Excerpts from Mary Shelley's Letters

Excerpts from Mary Shelley's letters

[footnotes (renumbered) are from Bennett edition]

[MWS to Leigh Hunt, Dec. 11, 1823]

. . . . You make one indeed guilty of one of the seven deadly sins (invidia) when you talk of summer weather: cloud, rain, fogs, dirt such are the alternations of our genial sky--it is, this blessed paese a prison & the worst of prisons--God only knows when I shall revisit my dolce nido, but I sigh bitterly for it--this winter at Rome instead of here--I may not dream of such bliss.-- My great consolation here is music; the music with Vincenzo & his friends provide me: I go to the chapel; [1] I have been with Mrs. W. [Williams] to a concert that they have established & I hear it at his house. He has made me a convert to Haydn--Do you know the piece, "A New Created World"--in his Creation; what a wonderful stream of sound it is; it puts me in mind of those beautiful lines of Milton "Untwisting all the chains that tie The hidden soul of harmony" [2] . . . .


1. The Portuguese Embassy Chapel, where Vincent Novello was organist and choir master.

2. "L'allegro," lines 143-44.

[MWS to E. J. Trelawny, (March [?--] 22nd) 1824]

. . . Parliament is met here and Canning [1] is making a figure--he does not seem at all to like the part he was forced to play with regard to Spain, & said in the House that he would not tacitly acquiesce in such another invasion as that of the French at the risk of any war. They are introducing some amelioration in the state of the slaves in some parts of the West Indies--during the debate on the subject Canning paid a compliment to Frankenstein in a manner sufficiently pleasing to me. The town however is not full as yet, & the Winter is not begun--And although the Opera house is crowded I have not seen there any of the first Grandees. . . .


1. George Canning (1770-1827), a British statesman who was credited for his liberal policies while he served as Foreign Secretary, from 1822 to 1827. The Congress of Verona (October 1822) of the Quadruple Alliance gave France a mandate to suppress the Spanish revolution begun in 1820 [. . . .] On 31 August 1823 the revolutionaries were defeated, and Ferdinand VII was restored to the Spanish throne. Canning, however, had refused to cooperate with the other members of the Alliance in this action, and this led to the dissolution of the Alliance. Canning alluded to Frankenstein on 16 March 1824 (Great Britain, Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, 2nd ser., 10 [1824], col. 1103]).

[MWS to John Howard Payne, Sept. 27, 1825]

. . . I have also been for 10 days to Windsor [1]--where I rambled to my old haunts. Windsor--Eton &c is the only spot of English ground for which I have an affection. We were delighted each morning too by hearing the King's band practise for an hour & a half--the finest band in the world perhaps consisting of 44 wind instruments, whose effect is so much finer than those scraping strings--In sacred pieces they rose to the majesty of an organ--in lighter airs their delicate execution seemed the work of fayry powers. The grand disappointment was that I could not obtai[n] a sight of my liege Lord his Sacred Majesty--It was too provoking--I prepared my best curls & smiles & curtsey & walked up Each day to the castle with my companion vainly--The servants in waiting began to know us & one old fat footman commiserated our fate mightily when we asked for the last time whether his Majesty was expected & told him that it was our last chance--"I am quite sorry, ladies--I am sure his majesty would have been glad to see you--he is always glad to see & be seen by ladies."--What a flattering prospect--the while thus we fished the object of our angling was seated calmly in a boat fishing for less fish on Virginia Water. [2]


1. Mary Shelley visited Windsor area--where the Shelleys had lived from August 1815 through April 1816 [. . .]--to gather details; she used Windsor as the setting for The Last Man.

2. An artificial lake in Windsor Park, which covers about 160 acres.

[MWS to John Howard Payne, Jan. 28--(Feb. 7) 1826]

. . . In spring I know not why one fancies change must necessarily ensue--& one looks forward to it with a feeling of hope--Of themselves the breezes & fresh life is exhilirating--every one looks more cheerful & smiling--they congregate like swallows--it is {a} matter of wonder sometimes that our aristocrats leave their delightful country residences just at the time when they are most delightful to loose the bright May days in town pleasures--but I do not think I should like Paris s[o] well as London or exchange my pretty suburb for the neighbourhood of the Tuileries.

(feb. 7) I now her that William has got my book from Colburn[1]--& I hope to learn today that he has sent it to you. The curiosity ex{c}ited by the title frightens me, because of the disappointment that must of course follow. You can form no idea of the difficulty of the subject--the necessity of making the scene {general [deleted]} universal to all mankind and of combining this with a particular interest which must constitute the novel--If I had at the commencement fore seen the excessive trouble & then (much worse) the state of imperfection in which partly for want of time I was obliged to leave it--I should never have had the courage to begin. . . .


1. Godwin, Journal, records that The Last Man was published on 23 January 1826.