Mary finally headed for home from Milan—crossing the Alps once again, and she praised their majestic simplicity that inspired awe; the naked bones of a gigantic world were here; the elemental substance of that mother Earth ….
In a letter dated October 4, 1840, she talked about her return to Lake Geneva—to the site where she’d given birth to Frankenstein in the summer of 1816. There … stood Diodati [Lord Byron’s villa]; and our humble dwelling, Maison Chapuis, nestled close to the lake below. … Was I the same person who had lived there, the companion of the dead? For all were gone: even my young child [William], whom I had looked upon as the joy of future years, had died in infancy …. While yet very young, she grieves, I had reached the position of an aged person ….
William Shelley, who was not even a year old that Frankenstein summer in Geneva, died of malaria—recall—in Italy on June 17, 1819, in Rome, where he lies in the Protestant Cemetery; three years later his father would join him there.
It must have been wrenching for Mary to look on those sites—to recall those days from a quarter-century earlier—those days when she and Bysshe were fresh and hopeful, when her little boy, William, delighted her, when they were spending long hours with Lord Byron, when he proposed they all write a ghost story, the days when that stunning idea arrived, that idea about a man bringing life to a creature assembled from the parts of the dead, a creature that still walks among us two centuries later.
Mary didn’t stay long in Geneva but soon departed for Paris, where she reunited with her son, Percy, and his companions. And so ends Part One of her Rambles.