The Shelley Sanctum
Selected relics from Lady Shelley’s special room dedicated to Shelley and Mary
‘“Come up to my special room,” she said, “I want to show you my special relics, and you will know the spot then where I love to sit and where I spend all my time when I am alone.”’
Maud Rolleston, Talks with Lady Shelley (published 1925, remembering conversations held in late 1894)
The reverence, even idolatry, with which Shelley was regarded by members of his family and by his more fervent admirers extended to objects that once belonged to, or were associated with him. Lady Shelley’s great creation at the family home, Boscombe Manor, was the Shelley Sanctum, a small room with a domed ceiling painted with stars, and lit by a red lamp. Here the precious Shelley relics were displayed, many of which are included in the exhibition.
Over the mantelpiece hung the picture of Mary Shelley by Rothwell (now in the National Portrait Gallery). One visitor remembered an urn in which, Lady Shelley whispered, was kept the remains of Shelley’s heart. At the end of the sanctum stood a scale replica of the memorial Lady Shelley had commissioned from Henry Weekes, and installed in Christchurch Priory. Derived from Michelangelo's Pietá, it depicts Mary cradling the drowned Shelley in her arms.