Remember—earlier—that Mary had had a wee flirtation with Washington Irving. The author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”—perhaps surprised at first, perhaps more?—soon learned that Mary was serious about him, and, as we’ve seen, galloped away from her with all the supernatural speed of his famous Horseman.
Since Bysshe had drowned in the summer of 1822, Mary had written often in her journal (and in letters) about her loneliness. She wrote that she threw herself into her studies—into her writing—and this seemed, at times, to work for her. But Loneliness is an insistent visitor. And in her letters to Trelawny, who had been a dear friend to Bysshe and her that dark summer of 1822 when Bysshe and the others drowned, Mary spoke lightly of marriage—well, of re-marriage.
In a letter to him in the summer of 1831, Mary wrote about her despair in some detail: My whole being is an aching void, she wrote, which refused to give forth any fruits, the fulness of sorrow is great, but much greater its emptiness. She wrote about this sea of misery and my shipwrecked life and the hurricane of dispair [sic]. She asked him: … when will the swell and storm die away and the dead calm of this great ocean come? Of course, all these marine images—these allusions to storms—had a powerful resonance for her. And for us.
But she wrote that she would consider marriage—to anyone who will take me out of my present desolate & uncomfortable position. But then she writes a bit more that suggests she will not marry—Mary Shelley shall be written on my tomb—and why? I cannot tell—except that it is so pretty a name that tho’ I were to preach to myself for years, I never should have the heart to get rid of it—
Words like these—and similar words in earlier letters to Trelawny—seem to have prompted a marriage proposal from him (though we have no direct confirmation of that). But Mary’s reply was not exactly, uh, encouraging.
The first part of her letter of July 26, 1831, dealt with the details of the publication of Trelawny’s memoir, Adventures of a Younger Son. But then came this: My name will never be Trelawny. I am not so young as I was when you first knew me—but I am as proud—I must have the entire affection, devotion & above all the solicitous protection of any one who would win me—You belong to womenkind in general—& so Mary Shelley will never be yours ….