Dawn Reader

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

Friday, May 29, 2015

Frankenstein Sundae, 128

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
earliest direct connection (and a later one, as well) came from Lord Byron, who attended the school from 1801–1805, though his attendance was far from regular. Family spats, affairs of the heart, sulking and sorrows—these and other events and emotions had him swooping in and out of the school like a weather front. But he eventually made his way to Cambridge.
Much later, of course, came his illegitimate daughter Alba—then, at Byron’s insistence, given the name Allegra—born
January 12, 1817, the breathing consequence of his affair with Mary’s step-sister, Claire Clairmont. Little Allegra, 5, died in an Italian convent in Bagnacavallo on April 19, 1822.
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.
Anthony Trollope
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.

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