Dawn Reader

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Frankenstein Sundae, 125

From Tan-yr-Allt to Mary Godwin

Bysshe and Harriet Shelley fled Wales—and their hillside home, Tan-yr-allt, in Tremadoc—in late February 1813. They crossed the Irish Sea to Ireland, where they spent nearly a month on various projects. As I’ve already reported, Bysshe wrote a frantic note to his English publisher, Thomas Hookham, on February 27: I have just escaped an atrocious assassination. … you will perhaps hear of me no more.[1]
A week later, from aboard the Bangor Ferry (from Bangor, Wales, to Dublin, Ireland—about 100 miles) Bysshe wrote to Hookham again (thanking him for some £20 the publisher had advanced him), saying he needed a little breathing time to recover from the excitements—terror, really—of his recent wrestling match with Death.[2]

In March, from Dublin, Bysshe sent his latest poem to Hookham—Queen Mab. But his other correspondence during this period involves pleas for money. His angry father, Sir Timothy Shelley, had cut him off, and he was exploring every source he could think of (except labor, of course—one did not do that sort of thing) to acquire the funds he and Harriet required to live in the way he wanted to live.
By the first of April, he had borrowed enough to pay for their passage back to England, to London, and by April 5, they were living at 23 Chapel Street, not far from Buckingham Palace, not far from the Serpentine, a body of water in Hyde Park, just to their northwest, a body of water that would one day—a day not too far in the future—provide one of the coldest chapters in Bysshe Shelley’s life.

Meanwhile, where was Mary Godwin? In January 1813, she was briefly back in London from Scotland, where she’d been living with the Baxter family (her escape from her horrible relationship with her stepmother, Mary Jane Godwin), in company with her new friend Christy Baxter. They went with Godwin to see the premiere of Coleridge’s play Remorse at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (still standing—I've seen plays there), which had just recently been rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1809. She and Christy were back in Dundee in June, the same month that Harriet Shelley would give birth to a daughter, Eliza Ianthe. It was nearly a year later—in late March 1814—that Mary returned to live at home in London. And not long after that, all the world would change. Her world. Bysshe’s world. Harriet’s world. Little Ianthe’s world. Godwin’s world. Our world.

[1] The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, I: 355.
[2] Ibid., 359.

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