This text was taken from William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries, Vol. 2 by C. Kegan Paul. Henry S. King and Co., London, 1876.
FANNY'S DEATH--THE SHELLEYS. 1812, 1819.
AFTER the subscription which had been made for the payment of his debts, which left him a considerable sum in hand, Godwin's circumstances were fairly comfortable for some years. They were not indeed wholly so, since having begun business without capital, the heavy payments required by that business at times, which did not always correspond with his receipts, necessitated frequent raising of money on bills, and some consequent anxiety. Yet, on the whole, there was no serious difficulty, and the daily life at Skinner Street was undisturbed. Godwin's reading became more and more devoted to past literature, the diaries from 18 12 onwards make almost exclusive mention of old writers-Shakespeare, Bacon, Montaigne, &c. His mornings were given to study, his afternoons to writing, his evenings to society or the theatre ; the old names occur, which have appeared in the Diaries for years-Mackintosh, Basil Montagu, the Lambs, but few new names-in fact old age was creeping on Godwin, though his powers of mind were quite undimmed. Charles Clairmont had found occupation for himself, but still lived mainly with the Godwins; Jane was with the Shelleys abroad, or afterwards at Binfield; Fanny had more and more taken her place as a daughter at home, and, as she wrote to Mrs Shelley, "got on very well with Mamma, whose merits she could see, though she could not really like her."
Two only, among the domestic letters of these years, possess any interest.
William Godwin to Mrs Godwin.
"SKINNER ST., July 10, 1815.
"--I had a disagreeable dinner yesterday at Alexander's with a parcel of miserables, who seemed, so far as I could collect, to know nothing of the stranger who sat down with them, and to have no desire to hear anything from him: but I had a very pleasant walk home across the fields, to White's Conduit House.
"How happy should I be, if I could persuade you to look at human life through different optics ! There are persons, perhaps, so constituted that they must see all creation in sables: there is, too, a sort of refinement in regarding all the world with loathing and aversion, in which a sickly temper is too apt to indulge. But, separately from these two causes, almost all the lives of individuals are made up of a dark and a bright side ; and yours is not, in itself considered, the worst. We ought all to consider that we have but one life to make the best or the worst of, as imagination shall prompt us. But all prudence and all wisdom bids us make the best of it. You are surrounded with many comforts, you have a boy that you love, you have not the worst of husbands; our principal embarrassments are on the point of being cleared off, and we must then be very unlucky if we are not able to continue to supply our wants . . . .
". . . . Tell Fanny I am very well, and have found no want as yet of her kind cares. Charles has taken the cook's account, and performed the offices of an able housekeeper and superintendent."
The Same to the Same.
"Aug. 3, 1815.
"Miss Lamb has just called in to ask me to sup with them on Saturday evening at Mr Alsager's in the Borough, a clever man, she says, a bachelor, a whist player, and a new acquaintance of theirs. She says they were within an ace of embarking in the "Friendship" on Saturday last for Southend, agreeably to your invitation. . . . .
"Adieu! Oh, be well, be cheerful! Banish depressing recollections. Look on me and Lovewell, the two great pillars of the establishment in Skinner Street, with approving and hopeful sensations. Take care of fatigue, take care of the cold. Feel some love, some lingering of the heart for the comer house with the æsop over the door.--Ever, with unalterable affection, yours,
It was characteristic of Godwin, and was indeed one of the best parts of his character, that he always considered that principles were to be carried out at any cost. That the Allies were guided by immediate and pressing political needs to do all that in them lay to prevent the possibility of another Buonapartist rule, would have seemed to him no reason at all. To destroy individualism in the name of liberty seems to him the great and inexpiable crime against, liberty. Individualism was to be asserted at whatever immediate cost.
In political matters, the only document of interest is the following letter:--
William Godwin to the Editor of --- Paper.
"April 18, 1815.
"SIR,--I observe in your paper of yesterday a statement that the Allied Sovereigns are to issue from Frankfort a declaration 'that the people of France are at perfect liberty to judge for themselves, that their territory shall be unviolated, and their public institutions held sacred, and hostilities only to ensue if they shall determine to submit to the authority of one individual.' (Buonaparte, whom these sovereigns think proper to proscribe.) And this seems to be regarded as a safe and happy expedient, by which the Allies are to get rid of the odium of interfering in the internal affairs of an independent nation.
"Now, sir, I beg to suggest, through the medium of your paper, that this is a refinement, rendering the interference of foreign powers in the internal affairs of a nation ten thousand times more intolerable and odious than if it were brought forward in any other form. They might issue a declaration in which they should state, beside the hereditary indefeasible right of the family of the Bourbons, that they are the choice of the whole French nationthat they have been expelled by an insignificant faction with arms in their hands, and that the Allies march accordingly to rescue thirty millions of men from an ignominious yoke, and to preserve them from being dragooned by a military despotism into subjection to a tyrant who is detestable in their eyes: and such a declaration, though containing many falsehoods, would be to a certain degree according to rule, and would undoubtedly be infinitely less insulting than the declaration your paragraph announces . . . .
"Why is this man selected as the individual they may not choose ? The selection is not made at random: the name is not brought forward because the person is indifferent. He is named because the Allies find the greatest reason to fear that he will be the man of their choice, and that an infinite majority of the French people are eager to adhere to him. Never did a sovereign ascend the throne of any nation under such astonishing instances of general favour, as Buonaparte has just now ascended the throne of France. The Allies therefore say to the French people, Take any course you please, we promise not to interfere: only there is one course upon which your hearts appear to be set, and that we interdict you.
"Is it possible that such a declaration should not render Buonaparte infinitely more dear to the people of France than he ever could be before? Does it not show them their honour as bound up with him, and their independence and character as a nation, as invaded by a pretended attack upon him.
"How will the Allies say that the French shall rid themselves of Buonaparte? His return among them has re-animated them as a nation; they fear no longer those principles of counter-revolution and disturbance of the established system of property which they saw secretly at work among them; they, have restored him to the throne on the most auspicious conditions for general benefit; they have obtained for themselves a sovereign whose energy of character is capable of rendering them suspected among foreign powers. But the Allies are regardless of all this. They say, We come to confer on you the blessings of a civil war; form yourselves into knots and cabals, try secretly to gather a strength that shall overcome the power that now reigns over you, and amidst plots and cabals, and conspiracies and treasons, every man arming himself against his neighbour, we will come with our Uhlans and Cossacks and freebooters, and bless you with our presence."
To return to Godwin's home-life. After the Shelleys returned from France, bringing Miss Clairmont with them, the latter was after a time received in Skinner Street as an occasional visitor, and in March 1816, the Shelleys being then at Binfield, Godwin paid a visit to Bracknell, and thence walked over to see his daughter. From that time there was fairly frequent intercourse established between himself and Shelley, both by letter and by visits from Shelley when in town.
On April 7, 1816, Godwin started on a tour to Scotland his business relations with Fairley and Constable had become somewhat complicated, and the hope of making personally some satisfactory arrangement led him to undertake this long journey. The diary will give in his own words a condensed but interesting account of his fellow travellers, associates, and reading during this time.
"April 7, Su. Call on Lambert. Mail for York; Adey from Ware.
"April 8, M. Breakfast at Huntingdon, smuggling old woman: dine at Newark: tea Doncaster, ex-captain of Militia: sleep, Tavern, York.
"9, Tu. Call on Wolstenholme, Todd and Nicol: walk w. Nicol on the walls (Clifford's Tower and jail), Minster and St Mary's Abbey: Paterson dines. Write to M. J., Fanny, Davison, and Fairley.
"10, W. Dine at Darlington: pass Durham: sleep at New- castle, intelligent bailiff, pleasing gentleman, Cumberland farmer.
"11, Th. Miss Farkison fr. Mrs Waters: Morpeth: break- fast at Alnwick: dine at Berwick: Pease Bridge: Dunglas: Dunbar: Edinburgh: Fairley sups.
"12, F. Call on Constable; adv. Leslie, Napier, Evanses, Cadel: Castle Hill, Writers' Library: dinner Mathews, R. Miller, Wrench, Ballantine, Downie, Playfair, Wilson, Buchanan, Thomson, Cadel, and Russell, player.
"13, Sa. Explanation; write to M. J. Shop adv. Forster (clouds), Jeffrey, &c.: walk w. Leslie, Calton Hill and Holyrood House: dinner Matthews, Wrench, Evanses, Leslie, Peter Hill, and G. H. Walker: Buchan's card.
"14, SU. Write to M. J. Jeffrey and Boswell call: meet Ballantine: Matthews, Wrench, Foster, Willison and 2 Cadels dine. Invited by Buchan.
"15, M. Call on Buchan, Fletchers and Murray (w. Fairley), Ferguson, Macdonald, Nairn and Cadel: Holyrood House and Hume W. Mathews: shop, Dalzel, Duncan and Yaniewiczes: dine at Napier's W. Bruntons, Playfair, Leslie, Pellings.
"16, Tu. Write to M. J. Shop, Morrit, and Boswell: chaise to Kinneal w. Constable and Dr Miller: visit Linlithgow: adv. Miss Cruickshank; sleep.
"April 17, W. Ferrier, on Apparitions, pp. 139. Parisina: Knox v. Crosraguel ca Ia. Sleep.
"18, Th. Return; see Hopetoun House, Roseberry and Barnton Parks: dine at Ballantine's w. Belcours, Douglases, Leslie, Fraser, and Constable: adv. Ainslie. Deep snow.
"19, F. Write to M. J. Shop, Hepburn and Crawford: call on Raebum w. R. Miller and Yaniewicz (W. C.): dine at Boswell's w. Mackenzie and fille, Jeffrey, Brewster, Coventry, L. and C. invité Cranston.
"20, Sa. Breakfast at Murray's w. Dewar, Ritchie, Fairley, c., sit: Heriot's Hospital: dine at Fletcher's w. Brown, Craigs, Mr Miller, Miss Miller, and Miss Wilks.
"21, Su. Call on Jeffrey: Playfair calls n. Nicholsons and Jas. Ballantine's w. Ballantine: Hugh Murray, Jamieson, Willison, and G. H. Walker dine.
"22, H. Breakfast at Ainslie's w. Dr Ainslie and wife, Mr and Mrs Gray, Clarinda, Constable, &c.: meet Mrs Fletcher: call on Playfair and Dewar: sit: Yaniewiczes, Duncans, Ainslies and Leslie dine.
"23, Tu. Dine at Hepburn's, Barfoot, w. Macallum, Walker, Hope, Inglis and family: sleep at Oman's.
"24. W. Breakfast, Yaniewiczs: shop, Dr Jamieson: Advocates' Library: meet W. Erskine and R. Miller: call with Mrs Y. on Sir W. D. Gray, Campbell, Dewar, Ritchie, Fairley, &c., dine: Theatre w. Y's, Duncan, Gordon, &c., sup: sleep at Oman's, call on Gregory n.
"25. Th. Breakfast at Brodies, w. Moore and Hepburn: call on Forster: meet Fleming: chaise w. Constable and Ballantine: dine at Abbotsford: sleep.
"26. F. Constable and Ballantine depart: Melrose w. Scott; adv. Buchan n. Chas. Erskine and wife dine: take coach at Selkirk.
April 27. Sa. Breakfast at Carlisle: coach to Penrith: chaise along Ulswater: dine at Wordsworth's: call w. him on Jackson; adv. Wakefield: circuit of Grasmere: Derwent Coleridge dines: write to M. J. and Thos. Moore.
"28. Su. Derwent dines: horse to Kendal: sleep.
"29. M. Coach: breakfast at Lancaster: dine at Preston with Dilworth and Latham: sleep at Manchester.
"30. Tu. Call on Reddish, Dean and Jackson; adv. Kershaw: chaise w. Jackson and Kershaw: dine at Walker's, Longford, w. do., Mrs Walker, Charles and 2 sisters.
"May 1. W. TV Call on Jackson and Dean, and (w. Kershaw) at Church, College and Hawkes. Coach evening; Stockport, Macclesfield; tea at Leek: sleep at Ashbourne.
"2. Th. Call on Moore n. seek Boothby. Coach: dine at Derby: sleep at Leicester. Write to M. J. grocer from Perth, settled in Leicestershire. Coburg Marriage.
"3. F. Coach: dine at Woburn, w. squirrel-hunt: sleep in Skinner St. H. Robinson calls."
The following extracts from letters refer to the same tour, though they are unfortunately in scarcely greater detail than the Diary:--
William Godwin to Mrs Godwin.
"EDINBURGH, April 12, 1816.
..."I write these lines on Mr Constable's own desk. I did not meet with him till twelve at noon, and it is now half after one. He insists on my making his house at Craigleith my home, and we are going there to-day; to dine with Mr Matthews, the player, and a small party. Not a word with him of business yet. A prologue of unbounded good humour will, I hope, happily introduce the five-act play of the Man of Business. . . . If be will help me to meet my bills, I shall stay the longer: if he is not kind, I shall set on my return in two or three days."
The Same to tile Same.
"April 13, 1816.
..."I have had an explanation with Constable this morning, in ,our walk from Craigleith to town. All is well. All will be done. I must be content with bills, however, and with such as I can get. But this is better than nothing. . . . Do tell me what is going on about Shelley? Has Hume been to David? Must I hasten back immediately, to prevent that affair from going wrong?"
The Same to the Same.
"CRAIGLEITH, April 14, 1816.
..."I am glad now, as things have turned out, that you did not send me £10. I knew you could only do it by having recourse to Lamb. But if I had failed in my main negociation I should probably have left Edinburgh this very day, the moment I received your dispatch, at farthest.
"My reception at Edinburgh has been, as I knew it would be, kind and flattering in the extreme. I have already been introduced to one-half of the literati of their city. Yesterday I was introduced to Jeffrey, the formidable editor and proprietor of the Edinburgh Review. I am going on Tuesday with Constable, to spend two days with Dugald Stewart, the crack metaphysician of Great Britain, nine miles from this town. To-day I received an invitation to dine with the Earl of Buchan, the elder brother to Lord Erskine, which Constable made me refuse, because he, who was also invited, could not go with me. I did not like to refuse, and I do not like the persons who are to dine here to-day, but what could I do ? I could not disoblige Constable. He therefore made me write that, next Sunday were equally convenient, I would stay one day longer in Edinburgh than I had proposed, to have the honour of dining with his lordship. . . . Under the circumstances, I cannot well disappoint all the good people that have a desire to see the monster. And I firmly believe the connection will do me a world of good." . . .
The Same to the Same.
"EDINBURGH, April 19, 1816.
..."I think I told you in my last, that I was going on Tuesday to pay a visit of twice twenty-four hours to the celebrated Dugald Stewart. My reception was truly kind and unaffected. He lives in a palace, formerly inhabited by the Dukes of Hamilton, of which he occupies not more than a third part, the rest of the house being left to fall into ruin, a fit scene for the imagination of Mrs Radclyffe to people with wonders. It stands on the banks of the Frith of Forth, and opposite, on the other side of the water, is a vast ridge of mountains with their tops covered with snow. On our road we visited the ruins of Linlithgow, one of the most splendid of the habitations of the ancient kings of Scotland, in which Mary Queen of Scots was born." . . .
The Same to the Same.
"ABBOTSFORD, April 26, 1816.
..."The place from which I now date is the residence of the author of 'The Lady of the Lake,' etc. Constable and another friend brought me hither yesterday. We arrived to a six o'clock dinner, and all slept here. In the morning, Constable and his friend set off on their return for Edinburgh, and Mr Scott and myself for the ruins of Melrose Abbey, which makes so distinguished a figure in the Lay of the Last Minstrel, and from which we are this moment returned. After dinner I shall proceed to Selkirk, and in the evening take the mail for Carlisle."
The Same to the Same.
"MANCHESTER, April 30, 1816.
"I received your letter, directed to me at Rydal Mount, the moment I was going to set off for Kendal. . . . I am all on fire to resume my novel. Would you have the indulgence for me to have the first volume of I Guy Mannering' in the house against my return, to serve me, if God so pleases, in the nature of a muse.
"I stopped at Manchester Monday night at the joint request of Constable and Mr George Walker, a barrister whom I met at his house, to visit Thomas Walker, the father of George, a famous republican of the times of Gerrald, whom I had encountered two or three times at the house of Home Tooke about twenty years ago. This venerable old gentleman lives at Longford, four miles from Manchester, and I spent a delightful day with him. His wife is Hot less intelligent, and was not a less ardent patriot than himself. He was, at the time I refer to, I believe, the first manufacturer in Manchester, but was ruined in his business by the party spirit of the period ; and Felix Vaughan, a relation I think of Home Tooke, bequeathed him a property, which has, improved since so as to render him in his latter days an independent country gentleman."
Having arranged his business satisfactorily, and seeing his way to meet some outstanding business debts, Godwin returned to London in the enjoyment of, comparative ease. He found his old friend, who had so patiently and so often aided his labours, in difficulties, from which his extreme frugality had for many years preserved him. Godwin returned the kindness which Marshal had done him in his embarrassments, and drew up an appeal to friends for aid. Kindness of heart, egotism, and a half communistic belief that the rich are bound to support literary paupers, are strongly displayed in a letter to Josiah Wedgwood, which is copied in Marshal's own hand. It is impossible not to feel glad, to know that a man so worthy and so loveable, was placed beyond the reach of want, in spite of a strong opinion that whether in Godwin's case or Marshal's the kind of appeal thus made is one which cannot be too much discouraged or too severely criticised. Distress is of course always pitiable, nor will there ever come a time when the rich may not find room for the exercise of charity, and the poor be thankful to receive; but, save in the rarest instances , it is well that. the feeling of shame in receiving should not be absent. The literary man who has failed in literature is no more entitled to demand help from his neighbours than the grocer who has failed to sell his figs; the cases are in fact the same.
William Godwin to Josiah Wedgwood (Copy in Marshal's own hand.)
"The person whose interests are at this moment the subject of my thoughts is a person nearly of the same age as myself, whom I first became acquainted with when I was seventeen, and whom from that time I have never lost sight of. His career in the world has been similar to my own, except that he wanted that originality of talent that the world has been good-natured enough to impute to me. In my own outset in literature I was engaged with the booksellers in obscure labours, reviews, compilations, translations, etc., and during that time this gentleman was for several years my coadjutor. Afterwards, when I engaged in writings of a superior cast, he set up for himself; and now for twenty-five years he has subsisted respectably by the compilation of indexes, the correction of English in works written by foreigners in our language, translations, and the superintendence of works in their passage through the press ; and in these useful labours he has been at all times indefatigable. But ... owing to various circumstances, he finds himself for the first time oppressed with debts which he is unable to discharge. . . .
" I have yet, however, but mentioned half the claims I conceive him to have upon the kindness of others. Mr Marshal (that is his name) has spent the greater part of his life in the disinterested service of others. By his indefatigable exertions, principally in going from friend to friend, and from house to house, £1000 were collected a few years ago for the widow and six young children of Mr Holcroft, who by his death were left pennyless in the world; and I could fill a sheet of paper with the bare list of his kindnesses of a similar nature. It is therefore particularly painful to me to think that he who has in a multitude of instances been the means of relief to others should be without relief himself What I am anxious to do is to raise for him £200 or £300, by a proper application of which he might be set free from the world."
Through the summer of 1816 the Diary is thickly strewn with the entries of deaths. Mrs Jordan, the Bishop of Llandaff, who had been Godwin's earliest literary patron, and Sheridan died within the same fortnight, June-July, the last especially being a loss which-was sensibly felt by one who had ever admired his political career. Day after day which succeeded the funeral saw Godwin standing by Sheridan's grave; the poetry in the man's nature, which refused to exhibit itself in his tragedies, was wont to exhibit itself unconsciously in these pilgrimages to what became to him sacred shrines, and a walk to a dead man's grave was the kind of hero worship which was with him a favourite form of devotion.
But a domestic sorrow which was to touch him far more nearly came with the autumn days. Fanny Godwin, as she was always called, the daughter of Gilbert and Mary' Wollstonecraft, is, after her mother, the most attractive character with whom we meet in the whole enormous mass of Godwin's MSS. Little mention is made of Mary Shelley, she was but a child when she left her father's roof, and her maturer nature expanded under Shelley's influence-not Godwin's. But Fanny, in 1816 aged 22, was a young woman of marked individuality, and most lovable nature. She was full of what was termed in the language of that day " sensibility," a word which has fallen out of use, and for which there is no precise equivalent. Well educated, sprightly, ,clever, a good letter-writer, and an excellent domestic manager, she had become not only a dear child, but a favourite companion to Godwin, was useful to, and not unkindly treated by Mrs Godwin. She saw the better side of all who surrounded her, and in writing to Mary Shelley made excuses for all the little jarrings of the household at home, and for Mrs Godwin's tempers. The difficulties of business were confided first to her, and her ready sympathy stood in the place of more active help, which then she could not give. Altogether a bright, attractive girl. Had she been at home when' Shelley's attachment to Mary began, it is possible that her strong common sense might have prevented the elopement which took place, though we cannot pretend to regret that two such natures as the Shelley's should each have found their complement in the other. Yet, however this may be, there can be no doubt that had Fanny Godwin instead of Jane Clairmont been the guest of the Shelleys, a far more wholesome, a far less, disastrous influence would have been brought to bear upon their lives.
Yet there was a -reverse to this picture. The extreme ,depression to which her mother had been subject, and which marked other members of the Wollstonecraft family, seized hold of Fanny Godwin also from time to time; the outward circumstances of her life cannot be called happy, and though she put the best face on them to others, she was, to herself, often disposed to dwell on them and intensify them in a way which may fairly be called morbid. She made at times a luxury of her sorrows.
In September 1816 Mrs Bishop and Everina Wollstonecraft were in London, and saw a good deal of Godwin and his family. They left London on September 24th, and it was arranged that Fanny should follow her aunts early in October, and spend some time with the relatives of whom she had seen so little. It is not quite clear where she was to join her aunts, who had been long in Ireland, but, as far as can be gathered from the slight indications in the Diaries and letters, it would seem that the sisters had gone into South Wales, where some of the family still resided, that Fanny was to join them there, and cross with them to Ireland from Bristol or Haverfordwest.
Before leaving London she wrote a cheerful letter to Mary Shelley, then at Bath, and on the 7th of October she started to join her aunts. But she never reached them. On her arrival at Bristol, she wrote, what Mrs Shelley calls in her Diary, " a very alarming letter," and Shelley started at-once for Bristol. He returned that night, hoping that these fears were vain, as Fanny had pursued her journey. At Swansea she put an end to herself, without having written any further letter either to Godwin, her sister, or her aunts, who were expecting her arrival, except a few lines without address.
The Cambrian newspaper for Saturday, Oct. 12, 1812, has an account of the tragedy:--
From the " Cambrian."
'SWANSEA, Sat. Oct. 12, 1816.
"A melancholy discovery was made in Swansea yesterday. A most respectable looking female arrived at the Mackworth Arms Inn on Wednesday night by the Cambrian Coach from Bristol; she took tea and retired to rest, telling the chambermaid she was exceedingly fatigued, and would take care of the candle herself. Much agitation was created in the house by her non-appearance yesterday morning, and in forcing her chamber door, she was found a corpse, with the remains of a bottle of laudanum on the table, and a note, of which the following is a copy:--
" 'I have long determined that the best thing I could do was to put an end to the existence of a being whose birth was unfortunate, and whose life has only been a series of pain to those persons who have hurt their health in endeavouring to promote her welfare. Perhaps to hear of my death will give you pain, but you will soon have the blessing of forgetting that such a creature ever existed as * * * '
"The name appears to have been torn off and burnt, but her stockings are marked with the letter ' G.,' and on her stays the letters 'M. W.' are visible. She was dressed in a blue-striped skirt with a white body, and a brown pelisse, with a fur trimming of a lighter colour, lined with white silk, and a hat of the same. She had a small French gold watch, and appears about 23 years of age, with long brown hair, dark complexion, and had a reticule containing a red silk pocket handkerchief, a brown berry necklace, and a small leather clasped purse, containing a 3s. and 5s. 6d. piece. She told a fellow-passenger that she came to Bath by the mail from London on Tuesday morning, from whence she proceeded to Bristol, and from thence to Swansea by the Cambrian coach, intending to go to Ireland. We hope the description we have given of this unhappy catastrophe, will lead to the discovery of the wretched object, who has thus prematurely closed her existence."
From the " Cambrian " of Saturday, October 19th, 1816.
"On Friday last an inquest was held on the body of the young lady, the melancholy termination of whose existence we mentioned last week, verdict-found dead."
Here is the account, if such it may be called, in Mrs Shelley's Diary:--
"[Bath] Thursday, 8th October, 1816. Letter from Fanny. . . . . .
"Wednesday 9th . . . . . In the evening a very alarming letter comes from Fanny. Shelley goes immediately to Bristol. We sit up for him until two in the morning when he returns, but brings no particular news.
" [Written later, and in different ink,] Fanny died this night.
" Thursday 10th. Shelley goes again to Bristol, and obtains more certain trace. Work and read. He returns at 11 o'clock.
" Friday 11th. He sets off to Swansea. Work and read.
"Saturday 12th. He returns with the worst account; a miserable day. Two letters from papa. Buy mourning, and work in the evening."
Godwin's record is still more brief On the 9th, below the account of the reading and visits of the day, is the one word "Swansea," and next day, no doubt in consequence of a similar letter from Bristol to that received by Mrs Shelley, he started by the Bristol coach. From Bristol he went back to Bath, finding that all was over, and that Shelley had gone to Swansea, and the next day he returned to London. For some unexplained reason he did not visit his daughter at Bath. He wrote to Shelley at Swansea, and to Jane Clairmont, who was with his daughter in her lodgings, not a quarter of a mile from the York House Hotel, where he slept.
There is nothing whatever in the Godwin or Shelley papers which throws even the smallest ray of light on Fanny's death, and conjecture is idle, even if inevitable. There is no trace of disappointed love, no sign of any exceeding weariness of life, except in moments of occasional despondency, which were constitutional. It may be that alone, and possibly, with the full particulars of her own birth, and her mother's story, but lately known to her through her recent intercourse with her aunts, the morbid feelings to which she was occasionally subject gained the mastery over her reason, usually so sound, and led her to seek a lasting rest.
The theory, which owes its origin to Miss Clairmont, that Fanny was in love with Shelley, and that his flight with her sister prompted self-destruction, is one above all others absolutely groundless. To Shelley, as to Mary, she was an attached sister; she was never in love with him," either before or after her sister's flight.
One month after this occurrence to the very day, another suicide, for which unhappily it is all too easy to account,, finds entry in Godwin's Diary. On Saturday, Nov. 9th, Harriet Shelley drowned herself in the Serpentine. The body was not found till Dec. 10th, and on the 16th Godwin received a letter on the subject from Shelley. It is not the. object or the duty of this work to discuss the relations between Shelley and poor Harriet, and so much as is necessary has been already said, but it is impossible to pass over this,, tragical event without one remark. Whatever view may' be taken of the breach between husband and wife, it is absolutely certain that Harriet's suicide was not directly' caused by her husband's treatment. However his desertion of her contributed or did not contribute to the life she afterwards led, the immediate cause of her death was that, her father's door was shut against her, though he had at first sheltered her and her children. This was done by order of her sister, who would not allow Harriet access to the bed-side of her dying father.
A frequent correspondence followed between Godwin and Shelley, and on December 24th the former wrote a letter. to his daughter, the first which had passed between them, since she left her home. She is carefully described in the diary as M. W. G. Shelley's second marriage took place on Monday, December 30; the entries relating to it in Godwin's diary are extremely curious, as though intended to mislead any one who might, without sufficient information, glance at his book. It is probable that the diary in use during the year always lay on his desk, obvious to prying eyes, while those not in use were locked away. However this may be, the entries are as follows:--
"Decr. 29, Su. Mandeville ca Ia. P. B. S. and M. W. G. dine and sup.
"30, M. Write to Hume. Call on Mildred w. P. B. S., M. W. G., and M. J.; they dine and sup; tea Constable's w. Wells, Wallace, Patrick, and Miss C.
See No. XVIII. infra pag ult.
"31, Tu. They breakfast, dine, and sup. Holinshead, Ric. iii."
On turning to the last page of Diary, vol. xviii., the last but one used, and containing entries of two years before the present date, the words " Call on Mildred " are explained. On the blank page at the end of that volume is written:--
" Percy Bysshe Shelley married to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin at St Mildred's Church, Bread Street, Dec. 30, 1816.
"Mary Jane Godwin."
The record of this event may fittingly close with an extremely characteristic letter to Hull Godwin, written early in the following year. If there be no suppressio veri beyond what may be considered justified by the occasion, there is at any rate a needless suggestio falsi.
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