‘Every body is in despair & every thing in confusion’ writes Shelley in his last letter to Mary. He was in Pisa to discuss a new journal, The Liberal, with Leigh Hunt and Lord Byron, and had been delayed there by Hunt’s personal situation (his wife Marianne had been told she did not have long to live) and by Byron’s complicated affairs. He hints that Edward Williams might sail back to the Villa Magni ahead of him.
Hurriedly concluding the letter, Shelley hopes that Mary was reconciled to staying at the Villa Magni, where he had never been happier, but where she had been ill and wretchedly depressed. In a PS he tells her that he has found the manuscript of his translation of Plato’s Symposium, which had been missing for over a year.
Pisa, July 1822.
My dearest Mary
I have recieved both your letters, & shall attend to the instructions they convey. – I did not think of buying the Bolivar; Lord B. wishes to sell her, but I imagine would prefer ready money; I have as yet made no inquiries about Houses near Pugnano – I have no moment of time to spare from Hunt’s affairs; I am detained unwillingly here; and you will probably see Williams in the boat before me; – but that will be decided tomorrow. – – – – – Things are in the worst possible situation with respect to poor Hunt. I find Marianne in a desperate state of health, & on our arrival at Pisa sent for Vaccà – He decides that her case is hopeless, & that although it will be lingering must inevitably end fatally. – This decision he thought proper to communicate to Hunt, – indicating at the same time, with great judgement & precision, the treatment necessary to be observed for availing himself of the chance of his being decieved. This intelligence has extinguished the last spark of poor Hunt’s spirits, low enough before – the children are well & much improved. – Lord Byron is at this moment on the point of leaving Tuscany. The Gambas have been exiled, & he declares his intention of following their fortunes. His first idea was to sail to America, which was changed to Switzerland, then to Genoa, & at last to Lucca.– Every body is in despair & every thing in confusion. Trelawny was on the point of sailing to Genoa for the purpose of transporting the Bolivar overland to the lake of Geneva, & had already whispered in my ear his desire that I should not influence Lord Byron against this terrestrial navigation. – He next received orders to weigh anchor & set sail for Lerici. He is now without instructions moody & disappointed. But it is the worst for poor Hunt, unless the present storm should blow over. He places his whole dependence upon this scheme of a Journal, for which every arrangement had been mad[e] & arri[ved] with no other remnant of his £4 than a debt of 60 crowns. – Lord Byron must of course furnish the requisite funds at present, as I cannot; but he seems inclined to depart without the necessary explanations & arrangements due to such a situation as Hunt's. These in spite of delicacy I must procure; he offers him the copyright of the Vision of Judgement for his first number. This offer if sincere is more than enough to set up the Journal, & if sincere will set every thing right. –
How are you my best Mary? Write especially how is your health & how your spirits are, & whether you are not more reconciled to staying at Lerici at least during the summer.
You have no idea how I am hurried & occupied – I have not a moments leisure – but will write by next post – Ever dearest Mary
I have found the translation of the Symposium.
Mary Shelley; (bequest, 1851) Sir Percy and Lady Shelley; (bequest, 1889) Lady Shelley; (gift, 1893) Bodleian.