today is a comfortable gable structure [with a] pillared portico, or verandah, in front of the building which joins the two wings … a modern addition, put up in 1846 ….[5] And, finally (I have to stop somewhere!), Holmes adds this great detail: There was a tall oak staircase, which shone in the candlelight when he went to bed.[6]
I had read all of this before winging to the U.K., and I’d hoped I could photograph it from Byfleets Lane (the closest local road). But I couldn’t. Hidden by foliage and distance. If I wanted to see the home where Percy Bysshe Shelley was born, I would have to enter that driveway. That long, private driveway.

[1] Also spelled Mychell in early documents.
[2] 5.
[3] The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley (London: Kegan Paul), 3.
[4] Shelley: His Life and Work, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin), I-4.
[5] Shelley in England, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin), I-22.
[6] 1.

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