As I said earlier, I had a consuming interest in Harrow School, founded in 1572, about thirty-five years before some wide-eyed folks landed at Jamestown. In 1572, Shakespeare was only eight years old. His collection of plays—the First Folio—would not appear until 1623. So … for a long, long, long time Harrow School has stood in London’s northwest, about fourteen miles from St. Paul’s and the Thames.
The school had figured in Mary’s story—directly and indirectly—in a variety of ways. The
|Harrow School, 1999|
Much later, of course, came his illegitimate daughter Alba—then, at Byron’s insistence, given the name Allegra—born
Byron arranged for the child to be buried back in England at St. Mary’s, Harrow-on-the-Hill (as it’s now called), but the rector at the time—aware of Byron’s libertine reputation—refused to place a marker on her grave, and so things stood until 1980 when the Byron Society placed a marker for Allegra near the southern entrance to the church. I wanted to see it.
But there are a couple of other Harrow connections in Mary’s story. Late in September 1832, Mary enrolled in Harrow her only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley, only about six weeks shy of his thirteenth birthday. At first he was a boarder, but then—to economize—Mary moved to Harrow in May 1833 so that her son could live at home. But in the spring of 1836, she removed him from the school and moved with him to 14 North Bank (see above), where she employed a private tutor for him.
Coincidentally, during Percy’s tenure there, a very unhappy Anthony Trollope, a few years older, was attending the school, where he endured, because of his family’s genial poverty and low social status, some grim school bullying. Later, he would become a prolific, popular, and important novelist—an occupation his mother would enjoy before him. (And I would spend some tenyears reading all of Anthony’s forty-seven novels, an endeavor I commenced in 1997, two years before I finally visited Harrow School.)
There are no anecdotes about Percy and Anthony at Harrow, but their mothers—writers both—knew each other because of their common connection with social reformer Frances “Fanny” Wright, whose remarkable story I’ve alluded to earlier—and will explore more thoroughly later.