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.
It would, nevertheless, be many years before the journals were published in their full form. Lady Shelley included very carefully edited excerpts of them in the privately printed Shelley and Mary, casting a particularly strong editorial hand over the 'Journal of Sorrow'. All published versions of the journals thereafter were derived largely from her Shelley and Mary text until 1987, when a new edition was published directly from the journals, which had been deposited in the Bodleian by the 8th Baron Abinger in 1974.
The Journal of Sorrow –
But for my Child it could not
End too soon.
October 2 – 1822. Genoa September – 18
On the Eighth of July I finished my journal. This is a curious coincidence – The date still remains, the fatal 8th – a monument to shew that all ended then. And I begin again? – oh. never! But several motives induce me, when the day has gone down, and all is silent around me, steeped in sleep, to pen, as occasion wills, my reflexions & feelings. First; I have now no friend. For eight years my soul I communicated with unlimited freedom with one/ whose genius, far transcending mine, awakened & guided my thoughts; I conversed with him; rectified my errors of judgement, obtained new lights from him, & my mind was satisfied. Now I am alone! Oh, how alone! The stars may behold my tears, & the winds drink my sighs – but my thoughts are a sealed treasure which I can confide to none. White paper – wilt thou be my confident?
Mary Shelley; (bequest, 1851) Sir Percy and Lady Shelley; (bequest, 1889) 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.