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THE SHELLEY S.
THE intimacy with Shelley, which also was not of Godwin's seeking, was destined to have a far more abiding influence on the lives of both. The first notice of Shelley in the Godwin Diaries is under date Jan. 6, 1811.
« Writel to Shelly.” It is the only time his name is so spelt, his letter was in answer to Shelley's first letter, in which he introduced himself, and was written at once, when he was not quite clear about the name of his correspondent.
Shelley was at this time living at Keswick, in the earlier and happier days of his marriage with Harriet Westbrook, and his eager and restless spirit prompted him to form the acquaintance, by letter, with others whom he believed to be like himself enthusiasts in the cause of humanity, of liberty, and progress. He had already, in this manner, made the acquaintance of Leigh Hunt, when, in January 1811, he wrote thus to Godwin :
P. B. Shelley to William Godwin.
KESWICK, Jan. 3, 1811. “You will be surprised at hearing from a stranger. introduction has, nor in all probability ever will, authorize that which common thinkers would call a liberty. It is, however, a liberty which, although not sanctioned by custom, is so far from being reprobated by reason, that the dearest interests of mankind imperiously demand that a certain etiquette of fashion should no
“Sep. 15, Tu. Breakfast at Gutch's : walk w. him to St Vincent's:
tea Cottle's : Bradbury's theatre. Write to M. J.,
sent Wednesday. “16, W. Call on Gutch and Shephard: Jane, Capt. Edwards,
w. Lawrence and son, Capt. Cotham, Miss Fisher,
Mrs Kirkby, &c. "17, Th. Rainy morning : pass Minehead: turned back by
a squall, to Penarth, one mile from Cardiff, where it was proposed by the Captain we should sleep
on shore, I believe in a barn. Deliquium. “18, F. Lynmouth, three in afternoon : eat nothing from
Wednesday's dinner : walk to the Valley of
Stones. Deliquium, in bed-chamber. “19, Sa. Call on Mrs Hooper; see Mrs Sandford : horses to
Barnstaple; mall and fair.
Major Hatherley, Lyndon cripple, &c. : South
sleep at Taunton. Write to M. J.
Castle Carey: Wincaunton; Mere: dine at
Cathedral, moonlight. Write to M. J.
Jeffery, picture-dealer: meet Tinney: Cathedral and Close: dine at Luxford's : sup on Welch
Rabbit. “23, W. Deliquia impa. Call on Dowding and Jeffery:
Cathedral, charity-sermon, Bp. &c. : dine at Jeffery's w. Coates, Finches, Miss Noyes, Long and Luxford : adv. Bushel and Mitty. Write to
M. J. Darmany calls. “ 24, Th. Call on Dowding and Luxford, Jeffery n. and
Coates : chaise to Stonehenge and Amesbury: return do to Andover ; call on Godden, tanner. Write to M. J.
“Sep. 25, F. Coach, outside; w. postmaster, Jew, and 2 daughters,
D. Hayter of Whitchurch, mechanist : dine at
The narrative is given in greater detail to Mrs Godwin. The letter has already been printed by Lady Shelley in her “Shelley Memorials.”
William Godwin to Mrs Godwin.
“LYNMOUTH, VALLEY OF STONES, Sep. 19th, 1812. “MY DEAR LOVE,—The Shelleys are gone ! have been gone these three weeks. I hope you hear the first from me; I dread lest every day may have brought you a letter from them, conveying this strange intelligence. I know you would conjure up a thousand frightful ideas of my situation under this disappointment. I have myself a disposition to take quietly any evil, when it can no longer be avoided, when it ceases to be attended with uncertainty, and when I can already compute the amount of it. I heard this news instantly on my arrival at this place, and therefore walked immediately (that is, as soon as I had dined) to the Valley of Stones, that, if I could not have what was gone away, I might at least not fail to visit what remained.
“You advise me to return by sea; I thank you a thousand times for your kind and considerate motive in this, but certainly nothing more could be proposed to me at this moment than a return by sea. I left Bristol at one o'clock on Wednesday, and arrived here at four o'clock on Friday, after a passage of fifty-one hours. We had fourteen passengers, and only four berths, therefore I lay down only once for a few hours. We had
little wind, and accordingly regularly tided it for six hours, and lay at anchor for six, till we reached this place. This place is fifteen miles short of Ilfracombe. If the Captain, after a great entreaty from the mate and one of his passengers (for I cannot entreat for such things) [had not] lent me his own boat to put me ashore, I really think I should have died with ennui. We anchored, Wednesday night, somewhere within sight of the Holmes (small islands, so called, in the British Channel). The next night we came within sight of Minehead, but the evening set in with an alarming congregation of black clouds, the sea rolled vehemently without a wind (a phenomenon which is said to portend a storm) and the Captain in a fright put over to Penarth, near Cardiff, and even told us he should put us ashore there for the night. At Penarth, he said, there was but one house, but it had a fine large barn annexed to it capable of accommodating us all. This was a cruel reverse to me and my fellow-passengers, who had never doubted that we should reach the end of our voyage some time in the second day. By the time, however, we had made the Welsh coast, the frightful symptoms disappeared, the night became clear and serene, and I landed here happily—that is, without further accident,the next day. These are small events to a person accustomed to a seafaring life, but they were not small to me, and you will allow that they were not much mitigated by the elegant and agreeable accommodations of our crazed vessel. I was not decisively sea-sick, but had qualmish and discomforting sensations from the time we left the Bristol river, particularly after having lain down a few hours of Wednesday night.
“Since writing the above I have been to the house where Shelley lodged, and I bring good news. I saw the woman of the house, and I was delighted with her. She is a good creature, and quite loved the Shelleys. They lived here nine weeks and three days. They went away in a great hurry, in debt to her and two more. They gave her a draft upon the Honourable Mr Lawless, brother to Lord Cloncurry, and they borrowed of her twenty-nine shillings, besides £3 that she got for them from a neighbour, all of which they faithfully returned when they got to Ilfracombe, the people not choosing to change a bank-note which had been cut in half for safety in sending it by the post. But the best news is that the woman says they will be in London in a fortnight. This quite comforts my heart.”
The Shelleys arrived in London after their stay at Tanry-alt on October 4th, and dined with Godwin. They remained in London just six weeks, during which time
Shelley and Godwin met almost daily, and he with his wife and her sister, Miss Westbrook, were frequent visitors in Skinner Street. Of the two persons who were most to influence Shelley's life in after years, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and Jane Clairmont, who made her home with him and his second wife, he saw but little. Mary Godwin was just fifteen, was still a child, and considered as such in her family. Her half sister Fanny was Miss Godwin, and was, after this visit, Shelley's friend and occasional correspondent. Jane Clairmont was only at home for two nights during the six weeks Shelley spent in London. She was several years older than Fanny, and even then led a somewhat independent life apart from her mother and step-father, presumably as a governess, since that was the occupation she afterwards followed in Italy, during the intervals of her residence with the Shelleys. In those later days, however, it seemed more poetical to an imaginative mind to call herself 'Clare' instead of Jane, by which self-chosen name she appears in the Shelley diaries. Godwin, however, preferring blunt reality, sticks to her true name.
When Mary Godwin was fifteen her father received a letter from an unknown correspondent, who took a deep interest in the theories of education which had been held by Mary Wollstonecraft, and who was anxious to know how far these were carried out in regard to the children she had left. An extract from Godwin's reply paints his daughter as she was at that period :
“Your enquiries relate principally to the two daughters of Mary Wollstonecraft. They are neither of them brought up with an exclusive attention to the system and ideas of their mother. I lost her in 1797, and in 1801 I married a second time. the motives which led me to chuse this was the feeling I had in myself of an incompetence for the education of daughters. The