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(whether or not then avowed and confessedly reciprocated), combining with the previous motives, determined him to separate from Harriett ; and that the separation, though at one moment a mere piece of abrupt de facto work on Shelley's part, was eventually carried out on a deliberate footing, and without decided neglect of her material interests. Shelley was an arowed opponent, on principle, to the formal and coercive tie
f marriage: therefore, in ceasing his marital connection with Harriett, and in assuming a similar relation to Mary, he did
othing which he regarded as wrong-though (as far as anything yet published goes) it must distinctly be said that he consulted his own option rather than Harriett's.
Secondly, Harriett took no steps of her own accord to separate from Shelley, and had given no cause whatever for repudiation by breach or tangible neglect of wifely duty ; but she did not offer a strenuous pertinacious resistance to the separation, nor exhibit a determined sense of wrong. Mr. Thornton Hunt, indeed, thinks that she may rather have courted the separation at the moment, but only with the idea that it would cause a revulsion in Shelley's mind, inducing him submissively to solicit her return. If Shelley connected himself with Mary, Harriett, after the separation, connected herself with some other protector, and this probably, from the principles she had imbibed, with a conscience equally void of offence—at least at first.
Thirdly, there is no evidence at all that Mary did anything reprehensible with a view to supplanting Harriett, and securing Shelley for herself. When he sought her love, she freely and warmly gave it; and, in so doing, she again acted strictly within the scope of her own code of right.
Such, as far as my authorities go, are the clear facts of this case. They are simple and unambiguous enough; but no doubt liable to be judged with great severity by those who start from contrary premisses. We find three persons fashioning their lives according to their own convictions, and in opposition to the moral rules of their time and country. Two of them act spontaneously, and with a view to their own happiness; the third has her course predetermined by the others, or by one of them, and adapts herself to it with more or less acquiescence. For her it turns out very much amiss; and from her misfortunes or wrongs there will be a Nemesis to haunt the mutual peace of the others.
XI.-FIRST CONTINENTAL TRIP. The household of Godwin consisted, besides himself, of his second wife, who had previously been married to a Mr. Clairmont; Mary, his daughter by his first wife; Fanny, his daughter by his second wife; and Clare and Charles Clairmont, the children of the second wife by her first marriage. Godwin, eminent as an author-admired for his powerful novel of Caleb Williams, and deeply reverenced by a knot of advanced thinkers as the philosopher of Political Justice and The Enquirer-carried on business as a bookseller in Skinner Street. It is amusing to read of his displeasure if he was not addressed as “ Esquire” "on a letter-cover, and of Shelley's profound amazement at this displeasure. For some reason Mary was not at this time happy at home. Perhaps the reason was her connexion with Shelley, which was not recognized but much resented by her father and stepmother. Their going abroad together was effected without concealment or hurry on their own account. But Miss Clairmont was minded to accompany them, and this again was strongly objected to by Mrs. Godwin. The consequence is that the three young people started in secret on the 28th July, a singularly sultry day, and crossed from Dover to Calais in a small boat, encountering a perilous squall and thunderstorm.
Miss Clairmont was now of age or nearly so—an Italianlooking brunette, “ of great ability, strong feelings, lively temper, and, though not regularly handsome, of brilliant appear
She shared Mary's independent opinions on questions such as that of marriage. From this time onwards she became almost a permanent member of Shelley's household, whether abroad or in England.
Having reached Paris (where Shelley pawned his watch, and sent the money, I am informed, to Harriett), the travellers resolved to perform the remainder of their journey on foot, with occasional lifts, and an ass to carry their portmanteau. The ass, however, proved to be “not strong enough for the place,” and a mule was substituted when they quitted Charenton. Soon Shelley sprained his ankle; walking became impossible for
* Statements about Miss Clairmont which occur in the sequel are inserted in this memoir for two reasons-because they are a substantial part of Shelley's biography, and because they are already printed in more books than one, so that their suppression here would serve no real purpose of delicate reticence.
him, and an open voiture drawn by another mule replaced the former animal. The route disclosed much horrible devastation perpetrated by the Cossacks and other invaders upon lately reBourbonized France. The Alps came into view soon before the tourists reached Neufchâtel : “their immensity” (writes Mrs. Shelley, in her History of a Six Weeks' Tour, the authority for all these details)“ staggers the imagination, and so far surpasses all conception that it requires an effort of the understanding to believe that they indeed form a part of the earth.” A cottage by the Lake of Uri was the desired termination of the tour; but want of money now dictated a return to England, and from Brunen, a village by that lake, the travellers set their faces homewards with all dispatch. They took the Diligence par Eau along the Reuss to Loffenberg. “After having landed for refreshment in the middle of the day, we found, on our return to the boat, that our former seats were occupied. We took others; when the original possessors angrily, and almost with violence, insisted upon our leaving them. Their brutal rudeness to us, who did not understand their language, provoked Shelley to knock one of the foremost down. He did not return the blow; but continued his vociferations until the boatmen interfered, and provided us with other seats.” Shelley was a man of most eminent physical as well as moral courage; and this small anecdote deserves to be remembered accordingly. From Loffenberg a leaky canoe took the trio on to Mumph : “ It was a sight of some dread to see our frail boat winding among the eddies of the rocks, which it was death to touch, and when the slightest inclination on one side would instantly have overset it.” No doubt these experiences were utilized in Alastor. Returning by Basle, Mayence, and Cologne-finding some Germans “disgusting,” and the Rhine paradise"—thence to Cleves, posting on to Rotterdam, and expending their last guinea at Marsluys—the travellers landed at Gravesend, after a rough passage, on the 13th of September.
The only literary result of this tour, on the part of Shelley, was the wild unfinished tale of The Assassins, which almost looks like a grave burlesque, but was no doubt written in all seriousness. He began it at Brunen, after reading aloud, on a rude pier on the lake, the account of the siege of Jerusalem in Tacitus.
XII.—DOMESTIC LIFE WITH MARY :--ALASTOR. Soon after his return to London, and at the close of an interval of much pecuniary depression, a great improvement took place in Shelley's worldly position. His grandfather Sir Bysshe died on the 6th of January 1815; his father became Sir Timothy Shelley ; Percy was the next heir to the baronetcy and the entailed estate. The result was a new arrangement whereby, in consideration of his giving up some expectations, a clear annual income of £1000 a year from his father was secured to him, and he immediately set aside a portion for Harriett's use.* He had been peculiarly solitary in these last few months. The Godwins ignored him and Mary ; some of his friends of the preceding year had fallen away; and Hogg and Peacock were perhaps his only habitual companions.
In the winter which began 1815 he walked a London hospital, in order to acquire some knowledge of surgery which might enable him to be of service to the poor. It has been said, indeed, that he had now a sort of idea of studying medicine professionally ; feeling that it might be necessary for him to adopt some definite calling in life, and having more inclination for this than for any other. He had entertained the project as far back as the summer of 1811, prior to his marriage with Harriett, and had even studied medicine then for a short while under a celebrated surgeon. His own health, however, was very delicate in 1815; and in the Spring an eminent physician pronounced him to be in a rapid consumption. This passed away : his lungs suddenly righted in 1818, but the other forms of ill-health from which he suffered remained. A tour along the south coast of Devonshire, and to Clifton, was made in the summer.
He next rented a house at Bishopgate Heath, near Windsor Forest; and passed here several months of comparative health and tranquillity, spending whole days under the oaks of Windsor Great Park. At the end of August, Shelley, with Mary (always named Mrs Shelley), Peacock, and Charles Clairmont, went in a wherry towards the source of the Thames beyond Lechlade in Gloucestershire. The beautiful Lines in Lechlade Church
* Shelley was not at once placed beyond embarrassment in consequence of his grandfather's death. Mr. Locker possesses an unpublished letter from the poet, dated 14th April 1815, saying that he had the most urgent necessity for the advance of such a sum" as £500. The statement in the text as to Harriett may be relied upon, though not derived from any printed source.
yard were the result. Another possible result, in Mr. Peacock's estimation, may have been the great taste for boating which Shelley ever afterwards retained. This, however, is one of the small points on which much difference of opinion has been expressed. An Eton schoolfellow, Mr. W. S. Halliday (quoted by Hogg), affirms that Shelley never boated at Eton ; whereas Medwin says that Shelley not only spoke of boating as having been his greatest delight at Eton, but had also, within the biographer's own knowledge, shown the same taste in still earlier boyhood at the Brentford school, and Mr. Middleton speaks to the same effect as regards Eton, naming Mr. Amos as Shelley's boating companion there. Hogg says nothing about boating by his friend as coming under his own observation at Oxford or afterwards ; but relates as symptomatic a prank with washingtubs played by the poet on a rill at Bracknell. Perhaps we should conclude that Shelley did a good deal of boating in boyhood, but little afterwards until this Lechlade trip revived the fancy. Mr. Peacock thinks that the excessive hobby which Shelley had for floating paper boats may also have been derived from his example: it was not a Shelleyan habit at Oxford. It has been said that on one occasion, having no other paper at hand, he launched a £50 bank-post bill on the pond in Kensington Gardens, and, with greater good luck than he deserved, succeeded in recovering it on the opposite bank. This Hogg denies; but Medwin will have it that such an incident did really occur with a £10 note on the Serpentine. Once, when Shelley was playing with paper boats, he jestingly said that he could wish to be shipwrecked in one of them-he would like death by drowning best. It is curious to note how many times, before the final catastrophe, something occurred to associate the idea of drowning with Shelley-now merely by way of joke, now by some passage in his writings, now by calamities in his family circle, now by premonitory danger to himself. One salient instance is pointed out by Lady Shelley, from an allusion made by the poet to an article in the Quarterly Review comparing him to Pharaoh in the Red Sea. “It describes the result of my battle with their Omnipotent God; his pulling me under the sea by the hair of my head, like Pharaoh ; my .. entreating everybody to drown themselves ; pretending not to be drowned myself, when I am drowned; and lastly being drowned.” VOL. I.