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XX. LAST DAYS
469. TO LEIGH HUNT
June 19, 1822. MY DEAREST FRIEND,
I write to you on the chance that you may not have left Genoa before my letter can reach you.
Your letter was sent to Pisa, and thence forwarded here, or I should probably have ventured to meet you at Genoa ; but the chances are now so much diminished of finding you, that I will not run the risk of the delay of seeing you that would be caused by our missing each other on the way. I shall therefore set off for Leghorn the moment that I hear you have sailed.—We now inhabit a white house, with arches, near the town of Lerici, in the gulf of Spezzia. The Williamses are with us. Williams is one of the best fellows in the world ; and Jane his wife a most delightful person, whom we all agree is the exact antitype of the lady I described in "The Sensitive Plant," though this must have been a pure anticipated cognition, as it was written a year before I knew her.
I wish you need not pass Lerici, which I fear you will do; cast your eye on the white house, and think of us.
A thousand welcomes, my best friend, to this divine country ; high mountains and seas no longer divide those whose affections are united. We have much to think of and talk of when we meet at Leghorn ; but the final
1 Mrs. Mason (Lady Mountcashell) was portrayed in this poem.
the lady originally
result of our plans will be peace to you, and to me a greater degree of consolation than has been permitted since we met. My best love to Marianne, whose illness will soon disappear with the causes of it. If any circumstance should make you stop at Lerici, imagine the delightful surprise. - Poor Mary who sends you a thousand loves has been seriously ill. She is still too unwell to rise from the sofa, and must take great care of herself for some time, or she would come with us to Leghorn. Lord Byron is in villeggiatura, near Leghorn; and you will meet besides with a Mr. Trelawny, a wild but kind-hearted seaman. Give me the earliest intelligence of your motions.
[P. B. SHELLEY].
470. To HORACE SMITH
June 29, 1822. MY DEAR SMITH,
I believe I have as much cause to be obliged to you by your refusal, as I should have been by your grant of the request contained in my last letter. I wrote in compliance with my engagement to do so and with some regret, as I have been long firmly persuaded that all the money advanced to Godwin so long as he stands engaged in business is absolutely thrown away. Your advice to him is excellent, and although I do not think that he will follow it of his own choice, there is every probability that circumstances will compel him to submit to some such measures as you recommend : and I have absolutely no funds to prevent that necessity nor the most remote intention of anticipating further upon a patrimony already too much diminished.
Pray thank Moore for his obliging message. I wish I could as easily convey my sense of his genius and character. I should have written to him on the subject of my late letter, but that I doubted how far I was justified in doing
“ Let us see the Truth "
so; although, indeed, Lord Byron made no secret of his communication to me. It seems to me that things have now arrived at such a crisis as requires every man plainly to utter his sentiments on the inefficacy of the existing religion, no less than political systems, for restraining and guiding mankind. Let us see the truth, whatever that may be. The destiny of man can scarcely be so degraded, that he was born only to die ; and if such should be the case, delusions, especially the gross and preposterous ones of the existing religion, can scarcely be supposed to exalt it. If every man said what he thought, it could not subsist a day. But all, more or less, subdue themselves to the element that surrounds them, and contribute to the evils they lament by the hypocrisy that springs from them.
England appears to be in a desperate condition, Ireland still worse ; and no class of those who subsist on the public labour will be persuaded that their claims on it must be diminished. But the government must content itself with less in taxes, the landholder must submit to receive less rent, and the fundholder a diminished interest, or they will all get nothing. I once thought to study these affairs, and write or act in them. I am glad that my good genius said, refrain-I see little public virtue, and I foresee that the contest will be one of blood and gold, two elements which however much to my taste in my pockets and my veins, I have an objection to out of them.
Lord Byron continues at Leghorn, and has just received from Genoa a most beautiful little yacht, which he caused to be built there. He has written two new cantos of “ Don Juan," but I have not seen them. I have just received a letter from Hunt, who has arrived at Genoa. As soon as I hear that he has sailed, I shall weigh anchor in my little schooner, and give him chase to Leghorn, when I must occupy myself in some arrangements for him with Lord Byron. Between ourselves, I greatly fear that this alliance will not succeed ; for I, who could never have been regarded as more than the link of the two thunderbolts, cannot now consent to be even that; and how long the alliance may continue, I will not prophesy. Pray do not hint my doubts on the subject to any one, or they might do harm to Hunt; and they may be groundless.
I still inhabit this divine bay, reading Spanish dramas, and sailing, and listening to the most enchanting music. We have some friends on a visit to us, and my only regret is that the summer must ever pass, or that Mary has not the same predilection for this place that I have, which would induce me never to shift my quarters.
Farewell.—Believe me ever your obliged and affectionate friend,
P. B. SHELLEY.
471. TO JANE WILLIAMS
July 4, 1822. You will probably see Williams before I can disentangle myself from the affairs with which I am now surrounded. I return to Leghorn to-night, and shall urge him to sail with the first fair wind, without expecting me. I have thus the pleasure of contributing to your happiness when deprived of every other, and of leaving you no other subject of regret, but the absence of one scarcely worth regretting. I fear you are solitary and melancholy at Villa Magni, and, in the intervals of the greater and more serious distress in which I am compelled to sympathise here, I figure to myself the countenance which had been the source of such consolation to me, shadowed by a veil of sorrow.
How soon those hours passed, and how slowly they return to pass so soon again, perhaps for ever, in which we have lived together so intimately, so happily! Adieu, my dearest friend! I only write these lines for the pleasure of tracing what will meet your eyes. Mary will tell you all the news.
The Hunts' Misfortunes
472. TO MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY
July 4, 1822. MY DEAREST MARY,
I have received both your letters, and 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 to-morrow.
Things are in the worst possible situation with respect to poor Hunt. I find Marianne in a desperate state of health, and on our arrival at Pisa sent for Vaccà. He decides that her case is hopeless, and 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 judgment and precision, the treatment necessary to be observed for availing himself of the chance of his being deceived. This intelligence has extinguished the last spark of poor Hunt's spirits, low enough before. The children are all well and much improved.
Lord Byron is at this moment on the point of leaving Tuscany. The Gambas have been exiled, and he declares his intention of following their fortunes. His first idea was to sail to America, which has been changed for Switzerland, then to Genoa, and last to Lucca.-Everybody is in despair and everything in confusion. Trelawny was on the point of sailing to Genoa for the purpose of transporting the Bolivar overland to the lake of Geneva, and 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 and set sail for