Dawn Reader

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

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Frankenstein Sundae, 150

In Florence, Italy ...

The Shelleys had been in Italy awhile before they settled in Florence on October 2, 1819. They had suffered two grievous personal losses—as I’ve written here previously—the deaths of two children, Clara (in Venice, September 24, 1818; she was barely a year old) and William (in Rome, June 7, 1819; he was three and a half). And in Florence, Mary delivered her final child, Percy (November 12, 1819); they gave him a geographical middle name—Florence, the city of his birth. (A former middle school teacher, I cannot imagine the hassles a kid with a name like that would endure today.)

There, Bysshe would write “Ode to the West Wind” and finish Prometheus Unbound. Not bad.

But peripatetic Bysshe could not linger too long anywhere. About two months later, they left Florence and moved to Pisa, where Mary began writing her second novel, Valperga (a name her father gave it).

So … one of my principal goals in Florence was to go see the Palazzo Marini on Via Valfonda, a place which is still standing. And so I did.

But I also wanted to visit the grave site of Claire Clairmont, Mary’s stepsister, who’d accompanied Bysshe and Mary just about everywhere—from their initial elopement in 1814 to Geneva for “Frankenstein summer” (where, of course, she would tell Lord Byron that he was the father of the child swelling within her), and on into Italy.

She would outlive most of them. She would die at 80—in Florence—on March 19, 1879. At the end, she had requested to be buried in a church nearby—and it was there I went on April 22, 1999.

Shelley residence--an Internet image

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