As the poet’s daughter-in-law, Lady Shelley was in no doubt that it was her responsibility, and hers alone, to memorialize Shelley in a fitting manner. But she could not stop other Shelley devotees, often very knowledgeable but not part of the family circle, from pursuing their own ideas. Just as she had decided on Oxford as the best home for her statue of Shelley, she received this letter from Italy suggesting that the most suitable place for it was Viareggio, ‘on the fatal spot where the body was discovered’.
A bronze statue of the poet, by Urbano Lucchesi, was unveiled at Viareggio in 1894, in what is now Piazza Shelley.
The writer of this letter, Guido Biagi (1855-1925), was Chief Librarian of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, and a keen student of Shelley’s final months. As part of his investigation into Shelley’s death he went to Viareggio, where he examined official documents and interviewed those who, as children, had witnessed the poet’s cremation on the beach in August 1822. The article to which he alludes in this letter was published in Harper’s Magazine in April 1892. It was followed later that year by a full-length book, Gli Ultimi Giorni Di P. B. Shelley: Con Nuovi Documenti. An English version was published in 1898.
Lady Shelley; (bequest, 1899) Shelley Scarlett (later 5th Baron Abinger) and/or Robert Scarlett (later 6th Baron Abinger); (bequest, 1917) Robert Scarlett, 6th Baron Abinger; (bequest, 1927) Hugh Scarlett, 7th Baron Abinger; (bequest, 1943) James Scarlett, 8th Baron Abinger; (bequest, 2002) James Scarlett, 9th Baron Abinger; (purchase, 2004) Bodleian.