In March 1842, Mary began complaining of headaches, had difficulty writing and reading—two of the great loves of her life. This, of course, was probably the first manifestation of the illness that would kill her nine years later.
Her days became less and less “intellectual” and more and more “social”: visits with friends, journeys, attendance at drama and music performances. In June 1842, she and her son and some others headed off again to the Continent—more fodder for what would become her final book, Rambles in Germany and Italy. She visited Germany, Switzerland, Italy—sites so significant in her youth, in her marriage to Bysshe. They returned via Paris, arriving back in London in late August 1843.
While they were gone, Everina Wollstonecraft (sister of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Mary Shelley’s mother) died back in England—in Peckham (southeast London). A stroke. As per her request, she would be buried in the same cemetery—St. Pancras—as her sister, Godwin, and Mary Jane Godwin. Everina was born in 1865.
And Mary’s headaches continued.
But by the fall she was working on Rambles and doing some reading—for research and otherwise. Among her favorites—the Poetical Works of Leigh Hunt, a longtime friend, who, as you may recall, was the indirect cause of Bysshe’s drowning. Hunt and his family had arrived in Italy in July 1822, and Bysshe and friend Edward Williams and the deckhand Charles Vivien set out to meet the Hunts in Livorno (Leghorn, the English called it). It was on the return voyage that the killing storm arrived.
And then … in late April 1844 … news of another death arrived, a death that would transform Mary’s life.