Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

half-past 9 arrived at Leghorn-a run of forty-five to fifty miles in seven hours and a half. Anchored astern the Bolivar, from which we procured cushions and made up for ourselves a bed on board, not being able to get on shore after sunset, on account of the health office being shut at that hour.

Tuesday, July 2.-Fine weather. We heard this morning that the Bolivar was about to sail for Genoa, and that Lord Byron was quitting Tuscany, on account of Count Gamba's family having again been exiled thence. This, on reaching the shore, I found really to be the case; for they had just left the police-office, having there received the order. Dunn's, and took leave of him.

Met Lord Byron at

Was introduced to Mr.

Leigh Hunt, and called on Mrs. Hunt.

Shopped and

strolled about all day. Met Lieutenant Marsham, of the Rochefort, an old schoolfellow and shipmate.

Wednesday, July 3.-Fine strong sea-breeze.

Thursday, July 4-Fine. Processions of priests and religiosi have for several days been active in their prayers for rain; but the gods are either angry, or nature. is too powerful.

NOTE BY MRS. SHELLEY.

So I have finished this task. The later pages cost me all my fortitude, and were wrung letter by letter from my pen in agony.

Dearest Edward; beloved friend; you do not even now forget me I trust. The memory of your gentle voice, expressive countenance, and endearing manners, are a principal part of that which, twisted with every fibre of my frame, is my soul and life far more than the

dull hours of this new-named year, and vainly returning

sun.

V.

LETTER FROM MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY TO MARIA GISBORNE: THE END.'

I said in a letter to Peacock, my dear Mrs. Gisborne, that I would send you some account of the last miserable months of my disastrous life. From day to day I have put this off, but I will now endeavour to fulfil my

In an article which I contributed to Macmillan's Magazine for May, 1880, were included this letter and other letters relating to Shelley's life near Spezia, his death, and successive burials. This is the natural epilogue to the Letters from Italy, and completes the tragic story in the most admirable manner. It cannot well be overrated, having regard to the light it throws on the home life at San Terenzio. When I published the letter from the original in my possession, Mr. Garnett had already given, in The Fortnightly Review for June, 1878, some small portions from a transcript by John Gisborne. This letter gives a more detailed account than has yet been forthcoming of the untimely death of Shelley. It is the leading document in a series of which some are given in the Shelley Memorials and some in the Relics of Shelley-I mean the series of Mrs. Shelley's letters written during the first year of her widowhood. It is the letter to which Mrs. Shelley refers in one

of the 10th of September, 1822, to Mrs. Gisborne (Shelley Memorials, pp. 208 et seq.). Although a hint of the closing circumstances of the tragedy was given in the preface to the Posthumous Poems (1824), this was written almost two years after Shelley's death; and though a comparatively full account was given in Mrs. Shelley's note to the poems of 1822, published in her editions of 1839 and onwards, the present letter far exceeds that note both in vividness of impres sion and in fulness of detail. There are, however, passages in the note that have no corresponding passages here, as for instance the account of the insane proprietor who rooted up the olivetrees and planted the English forest-trees now forming the beautiful background of

Casa

Magni, as shewn in the frontispiece to this volume. In the Magazine, the letter was printed verbatim et literatim. The only changes now made are very trifling matters of orthography and punctuation.

design.

2

The scene of my existence is closed and though there be no pleasure in retracing the scenes that have preceded the event which has crushed my hopes, yet there seems to be a necessity in doing so, and I obey the impulse that urges me. I wrote to you either at the end of May or the beginning of June. I described to you the place we were living in;-our desolate house,' the beauty yet strangeness of the scenery, and the delight Shelley took in all this-he never was in better health or spirits than during this time. I was not well in body or mind. My nerves were wound up to the utmost irritation, and the sense of misfortune hung over my spirits. No words can tell you how I hated our house and the country about it. Shelley reproached me for this-his health was good and the place was quite after his own heart-what could I answerthat the people were wild and hateful, that though the country was beautiful yet I liked a more countryfied place, that there was great difficulty in living-that all our Tuscans would leave us, and that the very

"The house is on the very edge of the sea, and had been a convent of Jesuits. I saw the waves foaming and roaring at the foot, and with an impatience which has seldom gone so far with me, could almost have blasphemously trampled at them, and cried out." Correspondence of Leigh Hunt, 1862, Vol. I, p. 191.

The exquisitely variegated vol. canic rocks certainly import an element of strangeness into the great beauty of that coast.

3 Shelley, writing to Horace Smith on the 29th of June, 1822,

39

regrets that " Mary has not the same predilection for this place that he has (p. 286). In his last letter to his wife (p. 289) he asks

more recon

her whether she is
ciled to staying" there; and in
her note on the poems of 1822,
Mrs. Shelley avows the differ-
ence of views in a certain qualified
sense: "Had we been wrecked on
an island of the South Seas, we
could scarcely have felt ourselves
further from civilization and
comfort; but where the sun shines
the latter becomes an unnecessary

luxury; and we had enough
society among ourselves. Yet I
confess housekeeping became
rather a toilsome task, especially
as I was suffering in my health,
and could not exert myself
actively." The impression of dis-
comfort softened with time.

jargon of these Genovese was disgusting. This was all I had to say, but no words could describe my feelings -the beauty of the woods made me weep and shudder— so vehement was my feeling of dislike that I used to rejoice when the winds and waves permitted me to go. out in the boat so that I was not obliged to take my usual walk among tree-shaded paths, alleys of vine festooned trees-all that before I doted on-and that now weighed on me. My only moments of peace were on board that unhappy boat when lying down with my head on his knee I shut my eyes and felt the wind and our swift motion alone. My ill health might account for much of this-bathing in the sea somewhat relieved me-but on the 8th of June (I think it was) I was threatened with a miscarriage, and after a week of great ill health on Sunday the 16th this took place at eight in the morning. I was so ill that for seven hours I lay nearly lifeless-kept from fainting by brandy, vinegar, eau-de-Cologne, &c.—at length ice was brought to our solitude it came before the doctor, so Claire and Jane were afraid of using it; but Shelley' overruled them and by an unsparing application of it I was restored. They all thought, and so did I at one time, that I was about to die. I hardly wish that I had, my own Shelley could never have lived without me, the sense of eternal misfortune would have pressed too heavily upon him, and what would have become of my poor babe? My convalescence was slow and during it a strange occurrence happened to retard it. But first I must describe our

1 Shelley has been so often accused of drawing upon his imagination for the numerous adventures recounted by him in writing and viva voce, that any calm

statement confirming him in a detail is of peculiar value to the biographer. Compare this account with that which he gives himself (p. 279).

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

1 is a terrace that went the whole length of our house and was precipitous to the sea; 2 the large dining-hall; 3 a private staircase; 4 my bedroom; 5 Mrs. W.'s bedroom; 6 Shelley's; and 7 the entrance from the great staircase.' Now to return. As I said Shelley was at first in perfect health but having over fatigued himself one day, and then the fright my illness gave him caused a return of nervous sensations and visions as bad as in his worst times. I think it was the Saturday after my illness, while yet unable to walk I was confined to my bed-in the middle

Trelawny (Records, Vol. I, p. 162) says that over the ground floor "there were a large saloon and four bedrooms, and nothing more; there was an out-building for cooking, and a place for the servants to eat and sleep in. The Williamses had one room aud Shelley and his wife occupied two more, facing each other." This accuracy speaks volumes for the narrator's memory; and we must presume that, not being in the secret of the private staircase, Trelawny mentally set down that space as a fourth room. As shewn in the woodcut of the house facing the foregoing passage there was no habitable space above the floor in question; but the house has been heightened since then, for there is now another floor with a row of windows looking on the sea. Medwin appears to have visited Casa Magni in August, 1822.

He says

[ocr errors]

(Shelley Papers, p. 91), after describing the basement: "A dark and somewhat perpendicular staircase now led us to the only floor that remained. It... consisted of a saloon with eight doors, and four chambers at the four corners this, with the exception of a terrace in front, was the whole house. This verandah, which ran the whole length of the villa, was of considerable width. In repeating this passage in the Life (Vol. II, p. 309), Medwin omits the eight seemingly apocryphal doors which had "crept into" his saloon of 1832-3.

2 Either Mr. Garnett or Mr. Gisborne mistranscribed this word: in The Fortnightly Review for June, 1878, p. 864, Mr. Garnett makes it read the Saturday of. It is after in the letter, the whole of which is so clearly and firmly written that there is not a single doubtful word in it.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »