Mary was also negotiating (through a third party) some financial assistance for her son, Percy Florence Shelley, about to turn 8, who, as Bysshe’s legal son, was due to inherit the Shelley estate. As I’ve written before, Bysshe’s father would not communicate directly with Mary—and he never met her—but he eventually agreed to meet her son and to confer upon him an annual income of £250 (about $25,000 today). In 1829 he would increase it to £300.
In October 1827 she had communication from Fanny Wright, whose story we’ve already dealt with. Then in April 1828, in Paris with a friend, Mary received yet more dark news: smallpox. Although she did not suffer the extreme facial pitting associated with the disease, a number of biographers have agreed that the disease permanently dimmed her brightness—her skin, her rich red hair.
And, finally, by January 1830 Mary had a publishing contract for Perkin Warbeck, though she was annoyed that she would get from that publisher only £150—so little money for so much work. And in May, finally, it appeared.
The previous months had been dark ones for her, emotionally. She was realizing that she would probably never again know love. Her reputation would keep away men who cared about reputation; other men were wary of her because of her learning and erudition (aren’t such men just so bright!); others did not meet her own high standards. In January 1831 she was thirty-three years old.
I see in my notes that I finished reading Perkin on May 29, 1997, and the very next day I began reading her next novel, Lodore, which Mary began writing/researching in January 1831. On May 29 I’d driven up to the Border’s store (RIP) in Beachwood, Ohio, where—surprise, surprise—I found a paperback copy of Lodore for sale. (I see in my journal that I also plopped down the plastic that day for the latest Elizabethan mystery by Edward Marston and two books on Tudor history.) The cover shows a nineteenth-century photograph of a well-dressed man sitting on Table Rock (RIP) above Niagara Falls. (Therein lies a tale we will soon chase.)
The next morning, I took one of our cars to the Toyota dealer to be serviced, and there, in the waiting room, I began reading Lodore. Mary would be amused, I think.