The summer of death ... 1822 ...
So now we’re back to the part of the story I’ve been kind of avoiding—the drowning deaths in the summer of 1822 of Percy Bysshe Shelley, his friend Edward Williams, their teenage deckhand Edward Vivian. A quick set of reminders …
For the summer the Shelleys and Williamses had rented a place called Casa Magni on the Gulf of Spezia, on the western coast of Italy in the tiny fishing village of Lerici, a couple of miles from San Terenzo. It was remote, lonely, crowded.
Mary was profoundly depressed, their Italian dream now the grimmest of nightmares. She had buried two little children—one (Clara Everina, age 1, on September 24, 1818, in Venice), another (William, age 3 ½, on June 7, 1819, in Rome). In Casa Magni she suffered a near-fatal miscarriage on June 16. Her son Percy Florence—not yet three years old—was her only living child.
Mary was unhappy at Bysshe’s shifting affections for young women. Jane Williams (Edward’s wife) was his latest infatuation. Compounding Mary’s despair—the enduring presence of Claire Clairmont, again living with them for the summer.
Relieving her grief and anger, at times, was Edward John Trelawny, the roving adventurer full of stories (some true) of his escapades. It was Trelawny who introduced Bysshe to Daniel Roberts, a sometime shipbuilder, the man who would construct Ariel (Byron had liked another name, Don Juan), the vessel that would capsize that summer’s day in 1822.
Lord Byron was in the area, too, summering in Livorno (the English called it Leghorn), about a hundred miles down the coast from Lerici. Byron and the Shelleys had decided to start a journal, The Liberal, and had convinced their mutual friend (and experienced journalist), Leigh Hunt, to join them in Italy to be the editor. Hunt had a large, raucous family. And Mary dreaded their arrival at Casa Magni. She would have no peace.
The Hunts arrived in Livorno on July 3 and moved in with Byron, who was alarmed at the behavior of their children—he thought they were out of control. In anticipation of the Hunts’ arrival, Bysshe, Edward Williams, and Charles Vivian sailed for Livorno on July 3 to meet Bysshe’s friends from England.
They arrived safely. Visited for a few days. Then pointed Ariel/Don Juan for Lerici on July 8, 1822.
 Richard Holmes called him “the incorrigible, myth-making Edward John Trelawny.” In “Death and Destiny,” The Guardian, 23 January 2004. Online: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/jan/24/featuresreviews.guardianreview1