Letter to Shelley and Mary from Mary's Step-sister Fanny Imlay
In this section:
- Shelley and Oxford
- Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin
- The Young Shelley
- Shelley and Mary
- Copy of the portrait of Shelley as a boy
- Portrait of Mary Shelley
- Early letter from Shelley to Godwin
- Shelley's and Mary's elopement journal
- Shelley and Mary, History of a Six Weeks’ Tour
- Journal of Mary Shelley's step-sister, Claire Clairmont
- Copy of a letter from Shelley to his first wife, Harriet
- Mary's earliest surviving letter to Shelley
- Letter to Shelley and Mary from Mary's Step-sister Fanny Imlay
- Letter from Godwin to Shelley following Fanny Imlay's suicide
- Shelley's jottings and doodlings
- Harriet Shelley's suicide letter
- Harriet Shelley’s engagement ring
- Harriet Shelley’s scarf holder
- Mary's journal entry on Harriet Shelley's suicide
- Shelley's letter to Mary on Harriet
- Copy of the best-known portrait of Shelley
- Mary's letter to friends on her son's final illness
- Godwin's draft letter to Mary after her son's death
- Portrait of Lord Byron
- Letter from Claire Clairmont to Byron on their daughter Allegra
- Letter from Byron to Shelley on his daughter Allegra
- Letter from Allegra to her father Lord Byron
- Letter from Shelley to Mary denying scandalous rumours
- Shelley's Notebooks
- Shelley’s Last Days
- Mary Shelley in England
- William Godwin & Mary Shelley
- Mary Shelley, Editor
- The Poet's Son & Daughter-in-Law
- The Shelley Sanctum
Credit: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
London, 29 May 1816
Fanny Imlay was Mary Wollstonecraft’s first daughter, from her liaison with Gilbert Imlay. After her mother’s death she was adopted by Godwin.
Fanny has written this letter in the unused space around a rather bad-tempered communication from Godwin to Shelley. It shows that her position in Godwin’s complicated household was a difficult one, particularly after Mary’s elopement with Shelley. She was devoted to Godwin (‘papa’) but had a less easy relationship with his second wife (‘Mamma’). She looked up to Shelley and Mary, and was keen for them to think well of her, but ‘Mamma’ had hurtfully claimed that she was no more than a source of amusement to them.
If Fanny was upset by present circumstances then she was, by contrast, encouraged by thoughts of the past. She had recently been visited by George Blood, the brother of Mary Wollstonecraft’s intimate friend Fanny Blood, who had told her more about her mother. The idea of Mary Wollstonecraft’s exemplary life lifted Fanny’s spirits: ‘this has in some degree roused me from my torpor – I have determined never to live to be a disgrace to such a mother’.
Tue .Wednesday May 29th. 1816
My Dear Mary & Shelley
Papa has given to me this space of paper to fill & seal. I received Mary’s letter on Monday morning. I can assure you it was very precious to me. France is in so strange a state that I could not feel easy for your
saff saftey till I heard that you had actually arrived. I feared that you would have found it very cold; in England it has been most dreadfully dreary & rainy; but you if have not suffered any permenant injury it will be an adventure to look back upon with pleasure.
I wrote you a long letter about a fortnight since which I hope you have by this time received. in it I told you that papa had come home quite well & quite a new man, he has been busy since to raise money but I do not chuse to interfere further than I am obliged by him. I never can understand these affairs, and therefore I can only do harm by mentioning them.
My feeling's and tone of
my mind have undergone a considerable revolution for the better since I last wrote to you. I have unexpectedly seen Mr Blood brother of Fanny Blood, my mother’s friend – Every thing he has told me of my mother has encreased my love and admiration of her memory, he has giv[en] me many particulars of the days of her youth; & [her] more mature life. George Blood seems to have lov[ed] and venerated her as a superior being; to have been most devotedly attatched to her memory ever since her death; and to have ventured to hope that her daughters were not unworthy of her. this has in some degree roused me from my torpor – I have determined never to live to be a disgrace to such a mother I have found that if I will endeavour to overcome my faults I shall find being's to love and esteem me. George Blood is not a man of superior intelect but has great warmth of feeling and great goodness of heart. the manner in which he has spoken of my mother has been a great balm to my heart, & has endeared him much to me; he had not been in London for 26 years and our mother then bid him adieu at the coach door. he also met her at Lisbon at the time of Fanny Bloods death. I have not room or time to tell you more particulars – I will write, and tell Shelley when I see him every thing – I believe however that I shall go to Ireland instead of to France at least for a short time. Mary gave a great deal of pain the day I parted from you; believe my dear friend's that my attatchment to you has grown out of your individual worth, and talents, & perhaps also because I found the world deserted you I loved you the more. What ever faults I may have I am not sordid or vulgar. I love you for your selves alone I endeavour to be as frank to you as possible that you may understand my real character I understand from Mamma that I am your laughing stock – and the constant beacon of your riposte satire I am very glad to hear that little William is so much improved Kiss him again & again for me. I hope that there is a letter upon the road for me ere this. I wish papa had not begun this letter it is so cold when I can assure you he speaks of you with great kindness & interest. I hope the day will not be long ere you are reconciled – – I have been obliged to write in great haste remember me to Jane & believe me your affectionately attached friend Fanny –
Percy Bysshe Shelley; (1822, or later recovered) Mary Shelley; (bequest, 1851) Sir Percy and Lady Shelley; (bequest, 1889) Lady Shelley; (gift, 1893) Bodleian.
Shelley’s Guitar, no. 54; The Clairmont Correspondence, i, 48-51.