Lay for the Day 30th
Mary Godwin is born in London, the daughter of William Godwin and Mary
Wollstonecraft, two of Englands most renowned radical intellectuals,
who had fallen in love just over a year before. Her mother died 11 days
after the girls birth, and she was raised by her father, and later
by an unsympathetic stepmother.
had no formal education, but her home was full of books and talk. When
she was eight years old she hid under the parlour sofa with her stepsister
Jane to hear Coleridge recite the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Her first book, a poem called Mounseer Nongtongpaw, or The Discoveries
of John Bull in a Trip to Paris was published by her fathers
Juvenile Library imprint when she was 11. (The title is Anglo-mangled
French: monsieur nentend pas, sir doesnt understand.)
met the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, along with his wife Harriet, when she
was 15 and he 20. Two years later, on 28th July 1814, they ran away to
France. Stepsister Jane, who had been their chaperone that summer when
they were walking out and falling in love, came with them.
and Percy Shelley lived eight years together, marked by the births of
four children and the deaths of three, the suicides of the poets
first wife and of Marys younger half-sister, and by the publication
of Marys novel Frankenstein. After Percy drowned in a storm
at sea on 8th July 1822, she committed herself
to immortalising her husbands memory, and her comprehensive edition
of his poems in 1839, with biographical annotations, established his preeminence
as the most romantic of the English Romantics.
May 1824, a month after their close friend Lord Byron died, she wrote
in her journal: At the age of twenty-six I am in the condition of
an aged person all my old friends are gone
& my heart fails
when I think by how few ties I hold to the world
from the 1841 portrait by Rothwell in the National Portrait Gallery
Autumn came without gentleness,
One night stripping prospective gold
Off the branches, branches
From the trees and trees from earth.
Few, yet mostly green, the decimated leaves
Shine and play in the strong sun
And the urban birds, that dont know resignation,
Have unseasonably naked homes.
The fade to glory that I thought
the lovers fate;
This weather fears me,
A single fury may pre-empt.
If one blow should empty our arms
And all the strewn leaves rot
Perch in my heart still to sing our distress.
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