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present Mrs Godwin has great strength and activity of mind, but is not exclusively a follower of the notions of their mother; and indeed, having formed a family establishment without having a previous provision for the support of a family, neither Mrs Godwin nor I have leisure enough for reducing novel theories of education to practice, while we both of us honestly endeavour, as far as our opportunities will permit, to improve the mind and characters of the younger branches of our family.
“Of the two persons to whom your enquiries relate, my own daughter is considerably superior in capacity to the one her mother had before. Fanny, the eldest, is of a quiet, modest, unshowy disposition, somewhat given to indolence, which is her greatest fault, but sober, observing, peculiarly clear and distinct in the faculty of memory, and disposed to exercise her own thoughts and follow her own judgment. Mary, my daughter, is the reverse of her in many particulars. She is singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind. Her desire of knowledge is great, and her perseverance in everything she undertakes almost invincible. My own daughter is, I believe, very pretty ; Fanny is by no means handsome, but in general prepossessing."
In 1813 Shelley was again in London for a short time during the summer, but Mary was absent in Scotland. She was not strong, and as a growing girl needed purer air than Skinner Street could offer ; she had therefore gone to Dundee with her father's friends, Mr Baxter and his daughter; and remained with them six months. It was Hnot until the summer of 1814 that Shelley and Mary Godwin became really acquainted, when he found the child whom he had scarcely noticed two years before had grown linto the woman of nearly seventeen summers.
The story has often been told, and told in different ways; but the facts as far as they can be gleaned from the scanty entries in Godwin's Diary are these. Shelley came to London on May 18th, leaving his wife at Binfield, certainly
ATTACHMENT TO SHELLEY.
without the least idea that it was to be a final separation from him, though the relations between husband and wife had for some time been increasingly unhappy. He was oft course received in Godwin's house on the old footing of close intimacy, and rapidly fell in love with Mary. Fanny Godwin was away from home visiting some of the Wollstonecrafts, or she, three years older than Mary, might have discouraged the romantic attachment which sprang up between her sister and their friend. Jane Clairmont's influence was neither then, nor at any other time, used, or likely to be used, judiciously.
It was easy for the lovers, for such they became before they were aware of it, to meet without the attention of the parents being drawn to the increasing intimacy, and yet without any such sense of clandestine interviews, as might have disclosed to themselves whither they were drifting. Mary was unhappy at home; she thoroughly disliked Mrs Godwin, to whom Fanny was far more tolerant; her desire for knowledge and love for reading were discouraged, and when seen with a book in her hand, she was wont to hear from her step-mother that her proper sphere was the storeroom. Old St Pancras churchyard was then a quiet and secluded spot, where Mary Wollstonecraft's grave was shaded by a fine weeping willow. Here Mary Godwin used to take her books in the warm days of June, to spend every
hour she could call her own. Here her intimacy with Shelley ripened, and here, in Lady Shelley's words, "she placed her hand in his, and linked her fortunes with his own.”
It was not till July 8th that Godwin saw in any degree what was going on. The Diary records a “Talk with Mary," and a letter to Shelley. The explanation was satisfactory--it was before the mutual confession in St Pancras
churchyard—and Godwin and Shelley still met daily; but the latter did not dine again in Skinner Street. On July 14th Harriet Shelley arrived in London. The entries in the Diary for that and the following day are :“ 15, F. M[arshal] and Shelley for Nash : Balloon : P.B. and
H. Shelley to call n. : M. and F. Jones call, for
Miss White: call on H. Shelley. "16, Sa. C. Turner (fr. Mackintosh and Dadley) call : call
on Shelleys; coach w. P. B. S."
It is quite certain that Godwin used all his influence to restore the old relations between husband and wife; and on the 22d “Talk with Jane, letter fr. do. Write to H.S.,” evidently refer to his dişlike of the attention which 1Shelley now paid his daughter. But it was too late ; for on July 28th, early in the morning, Mary Godwin left her father's house, accompanied by Jane Clairmont. They joined Shelley, posted to Dover, and crossed in an open boat to Calais during a violent storm, during which they were in considerable danger. As soon as the elopement was discovered Mrs Godwin pursued the party. Godwin's Diary is here also extremely brief :“28, Th. Five in the morning. Macmillan calls. M. J. for
Charles Clairmont wrote to break the news to Fanny, and devoted himself to his step-father during the three days of uncertainty, till Mrs Godwin returned from Calais on July 31st.
On the evening of their arrival at Calais, Shelley and Mary began a joint diary, which was continued by one or the other through the remainder of Shelley's life. The entry for the second day gives an account of the entrance
JOURNEY THROUGH FRANCE.
into their room of the landlord of the Calais Hotel to say that “a fat lady had arrived who said that I had run away with her daughter." As all the world knows, her persuasions had no avail, and she returned alone; Jane Clairmont, in spite of her mother's remonstrances, determined to stay with Shelley and Mary. The three went to Paris, where they bought a donkey, and rode him in turns to Geneva, the others walking. He was bought for Mary as the weakest of the party, but Shelley's feet were soon blistered, and he was glad to ride now and then, not without the jeers of the passers by, in the spirit of those who scoffed in the Fable of the “ Old Man and his Ass."
Sleeping now in a cabaret and now in a cottage, they at last finished this strange honeymoon, and the strangest sentimental journey ever undertaken since Adam and Eve went forth with all the world before them where to choose.
Godwin's irritation and displeasure at the step hist daughter had taken were extreme. His own views on the subject of marriage had undergone a considerable change, and he was more alive than in former years to the strictures of the world. Nor is it possible for the most enthusiastic admirers of Shelley to palliate materially his conduct in the matter. On any view of the relations between the sexes, on any view of the desirableness of divorce, the breach with Harriet, was far too recent to justify his conduct. In spite of her after-conduct our sympathies cannot but be in some measure with the discarded wife. But neither need they be refused to Mary Godwin. Let it be remembered that she was not seventeen, that her whole sympathies were with her mother, who had held views on marriage, different indeed to those which her daughter was upholding by her action, but which a young
inexperienced girl might easily confuse with them, that her home was unhappy, and that she had met one who was to her then, and through all her married life, as one almost divine, last and not least that she was upheld in all that she did by an astute and worldly woman, who, though no relation, stood to Mary in the place of an elder sister. For Miss Clairmont indeed it is difficult to find excuse.
Godwin's sources of trouble were considerable at the time of Mary's leaving her home. He was not a tender father in outward show, but he was sincerely attached to his children, and Mary was bound up with the happiest and the saddest days of the past. William also began to give his father a good deal of uneasiness, and the week after Mrs Godwin returned from her bootless mission to Calais, the boy ran away from home the first, but by no means the last, escapade of the kind—and could not be found till after two nights' search and anxiety. And the day after his disappearance was that on which Godwin heard of Patrickson's suicide.
It has seemed best to give the narratives of Patrickson and Shelley without intermission, but the following letters, which need little elucidation, fall within the period to which the death of the one and the elopement of the other, bring the narrative of Godwin's life.
William Wordsworth to William Godwin.
“GRASMERE, March 9, 1811. "DEAR SIR– I received your letter and the accompanying booklet yesterday. Some one recommended to Gainsborough a subject for a picture : it pleased him much, but he immediately said with a sigh, 'What a pity I did not think of it myself !' Had I been