So, these were some of my “rambles” as I, in the summer of 1997, was reading Mary’s final book, Rambles in Germany and Italy in 1840, 1842, and 1843 (1844). As I mentioned above, her book is epistolary in design—set up in the form of letters to an unnamed correspondent. Divided into three parts and named (perhaps, for our slow sakes?) Part I (1840), Part II (1842–1843), and Part III (1842), the sections comprise, respectively, twelve, eleven, and twenty-three letters. (For you who are mathematically challenged, that’s forty-six total letters!) Some are quite long—with multiple dates—and the original edition held about 300 pages.
She begins by questioning the wisdom of her return to Italy. There, she writes, I left the mortal remains of those beloved—my husband and my children, whose loss changed my whole existence, substituting, for happy peace and the interchange of deep-rooted affections, years of desolate solitude, and a hard struggle with the world; which, only now, as my son is growing up, is brightening into a better day.
She was traveling with her son, Percy Florence Shelley, twenty years old, and two of his school friends. They crossed over to France, then into Germany, where they traveled on the Rhine—a return, of course, to some geography she’d first visited back in 1814—a quarter-century earlier—when, a teenager, she had eloped with the already married Bysshe Shelley.
In her third letter in Vol. I, she mentions visiting Darmstadt, Germany, only about nine miles north of Castle Frankenstein—the place, which I discussed many, many pages ago, had supposedly suggested to Mary the name of Victor Frankenstein. And in 1840 they were traveling on the Bergstrasse (“mountain road”), a road that goes right by the ruins of the Frankenstein castle.
Yet she says not a word about it in this travel account. Not a word about it anywhere else in her letters or journals, either. So we have to ask: If Castle Frankenstein were really the source of the name of her most famous book—in her lifetime as well as now—why would she not write a single syllable about it in her 1840 account? Or elsewhere?