Letter from Claire Clairmont to Byron on their daughter Allegra
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- The Young Shelley
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- Copy of the portrait of Shelley as a boy
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- 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
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- 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: The Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, New York Public Library
[4 May 1820]
In April 1818 Claire Clairmont allowed Allegra to be taken to Byron in Venice, on the understanding that she always be in the care of one or other of her parents. This draft letter was prompted by Byron’s refusal to allow Allegra to visit her mother, and by his intention to place her in a convent. ‘It is now 2 years since I have seen her’, Claire had written to him three days earlier, ‘she has outgrown my knowledge both in person & in mind & what interval would you place between her visits?’
The ostensible reason for Byron’s refusal was the distance that Allegra would have to travel, but he had fundamental objections to Allegra being a member of the Shelleys’ household which he expressed frankly in a letter to his friend John Hoppner: they were atheists; their vegetarian diet was too frugal; their own children had contracted mortal illnesses:
I can only say to Claire – that I so totally disapprove of the mode of Children’s treatment in their family – that I should look upon the Child as going into a hospital. – Is it not so? Have they reared one? … the Child shall not quit me again – to perish of Starvation, and green fruit – or be taught to believe that there is no Deity.
My dear friend,
I have received your’s letter
of the 27th under the date of 27th. of April. Whatever may have been the opinion of Monsieur Mr. or Mrs. Hoppner expressed towards of me to you,
I know nothing of the opinions of Mr. & Mrs. Hoppner concerning myself. to me they have constantly expressed their decided disapprobation that I allowed her to remain under your roof. It is to my partiality, to my obstinate determination to treat you with generous confidence that you owe the now being possessed of Allegra. To secure to her the
protection & favour affection of her father I have sacrifized myself entirely, but never was there any idea of a stipulation concerning her visits.
Such has been the whole tenour of my conduct f ever since her birth;
the clamours, the reproaches of my friends my object is, & ever h will be her happiness – But since nothing good can arise from an evil foundation I cannot think that you will be promoting this end by destroying her mother. I have perhaps told you spoken in terms too slighting that of my health is good; for my pride prevented my me from expatiating on a subject which I knew would be a joyful circumstance to you. but since I wish for rest, if it be only the respite of a month, I think it would do me good.
I was very glad to hear of her health which I had been given reason to suppose was bad;
I am shocked by the threats at the conclusion of your letter. I have said before, you
have it in your power to may destroy me, to torment me, but you cannot your power cannot extend eradicate in my bosom the feelings of nature, made stronger in me by oppression & solitude. I beg from you the indulgence of a visit from my child because that I am weaker every day & more miserable; I have already proved in ten thousand ways that I have so loved her as to have commanded may nay to have destroyed my own feelings such of my own feelings as would have been injurious to her welfare. You answer my request by menacing if I do not resolve to be destroyed in [ ] without even a prayer continue to suffer in silence, that you will inflict the greatest of all evils on my child. You threaten to put her in a convent where I cannot have access to her untill she be 16; to deprive her thus of all domestic affections, & to disgrace her destroy every seed of virtue that she may have. to make her the believer of that most pernicious the Catholic faith contrary to the enlightened one she was born in. & to bannish her for-ever from her native land my making her land by making her unworthy of inhabiting it. But [ ] I will This calls to your our remembrance the story of the in the Bible where Solomon adjudges between the two women; the false mother parent was willing it should the child should be divided but the na feelings of the real one a f made her consent to any deprivation rather than allow so great her child should be destroyed. so w I am willing to undergo any affliction rather than her whole life should be spoilt by a convent education. You say that "I shall see her the first careful opportunity as much as I please,"
I say little concerning your observation on the stipulations about my seeing my Allegra. If there had been any made it is probable that four months after their contract you would have allowed me what you now deny viz. a visit of
2 between or & three months, from which she returned with a very rosy colour & good health.
I have also to mention that
the remarks you are in the wrong when you impute neglect to Mary’s method of managing as the cause of her Mary's losing her children. Such beautiful creatures w seldom live, & they inherit from their parents both extremely delicate complaints which I grieve to think may render it difficult that they should ever rear one. With regard to me I injured my health by my attentions to Allegra whom I nursed night & day wh the first year of her infancy, and she as your friend Hunt & also his wife well knew, for they were the only people I saw & used to & used to remonstrate with me.
You have a security in the strength of my affection for my daughter
will which is better than bonds & promises. I will always do, as I have hitherto done, every thing for her good; but in this case I see you trifling with my feelings which are acute after an absence of two years (interrupted by long periods of anxiety in which there was not to be found the human being who would give me notice of her well-being altho' I prayed for it with the greatest desire). You avoid my reasons with reproaches of neglect gathered (as I guess from hints I have received) from the gossipings of a servant from whom we roused by not allowing him to cheat us corrected for his roguery & whom we wd not expose out of delicacy for you.
The Clairmont Correspondence, i, 146-8; L. Marchand (ed.), Byron’s Letters and Journals, vii (London: 1977), p. 80.