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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. X. 1819-1824
Percy Bysshe Shelley to Mary Jane Godwin, 29 May 1822

Contents Vol. I
Ch. I. 1756-1785
Ch. II. 1785-1788
Ch. III. 1788-1792
Ch. IV. 1793
Ch. V. 1783-1794
Ch. VI. 1794-1796
Ch. VII. 1759-1791
Ch. VII. 1791-1796
Ch. IX. 1797
Ch. X. 1797
Ch. XI. 1798
Ch. XII. 1799
Ch. XIII. 1800
Contents Vol. II
Ch. I. 1800
Ch. II. 1800
Ch. III. 1800
Ch. IV. 1801-1803
Ch. V. 1802-1803
Ch. VI. 1804-1806
Ch. VII. 1806-1811
Ch. VIII. 1811-1814
Ch. IX. 1812-1819
Ch. X. 1819-1824
Ch. XI. 1824-1832
Ch. XII. 1832-1836
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Lerici, May 29, 1822.

Dear Madam,—Mrs Mason [Lady Mountcashel] has sent me an extract from your last letter to show to Mary, and I have received that of Mr Godwin, in which he mentions your having left Skinner Street. In Mary’s present state of health and spirits, much caution is requisite with regard to communications which must agitate her in the highest degree, and the object of my present letter is simply to inform you that I have thought right to exercise this caution on the present occasion.


Mary is at present about three months advanced in pregnancy, and the irritability and languor which accompany this state are always distressing and sometimes alarming: I do not know how soon I can permit her to receive such communication, or how soon you and Mr Godwin would wish they should be conveyed to her, if you could have any idea of the effect. Do not, however, let me be misunderstood. It is not my intention or my wish that the circumstances in which your family is involved should be concealed from her, but that the details should be suspended until they assume a more prosperous character, or at least the letters addressed to her or intended for her perusal on that subject, should not convey a supposition that she could do more than she does, thus exasperating the sympathy which she already feels too intensely, for her father’s distress, which she would sacrifice all she possesses to remedy, but the remedy of which is beyond her power. She imagined that her novel might be turned to immediate advantage for him; I am greatly interested in the fate of this production, which appears to me to possess a high degree of merit, and I regret that it is not Mr Godwin’s intention to publish it immediately. I am sure that Mary would be delighted to amend anything that her father thought imperfect in it, though I confess that if his objections relate to the character of Beatrice, I shall lament the deference which would be shown by the sacrifice of any portion of it to feelings and ideas which are but for a day. I wish Mr Godwin would write to her on that subject, and he might advert to the letter, for it is only the last one which I have suppressed, or not, as he thought proper.

“I have written to Mr Smith to solicit the loan of £400, which, if I can obtain it in that manner, is very much at Mr Godwin’s service. The views which I now entertain of my affairs forbid me to enter into any further reversionary transactions, nor do I think Mr Godwin would be a gainer by the contrary determination, as it would be next to impossible to effect any such bargain at this distance. Nor could I burthen my income, which is barely sufficient to meet its various claims, and the system of life in which it seems necessary that I should live.


“We hear you have Jane’s news from Mrs Mason. Since the late melancholy event (the death of Allegra) she has become far more tranquil, nor should I have anything to desire with regard to her, did not the uncertainty of my own life and prospects render it prudent for her to attempt to establish some sort of independence as a security against an event which would deprive her of that which she at present enjoys. She is well in health, and usually resides in Florence, where she has formed a little society for herself among the Italians, with whom she is a great favourite. She was here for a week or two, and though she has now returned to Florence, we expect her soon to visit us for the summer months. In the winter, unless some of her various plans succeed, for she may be called la fille aux mille projéts, she will return to Florence.

Mr Godwin may depend on receiving immediate notice of the result of my application to Mr Smith. I hope to hear soon an account of your situation and prospects, and remain, dear Madam, yours very sincerely,

P. B. Shelley.”