Anyway, Mary’s decision is interesting—to set a scene in her novel Lodore at Niagara Falls, which, of course, she had never seen. She would never visit America—though, as I’ve written earlier, she came close (well, not too close) when the amazing social reformer Fanny Wright, in the fall of 1828, invited Mary to join her in Tennessee to try to make a go of it at Nashoba, her settlement near Memphis (where, coincidentally—very coincidentally—Joyce and I spent the second night of our honeymoon journey in December 1969, our drive from Akron, Ohio, where we were married, to New Orleans, a destination we’d picked because neither of us had ever been there)—Nashoba, where Fanny Wright was trying to set up a model settlement, a place to train former slaves for productive lives on the “outside.” The experiment failed (for reasons I discussed earlier), but that, as far as we know, was the only offer Mary entertained (and rejected) concerning a visit to the United States.
So … what did she know about Niagara Falls? And when did she know it? (To steal from Sen. Sam Ervin in the 1973 Senate Watergate hearings.)
Even in Mary’s day the Falls was a popular tourist destination—though, of course, it was a much more rigorous and stressful journey than it is today—although I can testify that traffic on I-90 and I-190 in and around Buffalo, New York, can be what we now call A Major Pain. Slow, tedious, even a bit worrisome when you get to the international border with Canada. (What will they ask me? Am I busted?—foolish worries for a Good Little Boy like me, but still ….)
So Mary had surely read about the Falls somewhere—or seen the many images available in books and newspapers and periodicals. But there is a more interesting possibility, a possibility involving her old friend and sometime-annoyance Edward John Trelawny—the man who’d endeared himself to Bysshe and Byron in that fatal summer of 1822, the man who would travel with Byron to Greece (where Bryon died of illness in Missolonghi, April 19, 1824), the man who, with Mary’s help, published a book of rarely accurate memoirs, the man who would write repeatedly about his association with the Shelley-Byron circle (and create ever more extravagant exaggerations), the man who, in 1833, visited Niagara Falls, a man who was still, during the early 1830s, writing to Mary and her step-sister, Claire Clairmont, the young woman who had fled with Mary and Bysshe when they eloped in 1814.