82 THE PERFECT WIFE chap.
woods. Three hundred and more years ago Patching Copse was the scene of a treasonable meeting between William Shelley, an ancestor of the poet, one branch of whose family long held Michelgrove (where Henry VIII. was entertained by our plotter's grandfather), and Charles Paget: sturdy Roman Catholics both, who thus sought each other out, on the night of September 16, 1583, to confer as to the possibility of invading England, deposing Elizabeth, and setting Mary Queen of Scots upon the throne. Nothing came of the plot save the imprisonment of Shelley (who was condemned to death but escaped the sentence) and the flight of Paget, to hatch further treason abroad.
The last Shelley to hold Michelgrove, now no more, was Sir John, who, after it had been in the family for three hundred and fifty years, sold it in 1800. This was the Sir John Shelley who composed the following epitaph in Clapham church (one of Sir Gilbert Scott's restorations) to commemorate the very remarkable virtues of his lady—untimely snatched from his side :—
Here Lyeth the Body of Wilhelmina Shelley
who departed this Life the 21st of March 1772
Aged Twenty three years.
She was a pattern for the World to follow :
Such a being both in form and mind perhaps never existed before.
A most dutiful, affectionate, and Virtuous Wife,
A most tender and Anxious parent,
A most sincere and constant Friend,
A most amiable and elegant companion ;
Universally Benevolent, generous, and humane ;
The Pride of her own Sex,
The admiration of ours.
She lived universally belov'd, and admir'd
She died as generally rever'd, and regretted,
A loss felt by all who had the happiness of knowing Her,
By none to be compar'd to that of her disconsolate, affectionate, Loving,
& in this World everlastingly Miserable Husband,
Sir JOHN SHELLEY,
Who has caused this inscription to be Engrav'd.