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Posts Tagged ‘Percy Bysshe Shelley’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.

James Watson (Radical)
21 September 1799 – 29 November 1874

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James Watson

James Watson was born at Malton, North Yorkshire. His father died when he was only a year old. His mother, who was a Sunday school teacher, taught him to read and write. Around the year of 1811, she returned to domestic service in the household of a clergyman, who had paid for James’s schooling and tuitions for a brief period. He had worked there as under-gardener, in the stables and as house-servant, and he read widely. From about 1817 Watson was with his mother in Leeds, where he became a warehouseman.

Watson was converted to freethought and radicalism by public readings from William Cobbett and Richard Carlile. He spread literature and helped with a subscription on behalf of Carlile. Carlile was sentenced in 1821 to three years’ imprisonment for blasphemy, and Watson went up to London in September 1822 to serve as a volunteer assistant in his Water Lane bookshop. In January 1823 Carlile’s wife, having completed her own term of imprisonment, took a new shop at 201 Strand, and Watson moved there as a salesman; salesman after salesman was arrested. In February 1823 Watson was charged with selling a copy of Elihu Palmer’s Principles of Nature to a police agent, spoke in his own defence, and was sent to Coldbath Fields Prison for a year.

In prison he read David Hume, Edward Gibbon, and Johann Lorenz von Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History, and developed his anti-Christian and republican opinions. In 1825 he trained as a compositor, and was employed in printing Carlile’s The Republican; and went into business on his own. He was in poverty at times, and in 1826 caught cholera. Recovering, he became an Owenite, and in 1828 he was storekeeper of the “First Co-operative Trading Association” in London, in Red Lion Square.

In 1831 Watson set up as a printer and publisher. He became a champion of the right to free expression of opinion. Julian Hibbert, an admirer, died in January 1834 and left him a legacy, with which Watson enlarged his printing plant. He started by printing the life and works of Tom Paine, and these volumes were followed by Mirabaud’s System of Nature and Volney’s Ruins. Later he printed Lord Byron’s Cain and The Vision of Judgment, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Queen Mab and The Masque of Anarchy, and Clark on the Miracles of Christ. These book were printed, corrected, folded, and sewed by Watson himself, and issued at one shilling or less per volume. He cared for the appearance of his books, on which he lost money.

In 1832 Watson was arrested, but escaped imprisonment, for organising a procession and a feast on the day the government had ordained a “general fast” on account of the cholera epidemic. In February 1833 he was summoned at Bow Street for selling Henry Hetherington’s Poor Man’s Guardian, and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment at Clerkenwell. His shop was near Bunhill Fields; he then moved first to City Road, and in 1843 to 5 Paul’s Alley.

He married Eleanor Byerley, on 3 June 1834, and two months later was arrested and imprisoned for six months for having circulated Hetherington’s unstamped paper, ironically entitled The Conservative. He had come under the observation of the government as a leader of the meeting of trade unions in April of that, in favour of the action of the Dorchester labourers. This was his last imprisonment, though he continued to issue books banned by the government.

In June 1837 Watson was on the committee appointed to draw up the bills embodying the Chartist demands. He was opposed to the violence of some of the agitators, and, on the other hand, to the overtures made to Whig partisans, whom he denounced. He was averse to “peddling away the people’s birthright for any mess of cornlaw pottage”.

Watson corresponded with Giuseppe Mazzini, and in 1847 joined his Peoples’ International League. In 1848 he was one of the conveners of the first public meeting to congratulate the French Revolution of 1848.

An untaxed and absolutely free press became his main object in later years. He died at Burns College, Hamilton Road, Lower Norwood, on 29 November 1874, and was buried in Norwood cemetery. A grey granite obelisk erected by friends commemorated his “brave efforts to secure the rights of free speech”. A photographic portrait was in the Memoir by William James Linton.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Claire Clairmont
27 April 1798 – 19 March 1879

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Clara Mary Jane Clairmont

Claire Clairmont was born in 1798 in Brislington, near Bristol, the second child and only daughter of Mary Jane Vial Clairmont. Throughout her childhood she was known as “Jane”. In 2010 the identity of her father was discovered: John (later Sir John) Lethbridge of Sandhill Park, near Taunton, Somerset. Her mother had identified him as a “Charles Clairmont”, adopting the name Clairmont for herself and her children, to disguise their illegitimacy. It appears that the father of her first child, Charles, was Charles Abram Marc Gaulis, “a merchant and member of a prominent Swiss family, whom she met in Cadiz”.

When she was three years old, Claire (Jane) Clairmont acquired a stepfamily. In December 1801, her mother married a neighbour, William Godwin, the writer and philosopher. This brought the toddler two step-sisters: Godwin’s daughter, Mary (later Mary Shelley), only eight months older than she, and his adopted daughter, Fanny Imlay, a couple of years older. Both of them were the children of Mary Wollstonecraft, who had died some four years before, but whose presence continued to be felt in the household. The family was completed with the birth of a boy to Mary Jane and William, giving Claire Clairmont a younger brother.

All of the children were influenced by Godwin’s radical anarchist philosophical beliefs. Both parents were well-educated and they co-wrote children’s primers on Biblical and classical history. Godwin encouraged all of his children to read widely and give lectures from early childhood.

Mary Jane Godwin was a sharp-tongued woman who often quarrelled with Godwin and favoured her own children over her husband’s daughters. She contrived to send the volatile and emotionally intense Clairmont to boarding school for a time, thus providing her with more formal education than her stepsisters.

Clairmont, unlike Mary Shelley, was fluent in French when she was a teenager and later was credited with fluency in five different languages. However, the girls grew close and remained in contact for the rest of their lives.

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Lord Byron

At sixteen, Clairmont was a lively, voluptuous brunette with a good singing voice and a hunger for recognition. Her home life had become increasingly tense, as her stepfather William Godwin sank deeper into debt and her mother’s relations with Godwin’s daughter Mary became more strained. Clairmont aided her stepsister’s clandestine meetings with Percy Bysshe Shelley, who had professed a belief in free love and soon left his own wife and two small children to be with Mary. When Mary ran away with Shelley in July 1814, Clairmont went with them. Clairmont’s mother traced the group to an inn in Calais, but couldn’t make the girl go home with her. Godwin needed the financial assistance that the aristocratic Shelley could provide.

Clairmont remained in the Shelley household in their wanderings across Europe. The three young people traipsed across war-torn France, into Switzerland, fancying themselves like characters in a romantic novel, as Mary Shelley later recalled, but always reading widely, writing, and discussing the creative process. On the journey, Clairmont read Rousseau, Shakespeare, and the works of Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft.

“What shall poor Cordelia do – Love & be silent,” Clairmont wrote in her journal while reading King Lear. “Oh [th]is is true – Real Love will never [sh]ew itself to the eye of broad day – it courts the secret glades.” Clairmont’s emotions were so stirred by Cordelia that she had one of her “horrors,” a hysterical fit, Mary Shelley recorded in her own journal entry for the same day. Clairmont, who was surrounded by poets and writers, also made her own literary attempts. During the summer of 1814, she started a story called “The Idiot,” which has since been lost. In 1817-1818, she wrote a book which Percy Bysshe Shelley tried without success to have published. But though Claire lacked the literary talent of her stepsister and brother-in-law, she always longed to take centre stage. It was during this period that she changed her name from “Jane” to first “Clara” and finally the more romantic-sounding “Claire.”

Any romantic designs Clairmont might have had on Shelley were frustrated initially, but she did bring the Shelleys into contact with Lord Byron, with whom she entered into an affair before he left England in 1816 to live abroad. (A year marked by agricultural failures and widespread European famine, but also of significant literary advances as the Godwin-Shelley-Byron circle holed up indoors, 1816 would later be known as the “year without a summer”.) Clairmont had hopes of becoming a writer or an actress and wrote to Byron asking for “career advice” in March 1816, when she was almost eighteen. Byron was a director at the Drury Lane Theatre. Clairmont later followed up her letters with visits, sometimes with her stepsister Mary Godwin, whom she seemed to suggest Byron might also find attractive. “Do you know I cannot talk to you when I see you? I am so awkward and only feel inclined to take a little stool and sit at your feet,” Clairmont wrote to Byron. She “bombarded him with passionate daily communiques” telling him he need only accept “that which it has long been the passionate wish of my heart to give you”. She arranged for them to meet at a country inn. Byron, in a depressed state after the break-up of his marriage to Annabella Milbanke and scandal over his relationship with his half-sister Augusta Leigh, made it very clear to Clairmont before he left that she would not be a part of his life. Clairmont, on the other hand, was determined she would change his mind. She convinced Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley, that they should follow Byron to Switzerland, where they met him and John William Polidori (Byron’s personal physician) at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva. It is unknown whether or not Clairmont knew she was pregnant with Byron’s child at the commencement of the trip, but it soon became apparent to both her travelling companions and to Byron not long after their arrival at his door. At first he maintained his refusal of Clairmont’s companionship and allowed her to be in his presence only in the company of the Shelleys; later, they resumed their sexual relationship for a time in Switzerland. Clairmont and Mary Shelley also made fair copies of Byron’s work-in-progress, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which he was in the process of writing.

Clairmont was the only lover, other than Caroline Lamb, whom Byron referred to as a “little fiend.” Confessing the affair in a letter to his half-sister Augusta Leigh, Byron wrote

What could I do? — a foolish girl — in spite of all I could say or do — would come after me — or rather went before me — for I found her here … I could not exactly play the Stoic with a woman — who had scrambled eight hundred miles to unphilosophize me.”

He referred to her also in the following manner, in a letter to Douglas Kinnaird (20 January 1817):
“[Claire Clairmont] You know–& I believe saw once that odd-headed girl—who introduced herself to me shortly before I left England—but you do not know—that I found her with Shelley and her sister at Geneva—I never loved her nor pretended to love her—but a man is a man–& if a girl of eighteen comes prancing to you at all hours of the night—there is but one way—the suite of all this is that she was with child–& returned to England to assist in peopling that desolate island…This comes of “putting it about” (as Jackson calls it) & be dammed to it—and thus people come into the world.”

Clairmont was to say later that her relationship with Byron had given her only a few minutes of pleasure, but a lifetime of trouble.

The group left Byron in Switzerland at the end of the summer and returned to England. Clairmont took up residence in Bath and in January 1817 she gave birth to a daughter, Alba, whose name was eventually changed to Allegra. Throughout the pregnancy, Clairmont had written long letters to Byron, pleading for his attention and a promise to care for her and the baby, sometimes making fun of his friends, reminding him how much he had enjoyed making love to her, and sometimes threatening suicide. Byron, who by this time hated her, ignored the letters. The following year, Clairmont and the Shelleys left England and journeyed once more to Byron, who now resided in Italy. Clairmont felt that the future Byron could provide for their daughter would be greater than any she herself would be able to grant the child and, therefore, wished to deliver Allegra into his care.

Upon arriving in Italy, Clairmont was again refused by Byron. He arranged to have Allegra delivered to his house in Venice and agreed to raise the child on the condition that Clairmont keep her distance from him. Clairmont reluctantly gave Allegra over to Byron.

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Percy Bysshe Shelley

Clairmont may have been sexually involved with Percy Bysshe Shelley at different periods, though Clairmont’s biographers, Gittings and Manton, find no hard evidence. Their friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg joked about “Shelley and his two wives,” Mary and Claire, a remark that Clairmont recorded in her own journal. Clairmont was also entirely in sympathy, more so than Mary, with Shelley’s theories about free love, communal living, and the right of a woman to choose her own lovers and initiate sexual contact outside marriage. She seemed to conceive of love as a “triangle” and enjoyed being the third. She had also formed a close friendship with Shelley, who called her “my sweet child” and inspired and fed off his work. Mary Shelley’s early journals record several times when Clairmont and Shelley shared visions of Gothic horror and let their imaginings take flight, stirring each others’ emotions to the point of hysteria and nightmares. In October 1814, Shelley deliberately frightened Clairmont by assuming a particularly sinister and horrifying facial expression. “How horribly you look … Take your eyes off!” she cried. She was put to bed after yet another of her “horrors.” Percy Bysshe Shelley described her expression to Mary Shelley as “distorted most unnaturally by horrible dismay”. In the autumn of 1814 Clairmont and Shelley also discussed forming “an association of philosophical people” and Clairmont’s conception of an idealized community in which women were the ones in charge.

Shelley’s poem “To Constantia, Singing” is thought to be about her:

Constantia turn!
In thy dark eyes a power like light doth lie
Even though the sounds which were thy voice, which burn
Between thy lips, are laid to sleep:
Within thy breath, and on thy hair
Like odour, it is yet,
And from thy touch like fire doth leap.
Even while I write, my burning cheeks are wet
Alas, that the torn heart can bleed, but not forget!

Mary Shelley revised this poem, completely altering the first two stanzas, when she included it in a posthumous collection of Shelley’s works published in 1824.< In Shelley’s “Epipsychidion,” some scholars believe that he is addressing Clairmont as his

Comet beautiful and fierce
Who drew the heart of this frail Universe
Towards thine own; till, wrecked in that convulsion
Alternating attraction and repulsion
Thine went astray and that was rent in twain.

At the time Percy Shelley wrote the poem, in Pisa, Clairmont was living in Florence, and the lines may reveal how much he missed her.

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Mary Shelley

It has occasionally been suggested that Clairmont was also the mother of a daughter fathered by Percy Shelley. The possibility goes back to the accusation by Shelley’s servants, Elise and Paolo Foggi, that Clairmont gave birth to Percy Shelley’s baby during a stay in Naples, where, on 27 February 1819, Percy Shelley registered a baby named Elena Adelaide Shelley as having been born on 27 December 1818. The registrar recorded her as the daughter of Percy Shelley and “Maria” or “Marina Padurin” (possibly an Italian mispronunciation of “Mary Godwin”), and she was baptized the same day as the lawfully begotten child of Percy Shelley and Mary Godwin. It is, however, almost impossible that Mary Shelley was the mother, and this has given rise to several theories, including that the child was indeed Clairmont’s. Claire herself had ascended Mount Vesuvius, carried on a palanquin, on 16 December 1818, only nine days before the date given for the birth of Elena. It may be significant, however, that she was taken ill at about the same time—according to Mary Shelley’s journal she was ill on 27 December—and that her journal of June 1818 to early March 1819 has been lost. In a letter to Isabella Hoppner of 10 August 1821, Mary Shelley, however, stated emphatically that “Claire had no child”. She also insisted:

I am perfectly convinced in my own mind that Shelley never had an improper connexion [sic] with Claire … we lived in lodgings where I had momentary entrance into every room and such a thing could not have passed unknown to me … I do remember that Claire did keep to her bed there for two days—but I attended on her—I saw the physician—her illness was one that she had been accustomed to for years—and the same remedies were employed as I had before ministered to her in England.

The infant Elena was placed with foster parents and later died on 10 June 1820. Byron believed the rumors about Elena and used them as one more reason not to let Clairmont influence Allegra.

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Clara Allegra Byron

Clairmont was granted only a few brief visits with her daughter after surrendering her to Byron. When Byron arranged to place her in a Capuchin convent in Bagnacavallo, Italy, Clairmont was outraged. In 1821, she wrote Byron a letter accusing him of breaking his promise that their daughter would never be apart from one of her parents. She felt that the physical conditions in convents were unhealthy and the education provided was poor and was responsible for “the state of ignorance & profligacy of Italian women, all pupils of Convents. They are bad wives & most unnatural mothers, licentious & ignorant they are the dishonour & unhappiness of society … This step will procure to you an innumerable addition of enemies & of blame.” By March 1822 it had been two years since she had seen her daughter. She plotted to kidnap Allegra from the convent and asked Shelley to forge a letter of permission from Byron. Shelley refused her request. Byron’s seemingly callous treatment of the child was further vilified when Allegra died there at age five from a fever some scholars identify as typhus and others speculate was a malarial-type fever. Clairmont held Byron entirely responsible for the loss of their daughter and hated him for the rest of her life. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s death followed only two months later.

Shortly after Clairmont had introduced Shelley to Byron she met Edward John Trelawny, who was to play a major role in the short remaining lives of both poets. After Shelley’s death, Trelawny sent her love letters from Florence pleading with her to marry him, but she was not interested. Still, she remained in contact with him the rest of her long life. Clairmont wrote to Mary Shelley; “He [Trelawny] likes a turbid and troubled life; I a quiet one; he is full of fine feeling and has no principles; I am full of fine principles but never had a feeling (in my life).”

Devastated after Shelley’s death, Mary returned to England. She paid for Clairmont to travel to her brother’s home in Vienna where she stayed for a year, before relocating to Russia, where she worked as a governess from 1825 to 1828. The people she worked for treated her almost as a member of the family. Still, what Clairmont longed for most of all was privacy and peace and quiet, as she complained in letters to Mary Shelley.

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Edward John Trelawny

Two Russian men she met commented on her general disdain for the male sex; irritated by their assumption that since she was always falling in love, she would return their affections if they flirted with her, Clairmont joked in a letter to Mary Shelley that perhaps she should fall in love with both of them at once and prove them wrong. She returned to England in 1828, but remained there only a short while before departing for Dresden, where she was employed as a companion and housekeeper. Scholar Bradford A. Booth suggested in 1938 that Clairmont, driven by a need for money, might have been the true author of most of “The Pole,” an 1830 short story that appeared in the magazine The Court Assembly and Belle Assemblée as by “The Author of Frankenstein” Unlike Mary Shelley, Clairmont was familiar with the Polish used in the story. At one point, she thought of writing a book about the dangers that might result from “erroneous opinions” about the relations between men and women, using examples from the lives of Shelley and Byron. She did not make many literary attempts, as she explained to her friend Jane Williams:

But in our family, if you cannot write an epic or novel, that by its originality knocks all other novels on the head, you are a despicable creature, not worth acknowledging.

Clairmont returned to England in 1836 and worked as a music teacher. She cared for her mother when she was dying. In 1841, after Mary Jane Godwin’s death, Clairmont moved to Pisa, where she lived with Lady Margaret Mount Cashell, an old pupil of Mary Wollstonecraft. She lived in Paris for a time in the 1840s. Percy Bysshe Shelley had left her twelve thousand pounds in his will, which she finally received in 1844.

She carried on a sometimes turbulent, bitter correspondence with her stepsister Mary Shelley until she died in 1851. She converted to Catholicism, despite having hated the religion earlier in her life. She moved to Florence in 1870 and lived there in an expatriate colony with her niece, Paulina. Clairmont also clung to memorabilia of Percy Bysshe Shelley. The Aspern Papers by Henry James is based on the narrator’s attempts to gain ownership of these items. She died in Florence on 19 March 1879, at the age of eighty. Clairmont outlived all the members of Shelley’s Circle, except Trelawny and Jane Williams.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Sir William Lawrence 1st Baronet
16 July 1783 – London, 5 July 1867

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William Lawrence

Lawrence was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, the son of the town’s chief surgeon and physician. His father’s side of the family were descended from the Fettiplace family. His younger brother was one of the founding members of the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester. At 15 he was apprenticed to, and lived with, John Abernethy (FRS 1796) for 5 years. He married Louisa Senior (1803–1855), the daughter of a Mayfair haberdasher, who built up social fame through horticulture. Their son, Sir Trevor Lawrence, was for many years President of the Royal Horticultural Society.

Lawrence had a long and successful career as a surgeon. He reached the top of his profession, and just before his death the Queen rewarded him with a baronetcy (see Lawrence baronets). He had for many years declined such honours, and family tradition was that he finally accepted to help his son’s courtship of an aristocratic young woman (which did not succeed). Lawrence suffered an attack of apoplexy whilst descending the stairs at the College of Surgeons and died on 5 July 1867 at his house, 18 Whitehall Place, London.

Said to be a brilliant scholar, Lawrence was the translator of several anatomical works written in Latin, and was fully conversant with the latest research on the continent. He had good looks and a charming manner, and was a fine lecturer. His quality as a surgeon was never questioned. Lawrence helped the radical campaigner Thomas Wakley found the Lancet journal, and was prominent at mass meetings for medical reform in 1826. Elected to the Council of the RCS in 1828, he became its President in 1846, and again in 1855.

During Lawrence’s surgical career he held the posts of Professor of Anatomy and Surgery, Royal College of Surgeons (1815–1922); Surgeon to the hospitals of Bridewell and Bethlem, and to the London Infirmary for Diseases of the Eye; Demonstrator of Anatomy, then Assistant Surgeon, later Surgeon, St Bartholomew’s Hospital (1824–1865). Later in his career, he was appointed Surgeon Extraordinary, later Serjeant Surgeon, to the Queen. His specialty was ophthalmology, although he practised in and lectured and wrote on all branches of surgery. Pugin and Queen Victoria were among his patients with eye problems.

Shelley and his second wife Mary Shelley consulted him on a variety of ailments from 1814. Mary’s novel Frankenstein might have been inspired by the vitalist controversy between Lawrence and Abernethy, and “Lawrence could have guided the couple’s reading in the physical sciences”.

Despite reaching the height of his profession, with the outstanding quality of his surgical work, and his excellent textbooks, Lawrence is mostly remembered today for an extraordinary period in his early career which brought him fame and notoriety, and led him to the brink of ruin.

At the age of 30, in 1813, Lawrence was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1815 he was appointed Professor of Anatomy and Surgery by the College of Surgeons. His lectures started in 1816, and the set was published the same year. The book was immediately attacked by Abernethy and others for materialism, and for undermining the moral welfare of the people. One of the issues between Lawrence and his critics concerned the origin of thoughts and consciousness. For Lawrence, as for ourselves, mental processes were a function of the brain. Abernethy and others thought differently: they explained thoughts as the product of vital acts of an immaterial kind. Abernethy also published his lectures, which contained his support for John Hunter’s vitalism, and his objections to Lawrence’s materialism.

In subsequent years Lawrence vigorously contradicted his critics until, in 1819, he published a second book, known by its short title of the Natural history of man. The book caused a storm of disapproval from conservative and clerical quarters for its supposed atheism, and within the medical profession because he advocated a materialist rather than vitalist approach to human life. He was linked by his critics with such other ‘revolutionaries’ as Thomas Paine and Lord Byron. It was “the first great scientific issue that widely seized the public imagination in Britain, a premonition of the debate over Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, exactly forty years later”.

Hostility from the established Church of England was guaranteed. “A vicious review in the Tory Quarterly Review execrated his materialist explanation of man and mind”; the Lord Chancellor, in the Court of Chancery (1822), ruled his lectures blasphemous, on the grounds that the book contradicted Holy Scripture (the Bible). This destroyed the book’s copyright. Lawrence was also repudiated by his own teacher, Abernethy, with whom he had already had a controversy about John Hunter’s teachings. There were supporters, such as Richard Carlile and Thomas Forster, and “The Monthly Magazine”, in which Lawrence was compared to Galileo. However, faced with persecution, perhaps prosecution, and certainly ruin through the loss of surgical patients, Lawrence withdrew the book. The time had not yet arrived when a science which dealt with man as a species could be conducted without interference from the religious authorities.

It is interesting that the Court of Chancery was acting, here, in its most ancient role, that of a court of conscience. This entailed the moral law applied to prevent peril to the soul of the wrongdoer through mortal sin. The remedy was given to the plaintiff (the Crown, in this case) to look after the wrongdoer’s soul; the benefit to the plaintiff was only incidental. This is also the explanation for specific performance, which compels the sinner to put matters right. The whole conception is mediæval in origin.

It is difficult to find a present-day parallel. The withholding of copyright, though only an indirect financial penalty, was both an official act and a hostile signal. We do not seem to have a word for this kind of indirect pressure, though Suppression of dissent comes closer than censorship. Perhaps the modern ‘naming and shaming’ comes closest. The importance of respectability, reputation and public standing were critical in this case, as so often in traditional societies.

After repudiating his book, Lawrence returned to respectability, but not without regrets. He wrote in 1830 to William Hone, who was acquitted of libel in 1817, explaining his expediency and commending Hone’s “much greater courage in these matters”.

He continued to espouse radical ideas and, led by the famous radical campaigner Thomas Wakley, Lawrence was part of the small group which launched The Lancet, and wrote material for it. Lawrence wrote pungent editorials, and chaired the public meetings in 1826 at the Freemasons’ Tavern. He was also co-owner of the Aldersgate Private Medical Academy, with Frederick Tyrrell.

Meetings for members of the College, were attended by about 1200 people. The meetings were called to protest against the way surgeons abused their privileges to set student fees and control appointments.
In his opening speech Lawrence criticised the by-laws of the College of Surgeons for preventing all but a few teachers in London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen from issuing certificates of attendance at preparatory lectures. He pointed out that Aberdeen and Glasgow had no cadavers for dissection, without which anatomy could not be properly taught.

A proposed change in the regulations of the College of Surgeons would soon cut the ground from under the private summer schools, since diplomas taken in the summer were not to be recognised.

“It would appear from the new regulations that sound knowledge was the sort acquired in the winter, when the hospital lecturers delivered their courses, while unsound knowledge was imparted in the summer when only the private schools could provide the instruction”. Lawrence in his opening speech, Freemason’s Tavern, 1826.

Lawrence concluded by protesting against the exclusion of the great provincial teachers from giving recognised certificates.

However, gradually Lawrence conformed more to the style of the College of Surgeons, and was elected to their Council in 1828. This somewhat wounded Wakley, who complained to Lawrence, and made some remarks in the Lancet. But, true to form, Wakley soon saw Lawrence’s rise in the College as providing him with an inside track into the working of the institution he was hoping to reform. For some years Lawrence hunted with the Lancet and ran with the College. From the inside, Lawrence was able to help forward several of the much-needed reforms espoused by Wakley. The College of Surgeons was at last reformed, to some extent at least, by a new charter in 1843.

This episode marks Lawrence’s return to respectability; in fact, Lawrence succeeded Abernethy as the ‘dictator’ of Bart’s.

His need for respectability and worldly success might have been influenced by his marriage in 1828, at the age of 45, to the 25-year-old socially ambitious Louisa Senior.

At any rate, from then on Lawrence’s career went ever forward. He never looked back: he became President of the Royal College of Surgeons, and Serjeant-Surgeon to Queen Victoria. Before he died she made him a baronet. “Never again [did] he venture to express his views on the processes of evolution, on the past or the future of man.” He did, however, warn the young T.H. Huxley – in vain, it must be said – not to broach the dangerous topic of the evolution of man.

In 1844 Carl Gustav Carus, the physiologist and painter, made “a visit to Mr Lawrence, author of a work on the “Physiology of Man” which had interested me much some years ago, but which had rendered the author obnoxious to the clergy… He appears to have allowed himself to be frightened by this, and is now merely a practising surgeon, who keeps his Sunday in the old English fashion, and has let physiology and psychology alone for the present. I found him a rather dry, but honest man”. Looking back in 1860 on his controversies with Abernethy, Lawrence wrote of “events which though important at the time of occurrence have long ceased to occupy my thoughts”.

In 1828, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The careful anonymity in which the Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation was published in 1844, and the very great caution shown by Darwin in publishing his own evolutionary ideas, can be seen in the context of the need to avoid a direct conflict with the religious establishment. In 1838 Darwin referred in his “C” transmutation notebook to a copy of Lawrence’s “Lectures on physiology, zoology, and the natural history of man”, and historians have speculated that he brooded about the implied consequences of publishing his own ideas.

In Lawrence’s day the impact of laws on sedition and blasphemy were even more threatening than they were in Darwin’s time. Darwin referred to Lawrence (1819) six times in his Descent of man (1871).
Lawrence’s Natural history of man contained some remarkable anticipations of later thought, but was ruthlessly suppressed. To this day, many historical accounts of evolutionary ideas do not mention Lawrence’s contribution. He is omitted, for example, from many of the Darwin biographies, from some evolution textbooks, essay collections, and even from accounts of pre-Darwinian science and religion.

Although the only idea of interest which Darwin found in Lawrence was that of sexual selection in man, the influence on Alfred Russel Wallace, was more positive. Wallace “found in Lawrence a possible mechanism of organic change, that of spontaneous variation leading to the formation of new species”.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

John Joseph Stockdale
1777 – 16 February 1847

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John Joseph Stockdale

The son of John Stockdale and Mary neé Ridgway, John Joseph was brother to Mary Stockdale. He was educated privately at a boarding school in Bedfordshire and in 1793 started to work for his father, being admitted to the freedom of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers on 3 August 1802, and afterwards taking up the livery. In 1805 he married Sophia, a niece of Philip Box a successful banker, and he established his own business in Pall Mall in 1806, possibly with financial help from Box. He compiled and edited many books, including:

  • Richard Wellesley‘s Events and Transactions in India (1805);
  • Eaton Stannard Barrett’s All the Talents: A Satirical Poem (1806);
  • Don Pedro Cevallos’s Usurpation of the Crown of Spain (1808) and Sketches Civil and Military of the Island of Java (1811); and
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley’s second novel St. Irvyne; or, The Rosicrucian, A Romance (1810; reprinted in 1822).

Stockdale also sold copies of Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire by Percy Bysshe Shelley and his sister Elizabeth in 1810. In 1811, Stockdale, under the pseudonym of Thomas Little published an edition of John Roberton’s treatise on the pathology of the reproductive system On Diseases of the Generative System. Roberton was a radical and something of an outsider to the medical profession, and the book’s explicit anatomical plates, together with Stockdale’s louche reputation, meant that the book attracted some distaste and notoriety. Stockdale had in fact interpolated some additional sensational illustrations. In 1824, again as Thomas Little, Stockdale published The Beauty, Marriage Ceremonies and Intercourse of the Sexes in All Nations; to which is added The New Art of Love (Grounded on Kalogynomia), an augmented edition of Roberton’s 1821 book Kalogynomia, or the Laws of Female Beauty, a work that Roberton had himself published under the pseudonym T. Bell.

Stockdale was the publisher of the notorious Memoirs of Harriette Wilson (1826) which attracted a crowd ten deep outside his shop. Before publication, Stockdale and Wilson wrote to all those lovers and clients named in the book, including Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington and Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, offering them the opportunity to be excluded from the work in exchange for a cash payment. Wellington famously responded with, Publish and be damned.

Stockdale died at Bushey and his wife Sophia seems to have made a further attempt to blackmail Brougham after Stockdale’s death.

In 1839, HM Prisons Inspectors discovered a copy of On Diseases of the Generative System, well thumbed by the inmates of Newgate Prison. Official parliamentary reporter Hansard, by order of the House of Commons, printed and published the Report of the Inspectors of Prisons stating that an indecent book published by a Mr. Stockdale was circulating. Stockdale sued for defamation but Hansard’s defence, that the statement was true, succeeded. However, parliament ordered a reprint and Stockdale sued again but this time Hansard was ordered by the House to plead that he had acted under order of the Commons and was protected by parliamentary privilege.

The court of Queen’s Bench, led by Lord Denman, unanimously found that Hansard was not protected by privilege and awarded damages to Stockdale, HM Treasury defraying Hansard’s costs. However, when the Middlesex sheriffs attempted to enforce the court order, Hansard fell back upon parliament for protection. Accordingly the sheriffs and other persons who sought to carry out the orders issued by the law court against the Hansards were imprisoned by order of the House of Commons. These protracted and vexatious proceedings were brought to a close only by the passing in Parliamentary Papers Act 1840 by which it was enacted that proceedings, criminal or civil, against persons for the publication of papers printed by order of either house of parliament shall be stayed upon the production of a certificate to that effect. Stockdale was thus finally defeated, and the printer was indemnified.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Samuel Rogers
30 July 1763 – 18 December 1855

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Samuel Rogers

Samuel Rogers was born at Newington Green, then a village north of Islington, London. His father, Thomas Rogers, a banker, was the son of a Stourbridge glass manufacturer, who was also a merchant in Cheapside. Thomas married Mary, the only daughter of his father’s partner, Daniel Radford, becoming himself a partner shortly afterwards. On his mother’s side Samuel Rogers was connected with the well-known English Dissenters clergymen Philip Henry and his son Matthew, was brought up in Nonconformist circles, and became a long-standing member of the Unitarian congregation at Newington Green, then led by the remarkable Dr Richard Price. He was educated in Hackney and Stoke Newington.

Two nephews, orphaned young and for whom he assumed responsibility, were Samuel Sharpe, the Egyptologist and translator of the Bible, and his younger brother Daniel, the early geologist.

Samuel Rogers wished to enter the Presbyterian ministry, but his father persuaded him to join the banking business in Cornhill. In long holidays, necessitated by delicate health, Rogers became interested in English literature, particularly the work of Samuel Johnson, Thomas Gray and Oliver Goldsmith. He learned Gray’s poems by heart, and his family wealth allowed him to leisure to try writing poetry himself. He began with contributions to the Gentleman’s Magazine, and in 1786 he published a volume containing some imitations of Goldsmith and an “Ode to Superstition” in the style of Gray.

In 1788 his elder brother Thomas died, and Samuel’s business responsibilities were increased. In the next year he paid a visit to Scotland, where he met Adam Smith, Henry Mackenzie, Hester Thrale and others. In 1791 he was in Paris, and enjoyed the Orleans Collection of art at the Palais Royal, many of the treasures of which were later to pass into his possession. With Gray as his model, Rogers took great pains in polishing his verses, and six years elapsed after the publication of his first volume before he printed his elaborate poem on The Pleasures of Memory (1792) – regarded by some as the last embodiment of the poetic diction of the 18th century. The theory of elevating and refining familiar themes by abstract treatment and lofty imagery is taken to extremes. In this art of “raising a subject”, as the 18th century phrase was, the Pleasures of Memory is much more perfect than Thomas Campbell’s Pleasures of Hope, published a few years later in imitation. Byron said of it, “There is not a vulgar line in the poem.”

In 1793 his father’s death gave Rogers the principal share in the banking house in Cornhill, and a considerable income. He left Newington Green and established himself in chambers in the Temple. Within his intimate circle at this time were his best friend, Richard Sharp (Conversation Sharp), and the artists John Flaxman, John Opie, Martin Shee and Henry Fuseli. He also made the acquaintance of Charles James Fox, with whom he visited the galleries in Paris in 1802, and whose friendship introduced him to Holland House. In 1803 he moved to 22 St James’s Place, where for fifty years he entertained all the celebrities of London. Flaxman and Charles Alfred Stothard had a share in the decoration of the house, which Rogers virtually rebuilt, and proceeded to fill with works of art. His collections at his death realised £50,000.

An invitation to one of Rogers’s breakfasts was a formal entry into literary society, and his dinners were even more select. His social success was due less to his literary position than to his powers as a conversationalist, his educated taste in all matters of art, and no doubt to his sarcastic and bitter wit, for which he excused himself by saying that he had such a small voice that no one listened if he said pleasant things. “He certainly had the kindest heart and unkindest tongue of any one I ever knew,” said Fanny Kemble. He helped the poet Robert Bloomfield, he reconciled Thomas Moore with Francis Jeffrey Jeffrey and with Byron, and he relieved Sheridan’s difficulties in the last days of his life. Moore, who refused help from all his friends, and would only owe debts to his publishers, found it possible to accept help from Rogers. He procured a pension for HF Cary, the translator of Dante, and obtained Wordsworth his sinecure as distributor of stamps.

Rogers was in effect a literary dictator in England. He made his reputation by The Pleasures of Memory when William Cowper’s fame was still in the making. He became the friend of Wordsworth, Walter Scott and Byron, and lived long enough to give an opinion as to the fitness of Alfred Tennyson for the post of Poet Laureate. Alexander Dyce, from the time of his first introduction to Rogers, was in the habit of writing down the anecdotes with which his conversation abounded. In 1856 he arranged and published selections as Recollections of the Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers, to which is added Porsoniana. Rogers himself kept a notebook in which he entered impressions of the conversation of many of his distinguished friends—Fox, Edmund Burke, Henry Grattan, Richard Porson, John Horne Tooke, Talleyrand, Lord Erskine, Scott, Lord Grenville and the Duke of Wellington. They were published by his nephew William Sharpe in 1859 as Recollections by Samuel Rogers; Reminiscences and Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers, Banker, poet, and Patron of the Arts, 1763–1855 (1903), by GH Powell, is an amalgamation of these two authorities. Rogers held various honorary positions: he was one of the trustees of the National Gallery; and he served on a commission to inquire into the management of the British Museum, and on another for the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in November 1796.

 

His literary production remained slow. An Epistle to a Friend (the above-mentioned Conversation Sharp), published in 1798, describes Rogers’s ideal of a happy life. This was followed by The Voyage of Columbus (1810), and by Jacqueline (1814), a narrative poem, written in the four-accent measure of the newer writers, and published in the same volume with Byron’s Lara. His reflective poem on Human Life (1819), on which he had been engaged for twelve years, is written in his earlier manner.

In 1814 Rogers made a tour on the Continent with his sister Sarah. He travelled through Switzerland to Italy, keeping a full diary of events and impressions, and had made his way to Naples when the news of Napoleon’s escape from Elba obliged him to hurry home.

Seven years later he returned to Italy, paying a visit to Byron and Shelley at Pisa. Out of the earlier of these tours arose his last and longest work, Italy. The first part was published anonymously in 1822; the second, with his name attached, in 1828. It was at first a failure, but Rogers was determined to make it a success. He enlarged and revised the poem, and commissioned illustrations from J.M.W. Turner, Thomas Stothard and Samuel Prout. These were engraved on steel in the sumptuous edition of 1830. The book then proved a great success, and Rogers followed it up with an equally sumptuous edition of his Poems (1834). In 1850, on Wordsworth’s death, Rogers was asked to succeed him as poet laureate, but declined the honour on account of his age. For the last five years of his life he was confined to his chair in consequence of a fall in the street. He died in London, and is buried in the family tomb in the churchyard of St Mary’s Church, Hornsey High Street, Haringey.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Fanny Imlay
14 May 1794 – 9 October 1816

Fanny Imlay was the daughter of the British feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft and the American entrepreneur Gilbert Imlay. Both had moved to France during the French Revolution, Wollstonecraft to practise the principles laid out in her seminal work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) and Imlay to engage in speculative business ventures. The two met and fell in love. At one point during Wollstonecraft and Imlay’s relationship, the couple could meet only at a tollbooth between Paris and Neuilly, and it was there that their daughter was conceived; Fanny was therefore, in Godwin’s words, a “barrier child”. Frances “Fanny” Imlay, Wollstonecraft’s first child, was born in Le Havre on 14 May 1794, or, as the birth certificate stated, on the 25th day of Floreal in the Second Year of the Republic, and named after Fanny Blood, her mother’s closest friend. Although Imlay never married Wollstonecraft, he registered her as his wife at the American consulate to protect her once Britain and France went to war in February 1793. Most people, including Wollstonecraft’s sisters, assumed they were married—and thus, by extension, that Fanny was legitimate—and she was registered as such in France.

Initially, the couple’s life together was idyllic. Wollstonecraft playfully wrote to one friend: “My little Girl begins to suck so manfully that her father reckons saucily on her writing the second part of the R[igh]ts of Woman”. Imlay soon tired of Wollstonecraft and domestic life and left her for long periods of time. Her letters to him are full of needy expostulations, explained by most critics as the expressions of a deeply depressed woman but by some as a result of her circumstances—alone with an infant in the middle of the French Revolution.

Wollstonecraft returned to London in April 1795, seeking Imlay, but he rejected her; the next month she attempted to commit suicide, but he saved her life (it is unclear how). In a last attempt to win him back, she embarked upon a hazardous trip to Scandinavia from June to September 1795, with only her one-year-old daughter and a maid, in order to conduct some business for him. Wollstonecraft’s journey was daunting not only because she was travelling to what some considered a nearly uncivilized region during a time of war, but also because she was travelling without a male escort. When she returned to England and realized that her relationship with Imlay was over, she attempted suicide a second time. She went out on a rainy night, walked around to soak her clothes, and then jumped into the River Thames, where a stranger rescued her.

Using her diaries and letters from her journey to Scandinavia, Wollstonecraft wrote a rumination on her travels and her relationship—Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796)—in which, among other things, she celebrated motherhood. Her maternal connection to her daughter prompted her to reflect on a woman’s place in the world:

You know that as a female I am particularly attached to her—I feel more than a mother’s fondness and anxiety, when I reflect on the dependent and oppressed state of her sex. I dread lest she should be forced to sacrifice her heart to her principles, or principles to her heart. With trembling hand I shall cultivate sensibility, and cherish delicacy of sentiment, lest, whilst I lend fresh blushes to the rose, I sharpen the thorns that will wound the breast I would fain guard—I dread to unfold her mind, lest it should render her unfit for the world she is to inhabit—Hapless woman! what a fate is thine!

Wollstonecraft lavished love and attention on her daughter. She began two books, drawn from her own experience, related to Fanny’s care: a parenting manual entitled “Letters on the Management of Infants” and a reading primer entitled “Lessons”. In one section of “Lessons”, she describes weaning:

When you were hungry, you began to cry, because you could not speak. You were seven months without teeth, always sucking. But after you got one, you began to gnaw a crust of bread. It was not long before another came pop. At ten months you had four pretty white teeth, and you used to bite me. Poor mamma! Still I did not cry, because I am not a child, but you hurt me very much. So I said to papa, it is time the little girl should eat. She is not naughty, yet she hurts me. I have given her a crust of bread, and I must look for some other milk.

In 1797, Wollstonecraft fell in love with and married the philosopher William Godwin (she had become pregnant with his child). Godwin grew to love Fanny during his affair with Wollstonecraft; he brought her back a mug from Josiah Wedgwood’s pottery factory with an “F” on it that delighted both mother and daughter. Wollstonecraft died in September of the same year, from complications giving birth to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, who survived. Three-year-old Fanny, who had been scarred from smallpox, was unofficially adopted by her stepfather and given the name of Godwin. Her copy of Wollstonecraft’s only completed children’s book, Original Stories from Real Life (1788), has the initials “F. G.” written in large print in it. According to the dominant interpretation of Godwin’s diary, it was not until Fanny turned twelve that she was informed in an important conversation with Godwin that he was not her natural father.

After Wollstonecraft’s death, Godwin and Joseph Johnson, Wollstonecraft’s publisher and close friend, contacted Fanny’s father, but he was uninterested in raising his child. (Neither Wollstonecraft nor her daughter ever saw Gilbert Imlay after 1796.) Wollstonecraft’s two sisters, Eliza Bishop and Everina Wollstonecraft, Fanny’s only two living female relatives, were anxious to care for her; Godwin, disliking them, turned down their offer. Several times throughout Fanny’s childhood Wollstonecraft’s sisters asked Godwin to allow them to raise their niece and each time he refused. Godwin himself did not seem particularly ready for parenthood and he now had two small children to raise and no steady source of income. However, he was determined to care for them. During these early years of Fanny’s life, Joseph Johnson served as an “unofficial trustee” for her as he had occasionally for her mother. He even willed her £200, but Godwin owed Johnson so much money upon his death in 1809 that Johnson’s heirs demanded Godwin pay the money back as part of his arrears.

Although Godwin was fond of his children, he was, in many ways, ill-equipped to care for them. As Todd explains, he was constantly annoyed by their noise, demanding silence while he worked. However, when he took a trip to Dublin to visit Wollstonecraft’s sisters, he missed the girls immensely and wrote to them frequently.

On 21 December 1801, when Fanny was seven, Godwin married Mary Jane Clairmont, a neighbour with two children of her own: three-year-old Claire and six-year-old Charles. She had never been married and was looking, like Godwin, for financial stability. Although Clairmont was well-educated and well-travelled, most of Godwin’s friends despised her, finding her vulgar and dishonest. They were astonished that Godwin could replace Mary Wollstonecraft with her. Fanny and her half-sister Mary disliked their stepmother and complained that she preferred her own children to them. On 28 March 1803, baby William was born to the couple.

Although Godwin admired Wollstonecraft’s writings, he did not agree with her that women should receive the same education as men. Therefore, he occasionally read to Fanny and Mary from Sarah Trimmer’s Fabulous Histories (1786) and Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s Lessons for Children (1778–79), but, according to Todd, he did not take great pains with their educations and disregarded the books Wollstonecraft had written for Fanny. William St Clair, in his biography of the Godwins and the Shelleys, argues that Godwin and Wollstonecraft spoke extensively about the education they wanted for their children and that Godwin’s writings in The Enquirer reflect these discussions. He contends that after Wollstonecraft’s death Godwin wrote to a former pupil to whom she had been close, now Lady Mountcashell, asking her advice on how to raise and educate his daughters. In her biography of Mary Shelley, Miranda Seymour agrees with St Clair, arguing that “everything we know about his daughter’s [Mary’s and presumably Fanny’s] early years suggests that she was being taught in a way of which her mother would have approved”, pointing out that she had a governess, a tutor, a French-speaking stepmother, and a father who wrote children’s books whose drafts he read to his own first. It was the new Mrs Godwin who was primarily responsible for the education given to the girls, but she taught her own daughter more, including French. Fanny received no formal education after her stepfather’s marriage. Yet, the adult Imlay is described by C. Kegan Paul, one of Godwin’s earliest biographers, as “well educated, sprightly, clever, a good letter-writer, and an excellent domestic manager”. Fanny excelled in drawing and was taught music. Despite Godwin’s atheism, all of the children were taken to an Anglican church.

The Godwins were constantly in debt, so Godwin returned to writing to support the family. He and his wife started a Juvenile Library for which he wrote children’s books. In 1807, when Fanny was 13, they moved from the Polygon, where Godwin had lived with Wollstonecraft, to 41 Skinner Street, near Clerkenwell, in the city’s bookselling district. This took the family away from the fresh country air and into the dirty, smelly, inner streets of London. Although initially successful, the business gradually failed. The Godwins also continued to borrow more money than they could afford from generous friends such as publisher Joseph Johnson and Godwin devotee Francis Place.

As Fanny Imlay grew up, her father increasingly relied on her to placate tradespeople who demanded bills be paid and to solicit money from men such as Place. According to Todd and Seymour, Imlay believed in Godwin’s theory that great thinkers and artists should be supported by patrons and she believed Godwin to be both a great novelist and a great philosopher. Throughout her life, she wrote letters asking Place and others for money to support Godwin’s “genius” and she helped run the household so that he could work.

Godwin, never one to mince words, wrote about the differences he perceived between his two daughters:

My own daughter [Mary] is considerably superior in capacity to the one her mother had before. Fanny, the eldest, is of a quiet, modest, unshowy disposition, somewhat given to indolence, which is her greatest fault, but sober, observing, peculiarly clear and distinct in the faculty of memory, and disposed to exercise her own thoughts and follow her own judgment. Mary, my daughter, is the reverse of her in many particulars. She is singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind. Her desire for knowledge is great, and her perseverance in everything she undertakes is almost invincible. My own daughter is, I believe, very pretty; Fanny is by no means handsome, but in general prepossessing.

The intellectual world of the girls was widened by their exposure to the literary and political circles in which Godwin moved. For example, during former American vice-president Aaron Burr’s self-imposed exile from the United States after his acquittal on treason charges, he often spent time with the Godwins. He greatly admired the works of Wollstonecraft and had educated his daughter according to the precepts of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. He was anxious to meet the daughters of the woman he revered and referred to Fanny, Mary, and Claire as “goddesses”. He spent most of his time talking with Imlay about political and educational topics. Burr was impressed by the Lancastrian teaching method and took Fanny to see a model school in 1811.

It was not Burr, but the Romantic poet and writer Percy Bysshe Shelley who had the greatest impact on Imlay and her sisters’ lives. Impressed by Godwin’s Political Justice, Shelley wrote to him and the two started corresponding. In 1812, Shelley asked if Imlay, then 18 and the daughter of one of his heroes, Mary Wollstonecraft, could come live with him, his new wife, and her sister. Having never actually met Shelley and being sceptical of his motivations (Shelley had eloped to marry his wife, Harriet), Godwin refused. When Shelley finally came to visit the Godwins, all three girls were enamoured with him, particularly Imlay. Both Shelley and Imlay were interested in discussing radical politics; for example, Shelley liked to act as if class were irrelevant, but she argued that it was significant in daily affairs.

In 1814, Shelley spent a considerable amount of time at the Godwins’ and he and Imlay may have fallen in love. Later, Claire Clairmont claimed that they had been. Imlay was sent to Wales in May of that year; Todd speculates that Godwin was trying to separate her from Shelley while Seymour hints that Mrs Godwin was trying to improve her despondent mood. Meanwhile, the Godwin household became even more uncomfortable as Godwin sank further into debt and as relations between Mary and her stepmother became increasingly hostile. Mary Godwin consoled herself with Shelley and the two started a passionate love affair. When Shelley declared to Godwin that the two were in love, Godwin exploded in anger. However, he needed the money that Shelley, as an aristocrat, could and was willing to provide. Frustrated with the entire situation, Mary Godwin, Shelley, and Claire Clairmont ran off to Europe together on 28 June 1814. Godwin hurriedly summoned Imlay home from Wales to help him handle the situation. Her stepmother wrote that Imlay’s “emotion was deep when she heard of the sad fate of the two girls; she cannot get over it”. In the middle of this disaster, one of Godwin’s protégés killed himself, and young William Godwin ran away from home and was missing for two days. When news of the girls’ escapade became public, Godwin was pilloried in the press. Life in the Godwin household became increasingly strained.

When Mary Godwin, Claire Clairmont, and Shelley returned from the Continent in September 1814, they took a house together in London, enraging Godwin still further. Imlay felt pulled between the two households: she felt loyal both to her sisters and to her father. Both despised her decision not to choose a side in the family drama. As Seymour explains, Imlay was in a difficult position: the Godwin household felt Shelley was a dangerous influence and the Shelley household ridiculed her fear of violating social conventions. Also, her aunts were considering her for a teaching position at this time, but were reluctant because of Godwin’s shocking Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798). Seymour writes, the “few timid visits Fanny made to see Mary and [Claire] in London were acts of great courage; she got little thanks for them”. Although instructed by Godwin not to speak to Shelley and her sisters, Imlay warned them of creditors who knew of Shelley’s return (he also was in debt). Her attempts to persuade Clairmont to return to the Godwins’ convinced Shelley that she was of Godwin’s party and he began to distrust her. Imlay was also still responsible for soliciting money from Shelley in order to repay her father’s debts; despite Shelley’s essential elopement with two of his daughters, Godwin agreed to accept £1,200 from Shelley. When Mary Godwin gave birth to a daughter in February 1815, she immediately sent for Imlay, particularly as both she and the infant were ill. Godwin chastised Imlay for disobeying his orders not to see her half-sister and her misery increased. After the death of the child, Imlay paid more frequent visits to the couple.

Soon after, Clairmont became a lover of the Romantic poet Lord Byron, and Mary Godwin and Shelley had a second child on 24 January 1816, who was named William after Godwin. In February, Imlay went to visit the Shelleys, who had settled in Bishopsgate. Godwin’s debts continued to mount, and while he demanded money from Shelley, Godwin still refused to see either him or his daughter. At this time, Charles Clairmont (Imlay’s step-brother), frustrated with the tension in the Godwin household, left for France and refused to help the family any further. At around the same time, Claire Clairmont, Mary Godwin, and Shelley left for the Continent, seeking Byron. Godwin was aghast. He relied on Shelley’s money, and the stain on his family’s reputation only increased when the public learned that the group had left to join the rakish Byron.

Amidst all of this family turmoil, Imlay still found time to ponder larger social issues. The utopian socialist Robert Owen came to visit Godwin in the summer of 1816 and he and Imlay discussed the plight of the working poor in Britain. She agreed with many of Owen’s proposals, but not all of them. She decided, in the end, that his utopian scheme was too “romantic”, because it depended heavily on the goodwill of the rich to sacrifice their wealth. That same summer, George Blood—the brother of Fanny Imlay’s namesake—came to meet her for the first time and told her stories of her mother. After this meeting she wrote to Mary Godwin and Shelley: “I have determined never to live to be a disgrace to such a mother… I have found that if I will endeavour to overcome my faults I shall find being’s [sic] to love and esteem me” .

Before Mary Godwin, Clairmont, and Shelley had left for the Continent, Imlay and Mary had had a major argument and no chance to come to a reconciliation. Imlay attempted in her letters to Mary to smooth over the relationship, but her sense of loneliness and isolation in London are palpable. She wrote to Mary of “the dreadful state of mind I generally labour under & which I in vain endeavour to get rid of”. Many scholars attribute Imlay’s increasing unhappiness to Mrs Godwin’s hostility towards her. Kegan, and others, contend that Imlay was subject to the same “extreme depression to which her mother had been subject, and which marked other members of the Wollstonecraft family”. Wandering amongst the mountains of Switzerland, frustrated with her relationship with Shelley, and engrossed by the writing of Frankenstein, her sister was unsympathetic.

The group returned from the Continent, with a pregnant Clairmont, and settled in Bath (to protect her reputation, they attempted to hide the pregnancy). Imlay saw Percy twice in September 1816; according to Todd’s interpretation of Fanny’s letters, Fanny had earlier tried to solicit an invitation to join the group in Europe and she repeated these appeals when she saw Percy in London. Todd believes that Imlay begged to be allowed to stay with them because life in Godwin’s house was unbearable, with the constant financial worries and Mrs Godwin’s insistent haranguing, and that Percy refused, concerned that anyone learn about Clairmont’s condition, least of all someone he believed might inform Godwin (Shelley was being sued by his wife and was worried about his own reputation). After Percy left, Todd explains that Imlay wrote to Mary “to make clear again her longing to be rescued”.

In early October 1816, Imlay left Godwin’s house in London and committed suicide on 9 October by taking an overdose of laudanum at an inn in Swansea, Wales; she was 22. The details surrounding her death and her motivations are disputed. Most of the letters regarding the incident were destroyed or are missing. In his 1965 article “Fanny Godwin’s Suicide Re-examined”, B. R. Pollin lays out the major theories that had been put forward regarding her suicide and which continue to be used today:

  • Imlay had just learned of her illegitimate birth.
  • Mrs Godwin became more cruel to Imlay after Mary Godwin and Claire Clairmont ran off with Percy Shelley.
  • Imlay had been refused a position at her aunts’ school in Ireland.
  • Imlay was depressive, and her condition was aggravated by the state of the Godwin household.
  • Imlay was in love with Percy Shelley and distraught that Mary and he had fallen in love.

Pollin dismisses the first of these, as have most later biographers, arguing that Imlay had access to her mother’s writings and Godwin’s Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman which openly discuss the circumstances of her birth. Imlay herself even makes this distinction in letters to her half-sister Mary Godwin.

Pollin is also sceptical of the second explanation, pointing to Imlay’s letter to Mary of 3 October 1816 in which she defended her step-mother: “Mrs. Godwin would never do either of you a deliberate injury. Mamma and I are not great friends, but always alive to her virtues, I am anxious to defend her from a charge so foreign to her character.”

Pollin finds no evidence that Imlay had been refused a position at her aunts’ school, only that such a scheme may have been “in contemplation”, as Godwin later wrote, although Seymour grants this explanation some plausibility. St Clair claims that Imlay was on her way to join her maternal aunts in Ireland when she decided to commit suicide. He believes that it was to be a probationary visit, to see if she could be a teacher in their school. Godwin’s modern biographer, Richard Holmes, dismisses this story.

In his survey of the letters of the Godwins and the Shelleys, Pollin comes to the conclusion that Imlay was not depressive. She is frequently described as happy and looking toward the future and describes herself this way. The mentions of melancholia and sadness are specific and related to particular events and illness. Richard Holmes, in his biography of Percy Shelley, argues that “her agonizing and loveless suspension between the Godwin and Shelley households was clearly the root circumstance” of her suicide. Locke argues that “most probably because she could absorb no more of the miseries of Skinner Street, her father’s inability to pay his debts or write his books, her mother’s unending irritability and spitefulness”, all of which she blamed on herself, she committed suicide.

Pollin largely agrees with Todd, speculating that Imlay saw Percy Shelley in Bath and he “somehow failed her”, causing her to commit suicide. Seymour and others speculate that Shelley’s only failure was to live up to his financial promises to Godwin and it was this that helped push Imlay over the edge; she was convinced, like her father, “that the worthy have an absolute right to be supported by those who have the worth to give”. Todd, on the other hand, agrees with Pollin and speculates that Imlay went to see Mary Godwin and Shelley. Todd argues that Imlay had affection for Shelley and felt that his home was her only haven. Relying on scraps of poetry that Shelley may have written after Imlay’s death, Todd concludes that Shelley saw her in Bath and rejected her pleas because he needed to protect Claire’s reputation as well as his own at this time. Todd also notes that Imlay had worn her mother’s stays, which were embroidered with the initials “M.W.”, and the nicest clothes she owned. She had adorned herself with a Swiss gold watch sent to her from Geneva by the Shelleys and a necklace, in order to make a good impression. After Shelley rejected her, Todd concludes, Imlay decided to commit suicide.

On the night of 9 October, Imlay checked into the Mackworth Arms Inn in Swansea and instructed the chambermaid not to disturb her. The same night Mary Godwin, staying in Bath with Shelley, received a letter Imlay had mailed earlier from Bristol. Her father in London also received a letter. The alarming nature of the letters prompted both Godwin and Shelley to set out for Bristol at once (although they travelled separately). By the time they tracked her to Swansea on 11 October, they were too late. Imlay was found dead in her room on 10 October, having taken a fatal dose of laudanum.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Henry Weekes
14 January 1807 – 1877

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Henry Weekes

Weekes was born at Canterbury, Kent, to Capon Weekes, a banker’s clerk, and his wife, Mary Pearson. He attended the King’s School of his home town.

His younger brother was the artist, William Weekes. Of his own five children, Henry Weekes and Herbert William Weekes were both genre painters known for their animal studies, and Frederick Weekes was an artist and expert on medieval costume and design. A further son was John Ernest Weekes.

Retiring in May 1877, Weekes died of heart disease soon afterwards. His date and place of death are variously given as 28 May 1877 in Pimlico, London and 28 June 1877 in Ramsgate, Kent.

Weekes was apprenticed to William Behnes in London (1822–7), entering the Royal Academy Schools in 1823, where he won a silver medal for sculpture in 1826. He became an assistant to the well-known portrait sculptor, Sir Francis Chantrey, in 1827, remaining with him until Chantrey’s death in 1841.

His early commissions were from his home town of Canterbury, and included busts of Stephen Lushington, MP for Canterbury and governor of Madras, and his father-in-law George Harris, Baron Harris of Seringapatam and Mysore for the Canterbury Philosophical Society. This led to a series of Indian commissions including works for St George’s Cathedral, Madras (now Chennai). In 1838, he was the first sculptor to execute a bust of Queen Victoria, being commissioned by the queen as a gift for her mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. His sensitive depiction of the young queen established a reputation for portraiture.

On Chantrey’s death, Weekes took over his studio and, at Chantrey’s request, completed his unfinished works, most notably an equestrian bronze of the Duke of Wellington for the Royal Exchange. His subsequent career flourished; one of the most successful British sculptors of the mid-Victorian period, he left nearly £30,000 at his death. Despite the considerable success he enjoyed during his lifetime, his reputation was not long-lasting, and the rise of the New Sculpture shortly after his death led to his works being neglected.

An associate of the Royal Academy from 1851, he was elected a Royal Academician in 1863. In 1851, he won a gold medal from the Royal Society of Arts for an essay on the Great Exhibition. He was the academy’s professor of sculpture from 1868 until 1876.

Weekes exhibited 124 works at the Royal Academy between 1828 and his death, with over a hundred being portraits. He wrote in 1852 that the objective of portraiture was “to give the eye permanently that which no history or biography will be able hereafter thoroughly to convey to the imagination.” His best works achieve this aim, combining emotional impact with accurate portraiture and exemplary technique. A contemporary reviewer praised his work for its “truth of character and delicacy of expression.”

Apart from the 1838 bust of Queen Victoria, his first major works were statues of Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley for George Gilbert Scott’s Martyrs’ Memorial in Oxford, which he completed under Chantrey’s direction in 1841. Another early commission of an historical figure was a seated statue of Francis Bacon, which he executed for Trinity College, Cambridge in 1845.

Originally strongly influenced by Chantrey, Weekes developed a more individual style towards the end of the 1840s, introducing naturalistic detailing into his neo-classical works. Weekes was, however, against what he considered excessive realism, as exemplified by his contemporary Carlo Marochetti; he always opposed the colouring of sculpture, instead applying, for example, deep undercutting.

Two funerary monuments exemplify Weekes’ style from this period, and are considered his finest works. That of 1849 to Samuel Whitbread and Lady Elizabeth Whitbread, in Cardington, Bedfordshire, is executed in high relief. It depicts the couple kneeling in a pose that echoes Chantrey’s monument of 1835 to Reginald Heber in St Paul’s Cathedral, except that Lady Elizabeth leans against her husband’s shoulder with evident affection.

His marble monument to Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1853/4) was commissioned by their son, Sir Percy Shelley, and his wife after the death of Mary Shelley. Unlike the later Shelley memorial by Onslow Ford, Weekes has chosen to include the figure of Mary Shelley. The pose echoes Michelangelo’s Pietà, with the poet cradled by an idealised figure of his mourning wife. Weekes, however, depicts not a heroic nude in the neo-classical tradition but a bloodless corpse, and realistic details, including seaweed wrapped around his arm, recall the particulars of Shelley’s death by drowning in Italy. The monument was the subject of contemporary critical acclaim, but St Peter’s Church, Bournemouth, where Mary Shelley was buried, refused to take the work, and it was installed instead in Christchurch Priory.

Unlike Chantrey, Weekes executed a few ideal figures from 1850 onwards. The Suppliant (1850), his earliest work in this genre, secured his election as an associate of the Royal Academy. Resting after a Run, also known as Girl with the Hoop (1850/1), depicts the daughter of Frederick J. Reed in an idealised picture of childhood. Like the Shelley monument, his popular work The Young Naturalist (1854), showing a young girl examining nature at the seaside, juxtaposes realism with idealism, with a child in an 1850s bathing suit clutching a starfish in a pose reminiscent of the crouching Venus and Venus Pudica. Other works in this genre include Sardanapalus (1861), from Lord Byron’s verse tragedy on the Assyrian king, and Luna (1866), depicting a girl with the moon as a shield.

He also continued his early success with realistic historical figures, at that time very fashionable, with a series of works including John Hunter, after a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, for the Royal College of Surgeons in London (1864); William Harvey, with a heart resting in his right hand, for the University Museum of Natural History in Oxford (1864); Charles II, accompanied by a spaniel, for the Palace of Westminster (1869; now in the Old Bailey); and Sir Joshua Reynolds for a garden designed by James Knowles in London’s Leicester Square (1874).

His most ambitious later work is the allegorical work Manufactures (1864–70), one of four marble groups depicting the industrial arts, for the London Albert Memorial by George Gilbert Scott. Although Weekes was not on Queen Victoria’s original list of sculptors, being selected to work on the project only after John Gibson declined to participate, his group occupies the preferable south side of the finished monument. A central female figure holds an hourglass, symbolising the critical nature of time to industry, while an ironworker stands at his anvil and a potter and weaver offer their wares.

In his role as professor of sculpture to the Academy, Weekes delivered a series of eighteen lectures which were published posthumously as Lectures on Art, with a biographical introduction by his son, John Ernest Weekes. In addition to conventional topics such as composition, beauty, style, taste, idealism versus realism, portraiture and Greek sculpture, Weekes devoted three lectures of the series to Sir Joshua Reynolds, and one to John Gibson and his mentors, William Behnes and Sir Francis Chantrey. He advised students to become “thinking men”, but also advocated a practical approach to learning, “with the modelling tool in hand, and the clay to operate upon”.

His gold-medal-winning essay was also published in 1852. Described in a contemporary review as “thoroughly practical”, it includes an exposition of the technical aspects of casting in bronze and carving in marble.

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