On the same day that he wrote his last letter to Mary Shelley wrote briefly, but in a more reflective mood, to Jane Williams. As he thought of their life at the Villa Magni, his mood became sombre and nostalgic: ‘How soon those hours past, & how slowly they return to pass so soon again, & perhaps for ever, in which we have lived together so intimately so happily!’ Jane’s reply, written two days before Shelley and Williams set out on their fatal voyage home, has a sense of foreboding.
My dearest friend
Your few melancholy lines have indeed cast your own visionary veil over a countenance that was animated with the hope of seeing you return with far different tidings. We heard yesterday that you had left Leghorn, in company with the Bolivar and would assuredly be here in the morning; at five o’clock therefore I got up; and from the terrace saw (or I dreamt it) the Bolivar opposite in the offing – she hoisted more sail, and went thro’ the straits; what can this mean? hope, and uncertainty, have made such a chaos in my mind, that I know not what to think; my own Neddino does not deign to lighten my darkness by a single word: surely I shall see him tonight! perhaps too you are with him: well patienza! Mary I am happy to tell you goes on well; she talks of going to Pisa and indeed your poor friends seem to require all her assistance – for me, alas I can only offer sympathy and my fervent wishes that a brighter cloud may soon dispel the present gloom. I hope much from the air of Pisa for Mrs. Hunt.
Lord B's departure gives me pleasure; for whatever may be the present difficulties and disappointments, they are small, to what you would have suffered had he remained with you. This I say in the true spirit of prophecy so gather consolation from it. I have only time left to scrawl you a hasty adieu and am
J W –
Why do you talk of never enjoying moments like the past, are you going to join your friend Plato or do you expect I shall do so soon?
F.L. Jones (ed.), Maria Gisborne & Edward E. Williams, Shelley’s Friends: Their Journals and Letters (Norman, 1951), pp. 160-1.