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Lerici. He is now without instructions, moody and 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 has been made and arrived with no other remnant of his £400 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 and 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 Judgment" for the first number. This offer, if sincere, is more than enough to set up the journal, and, if sincere, will set everything right.
How are you, my best Mary ? Write especially how is your health and how your spirits are, and whether you are not more reconciled to staying at Lerici, at least during the summer.
You have no idea how I am hurried and occupied ; I have not a moment's leisure, but will write by next post. Ever, dearest Mary, Yours affectionately,
S. I have found the translation of the “Symposium.”
The following is Mrs. Shelley's account of Shelley's last voyage : “ The heats set in, in the middle of June; the days became excessively hot, but the sea breeze cooled the air at noon, and extreme heat always put Shelley in spirits : a long drought had preceded the heat, and prayers for rain were being put up in the churches, and processions of relics for the same effect took place in every town. At this time we received letters announcing the arrival of Leigh Hunt at Pisa. Shelley was very eager to see him. I was confined to my room by severe illness, and could not move ; it was agreed that Shelley and Williams should go to Leghorn in the boat. Strange that no fear of danger crossed our minds ! Living on the sea-shore, the ocean became as a plaything : as a child may sport with a lighted stick, till a spark inflames a forest and spreads destruction over all, so did we fearlessly and blindly tamper with danger, and make a game of the terrors of the ocean. Our Italian neighbours even trusted themselves as far as Massa in the skiff ; and the running down the line of coast to Leghorn, gave no more notion of peril than 1822
The Last Voyage
a fair-weather island navigation would have done to those who had never seen the sea. Once, some months before, Trelawny had raised a warning voice as to the difference of our calm bay, and the open sea beyond ; but Shelley and his friend, with their one sailor boy, thought themselves a match for the storms of the Mediterranean, in a boat which they looked upon as equal to all it was put to do.
On the 1st of July they left us. If ever shadow of future ill darkened the present hour, such was over my mind when they went.(1) During the whole of our stay at Lerici, an intense presentiment of coming evil brooded over my mind, and covered this beautiful place, and genial summer, with the shadow of coming misery-I had vainly struggled with these emotions—they seemed accounted for by my illness, but at this hour of separation they recurred with renewed violence. I did not anticipate danger for them, but a vague expectation of evil shook me to agony, and I could scarcely bring myself to let them go. The day was calm and clear, and a fine breeze rising at twelve they weighed for Leghorn; they made the run of about fifty miles in seven hours and a half : the Bolivar was in port, and the regulations of the health-office not permitting them to go on shore after sunset, they borrowed cushions from the larger vessel, and slept on board their boat.
They spent a week at Pisa and Leghorn. The want of rain was severely felt in the country. The weather continued sultry and fine. I have heard that Shelley all this time was in brilliant spirits. Not long before, talking of presentiment, he had said the only one that he ever found infallible, was the certain advent of some evil fortune when he felt peculiarly joyous. Yet if ever fate whispered of coming disaster, such inaudible, but not unfelt, prognostics hovered around
The beauty of the place seemed unearthly in its excess : the distance we were at from all signs of civilisation, the sea at our feet, its murmurs or its roaring for ever in our ears,-all these things led
(1) Captain Roberts watched the vessel with his glass from the top of the lighthouse of Leghorn, on its homeward track. They were off Via Reggio, at some distance from shore, when a storm was driven over the sea. It enveloped them and several larger vessels in darkness. When the cloud passed onward, Roberts looked again, and saw every other vessel sailing on the ocean except their little schooner, which had vanished. From that time he could scarcely doubt the fatal truth; yet we fancied that they might have been driven towards Elba, or Corsica, and so be saved. The observation made as to the spot where the boat disappeared, caused it to be found, through the exertions of Trelawny for that effect. It had gone down in ten fathom water ; it had not capsized, and, except such things as had floated from her, everything was found on board exactly as it had been placed when they sailed. The boat itself was uninjured. Roberts possessed himself of her, and decked her, but she proved not sea-worthy, and her shattered planks now lie rotting on the shore of one of the Ionian islands, on which she was wrecked.
the mind to brood over strange thoughts, and, lifting it from everyday life, caused it to be familiar with the unreal. A sort of spell surrounded us, and each day, as the voyagers did not return, we grew restless and disquieted, and yet, strange to say, we were not fearful of the most apparent danger.
The spell snapped, it was all over; an interval of agonising doubt ---of days passed in miserable journeys to gain tidings, of hopes that took firmer root, even as they were more baseless—were changed to the certainty of the death that eclipsed all happiness for the survivors for evermore.
There was something in our fate peculiarly harrowing. The remains of those we lost were cast on shore; but by the quarantine laws of the coast, we were not permitted to have possession of them the laws, with respect to everything cast on land by the sea, being, that such should be burned, to prevent the possibility of any remnant bringing the plague into Italy; and no representation could alter the law. At length, through the kind and unwearied exertions of Mr. Dawkins, our Chargé d'Affaires at Florence, we gained permission to receive the ashes after the bodies were consumed. Nothing could equal the zeal of Trelawny in carrying our wishes into effect.
He was indefatigable in his exertions, and full of forethought and sagacity in his arrangements. It was a fearful task : he stood before us at last, his hands scorched and blistered by the flames of the funeral pyre, and by touching the burnt relics as he placed them in the receptacles prepared for the purpose. And there, in compass of that small case, was gathered all that remained on earth of him whose genius and virtue were a crown of glory to the world—whose love had been the source of happiness, peace, and good,—to be buried with him!
The concluding stanzas of the Adonais pointed out where the remains ought to be deposited ; in addition to which our beloved child lay buried in the cemetery at Rome. Thither Shelley's ashes were conveyed, and they rest beneath one of the antique weed-grown towers that recur at intervals in the circuit of the massy ancient wall of Rome. .. He selected the hallowed place himself; there is the
Have pitched in Heaven's smile their camp of death,
Trelawny, who is our chief authority for the particulars of Shelley's last days, tells us in his “ Recollections " that when two bodies were found on the shore, one of them, cast up near Via Reggio on July 18, was identified as that of Shelley by the “ tall, slight figure, the 1822
volume of Sophocles in one pocket, and Keats's poems [' Lania,' etc.) in the other, doubled back as if the reader, in the act of reading, had hastily thrust it away." The other body, found on July 17, three miles from Shelley's, and in a much more mutilated condition, was recognised from the clothes to be that of Shelley's comrade, Williams. Three weeks later, a third body, a mere skeleton, was found, which, although unrecognisable, was supposed to be that of the sailor-boy, Charles Vivian. The bodies were buried in the sand, but it was decided that the remains of Shelley should be removed to Rome and interred in the Protestant Cemetery beside his child, and that Williams's should be conveyed to England.
To do this,” says Trelawny,“ in their then far-advanced state of decomposition, and to obviate the difficulties offered by the quarantine laws, the ancient custom of burning and reducing the bodies to ashes was suggested.” Permission was therefore obtained for the removal of the bodies, from the Lucchese and Florentine governments by Mr. Dawkins, the English chargé d'affaires at Florence ; Trelawny had an iron furnace made at Leghorn, and on August 15, at noon, in the presence of Byron, Leigh Hunt, and Captain Shenley, and attended by some soldiers and the Health Officer, Williams's body was disinterred from the sand and placed in the furnace. "The funereal pyre was now ready,” he adds.
“I applied the fire, and the material being dry and resinous, the pine-wood burnt furiously, and drove us back. It was hot enough before, there was no breath of air, and the loose sand scorched our feet. As soon as the flames became clear, and allowed us to approach, we threw frankincense and salt into the furnace, and poured a flask of wine and oil over the body. The Greek oration was omitted, for we had lost our Hellenic bard.” When the body was reduced to ashes, these were collected and placed in a small oak box, bearing a brass inscription in Latin.
On the following day, August 15, Trelawny, Byron, Leigh Hunt, and the soldiers and Health Officer as before, repeated the ceremony for Shelley's body at Viareggio, some distance along the coast towards Massa. “ Three white wands had been stuck in the sand to mark the poet's grave,
The lonely and grand scenery that surrounded us so exactly harmonized with Shelley's genius, that I could imagine his spirit soaring above us. The sea, with the islands of Gorgona, Capraji, and Elba, was before us;
old battlemented watch-towers stretched along the coast, backed by the marble-crested Apennines glistening in the sun, picturesque from their diversified outlines, and not a human dwelling was in sight.' Nearly an hour was spent in digging before they came upon his body. Even Byron was silent and thoughtful. We were startled and drawn together by a dull hollow sound that followed the blow of a mattock; the iron had struck a skull, and the body was soon uncovered. Byron asked me to preserve the skull, but remembering that he had formerly used one as a drinking cup, I was determined Shelley's should not be so profaned.” The body was removed into the furnace. After the fire was well kindled . more wine was poured on Shelley's
dead body than he had consumed during his life. This with the oil and salt made the yellow flames glisten and quiver. The heat from the sun and fire was so intense that the atmosphere was tremulous and wavy.” Notwithstanding the great heat, Shelley's heart was not consumed, and Trelawny in snatching it from the fiery furnace burnt his hand severely. He gave this relic afterwards to Leigh Hunt, who later, but not without earnest entreaty, resigned it to Mary Shelley. After her death,'
says Prof. Dowden, “in a copy of the Pisa edition of ' Adonais,' at the page which tells how death is swallowed up in immortality, were found under a silken covering the embrowned ashes, now shrunk and withered, which she had secretly treasured.” The furnace having been cooled in the sea, Trelawny collected the ashes and placed them in a box, which he took on board Byron's boat, the Bolivar, and conveyed them to Leghorn. Not being able to go immediately to Rome, he consigned Shelley's ashes to the care of Mr. Freeborn, the English Consul at Rome, who, in order to quiet the authorities, enclosed the casket in a coffin, and interred it with the usual ceremonies in January, 1823, in the new cemetery, the old burial-ground adjoining it where William Shelley and Keats were buried, being closed. Among those present at the interment were General Cockburn, Sir C. Sykes, Joseph Severn, Seymour Kirkup; Westmacott, Scoles, Freeborn, and the Revs. W. Cook and Burgess. When Trelawny visited Rome in the spring of 1823, he found Shelley's grave among a cluster of others. The old Roman wall,” writes Trelawny, partly enclosed the place, and there is a niche in the wall formed by two buttresses—immediately under a pyramid, said to be the tomb of Caius Cestius. There were no graves near it at that time. This suited my taste, so I purchased the recess, and sufficient space for planting a row of the Italian upright cypresses." Here he had two graves built in the recess, and in one of which he deposited, in April, 1823, the ashes of Shelley. The grave was covered with a stone bearing the well-known Latin inscription by Leigh Hunt, the verses from “ The Tempest" being added by Trelawny
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY,
Obiit viii. Jul. MDCCCXXII.