I had hoped—when I’d set out on my Shelley Adventure—that I would be able to go everywhere the Shelleys had gone. But I soon discovered this was impossible for any number of reasons—many of them financial. I just didn’t have the wherewithal to go to Ireland after I left Wales in early May 1999. I’d wanted to. I’d wanted to follow Bysshe and Harriet over there—then follow them back to London where Bysshe would meet young Mary Godwin. But money was running out; so was time. When I returned to Ohio on May 6, I’d been gone nearly a month, and a month is just about the longest Joyce and I have ever been separated since we were married late in 1969. I had to settle for what I could do. And afford.
When I reached London after my time in Wales, it was late in the afternoon of May 4. That night, in my hotel, I refreshed my list of places to see on the following day, which would be my final full day in Europe. I checked my master list I’d made before leaving home; I wrote down the subway (Tube) lines and stops I’d have to use. And I sighed with regret. There was just no way.
As I look now at my journal for that day, I see that my list had dwindled to the following:
24 Chester Square—Mary’s final home, the place where she died on February 1, 1851.
Marble Arch–Tyburn—The site of the public hangings in London (still occurring in Mary’s day).
Bread Street—Mary and Bysshe Shelley were married at St. Mildred’s Bread Street on December 30, 1816. The church is long gone—destroyed by the Luftwaffe in World War II.
14 North Bank Street—In 1836, Mary and her son (Percy Florence Shelley) were living here after she removed him from Harrow School.
Harrow School—See above. Of primary interest to me, though, was seeing the memorial marker for poor Allegra Byron, the illegitimate daughter of Lord Byron (who’d attended the school) and Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont; Allegra had died in Italy on April 19, 1822; she was only five. (Another Harrow student—and there at the time that PFS was there: future novelist Anthony Trollope.)
2 Nelson Square—One of the places that Bysshe, Mary, and Claire lived after their elopement trip in 1814.
The Lyceum and Theatre Royal Haymarket. On July 28, 1823, at the Lyceum—built originally in 1771 and rebuilt a couple of other times because of fire—Mary, along with her father, saw Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein, the first play based on her novel. While I was in London, I went to the Lyceum to see a production of Oklahoma!—a show that has much personal resonance for me (born in the Sooner State, you know!). Hanging over my desk right now is a poster from that production—and I still have the program from that day.
I just had a shock: I looked at the program for the first time since 1999, and I see that the actor playing Curly (the male lead) was … Hugh Jackman! This was, of course, in the days before Wolverine and all his other star-making roles. Here are some of the snide comments I wrote in my journal that evening:
… hardly any of these people can talk—just because you’re from Okla. doesn’t mean there are no consonants in your alphabet! Good Lord, I’m an American—a Sooner!—and I can hardly understand what so many of these people are saying! To my immediate left is a poor man (a victim of a stroke?) who maintains a low, off-key hum the entire time, when he isn’t bringing up phlegm from every remote area of his body, or when he isn’t sleeping & slumping over my leg. This does help this experience for me, I feel nothing as I hear this music. Auntie Eller is especially bad—I can barely understand a word she says—the same for most/many of the others. A few can dance well, a few can sing, but whoever coached the dialogue in this show had more than he/she could handle.
I see on IMDB that Jackman appeared in a TV movie of the production in 1999. I am going to have to see that!
Playing right now at the Lyceum, by the way: The Lion King.
At the Theatre Royal Haymarket on August 10, 1824, Mary had a “date” with Washington Irving (more about this later!).
Royal Doulton—I had some gifts to buy, and I was looking for character jugs based on the wives of Henry VIII.