William Godwin's Diary


Godwin recorded the correspondence between Lord Byron and Sir Timothy Shelley, following Shelley's death. Byron was one of the executors of Shelley’s will and in a letter dated Genoa, 7 January 1823 he wrote to Shelley's father that 'I must now ... respectfully submit to you, the totally destitute state of your daughter-in-law and her child, and I would venture to add-that neither are unworthy your protection. Their wishes are by no means extravagant, a simple provision to prevent them from absolute want now staring them in the face is all that they seek- and where can they look for it without propriety-or accept it without bitterness-except from yourself?' (Letters and Journals, vol. 10, p. 79). Sir Timothy's reply suggested Mary hand over custody of Percy Florence: 'as to the child, I am inclined to afford the means of a suitable protection and care of him in this country, if he shall be placed with a person I shall approve' (Journals of Mary Shelley, pp. 453-54 n.). Byron advised her to follow his advice, but Godwin cautioned her against it for financial reasons - if she gave up her son she would sever her connections to the Shelley family inheritance. Mary refused the offer and Sir Timothy eventually agreed to pay Mary a small allowance towards his grandson's education.

See St Clair, pp. 471; Byron's Letters and Journals, ed. Leslie A. Marchand, 12 vols (London: John Murray, 1973-82) and The journals of Mary Shelley, 1814–1844, ed. by Paula R. Feldman and Diana Scott-Kilvert, 2 vols (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press; Clarendon Press, 1987).