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September 19 1812: Shelleys are Gone!


On September 19, 1812, William Godwin had traveled to Lynmouth to visit the Shelleys only to find they are gone. They were now living in Tan-yr-alt in North Wales and appear to have plans to go to London. William Godwin writes to his wife with the news.

William Godwin to Mrs Godwin.
LYNMOUTH, VALLEY OF STONES, Sep. 19th, 1812.

MY DEAR LOVE,--The Shelleys are gone! have been gone these three weeks. I hope you hear the first from me; I dread lest every day may have brought you a letter from them, conveying this strange intelligence. I know you would conjure up a thousand frightful ideas of my situation under this disappointment. I have myself a disposition to take quietly any evil, when it can no longer be avoided, when it ceases to be attended with uncertainty, and when I can already compute the amount of it. I heard this news instantly on my arrival at this place, and therefore walked immediately (that is, as soon as I had dined) to the Valley of Stones, that, if I could not have what was gone away, I might at least not fail to visit what remained.


You advise me to return by sea; I thank you a thousand times for your kind and considerate motive in this, but certainly nothing more could be proposed to me at this moment than a return by sea. I left Bristol at one o'clock on Wednesday, and arrived here at four o'clock on Friday, after a passage of fifty-one hours. We had fourteen passengers, and only four berths, therefore I lay down only once for a few hours. We had very little wind, and accordingly regularly tided it for six hours, and lay at anchor for six, till we reached this place. This place is fifteen miles short of Ilfracombe. If the Captain, after a great entreaty from the mate and one of his passengers. (for I cannot entreat for such things) [had not] lent me his own boat to put me ashore, I really think I should have died with ennui. We anchored, Wednesday night, somewhere within sight of the Holmes (small islands, so called, in the British Channel). The next night we came within sight of Minehead, but the evening set in with an alarming congregation of black clouds, the sea rolled vehemently without a wind (a phenomenon which is said to portend a storm) and the Captain in a fright put over to Penarth, near Cardiff, and even told us he should put us ashore there for the night. At Penarth, he said, there was but one house, but it had a fine large barn annexed to it capable of accommodating us all. This was a cruel reverse to me and my fellow-passengers, who had never doubted that we should reach the end of our voyage some time in the second day. By the time, however, we had made the Welsh coast, the frightful symptoms disappeared, the night became clear and serene, and I landed here happily-that is, without further accident--the next day. These are small events to a person accustomed to a seafaring life, but they were not small to me, and you will allow that they were not much mitigated by the elegant and agreeable accommodations of our crazed vessel. I was not decisively sea-sick, but had qualmish and discomforting sensations from the time we left the Bristol river, particularly after having lain down a few hours of Wednesday night.

Since writing the above I have been to the house where Shelley lodged, and I bring good news. I saw the woman of the house, and I was delighted with her. She is a good creature, and quite loved the Shelleys. They lived here nine weeks and three days. They went away in a great hurry, in debt to her and two more. They gave her a draft upon the Honourable Mr Lawless, brother to Lord Cloncurry, and they borrowed of her twenty-nine shillings, besides £3 that she got for them from a neighbour, all of which they faithfully returned when they got to Ilfracombe, the people not choosing to change a bank-note which had been cut in half for safety in sending it by the post. But the best news is that the woman says they will be in London in a fortnight. This quite comforts my heart.



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