The words that form the title of this chapter are among the last to appear in Mary’s journals. She was not, on that February day in 1841, near her death—she had ten more years to live. But her mood, obviously, was dark—as it had been occasionally throughout her life. Like many mothers before and after, she was feeling somewhat abandoned. Although her son, the new Sir Percy, was devoted to her, he was also spending more and more time away from her—with others. And Mary felt that she deserved better treatment. I gave thought, passion, care, toil, she writes in that same journal entry.
She remained, in the 1840s, intellectually active, however. In 1845 she published a revised edition of her husband’s Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translations and Fragments. She was doing all she could to solidify his literary reputation (and we have to say—don’t we?—that she succeeded admirably). She was still reading regularly.
But she also had to deal with a disturbing attempt to blackmail her with an affectionate letter she’d written. And emerging, as well, were some intimate letters between Mary and Bysshe—but most were forgeries.
But in December 1845, she and her son made arrangements to buy a place on 24 Chester Square in London—a place still standing, a place that bears one of the famous blue historical markers evident around the city.
On Tuesday, April 13, 1999, I went to take a look at that house—from the outside only, I fear, for it remains a private residence, and there was no sign on it that said: “Welcome, Dan Dyer, from Hudson, Ohio!” So I had to settle for a bunch of exterior pictures. It had been a gloomy day, but in my journal I noted that the sun had emerged for my Chester Square stop.
The night before—as was my wont throughout my time in Europe that spring—I had a list of all the things I wanted to do and see on the following day—and what I would need to do about transportation to achieve it all. Some rides on the Tube, some cabs, some walking.
In my notes (item #11) I see that I took the Tube to Victoria Station and walked to 24 Chester Square—then back to the same Tube station for more scurrying-and-photographing. That walk was not all that impressive—not quite a half-mile in each direction.
In a reference book I’d learned that Thomas Cubitt had laid out the square in 1840—so it was a fairly new residential area when Mary and Percy purchased property there. And I learned, too, that Matthew Arnold was living at #2 during the entire time that Mary was there. But Arnold’s name does not appear in the index to Mary’s letters—nor in the index to her journal. So, unless they ran into each other at the local Starbucks, there was apparently no interaction between them.