Few families enjoy such a remarkable reputation for their contribution to the literature and intellectual life of Britain as the Godwins and the Shelleys. The Bodleian online exhibition 'Shelley's Ghost: Reshaping the Image of a Literary Family' explores how the reputation of this great literary family was shaped by the selective release of documents and manuscripts into the public domain. It also provides a fascinating insight into the real lives of a family that was blessed with genius but marred by tragedy.'
Mary Shelley - Journal of Sorrow
Part of the Shelley's Ghost Exhibition. In the months immediately following Shelley's death Mary lived at Albaro on the outskirts of Genoa. Her only regular companions were her young son, Percy Florence, and the journal she began on 2 October 1822. To this 'Journal of Sorrow' she confided her innermost thoughts: 'White paper - wilt thou be my confident? I will trust thee fully, for none shall see what I write.' To be sure, Mary would not have shared the entries she wrote immediately after Shelley's death, in which her remorse and despair sometimes approached hysteria. But she left no instructions for the 'Journal of Sorrow' to be destroyed after her death, and was perhaps reconciled to the idea that this, and her other journals, would eventually be seen by other eyes. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
William Godwin- Letter to Mary Shelley
Part of the Shelley's Ghost Exhibition. This is the letter Godwin wrote to Mary after hearing of Shelley's death. Initially he seems more sorry for himself than for his daughter, complaining of her failure to write to him, but he then talks hopefully of their reconciliation. He and Mary had not seen each other for nearly four years, and for some time Shelley had intercepted Godwin's letters to Mary because, he said, their dismal contents distressed her. Now Godwin anticipates the removal of the obstacles between himself and Mary: she was no longer married to a member of the landed gentry, 'one of the daughters of prosperity', and was back on the same social level as himself, 'an unfortunate old man and a beggar'; he will be able to help with her affairs, and perhaps act as her lawyer; and she will, he assumes, leave Italy and return to England. Mary's reply has not survived (none of her letters to her father have), but on her return to England she would indeed re-establish her relationship with Godwin, to whom she had always been devoted. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Percy Bysshe Shelley - Letter to Mary Shelley
Part of the Shelley's Ghost Exhibition. 'Everybody is in despair and every thing in confusion' writes Shelley in his last letter to Mary. He was in Pisa to discuss a new journal, The Liberal, with Leigh Hunt and Lord Byron. Shelley had been delayed there by Hunt's personal situation (his wife Marianne had been told she did not have long to live) and by Byron's complicated affairs. He hints that Edward Williams might sail back to the Villa Magni ahead of him. Hurriedly concluding the letter, Shelley hopes that Mary was reconciled to staying at the Villa Magni, where he had never been happier, but where she had been ill and wretchedly depressed. In a PS he tells her that he has found the manuscript of his translation Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Percy Bysshe Shelley - Adonais. An Elegy on the Death of John Keats
Part of the Shelley's Ghost Exhibition. This great elegy was prompted by the news of the death of John Keats in Rome, and by Shelley's belief that Keats's illness was caused by the hostile notices his work had been given in the Quarterly Review. Shelley had the poem printed in Pisa under his own supervision, thereby ensuring its speedy appearance and its textual accuracy. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Percy Bysshe Shelley - Opening lines of 'The Triumph of Life'
Part of the Shelley's Ghost Exhibition. Shelley worked on 'The Triumph of Life', a dark and visionary poem, while living at the Villa Magni. At the time of his death it was still in a very incomplete state but despite this it is generally considered one of his major poetic achievements. Life is envisioned as a remorseless triumphal procession: a chariot is driven blindly through a madly dancing crowd, taking with it 'a captive multitude ... all those who had grown old in power, Or misery'. 'The Triumph of Life' caused Shelley considerable trouble. Most of the manuscript is heavily revised, and the page shown here is his fourth attempt at the opening lines. He wrote in terza rima, an Italian verse form used by Dante in the Divine Comedy, and by Petrarch in his Trionfi (Triumphs). Both these poems were sources for 'The Triumph of Life', but the triple rhyme scheme of terza rima is exceedingly difficult to sustain in English. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Percy Bysshe Shelley - Dedication fair copy of 'With a guitar. To Jane'
Part of the Shelley's Ghost Exhibition. Shelley presented this light-hearted poem, copied out in his best hand, with the guitar he gave to Jane Williams in 1822. Taking his cue, perhaps, from the Shakespearean Christian name of the guitar's maker, Ferdinando, he casts himself and the Williamses as characters from The Tempest: they are the lovers Miranda and Ferdinand, he is Ariel, the spirit of fire and air. The wood of the guitar is from a tree that 'Died in sleep, and felt no pain, To live in happier form again'. Only the most skilful hands can release the harmonies of nature preserved in the instrument, and 'It keeps its highest holiest tone / For our beloved Jane alone'. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/