Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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Sussex Poets.                                 247
The expulsion from Oxford, and, as a consequence, from his own home, where he was beloved by mother, sisters, servants—all except his father—led to another misfortune. His sisters, in sending to him such assistance as they could save from their own school allowance, chose for their agent one of their school-fellows, named Harriet Westbrook, whose parents lived in London. She was a beautiful girl, and the occasions which led her to Shelley's lodgings did not diminish her attractions in his eyes. He became a visitor to her father's house; an attachment naturally sprang up; and the result was, that, before he was 20 years of age, Shelley was married, and to a girl of 16, whose principal charm seems to have lain in her personal beauty. Previous to this step he had, however, come to an arrangement with his father as to the settlement of the family property, by virtue of which he was to receive an allowance of jf£oo a year; and on this the young couple lived for some years, until the growing differ­ences of their character, aggravated by the presence in their little household of an elder sister, led to a separation by mutual consent. Previous to this the young poet (for Shelley had now, after writing several minor poetical pieces and some prose works of fiction, of little merit and which have perished, composed, at the age of 18, his " Queen Mab,") had made the acquaintance of Godwin, the author of "Political Justice" and " Caleb Williams," who was, in fact, to that day what John Stuart Mill was to a later one—and this led, after his separation from his wife and her death by suicide (from causes unconnected with her husband), to his marriage with Godwin's only daughter, Mary Woolstonecraft. When Shelley first disclosed his feelings to her, Mary Godwin was only sixteen years of age, and the scene is thus described in the " Memorials " published by the Shelley family and edited by Lady Shelley (the wife of the poet's son), which are the only trustworthy records of his career, and from which we take our facts:—
" To her—Mary Godwin—as they met one eventful day in St. Pancras Churchyard, by her mother's grave, Bysshe, in burning words, poured
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