More about trying to recover details about Mary's story, details I'd lost in the years after I quit working full-time on her story ...
Shelley and Mary, privately printed in 1882, contains in its four volumes a number of letters and other documents relative to the story of Bysshe and Mary Shelley. Needless to say (an expression, by the way, which, needless to say, is almost always needless to say), the book is not easy to come by. I see in my notes that I acquired volumes three and four in late 1999 through inter-library loan at Hiram College, a service I was able to use because my wife, Joyce, was a full-time faculty member at the time.
But to read volumes one and two, I drove over to the Lilly (Special Collections) Library at Indiana University in October 1999—a journey of about 350 miles. My journal for those days—October 5–7—reveals that I seem as much interested in food as in the Shelleys. I talk about a visit to a steakhouse (ate a steak (duh) and a bunch of biscuits), a stop at a CVS for some pop (diet, of course) and a Snickers (not diet, of course). Back in my motel room (a Comfort Inn) I used a phone cord to connect my computer to the telephone so I could get online and use AOL to write a note to Joyce—remember the buzzing sound of static while you connected to AOL or other online service back in the phone-modem days?
Here’s some of what I wrote in my journal:
Once I fell asleep, I didn’t really wake up till morning (I’d forgotten till last night that I was in Central Time), and then had the pleasure of knowing that my shower—with squeaking pipes—was annoying the people around me who had annoyed me last night. At the desk, I got some directions to IU and without any trouble found the Union (with its lone public parking lot—nearly full already). I went upstairs & found a little coffee shop, where I bought a coffee (duh) and a scone [more food news!] and waited till about 8:45 (reading my Kirkus book) for the library opening time (9). The Lilly Library is in fact very close to the Memorial Union, so I had a few minutes to wait in the lobby, then went through the usual routines for using rare-book libraries. I was the only patron for a while, and so they quickly brought me the two volumes of Shelley and Mary, and I was thankful I had this laptop: The books were, well, books, not microfilm, so I had to type the notes I took. Not a lot of stuff, but some was golden—especially the letters from Godwin to Mary (unpublished most other places). After about two-and-a-half hours of typing, I was ready to leave for New Harmony, so off I went.
So … that was October 1999. By this week—July 2016—I had completely forgotten that I had notes and photocopies from Shelley and Mary and was wondering how on earth I was going to find the text of that 1827 letter from Fanny Wright to Mary Shelley, the letter that initiated their brief relationship, that letter that appears in Shelley and Mary.
And then I thought … Hmmm … maybe in my files?
I looked. Found a file labeled Shelley and Mary (1882), found in it my notes and photocopies, including a copy of that letter I’d so much wanted to consult, the one from Fanny Wright.
If I could dance, I would have, right in my study, surrounded by books by authors, who, if they could have seen me, would have averted their eyes, wondering how they possibly could have wound up on the shelf of a guy who moves like that!