Dawn Reader

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Frankenstein Sundae, 237

A digression. I'll be placing this elsewhere in the entire text, but yesterday (Tues.) I came across about twenty 35mm slides of the Italian port city of Livorno (aka "Leghorn"), a town that figures prominently in Mary's story. So ... I scanned those slides and will be sharing them in the next post about all of this. Meanwhile, here's a little bit about the Shelleys and Leghorn ...

Mary Shelley had all kinds of reasons to dislike the Italian seaside town of Livorno—known to the English as “Leghorn,” a name whose origins appear to be unclear. But Mary disliked it from the beginning. In her journal she wrote this on May 9, 1818: Journey to Leghorn – After we arrive – walk out – A stupid town – we see the Mediterranean –[1] With them was Claire Clairmont, whose own journal records that they were there a week in 1819, as well, but she does not comment in these early passages about her own attitude about the port.[2]
As I said, Mary had reasons for her distaste. Just a few months later she would suffer the death of her daughter, Clara (barely a year old), in Venice. She would lose her son not long afterwards. And she was perpetually unhappy with her peripatetic husband, Bysshe, whose impulsiveness and restlessness drove them up and down the boot of Italy. She was beginning to despise the continuous presence of Claire Clairmont, who, recall, had eloped with her and Bysshe in 1814 and had pretty much been with them ever since.
But the worst about Leghorn? That was the port where Bysshe and Edward Williams and deckhand Charles Vivian had sailed in July 1822 to meet the Shelleys’ friends the Hunts, newly arrived from England. And it was on their return voyage—from Leghorn to San Terenzo—that the storm swamped their vessel, killing all three aboard. A month afterwards, Mary traveled to Leghorn to see the ashes of her husband, who, with the others, had, as we’ve seen, been cremated on the beach at Viareggio, a process required by the local authorities in cases of bodies washed up on the shore.

To be continued ...

[1] The Journals of Mary Shelley, 209.
[2] The Journals of Claire Clairmont, 1814–1827, ed. Marion Kingston Stocking (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1968), 113–13.

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