Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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252                 Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
first of Shelley and then of Mr. Williams. The latter was nearly undressed, having evidently made an attempt to swim. Shelley had probably gone down at once, for he was unable to swim, and had always declared (according to Mr. Trelawny) that, in case of wreck, he would vanish instantly, and not im­peril others in the endeavour to save him. His right hand was clasped in his breast, and he appears to have been reading Keats's last volume of poems at the time of the catastrophe; as the book, doubled back, was found thrust away, seemingly in haste, into a side pocket. In another pocket was a volume of Sophocles. The copy of Keats had been lent to Shelley by Leigh Hunt, who told him to keep it till he could give it to him again with his own hands. As the lender would receive it from no one else, it was burnt with the body.
A great deal of unnecessary scandal was caused by the burning of the bodies on the sea-shore. It was, in fact, a police necessity. According to the Italian laws of that day, every thing cast by the sea on the shore had to be burned, to prevent the possible introduction of the plague. It was only through the influence of the English Consul at Florence that Mr. Trelawny was permitted to superintend the cremation and to convey the ashes of the deceased to their two widows. He discharged this painful duty with a devotion to which Mrs. Shelley does full justice. He himself collected the ashes in his scorched hands—(Leigh Hunt and Byron look­ing on from the latter's carriage)—and afterwards deposited them, where they now lie, in the Protestant burial-place at Rome, by the side of Shelley's own son, William, and of his brother-poet, Keats. To the two words "Cor Cordium" and a Latin inscription of the cause of death, &c, are added the lines from Shakspeare's Tempest (one of Shelley's favourite
plays)—
Nothing of him that doth fade But doth suffer a sea change Into something rich and strange.
Subsequent enquiries left no doubt that the boat had been
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