I was so exhilarated by seeing Field Place that the subsequent sites I saw in Horsham and Warhnam—with the indispensable help of Brian, my taxi driver—seemed anti-climactic. Which is a term, by the way, that adequately describes the post-Shelley history of Field Place itself. In April 1844, when Sir Timothy Shelley (Bysshe’s father) died at age 90 (almost an impossible age in that century), the immediate heir was Mary’s son, Percy Florence Shelley. By English law, Sir Timothy could not disinherit Percy—and he actually liked the young man (who was about twenty-five when his grandfather died)—but he had never forgiven Mary (had never even met Mary—he refused to do so) or her radical father for what he viewed as the corruption of his son. So, the terms of the will were rough—but legal.
But it didn’t much matter: Percy and his mother did not care for Field Place (remote, for one thing—away from London’s allures), so Percy began renting it out, and the estate was eventually cut considerably in size, sold and resold. It’s currently in the hands of a Shelley-o-phile, however, who has, says the ever-reliable Web, restored it to look much as it did in the eighteenth century. (LINK to more information about the estate.)
And the money that was left after all bills were paid and terms of the will satisfied was like a fortune to Mary and her son, who had been living austerely on the tiny allowance from Sir Timothy—and on Mary’s writing of novels and other freelance projects (more about them later), efforts that never brought her much money. Now, with her son the heir, Mary was able to live comfortably. But she had only seven years remaining in her life.
After Field Place, Brian took me to a Shelley memorial in downtown Horsham--to a mall formed by closing off streets. Called Rising Universe (and executed by Angela Conner), it’s a large metal ball surrounded by a fountain. I got splashed a little as I took some pictures, and Brian thought that was quite amusing. Actually, he thought the sculpture itself was a bit amusing. My journal says this: Brian laughed and made a comment about modern art, about what it’s supposed to represent, etc.
Well … that’s not a very helpful entry, is it? I, of course, cannot recall what he said at all, so Brian’s thoughts about modern art are lost forever in the fountain’s mists.
I see on the Web that Rising Universe had been there only two years when I visited in 1999.
(You'll need to click on the plaque and enlarge it to read it, I fear.)