Read CHAPTER XIV of Mary Wollstonecraft , free online book, by Elizabeth Robins Pennell, on ReadCentral.com.

LAST MONTHS : DEATH.

1797.

During the month of June of this year, Godwin made a pleasure trip into Staffordshire with Basil Montague. The two friends went in a carriage, staying over night at the houses of different acquaintances, and were absent for a little more than a fortnight. Godwin, while away, made his usual concise entries in his diary, but to his wife he wrote long and detailed accounts of his travels. The guide-book style of his letters is somewhat redeemed by occasional outbursts of tenderness, pleasant to read as evidences that he could give Mary the demonstrations of affection which to her were so indispensable. By his playful messages to little Fanny and his interest in his unborn child, it can be seen that, despite his bachelor habits, domestic life had become very dear to him. Fatigue and social engagements could not make him forget his promise to bring the former a mug. Tell her [that is, Fanny], he writes, I have not forgotten her little mug, and that I shall choose her a very pretty one. And again, Tell Fanny I have chosen a mug for her, and another for Lucas. There is an F. on hers and an L. on his, shaped in an island of flowers of green and orange-tawny alternately. He warns Mary to be careful of herself, assuring her that he remembers at all times the condition of her health, and wishes he could hear from moment to moment how she feels. He and Montague, riding out early in the morning, recall the important fact that it is the very hour at which little Fanny is going to plungity-plunge. When Marys letters are accidentally detained he is as worried and hurt as she would be under similar circumstances. From Etruria he writes:

“Another evening and no letter. This is scarcely kind. I reminded you in time that it would be impossible to write to me after Saturday, though it is not improbable you may not see me before the Saturday following. What am I to think? How many possible accidents will the anxiety of affection present to one’s thoughts! Not serious ones, I hope; in that case I trust I should have heard. But headaches, but sickness of the heart, a general loathing of life and of me. Do not give place to this worst of diseases! The least I can think is that you recollect me with less tenderness and impatience than I reflect on you. There is a general sadness in the sky; the clouds are shutting around me and seem depressed with moisture; everything turns the soul to melancholy. Guess what my feelings are when the most soothing and consolatory thought that occurs is a temporary remission and oblivion in your affections.

“I had scarcely finished the above when I received your letter accompanying T. W.’s, which was delayed by an accident till after the regular arrival of the post. I am not sorry to have put down my feelings as they were.”

But even his tenderness is regulated by his philosophy. The lover becomes the philosopher quite unconsciously:

“One of the pleasures I promised myself in my excursion,” he writes in another letter, “was to increase my value in your estimation, and I am not disappointed. What we possess without intermission, we inevitably hold light; it is a refinement in voluptuousness to submit to voluntary privations. Separation is the image of death, but it is death stripped of all that is most tremendous, and his dart purged of its deadly venom. I always thought Saint Paul’s rule, that we should die daily, an exquisite Epicurean maxim. The practice of it would give to life a double relish.”

Imlay, too, had found absence a stimulus to love, but there was this difference in what at first appears to be a similarity of opinion between himself and Godwin: while the former sought it that he might not tire of Mary, the latter hoped it would keep her from growing tired of him.

Marys letters to her husband are full of the tender love which no woman knew how to express as well as she did. They are not as passionate and burning as those to Imlay, but they are sincerely and lovingly affectionate, and reveal an ever increasing devotion and a calmer happiness than that she had derived from her first union. Godwin, fortunately, was able to appreciate them:

“You cannot imagine,” he tells her on the 10th of June, “how happy your letter made me. No creature expresses, because no creature feels, the tender affections so perfectly as you do; and, after all one’s philosophy, it must be confessed that the knowledge that there is some one that takes an interest in one’s happiness, something like that which each man feels in his own, is extremely gratifying. We love, as it were, to multiply the consciousness of our existence, even at the hazard of what Montague described so pathetically one night upon the New Road, of opening new avenues for pain and misery to attack us.”

The letter to which he refers is probably the following, written two days after his departure:

It was so kind and considerate in you to write sooner than I expected, that I cannot help hoping you would be disappointed at not receiving a greeting from me on your arrival at Etruria. If your heart was in your mouth, as I felt, just now, at the sight of your hand, you may kiss or shake hands with the letter, and imagine with what affection it was written. If not, stand off, profane one!

I was not quite well the day after you left me; but it is past, and I am well and tranquil, excepting the disturbance produced by Master William’s joy, who took it into his head to frisk a little at being informed of your remembrance. I begin to love this little creature, and to anticipate his birth as a fresh twist to a knot which I do not wish to untie. Men are spoilt by frankness, I believe, yet I must tell you that I love you better than I supposed I did, when I promised to love you forever. And I will add what will gratify your benevolence, if not your heart, that on the whole I may be termed happy. You are a kind, affectionate creature, and I feel it thrilling through my frame, giving and promising pleasure.

Fanny wants to know “what you are gone for,” and endeavors to pronounce Etruria. Poor papa is her word of kindness. She has been turning your letter on all sides, and has promised to play with Bobby till I have finished my answer.

I find you can write the kind of letter a friend ought to write, and give an account of your movements. I hailed the sunshine and moonlight, and travelled with you, scenting the fragrant gale. Enable me still to be your company, and I will allow you to peep over my shoulder, and see me under the shade of my green blind, thinking of you, and all I am to hear and feel when you return. You may read my heart, if you will.

I have no information to give in return for yours. Holcroft is to dine with me on Saturday; so do not forget us when you drink your solitary glass, for nobody drinks wine at Etruria, I take it. Tell me what you think of Everina’s situation and behavior, and treat her with as much kindness as you can, that is, a little more than her manner will probably call forth, and I will repay you.

I am not fatigued with solitude, yet I have not relished my solitary dinner. A husband is a convenient part of the furniture of a house, unless he be a clumsy fixture. I wish you, from my soul, to be riveted in my heart; but I do not desire to have you always at my elbow, although at this moment I should not care if you were. Yours truly and tenderly,

MARY.

Fanny forgets not the mug.

Miss Pinkerton seems content. I was amused by a letter she wrote home. She has more in her than comes out of her mouth. My dinner is ready, and it is washing-day. I am putting everything in order for your return. Adieu!

Once during this trip the peaceful intercourse between husband and wife was interrupted. Godwin might philosophize to his hearts content about the advantages of separation, but Mary could not be so sure of them. Absence in Imlays case had not in the end brought about very good results; and as the days went by, Godwins letters, at least so it seemed to her, became more descriptive and statistical, and less tender and affectionate. Interest in Dr. Parr and the Wedgwoods and the country through which he was travelling overshadowed for the time being matters of mere sentiment. With the memory of another correspondence from which love had gradually disappeared, still fresh, she felt this change bitterly, and reproached Godwin for it in very plain language:

June 19, Monday, almost 12 o’clock.

One of the pleasures you tell me that you promised yourself from your journey was the effect your absence might produce on me. Certainly at first my affection was increased, or rather was more alive. But now it is just the contrary. Your later letters might have been addressed to anybody, and will serve to remind you where you have been, though they resemble nothing less than mementos of affection.

I wrote to you to Dr. Parr’s; you take no notice of my letter. Previous to your departure, I requested you not to torment me by leaving the day of your return undecided. But whatever tenderness you took away with you seems to have evaporated on the journey, and new objects and the homage of vulgar minds restored you to your icy philosophy.

You tell me that your journey could not take less than three days, therefore, as you were to visit Dr. D.[arwin]. and Dr. P.[arr], Saturday was the probable day. You saw neither, yet you have been a week on the road. I did not wonder, but approved of your visit to Mr. Bage. But a show which you waited to see, and did not see, appears to have been equally attractive. I am at a loss to guess how you could have been from Saturday to Sunday night travelling from Coventry to Cambridge. In short, your being so late to-night, and the chance of your not coming, shows so little consideration, that unless you suppose me to be a stick or a stone, you must have forgot to think, as well as to feel, since you have been on the wing. I am afraid to add what I feel. Good-night.

This misunderstanding, however, was not of long duration. The little rift in their case never widened to make their life-music mute. Godwin returned to London, his love in nowise diminished, and all ill-feeling and doubts were completely effaced from Marys mind. His shortcomings were after all not due to any change in his affections, nor to the slightest suspicion of satiety. By writing long letters with careful description of everything he saw and did, he was treating Mary as he would have desired to be treated himself. His icy philosophy, which made him so undemonstrative, was not altogether to her liking, but it was incomparably better than the warmth of a man like Imlay, who was too indifferent as to the individuality of the object of his demonstrations. The uprightness of Godwin precluded all possibility of infidelity, and once Marys first disappointment at some new sign of his coldness was over, her confidence in him was unabated. After this short interruption to their semi-domestic life, they both resumed their old habits. Their separate establishments were still kept up, their social amusements continued, though Mary, because of the condition of her health, could not now enter into them quite so freely, and the little notes again began to pass between them. These were as amicable as they had ever been. In the two following, the familiar friendly style of this curious correspondence is not in the least impaired. The first is interesting in showing how far she was from accepting her husbands opinion when her own reason was opposed to it, and also in giving an idea of the esteem in which she was held socially:

June 25, 1797.

I know that you do not like me to go to Holcroft’s. I think you
right in the principle, but a little wrong in the present
application.

When I lived alone, I always dined on a Sunday with company, in the
evening, if not at dinner, at St. P.[aul’s with Johnson],
generally also of a Tuesday, and some other day at Fuseli’s.

I like to see new faces as a study, and since my return from Norway, or rather since I have accepted of invitations, I have dined every third Sunday at Twiss’s, nay, oftener, for they sent for me when they had any extraordinary company. I was glad to go, because my lodging was noisy of a Sunday, and Mr. S.’s house and spirits were so altered, that my visits depressed him instead of exhilarating me.

I am, then, you perceive, thrown out of my track, and have not traced another. But so far from wishing to obtrude on yours, I had written to Mrs. Jackson, and mentioned Sunday, and am now sorry that I did not fix on to-day as one of the days for sitting for my picture.

To Mr. Johnson I would go without ceremony, but it is not
convenient for me at present to make haphazard visits.

Should Carlisle chance to call on you this morning, send him to me,
but by himself, for he often has a companion with him, which would
defeat my purpose.

The second note is even more friendly:

Monday morning, July 3, 1797.

Mrs. Reveley can have no doubt about to-day, so we are to stay at
home. I have a design upon you this evening to keep you quite to
myself I hope nobody will call! and make you read the play.

I was thinking of a favorite song of my poor friend Fanny’s: “In a
vacant rainy day, you shall be wholly mine,” etc.

Unless the weather prevents you from taking your accustomed walk,
call on me this morning, for I have something to say to you.

But a short period of happiness now remained to them. Mary expected to be confined about the end of August, and she awaited that event with no misgivings. She had been perfectly strong and well when Fanny was born. She considered women’s illness on such occasions due much more to imaginative than to physical causes, and her health through the past few months had been, save for one or two trifling ailments, uncommonly good. There was really no reason for her to fear the consequences. Both she and Godwin looked forward with pleasure to the arrival of their first son, as they hoped the child would prove to be.

She was taken ill early on Wednesday morning, the 30th of August, and sent at once for Mrs. Blenkinsop, matron and midwife to the Westminster Lying-in Hospital. Godwin says that, “influenced by ideas of decorum, which certainly ought to have no place, at least in cases of danger, she determined to have a woman to attend her in the capacity of midwife.” But it seems much more in keeping with her character that the engagement of Mrs. Blenkinsop was due, not so much to motives of decorum as to her desire to uphold women in a sphere of action for which she believed them eminently fitted. Godwin went as usual to his rooms in the Evesham Buildings. Mary specially desired that he should not remain in the house, and to reassure him that all was well, she wrote him several notes during the course of the morning. These have no counterpart in the whole literature of letters. They are, in their way, unique:

Au, 1797.

I have no doubt of seeing the animal to-day, but must wait for Mrs. Blenkinsop to guess at the hour. I have sent for her. Pray send me the newspaper. I wish I had a novel or some book of sheer amusement to excite curiosity and while away the time. Have you anything of the kind?

Au, 1797.

Mrs. Blenkinsop tells me that everything is in a fair way, and that there is no fear of the event being put off till another day. Still at present she thinks I shall not immediately be freed from my load. I am very well. Call before dinner-time, unless you receive another message from me.

Three o’clock, Au, 1797.

Mrs. Blenkinsop tells me I am in the most natural state, and can
promise me a safe delivery, but that I must have a little patience.

Finally, that night at twenty minutes after eleven, the child not the William talked of for months, but a daughter, afterwards to be Mrs. Shelley was born. Godwin was now sitting in the parlor below, waiting the, as he never doubted, happy end. But shortly after two o’clock he received the alarming news that the patient was in some danger. He went immediately and summoned Dr. Poignard, physician to the Westminster Hospital, who hastened to the assistance of Mrs. Blenkinsop, and by eight o’clock the next morning the peril was thought safely over. Mary having expressed a wish to see Dr. Fordyce, who was her friend as well as a prominent physician, Godwin sent for him, in spite of some objections to his so doing on the part of Dr. Poignard. Dr. Fordyce was very well satisfied with her condition, and later, in the afternoon, mentioned as a proof of the propriety of employing midwives on such occasions, for which practice he was a strong advocate, that Mrs. Godwin “had had a woman, and was doing extremely well.” For a day or two Godwin was so anxious that he did not leave the house; but Mary’s progress seemed thoroughly satisfactory, and on Sunday he went with a friend to pay some visits, going as far even as Kensington, and did not return until dinner-time. His home-coming was a sad one. Mary had been much worse, and in her increasing illness had worried because of his long absence. He did not leave her again, for from this time until her death on the following Sunday, the physicians could give him but the faintest shadow of a hope.

The week that intervened was long and suffering for the sick woman, and heart-breaking for the watcher. Every possible effort was made to save her; and if medical skill and the devotion of friends could have availed, she must have lived. Dr. Fordyce and Dr. Clarke were in constant attendance. Mr. afterwards Sir Anthony Carlisle, who had of his own accord already called once or twice, was summoned professionally on Wednesday evening, September 6, and remained by her side until all was over. Godwin never left her room except to snatch a few moments of sleep that he might be better able to attend to her slightest wants. His loving care during these miserable days could not have been surpassed. Mary, had she been the nurse, and he the patient, could not have been more tender and devoted. But his curious want of sentiment, and the eminently practical bent of his mind, manifested themselves even at this sad and solemn time. Once when Mary was given an anodyne to quiet her wellnigh unendurable pain, the relief that followed was so great that she exclaimed to her husband, “Oh, Godwin, I am in heaven!” But, as Kegan Paul says, “even at that moment Godwin declined to be entrapped into the admission that heaven existed.” His immediate reply was, “You mean, my dear, that your physical sensations are somewhat easier.”

Mrs. Fenwick and Miss Hayes, two good true friends, nursed her and took charge of the sick-room. Mr. Fenwick, Mr. Basil Montague, Mr. Marshal, and Mr. Dyson established themselves in the lower part of the house that they might be ready and on hand for any emergency. It is in the hour of trouble that friendship receives its strongest test. Mary’s friends, when it came, were not found wanting.

“Nothing,” Godwin says, “could exceed the equanimity, the patience, and affectionateness of the poor sufferer. I entreated her to recover; I dwelt with trembling fondness on every favorable circumstance; and, as far as it was possible in so dreadful a situation, she, by her smiles and kind speeches, rewarded my affection.” After the first night of her illness she told him that she would have died during its agony had she not been determined not to leave him. Throughout her sickness she was considerate of those around her. Her ruling passion was strong in death. When her attendants recommended her to sleep, she tried to obey, though her disease made this almost impossible. She was gentle even in her complaints. Expostulation and contradiction were peculiarly irritating to her in her then nervous condition, but one night when a servant heedlessly expostulated with her, all she said was, “Pray, pray do not let her reason with me!” Religion was not once, to use Godwin’s expression, a torment to her. Her religious views had modified since the days long past when she had sermonized so earnestly to George Blood. She had never, however, despite Godwin’s atheism, lost her belief in God nor her reliance upon Him. But, at no time an adherent to mere form, she was not disturbed in her last moments by a desire to conform to church ceremonies. Religion was at this crisis, as it had always been, a source of comfort and not of worry. She had invariably preferred virtue to vice, and she was not now afraid of reaping the reward of her actions. The probability of her approaching death did not occur to her until the last two days, and then she was so enfeebled that she was not harassed by the thought as she had been at first. On Saturday, the 9th, Godwin, who had been warned by Mr. Carlisle that her hours were numbered, and who wished to ascertain if she had any directions to leave, consulted her about the future of the two children. The physician had particularly charged him not to startle her, for she was too weak to bear any excitement. He therefore spoke as if he wished to arrange for the time of her illness and convalescence. But she understood his real motive. “I know what you are thinking of,” she told him. But she added that she had nothing to communicate upon the subject. Her faith in him and in his wisdom was entire. “He is the kindest, best man in the world,” were among the very last words she uttered before she lost consciousness. Her survival from day to day seemed almost miraculous to the physicians who attended her. Mr. Carlisle refused, until the very end, to lose all hope. “Perhaps one in a million of persons in her state might possibly recover,” he said. But his hopes were vain. At six o’clock on Sunday morning, the 10th, he was obliged to summon Godwin, who had retired for a few hours’ sleep, to his wife’s bedside. At twenty minutes before eight the same morning, Mary died.

A somewhat different version of Marys last hours and of the immediate cause of her death is given in some manuscript Notes and Observations on the Shelley Memorials, written by Mr. H. W. Reveley, son of the Mrs. Reveley who was Godwins great friend. His account is as follows:

“When Mrs. Godwin was confined of her daughter, the late Mary Shelley, she was very ill; and my mother, then Mrs. Reveley, was constantly visiting her until her death, eight days after her confinement. I was often there with my mother, and I saw Mrs. Godwin the day before her death, when she was considered much better and quite out of danger. Her death was occasioned by a dreadful fright, in this manner. At the time of her confinement a gentleman and lady lodged in the first floor, whether as visitors or otherwise I cannot say, but that they were intruders in some way I am certain. The husband was continually beating his wife, and at last there was a violent contest between them, owing to his endeavoring to throw his wife over the balcony into the street. Her screams of course attracted a crowd in front of the house. Mrs. Godwin heard the lady’s shrieks and the shouts of the crowd that a man was throwing his wife out of the window, and the next day Mrs. Godwin died. What became of that miscreant and his wife I never knew.”

There may have been some foundation for this story. An ill-tempered husband may have had lodgings in the same house; but it is extremely doubtful that his ill-temper had so fatal an effect on Mary. Godwin would certainly have recorded the fact had it been true, for his Memoir gives the minutest details of his wife’s illness. The very day on which Mr. Reveley says Mary was out of danger was that on which Godwin was asking her for final instructions about her children, so sure were the physicians that her end was near. Mr. Reveley was very young at the time. His observations were not written until he was quite an old man. It would not be unlikely, then, that his memory played him false in this particular.

Mary was thirty-eight years of age, in the full prime of her powers. Her best work probably remained to be done, for her talents, like her beauty, were late in maturing. Her style had already greatly improved since she first began to write. Constant communication with Godwin would no doubt have developed her intellect, and the calm created by her more happy circumstances would have lessened her pessimistic tendencies. Moreover, life, just as she lost it, promised to be brighter than it had ever been before. Godwin’s after career shows that he would not have proved unworthy of her love. Domestic pleasures were dear to her as intellectual pursuits. In her own house, surrounded by husband and children, she would have been not only a great but a happy woman. It is at least a satisfaction to know that her last year was content and peaceful. Few have needed happiness more than she did, for to few has it been given to suffer the hardships that fell to her share.

The very same day, Godwin himself wrote to announce his wife’s death to several of his friends. It was characteristic of the man to be systematic even in his grief, which was sincere. He recorded in his diary the details of each day during Mary’s illness, and it was not until the last that he shrank from coldly stating events to him so truly tragic. The only dashes which occur in his diary follow the date of Sunday, Sep, 1797. Kegan Paul says that his writing to his friends “was probably an attempt to be stoical, but a real indulgence in the luxury of woe.” To Holcroft, who, he knew, could appreciate his sorrow, he said, “I firmly believe that there does not exist her equal in the world. I know from experience we were formed to make each other happy. I have not the least expectation that I can now ever know happiness again.” Mrs. Inchbald was another to whom he at once sent the melancholy news. “I always thought you used her ill, but I forgive you,” he told her in his note. Now that Mary was dead he felt the insult that had been shown her even more keenly than at the time. His words roused all Mrs. Inchbald’s ill-feeling, and, with a singular want of consideration, she sent with her condolences an elaborate explanation of her own conduct. Two or three more notes passed between them. Godwin’s plain-speaking he told his correspondent very clearly what he thought of her is excusable. But her arguments in self-justification and her want of respect for the dead are unpardonable.

Basil Montague, Mrs. Fenwick, and Miss Hayes continued their friendly help, and wrote several of the necessary letters for him. The following is from Miss Hayes to Mr. Hugh Skeys, the husband of Marys friend. It is valuable because written by one who was with her in her last moments:

SIR, Myself and Mrs. Fenwick were the only two female friends that were with Mrs. Godwin during her last illness. Mrs. Fenwick attended her from the beginning of her confinement with scarcely any intermission. I was with her for the four last days of her life, and though I have had but little experience in scenes of this sort, yet I can confidently affirm that my imagination could never have pictured to me a mind so tranquil, under affliction so great. She was all kindness and attention, and cheerfully complied with everything that was recommended to her by her friends. In many instances she employed her mind with more sagacity on the subject of her illness than any of the persons about her. Her whole soul seemed to dwell with anxious fondness on her friends; and her affections, which were at all times more alive than perhaps those of any other human being, seemed to gather new disinterestedness upon this trying occasion. The attachment and regret of those who surrounded her appeared to increase every hour, and if her principles are to be judged of by what I saw of her death, I should say no principles could be more conducive to calmness and consolation.

The rest of the letter is missing.

Mrs. Fenwick was intrusted with the duty of informing the Wollstonecrafts, through Everina, of Marys death. Her letter is as interesting as that of Miss Hayes:

Sep, 1797.

I am a stranger to you, Miss Wollstonecraft, and at present greatly enfeebled both in mind and body; but when Mr. Godwin desired that I would inform you of the death of his most beloved and most excellent wife, I was willing to undertake the task, because it is some consolation to render him the slightest service, and because my thoughts perpetually dwell upon her virtues and her loss. Mr. Godwin himself cannot, upon this occasion, write to you.

Mrs. Godwin died on Sunday, September 10, about eight in the morning. I was with her at the time of her delivery, and with very little intermission until the moment of her death. Every skilful effort that medical knowledge of the highest class could make was exerted to save her. It is not possible to describe the unremitting and devoted attentions of her husband. Nor is it easy to give you an adequate idea of the affectionate zeal of many of her friends, who were on the watch night and day to seize on an opportunity of contributing towards her recovery, and to lessen her sufferings.

No woman was ever more happy in marriage than Mrs. Godwin. Who ever endured more anguish than Mr. Godwin endures? Her description of him, in the very last moments of her recollection was, “He is the kindest, best man in the world.”

I know of no consolations for myself, but in remembering how happy
she had lately been, and how much she was admired and almost
idolized by some of the most eminent and best of human beings.

The children are both well, the infant in particular. It is the
finest baby I ever saw. Wishing you peace and prosperity, I remain
your humble servant,

ELIZA FENWICK.

Mr. Godwin requests you will make Mrs. Bishop acquainted with the
particulars of this afflicting event. He tells me that Mrs. Godwin
entertained a sincere and earnest affection for Mrs. Bishop.

The funeral was arranged by Mr. Basil Montague and Mr. Marshal for Friday, the 15th. All Godwins and Marys intimate acquaintances were invited to be present. Among these was Mr. Tuthil, whose views were identical with Godwins. This invitation gave rise to another short correspondence, unfortunate at such a time. Mr. Tuthil considered it inconsistent with his principles, if not immoral, to take part in any religious ceremonies; and Godwin, while he respected his scruples, disapproved of his coldness, which made such a decision possible. But he was the only one who refused to show this mark of respect to Marys memory. Godwin himself was too exhausted mentally and physically to appear at the funeral. When Friday morning came he shut himself up in Marshals rooms and unburdened his heavy heart by writing to Mr. Carlisle. At the same hour Mary Wollstonecraft was buried at old Saint Pancras, the church where but a few short months before she had been married. A monument was afterwards erected over her willow-shadowed grave. It bore this inscription:

MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT GODWIN,

AUTHOR OF

A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN.

BORN XVII. APRIL, MDCCLIX.

DIED X. SEPTEMBER, MDCCXCVII.

Many years later, when Godwins body lay by her side, the quiet old churchyard was ruined by the building of the Metropolitan and Midland Railways. But there were those living who loved their memory too dearly to allow their graves to be so ruthlessly disturbed. The remains of both were removed by Sir Percy Shelley to Bournemouth where his mother, Mary Godwin Shelley, was already laid. There, Kegan Paul writes, on a sunny bank sloping to the west, among the rose-wreathed crosses of many who have died in more orthodox beliefs, lie those who at least might each of them have said,

‘Write me as one who loves his fellow-men.’”

Mary Wollstonecrafts death was followed by exhaustive discussion not only of her work but of her character. The result was, as Dr. Beloe affirms, not very honorable to her fair fame as a woman, whatever it might be to her reputation as an author. The following passage written at this time shows the estimation in which she was held by a number of her contemporaries:

“She was a woman of strong intellect and of ungovernable passions. To the latter, when once she had given the reins, she seems to have yielded on all occasions with little scruple, and as little delicacy. She appears in the strongest sense a voluptuary and sensualist, but without refinement. We compassionate her errors, and respect her talents; but our compassion is lessened by the mischievous tendency of her doctrines and example; and our respect is certainly not extended or improved by her exclaiming against prejudices of some of the most dangerous of which she was herself perpetually the victim, by her praises of virtue, the sanctity of which she habitually violated, and by her pretences to philosophy, whose real mysteries she did not understand, and the dignity of which, in various instances, she sullied and disgraced.”

It was to silence such base calumnies that Godwin wrote his Memoirs. This was undoubtedly the wisest way to answer Mary’s critics. As he says of Marguerite in “St. Leon,” “The story of her life is the best record of her virtues. Her defects, if defects she had, drew their pedigree from rectitude of sentiment and perception, from the most generous sensibility, from a heart pervaded and leavened with tenderness.” That truth is mighty above all things is shown by this story to have been her creed. By it she regulated her feelings, her thoughts, and her deeds. Whether her principles and conduct be applauded or condemned, she must always be honored for her integrity of motive, her fearlessness of action, and her faithful devotion to the cause of humanity. Like Heine, she deserves to have a sword laid upon her grave, for she was a brave soldier in the battle of freedom for mankind.