And perhaps the most moving of the notes I took. In that same letter from her father, Godwin replied to a question from Mary about having, perhaps, some physical memento of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. He said he had reserved for you a ring of hers, with Fanny Blood’s hair set round with pearls.
A couple of things to recall: Fanny Blood was the youthful friend—the best friend—of Mary Wollstonecraft; it was common practice to give to friends a ring made of your own hair. And after death a “mourning ring” was a common token, as well—a ring fashioned from the hair of the departed one. Look online: There are still places that will create them for you; there are scholarly and general-interest articles on the subject. We don’t know what Mary did with this ring … did she wear it? Place it in an honored position?
Mary’s son, Sir Percy Florence Shelley, married Jane St. John on June 22, 1848. And the family wealth increased: Jane had £15,000 to contribute. They honeymooned in the Lake District, long associated, of course, with the Romantic Poets. Off and on the Shelleys stayed at Field Place, where Bysshe was born, the family manor which I saw on April 15, 1999 (a visit I recorded earlier in this endless account!).
And then … a most awkward event. Clara Clairmont (the family called her “Clari”), the daughter of Charles Clairmont (who, recall, was Mary’s foster brother—the son of Godwin’s second wife, Mary Jane), came to stay with the Shelleys at Field Place in May 1849. There, Clari met Alexander Knox, one of Sir Percy’s friends from university days. A romance promptly blossomed, and in mid-June the couple married.
Clari’s aunt, of course, was Claire Clairmont, who had joined Bysshe and Mary on their 1814 elopement and had been in and out of Mary’s life ever since (a presence Mary was often not pleased about). Clari and the others had not informed Claire about the wedding, and Clarie was living in Kent, only about sixty-five miles from Field Place. And soon Claire was writing angry, bitter letters. And downright nasty at times, suggesting, even, that Mary and Knox had been lovers!