In March 1843, Mary and her party sailed from Rome aboard a small but well-built and quick steamer. Once again she was returning to a place she and Bysshe had lived—the spring of 1819, when she discovered that she was once again pregnant. I found it odd that when they passed Leghorn—on whose beach Trelawny and others had cremated the drowned remains of her husband, Edward Williams, and Charles Vivian in July 1822—she mentioned nothing, save this: The view from the sea near Leghorn is not sufficiently praised. Perhaps her mild retreat here into the passive voice indicates her choice to withdraw?
Their arrival in Rome could hardly have been more portentous: She and the others noticed that the Romans all seemed to be looking heavenward. So Mary looked. A comet. According to observers, it was visible in broad daylight and it remained visible after nightfall for a while longer. Its brilliance earned a named—The Great Comet of 1843 or Great March Comet—and if you want to see it again, it’ll return some 513 years after Mary saw it.
Mary was very impressed with the comet’s appearance in Rome—although it was already past its prime. She writes of a long trail of glowing light … it is bright, yet the stars shine through its web-like texture, which, composed of thin beams, is stretched out, and you may see delicate sea-weeds—or aquatic plants in a stream, though a large space of the heavens.
In Rome, Mary and the others toured, again, the most popular sites, even today; she notes that the Coliseum remains a favorite, especially the view from it of the Pyramid of Cestius, which, no coincidence, stands right outside the Protestant Cemetery, the place where lie Bysshe, their son (William, three and a half, who died in June 1819), and John Keats. (Trelawny’s remains would journey there, too, and he now lies near Bysshe.) Mary mentions none of this—only to say that this view is one I am never tired of contemplating.